Monthly Archives: March 2011

Don’t Waste Your TV Watching

Continued from my previous post, “Questions about Biblical Freedom

Question 3: How do you know what is appropriate to watch on TV or how do you develop convictions regarding what you watch?

First we need to remember the questions from the post entitled the “The Privilege of Freedom” by asking ourselves 1) Is this TV show or movie helpful?, 2) Am I mastered by it?,  3) Is it hurtful to others’ faith, 4) Am I watching to the glory of God?  These questions really help us bring God and others’ faith into the center of our TV watching.

Another question to ask is “Does this series or movie decrease my desire for God, his word, or for prayer?”  We must be aware of the subtle slip into spiritual laziness or spiritual anemia.

Some further thoughts are also helpful for us to think through.

  • Be honest about your weaknesses. As you try to discern what you can watch you must begin by being honest about your weaknesses.  Does violence tempt you to anger, does cussing tempt you to develop a potty mouth, does sexual content tempt you to lust, does constant ethical compromise (constant lies) tempt you to lessen your moral standards or does simply watching TV no matter the content leave you spiritually or emotionally dull?  If so, then you need to go after our most satisfying Savior and avoid your particular vice. (cf. 1 Peter 5:8-9, James 4:7-8)
    • For me cussing or violence, especially in war/action movies doesn’t tempt me to anger or to mimic their words or behavior.  However nudity or sexual content is not good for my heart. So much so that when we go to the mall or our shopping, my wife is on the look out for me warning where not to look.  (A helpful thought from Pastor John Piper in explaining why nudity is different than other temptations like violence or moral corruption is that in violent movies the war, violence, corruption is not really happening on the set, where as, if nudity is shown, that person is really naked.)  Whether our struggle is lust or anger or a lack of self-control with our mouth, we must be honest and careful where we are weak and be earnest to avoid the temptation.  We must not pretend we are strong where we are weak or we will be pulled away from a vibrant, gospel-loving, Christ-committed, others-pursuing kind of faith.  The gospel of grace frees us to admit weakness because the grace of forgiveness covers us and in our weaknesses Christ’s strength is made perfect.
  • Redeem TV. In areas where you might not be exceptionally weak we still must work to redeem TV and movies.  That is we must keep working to put treasuring Christ and loving others at the center of TV watching.
    • For example, when I watch March Madness (college basketball), I enjoy the competition (because I am reminded of my God who always wins and teaches us through our losses to trust Him and His purposes); I enjoy the thrill of close games (because I don’t know the outcome but God does.);  I enjoy the amazing ability of these players (because I don’t have it and God’s common grace has given some people superb skill and excellence), and I enjoy seeing the unexpected happen (because God’s shows off his majesty in the ironic- the weak beating the strong, the experts confounded by the underdog’s victory, the money loaded programs getting beat by the smaller programs).  Yes God can be seen in basketball. God gives us eyes to see you and worship you not the sport.
    • Another example of redeeming TV comes when I watch war movies.  Most of the time they really strengthen my faith.  I share these things not to try to win you over to action/war movies but to try to model thinking through what we watch so that we can watch TV as unto the Lord.
    • Many of these shows not only remind me of real historical events and educate my mind to better understand humanity and our world, but they also help me keep life and death in my mind.  A mind and heart that are not given to remember the fragility of life will be a life that sets its hope less on Christ’s coming and more on the things of now.  Biblically we are called to set our minds on things above by comparing our present sufferings to the eternal weight of glory that awaits God’s people (2 Cor 4:16-18).  Psalm 103 reminds us that God’s compassion is fueled by his knowledge of our fleeting frame.  In like manner the more we remember that our life is but a breath (Psalm 78:33, 39) and that we are like grass that withers, the more we will long for another world where all wrongs are right, injustice is brought to justice, and peace reigns over all the earth.
    • Another way God uses war movies to strengthen my faith is to show me courage and remind me to be bold without fear. It is a boldness that many times helps us hold life loosely for a greater cause.  The heroes usually are sacrificing their lives for the good of another or for a greater cause of justice.  As Christians we must be bold and courageous in a life of love for the cause of the gospel.  These portrayals of justice, courage, and risk are helpful for my heart as I love others and contend for the greatest cause of all- the glory of God in the gospel.
  • Never rejoice in sin.  Finally we must be careful to never rejoice over sin.  Rejoicing in what God hates is counter to faith.  In Hosea 9:1, God calls the people of Israel to silence. They were to stop rejoicing in their sin and the sin of others.
    • Similarly as we watch TV and movies, Don’t rejoice over someone’s sexual escapades. Don’t rejoice in revenge. Don’t rejoice that evil seems to get the upper hand. Don’t rejoice in murder.
    • We watch to grow in faith. We watch to grow to love others.  We don’t watch to rejoice in what God hates.

