Archive for the ‘Worldliness’ Category

Dare to Unplug

Posted: November 6, 2014 by liftyourvoice1 in Worldliness
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Social networking is big, really BIG. I currently use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest on a regular basis. There’s also SnapChat, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, and oldies like MySpace and Xanga. And before that, we had AIM chat and email. But with the increasing number of people owning personal laptops and smart phones, people are more connected to ideas and each other than ever before… or are they?

I have attended social events where half the table busily fiddled with their phones instead of engaging in conversation. I have seen people lose the beauty of a moment by capturing every second of it, in selfies and video clips, which end up on Facebook and Twitter for all to see. “Pics or it didn’t happen,” is the phrase of the day.

What if we enjoyed the moments and took mental pictures? What if we put down our phones and talked to the person across the table? What if we stopped taking selfies of every little thing? Selfies with your food, selfies with no filter, selfies with the BFF, selfies at parties (#YOLO), selfies with ______ (fill in the blank). Social media is feeding our self worship.

Social media claims to help us be more “connected,” which is true to a certain degree. Facebook and Skype make long distance communication a breeze. Pinterest is a fun way to share and discover new ideas. Instagram documents our lives in pictures, sharing and showing our lives with our followers. Social media can be good.
But social media can be fake. Overuse of social media leads to an urgent necessity to be “up” on what’s going on in everyone’s lives. Scrolling through our newsfeeds, we can see what our friends have been doing lately. But our “friends” only post what they want others to see, not always what’s really going on. A comment on someone’s “wall” is quick and simple, but is it real? Would we talk to this person outside of the virtual world? Would we dare to get together over coffee, and ask them how they’re really doing, behind the filter-perfect Instagrams and overly hash tagged happy photos?

Our generation needs to UNPLUG. And it can start with you and me. Next time you want to know how a friend is doing, give them a call. If you’re out by yourself, savor the moment and beauty around you; don’t ruin it with excessive picture taking. Instead of #YOLO after all your pictures, really live in the moment by realizing how fleeting it is. You only live once, and a beautiful life can be fully lived without non-stop visual proof on your newsfeed. “Pics or it didn’t happen” is false.

I’m as guilty of social media addiction as anyone else. I check my Facebook in the morning, scroll through my Pinterest feed, and check my email on my phone, all before I even get out of bed. And I know it’s unhealthy. I’m not advocating that we all delete our Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I am advocating moderation. A good thing can be overdone. “You only live once” is partially true, but more accurately, you only live once on this Earth, so make the most of your time by putting down your phone, closing your laptop, and interacting with others face to face.

-Larkin

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Simply put, high school can be rough. Not even considering the stress of Calculus, Chemistry, and ten-page essays, there still remains the constant drama of the high school social scene. I’m sure you don’t have to be reminded of the nasty back-stabbing, black-mailing, and straight up cruelty that goes on at school, on the weekends, and even on the internet. As a Christian young man or woman, though, you are called by your Creator and Savior to rise above this insanity. I encourage you, as Paul encouraged the Romans in his letter to them, to “not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Sometimes taking a stand for the Lord and not caving into the world can be tough, especially on a secular campus where you feel you’re the only one in a sea of many. I, too, remember feeling like I was coasting through high school, trying to do my best but never radically going against the flow.

But take heart; if you truly have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are more than equipped to combat the high school drama scene with His design for real relationships. The foundation for deep, meaningful relationships lies in no other source than Jesus Himself. Before you can nurture solid friendships, your friendship (and intimacy) with the Father must come first. He should be your everything, and as you seek Him, you will become more like Him. Take a look at Galatians 5: 19-21: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, orgies, and the like…” Sounds a lot like high school, doesn’t it? But keep reading through verse 26: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentles and self-control… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another.” By seeking after your Lord daily, and becoming closer with Him, you will develop these qualities and no longer be needy and selfish. And guess what? It’s when you’re at this point, that you are ready and equipped to be a real friend and experience radical relationships, God’s way.

