What If We’re Trying To Do Too Much (Part 2)

Why are we doing all the things that we’re doing? Is all of what we’re busily striving to accomplish really what God desires from us, and for us?

Another way of phrasing this questions would be this: Are we actually doing a good job expressing God to the world when we live in a perpetual state of busyness or is there a better way to illustrate what it means to live as a Christian?

I’ve found that, in a practical sense, my evaluation of my busyness needs to be sought not through the question, “How do I find more time to do everything that I feel needs to be done?” But rather, through the question, “Am I trying to do too much for how much time I actually have?”

Think about that for a moment. Instead of the issue being that we need to make more time to cram all our stuff into, is it possible the issue is actually that we’re trying to cram too much into the time that we do have?

Can you relate to any of these feelings: “Exhausted” “Overwhelmed” “Tired” “Burned-Out” “Stressed” “Frustrated” “Maxed-Out” “Over Scheduled”? If you can then maybe you, like me also suffer from being too “busy.”

What if instead of finding ways to “make more time” by skipping meals, skimping on sleep, and multi-tasking to “save time,” we actually simply acknowledge, as John Mark Comer comments on in his sermon “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry,” that our state is not “too little time” but rather the simple reality that we’re human and we have limitations. Kind of a basic yet revelatory concept, right? 

What if instead of trying to do everything we have scheduled into a day, we got up the guts to admit to ourselves and others that we can’t do all of that in a day. And what if we didn’t try to get it all done in a day? What if we gave ourselves permission to be human, to have limitations, and to only plan tasks that will reasonably fit within the hours we actually do have in a day?

That’s right, I’m talking to the workaholics who the moment I mentioned limitations immediately began to hear words like “mediocre” “underachievement” and “mid-level performance.” I’m talking to those of us who are the chronically “busy” people and who at 9 PM are still viciously attempting to complete that one last task. What would it mean for us to take a step back, re-evaluate our To-Do list and fit our tasks to our days instead of our days to our tasks?

A perfect example of how our view of how much we as people are supposed to be able to “get done” has been transformed by scenarios such as this:  An employer has three employees all doing a similar job. The employer fires two of those employees and keeps one. The employer expects the one employee to maintain the company’s output at the same level as it has been. (In other words, the person who still has a job must now become “busy.” They must now do the work of three people or else get fired too. Get the work done, because that is what is expected.)

Now the problem is, as humans we are actually incredibly good at deceiving ourselves into believing that we’re super-human. So instead of simply saying, “No, one person cannot do the work of three people,” we will actually instead find ways to accomplish the insanity of getting that work done. But in order to do so, we compromise so many parts of our lives, things like acquiring and consume food, getting sleep, and spending time actually being human, that in the end all we have left are our “accomplishments” and the feelings I listed earlier: “Exhausted” “Overwhelmed” “Tired” “Burned-Out” “Stressed” Etc.

This is not the way God designed us to live. And let me state very clearly that being a spiritual Christian is not living making continual choices to deceive ourselves into believing we can thrive in a state of perpetual “busyness.” 

Yes, Jesus provides the extra we need when He asks us to meet an unnatural expectation (like the feeding of five thousand hungry people). But there is the difference, right there. When Jesus asks us to go further, He will provide a way. When we go further on our own because we want to accomplish more, there is no such promised provision of extra on our behalf. Therefore, to assume that we can or should push past our human limits (when Jesus is not directly asking us to) is not an act of faith in God but rather the action of us attempting to be God (which is a sin).

God gave us the Sabbath for a reason, and He didn’t just suggest we rest on that day, either, He actually command us to rest. Because, as is proven by us being “busy,” we are in fact stupid enough to work ourselves into the ground.

Work is a good thing and also something we are commanded to do, but in the same way that for some people laziness can be an idol, it is also true that for other people work can be an idol. Thus, we need to see to it that we are following both commandments. 

