Posted by: mbaker | April 28, 2008

Goodbye to Blogging

Dear friends, and fellow bloggers,

I am leaving the blogging scene.  I want to thank all of you who have responded here, and with whom I have interacted on other sites. Most of the previous posts will remain up, although the comments section will be closed. 

God bless all of you.  

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Posted by: mbaker | January 14, 2008

Why Should We Pray?

 (Note: This is the first part of a 4 part series on prayer)

Why should we pray?- Part I

Some people live their whole Christian lives without praying except for saying grace or bowing their heads in church when someone else prays. When they, or someone else needs something they go to prayer chains or outside intercessors. 

 

According to scripture, however, prayer is not something confined to those who are considered prayer warriors, watchmen on the walls, intercessory missionaries, prayer pastors or any of the other terms nowadays used to describe those who regularly pray for others. 

 

While in recent years there has been a tendency to outsource prayer and make it into a whole separate ministry, praying is actually a scriptural mandate for all believers according to the Bible. It is meant for all of us, as His beloved children, to enjoy a life of personal communion with God.

 

 As Paul pointed out in I Timothy 2: 1-4, this communion with our Lord in prayer should take place in several different ways:

 

“First of all I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all, for kings and all who are in high positions that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”

 

When we rely too heavily on others to talk to God for us we miss out on one of the most wonderful privileges ever given to man, that of personal communicating with the God of the entire universe whenever we desire to. According to that scripture, we also have the opportunity to make life better for ourselves here when we obey God in such mandates. Most of all, as the scripture points out, such time spent in prayer pleases the Lord of our lives.

 

We don’t need to go through someone else to do that either.  Neither do we need to have a special method other than the simple guidelines outlined in scripture, because it’s Christ Himself who makes it possible for all our prayers to be heard and answered by the Father.  Paul goes on to say in verse 5:

 

”For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”

 

Even knowing their own Lord and Savior will mediate for them in prayer, some Christians will often say they don’t pray because they don’t know how to.  They are afraid their simple prayers will not be honored. Since God plays no favorites, fortunately for all of us,  He does not base His answers upon “experts” using the latest cutting edge, man- made prayer method.


Still other people think their prayers won’t be heard because they don’t attend church, or don’t belong to a prayer group.  However, Jesus said:

 

“And when you pray don’t be like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward.”

 

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who is in secret will reward you.”(Matthew 6:5-6)

 

Does that mean we shouldn’t pray together?  Of course not.  God just doesn’t want us to be more concerned with looking for other people’s approval that we forget our relationship in prayer is to be with Him personally first:

 

 

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people  in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” ( Matthew 6:1)

 

 

  The last and possibly the saddest excuse I hear is that someone doesn’t think they’re righteous enough to be heard by a holy God.  Folks, even as Christians our righteousness does not come from us in the first place, no matter how good we think we or someone else is, but it is imputed to us by Christ.  Yes, we are told to live righteous, upright lives and that the effective prayers of a righteous man avails much, but no one can measure someone’s righteousness except the Lord Himself. He is the only one who truly knows the motives of our hearts, and understands our deepest needs and desires.  And He will listen when no one else will, no matter where we are, or when we pray. We also get to vent with Him privately without fear of retaliation from others.  Prayer is our only verbal means of communicating all these things with Him directly. With all of that going for us, and since He’s already made the divine provision for us to address our concerns personally to Him that way, whenever we choose, that’s why it’s always to our benefit to talk to Him honestly and often.

 

(Coming next:  Why prayers Go Unanswered,  The Biblical Outline For Prayer,  What is Intercession? )

Posted by: mbaker | October 27, 2007

What Does It Mean to Be a Servant?