So now that we’ve reviewed the worldly way of friendships, let’s take a look at what God’s Word has to say about true friendship. The writer of Ecclesiastes paints a picture of what friendship looks like: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who has no one to help him up… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) God clearly has made relationships, and wants friendships to be a mutual source of encouragement. You should give as much or more than you take, in order to maintain and show God’s love in your friendships.

Sometimes, though, developing friendships can be difficult. How do you get started? Well, as a wise man once said, “You have to be a friend to have friends.” Paul lays out a beautiful guideline of what self-sacrificial love and friendship should look like for believers: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Now, this is much easier said than done, and seems simpler on paper. What this passage means is that when your friend works hard and aces that test, you rejoice with her instead of resorting to self-pity and envy, and when she hurts your feelings and genuinely asks for forgiveness, you give it to her instead of holding it against her.

Truly, relationships in the body of Christ can be filled with Christian love and unity when Jesus is the center. The psalmist in Psalms 133:1 declares, “How beautiful and pleasing it is when brothers live together in unity!” Before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to His Father about unity among believers: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the disciples’] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23) It’s simply beautiful how this love triangle works, with Jesus, the Father, and believers. Jesus is one with the Father, and through His sacrifice has restored us to the Father, so that we too may be one with Him and have unity among fellow Christians. And, we have the His strength and pure love to share with non-believers. So next time you are overwhelmed with the chaos of relationships, remember that His love empowers you to have real, deeper relationships, the kind He designed His children to enjoy.

-Larkin

Worldliness vs The Church

Posted: January 26, 2012 by andersontwo in Worldliness

How do we as Christians be in the world and not of the world? Jesus said that it wasn’t going to be easy. “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John 15:18-19 Jesus called us all to go out into the world and make disciples. He told us to tell our neighbors about Christ and he told us to be a city on a hill for him. Jesus called himself the light of the world and a light to the darkness and turned to his apostles and asked the same. How do we go to a fallen world and try to impact it for Christ when everything is calling us liars, hypocrites and cowards? We are labeled as judgmental and haters because of what we believe and because we know the truth. Should we expect anything less from a world that killed our Lord and Savior? However, even though this world is clearly going to hate us, we are still commanded to stay in it or else we would have been raptured upon the moment of salvation. It’s been sort of the paradigm for the church people to stay with the church people and form our own little bubbles together. Sure we send out missionaries from time to time because we don’t want to do all the hard work ourselves but it’s far easier to just stay with Christians so we are “tempted” to do bad things. Does this philosophy fit into a lot of mainstream, dare I say, conservative churches today? This sort of worldview has formed a great deal of complacency in the church and unfortunately, apostasy as well, not to mention all of the “fake” Christians we see so often in our churches. So, how does this relate to worldliness and how we interact with everyone else and all of those “unsaved heathen folk”? Everything! The paradigm and philosophy our churches today use when addressing the “world” is exactly why we are having problems living within it and are more and more becoming like it then becoming like Christ.

Let’s talk numbers for just a minute because numbers don’t lie, or so the saying goes. According to research done by, focus on the family, Josh McDowell and partners, Barna, Campus Crusade and others, there are staggering statistics that show a growing apostasy and complacency within the church. I am going to leave the “unsaved” people out of the equation for a bit because the “church” itself needs to be addressed first. The church has a problem. The problem, in short; we’re not teaching the Bible! Unfortunately, this is a relatively new concept too! Before the nineteen hundreds Christians in America would have been considered the majority, plain and simple. If you didn’t go to church on Sunday it was because you were dead. Almost all the court judges and legislature would have said this country was a Christian country based on the principles of God! Hey, we used to teach that in schools too! Where’d that go I wonder? Now, we have this whole idea of pluralism in our churches and government, this whole idea of relative truth and skepticism. How did this happen? Two ways. One, the church of the last century didn’t fight back against the governmental changes and moral changes taking place in America. Two, they didn’t teach their kids to do the same. Now things are getting worse and this generation is showing more reason for concern than any generation prior. The youth of this generation of falling away from the church at an astounding rate and it seems like we are just sitting by and letting it happen. We tell ourselves that they will come back in the end anyway. Wrong. Let’s throw out some numbers about these church kids.

