Jesus-Friend of Sinners

I trust all of you enjoyed Chad’s post yesterday Cookies are not Scary, it was a pleasure trading venues for a blog post with him yesterday.  It is such an encouragement to see a guy that seemingly had it all from the American Dream perspective give it away to work with teenagers at a church, and to be happy to do it!  He is doing some special things with the young men in the church, and is helping to shape them into men of leadership in both the church and in society.  Amazing things!  The purpose of this entry is to post my article that Chad shared with his community of friends yesterday, and just want some feedback as usual.  Let me know whatcha think, and I look forward to any comments and questions that may arise from this.  It is a “tad” wordy…ok, so it’s a lot wordy, but bear with me and take the 10-15 minutes to read, and enjoy!

“Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided”

from “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns

If any of you have ever heard this song, then you have likely been as affected by it as I have.  I have been a born-again believer since I was 8 years old and have been spending the past 21 years trying to figure out what all that actually meant and entailed.  I’ve been up and down as most all Christians tend to go throughout their walk, and I’ve experienced the amazing times of worship with 3000 other bodies gathered to worship the Heavenly Father as well as experiencing such intimate times with the same Father with just my breath in the room.  The life of a believer is usually a fairly complex one, so many times we go through the temptations to fall back into the sins that nailed Christ to the cross.  Along with those times of temptation and darkness, the light of forgiveness and redemption comes when we truly repent and recognize the grace that we can’t and didn’t earn on the cross.  Christ calls us to a life of perfection, plain and simple.  All the while we are called to perfection; we are still human and miss that mark and expectation of perfection on a daily basis.  The compassion of Christ is what grants that grace, not just to us, but to everyone who calls (Romans 10:13) on His name!  I want to spend a little time on His compassion during this post, and I do tend to get a little wordy sometimes, so I apologize for that ahead of time.

As a believer, we have a clear mission outlined for us from Christ in the Great Commission.

“Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”             Matthew 28:18-20

Upon that charge, we are called to not only share the Gospel of Christ with those we come in contact with, but to make disciples.  How do we do that?  How do we make disciples?  Isn’t sharing the Gospel making disciples?  The short answer to the last question is a resounding: NO!  Just sharing the Gospel with someone isn’t making a disciple, it is sharing the Gospel.  Sometimes when we share the Gospel, a person comes to know the saving grace and mercy of Christ and has salvation because of that faith.  The next step is where discipleship comes in.  Now, this blog was to be about compassion right?  Right. The short version of how to make a disciple is to not just pray a prayer with a person and throw them out on their own.  Discipleship is spending time and pouring knowledge and prayer into that person to help them grow in their faith and in their walk with the Lord.  Part of that process is having the compassion to help them when their faith is weak, and when their lives feel like they’re caving in during the process of giving everything to the Lord.

Our tendency as humans is to start looking after ourselves when things get tough, and to not look out for others.  How do we avoid these tendencies in life?  We look to the cross, and we look to Christ.  The ultimate example of compassion is Christ, all throughout scripture, there are examples of His love.  One passage I want to focus on is found in Mark 5:24-34.  Christ has just healed a demon-possessed man, and is en route to visit a family who fears their daughter is dead.  As He is moving through the crowd, a woman who has had bleeding for 12 years and had only digressed even after seen numerous doctors, grabs his robe, and is healed of this affliction.  Her faith that Christ could heal her, just because He was who He said He was, was what healed her.  Wow.  How often do we miss out on the blessings of Christ just because we don’t recognize who He is, and have the faith that He will do what He has said?  At this point, Christ could have really given this lady the what-for.  After all, she had taken a blessing without asking Him directly for it.  In our carnal minds, when someone takes something they didn’t ask for, our response is to condemn.  Christ’s response was love and compassion.  He didn’t ask her any questions, He didn’t ask her what she was thinking, He told her that it was her faith that had healed her.  He had compassion on her when many in her culture and society had likely had none.  How often do we come into situations like this and walk away, or turn a blind eye?  Maybe we’re not the ones inflicting the damage, but we definitely aren’t the ones trying to heal.  We are called to be compassionate in our ways, to love to each other, because the example of Christ was such.

