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Saturday Selections – March 29th

Saturday Selections is a chance for me to share some of the most relevant news stores that grabbed my attention this past week. As a follower of Jesus we’re called to be informed about the world we live in, so that we can center our lives on a Savior that is not of this world.

GENDER IDENTITY & EQUALITY

Last year I preached a series called “SEXY” that was voted by our church to be on of their favorite series we’ve done. During that series we examined God’s plan to make us male AND female, and took a look at how this world has corrupted that plan.

Former President Jimmy Carter was interviewed about international affairs and shared his views on what the Scriptures say about gender equality.
[click this link to read the entire article]

A young girl was kicked out of a Christian school for being too much of a tomboy. This story has drawn a lot of media attention this week.
[click this link to read the entire article]

PARENTING

I love that we live in a world that has so much research and help available to parents. Obviously, we want our parenting practices informed first by the Scriptures, but we can also grow as parents by understanding where others have had success and failed.

Here’s a good article called “6 Things Overprotective Parents Do Wrong”. I think that one of the things the Scriptures ask us to refuse to give our children is fear, so there was a lot in this article that I liked.
[click this link to read the entire article]

This article highlights research that shows that most parents surveyed steal from their kids. This is a whole sermon in-and-of-itself, but it goes to prove that our culture views children as assets that we own not treasures we have been asked to steward.
[click this link to read the entire article]

Here’s an op-ed piece written by a guy that practices what he calls “experimental parenting”. Some of the research he quotes is interesting, but I like the fact that there is a reason for everything. Remember: Life happens by default or design. Parenting is the same.
[click here to read the article]

HOBBY LOBBY APPEARS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT

Part of what we’ve termed “Obamacare” is an ’employer mandate’ that would require employers to provide insurance that provides certain types of FDA approved birth-control. If you didn’t know, Hobby Lobby is a family business that is ran by Christians.
Here are several articles with perspectives on the case:
USA Today Op-Ed Piece: [click here to read the article]
Huffington Post Report: [click here to read the article]
Washington Post Op-Ed Piece: [click here to read the article]

HOW TO GET A TEACHER FIRED

For my teacher friends, this is one of the most disturbing articles I’ve read in a long time. With the formal classroom not so far behind in my rearview, I can see how this is not only plausible, but very possible.
[click here to read the article]

‘NOAH’ OPENS THIS WEEKEND IN THE WAKE OF ‘SON OF GOD’ & ‘GOD’S NOT DEAD’

I’m going to save my opinions on this whole debate, but in my circles people have been throwing a lot of rocks at ‘Noah’ and a lot of praise at the other two films. I’ll probably write a piece next week on this.
Faith-Based Movies Are More Profitable For Hollywood: [click here to read]
A Perspective On The Making Of Noah: [click here to read]
A Good Piece On Christian Film-Making & It’s Challenges: [click here to read]

WORLD VISION ANNOUNCES A NEW POLICY GOVERNING IT’S EMPLOYEES SEXUALITY

This past week the President of World Vision, a Christian Missions organization that supports missional projects all over the world supporting underdeveloped cultures and primarily children, announced that they would recognize homosexual marriages as a healthy expression of sexuality. Evangelicals went on the attack after.
Here are a few articles I thought that were good…
The original announcement, as written in Christianity Today: [read more here]
How one denomination has chosen to advice its churches: [read more here]
Probably the best response I’ve read from TGC: [read more here]

A FATHERS PERSPECTIVE ON BEAUTY

Here’s two great blogs by a clinical psychologist to his daughter about what it truly means to be beautiful. One of these has been shared a bit on Facebook.
Letter #1 “From The Makeup Aisle” 
Letter #2 “Can’t We All Agree On This One Thing”

A FEW OTHERS

America’s Least Healthy Counties…. WE DIDN’T WIN!!!!
[CLICK HERE TO READ]

Kim Jong Un is now requiring every male in N. Korea to have the same haircut. This is one of the funniest stories that I’ve read in a while. I spent about 15 minutes picturing this craziness and laughing.
[CLICK HERE TO READ]

Have you ever wondered which states you would most likely to die in if there was a Zombie Apocalypse? Well, if you’ve had that thought, here’s an article to scratch that itch:
[CLICK HERE TO READ]

Are you tired of watching the same video promoting every company? No. Well, apparently someone wanted to have a little fun and poke at how most companies are portraying themselves these days.
[CLICK HERE TO WATCH]

Why You Want To Change Right Now

Change-1024x426

We’re right in the middle of a two-week series at Vortex called “Forget You” looking at a very simple, yet profound verse in the Gospel of John that describes a life that is really abandoned to Jesus.