Let’s destroy the myth about youth coming back to the church if they leave it during their college and high school years. Studies by Campus Crusade show that 80% of all people saved come to Christ before the age of eighteen. This means that only 20% come to Christ after this point. So, let’s say a teenager leaves the church when he is sixteen without ever accepting Christ. He is 80% likely to never accept Christ. So, let’s ask ourselves why the youth of the church are leaving and why we are becoming more like the world than we should. According to Barna, there are six top reasons that young adults and teenagers are leaving the church. Churches seem overprotective, Christianity seems shallow, churches seem antagonistic to science, church experiences related to sexuality seem simplistic and judgmental, Christianity is too exclusive, and the church seems unfriendly to those in doubt. Another staggering statistic would be that 84% of Christian 18-24 year olds have no idea how the Bible applies to their field of professional study. A couple of interesting similarities jump out here. It would seem as though the church isn’t making the Bible real enough for Christians. This would fall on pastors and leaders more than anything. Secondly, the church is being so judgmental and conservative minded about certain issues that it is stifling growth. Some might say that the church is teaching the Bible well enough and that the youth aren’t really going all that wrong in churches today. I would say to look at your youth groups and tell me if you really think that’s true but I have statistics too.

According to Josh McDowell and associates America, (We’ll get to the church in a minute) has been decreasing in Biblical knowledge for several decades. In 1991, 52% percent of America believed there was no absolute truth. That’s not too bad. In 2003 though, the numbers jumped to a ridiculous 91% believing in no absolute truth! You can blame relativism for that one. That’s just ten years and the statistics jumped forty percent! In 1995, 10% of Americans believed the Bible was the absolute infallible word of God and in 2002, 4%. The statistics aren’t exactly in the favor of a Christian nation. Still losing this in the world and not of the world fight from these statistics. Let’s talk about the church and young adults. 63% of young adults don’t believe that Jesus was really the son of God. Um…. 58% believe in relative truth and that all truths are valid. 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. I’m pretty sure there’s a verse in 1st Corinthians 15 that’s pretty clear about the importance of that one. 65% percent don’t believe Satan is real. After all, Satan’s greatest deceit is to make us believe that he doesn’t exist. 68% don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. Now, how exactly are we supposed to be a city on a hill and salt and light to the world if we don’t believe that the very source of our power in Christ even exists in the first place? 64% believe that if a person is generally good then they go to heaven. Um, shall I site Ephesians 2:8-9? I shall. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no man can boast.” This is what the youth, essentially, my generation believes doctrinally and about the Bible. It’s no surprise that people are falling away. This then begs to ask the question why? Why are the contemporary youth struggling so much? Why is the church failing at raising up its children in the way they should go?

I would like to stop here and say that this is not “all” the church’s’ fault. It’s not like contemporary culture is making this whole, raising children thing any easier. The peer pressure and temptation for youth is greater now than it has been ever before. The amount of technology at our disposal and the amount of information at our fingertips makes things so much easier. Pornography is rampant; sexuality is pushed more through media sources now than ever before. Negative cultural trends are looked upon as cool and there is a greater and greater pull for people to see Christians as the “weirdos”. It’s not like past generations didn’t have these problems but they have just been intensified in the past several decade. In the forties and fifties problems in school included chewing gum and talking but in the nineties rape and murder were much more prevalent. So, let’s not blame everything on the church. The world is enticing. The church though, doesn’t seem to be so enticing.

