As a writer, the Sidewalk Prophets and I think along the same lines. While I was teaching High School Bible at Red Lion, The Words I Would Say became a big hit. Like the lyrics to this song, this was my daily prayer for my teenager students. My goal was to try to make the Bible cool and relative in an age where skeptics believed that God was dead. One of the reasons I got into teaching was to help my students avoid the same mistakes that I made when I was a teenager.
Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it, Ephesians 4:29.
Finding hope in a world that is falling apart is a hard sell. Yet, when you make a decision to be a source of encouragement, spiritual progress is possible. Dreaming and setting goals in life provide a glimpse of what may be attainable with God on your side. You don’t have to become a member of a band to be a sidewalk prophet. Rather, you need to be plugged into God’s living and active Word, Hebrews 4:12, so that when God puts something on your heart, you’re willing to be a messenger and voice for Jesus.
Between telling stories of parables, teaching at local synagogues and preaching to the masses, Jesus visually connected with his audience. While Jesus never told anyone the answers outside of his disciples, illustrations were shared in public to make people think. This style of teaching created a spiritual hunger deep inside of many of Jesus’ followers. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that you can only serve one master faithfully. Depending upon what you treasure dictates your final decision.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light, Matthew 6:21-22.
Unfortunately, theology (the science of God) is used by some modern-day preachers to speak down to members of their congregation. This is not consistent with Jesus’ first century teachings. Your eyes are designed by God to be the lamp of your body. However, if your eyes start to deteriorate, darkness will enter your life. If this darkness is not addressed, you might find yourself trying to serve God and money.
But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your [r]conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be [s]against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon ([t]deceitful riches, money, possessions, or [u]whatever is trusted in), Matthew 6:23-24.
At some point over the past 50 years, the fire and brimstone preaching of the 1970’s has become water downed with positive and politically correct sermons. Instead of focusing on hard-hitting messages that confront darkness living inside of Christians, mainline churches prefer themes that promote increased giving. While the apostle Paul is clear that no one is perfect, Romans 3:9-12, your priorities and time dictate who you’re serving, Matthew 6:33-34. Who and what you seek first will determine who you will serve in the future.
During my last couple years of teaching at Red Lion Christian Academy, the school started an Activity Period so that athletes wouldn’t miss as much class time for away competitions. One of the most popular activities was Ultimate Frisbee. When the weather was too cold or raining, my class met inside the gym. When the weather was nice, the school had a turf field where we had several memorable games. One of the students in this class introduced me to Thousand Foot Krutch who sings today’s featured song.
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore, Psalm 16:11.
My favorite Thousand Foot Krutch album is The End is Where We Begin. The majority of the songs on this album are upbeat with a couple of ballads. Yet, the Thousand Foot Krutch song that touched my heart the most comes from the 2003 Phenomenon album. This is a Call contains a series of trials that people are going through. The lyrics begin with a girl whose mother is battling cancer. If you can’t relate to this, there are two other scenarios that may stir your soul. I hope you enjoy This is a Call.
While growing up in high school, teaching was considered one of the lowest paying occupations. Most of the teachers I grew to admire coached multiple sports or had another job in the summer to pay their bills. Without realizing it, the majority of my friends in college went on to major in Education. Something about teaching attracted me, leading me to eventually become a youth pastor and Bible teacher. Almost 10 years have passed since I taught my last class so as I look toward the future the question is to teach or not to teach?
Not many [of you] should become teachers ([a]self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation], James 3:1.
I don’t miss the countless hours creating Power Point Presentations for my next lecture. Nor do I miss all the emails and phone calls from disgruntled parents wondering why their child didn’t receive a certain grade. Ditto on mind numbing hours spent grading homework assignments, quizzes and tests every weekend. Yet, when you connect with a student or begin to get through to someone that you almost gave up on is what I miss most about teaching. Shaping the minds of future leaders is why I was called to teach in the first place, a form of giving back to society.
Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), 17 So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Yet, the Bible has high standards for anyone called to teach. Whether you’re leading a small group, filling in as a substitute or make teaching your career, are you ready to be held accountable? I was fortunate to leave education before Common Core was enforced. Based upon my interactions with a few teachers still in the field, Common Core hinders an individual’s ability to be creative. The older I get, the less likely I would consider a return to the classroom, but never say never when God is involved. All I can do now is keep in step with the Holy Spirit to see what the future holds, Galatians 5:25.