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” ~Exodus 20:9~ 

“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.’” ~Mark 2:27~

In Jesus’s time, one of the biggest sin the Pharisees kept trying to pin on Jesus was that He was “working” on the Sabbath because Jesus was making the effort to care about the people around Him. 

I think in a similar yet opposite way, one of our biggest sins today is that we’re so busy doing work on everyday of the week that we don’t and can’t care about the people around us. 

Challenge: Sabbath was made for man, and I think it is also true that work was made for man, and not man for the work. God didn’t design us to get a task done. God designed us for relationship. Thus, it’s important for us to evaluate why we’re doing what we’re doing and whether or not we’re allowing work and time to become idols in our lives.

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What If We’re Trying To Do Too Much (Part 1)

Do you know what is one of the most common answers these days to the question, “How are you?”

“Busy.”

Think about that for a moment. “Busy” is one of our most common answers. That means that when most of us consider the general state of our existence it is not “doing well”, “loving what I do”, “embracing life”, etc. And worse the response that we’re busy usually isn’t even accompanied by a feeling of being productive, even though most of the time the intended implication to the word “busy” is just that—the concept of working to produce or achieve an intended goal (that which the person hopes their busyness is accomplishing). Rather we’re just busy. We’re stuck in an existence where there is always too much to do, and too little time to do it in.

But . . . why?
What is it about our lives today that we just can’t seem to find enough hours in the day to get everything done that we need to get done?

It’s not that we have less time. There are still 24 hours per day (168 hours in a week). We have the same amount of time as there has always been for every generation previous to ours. So why do so many of us today feel like we just can never catch up, we can never get enough done, and we can never fully accomplish what we need to do?

I listened to a sermon not that long ago by John Mark Comer entitled “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry,” and what he had to say in this sermon stirred a lot of questions in me about why I live in a perpetual state of “busy.” Ironically, I have not read John Mark Comer’s book by the same title, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, because . . . yep, you guessed it, I’m too busy.

My question to myself and all of my fellow workaholics is this: If we could each somehow get all the stuff done that we wanted to get done in the hours we have, would we then be able to slow down enough to appreciate life again and be content? Or would we just start on the next task that needs doing?

I ask this because the real question for those of us who are task oriented and accomplishment driven is not: Is there too much to do? Because the answer to that question is always going to be, yes, there is too much to do! Because there is always more to do! Our world is overflowing with opportunities to join the next thing, to consume the next piece of information, and to put even more expectations upon ourselves and others to achieve one more accomplishment. Because somehow doing more, knowing more, and being “accomplished” will somehow make us . . . what?
Happy? Content? Valuable?
You know what it makes us? It makes us “Busy.”

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Fun Announcement!

As many of you know, I write more than just this blog; I also author YA Suspense and Action/Adventure novels. This month, I have the great pleasure of getting to announce that on October 16 an audiobook version of my novel The Tournament’s Price (MARKED Book 1) will be released and made available for purchase almost everywhere audiobooks are sold!

If you like my blog content, you should check out my books, because the worldview content that I write here on this blog is something I also weave into my novels.

If you want to know more about my fiction visit my website at GivenHoffman.com

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A Christian Work Ethic

I have recently had several experiences with people who were paid to do jobs for me during which I had to come back and correct things they did wrong in that process (These were obvious issues that should not have been missed by them.). I also recently had a friend tell me about a “professional” she’s overseeing on a project. She said she has to check in daily on the project and point out the errors the person has made so that the person actually fixes those errors while the errors are still fixable and before the person moves onto the next step of the process, which would either conceal those issues or make it even more costly to fix.

This is not at all how it should be. When you hire someone to do a job, you should not have to babysit that person to make sure they do their job right. You should be able to trust that they will do correctly what they were hired to do. But more and more this is not the case.

This reality got me thinking about what it means to have a work ethic, and particularly why having a work ethic as a Christian is so very important. (Particularly since these days, this would make us stand out so much more clearly as being different and give us such a simple yet poignant way of illustrating who God is to those around us.) 