Young adults are leaving the church for six main reasons that can really be narrowed down to two. The church isn’t making the Bible real and relevant and the church is too judgmental. Let’s start with the relevancy of the Bible. I understand that the Bible is timeless and the words of truth transcend time. However, people aren’t seeing that because of the emphasis put on all the “old” traditions and similar stories. The more I sit back and watch the more I notice less and less emphasis put on doctrine and more on entertainment. Some of the statistics of the youth can only be real because the church hasn’t done the job of teaching doctrine or because the schools and the world has done a better job teaching whatever else the world teaches. So then you get the Christians that don’t really understand the Bible and what it really teaches. You get young Christians that should be old and ones that are still drinking milk when they need to be eating meat. You get the hypocritical Christians that talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Shame. The church being judgmental is probably one of the gravest issues I can see. Honestly, I know that sin is sin and that at some point the church should condemn sin; however that seems to be all the church does. I would like to refer to Scripture for an example before I show some statistics. I look back to 1st Corinthians five when Paul addresses the man having an affair with his mother in law. Well, the church condemns the man and casts him out of the church, which if the man doesn’t repent, is just action. However, in 2nd Corinthians Paul addresses the same issue because the church didn’t all the man, who had repented at this point, back into the church! This sounds so familiar to what I see in churches today. They back away from anyone that is “sinful” or having problems instead of exhorting them and helping them get back on track in their walk with Christ. It’s like so many Christians have this holier than thou ideology and that if they get too close to the “sinner” they might catch the disease. No! We are to pick our fallen brother up and love him back to Christ and help him, not cast him to the street and leave him there! On to statistics.

23% percent of adults 18-29 year olds say that the church demonizes everything outside the church. 22% percent say that the church is too focused on the evils of video games, movies and music than anything else. 30% of contemporaries say that church is boring and another 25% say that their “church experience” lacked God. 29% say that the church is afraid of other beliefs and faiths and 22% percent said that the church is too much like a country club, only for the insiders. Another 36% percent said that they were afraid to talk about their doubts of faith in church. 40% said that the churches’ teaching on birth control and sexuality is outdated.

So let’s look at this for just a moment. I don’t think anyone could deny that the church is taking a lot of time looking at video games, music and movies as an evil. That music is the devil’s music! Or so the saying goes. One third of the people polled say that that church is boring and that it lacked a certain God feeling. I can sort of attest to this because often I sit and church and look around during worship and see solemn faces and vacant expressions. Alright people, the Israelites praised God for 30 days straight in the wilderness and we can’t do it for thirty minutes. Another third said that the church was too afraid of other beliefs and faiths. Now, I do think the church needs to take a stand on “Jesus is the only way to heaven” idea cause it’s the truth, but I also think we need to be familiar with other beliefs so we aren’t ignorant of other people. Probably one of the saddest things in the church today is their ignorance. The church seems to do a good job in keeping to themselves and making a good point to keep in tradition and the cultures that it sets for itself. This probably wouldn’t be a bad thing if the devil took the same approach too. However, the devil figures out how to hurt us, how to make us go apostate. If we try to say that the church doesn’t need to do something different to keep its members then we fool ourselves. I cannot help but stress the fact that we are losing the battle. Worldliness is slipping into our churches and pulling out our youth. I cannot help but think that this is because the “world” is more appealing than the church. The church is starting to look just like the world and it’s turning everyone away because they say, “If that is what a Christian is then why do I want a part of that?” The reason the church was so contagious in the first century was because it was so much different than anything that had been conceived before. The apostles had the signs and wonders, the testimony of Jesus and the Holy Spirit changed people’s lives. It wasn’t until after Christianity was ruled the official religion of Rome than the apostasy of all the other religions filtered into the church. Another subject for another time though.

