When we do not love God

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 6:   A couple embraces as...
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 6: A couple embraces as they worship in audience of the non-denominational prayer and fasting event, The Response on August 6, 2011 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Thousands attended the event organized by Gov. Rick Perry in order to pray for God to help save 'a nation in crisis' referring to America. The event garnered an estimated 30,000 participants who came to worship through day. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

In the past few articles I talked about how we have neglected our primary mission field because we have turned our mission field into a comfortable home that we do not want to risk loosing or downgrading.  And I mentioned that instead of spending all of our time on the mission we distract ourselves with games, movies, and entertainment  and just doing things that keep the focus on us.

The answer, though, is not to give away all of your stuff, cancel your cable TV, and spend all of your time at the local food pantry volunteering and never have any fun again.

That is because those issues are not the problem, they are just the symptoms.

It is like when you get sick, running a fever and coughing so much you cannot sleep.  The fever and the coughing are not the problem.  The problem is that you have a virus running through you destroying your body.  The coughing and fever are just the symptoms, the signs that you have a problem.

Likewise, the fact that we spend all of this time focused on ourselves and our wants, focusing on our desires for now instead of the future in eternity, they are just a symptom; a sign that says we have something much deeper wrong.

There are two problems which are related to each other.

  1. We lack an understanding of how much God loves us
  2.  We are not in love with God

according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19

A lot of times we as Christians (or just as humans) find things wrong with our lives and we want to fix them ourselves.  We know we are not tithing enough so we try harder, we know we have too much stuff so we discipline ourselves more and drop the stuff we think is hindering us.  We come up with lists and plans and accountability groups and fasts and all these actions to make us act better.

But the true issue is that we have not fallen in love with God.

I cannot say or do anything to make you fall in love with Jesus just like I cannot make you fall in love with any person.  If you fall in love or not is dependent on you and how much you see and reflect God’s love towards you.

All I can do is make the introduction, but after I introduce you to Jesus – the creator of the universe who was beaten, bled and died because He loves you so much He doesn’t want you to pay the penalty of your own sins against Him – after I make that introduction, you will either fall in love with Him and bow down before Him, or you will just say “meh, that’s cool” and continue on with your life.  The only thing I can do on a continual basis is pray for your heart to change towards Him and keep reminding you that He is there.

And that’s hard for me.  I created Eternal Truth Ministry to share Christ with as many people as I could, and to know that nothing I say can persuade you to follow Christ, that in the end it is still up to you to fall in love with Jesus, is hard.

I say that this issue is the root cause of why we do not care about our mission field here because once you get it, once you see and understand how much God loves you and once you fall in love with Him in return, then you don’t need to be told that you spend too much time on unimportant things.  You do not need to be told this because your love for God will drive you to want to fulfill His mission for you on Earth.

And Then There Were Fewer

Once you realize how much God really loves you, then you will want to share that love with others more than sit in front of the TV watching Big Bang Theory, Family Guy, or American Idol.

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The Distraction of Entertainment

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 18:  A Costco custome...

In the previous articles in this series we discussed how we have neglected our mission field because we have gotten too comfortable in our life here, in the culture.  We think nothing of this problem but when we look at Scripture and it says that to be partakers of the things of this world makes us enemies with God, then we have to ask ourselves if it is time to give up the things of this earth to pursue God.

I know what many of you are thinking. At the suggestion of having to do away with some of your toys, your fun stuff, you will get all defensive. “But God wants us to enjoy our life” or “Don’t be so legalistic, we have freedom in Christ!”

I know you are thinking this because it is what I am thinking. My flesh wants to fight this thought. I see others enjoying their life here and I want to enjoy it too.

I am not saying that we are supposed to live in total depravity of everything fun. But would that really be a bad thing?

The closer I draw to Jesus the less I care about entertainment and the more I want to just serve Him. It doesn’t become a slave relationship where I can’t have any fun for fear of being struck by lightning; it becomes something where I love serving God so much that to think of spending my time playing games or watching tv just feels like such a waste in comparison!