“He needs to become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30 (NIV)

That verse says something most of us don’t like:
SOMETHING’S GOT TO CHANGE!

There’s too much of me and not enough of Jesus in my life right now, and if things are going to change, well then, things need to change!

Can I tell you something that could change your perspective:
It’s all going to change anyway.

The real question is:

Will you change because you choose to?

Or will you change because you’re forced to change?

This Sunday we’re going to look at what it really means to embrace the change of a life that says “I want more of Jesus”!

I hope you’ll make plans to join us for the last week of FORGET YOU at Vortex Church. We meet at Eastgate Cinemas in Albemarle, NC at 10am on Sunday mornings.

Between now and then, let’s prepare our hearts to embrace a life embraces more of Jesus and less of ourselves.

3 Ways To A Better Day

betterdays

There’s three different type of people out there today:

Person #1 – You’re so excited it’s Wednesday, you’re like the camel on that “Hump Day” commercial.
Person #2 – You’re coasting today.
Person #3 – Today has pretty much been the worst day ever.

For everyone, no matter how good or bad today is going, here’s three things you can do to change your day for the better:

1. Call someone you know who’s hurting.

We all know someone who’s lost someone, is battling cancer, or has just been having a rough go of it. The bible asks us to celebrate with our friends, but also to grieve with them (Romans 12:15-16). The presence of their pain will help provide a better perspective of yours.

2. Take a moment and tell the people who you love deeply why you love them.

We say “I love you” a lot around our home, but those intentional conversations to stop and say “I love you because…” matter. You know who they matter to? You. They matter to you because they force you to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the people that you love. Those conversations encourage them, but they also refocus us on why we love them and should leave us feeling thankful that they’re in our lives.

3. Identify one thing that’s robbing you of Jesus.

It might be something as simple as checking Instagram at stoplights, which robs your commute of the ability to have a conversation with Jesus. It might be that you’re too focused on people and forget to talk to Jesus altogether. It might be that you’ve neglected the Scriptures, and you know you can find Jesus in them. Find that one thing, go after it, and let Jesus be greater in your life today.

The quickest way to joy is to empty your life of yourself:
“Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled… He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30 NKJV)

Leave a comment below and let know what you’re doing today to have less of yourself and more of Jesus in your life:

Your Greatest Enemy

enemy

We’ve all been fed lines about what our greatest enemy could be.

Everything from drugs, to alcohol, to demons, and even the ultimate adversary of the Devil has worn the title of “greatest enemy”.

It’s tough to consider that you’d want to do something good and there’d be resistance to it. Why wouldn’t the whole world want you to get better, to do the right thing? (see John16:33)

Right now you have an enemy that could derail your capacity to follow Jesus.

And that enemy is reading this blog.

Yep. That enemy is reading right along with you right now.

Your greatest enemy might not be those things we’ve so readily identified as enemies through the years, but it might, instead, just simply be yourself.

In the third chapter of the Gospel of John, John the Baptist is faced with a serious situation. Some of his followers are leaving to go listen to a new preacher down the street. The guys that have been following him are concerned. They’re worried about their numbers that seem a little down and the number of people coming to hear this new preacher. His disciples start complaining.

John replies: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30 NIV)

The new preacher with the larger crowds was Jesus.

Jesus is the messiah. Jesus came to rescue us from sin. Jesus is God’s Son.

John the Baptist was simply preparing the way. He wasn’t confused about who he was.

“He must become greater” because I’m not the Messiah and I can’t ransom the world from sin.

“I must become less.”

The greatest enemy to a growing relationship with Jesus is a large ego. You have to lose you, so there might be less of you, if there’s ever going to be more of Jesus.