So, it’s clear that worldliness is an issue, especially in our churches and in our youth? There is starting to become less and less distinction between the two. The world sees rules and regulations, as does our youth when they should see freedom in Christ. I can’t help but think that there are four main reasons we are becoming more of the world than Jesus commanded. One, the church has stopped teaching good doctrine. Enough of this charity gospel stuff and this it’s all fun under the Son ideology. We need to get back to the basis of Scripture that teaches Jesus as Lord and Savior. Two, we need a good apologetic. Churches aren’t taking time to go through and explain why the Bible is the Bible and why it is inerrant and infallible. I’ve heard it said that we need to take it on faith but faith is the evidence of things not seen and we have plenty to see that proves the Bible true. Where are the lessons on truth and the issues that are the most pressing in the world today? The church needs to stop being afraid to address the “hard” issues that might make a few people cringe in their seats. Thirdly, the church needs to stop being so negative. Statistics show that people are afraid of the church because of being judged. They feel as though if they make one wrong step they will be excommunicated. The church looks at so many things with such a negative outlook. Ever heard a sermon on sex or music? Sex is evil and music is the devil. Why doesn’t the church talk about the beauty of sex within the proper context or the beauty of music? God made both of them and they both glorify him when done right. Still, too much negativity is given to the “problems” of society and we steer away from it so much that it makes the church look “holier than thou” and rules regulated. The contemporary youth don’t have any interest in that sort of thing and so they become of the world. Fourthly, the church needs to get excited again. Where is the love and fervor for Jesus Christ that you saw in the church during the first century? Where is the excitement and the joy of the Lord? Rejoice in the Lord and again I say Rejoice! Why aren’t we dancing in the streets like David? (Can’t do it naked anymore though…) Why are we told to not raise our hands or why are we told to solemnly stand in reverence? Where is the joy, where is the jumping, the gladness? God has redeemed us from the curse of the law! Jesus has set you free from sin! That should get you excited! If we would just live with that excitement people would see that we were different, people would wonder why. We want them to wonder why! We’re supposed to be a city on a hill and we do that by praising the one you made the hill.

So, how do we live in the world and not be of the world? We love on another. Churches become places of safety. We teach our children how to defend their faith and teach them to know why they believe what they believe. We embrace change and cling to the transcendence of the Bible. We become the city on a hill and the salt and light of the world God called us to be. People will come. We may be in the world, but we are also IN CHRIST!

I Can Play The Background

Posted: January 25, 2012 by liftyourvoice1 in Testimonies, Worldliness

(Note: I’m not sure if you see the connection to worldliness or if there is even one. I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to share this, hopefully my thoughts are coherent and that this story accomplishes what it was intended too. Which,  was to bring God Glory!)

The past several weeks we have addressed many interesting and tough concepts here at Lift Your Voice.  This week’s topic is no different.  Worldliness is a very broad topic to discuss. Through the busyness of my week I have been praying and pondering what to write about here on the blog. As I have prayed, one song has come to my mind; and along with that song came thoughts of MY STORY.   So, for my part I will share the song and the story…or as we Christians like to call it my TESTIMONY.

Those who have listened to the show, or if you’ve seen our facebook page, you will know that I am a fan of the Christian rapper Lecrae. Lecrae is a very talented artist, and he is firmly rooted in scripture. One of his best songs and the song that has been running through my head all week is Background.  The song has been on repeat in my itunes, spotify, and my ipod all week. I just cannot get the melody and the message of the song out of my head.  Lecrae’s song speaks to me on so many levels. The language he uses, that of a performer specifically, within the song makes it feel and seem as though he were telling MY STORY.  Before I tell you MY STORY, I want to show you the lyrics of this song and perhaps you will understand MY STORY and how it fits into this discussion on worldliness.

“Background”
(feat. C-Lite)

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

It’s evident you run the show, so let me back down
You take the leading role, and I’ll play the background
I know I miss my cues, know I forget my lines
I’m sticking to your script, and I’m reading all your signs
I don’t need my name in lights, I don’t need a starring role
Why gain the whole wide world, If I’m just going lose my soul
And my ways ain’t purified, don’t live according to Your Word
I can’t endure this life without Your wisdom being heard
So word to every dance, a foe, a pop star
‘Cause we all play the background, but mine’s a rockstar
Yeah, so if you need me I’ll be stage right
Praying the whole world will start embracing stage fright
So let me fall back, stop giving my suggestions
‘Cause when I follow my obsessions, I end up confessing
That I’m not that impressive, matter of fact
I’m who I are, a trail of stardust leading to the superstar