You may think this is crazy talk, that I am still just denying myself the entertainment that our culture feels it is so entitled to, but when we get to heaven and stand before God, are we really going to be proud of all that time we spent in entertainment? Will we be proud that we spent 7,000 hours of our life watching television and movies, or another 20,000 hours playing video games?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3

The only time we find entertainment important in our lives is when we are not close with God. The more we focus on the things of God, the less time we want to spend on entertainment.

Think about when you were dating. When you start out getting to know each other and falling in love with each other.  Did you just spend all of your time staring at the tv? Is that how your relationship developed?  Sure you go to the movies and sometimes watch shows together but a majority of your time is spent talking, and interacting together.  This is how you got to know each other.

You fall in love with that person and want to spend all of your time with them. Just because you would rather spend time with your boyfriend or girlfriend instead of watch tv does not mean that you are depraving yourself of entertainment, does it? The entertainment truly doesn’t matter to you in comparison.

It is this way with God. The more we fall in love with God the less we care about the things of this world, the less we care about what the culture cares about.

So focus on heaven, focus on Christ, and focus on our mission here on Earth!

But beware, this world, satan, your flesh, will fight against you and distract you and make you lose that focus.

let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:1, 3

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)

TuneIn Radio – iPhone App Review

App Name: TuneIn Radio
Price: Free, ($0.99 for ad free version)
Platform: iPhone, iPad, Web

Tune In Radio is one of my favorite iPhone apps for listening to audio on the go (second only to Pandora). It is the ultimate app for listening to local or world wide radio stations. TuneIn Radio is full of features while still maintaining an easy to use interface. If you enjoy listening to music, sports, or talk radio on the go, then TuneIn Radio is for you.

Features

Local Radio

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After you enter your location you can view a list of the radio stations in your area. Stations that do not have an online feed are grayed out., but, at least in my area, almost every station offers online access. This means you can listen to the station broadcast from just across the street, listen to all three of the radio stations in Cocos Island, Costa Rica, or get a taste of the down under by listening to the show Wake Up Australia live.

This app provides an interesting way to add a little unique variety to your life.

Categories

What if you know what you want to listen to, but it is not on any station in your city? This is where categories come in.

Categories are divided into three main areas, Music, Sports, and Talk. From there you can select what genre you want to listen to, be it conservative talk, disaster relief, or religious shows, and then several other categories for specific countries or languages.
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After selecting the category a list of shows is displayed. This is one of my favorite features of this app. Select the show you want to listen to and you will be given a list of every station currently broadcasting that show and how long is left. There have been a few instances of the show listing being wrong, but for the most part it is accurate.

What if there are no stations playing that show? You may still be in luck. Some of the shows have a list recent episodes you can listen to, making it like a smart TiVo for your radio.
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If you do not know the category the show you want is in then you can make use of the search feature.

Favorites

Any show or station you listen to can be marked as a favorite. Favorites show up together on one page for easy browsing. Stations in your favorites list show you what is currently being broadcast on that stream making it easier for you to find what you want to listen.

Login

You have the option of logging in to your free TuneIn Radio account. This will enable the app to sync your favorites with your TuneIn radio account. You can then access your favorites from TuneIn.com or sync your favorites to another mobile device.

Overview

This app does everything you could expect from a radio station app, all packaged with a very nice, easy to use, user interface. Add in the fact that it synchronizes your presets with an online account and with other devices makes this a versatile app for listening to the radio anywhere you have an internet connection. And for the price of free you really cannot go wrong.
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Christian application

This app goes outside of our normal app review for ETM since it is not a Christian app, but I have found it to be very helpful spiritually. I added shows such as Family Life Today, Dave Ramsey, and Renewing your Mind as my favorites allowing me to listen to wholesome talk radio wherever and whenever I want.

Family Life Today has about 2 dozen shows in the recently played section, ensuring you always have some uplifting content at your finger tips even if the show is not broadcasting anywhere at that moment.

Out running errands with the kids and need to keep them quiet? Put on some Adventures in Odyssey. This is an app your whole family can enjoy. So turn off that TV and tune in to your favorite Christian radio.

Living Rich with God’s money

In my previous article I addressed some questions that come up when talking about money and saving and what God has shown me about each question. In this article I will briefly explain how I am being led with my money.