To talk about a Christian work ethic, I think we first need to define our terms. 

Ethic means “a set of moral principles or form of conduct.” Having moral principles or a form of conduct is not exclusive to Christians, however.

A person can have a solid work ethic and yet not be a Christian. Someone who is honest, who is respectful, who is performing their work to the best of their ability, and who is responsible (on time, focused, organized, continues to improve their skills, keeps scheduled hours, has proper self-care, meets goals, etc.) has traits that make up a strong work ethic.

Now, in light of what a work ethic is, arguably, the reverse of the above statement should NOT be true: A person can be a Christian and yet not have a work ethic.

Why should this not be true?

Well, because when we as Christians look at the behavioral and character traits that generally represent a good work ethic, we ought to recognize these traits as also being commands the Lord has made of us as Christians in regard to the way we ought to live all the time not just in regard to our place of employment. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about being honest, respectful, hard working, responsible, etc.

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds . . . ” ~Colossians 3:9~ (See also Proverbs 12:22)

“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” ~1Peter 2:17~

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord . . . ” ~Colossians 3:23~

“Likewise . . . be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” ~Titus 2:6~

So the big questions in all of this:

  • Are you living out these Biblical principles as an employee (as a work ethic)?
  • Are you living out these Biblical principles as a person (as a Christian)?

Another question in regard to having a Christian Work Ethic that crazily enough also impacts this discussion and should be asked is:

  • Are you even choosing to work at all? 

At first during the pandemic people were losing their jobs, but now we have the reverse of this were there are jobs available on every block and people simply aren’t interested in working.

Is making the choice to not work for what is being received an acceptable choice for a Christian to make (assuming they are capable of working)? Let’s see what Scripture says:

“ . . . you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.  . . . And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” ~2 Thessalonians 3:6-15~

Challenge: What choices are you making in regard to your Christianity? Are your choices demonstrating Christ to the people around? 

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~Gal 6:10~

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Don’t Trust the Church (Explained)

Have you (ever) walked away from the church? If so, what were your reasons for doing so? What was your view of God in the midst of that choice? Did you see the church and God as one or as separate?

I originally published “Don’t Trust the Church” in November of 2015. If you haven’t read the original post, please go back to read that post, and then return here to read the rest of this post. 

“Don’t Trust the Church” was my way of proclaiming that regardless of how messed up the church is, God isn’t the church. Basically, no matter what I find in the church, God will still be who He claims to be and my Lord and King.

At the time I wrote the post (2015), I was walking away from a church that I had been part of for over a decade. The process of leaving that particular church (yes, you read that right, I have left more than one church) to this day is still one of the most painful experiences I have ever walked through. (See: A Good Reason to Leave a Church)

First off, I had been deeply involved in this church, doing everything from helping with youth group and teen ministry, to co-running a children’s Christmas productions, and even being part of a Deaf ministry and doing sign language interpreting for worship.

I was very connected with the church leadership. I babysat my pastor’s kids, mentored one of the elder’s daughters, and knew the families in leadership well enough that I would have called them friends.

As close as I was to the church leadership, though, I didn’t actually know what was going on behind the scenes. There was a lot of secrets and a lot of deception happening. Despite the pastor’s ongoing comments and assurances that we were a “transparent” church, I began to encounter the edges of situations where people had been told they needed to stay quiet about what was happening in regard to them and church leadership.

One of the issues that took the forefront in this was the issue that leadership was allowing personal loyalties to be placed before doing what was right. This became abundantly clear when it became publicly known that the man who had been in line to become the assistant pastor but had instead became the church’s worship leader had been for years and still was abusing his wife.

There are so many in’s and out’s to how all of this came out and what took place in the process of the wife trying to get help, but long story short, I ended up nannying for the abused wife while she went through the horrendous process of trying to protect herself by means of the court since the church (the pastor was a long time friend of her husband) would not help protect her.

