Daily Commitment is Important

dusty_bibleIt’s November! For most people it means getting out the Christmas decorations, planning road trips, and stuffing turkeys. For me it means I have to write. A LOT!

November is the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s a crazy challenge to write a 50,000 word (or longer) novel in 30 days. Crazy, I know.

Last year when I reflected back on the challenge and how I beat it I realized that one of the most important things was to just commit to write daily. Each and every day I did something to work on my novel. Some days I only wrote 100 words, some days I wrote 10,000 words. Most days were in between.

Focusing on the project daily is extremely important to completing this challenge because taking a break, even for a single day, makes it really easy to turn that into a two day break. Then three days.

And before you know it months have gone by without writing. Getting into this daily habit also made the writing itself easier.

This year is no different than last. It’s the daily commitment that gets me through the challenge. Writer’s block, being tired, all of those excuses get put aside because I have to get my word count in! I don’t have time for excuses.

In the past couple of weeks since I started preparing for this crazy writing challenge I started to let things slip. I haven’t had time to get any articles out on ETM, for one. But also, I quit reading my Bible consistently.

When taking on a huge challenge, whether it’s writing a novel, organizing an event, practicing for an upcoming competition, or just daily life with a full schedule, setting aside the Bible gets way too easy. We fall into the trap of thinking the Bible is just another motivational book, so it seems easy to let it fade into the background of life.

But reading the Bible is a big deal. It’s the weapon we use in this battle taking place between our spirit and our flesh.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105 ESV

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4 ESV

One of my favorite quotes is from Ravi Zacharias says:

The biggest battle you will face in life is your daily appointment with God. Keep it or every other battle will get bigger.

Keeping ourselves focused on God and drawing close to him is a daily battle against our sinful nature. The more we read the Bible the closer we draw to God and the easier it is to walk by the spirit and not the flesh.

I once read a book on fasting suggesting that weekly, or at least regular, fasting was important because it helped prepare the heart to hear from God. It wasn’t the act itself, because it isn’t the food we eat that gets in the way of listening to God. But the sacrifice of giving up food, something your body craves, to make God a priority, to focus that time on Him; that is what makes the difference.

In the same way, sacrificing some time out of your busy day to focus on God does something to us. It isn’t simply the act of reading something, but it’s making a concerted effort to make God an important part of our day, and it helps prepare our heart to follow the Spirit instead of the flesh.

Thankfully I have a godly wife that was there to help remind me of the importance of not sacrificing that time I should be spending with God. Walking in the flesh because we haven’t fed ourselves spiritually opens us up to a lot of temptation, hurt, and sin. It isn’t worth it. Especially for a husband who is trying to lead a house spiritually. It doesn’t take long for the enemy to come in and strike when we set down our weapon. A single decision made when we are following the flesh can have devastating consequences for a family.

We are in a spiritual battle, and a single day of not being prepared can be lethal.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  – Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

I urge you, take a few minutes each day to read the Bible. It’s important. Very important. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just reading one chapter, or even finding a single verse to meditate on throughout the day. Anything to feed your spirit and help you to win those battles against the flesh.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 ESV

New Year goals, what is it that really matters?

Written by Jon Zenor

As we draw near to the end of 2011 a new year dawns before us.  Many people see the new year as a new chance to get things straight in their life.

As I sit down to write out what my goals will be for this next year I can’t help but think of a quote I heard a few months ago.

I’m not afraid of failure; I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter. (William Carey – Missionary to India, 1761-1834)

Are you afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter?  You should, or at least I have been.  Every single thing we do we will be held accountable for, and for every single thing we don’t do.  Our culture has made it a point to make the body of Christ ineffective and lame.

I’ve heard a million words, sermons, and read books: (and) I’m accountable to God for everything I have. Every moment of my time, every dime of my money. (Leonard Ravenhill)

Entertainment

I just started watching some new TV shows on Netflix that I want to finish and I started playing a new game, Star Wars: The Old Republic (an MMO which promises to require a lot of my time).

All of this time I spend on entertainment makes me wonder, am I trying to succeed at things that do not matter?  If I get a max level character in Star Wars and beat all the bosses, and if I finish all the TV shows I am currently watching then months of my year are gone.