The Goal, The Plan, The Purpose

Last year God gave me a goal to work on for finances. He wants me to cut my living expenses by at least 35%. I did not know why or how to do that when I am currently living paycheck to paycheck. This goal has been on my mind since, and I have done what I can to make it happen but without much luck.

Finally, after about nine months of praying over this God gave me the plan (Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover) which I just started. I am not fully aware of the purpose of this goal other than to free up the resources God has given me to manage to help others. It is pretty clear in the Bible that this is required of all Christians, to help others with what God provided. Beyond that, I do not know why God wants me to make such drastic changes in my life.

Don’t worry, focus on God

Luke 12:21-24 has some words of warning and advice for us here.

“So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!

This passage tells me to not worry about your money, God gives and takes away, it is all His. If He chooses to use you for a storehouse for a year or a lifetime, awesome, if not, awesome.

Realize that it is all His, and you are just the steward, realize that money is nothing, focus on a relationship with God, that is what matters. Everything else just gets in the way. Want to save money? Sure, just make sure you are doing it for the Lord and following Him, not trying to make yourself secure. Only God knows the future, you never know what will come up where the money God has given you to manage could be used in a huge way if you were to just save a percentage of it now.

Want to give away every dime and rely on faith for your retirement? Awesome, just make sure it is from God so you are not left broke wondering what happened and God says “I gave you all the resources you needed and the abilities to work, you were not responsible so I took them from you.”

Whatever you do, do it for the Lord.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line, what counts is not how much money you have in savings, how much you make, how much you give away. What matters is your attitude towards God and towards your money.

I know someone who makes a lot of money, and gives a lot of money, yet his life does not show devotion to God. God isn’t pleased with our giving, He is pleased with our obedience to Him through our relationship with Him.

Repent of your greed (we all have it to some extent), and follow God. As you draw closer to Him your desires will become His desires. You will want to save and give away what He tells you because you are close to Him. Just be cautious of the greed and the pride that can sneak in and distract and destroy.

Word of Warning

One last word of warning though. Do not just assume that God wants you to build up wealth and spend money on yourself to live comfortably and have nice cars. In America we have the mindset that we deserve the nice cars, big houses, big screen TVs and game systems. Before you buy anything for yourself, or before you start putting most of your money into retirement, pray, and sure you use God’s money the way God wants you to. God may not have called you to that life of comfort you want to live in.

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.

Living in an HD world….

Everywhere I turn in the stores today I see “HD TV” and “HD DVD” and everything else that can be considered “High Definition.”

I confess, I want an HD LCD TV, XBOX 360, and Blu-Ray DVD Player. When I think of how I can’t afford them I get upset, even mad sometimes, because I can’t have the cool toys that I want to have.

Tonight I was reminded of how selfish I am. How blessed I have been by God in so many ways and I get upset because I don’t have the latest technology? Where has this world gotten to? Where have I gotten to?

I may only have a 19 inch CRT TV, but how many people in this world, even in this nation, wish they could have that much? Not to mention the iMac and Macbook Pro that my wife and I have. It is sad that I look in my pantry of food, or in the refrigerator and see all the food and think “Man, there is nothing to eat” so I go order a pizza! How many people don’t have the wonderful blessing of pizza? That may sound like a joke, but I’m serious. So many people have little to no food. So many have to live off of rice, and I have all this food and decide I don’t want anything that I have so I order something else.

Then think about Bibles… I have in my home about 5 or 6 Bibles. Different versions, differnt sizes, and most of them go unread. The others are not read nearly enough. Then I remember that in China, where Bibles are illegal people risk their life to get Bibles and deliver them to others.

I’m not saying we need to go get rid of all of our stuff, but it makes us think when we are desiring more and more stuff and get upset or bummed that we don’t have the latest and greatest.

As the Christmas season comes, take some time to reflect on what it really means. Find things that you are thankful for and praise God for the blessings that we have. Greatest of all, thank God that we have been forgiven freely of all of our sin. Every time you sin and start to feel bad for it, Jesus already payed the price. So repent and go joyfully to the arms of your Heavenly Father who accepts us as we are!

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