Helping her get protection is really what revealed to me where things in the church really stood. Not only did I see how the church treated her, but also, before I began to speak on behalf of her and her children, I was someone the elders and pastor praised for being a godly young woman and a wonderful example to their children, etc. But the moment I stood up and said that what was happening was wrong, I was labeled as being out-from-under-authority, disrespectful, etc. I became “sinful” because I was willing to say that what was happening wasn’t right.

I swiftly saw the leadership for who they really were: people who claimed to be serving God but who had put friendships and personal connivence above God and doing what was right. I had thought helping in that church meant I was partnering with them to build something good, something that honored God, but what I found beneath the surface was that we were building something very twisted. 

Here are a few of the twisted principles leadership communicated:

  • The pastor is the ultimate authority in the church and you need to answer to him, like he’s God, because he hears from God and you can’t and don’t.
  • If a wife does anything wrong, then the husband can respond to her however he wants.
  • A pastor has the right to shut people up and tell them they can’t talk about even what’s happening in their own lives.
  • It’s okay to take sides between people rather than standing for the truth.
  • It doesn’t matter if you hear both sides, one side is enough to make a decision.
  • It’s better to get rid of a person who is causing an inconvenience than it is to help them.
  • If you talk about something being wrong you become what is wrong.

None of these principles align with who God is, and yet they are subtly or not so subtly being taught and enforced in more than one church. Lots of Christians will not speak against them.

What shocked me the most was how many people in the church I had invested in said things to me like, “We just don’t want to get involved.” As if the issues in the church didn’t and wouldn’t ever involve them. As if leadership being spiritually abusive wasn’t something they should be concerned with or standing against. As if members of their own church being told to sit down and shut up was completely acceptable Christian behavior. As if leadership making decisions based on their connivence was not dishonoring to God and would never be a problem for anyone else in the future.

People want to believe that they can ignore what is happening and that when they have an issue church leadership will do what’s right. But if those in the church don’t stand against what is wrong, the wrongs won’t stop.

As I stated in my original post: Many people have walked out the doors of the church never to come back again because of what they find within.

And my question remains: What if we judged the church based on who God is?

God is… holy, the way, the truth, the life, everlasting, unchanging, unable to lie, love, prince of peace, healer, shepherd, faithful, rock, refuge, etc.

Are our churches places of: Refuge? Healing? Life? Truth? Shepherding? Love? Peace?

This time, I’m not writing this post to warn people not to trust the church for the sake of their own Christianity. I am writing to exhort those of you who are the ones right now in churches seeing issues and saying, “We just don’t want to get involved.” “We don’t want to take the flack.” “We don’t want leadership mad at us” “We don’t know enough to speak to the issues” “We just want to live quiet and peaceable lives.”

You have a responsibility to stand against evil (Read: If We Aren’t to Resist an Evil Person, What Are We to Do?), because this issue is not just about your Christianity. This issue is about those walking through the doors of your church who are being introduced to something they think represents God. And instead what they are finding is spineless Christians who are putting up with spiritually abusive leadership who are twisting the teaching of God and abusing and destroying people.

We are supposed to represent who Christ is. Therefore:

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer.” ~2Timothy 2:15~

In case you’re wondering: Are we allowed to remove ungodly church leadership? The answer is, yes. Read my post on this, and see this for yourself in Scripture.

Challenge: Don’t be one of those who should have spoke the truth and didn’t. Love the Truth and live out the Truth!

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The Responses Leaders Make While Disobeying God (Part 2)

Last week we talked about how King Saul responds to Samuel when he confronts him about disobeying God. Three times King Saul is given opportunities to tell the truth and repent. But King Saul lies, redefines the instructions, shifts the blame to others, and acts like doing “something good” makes up for disobeying God.

What does Samuel say in response to King Saul’s words?