Another tendency we have as Christians, is to approach a fellow believer who is straying in a way that isn’t loving or compassionate.  As the second part of that first verse of the song above says:

“The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided”

We get in the way of effective accountability because we are so bent on correcting someone that we forget to get our lives in order.  That’s not to say that we aren’t to correct someone because we sin too, but when we approach someone who is sliding, we have to do it in absolute humility and love.  If we fail to do this, we become a stumbling block and a hindrance to not only ourselves, but also the person we are speaking to.  As a believer, I expect accountability when I mess up, especially when it is in front of other people.  That accountability usually comes in the form of my amazing wife letting me know I blew it, or am about to.  She is compassionate toward me because she doesn’t want me to compromise my witness to others who may not know Christ, and that is a tough thing for her to do, because I’m pretty sure she just wants to smack me on the back of my head, and ask “What are you doing?!?!?!”  Christ didn’t do that, and we should follow that example as well.  Correct in humility and above all, in compassion like Christ.

My encouragement, to those of you who read this, is to consider each day how you can show compassion as Christ did, and encourage each other on toward love and good deeds, as it says in Hebrews 10.  I appreciate you guys taking time to read this, and for Chad for allowing me to post this on his blog, thanks and God Bless!

-Phillip Whitfield   <><

Cookies Are Not Scary

Hey guys, as promised, here is my good friend Chad Nelson’s blog post. I love his unique perspective on things, and his blog is a continual example of how the Lord is working in him and through him to share the Gospel. Chad currently serves as the Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church in Burnet, TX, which also happens to be my home church. God is truly using Chad in a huge way in Burnet, and has been using him to mentor and disciple the young men in the church. I’m truly excited to see where God leads these young men in the future. Keep an eye out for them!! Go check Chad out at Chad Nelson Online, and leave him some feedback, you’ll be blessed by what you read on there! So, without further ado, I give you…

Cookies Are Not Scary

http://wp.me/p1KLvl-1I

When I was a kid, the concept of “forever” terrified me.  By terrified, I mean stay-up-at-night-crying-like-a-Lifetime-movie-character terrified.  Believe it or not, the fear arose because I could not wrap my mind around being in heaven forever.  Surely it had to end at some point, right?  How can time cease to exist?  It is how we measure everything.  It was then that my mom calmly reminded me that God had not only created everything I see (including me) but had created time too.  It didn’t exist before He created it and it wouldn’t exist in heaven (or hell) either; a deep concept for a 12 year-old but one that made sense.
Fast forward 30 years – I am standing in front of the church as I do every Sunday during invitation when a beautiful little girl walks toward me with her mother.  The mom explained that the girl is terrified of people breaking into their home at night and ultimately, of dying.  God immediately put the time paradox on my heart.  I asked her if she liked to bake cookies (for illustrative purposes and because I was hungry).  We then agreed that if she created the cookies that there was no reason to fear them.  The same is true of death and the holder of its fear, the devil.  God created each so knowing and being saved by the “Baker” gave us power over both.  In fact, earthly death simply becomes a transition to eternal life for those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Here are a few ideas for keeping fear in its proper perspective.
Acknowledge that God is in control.  This is so frequently stated that it can be taken for Christian cliché.  We have all said it but do we truly believe it?  If you forget from time, consider the miracle of life, the concept of gravity, the precise distance of the sun for light, life and warmth and other mind-boggling ideas when you are not watching “Toddlers and Tiaras”.  If these concepts are too big (as they are for most of us), consider that 1.7 million or so optical fibers have to line up perfectly for you to read this.  Big bang that.
Acknowledge that God created everything.  That tree?  Yes.  That caterpillar?  Yep.  This keyboard?  Uh-huh (through inspiration divinely provided by His gift of intellect and creativity).  He even created time and space.  So it stands to reason that if we know the Creator, our fear of the created should subside.  Editorial comment: I will admit that I am a little afraid of the big lady on the “Dance Moms” previews.
If death is our ultimate fear, we have missed the point of Jesus.  Jesus came as man, ministered and ultimately died so that death could be overcome.  God’s grace is so powerful and so reaching that everyone who accepts Jesus’ death in exchange for our own will be saved.  Everyone.  This includes you, me, the lady from “Dance Moms” and even the worst of us.  Everyone.  To miss this eternal opportunity is to miss the purpose of our existence.
Take a moment and consider 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.  Death has no victory for those who call upon Jesus.  I think I’ll celebrate that with a cookie.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