One of my favorite parts of teaching was using a white board. I tried to find as many colors as possible to write down crucial points that I wanted my students to remember. Prior to creating Power Point presentations for all of my lessons, the board contained everything I wanted my students to know for upcoming quizzes and tests. At the end of every class, I cleared the board as students cried out “wait!”
He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us, Psalm 103:10-12.
God had another thing in mind when talking about clearing the board. The beginning of the Old Testament speaks of a God of wrath and punishment for those who disobey. Yet, the Psalmist in the passage above provides a picture of forgiveness. Instead of keeping of list of who have been naughty and who has been nice this year, God clears the board of any wrong you’ve ever committed or done. These transgressions are erased as far as the east is from the west for infinity.
For if you forgive people their trespasses [their [g]reckless and willful sins, [h]leaving them, letting them go, and [i]giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their [j]reckless and willful sins, [k]leaving them, letting them go, and [l]giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:14-15.
During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides more of a personal approach to clearing the board. While the Psalmist shares something that sounds too good to be true, Jesus introduces the conditions placed upon forgiveness. If you’re willing to clear the board by forgiving those who have done wrong to you, God will forgive you. However, if you can’t forgive and forget, you won’t be forgiven by God. Therefore, the next time you feel like holding a grudge, let go of any past pain by clearing the board.
In the opening scene of American Beauty screenwriter Alan Ball introduces Lester Burnham. Played by Kevin Spacey, Lester shares that he has been dead inside for sometime. Lester’s not sure how or when this happened, but something in his soul can’t stand the person that he has become. This confession sets the stage for Lester to wake up from this spiritual slumber so that he can truly live once again.
In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [b]Himself.2 He was present originally with God. 3 All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being, John 1:1-3.
Ten years ago, I was living a dream, teaching the Bible to high school teenagers and coaching golf. While it took me nearly 40 years to discover God’s will for my life, I was blessed by God for a decade as spiritual fruits began to blossom. Unfortunately, when Red Lion Christian Academy was sold and the church was disbanded, a part of me died. After pouring my heart and soul into this institution, I was fired and left leaving like a failure.
In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. 5 And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it], John 1:4-5.
Like Lester’s character in American Beauty, joy returned to me in the midst of sorrow. While attending a memorial service for two members of the Hanson family over the weekend, spending time with my extended family brought a new appreciation for life. You never know when your time will be up; when your life will permanently expire. Therefore, it’s time to live by start taking chances and try to become all that God wants you to be. As I start to wake up from my spiritual slumber, join me by opening up to know the living God.
As a former Bible teacher, I learned that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t reach everyone. Yet, this didn’t stop me from using a variety of teaching methods to relate to a broad audience. Like a farmer preparing their soil for another season, all I could do was sow spiritual seeds, hoping and praying for these to take root. However, even if you reach someone in high school, it doesn’t mean that individuals won’t become prodigals, drifting, leaving or venturing away from God for an extended period.
As for myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God [concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men] in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom; 1 Corinthians 2:1.
Unfortunately, after attending a semester or year of higher education, many students develop a superiority complex. According to Healthline.com, a superiority complex is a behavior that suggests a person believes they’re somehow superior to others. In the context of college, the more knowledge individuals absorb, this can go to their heads like first century philosophers. Upon visiting the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul was disappointed by many believers who put their faith in logic and science rather than God.
And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit]. 14 But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated, 1 Corinthians 2:13-14.
Based upon the passage above, it’s possible to educate yourself out of the supernatural realm. Every year, I receive word of former students who were convinced to reject God at some point before graduating from college. Like the movie God is Not Dead, sharing your faith with atheist professors can ruin any chances of getting a good grade. Maintaining your faith throughout your college experience is a difficult task. Although I wavered from time to time, I’m a firm believer in supernatural powers available via the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4. May you overcome the temptations of the world’s wisdom to cling on to the truth that miracles still happen.
Prior to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, several members of the media labeled president Donald Trump a science denier. The context of this accusation dates back to Trump’s skepticism of global warming. Whenever a researcher, study or well known scientist develops a theory that supports global warming, this becomes national news. However, the president states that you can’t cherry pick the data that supports your beliefs while rejecting evidence that doesn’t.
Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses], Hebrews 11:1.
While spending a decade as a high school, each class consisted of at least one individual who questioned what I was teaching. Some would challenge my sources, others doubted what I was saying and a few refused to believe parts of my lesson. In this age of instant information, students daily use their phones to double check the content they are being taught. If there is a discrepancy, the vocal will raise their concerns, causing others to doubt. Unless you become a personal of evidence, your message will fall upon deaf ears.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come, John 16:13.