Star Trek the Next Generation is one show I want to finish, all 178 episodes. At 45 minutes per episode (yay for Netflix being commercial free!) that is 8010 minutes of my year, or 133 hours, which is about 5 and a half days.  5 and a half days of my year gone, just with one tv show, and there are many other shows I want to watch, and games to play.  Another 5 days for Star Trek Voyager, half a day with Firefly, and before you know it just in watching 3 tv shows I have used up nearly 2 full weeks of the 52 weeks I get to live this year. Sleeping for 7 hours per night is 15 weeks, and working approximately 250 days this year is another 12 weeks.

Just between work, sleep, and a couple of tv shows I only have 23 weeks worth of time left…

Our church, the army of the Lord, is found laying down sleeping on the job because we spend most of our time sitting in our comfortable couches watching sports and tv shows and playing computer games.  The world is out there perishing, needing people to help them and bring the gospel message, while we sit around not caring.

This goes back to the quote… am I trying to succeed at things that do not matter?  I am applying this to entertainment but it applies to everything we do, our jobs, relationships that may be dragging us down, time wasted on the internet, games played out with friends while our family is at home without us… the list goes on.

I once confronted someone about entertainment and got the response “but we all need entertainment.” Do we?  Do we really need entertainment?  I suppose if our only alternative is to sit around with nothing to do, then yeah, we need entertainment.

But consider this quote from one of my favorite preachers, Leonard Ravenhill.  He said “The devil’s substitution for joy is entertainment.” Think about that quote for a moment.

If we were busy doing something for Christ, for the lost, we would no doubt feel the joy of Christ in our life.  At that point, I believe, we wouldn’t miss those TV shows or sports.  We wouldn’t care because we would know that we are serving the kingdom.

I am not saying we need to be working twenty four seven and never do anything to relax, what I am saying is that the more time we choose to spend in entertainment the less time we spend doing something godly and holy; something productive.

Christians, we have a savior who gave up everything to become a man, why? So he could be entertained or provide us entertainment?  No, so he could serve and save us.

Do something that matters

I want to challenge each of you.  If you are a Christian, I challenge you to make it a goal this year to put God first, to sacrifice your entertainment time to read the Bible, pray, read a book about becoming a disciple (check out our book reviews for some great suggestions!), or have family time by watching something that is wholesome and edifying instead of the garbage we let in the house from mainstream cable.  Realize that the only thing worth living for, the only thing worth attempting to succeed at are things that are going to last for eternity.

I’m sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What’s supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can’t speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they’re talking football, or sports or something or there’s going to be a big sale downtown or somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity! (Leonard Ravenhill)

Do you realize your neighbors are speeding down the road to hell while you sit there watching your football games?  While I am sitting on my computer leveling up my Jedi Knight in Star Wars, my neighbor is struggling with sin and needing someone to share the love of Christ with them, someone to take the time to pray for them.

Brothers and sisters, what are we doing on this earth if we are not living for the kingdom?

Call up local churches or the police department and ask what kinds of needs are in your community that you can pray for and help out with.  Find the nearest homeless shelter and go help them out.  Do you knit? Knit them some scarves to help keep the homeless warm.  Just go do something; which may mean you have to turn off that TV.

If you are not a Christian, I plead for you to realize that your sin is greatly offending a mighty and holy God.  The one who created you and gave you life, love, the power to think, he is hurt by every “little” sin we do. It is time for you to get right before God, repent and turn from your sin and follow God!  The journey isn’t easy or comfortable, but it is awesome!

Let twenty twelve not go down in the history of your life as just another year that flew by faster than before with nothing significant to show for it.

Everything else is meaningless

When you face God on judgement day, how many characters you got to max out in a video game is not going to matter, how many football games you watched and cheered for will not matter, what tv shows you watched will not matter.  What will matter, is what you did with the resources God gave to you, your time and money.

The writer of Ecclesiastes ends his book by saying “Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless. … Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” ( Ecclesiastes 12:8, 13 NLT)

God Built: Forged by God – Book Review

I have heard a lot of good things about Steve Farrar but never personally read one of his books until now.  God Built: Forged by God, in the Bad and Good of Life is a very interesting and thought provoking book.

This book goes in depth into the life of Joseph and looks at why each event in his life happened.  From his betrayal by his brothers, to being sold into slavery, to being a chief slave, to being thrown into prison, to being handed the keys of Egypt, Joseph had a life of more downs than ups.  But Joseph acknowledged that everything in his life was orchestrated by God.  Which gets to the main point of this book, the sovereignty and providence of God.

“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. … And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God;” Genesis 45:5,7-8

This book challenged my beliefs on how much God is in control of every detail of our life, and every event, even the bad ones.  It has challenged my views that God does not just allow bad things to happen, but He put them there.

