“Greetings from Hooterville and Arnold the Pig.” Encouragement from Tom Lester from “Green Acres”
Encouragement from a star of Television’s golden age.
The German playwright and poet, Von Goethe, once observed, “ Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” Encouragement is a rare gift that often comes from unexpected sources. But whatever the source, it is ultimately authored by God.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tom Lester, who played Eb Dawson, on the hit television show “Green Acres”. He was in Central Louisiana and graciously agreed to an interview for my radio program, “Faith Forward”.
I listened with amazement as Tom explained how it was the hand of God that guided him in Hollywood, and continues to guide him today. Tom recounted in detail how it was the Holy Spirit that guided him in every decision. For example, the start of his television career came after Tom took a small part in a neighborhood play, a play that also featured the daughter of Paul Henning, the creator of such television greats as “Green Acres,” “Petticoat Junction,” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
After seeing the play, Henning invited Tom to audition for the part of Eb Dawson, and the rest, as they say, is Hollywood history. Tom is still actively involved in influencing the culture with the values of the Kingdom of God, a task to which Christ has called all of us. The words of this fine Christian gentleman were both inspiring and encouraging. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, the Apostle writes, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” Christ has appointed all of us in His Church to encourage one another. But the Paul doesn’t give us the command without giving us instructions as to how we accomplish this.
He continues in verses 12-14, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” It is clear that encouragement involves more than just words of encouragement but also involves taking action on behalf of one another, which sometimes includes challenging idleness. As members of The Body of Christ, we are called to be productive on behalf of The Kingdom of Christ. All of us have different talents and abilities that are gifts from God, but are we encouraging one another to leverage these gifts for the benefit of The Kingdom and the furtherance of the Gospel?
Paul continues with instructions to the Church in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18. In very practical ways, he instructs us, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It is amazing how much time and energy is often expended in search of what God has planned for us, when He has already reveled this to us in His Word. The power of God’s Spirit equips us on a daily basis to pursue Him and His will in the context of serving others.
Notice in the context, Paul makes it clear that doing the will of God is directly related to seeking “…to do good to one another and to everyone” and to giving thanks “…in all circumstances.”
Something that was endearing about Tom Lester’s character Eb, on “Green Acres” was his ability to encourage others in his simple way. As Tom pointed out, Eb found a way to be thankful in every circumstance, even when eating Mrs. Douglas’ “hot water soup”. Sadly, we are a generation removed from these values being embraced by characters on television, but they should never be absent from the real lives of believers.
In the simplicity of our everyday lives, we are called to encourage one another, to find those words of grace and to communicate them effectively with strategy and precision. In the words of Ephesians 4:29, we are to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” A question all of us must be willing to ask ourselves is this: what are others hearing from us? May it be said of us, who name the name of Christ, that we use our words to communicate grace. May we be people of encouragement.
Very few of us will have the opportunities that Tom Lester has experienced. But we all have opportunities to make a difference for Christ in the world. The phrase “golly Mr. Douglas” is a memorable line in television history. The world is waiting for us to communicate the grace of God in a memorable way; lets do so in the power of The Holy Spirit.
Sunday: The most segregated day of the week.
Why on Sundays do we separate into tribes of our personal preferences. The Kingdom of God is received and not built, based upon truth not preference.
The idea of “Separate but Equal” was once used as a tool to enforce policies of prejudice in the American South. The idea that someone should go to a different institution based upon skin color as a matter of public policy has thankfully gone the way of the dinosaur. Unfortunately this philosophy is still voluntarily practiced in too many of our Churches. Christians need to understand that churches should not be segregated because most assuredly there will not be a segregated Heaven.
The Apostle John describes the diversity he beheld in that world to come in Revelation 7:9; “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” It is clear that diversity will be the norm in the New Jerusalem.
The writer of the book of Hebrews says in chapter twelve verse twenty-eight, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” The key word in this passage is “receiving”. It is God’s intention that we receive the kingdom, something that is received is not earned or created, and that is an important distinction.
As the passage points out, when we understand that the Kingdom has been received, the appropriate response is thankfulness. Unfortunately, many today are involved in Kingdom building rather than Kingdom receiving. Kingdom building ends in pride whereas Kingdom receiving ends in worship.