In recent years, I have seen an alarming trend in some parts of the church that is a move away from unselfish service as a people of God, in the name of finding fulfillment in our own individual purposes. In certain quarters, there is also a self-centered view of God portraying Him as a Santa Claus type figure who lives for nothing more than to bless and prosper His children. Still others see God in a narrow metophorical sense only. For instance, there are some teachers who portray Jesus as nothing more than an emotional bridegroom, pining away in heaven waiting for us – the church – to be physically reunited with him as His bride. I will not attempt to address any of these teachings separately on their own merits, because at the heart of each one of them is self-absorption, not the selflessness that Christ modeled.So what does it mean for Christians to serve God, both as individuals and as a church?First, let us look at how Jesus modeled unselfish service in the proper way to His disciples. Even though He was the Son of God, He actually physically washed their feet to show them He indeed practiced what He preached. Did this mean He was no longer their Lord, when He told them afterward that no servant was greater than His master? Of course not. What Jesus was illustrating is that no act of service we do, and no purpose of ours, no matter how holy or motivated it is makes it or us greater than God’s purposes. So lesson number one in all Christian service is that nothing we do, say or think should take precedence over what Christ has already done, and how He instructs us to act as his followers.There are also many who say we don’t need to obey the Bible’s instructions any more because we are now under a covenant of grace, God’s unmerited favor, and unconditional love. While that is true, it is an incomplete picture of God which causes many to erroneously believe He lives only to serve us by fulfilling our needs, and we can continue in our sin without repentance. That is actually a gnostic belief of antinomianism, that taught that salvation was for the soul only, and bodily behavior was irrelevant to God. Frends, that is not what Christ, who is the Word made flesh, taught:” 8My (A)Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so (B)prove to be My disciples.” 9″Just as (C)the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”10″(D)If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as (E)I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”11″(F)These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your (G)joy may be made full.”Disciples’ Relation to Each Other:12″This is (H)My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”13″(I)Greater love has no one than this, that one (J)lay down his life for his friends.”14″You are My (K)friends if (L)you do what I command you.”15″No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for (M)all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”16″(N)You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and (O)bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that (P)whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” 17″This (Q)I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:8-17)”Cross references:John 15:8 : Matt 5:16 – AJohn 15:8 : John 8:31- BJohn 15:9 : John 3:35; 17:23, 24, 26 John 15:10 -CJohn 14:15 – DJohn 15:10 : John 8:29 – EJohn 15:11 : John 17:13- FJohn 15:11 : John 3:29- GJohn 15:12 : John 13:34; 15:17; 1 John 3:23; 2 John 5 -HJohn 15:13 : Rom 5:7 -IJohn 15:13 : John 10:11- JJohn 15:14 : Luke 12:4 -KJohn 15:14 : Matt 12:50- LJohn 15:15 : John 8:26; 16:12 -MJohn 15:16 : John 6:70; 13:18; 15:19 -NJohn 15:16 : John 15:5 -OJohn 15:16 : John 14:13; 15:7; 16:23 -PJohn 15:17 : John 15:12 -Q(I encourage you to look up all the cross references to the verses in this passage, so you will get a complete understanding of all the passage encompasses regarding what Christ says about our service and our relations to others, as well as His relationship to us. I believe you will find many direct answers to your questions by doing this. )So we know what Christ says about what our Christian service should be, but doesn’t God promise to do certain things for us as His beloved children, as well? Of course. Christianity is not a one-way ticket to nowhere. We never serve God in vain, because God rewards us either here or in heaven. God, as our heavenly Father and our Creator, fulfills our need for love, security and protection, as well as giving us the talents and gifts we need to survive and prosper in this world. To show that, He sent his Son, Jesus Christ to give us that life more abundantly, then to have eternal life with Him, and to provide a real life role model for how we are to live and to serve on this earth. God also provided a divine counselor, in the form of the Holy Spirit who indwells us when we accept Christ as our Savior. The job of the Holy Spirit is not to act on His own, but to testify to what Christ says, and to guide us, comfort us, convict us of sin, and lead us to all truth.However, as our Father, God still retains His full authority over us, the earthly family He created for His pleasure, just as we do over the children in our homes in whom we take pleasure in providing for. He also has certain expectations of us. As our provider, God retains the right to grant us the things He thinks we most need at the time. That’s why we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, because God stills retains control of both. As our divine disciplinarian, He trains us as beloved sons and daughters (Hebrews 12:5-11) to help us develop endurance, and grow into righteousness. When we are old enough, He expects us to follow Christ’s example and serve others in turn. In modeling Christ, He expects us to act out our faith, not just by words, but in actions and in truth. (I John 3:18)Friends, both as individuals and as a church, it’s essential for us to look fully at our roles as God’s children within the complete context of His Word, so we won’t wind up bedazzled or misled by every new fad in teaching that comes along, disguising itself as being the “latest thing” from God. God does not change His teaching from generation to generation, as people do. Because once He gives his word on a matter, it’s a done deal for all eternity. We can take it to the bank. That’s why it’s important to be wary of teachings that claim they are new methods or revelations from God, even if they look good and sound plausible on the surface. Remember that’s the same trick Eve fell for. If you receive any theology, claiming any “new” revelation that can’t be tested by scripture, or takes scripture out of context to prove another agenda, avoid it. God says He already has given us all the instructions and equipping we need pertaining to life and Christian service in the scriptures ( II Timothy 3:16) Since the Bible is “The Word became flesh that walked among us” to dismiss it out of hand as a mere book of outdated rules, is to separate God from His truth. This another another tactic satan used to deceive Eve, when he put doubt in her mind by asking her if God really said she should not eat of the forbidden fruit. However, to just blame satan for our deception or our sins, or even standing in the way of our Christian service is also wrong. God has equipped each of us to serve in some way. No matter who we are or where we are, or what our talents we can in some way be of service in God’s kingdom.Someone once gave me a simple but graphic example of just what happens when we Christians accept salvation, then concentrate on our own purposes, and operate out of our own system of beliefs: When we have our eyes on ourselves, we have our backs turned to Jesus, and when we have our eyes on Jesus our backs are turned to ourselves.So judge for yourselves: Which is it going to be for you as a Christian – a life of selfishness or a life of selflessness?