Praising God in the storm

Many will get offended and defensive when I say that, but those are usually the same people who sing that it is “God who gives, and takes away.”  This is a belief that we have acknowledged but never really thought through the implications of.

It is God who gives and takes away; He has a purpose for everything, we just need to learn to accept it and keep following Him regardless of if we see the good in a situation or not.  God had a purpose to allow Joseph to go through what he went through, and He has a purpose for what we are going through.

Take for example the Jasper family.  One day while the father was playing around with his five year old son their go cart flipped over, killing Cooper, the five year old boy.  Along with all of the pain that goes with loosing a child they never took their eyes off of God. They knew that it happened because God wanted it to happen, and this freed them to worship God even in the darkest of moments instead of tearing their family apart with anger towards God or blaming each other.  (Check out their story made into a documentary)

Working for God

Having a better understanding of who God is and how God controls everything also helps us in our day to day life, not just during the bad times.  When working at a job, God put us in that job, if we like it or not we are still working for God so we need to give it our best.

Joseph was literally a slave, but he worked hard to serve God and he ended up becoming the top slave in the house, in control of everything.  Then he got demoted, sent to prison, but his attitude and willingness to serve God meant that he was recognized by the jailer and was put in charge over his area of the prison.

When God puts us in our own dirty jobs, even for years at a time, we need to endure it with a positive, Godly attitude.  That will help us learn the lesson that God may have for us in those situations, and it will be a good witness to those around us that God may want us to minister to.

God’s Control… and Evil

One of the questions that is often brought up when discussing this topic is if God is in control of everything, then that means He made sin and makes us sin.  Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has an answer for this, which is explained in a bit more detail in the book.

The great problem is this: if God does govern and control everything, then what is his relationship to sin? All I can do, in answer, is to lay down a number of propositions that are clearly taught in Scripture.

The first is that sinful acts are under divine control, and occur only by God’s permission and according to his ultimate purpose (Genesis 45:8).

The second is that God restrains and controls sin (Psalm 76:10).

The third is that God overrules sin for good (Genesis 50:20).

My last proposition is that God never causes sin, nor approves of it, He only permits, directs, restrains, limits, and overrules it.  People alone are responsible for their sin (James 1:13-15).

You are built by God

All of this is meant to show you that you are built by God, the way you are and the plans He has for you in the future.  It is about us being men, manning up to our responsibilities and living how God wants us to live, because He built us for a purpose.

Your past mistakes and hardships were not mistakes, they were engineered by God to make you who you are.

I would recommend this book to most people, and at only $8 for the hard back at Amazon it is in a price range for most people as well.  So pick it up!

Courageous – Movie Review

In 2007 while browsing through a Christian bookstore I found a movie that touched my life.  The movie was Facing the Giants.  I resisted the movie at first because it is a football movie, and being a geek means I am not really much of a sports fan.  But I gave the movie a chance, and I am glad I did, that movie touched my life and encouraged me to put God first once again in my life.

Sherwood Pictures, the group that created the movie, just came out with another movie this month in theaters called Courageous: Honor Begins at Home.

The Message

The message of the movie is an important one.  It focuses on the man’s responsibility to his children and wife, and how important that relationship is.  The men in the movie are like any of us, imperfect fathers from all walks of life.  Men who suck at being a father and men who are doing a good enough job.  The men get to a point in their life where they decide “good enough” is not really good enough, and they seek to change.

Stephen Kendrick, one of the movie’s producers stated the mission they have for the movie during an interview.  He said “We want to challenge men to forgive their dads, their dads wounded them, or provided poor example for them. And them seek God as their father and then step up to spiritual leadership. We can change the world if we can get dads to step up and disciple and lead this next generation.”

Story Elements

The story is very engaging and emotional for all audiences.  There is action, humor, tragedy, and redemption.  The characters are very believable and the actors are good.  Despite the fact that this movie is made by a church congregation, it has all the elements and look of a Hollywood blockbuster, but with a strong Christian message.

I went to the movie during a weekday so there were not a lot of people there, maybe a dozen or so sitting all around me.  Throughout the movie, in every direction, were people laughing, and even sobbing.  (I was too, but don’t tell anybody)  That tells me the entire audience really engaged and connected with characters and the story in a deeply emotional way.

Go see it!

Courageous, I would say, is an epic film.  You need to see it.  The message given make this far exceed any entertainment available today.  It will encourage families to take a more courageous stand in their family, even if it is not easy.  It will encourage men to want to do the right thing in their marriages and with their children, and will show them how it is possible.