It is important then to understand what the Kingdom of God looks like. What does it look like at your church? In the book “Vintage Church”, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears define the local church as “…a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and Communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy.” The first word of this definition is of particular significance, community. Are we experiencing the Kingdom of God in community?
It has been my experience that many churches are built around the ideas of affinity rather than received in the context of community. The difference in affinity and community is this, community encompasses the ideas of diversity, and affinity is all about uniformity. Churches built on uniformity tend to have members who all look alike, dress alike, think alike, and generally share the same interest and values; the common denominator is what they like. These types of organizations are often cults of personality and preference. And as many have observed, you can never really know if you are in a cult until the last day, then its too late!
However, churches that have received the Kingdom value diversity in community. Not everyone shares the same interest, not everyone looks or dresses alike, nor should they, it is not about them, but rather it is all about Christ. The Body of Christ is not identified by its uniformity but by its unity around the person and work of Jesus Christ.
This has been modeled for us from the beginnings of the New Testament Church. When Jesus selected his disciples, as recorded in Matthew 10, Mark 3, and Luke 6, He selected men of diversity to come together in community.
Consider that eleven of them were from the country one from the city, some owned businesses and lived lives of quiet anonymity, others like James and John seemed to be somewhat well connected to the religious establishment of the day. In the group was Matthew a tax collector, employed by the Roman Government, and Simon who was a Zealot, who openly opposed the Roman Government and sought its overthrow. These men were chosen by Christ to work together. Likewise we have been chosen by Christ to work together to advance the Kingdom we have received.
And certainly it must be stated that in our striving for diversity we never compromise the Gospel. We should never redefine the Gospel or what it means to be a Christian to gain a wider audience or more diverse crowd. When the consistent message of the Gospel is proclaimed it is God who gives the increase. But it is God who does the choosing and not you and I. We are not building our own Kingdom, but receiving the Kingdom that He has given to us.
The Church is set apart to represent God’s Kingdom on this earth. If we are content to segregate ourselves in conclaves of our own affinities, we miss God’s purpose and intention for our lives. He calls us to live in community with one another, unified around His Word and work and not our preference or prejudice. If everyone at your Church is just like you, then perhaps you should step up and reach out to those unlike you, and by doing so extend the Kingdom of God into uncharted territories.
A Kingdom that we are blessed to receive and share.
And the Oscar goes to…Avatar?
How should Christians approach popular entertainment?
The 82nd Academy Awards, airing Sunday, live from Hollywood; will feature multiple nominations for James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar,” including a nomination for best picture. The film is groundbreaking, not only in the integration of live action and computer generated characters and scenes, but also in the staggering amount of money it has earned worldwide, an estimated $232 million and counting.For those interested we just put on At&t's U-verse and its amazing , you can get any bundle deal using a coupon code for At&t U-verse here
The story features a handicapped Marine who is called into service by a group of mercenaries who are employed by a corporation seeking to extract a very valuable resource from a primitive world inhabited by 10-foot tall blue aliens who are very much in touch with their environment.
Obviously, “Avatar” is a very popular movie. As Christians, however, we must remember that what is popular should not be our standard for entertainment. In fact the first standard for entertainment as a Christian should always be to think about what we are engaging with our thoughts and emotions.
Webster’s Dictionary defines two postures toward entertainment: one is “diversion” and the other is “engagement.” As one Pastor has said, “Arguing that ‘It’s just entertaining’ is not an acceptable answer to ‘Why do you like this?’ It’s ‘just entertaining’ is a euphemism for ‘me not think’.”
What should entertainment be to a Christian, diversion or engagement? When we see examples of Christians railing against the popular culture, including media and film projects, it is often due to moral objections. Christians often lament the excess sex and violence that is glorified in many popular films.
But using morality alone as a standard for what material should be engaged would exclude a large portion of the Bible, especially the book of Genesis, from being read by Christians.
As John Ortberg observes in his book “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them,” “Have you ever noticed how many messed up families there are in Genesis? Cain is jealous of Abel and kills him. Lamech introduces polygamy to the world. Noah-the most righteous man of his generation-gets drunk and curses his own grandson…”
And that is just the first few chapters The examples of human depravity in Genesis get worse in the remaining chapters of this first book of the Bible. Should Christians be reading this kind of material? The answer is yes, of course. And in the same way we should not retreat from examples of depravity in popular culture, on a moralistic basis alone.