Does Samuel let the matter drop because Saul is the king? Does he dismiss the issue because King Saul says he did what he should have? No, he does not.

Samuel tells King Saul the consequence of his choice

“. . . Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.” ~1Samuel 15:23~

Once the consequence of King Saul’s actions are stated and all the lies and deceptions have failed him, how does King Saul response?

Saul admits what is now obvious.

“Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.’” ~1Sa 15:24~

Notice that in this admission of wrong there is still a sort of a blame-shifting stuck in the middle of it. Saul’s been caught and so he admits he’s sinned, but he’s not really repenting. He is more blaming the people for being scary and forcing him into doing something which, which might be a believable excuse for his sinful actions, except that there is a piece of information that Samuel learns on his way to speak with Saul, which pretty much illustrates that Saul wasn’t in fear of the people. Rather, Saul is full of himself. (Saul’s lying, again)

“ . . . it was told Samuel, saying, ‘Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself’. . . “ ~1Sa 15:12~

Then we have probably one of the most telling moments in this whole exchange, which so blatantly illustrated King Saul’s disregard for God’s words and authority.

King Saul asks Samuel to forgive him and to keep supporting him

Then Saul said to Samuel, “Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.” ~ 1Sa 15:25~

It is not Samuel’s forgiveness that King Saul needs. Yet it’s as if King Saul thinks that if he can win Samuel back to his side, then Samuel can somehow make the consequences go away (make God’s judgment go away). Have you ever watched this happen in a church setting, where a leader is finally absolutely caught in their sin, and yet they try to convince those who are holding them accountable to God’s judgment (them being removed from leadership) by asking them to just forgive them and continue to support them (let them keep their power)?

How many times have Christian leaders lied their way out of accountability? How many times have those holding them accountable disobeyed God themselves in allowing that person to claim their “forgiveness and support” when in the end the person or people holding that leader accountable should have done what Samuel does and had enough backbone to obey God by speaking the truth, doing what was instructed, and separating from evil.

Samuel speaks the truth.

“But Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.’” ~1Sa 15:26~

Samuel does something very significant here. He declares to Saul that he will—by his separation from Saul—make a public statement about King Saul’s standing before God. 

Samuel promises to make their separation public knowledge

I think we read right over this and don’t really pause to consider the elements of this. Saul could very easily have killed Samuel for this. Yet Samuel stood on what God had said and tells Saul that he will declare to the people the truth about King Saul’s actions.

The response we see from Saul is still not repentance (not caring that he has sinned against God), rather it is him worrying about how his own image before the people might be impacted by this.

Saul begs Samuel to spare his reputation before the people

“I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.” ~ Sa 15:30~

What we read next (Samuel’s response to Saul’s request) might seem a bit strange and like Samuel acquiescing to Saul, but actually I think this is Samuel making sure that God’s instructions are obeyed and him doing what he just promised to do (separating from Saul in a public way). As you read this next verse notice the world choice. Almost every translation of this verse either says “after” or “following” but not “with.”

“So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD.” ~1Sa 15:31~

Samuel completes what God commanded Saul to do 

Notice it does not say “they” worshiped. Samuel is not there participating in worshiping God with Saul. Rather I think us being told about the “worshiping” part had to do with Samuel making sure all the animals that were supposed to be killed were actually killed. In the following verses, we then read of Samuel finishing the rest of what remains uncompleted of God’s instructions. 

“Then Samuel said, ‘Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.’  . . . And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal. Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul.” ~1Sa 15:32-34~

Samuel publicly removed his support of King Saul by separating from him

Challenge: Are we as leaders focused on keeping our public reputation untarnished or are we focused on obeying God? And are we staying silent and doing nothing in the face of ungodly leadership or are we doing as God asks and holding ungodly leadership accountable and separating from them?

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The Responses Leaders Make While Disobeying God (Part 1)

In 1Samuel, there is a story that I think holds significance when it comes to being leadership who is in the wrong and dealing with leadership that is in the wrong. 