As Americans are wasting their lives in front of TV’s, not necessarily because we are watching TV, but because we are not watching it as unto the Lord.  We as followers of Jesus need to be able to use the freedoms we have to deepen our rest in and enjoyment of Christ.  May these things be helpful as we seek to honor God with our eyes and mind. Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if you eye is healthy, you whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23). May we not waste our TV watching but bring Christ and loving others to the center of our leisure.

Loving Christ’s love for us with you


Oh God Awaken Our Souls and Our City Through PRAYER

Prayer is a discipline that connects us to God, expresses our need, deepens our faith, protects us from evil, molds us to be like Christ, and fuels us for mission.  This week, in our series on “The Delight of Discipline” we took some time to stir up one another to be a joyful, faith-filled, and faithful people of prayer from Luke 5:12-26.  Prayer is not a drudgery but an opportunity to have a relationship with the living God and to be used by Him in immeasurable ways.

Here are some quotes from the sermon Sunday that were meant to stir us to be a people of prayer.

Prayer is not an appetizer, it is the main course. It is not merely a lead into your dinner, or a Bible study or a transition between songs on Sunday morning. Prayer is privileged communion with the living God who sacrificed his only Son that we might relate to him as Father, shepherd, keeper and Lord. Prayer is communion with God.

“He would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). If Jesus needed to get alone with the Father, multiple times, don’t you think we need time alone with God our Father.

Jesus teaches us how to pray and part of that prayer from Matthew 6 is a prayer for protection from evil. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…”  Here is a quote from Russell Moore regarding prayer and temptation to sin.

One of the first ways you can tell that you are moving beyond temptation into a pattern of sin is if you find yourself in a time of prayerlessness.

That isn’t just a “spiritual maturity issue”—it’s a gospel issue.

You are recreated through the gospel with a nature that longs for communion with God. The Spirit within you cries out, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15Gal. 4:6). Prayer is exactly how you experience the sympathy of your high priest who has triumphed over your temptation. After all, you are not the only one praying when you pray. The Spirit himself prays through you, and as he does so, he works to align your will and desires with those of Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:26–27).

If you are reluctant to pray, it just might be that you, like Adam and Israel before you, are hiding in the vegetation, ashamed to hear the rustling of the leaves that signals he is here.

Russell Moore —Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ, p. 171.

Prayer can be twisted by our self-righteous hearts to be a means of earning God’s favor or an action that we make into an attempt to put God in our debt.  This quote helps us remember the place of prayer as we pray for others.

God does not need our good works but our neighbor does.- Tullian Tchividjian

When we pray for others we get the joy of lifting another person down through roof to the Savior because we believe that life altering things happen if you just get them close to Jesus.

The essence of prayer is faith. And it is the prayer of faith that attracts the gaze of God, and ignites his power to act on behalf of His people.  Prayer doesn’t force God’s activity but excites Him to move.  God uses the prayers of his people as a means of exercising the greatness of his power.

Every mighty movement of God among a people, in a city, or across the world has been preceded by, sparked by, and sustained by the Word of God and prayer.  Oh that we in our lifetime, as individuals and as a people would experience the joy of asking God for a mighty move of his Spirit and see it in our day.

Questions about Biblical Freedom

Here is a quote from Tullian Tchividjian “Real slavery is living your life trying to gain favor; Real freedom is living your life because you already have favor.”

With this gospel reminder, I was also reminded of some really helpful questions people asked me after the sermon on 1 Corinthians 8,  that I wanted to address in a couple of blogs.

Question 1: Are you able to share your convictions with people without making it law for them or judging them for how they live?

The short answer is yes, but the two qualifications in the question are crucial.  1) We can’t be found judging other people’s convictions in areas of freedom and 2) we can’t make law what isn’t law.  We must make a distinction between sharing wisdom and insisting that others believe like we do.  When others ask you for advice, sharing your wisdom or how you came to your convictions is loving.  However we must check our hearts that in so doing we are not trying to make a law for them. Making law where there is no law crushes the soul, and distorts the gospel.

Question 2: What if you and your spouse have different convictions?

A general answer is the wife should seek to respect and support her husband’s leadership as long as it is not leading her into sin.  The husband should live with his wife in an understanding, showing honor to her through listening and leadership.