The narratives of Scripture serve to teach us that ultimately it is not “good” people that are rewarded with Heaven, and “bad” people who are punished in Hell. Forgiven people are blessed with eternal life, on the basis of Christ’s atoning work.
If the moral of a film like “Avatar” were to be judged, one would be hard-pressed to object to the story on that basis alone. As Cameron himself has stated, the point of the story is that we should guard against greed and be better caretakers of the environment, values that are embraced by Christians and non-Christians alike.
But when you think critically about the subtle messages of “Avatar,” you can see that it is objectionable for greater and far more dangerous reasons than just its eco-friendly moral. “Avatar” subtly seeks to replace the Biblical story of redemption with a false messiah who enters another world, where inhabitants are literally linked with creation and in order to find strength and peace pray to nature itself, symbolized by a life-giving tree that brings about a resurrection.
To those who would object, “It’s just a movie!” I would remind you that movies like, all art and literature, are “upstream” from how we live our lives. This popular culture serves as the soundtrack to our lives, and when we do not critically engage its message we end up singing along.
The challenge for Christians is to think about what we are watching, and to always do so in a redeeming way. We are not called to retreat from the culture but to engage it, sometimes by creating culture and always by finding an opportunity to speak the truth in a world of subtle deception.
So as you watch the Academy hand out The Oscars, think about the meaning of the movies they award. What are the overt and subtle themes that could serve as detriments or assets to proclaiming the Gospel to a culture that is highly influenced by this form of expression?
Because, ultimately we are called to be missionaries speaking the truth of the reality of the Gospel - that Jesus is the only one who can provide life. He is the one who spoke into existence all of creation. He came once to redeem us from the curse of sin and death, and will soon return to restore all of creation to the praise of His glory alone.
Ben Waites Interview
To Homeschool or Not? That is the Question!
How should Christians relate to the larger culture? And what does it mean for our families to be an Ambassadors for Christ? An exploration of 2 Corinthians 5:20
How do you respond to the culture as a Christian? Are you a conversionist, a political activist, or a separatist? Listen as Al Quartemont, Lauren Dunn and Scot Loyd explore these issues on this edition of Faith Forward.
Who is to blame for Haiti? A Response to Pat Robertson
An eight minute audio segment from the radio show, features Scot Loyd, Al Quartemont, Lauren Dunn
Links to organizations helping our brothers and sisters in Haiti
Help for Haiti
Organizations like the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and Convoy of Hope have sent in assessment teams to Haiti to discover the best ways to meet the needs of the earthquake victims.
Operation Blessing has been collecting donations to send relief to Haiti. Joyce Meyer Ministries, through its Hand of Hope missions group, has partnered with the Haiti-based Christian humanitarian organization Love A Child, to help bring immediate short-term assistance, relief and aid to Haiti including food that was shipped to Haiti by the ministry.
Water Missions International (WMI) is preparing 10 water purification systems to send immediately to Haiti.
Lutheran World Relief is currently accepting donations to provide life-saving assistance in response to the earthquake in Haiti.
Faith and Action has created an emergency relief fund that will work through several Christian humanitarian relief agencies working in Haiti and will also work with the embassy in Washington to determine the greatest areas of need. Creflo Dollar Global Missions have donated $100,000 to Samaritan’s Purse to provide funding in the non-profit organization’s efforts to rebuild the Haitian communities that were destroyed by this massive earthquake.
As part of the emergency response to the Haitian earthquake, Kids Alive will rescue 50 new Haitian orphans on Monday, bringing them into Kids Alive homes in the Dominican Republic until new group homes can be built for them in Haiti. Compassion International is accepting cash donations to benefit Haiti at Help Haiti. World Vision is also providing disaster relief to Haiti.
Catholic Relief Services has established a special fund for long-term assistance for the Catholic Church in Haiti.
Engaging the Culture
A simple way to more effectively engage the culture with the Gospel.
I was privileged to listed to a lecture today presented by Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. Using Acts 17, where Paul engaged the culture of his day, Walt challenged us to follow the Pauline pattern when evaluating and engaging the cultures of our day. He suggest the following:
1. Prepare to Walk: Paul did not go into Athens on his own but was following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Whenever you and I prepare to proclaim the Gospel, we should never forget it is “God who gives the increase.” Preparing should include prayer asking Christ to guide us to people of influence so that we can more effectively impact that culture.