The story is that of King Saul has been given very specific instructions from God through Samuel about how to deal with an enemy of God’s people.

The way that King Saul responds after disobeying God’s instructions and how Samuel replies is something I think we need to learn from and remember. As leaders, we need to be making the response if/when we have disobeyed God and are being held accountable. We also see need to be responding correctly to leaders around us who are disobeying God and should be held accountable.

King Saul’s instructions from God, which were passed on to him by Samuel: 

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” ~1Samuel 15:2-3~

Amalek was the grandson of Esau (Gen 36:12), and the people group of Amalek are the ones who attacked Israel while they wandered in the Wilderness of Sin. 

Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.  . . . So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses,‘Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’” ~Exodus 17:8-13

Exodus is not the only place that we hear of this promise and instruction either.

“Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.” ~Deuteronomy 25:19~

King Saul’s instructions are clear. 

  1. He is not to leave any Amalekite alive 
  2. He is not to leave any animal that belonged to them alive

(If you are wondering why kill the animals, Leviticus 20:15-16 might be the reason.)

In any case, though, the instruction that the LORD gave was that King Saul utterly destroy the people and their animals. Nothing was to remain alive. 

What happens?

King Saul does defeat the Amalekites and utterly destroys all the people, except Agag the king of the Amalekites, who Saul captures and keeps alive. And what about the animals?

“But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.” ~1Samuel 15:9~

King Saul makes changes to the instructions.

  1. He keeps the Amalekite king alive (like a trophy)
  2. He takes the animals that he wants and destroys the rest

Samuel is told by God that King Saul “has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” (1Sa 15:11).

What does Saul say to Samuel when he arrives? 

Saul flat out lies

“I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” ~1Sa 15:13~

What does Samuel do? Does he believe Saul? No. Does he simply accept what Saul says and let it go? No. 

Samuel makes an observation that blatantly points out the falsehood in King Saul’s statement.

But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’” ~ 1Sa 15:14~

How does Saul respond? He could at this point have repented, now that his deviation from God’s instruction has been pointed out to him, but does he? Nope.

Saul shifts the blame to someone else.

“And Saul said, ‘They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.’” ~Sa 15:15~

Samuel asks if Saul wants to hear what God has said.

Saul says “yes”

And for a few moments there is the illusion that Saul actually cares about the truth

Samuel confronts King Saul once more with the truth and questions him, giving him one more chance to repent.

“ . . .  the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?” ~1Sa 15:17-18~

For the third time Saul refuses to acknowledge that he has done anything wrong.

Saul again lies, redefines the instructions, again shifts the blame to others, and then points to a “good thing” that it seems he thinks is supposed to make up for the changes he made to God’s instructions.

“And Saul said to Samuel, ‘But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” ~1Sa 15:20~

King Saul could have repented, but he doesn’t and it cost him dearly. In part 2 of this post next week, we’ll look at how the LORD responds to King Saul’s lies and disobedience and how Samuel is obedient even at the risk of his own life.

Challenge: Are we listening to and obeying God’s commands? When someone points out where we have deviated from God’s instructions, are we repenting or are we digging the hole deeper by lying, blaming, and making excuses for why we did what we did?

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Why Are Unmarried People in the Christian Culture Treated Like Less Than? (Part 2)

As promised here is the continuation of the list of assumptions that I think contribute to the reason why single people are often disregarded in favor of married individuals when it comes to positions in the church.

Assumption #2: Someone who is married and has kids will be more likely to settle long-term in a church and be more committed to the church body.

Truth: Both single people and married people settle for long-term and short-term in places, and married people, particularly those with kids, often because of their commitments to their wife and kids, have less time to be committed to the church than single people.