Guest blogger

Hey guys, recently I was approached by a friend and fellow minister in the faith about blogging and posting on each other’s blog. I thought it sounded like an awesome idea, and so tomorrow morning, there will be a guest blogger on behindthecross! I am really excited to see what the Lord is going to say through my good friend, Chad Nelson. Check out the blog tomorrow to see!

Worship Part II

Wow, ok, it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve really updated anything on here, actually, just a hair over 2 months.  As with most of you, the past two months have been a time of growth, emotionally, spiritually, and yes…physically : (  Something about the holidays just makes me hungry, and this year the hunger never left me…

So, in light of the areas of growth, I will be continuing on with the Worship Series on the topic of social worship.

How many of you have participated in watching an awards show this year?  Go ahead, admit it, I won’t tell anyone.  How many times during those awards shows did you find yourself critiquing the people our society tells us are glamorous, sexy and should be viewed as role models?  Where in scripture are we commanded or even suggested to spend so much time idolizing another human?  As scripture tells us “there is none righteous, not one.”  Where do we get that it’s okay to put these people, who are as flawed and sinful as we are, up on a pedestal?  Our worship of people in our society is not even remotely a new concept.  People have been idolizing other people since Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and it’s gotten nothing but worse since then.  In my own life, I have idolized athletes, pastors, friends even fellow classmates throughout school.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked back with embarrassment at some of the things I’ve done and some of the ways I’d idolized people.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with looking up to someone or having a role model that you refer to when going through something you’re not quite sure how to handle.  What I’m saying is that when we put so much attention, so much thought into considering what that person would do, that we mimic them completely as if to try and become that person, we lose sight of what we are called to do.  The only one we are supposed to idolize is Jesus Christ.  End of story.

Along with the dangers of mimicking these people  in everything we do, we run the risk of leading others astray from what God has called them to do. Luke 17:1-2 talks about leading others astray:

1 He said to His disciples, “Offenses will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (HCSB)

If I as a parent spend hours upon hours watching football film and don’t spend time with my kids, what does that show my kids?  Not that I care about them as much as I care about watching football, my attention and focus is on that film instead of with them, therefore showing that my attention is on something other than them.  When we spend more time worshiping movie stars, music icons and other social royalty instead of spending time with our Savior and King, we will never grow to the potential that we have in Christ.  My encouragement to myself and to you guys is to monitor what you spend the majority of your time on, and see if we can work our way to spending more time with our Savior through reading scripture and prayer instead of with trivial reality shows that encourage and condone hatred and spitefulness.

I will hopefully be a little more consistent with this thing from now on, just working on getting a routine figured out that will allow for more type time, as it is a source of stress relief for me, and hopefully a time of some form of entertainment for you.  Thanks, and as always, I look forward to and enjoy any feedback I get on this blog!

Phillip   <><

 

Missed Worship Part I? Read it here

A little update…

Just wanted to update those who follow this blog. It’s been a really busy past couple of months, and blogging has been on my mind, but unfortunately it has been on the backburner due to priority status. I anticipate the frequency of my blogging to pick up in the next couple of weeks, so get ready! Lots to blog about, including the continuation of the worship series. Thanks, and keep an eye out for more coming soon!