Let go of you and get more of Jesus… sounds like a good deal to me!

Two Reasons To Be At Church This Sunday

Here’s two great reasons to be at Vortex this Sunday:

Forget You#1 – We’re starting a new series.
If you’ve ever felt like life was a tad empty and pointless, you might just want to be with us this Sunday. I’m sharing three things we can shift our focus from to fully embrace the kinds of life that Jesus has called us to. You don’t want to miss week one of FORGET YOU.

#2 – We’re doing a few new songs.
I don’t normally get all jacked up about some new songs, but these songs are really powerful. There’s something about truth that has embedded itself into melody that resonates inside of our souls. I’m excited for you hear them!

It’s supposed to be quite nice outside this weekend, so enjoy your baseball and softball practices, walks and play time outside, but don’t forget to make time to gather together with your church family on Sunday! See you then.

Sometimes On Saturday Nights…

Most Saturday nights I’ll text most of our team to see if they’re prepared for Sunday and ask if I can do anything to help them out.

I also enjoy having fun with them, so sometimes I’ll make vague references to cheesy love songs from the 80’s and 90’s.

Tonight’s question was:
“Have I told you lately that I love you?” Then… I waited for their response.

After their response which was mostly something like “Yeah, man”, I shared this video with them.

I love my team, really I do, but this was just funny.

Wading in the Mud

There is a funny looking bush that grows in the red clay forests of Georgia and Alabama. Literally, it looks like overnight someone to a pine tree and buried it, leaving only a small stem poking out of the ground.  I feel like this furry little bush a lot.  A small spectacle amidst a towering chorus of achievement.  A bit out of place.  Or small.  See, though its appearance is of a shrubbery, its merely a small tree.  A small “long-needle” pine tree to be exact.

God teaches us a lot about personal growth in this tree.  For its formative years, the tree injects its efforts into growing downward in a series of what are called tap roots. There is no growth apparent to the onlooker.  Really, it looks like a nice feather duster.  Something to for young boys to yank up and beat each other with.  I think roots are important to God.  I think this awkward little bush shows a way.

I think there are two directions that roots grow.  It’s true in trees; in trees, roots grow along the relief of the ground or down deep into the soil.  For us, I think our roots grow either into God or into ourselves.  I suppose this is not “stop the press” material, but today it became important to me.
I saw, in a brief moment, that there is a lot of hurt inflicted in this broken world. I’m in line with the murderers and thieves, because I, too, at times have led a life that bent in such a way that those who were wrapped up in me were hurt because of my declination.  The root of it, in the end, was selfishness.

I think there is no end viler than selfishness and nothing more difficult to balance within the will than the self.  Really, no man really cheats on his wife because he desires another woman.  A man enters an adulterous affair because he values himself more than his wife.  In the end, a woman laundering money a work doesn’t do so because she is desperately poor, but, instead, because she finds herself to be worthy of the money than the institution that earned it.

As a believer, I think there is nothing more difficult to balance upon the will of God than the self.  Practically, when you read this you may wonder “What in the WORLD is this guy talking about?” Well, this comes more from practical experience than direct teaching.  In the book of Acts, which I think is the definitive discourse (narratively speaking) on human interaction with the will of God, you find a very excited guy named Paul.  At times it appears that Paul is in direct control of where he is going (examples: Mars Hill, Ephesus) and then there are times that the Holy Spirit is directly involved in his decisions on where to go (forbiddance to go into Asia).

Here’s the practical problem: We, as believers, want to follow Jesus with all of our hearts (hearing his voice and responding).  And we, as believers and seekers of God, have dreams that resonate in our souls (chasing the desires of our heart that we believe Jesus placed there).  Sometimes, it’s very muddy where following Jesus and following dreams intersect.  Anyone who tells you different is a liar.

For example – suppose a young woman has a dream of becoming a singer.  This is a dream she feels very passionately that the Lord placed in her heart. However, she is working as a teacher and has a real chance to touch the lives of the kids in her class.  Baring direct communication from God, she is left with a muddy choice.  Where does the desire to fulfill the personal (or selfish) desires fit in?