While conversing with his disciples, Jesus unveils a secret weapon for Christians. Although invisible, the Holy Ghost serves as a guide to reveal spiritual truth on earth. If you want to become a man or woman of evidence, it’s essential that you learn to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. The apostle Paul uses the expression “walking in line,” a necessary practice to become a living vessel of God. If you want to become a spiritual person of evidence, the Spirit is a guiding light in an ever increasing dark world.
After more than 20 years of coaching and teaching, I have encountered a plethora of sad stories. Whether its broken homes, death, divorce, suicide or teenage pregnancies, each dire situation is heart breaking. When teenagers go through these trying circumstances, common sense may cause adults to go easy on these individuals. Yet, how long do you allow present transgressions to be blamed on past trials?
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.
The Bible has a complete different take on hardships that people experience on earth. The apostle Paul refers to sufferings as opportunities for growth. Paul sees the spiritual element as trials help shape character, endurance and hope. Meanwhile, the earthly brother of Jesus urges believers to rejoice each time you undergo hard times. Just like Paul, James reveals that extreme situation tests your faith, resulting in maturity and perseverance.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.
This blog was inspired by events which took place a decade ago. I was an elder on a church board that oversaw a large Christian school. When times got tough, some of my friends quit this board, opening the door for the pastor to get his way. In the end, I witnessed the ugly side of Christianity as hypocrisy blinded believers I once looked up to. When this fiasco finally ended, the school was sold and church closed its doors. The institution I believed in, fought for and served vanished overnight.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:11-12.
One of Jesus’ disciples reminds me that my ordeal is not strange or something that I should be surprised by. Rather, earthly trials serve as a purifying process, removing self as you draw closer to Christ. Unfortunately, I have allowed this painful experience to cause me to lose hope in the church. Instead of regularly attending the past 2 years, I have relied on television sermons as a substitute. Over the past few days, conviction has brought this transgression to the surface. Thus, it’s time to stop blaming the past for my decision to not join a church. May this conviction continue until I finally get involved in a local church.
I spent the first two years of my youngest son’s life, James, trying to start my own business. Well before the reality show Shipping Wars aired on A&E, I was making bids to deliver freight and important documents up and down the East Coast. My shining moment occurred when I made $3000 in 24 hours, delivering a few pallets from Wilmington, Delaware to Chicago, Illinois. Since my parents lived in Cleveland, Ohio at the time, I drove 7 hours, slept for 7 hours and finished the remaining 7 hours with a couple to spare. However, I did spent $1000 on renting a truck, gas and tolls so I only profited 2K. Unfortunately, the cost of maintaining two vehicles, driving 1000 miles a week and breaking down a couple of times finally inspired me to walk away from this business by entering the classroom as a teacher.
About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way (Jesus, Christianity). 24 Now a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of [the goddess] Artemis (Diana), was bringing no small profit to the craftsmen, Acts 19:23-24.
According to Luke, the spread of Christianity had a negative impact on craftsmen during the first century. As followers of Artemis began to convert to Christ, idol worship gradually declined. Thus, requests for silver decorations, idols and shrines of Diana plummeted. This economic downturn inspired craftsmen throughout the province of Asia to gather together in Ephesus. Luke details the discussion in the passage below, trying to figure out how to restore the popularity of Artemis and idol worship throughout the world. Workmen in similar trades were panicking, fearful that if Christianity continued to spread, their occupation would no longer be in demand or needed.
These [craftsmen] he called together, along with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men, you are well aware that we make a good living from this business. 26 You see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but almost all over [the province of] Asia, this Paul has persuaded [people to believe his teaching] and has misled a large number of people, claiming that gods made by [human] hands are not really gods at all. 27 Not only is there danger that this trade of ours will be discredited, but also that the [magnificent] temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and that she whom all Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned and lose her glorious magnificence,” Acts 19:25-27.
During more recent great awakenings, there are more examples of how the spread of Christianity was bad for business but good for the community. This is best detailed in a book and sermons by Leonard Ravenhill who spent most of his life as a Christian evangelist. Born in Leeds, England in 1907, Ravenhill reveals how the revival of the early 1900’s transformed parts of England. At the height of this spiritual awakening, crime disappeared causing police to be laid off. As attendance at evening church services skyrocketed, policemen were hired by churches to direct traffic. Meanwhile, mules from local mines needed to be retrained as transformed miners stopped curses causing mules to not know to respond to calm, gentle voices. Although recent revivals haven’t completely transformed nearby communities, when true awakening breaks out, God’s business of saving souls prospers.