Worship: Part I

Worship.  The context of the word varies greatly from culture to culture, religion to religion, and generation to generation.  I took the liberty of looking up the definition of worship on the Merriam-Webster website, and this is what it had to say worship meant:

As a noun-

1

chiefly British : a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (as magistrates and some mayors)

2
: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence
3
: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
4
: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>
As a verb-
1
: to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power
2
: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion <a celebrity worshipped by her fans>
I find it incredibly interesting that in both forms of the word, the examples the dictionary used were for very surface level things.  One was worship of the dollar, and the other of a celebrity.  Kinda points to the foremost thoughts of our culture as Americans, doesn’t it?  This series will probably get some of you to raise an eyebrow and wonder “what in the world is this guy talking about,” and for others it may be an opportunity to see things through the eyes of a guy who was raised in church and has seen the good, the bad, and the horror of this thing we call religion.  Some of you who may read this may be familiar with how we have seriously mangled what worship is intended to be, and some may not have even thought about it before.  My intentions with anything I type in here are, as always, not intended to create dissent or to bash on the church, they are simply to help me and others to grow and learn.  I realize that some of my prior posts haven’t been the most positive things to read, but I do try to keep an honest and objective point-of-view, especially since I know that I’m nowhere near the perfect example of what a Christian is supposed to look like, sound like, behave like, and just be like in general.  With all that mess in mind, let’s begin!
Worship, to many, is the attention we give the object(s) of our desire and focus in life.  One needs not to look long at the corporate sector of our country to see that the dollar is an object of affection for many.  Another example, would be the attention we give to celebrities and dignitaries.  The main thing I can see pointing people in the direction of materialistic worship, is  the lack of Christ in culture and life.  The current president of our country made a comment that “We no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation…”  As much as has been made of this quote by the president, I think he inadvertently hit the proverbial nail on the head with this statement.  He meant the comment to promote religious diversity in our country, which there definitely is, but I agree that we can no longer consider ourselves as a Christian nation.  If you take a step back and look, at what our nation’s focus is on, you cannot honestly say we are a Christian nation.  When the majority of our nation makes the dollar, celebrities who live in and promote a sinful lifestyle the focus, we cannot say that Christ is the center of our nation.  The very label “Christian” implies that one is a follower of Christ, a “little-Christ” if you will.  There are areas and groups of people in our country that are definitely focused on following Christ, and that rebuke those who claim Christ but live directly and intentionally in darkness.  What does this paragraph have to do with worship?  Keep reading…
The only reason I used the president’s quote was to give a litmus of our nation’s status, not to begin a political firestorm, as I’ve really begun to separate myself from politics as much as I possibly can.  To determine what worship is, what it’s supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to sound like, we have to go to scripture.  All throughout the Old Testament, people worshiped God through sacrifice for sins, through praising Him for provision, protection, wisdom, etc.  This, with the exception of sacrifice of animals, still held true throughout the New Testament.  Worship in Biblical times was a lifestyle lived out through giving praise to God and to Christ for our salvation and His grace and mercy.  Too often we have substituted that lifestyle for just Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night programs and corporate fellowship.  The church has become a club that we attend so we can be counted on the roll and noted as “being there,” as opposed to the intention of a gathering of believers to praise THE Almighty God in recognition of the grace we have in our lives because of His great love for us.  I really have to think that if Paul came to any one of our churches nowadays, he would be like Christ in the temple, tossing over tables and saying “What are you guys doing?!?!?!?!”  Since when does praising our creator get limited to learning about the stories in scripture by coloring pictures and gluing animals to a paper ark, and then going to “big church?”  When we get to “big church,” we sit for a few minutes, maybe make some rounds saying our howdy’s and shaking a few hands.  Then, we have the introduction and announcements, followed by some hymns/contemporary songs that we either sing or don’t sing, based on our preferences on music, then we have a pastor come and deliver the Words that have been laid on his heart by the Lord.  After that, we have an invitation/alter call where people can come down and pray with the pastor or at the steps in front of the stage about things God has spoken to them about.  Then, we all shake hands, say a prayer and go eat lunch and take a nap.  Where in here is worship?
I’ve been a born again Christian for almost 20 years now, and I can almost count on two hands the times that I have truly felt the Spirit of God in worship on Sunday mornings.  How sad is that?  Some will attribute this, and sometimes rightfully so, to the lack of focus on my part to be included in the Spirit moving.  Others will attribute this, and sometimes rightfully so as well, to the lack of focus on those who are leading the body of believers in corporate worship.  The example of worship that we are to follow is lined out for us in Romans 12:1.
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.”
We don’t attend church to “get something out” of the message brought by the pastor, the Bible is not for our benefit.  That’s right, you read correctly.  Our pastor made this statement several months ago, and it really got me to thinking about how I had always looked at scripture.  To be honest, it really brought about a totally different perspective on how I need to be reading scripture.  The Bible is not for our benefit, it is for the Glorification of God!  What does this mean?
It doesn’t matter how much music we play or sing, how many programs or activities we organize, how great our choir sounds, how many people we attract because we have such a cool “worship experience,” if our hearts are not tuned into where God is leading us, it is all for naught. If we are not seeking to bring glory to the One who has created us and given us life through His son’s sacrifice, we are nothing but noisy busy-bodies.  I will be taking apart different aspects of our culture’s view of worship as churches and as a society throughout this series.  I have no idea how long it will go on, but I hope you’ll join me for the duration, as well as adding some feedback and opinions along the way.  I always invite any differing opinions on things I say, as it provides a way for me to learn more, and possibly have my perspective changed.  Thanks, and I look forward to continuing this series!
Phillip