I suppose I’m wading in the mud between the places that God and my will are coming together in my life.

In 1955, the late AW Tozer wrote a series of articles that were published as a volume under the title “The Root of the Righteous”. In his, he says of righteousness “many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right”.

I love the biblical concept of righteousness.  Literally, the Greek term means to be right in the eyes of God.  Westerners, like us, interpret “right” with behavioral specifics.  The term correctly applied does not mean that.  The term literally refers to being the right person.  The concept is the same as a coach that has trained a quarterback for a specific purpose.  They have practiced many hours together and put much work into developing the player.  The coach, sitting on the sideline, watches to athlete execute perfectly in a game and recognizes that he is the “right” quarterback.  Basically, being righteous means being the person that God created you to be.

Being righteous is all about roots.  If we, like that awkward little shrubbery, spend time developing roots that sink deep into the truth of God’s revelation to man, personally through the revelation of his Son, then we are indeed developing roots of righteousness.

However, if we are constantly thinking of ourselves, our image, our benefit, where we fit in, what we get out of it, then we are growing roots of selfishness.  The only way to face the mud of the intersection of our will and God’s will is with a bridge of righteousness.

Seeking God’s face about who we are and who we were created to be is important.  It’s paramount, actually.  Nothing in life is more important.  Once that concept has been fully developed, then, and only then, can one safely wade in the mud.

I Love The 80’s (a reflection)

My wife and I were perusing the items on the eBay site last night when I thought it might be nice to recover some nostalgia from my elementary school days. Yes. I have found two items that have escaped mainstream media attention as far as being meaningful to the 80s. These items were of GREAT importance to me, personally, though.

Here you go. First item:

The above picture features something that we must call nothing but what the tag so boisterously screams: “JAMS”. These were the shorts that I fell in love with in the 80s. You were not cool unless you had a pair of JAMS for every day of the week. I didn’t grow up in such an affluent family to afford the “original” jams. My mother, the wonder woman of all, would take me to a fabric store and allow me to choose a couple patterns of bright material. She would then take the material and craft a very good facsimile of the “original” jams. I did, later on, come to own my own stock of “original” JAMS. I remember one pair with fondness: they hung mid-calf (much like a good pair of capri pants). The pattern screamed intellectual giant: red and white checkerboard. Yes. You could have played tournament style board games on my pants.

Ok. Now to the second item. Real class awaits:

The said item above is a classic. Largely undiscovered. I remember it vividly though. The “coke” rugby shirt. Nothing like it. I mean, the look on the models face above speaks for itself. True happiness trapped inside cotton and nylon.

Now… A Reflection:

I remember now, and I guess part of the experience of growing up is that you learn such lessons, how badly these items seemed to be important to me. I wanted them like I wanted air to breathe. My parents, who didn’t at the time have a lot of money, ended up sacrificing to get me them (or make copies of them). Now, they just look like silly reminders of a time gone by.

You know, I rode the bus to school as a kid. I don’t suppose I’ve really talked about this as an adult, but the bus rides were traumatic. My family chose to spend money where they should, to buy a house and cars rather than nice clothes for their kids, so I ended up being dressed a little different than other kids. I remember very vividly being made fun of by kids over the two items listed above. I remember how I felt like nothing because I didn’t have them, that fragile 10-year-old ego crumbling under the weight of peer leveled scrutiny. I remember that. It hurt. It doesn’t hurt anymore.

I suppose it took me a long time to learn the lessons that God was offering me then. It would have been easier to learn them then, but I didn’t. I resented. I ran. I hid, at times. I suppose the biggest lesson is love who you are and believe in who you are.

God made you. You are enough. It’s pretty simple.

God loves you. We should love that which God loves. We should love ourselves.

It’s pretty simple.

It took me a LONG time, but I started getting it. I don’t know if I really have it now or maybe I’ve just started the journey.

I do know this – if I’m glad I’m not traveling on this journey (or just in an airplane) right now wearing a nice pair of “original” JAMS and a “coke” shirt.

Hopefully, God will continue to show me things that are as fleeting in importance like iPods, Rainbow Sandles, and even MySpace? — who knows?

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