Posted by: mbaker | October 10, 2007

What Would Jesus Really Do?

Did you ever have to make a choice that you knew you had to make but didn’t want to because you respected the person you knew you had to confront about false teaching? This isn’t another brother or sister, but a respected pastor and theologian in my city whose church we recently started to attend once again. Years ago, I had attended this church before moving out of town. Since we have recently relocated near this city, we decided to re-visit my old church. Everything was going well until we started membership classes this Sunday.

We received a great teaching on the ordinances of baptism and communion, but when we turned the page to the second part of our teaching booklet, regarding how the church was structured, we saw the word: Saddleback – spelled in big bold capital letters, along with all the things it stands for. My husband I both were shocked and stunned that this church had tailored it’s “new look” around the questionable teachings of a popular bestselling book. For those of you who don’t know, Saddleback is an acrostic for the purpose driven goals in books made popular by Rick Warren. Saddleback is the name of the church he pastors. These slick marketing methods, designed to increase church membership, and get Christians more involved, are increasingly coming under fire from respected theologians across the board. The criticism is that Warren’s methods are simply psuedo religious mass marketing tools, designed to target the largely unchurched younger generation by making Christianity more attractive while downplaying some of the harder parts of the gospel, such as repentance.

We know that Jesus sometimes took unpopular stands with the religious leaders of his day, and severely took them to task for substituting their man made traditions in their temples. This man and his church are not by any stretch of the imagination “a brood of vipers,” or ” whitewashed tombs”, but folks like us that we know genuinely love the Lord and wish to serve Him wholeheartedly. That’s what makes things like this so difficult. We believe that this purpose driven “model” they’re using is not the model of the Bible, but another man-made redefinition of the purpose of Christians. This book, which emphatically states in the beginning, “This is not about you.” is in fact a step by step guide for individuals and churches to “grow” into their SHAPE, another Warren acrostic. On the face of it, there seems to be nothing wrong with that, but in essence it’s a modern day redefintion of Christianity, because it puts the focus on how we do all things Christian, instead of how Christ wishes His church to be run. This is exactly the mistake the religious leaders of His day made. They added their traditions to the Word of God until most of the religious practices of the time that Christ lived in were heavily slanted toward the purposes and traditions of men, and their performances.