If the convictions that are creating tension really are areas of freedom, we must ask, “Why are we so upset that they are not taking on my convictions?  Why do I want this so badly? Is it love for them or comfort or control for me?”

The Bible doesn’t say that people have to have the same convictions in order to be at peace.  However if one spouse’s convictions are leading the other spouse to stumble, then, because of the closeness of the relationship, the husband should lead out in serving the spouse. That is, if he feels more freedom than she does then he should make sure she knows she is more important than his freedom to watch that game, or participate in a hobby.  However in a marriage, part of the husband’s unique role is to lead his wife spiritually. Part of that is having discussions about his convictions- not in a defensive way but helping her understand how you really believe this is drawing you closer to the Lord and helping you love others.  With great humility in both, one of two things will happen in this process.  1) you will find out as a husband that you have not been using your freedom as “unto the Lord” or 2) your wife will see that you are seeking Christ and love for others and that you are hearing her.  Then her role is to trust God in him.

Finally if the tension persists, then we must remember that sanctification is a community project. We must involve others in the discussion so that others can point out blind spots, counsel, and help us through the decisions.

In my marriage, we had a similar situation.  I like watching war movies and my wife can’t stand violence and cussing.  For her cussing is like nudity or sexual content is for me- it sticks in my mind and comes into the brain at the most random times. She would have nightmares with cuss words flooding her mind while she slept.  So what do I do?  When we are together I carefully study the content and find everything I can about the cussing and violence and sexual content so that we are not given to stumble in our faith while we watch a movie. That really limits what movies we watch together. But it has been a great way to show my love for her and for us to enjoy a movie or TV show with a clean conscience.

However the story continues in that Dana struggled so much with war/action movies that she couldn’t understand how I could watch them and still be following God.  After some heated discussions, I told her that these movies are not as important as she is and I stopped watching them for a season.  However, when the iron was cool, a week or so later, I initiated a conversation about how I watch a war movie to the glory of God (some of these things will be in the next post).  She had not fully thought about all of those things, and yet she still struggled to understand why I like them.  I told her that I would seek accountability from other men who we trust, and I asked them to speak into my life to make sure I wasn’t being blinded.  The compromise is that she now trusts me and with her knowledge, not in secrecy, I watch them periodically by myself or with friends.   She and I learned to develop convictions and live with one another in an understanding way. We grew as friends and we grew in thinking about Christ in the everyday, even as we watch TV.

The Privilege of Freedom

We make decisions all the time regarding what we do with our free time. From what sports to play, books to read, people to serve, house projects to tackle, errands to run, TV shows and movies to watch, and food to eat. The opportunities are seemingly endless and in Christ these are area of freedom.

John Calvin calls these areas of freedom “intermediate things.”

These are “Things that are neither good or bad in themselves, but indifferent, which God has put in our power, but in the use of which we ought to observe moderation, that there may be a difference between liberty and licentiousness.”

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul addresses the church at Corinth about one of these areas of freedom, eating, and he gives us some guidelines for using our freedom to make much of God.  Although the church of Corinth is free to eat whatever food they wished, they were not free to eat meat sacrificed to an idol if that was tempting other brothers and sisters to go against their conscience. Even though it was over something simple like food, the freedom of some in the church of Corinth was leading others in the church to stumble in their faith.  Our lesson from Sunday’s sermon was: Walking with God is keeping others on our minds even in our freedom.  As followers of Jesus, we get the privilege to use our freedom to build up others even if it means refraining from something we are free to do.

Here are some quotes and helps from Sunday’s sermon:

As we seek to discern how to develop convictions and love our neighbor with our freedoms, it is great to think that we are not alone.  God has given us his Holy Spirit that we might enjoy Jesus, fight against sin, and grow in the knowledge of Jesus through His word.

“God knew that the effects of sin were so great it was not enough to forgive us, he also had to unzip us and get inside us by his Spirit.”- Paul Tripp

I love this quote. God in his love forgives and yet takes up residence in us also all because of Christ’s blood shed for sinners.  Grace is amazing.