“He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife.  . . . The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.” ~1Corinthians 7:32-34~

“But the LORD said to me: ‘Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.’” ~Jeremiah 1:7~

Challenge: Christians, please realize that a single person often has the flexibility and availability that a married individual does not have and that singles are often eager to be included in what is happening in the church. (And I don’t just mean as babysitters.) What I mean is, a single person may actually have far more time to commit to studying for and teaching that Adult Bible Study Class, than the other individual, who is a spouse and a parent, who may not have two quiet evenings together where they can prepare and compile the materials.

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Assumption #3: Someone who is married, specifically if they have kids, must possess more life-experience and will therefore make a better committee member, leader, teacher, etc. 

Truth: People who are married can actually have less life-experience than a single person because the married person has been busy looking after and caring for their family, whereas the single person is often able to go, do, and learn more because they don’t have a spouse and children. Is this always the case that singles have more experiences in life? No! But is this the case more than people realize? Yes.

Challenge: Christians, regardless of whether someone is single or married, take the time to asks what kind of experience they do have in different areas. Don’t just assume that the stay-at-home mother knows only about childrearing and couldn’t run a soundboard, that the trucker dad couldn’t be well-versed in theology as well as long-distance hauling, or that the single adult who currently works at a coffee shop couldn’t possibly be versed in parenting techniques and child psychology along with knowing how to make cappuccinos and lattes. 

“And Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.’ But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.’” ~1Samuel 17:33~

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Assumption #4: Someone who is married and has kids needs more support and community than someone who is single, because the married people with kids are dealing with more in life.

Truth: The married people have each other and their kids and actually often have more support from people inside and outside the church than many singles who may be completely on their own and just as overwhelmed and stressed out by life.

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.  . . . Be of the same mind toward one another. . . . .” ~Romans 12:3-16~

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~Galatians 6:10~

Challenge: Christians, equally make an effort to provide community, connection, and positions of service to everyone in the church.

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Assumption #5: Single people only want and are only capable of interacting with and ministering to younger people or other single people. 

Truth: Lots of singles love interacting with and ministering to all ages. Singles are also just as capable of teaching parents as parents are at teaching themselves or each other. (Because parents are just single people, who became parents)(And may I also point out that many parents are still single people. And many married people are not parents, and many parents are not married.) We each have knowledge and services we can give and areas where we need knowledge and service given to us.

“I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you . . . ” ~1 John 2:14~

Challenge: Christians, please stop acting like marital status or parental status somehow make us different people or more capable of interacting with each other or encouraging each other. The church was meant to be a body. Not two bodies—the married and the unmarried, but one body—The Church.

“ . . . we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” ~Romans 12:5~

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Why Are Unmarried People in the Christian Culture Treated Like Less Than? (Part 1)

There is a strange phenomenon that happens in Christian communities where age, ability, character, and life-experience only seem to become important after someone is married. Let me explain this statement within its context and hopefully my meaning will become clear. 

Take these two examples for instance. Who is more likely to be asked to serve on a church committee, be offered a place on the deacons board, or invited to teach?

The 27 year-old guy who grew up in the church but walked away from God in high school and college, after which he recommitted his life to the Lord and went on to seminary, and is now married, has a child, and is back in the church trying to decide what he is going to do next.

Or 

The 28 year-old guy who grew up in the church, committed his life to the Lord at an early age, has stayed faithful to God, attends church mostly consistently, went to seminary, and is now back in the church trying to decide what to do next.

You tell me, which one is more likely to be asked to join a church committee, deacons board, or to be invited to teach?

How about between these two?

A 26 year-old woman in the church, who has invested countless hours nannying kids, has been a faithful church attendee, and is a long-time believer with an extensive knowledge of scripture, but who is unmarried and has no kids of her own. 

Vs

A 25 year-old woman in the church, who became a believer in college, has a solid knowledge of Scripture, and is married to a committed, well-known Christian man in the church and has a six-month-old baby.

I guarantee you almost every time it will be the married individuals.