And while you are at it, go see Sherwood Picture’s other movies available on DVD.  Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof.

Courageous, the book

After seeing the movie, get the book.  There are two books, The Resolution for Men, and a companion book The Resolution for Women.  I have The Resolution for Men at home sitting at the top of my book pile, so I will be reading it soon.  As soon as I finish it I will write a review for you guys.  However, based on the quality of Biblical work Sherwood puts out I would say you do not need to wait for my review to get the book and read it.

If anybody has read The Resolution for Women, please write a small review and send it to us.  Email it to Info@EternalTruthMinistry.com.

What are your thoughts?

Have you seen the movie yet?  What are your thoughts?  Post a comment below telling me how this movie has impacted you and your family!

Removing Distractions does not make more time for God

Last week I took up a challenge to go 40 days without TV or xbox in order to remove distractions from my life and to draw closer to God.

I am currently on day 5 and I have already learned something.

Getting rid of a distraction does not mean you have more time for God. Removing a distraction from your life is like removing a cup of water from a bucket. As soon as you remove that water, more water floods the space you just freed up and in a split second you cannot even tell you removed any water in the first placce.

Removing a distraction from your life just gives you more time for other distractions. Sure I spent more time this week playing with my son Malikai, relaxing with some music with Danae, and reading a lot of books, getting the house ready for company, which we can all agree are much better than watching tv. But my main purpose of doing this challenge was to draw closer to God.

Your flesh, and Satan, have a lot of proven ways to keep you distracted from God. If you want to take a challenge to go without something in order to spend more time with God, you must not only remove the distraction, but commit yourself to actually spending more time with God.

There is a war going on, your flesh wants to keep you focused on the flesh and the things of the world, and Satan wants to keep you focused on anything but God and the Bible. Declaring to fight by removing something from your life isn’t as easy as you may think.

It takes some dedication and discipline to spend that extra time with God above and beyond what you already spend every day. So if you want to take on this challenge, go into it prepared with a battle plan.

Are distractions keeping you from being as close to God as you could be?

“Our blessings have become a curse. They attract us. They take too much of our time and concern.” – Leonard Ravenhill

One of the most powerful tools Satan is using to attack the church and keep Christians crippled in America today is distractions.

Let’s face it, life in America is distracting. We have TV and xbox and iphones and the latest gadgets, cars to repair soccer practice to take the kids to, work. We try to squeeze spending time with the family in there, but even that is mostly taken up by staring at the television together.  None of these things are that bad, but they tend to distract us from what truly matters; our relationship with God.

We have enough free time to spend a couple hours watching a movie a couple times a week or just vegging out in front of some mind numbing sitcoms and playing Black Ops to all hours of the night, but we struggle to give God just fifteen minutes of our week according to the Barna Group’s research.

What are you going to do when you get to eternity, if you can’t stick in an hour with God down here? In God’s name, what are you going to do in a million years in God’s presence? Expect some reports from earth about football or something? – Leonard Ravenhill

If something is preventing you from being as close to God as you should be it needs to be removed. Fat keeps a runner from running as fast as they could, so runners work hard to trim off the fat. This fat trimming increase their speed and makes them healthier which makes them a better runner.  Likewise we need to trim off the fat of the American dream and the fat of distractions in our life so we can run the spiritual race as best we can.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2

Starting today I am taking a 40 day challenge to cut TV out of my life. This includes Netflix, xbox, or even youtube on my iPhone. I will replace much of that time with reading and praying and listening to praise music. I will provide periodic updates to let you know my progress during this challenging time, and hopefully it will encourage you to take up a similar fast for God.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. – Psalm 119:15

Exceptions

So nobody accuses me of cheating I will have just a few exceptions here.

  • My wife and I started a tv show on netflix, we have about 15 episodes left and Netflix is getting rid of it on June 1st, so I will finish the series with my wife (only that show and only when watching with her)
  • Xbox just for working out – using the game Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
  • Sermons on Youtube – Many of the sermons I listen to are provided on youtube, but that is all I will watch there

Start the Countdown

So now I start my count down, forty days of no television, netflix, xbox games, or watching videos online. Forty glorious days of drawing closer to God with one less distraction in my life.  On June 26th I may not even want to go back to watching TV. 🙂

“No man is greater than his prayer life.” – Leonard Ravenhill

Will you join me with your own challenge? Is there something God has been tugging on your heart to get rid of?  Comment below and let me know what challenge you want to take on.