Much of this is adapted from Jerry Bridges book, The Pursuit of Holiness

How to identify issues of freedom and develop Spirit-led convictions

  • If it is against the government (illegal) it is not an issue of weakness or freedom but disobedience. (ex. murder, cocaine, marijuana, etc.)
  • If it is against God’s standards it is not an issue of weakness or freedom but disobedience. (ex. sex outside of marriage, porn, getting drunk, etc.)
  • Developing our Spirit-led convictions. (From Jerry Bridges) Ask:
    1. Is this activity beneficial? (1 Cor 6:12- ie leading to love)
    2. Is it mastering me? (1 Cor 6:12- Can I or will I stop?)
    3. Does it hurt others? (1 Cor 8:13)
    4. Does it bring glory to God? (1 Cor. 10:31)
  • What if our convictions differ with other believers? (Principles from Romans 14 and quotes from Bridges)
    1. Principle: “We should not judge those whose convictions are different than ours.” (v1-4)
    2. Principle: “Whatever our convictions are they must be “to the Lord,” that is developed out of a sense of love for and obedience to him.”  (v5-8)
    3. Principle: “Whatever convictions we have developed as ‘to the Lord,’we must be true to them.” (v23)

Regarding Christian freedom here are some areas to think through:

Is your freedom helping or is it leading a brother or sister to stumble in their faith?

Areas to think through:  What you watch on TV or movies; Food you eat; Drinks you drink; What you wear, especially regarding modesty and loving our brothers in Christ more than the fashion of the day that reveals too much skin or is too tight for most guys.

Is your freedom mastering you or tempting you not to give glory to God?

Areas to think through: Same as above; also sports, music, work, other hobbies, etc.

Although we must form Spirit-led, prayerful convictions that are reevaluated regularly and carried out with faith. We must be careful not make our convictions law where they are areas of freedom.

Areas to think through:  What you eat, drink; restaurants you eat at; schooling for your kids- (homeschool, private, or public);  what you watch or don’t watch; what day you choose to worship on; how many kids you have or don’t have; whether you adopt or don’t adopt, etc.

I hope these things stir us to develop Spirit-led convictions that are not laid down as law for others but lived out in faith. I pray we also have such a love for our brothers and sisters in Christ that we will even sacrifice our freedoms for the building up of someone else.

Thankful for His gospel and For His glory

The Privilege and Passion of Singles

This past Sunday I preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. Through our study in God’s Word, we heard that “singleness and marriage are both gifts from God.  The problem we face is that we so lust after the next thing or the next person to satisfy us- longing for someone else’s life or someone else’s toys- that we lose sight of the purpose of our life. We are designed for God- designed to find our identity, provision, and rest in him.  In 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 Paul counsels that to live as a single person, you can live for Jesus with more single-minded devotion. So although marriage isn’t sinful and is even a gift, he wants to be clear that it will divide your mind and time from your allegiance to Christ.  In light of your design he encourages you to remain as you are and go hard after Christ.”

Some have requested some of the quotes and lists I gave on Sunday. I hope these are helpful.

We have all at one time or another become member of what Steve Childers calls, “The Cult of the Next Thing.”  We know we are members when we say internally or out loud, “I will be happy when… I get a job, I get money, I am not sick anymore, when my children are healthy, I get married, I get a friend, etc.” 98% of life is process only 2% is the end result that you pray for and hope for.  We must learn to enjoy the process and not just long for the end result. Paul says whether I abound or am in need I am content.  He knew God along the journey and he longs for us to commune with God in the “process” of life.

Elizabeth Elliott- “Don’t let your living for tomorrow slay your living for today.”

“Single folks: the patterns you form now, will be the patterns you take into your marriage. Labor now to be Godly or marriage will crush you!”- Tyler Jones

You don’t fix marriages or any relationship struggle by first trying to fix it horizontally. The change begins vertically.- Paul Tripp.

Finally here are some ways that married couples can serve and care for singles.

  1. Seek to connect singles for marriage with spiritual wisdom and sensitivity. Hook them up in a godly way.
  2. Don’t view them merely as babysitters
  3. Listen to them.
  4. Be there for them to give input into their dating relationships
  5. Invite them over for dinner
  6. Make them a part of your family. Fold them into family devotion time, intentionality with neighbords or fun time at the park.
  7. Encourage them with where you see God at work in them
  8. Serve them remembering there is no division of duties especially for the single women, and even more for the single moms.
  9. Pray for them- for their contentment in Christ,for a future spouse if that is their desire, etc.

Here are some links to listen or download the songs that we sang last week. Take some time to listen and worship God through singing in the everyday!

  • The Father’s Love by Joel Sczebel Listen or Download (Or download the whole album for $5 in the month of February!)
  • Glorious Day Words by J. Wilbur Chapman, Music by Michael Bleecker Listen or Download
  • Nothing but the Blood by Matt Redman Listen or Download
  • In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross by Brooks Ritter and Rebecca Bales Listen or Download

Embracing God’s love and extending His grace with you