It is very common that, despite the fact that a single person may be older, despite that their knowledge of scripture is equal to or greater than the married people, and despite that they may have a more faithful track record serving the Lord, the single people are still far more likely to be passed over when it comes to being offered a position in the church.

But why?

Well, there are a lot of reasons, but there are a few assumptions that I think play a role: 

Assumption #1: Someone who is married, and even more so if they have children, is more mature/responsible than a person who isn’t married and doesn’t have their own children.

The Truth: Maturity is in the heart and head not in someone’s marital status or parental status.

As I once explained to a young adult who was frustrated with his mother, “Your mom is doing the best she can. And as much as you and she might both wish it were the case, there is no magical switch that gets flipped when someone becomes a parent that suddenly makes them a great parent. They are who they are, and that is what they have to work with.”

Who we are as spouses and parents is the result of who we are as individual people. Therefore, it is not the addition of a spouse or children into someone’s home that absolutely makes that person a mature/responsible individual, rather it is how they, as an individual, live out their lives that will show if they are mature and responsible.

1 Samuel 17:33 “And Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.’” (Yet David fought Goliath and won, and Saul was dethroned for not listening to the Lord.)

Ecclesiastics 4:13 “Better a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.”

Challenge: Christians, please stop acting like having a spouse and children means someone will automatically be more mature in a general or spiritual sense. Can having a spouse and children mean that a person is more mature? Definitely! But does having a spouse and children guarantee this maturity? Absolutely not!

Check back on Monday next week for Part 2 of this post.

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Who Do Millennials Listen To?

The post below is one I originally published October 1, 2018, and I think it is even more relevant now than it was then. We are a culture steeped in lies. Millennials expect deception and disregard; they need people willing to first and foremost care about them.

Words are cheap, and millennials know it.

Time is the true commodity, and if you are willing to spend your time on them, they may actually eventually listen to what you have to say.


Who Do Millennials Listen To?

I was sitting at a conference this last week listening to a speaker talk about how 95% of Millennials view their friends as better sources of information than anyone else. Dr. Murff, J. (2018, Sept) Engaging and Understanding the Millennial Mom: Marketing, Messaging, and Connecting. Lecture conducted at HSLDA’s 2018 National Leaders Conference.

What does this say about Millennial’s perceptions of the information presented by church leadership or other members of the church?
Yeah, kind of scary, right?

What this says to me is that trust has been broken or lost. 
How can this trust be gained back?

Become a Millennials friend.

I know this maybe sounds a bit ridiculous. I mean, yes, Millennials should be able to accept what is being said by authority figures in church, but at the same time why should they?

Millennials have grown up in a culture where the truth is twisted by everyone in order to sell something, convince them of something, or to bring them to their side of an issue. Always there is an agenda and always there are strings attached. 
Even if people say there aren’t, Millennials know to wait for them. If it’s not having to like someone’s social media page, it’s providing an email addresses, which will later be used to advertise back to them a product. Even in the church there can be subtle or not so subtle pressures that come across as strings attached to truth: such as a pressure to give money, volunteer in a ministry, or else in someway “give back” to the church.

Millennials have learned to expect that “truth” is presented with a bias, and that it may or may not even be the truth at all.

Why do Millennials trust their friends above anyone else?

Their friends probably have agenda’s too, but they believe their friends care about them and that their friends want what is best for them.

So, it’s not really a matter of throwing more information at Millennials, talking about leaderships’ authority, or telling Millennials they are foolish to make decisions this way. Rather what makes the difference is when they are convinced you care about them and have their best interests at heart. Become friends with Millennials and speak the Truth of Jesus into their lives for their benefit and because you care about them.

Jesus is the ultimate source of Truth (John 14:6), and the source to direct others to listen to. Jesus will always tell the truth, and He always has humanity’s best interests at heart. 

Challenge: Becoming someone’s friend takes time, but if it can make the difference between someone accepting the TRUTH or rejecting it, isn’t it worth spending that time?

Exo 33:11 “So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”

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