My objection to the purpose driven life/church/business etc; is that it over emphasizes our purpose, which we learn to identify through various methods outlined in Warren’s books, rather than carrying out the good works that God planned for us before the foundations of the world. What Jesus really wanted us all to do to carry on His work is already clearly spelled out in scripture. Funniest thing, I thought THAT was still supposed to be our church model.

One of the biggest Christian cop-outs of our time is the phrase : “I don’t feel led of the Lord to ….” People say that Jesus would never lead us to do something that went against the truth. That’s very true. Jesus would not. It’s our driving need for recognition, affirmation and personal fulfillment that gets us into trouble. Initially, the fruit looks pleasing to the eye. The purpose driven life model caters to this. That’s why we need to be careful that we don’t fall prey to redefining our roles as Christians, to the tune of a 40 million plus selling book, and begin making it our Bible instead. We need to get out of the habit of using Christian self-help books as a guide to model ourselves and our churches after, because changing God’s stated purpose for his people to fit our personal agenda is something Jesus really would NOT do.

Posted by: mbaker | September 29, 2007

What Is Truth?

This infamous, and universal question, was asked by Pontius Pilate at the trial of Jesus. In some form or another, it is a question that has probably been asked by virutally every human being on the planet. What is truth for me? How do I find it? Where do I look? How do I know the difference in what is real and what is false?

Truth is not just an abstract principle, nor is it just knowing all the facts. We can have all the facts available and still come to the wrong conclusion. Nor is something true because we merely believe it is, based upon our opinions or the opinions of others, for human beings did not establish truth. God did. As Christians, our basis for truth needs to begin and end with Him, since he is the Alpha and the Omega.

“For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it): he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain’. I, the Lord, speak the truth, I declare what is right.”
(Isaiah 45:18-19)

So we see that the truth is not some deep, dark unknowable secret, but is always found in the Lord, who established it. And His divine truth, which is freely available for all, does not change with the times, as we human beings do.

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ” My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Isaiah 46:8-9)

God’s divine truth came to earth in Jesus Christ, the fulfilment of all the prophecies. “And the Word was made flesh,and walked among us.” (John 1:14 ) This the greatest gift of truth ever given to mankind, Jesus Christ, who became living proof that all God has said is real. Jesus exemplified God’s grace and His truth combined.

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”(John 1:17)

Even though Jesus was the only begotten son of God, and our redeemer, in his earthly body He was subject to the same temptations we are. Yet He lived by God’s truth, not those of the times He was born into. Nor, when faced with a difficult choice, did he let His own feelings override God’s ulitmate purpose for Him. Yet, so many times we Christians get off track with God because what we think and feel becomes more important to us than what is really true.

Friends, we must learn that truth isn’t just something subjective we believe and act upon, based upon cultural or personal opinions. It was established by God before the foundations of the world:

“In the beginning , there was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

So we see that truth cannot exist apart from God.

Notice that even though He said, ” I am the Way , the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6, Christ, even as our Savior and redeemer, did not separate Himself from the truth of God’s written word, as some in our religious culture seem to do. Instead He said in His prayer for us to the Father:

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)

The word “sanctify” is used in several ways in the Bible:

1. To set apart for sacred use; consecrate.
2. To make holy; purify.
3. To give religious sanction to, as with an oath or vow: sanctify a marriage.
4. To give social or moral sanction to.
5. To make productive of holiness or spiritual blessing.

Those are valid reasons for basing our truth on scripture. Without being sanctified through God’s truth, we’ll be lost or confused when it comes to making wise life choices, and determining the difference between right and wrong. Because truth is so important to God, therefore it should be a priority for all Christians. No child of God, who has a complete set of lifestyle instructions instantly available in the Bible, should ever have to ask, as Pontius Pilate did, ” What is truth?”