2. Shut your mouth. Open your ears and eyes. Walk around. Paul was observant of the many idols in Athens which gave him insight into the culture of the Athenians and better prepared him to minister the Gospel to them. Often it is tempting to react harshly to the corrupt culture emerging around us, but if we could be more observant and less condemning, it may be that God will give us a platform to challenge that culture with the truth claims of Scripture. Walt suggests some of the following questions to help us better understand the culture, “What movies are they watching?” “What kind of music are they listening to?” “When they mention “God” what do they mean?” “How do they spend their time?” As Christians it may be very easy for us to retreat into our own sub-culture, but the Scriptures challenge us to engage the culture and not retreat from it.
3. Look for cultural characteristics and distinctives (values, attitudes, behaviors, changing pressures, problems, choices, etc.). Pay attention to what is happening in our culture. What is that your peers are interested in? What about those younger and older than you? If we are to be effective ministers of the gospel we must be willing to meet the culture where they are living. If we do not understand the culture how can we challenge the culture?
4. Look for evidence of spiritual quest (spiritual hunger pains). Understand that our culture is in need of the redemptive power of the Gospel and without there will be no change. Identify the longing in the culture for a God experience by looking closely at the artifacts of worship, music, entertainment, sex, money. How does the culture use and abuse these items? This can be a powerful indicator of where, when and how a culture worships. And can serve as a introductory moment for the Gospel.
5. Identify “touchpoints” What are the doorways for connection, conversation, evangelism, spiritual formation? Once we have identified the worship artifacts we can then challenge the culture that worships them by demonstrating that they are mere idols which have no power to heal, deliver or save. It is important that as Christians we must make those connections with others if we intend to be true to command of Christ to evangelize the world.
6. Discern cultural elements that can be celebrated and embraced, and those that must be challenged and opposed. Not all culture is bad, some of it is good and as such should be celebrated. If, as Christians, we are only in the business of identifying what is wrong with the world, we will quickly loose our ability to influence that world for Christ.
7. Decide how you might use this in your ministry setting. Evaluate the cultures of those you minister to, and prayerfully determine how you can best engage those cultures with the Gospel. Paul was obedient in Athens and impacted that culture, and we are called to do the same.
The Worst Suffering You’ll Ever Face
A Review of a lecture given by Dr. Gary Habermas
I am in New Orleans this week attending “Confronting the Culture” presented by The Institute For Christian Apologetics, at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Last evening, I enjoyed a lecture by Dr. Gary Habermas. Dr. Habermas is a Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University. His talk was entitled, “The Worst Suffering You’ll Ever Face…” and was primarily concerned with answering the difficult questions surrounding the subject of suffering, especially emotional suffering, which he argued was the most severe form of suffering. Dr. Habermas argued that “Suffering is at the very center of the Gospel without any effort to deny, cover up, or avoid it.”
Dr. Habermas challenged my thinking on this subject in many ways. I have been conditioned to believe, like most Christians, I think, that God will deliver me from suffering. Isn’t that what the Bible teaches? Well, as Dr. Habermas pointed out, one would be challenged to find Biblical examples where believers were delivered from suffering. In fact our greatest example, Christ, was not delivered from the worst of all human suffering. “Do we deserve to suffer any less than Jesus did?” Habermas asked.
He went on to point out the following about Christ:
• Jesus was rejected by His family (Mark 3:21)
• Prayed “Take this cup from me.” (Luke 22:42)
• Sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44)
• Was forsaken by God on the cross
• Learned obedience from suffering (Hebrews 5:8)
• Completed by suffering (Hebrews 2:10)
So what should be our response to suffering? Dr. Habermas suggests the following:
• Expect to suffer, like Jesus did, and grow.
• Celebrate His resurrection and by extension our own.
• Change our attitudes and gain relief.