The Worship Series Prequel Part ii

Ok, so it was brought to my attention that maybe I should post an open ended question without a poll so that anyone who would like to can leave their opinion and feedback and not be limited to my answer choices.  So, here goes…again…

 

What is worship to you?  Leave an answer on the blog for further discussion, and all that good stuff!  Thanks!

The Worship Series

Hola!  So, we just got finished with the 3 C’s series and it got me thinking about what a good series would be to jump into next.  Well, as you can see from the title of this post, I am going to be starting a series on Worship.  But first, there will be a little poll, available for the next week, for me to use as research and reference.  So, get busy clickin on the poll with the answer you feel best suits the question.  Have fun, and I’m looking forward to starting this thing up! Oh, and the results will be anonymous…btw

And the winner is…..!!!

Well, first off I would like to thank all of you who have made your way by my blog in the past couple of months, and especially in the past two weeks.  I’m very encouraged to see the steady traffic that makes its way through the blog, and I guess I’ll continue to throw my thoughts out there for all who care to check it out to see.  Enough about me, let’s talk about the contestants who entered the contest!

James Oliver, Amanda Blair, and Monica Fielding all three entered the contest by commenting as well as posting the link to their Facebook accounts.  The album up for grabs was the newest offering by Shane and Shane, called “The One You Need,” and is an amazing album based on scripture and its application to life.  The title song is one that has touched me as a daddy, especially because my baby girl will one day find some other dude that will be the one who provides for her.  I don’t like thinking about it, especially since I’m her daddy, but Steph and I have been praying for her future husband’s and her salvation, and that they’ll put their faith in Christ and seek to serve Him however they are called.  Anywhoo, if you haven’t heard the album, go to iTunes and download the whole thing, you won’t be disappointed.  Until you download it, click here for the video of “The One You Need.”

So, the winner, generated by random choice and completely unbiasedly is (drumroll please)……………….Monica Fielding!  Congratulations Monica, you should receive your sealed album by Christmas, and I think we actually have y’alls address.  Here is the evidence that the choosing was completely random at Random.com

As you can see, I had no idea how to do a screen shot on a mac until tonight…don’t laugh, too many different buttons!  Once again, thank you all for reading my blog, continue to promote it to your friends and please don’t hesitate to join in with some conversational stuff!  Until next time, take care and God Bless!

Phillip

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3