Posted by: mbaker | August 6, 2007

Facing the Giants

My husband and I recently watched an inspiring Christian movie, which was about real life issues that we all face from time to time. The story is about a small town high school football coach, whose life is falling apart before his very eyes. His job is on the line because of several losing seasons in a row. His house is falling apart, he can’t pay his bills, and he and his wife are unable to have the children they want so much. He’s made fun of because of his Christian values. He tries everything to fix it, but to no avail. Nothing is working.

He finally decides to give the glory to God, win or lose, and leave the outcome to Him, no matter what happens. Without any effort on his part, his life and his team began to turn around in a dramatic way. Based upon several real ife examples the producer put together, this isn’t your usual overly syrupy movie. It is an intense and realistic look at the real life problems we face as Christians.

Sometimes we have the idea that once we become God’s children everything is going to be clear sailing. We’re disappointed to find out that just the opposite is often true. Christ Himself said, “In this world you will know trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” This movie will give you hope that Christ is indeed in charge. I highly recommend it as an excellent family movie all Christians should watch. “Facing the Giants” is available is most video stores.

Posted by: mbaker | August 5, 2007

Whatever Happened to Accountabilty?

As many of you know, I am a photojournalist by profession. Years ago, I used to work for a large chain of weekly newspapers as a community news reporter. I covered everything from the mayor to business news to sporting events. One thing I noticed very quickly was that there was a big difference in what was going on privately and the news the public was given.

The same sort of policy has been creeping its way into some areas of the church for sometime now. We are given a statement of faith, or a mission statement by most churches, professing their allegiance to Christ and to the principles God set forth in the Bible. Yet, sometimes what they state is not what they actually practice in real time. In their soft sell approach, many take such great latitude with scripture that their watered down version of religion bears more resemblance to a comfortable country club membership. This kind of religious “tolerance” may sound very high minded and spiritual, but in actual practice it is sometimes a green light for immorality.

Nowadays, anyone who dares point out what God says about sin in the Bible is labeled “unloving”, or a religious bigot by our culture. However, people who make such accusations about those who are going by the word of God may not realize it but they are applying those labels to God Himself, since His Holy Word says:

” Now the works of the flesh are evident, sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, emnity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalies, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkeness, orgies and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-20)

In verse 24, He goes on to say something about individual accountability:

” And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with it’s passions and desires.”

Yes, God wants us to love those who practice immorality, but he does not want us us to practice it, or excuse it or overlook it. In Galations 6:1 He tells us what what we should do:

” Brothers, if anyone is caught in any trangression you who are spiritual should restore Him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourselves, lest you too be tempted.”

We all want to be thought well of by others. That’s human nature. Yet as His chosen people, for whom so much has been sacrificed, we should think first about what our actions say about God’s reputation.

I John 2:16-17 gives us the reason that our Christian accountability should be to God first:

” For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Posted by: mbaker | August 4, 2007

Grateful For His Grace

One of the commenters here asked me to share my testimony. My testimony really isn’t “mine” but a testimony of how God is willing to radically change our lives if we will do one simple thing: just ask Him to.

I was raised in the tiny town of Thunderbolt, Georgia, a small fishing village just outside of Savannah. We kids were free to roam and do as we pleased with no thought of pedophiles or other dangers that children have to face nowadays. We spent most of our days playing sandlot baseball, carrying on the tradition of my father who played professionally for a short time. There was no television in those days so we we happily entertained ourselves fishing, playing Monoply, and going to movies on Saturday when we weren’t on the baseball diamond. It was an idyllic life in many ways. However, my family was torn apart early on by divorce, and conflicting religious beliefs. Both my parents had been previously married, and I had a half-sister by my Dad’s first marriage, to whom I was very close in my younger years. However, when I was very young she was returned to the custody of her mother, by order of the court, to be raised in the Catholic religion. My father strenuously objected, and the two became estranged. I was not to see my beloved sister again, except for one occasion, until my father’s funeral over 50 years later.