The key, according to Habermas, is to stop believing the lies we tell ourselves, and to confront those lies with the truth of God’s Nature, Character, and Word that cannot change or fail. Dr. Habermas has great credibility on this subject of emotional suffering. He began his lecture by recounting the loss of his wife of 23 years to stomach cancer in 1995, a powerful testimony that God’s intention may not be to deliver us from suffering but to perfect us in suffering. Dr. Gary Habermas concluded his lecture with the powerful challenge from Romans 14:8 “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”
For more information check out http://www.garyhabermas.com
Ten Reasons Change is Important and Possible.
We’ve explored why change is difficult but why is it important and possible?
As we continue to prepare for and think about at new year, here are some thoughts on change and growth I have picked up along the way…..
1. We should choose a life of growth. It is said that General George Patton told his troops, “There is one thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying we are holding our position. We are advancing constantly.” Patton’s motto was, “Always take the offensive. Never dig in.” We always have the option of changing, of moving in the direction of growth and improvement.
2. We can start today. Every day is another opportunity for change. Napoleon Hill said, “Its not what you are going to do, but its what you are doing now that counts.” Your age or circumstance has nothing to do with your choice to change today. I’ve know people 80 years young and 50 years old.
3. We can remain teachable. What are you learning today that you didn’t know yesterday and that will make a difference how you live tomorrow? Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, was fond of saying “Its what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
4. We can focus on Self-development, not Self-fulfillment. Make a choice to grow instead of always trying to be happy. Happiness is illusive, but growth can be measured.
5. Refuse to be satisfied with current accomplishments. Rick Warren has said, “The greatest enemy of tomorrow’s success is today’s success.”
6. Be a continual learner. Henry Ford said, “Its been my observation that most successful people get ahead during the time other people waste.” And Frank A. Clark stated, “Most of us must learn a great deal everyday in order to keep ahead of what we forget.”
7. Concentrate on a few major areas. Instead of trying to change everything, focus on changing just one thing. Improve your relationships, or your health, or your attitude. Growth in just one area will often lead to growth in other areas.
8. Choose a plan for growth. Earl Nightingale observed, “If a person will spend one hour a day on the same subject for five years, that person will be an expert on that subject.” How do you plan to grow? Does it include reading a new book, taking a class, investing in a relationship?
9. Pay the price. Growth is always worth the price you pay, because the alternative is a limited life with unfulfilled potential. President Theodore Roosevelt boldly stated, “There has not yet been a person in our history who led a life of ease whose name is worth remembering.”
10. We can find a way to apply what we learn. Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge alone, let your learning lead to action.
Five Reasons Change is Difficult
Change can be difficult for all of us, these are some reasons why.
With 2010 around the corner, like many people, I’ve been thinking about change. Actually I spend most of the year thinking about change. How can I change for the better? How can I be a better husband, father, provider? What can I do to be a change agent in the organizations with which I’m involved?
Here are five reasons why I think change is so difficult, feel free to add your own.
1. Change makes us uncomfortable. We are creatures of habit and we enjoy doing things that make us feel good, and any time we make a change it is going to challenge our comfort.
2. Change can lead to conflict. Many people we respect may disagree with the changes we are making, especially family and friends. They may assume that by making changes we are challenging their way of doing things or the way they have taught us as wrong.
3. Change may make us feel “fake”. Anytime you attempt to do something for the first time it will not feel right. You may experience feelings of anxiety or dissonance, because you are attempting to do something in way that hasn’t been done before. It is helpful in these instances to remember that the more you perform the new behavior the more “normal” it will begin to feel. The “emotions” will eventually catch up to the “motions”.
4. Change often challenges our way of thinking and belief systems. Remember the first time you learned something new, or had a new experience? Once that knowledge was communicated it opened up a whole new world of possibilities. This is what change does. And because many are unwilling to move beyond the conventional wisdom of their particular world, they refuse even the possibility of change. I have discovered that the more I learn, the more the Truth is revealed. Truth, unlike falsehood, always endures the challenges of change.
5. We are sinners. Because we are slaves to sin, prior to being liberated in Christ, it is difficult to imagine anything other than our present circumstance. Sin has a way of making very much at home in a prison of our own choosing. The good news is that by faith in Christ, we can make positive changes as His Spirit works within us to transform our will and desires.
Be Blessed in 2010
A look in at the Radio show, featuring Al and Scot working through the powerful passages in Romans chapter eight.
God is Light
God is illuminated for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
“God with Christ will give us all things”