Hearing the arguments in my family about the difference in Prostestants and Catholics turned me off completely to religion. So did the signs throughout the south at that time. They were everywhere. “Repent or burn in hell” was painted on almost every barn roof, along with the Mail Pouch Tobacco signs. So I developed a real distaste for religion. I though God was angry and mean. Because of my sister being taken away, I thought of Him as a take away God.

Fast forward a few years. My family and two younger sisters moved to Atlanta. I was now a small town “hick” in the big city. I was completely out of place. Slowly, I began to adjust to city life. It did hold lots of new and interesting things. I had my first fast food hamburger. I was at a Woolworth’s lunch counter when Martin Luther King came in during the “sit-ins” of the 60’s. I saw religious segregation end in the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, where Charles Stanley now pastors. It was a tense moment, with TV camaras and the national news media present, but all went well and the church made history in the south. The old church has been torn down down now, but it was there I first accepted Christ.

Fast forward another few years. I married a man who was not a practicing Christian, and for years afterward neither was I. We had been married for 16 years without live children. I had a premature first baby, which didn’t survive the first year of our marriage, and many miscarriages after that. Sixteen years later, and six months after my last miscarriage I was sitting in my living room when suddenly I knew I was pregnant again. Although I had not prayed in years, I said to the Lord, “Please don’t let me be pregnant if I can’t carry this one.” My prayer was answered. The doctor confirmed I was indeed pregnant. For some reason, once I found out I was at complete peace. I knew in my heart everything would be all right, although my doctor had serious doubts because I was 39 years old at the time. My gynecologist had studied under a doctor in Vienna who specialized in problem pregnancies, so he put me under a strict regimen. For nine months I could eat nothing with food additives or take any kind of medicine, or travel. I particpated in a hospital study of pregnant women with a history of miscarriage. I was ultrasounded every week so I could see the development of my child.

She was born by Ceasearean section, a healthy beautiful child. My ob/gyn, who was Jewish, was profoundly moved because I had told him the story of how I was sitting in the living room, and knew the Lord would give me a heathy baby when my pregnancy was confirmed. At the time, he shrugged it off. However, the morning after her birth, he came in, visibly shaken, and said “Marge, a very stange thing happened. When I took that baby out of your womb she was smiling.” We both knew something profound had happened. The whole hospital celebrated with us.

The birth of my daughter changed my whole outlook about Christ. I finally knew that He was Lord, whereas before I had accepted it only on a superficial level.

My former husband could not adjust to the changes a baby brought to our carefree life, however. We divorced when she was two years old. For a great deal of her life I was a struggling single mom. I got very close to the Lord in those days because He was all I had to rely on. Now my daughter is 27 years years old and a very fine woman in her own right. I look back on those years, as difficult as they were, and see the Lord always had His hand on me even though I didn’t know it. I’m grateful to Him for waking me up, and making me know for sure how awesome He really is, for on my own that never would have happened.

It was pure unmerited, amazing grace, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Posted by: mbaker | August 3, 2007

Examples or Warnings?

I saw this in a recent Reuters news report, and thought it might be a good subject to discuss since several parents I know are concerned that the questionable antics of some of the young celebrities are getting far too much press coverage. A recent poll seems to bear that out.

“A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press said Thursday that 87% of respondents believe celebrity scandals get way too much ink and airtime. Only 8% think the media get the balance between celebrity and serious news right, while 2% told the surveyors that there wasn’t enough celebrity scandal coverage.”

When I was a kid growing up in Thunderbolt, Georgia we didn’t have a television at all. We kept up with the celebrities via “movie” magazines, most of whom have long since gone by the wayside. In those days the movie producers pretty much covered up scandals, and very few legitimate news outlets ever carried any story about “bad boy” celebrities.

Fast forward to the cable news outlets and news magazines of our day. The Anna Nichole Smith-Bradgelina-Paris Hilton-Michael Vick-Britney Spears-Barry Bonds scandals have been covered ad nauseum. What we are missing here is the effect all this is having on the young people of our day. These celebrities, among others, are snubbing their noses at everything we teach our children that is legal and moral.

Used to be, our sports heroes at least stood for something. For the most part, they were our role models growing up. We learned teamwork from them and we learned how to persevere under adverse circumstances. We also learned we had to be an example of all that was good about America if we were to follow in their footsteps.

Somehow the attitude of so many celebrities these days is “deal with it” when they act out in public or break the law. They seem to like to thumb their noses at the expectations of the public that makes their money and fame possible. In the process, they’ve become warnings of how not to behave rather than positive examples.

As Christians, whenever we are tempted to do something that might make other people stumble, we need to take note of what our own life styles are saying to others, and heed the warning in scripture that bad morals corrupt good company.

Posted by: mbaker | August 2, 2007

Are We Really Listening To Each Other?

Have you ever carefully explained something to someone and then had them take your words completely out of context? Over and over again, despite your repeated explanations to the contrary? It can get really frustrating because pretty soon you feel like a broken record. You start asking yourself, “Why aren’t they paying attention to what I’m really saying?” It seems so unfair when people misunderstand us because they weren’t really paying attention in the first place, and then try to make us the villian. As if that’s not bad enough, then others around us have to put their two cents in. And, of course, everyone seems to have a different opinion. Pretty soon, all parties involved are disagreeing with each other. That’s the ripple nature of conflict. It may start as a small thing at first, but if we keep throwing rocks into the pond over and over again the waters never calm down.

What is called “selective hearing” happens all the time in the church. Just like the rest of the world, we Christians often hear only what we want to hear, instead of what is actually being said. As a photojournalist I deal with this in my profession all the time. What is usually at the heart of it is that (a) someone has a preconceived agenda that they don’t want to come out and be truthful about, and whatever you or I said or did threatens that or (b) both sides have unrealistic expectations of each other or (c) one person is trying to make themselves look superior to another.

Friends, as Christians this should not be. We need to be truthful with one another about what’s really going on. Having agendas that we’re expecting others to adhere to without their knowledge is a no-win situation. We need to let people know up front if we’ve already made a decision about something, or if we have changed our position on a matter. Expecting someone to play by our rules, when they don’t know what the game plan is, can be downright distrastrous for all concerned.

We should always be honest with others in our dealings with them, but we don’t need to do it in a way which causes harm to our witness for Christ, or reflects on God’s reputation. As Christians, if we have a personal disagreement with someone else, we already know what scripture tells us to do. There is a three step process in Matthew 18:15-17 all Christians are supposed to follow when they have a personal grievance with another brother or sister. When we put one step before the other, as is frequently the case, then we wind up causing an even greater misunderstanding.

Sometimes that doesn’t apply because there is public disagreement about what establishes the facts of a matter. In that case, we all tend to go with what we believe to be the truth. Anyone in law enforcement can tell you that two different people will probably have two entirely different versions of exactly the same event. One saw it from one angle and the other saw it from another. However both accounts are valuable in seeing the whole picture. As a pastor I know so wisely remarked, “There’s always three sides to every story. My side, your side, and the truth.” No matter how smart or well informed we are, no one this side of heaven has all the right answers. When we have taken someone’s statements out of context, and made them appear to mean something else entirely, then we need to be big enough Christians to admit that we were wrong.

Being taken the wrong way has happened to me lots of times, and probably to you, and it will happen to every human being on the planet at some point in time. And, because we are imperfect human beings chances are good that it will happen again. Sometimes we’ll be the victim of such unfair tactics, and sometimes we’ll be the perpretrators. Unfortunately, that’s human nature. The important thing is that we make sure we follow the Lord’s counsel in the matter when these things happen, whether the other person chooses to do so or not. That may not give us exactly the outcome we desire, but it will show that we are the kind of Christians who really are willing to put God’s agenda first.

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