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

I had a dream that I was captain of my soul
I was master of my fate, lost control. and then I sank
So I don’t want to take the lead, ’cause I’m prone to make mistakes
All the folks who follow me, going end up in the wrong place
So let me just shadow you, let me trace your lines
Matter of fact, just take my pen, here, you create my rhymes
‘Cause if I do this by myself, I’m scared that I’ll succeed
And no longer trust in you, ’cause I only trust in me
And see, that’s how you end up headed to destruction
Paving a road to nowhere, pour your life out for nothing
You pulled my card, I’m bluffing, You know what’s in my hand
Me, I’m just going to trust you, You cause the dice to land
I’m in control of nothing, follow you at any cost
Some call it sovereign will, all I know is you the boss
Man, I’m so at ease, I’m so content
I’ll play the background, like it’s an instrument

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

I know I’m safest when I’m in Your will, and trust Your Word
I know I’m dangerous when I trust myself, my vision blurred
And I ain’t got no time to play life’s foolish games
Got plenty aims, but do they really Glorify Your name
And it’s a shame, the way I want to do these things for You
Don’t even cling to you, take time to sit and gleam from You
Seems You were patient in my ignorance
If ignorance is bliss, it’s ’cause she never heard of this

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

I could play the background
I could play the background
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead.

If you have known me for any length of time, you probably already know and have heard this story.  But, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure I’m going to share it with you.

MY STORY

Selfish desires are a major part of, if not the foundation of worldliness. For many selfish desires lead to hedonism and a lifestyle that is very worldly. At one time in my life I had been on a path to fulfill my selfish desires, my selfish ambition.  My ambition was to be in the spotlight, to be the focus of as many people’s attention as I could. I wanted to be rich and famous and have lots of power in the world. Ever since I was little I have had a sense that I was set apart to be and do something great. Of course throughout much of my life my concept of what is great was viewed through what the world thought greatness was.

For many of you, you may be too young to remember the show “Family Ties.” It was a very popular sitcom throughout the 1980’s. I was two almost three when its last season aired.  But, I remember watching it when I was little. Recently, thanks to Netflix, I’ve been able to watch this beloved show again. As, I’ve been watching these old episodes I have realized that I was at one time very much like one of the sitcoms major characters, Alex P. Keaton(played by Michael J. Fox). Alex is the oldest of his family during the shows run his character was very ambitious and very set on becoming as rich and powerful as he could. Often times his selfishness and earthly desires would get him into trouble, and by the end of the show he would learn a valuable life lesson and it would look like he would be less selfish than before.  But, of course in the next episode, despite being knocked down a few pegs in the previous episode, he would be his old prideful and selfish self and he’d learn a whole new less.

Although an extreme example I did have my moments where I was like Alex. My parents have always described me as a “Ham” or one who has to be the center of attention all the time. It’s true. I love attention. I love being the focus of everyone around me. From a young age I had decided that I would find as many ways to be that focus of everyone’s attention that I could. Naturally these desires lead me to become involved with theater.

The first play I can remember being in was my first grade classes production of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” I played Yukon Cornelius (we based our play off of the classic Christmas movie). It was my first taste of being on stage and I loved it.  The next time I was able to get on stage was in fifth grade. From that point on there really hasn’t been a year where I haven’t done something that involved theater. From the fifth grade until I graduated high school I was in a total of 24 productions in church, school, and around the community.  I was told by a well-known actress from the area that I could make a career out of acting. The founder of my high school’s theater program who also happened to be a producer for Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster called me a triple threat on the stage. A local newspaper writer who wrote reviews of professional theater for the paper said after one of my performances that I would have gotten rave reviews from him if he were writing a review for the paper. I once had a community theater company asking me to come and play the lead in their next production.

I loved theater, and I was good at it. I was good at it, and I knew it (which was very dangerous). I truthfully wanted to make that my career.  But, not only was I involved in theater, but if it was performance based, or it involved me being in front of people, I was there and I was involved. I was in my school’s morning TV show which did the announcements on all the televisions in the school. I did that because it was the best way I could force myself into every student’s life every day. I was on the TV and they had to watch, I got to be the center of attention. I was my class’s treasure for two years because it would bring me attention. I ran track and cross country (I did love these sports and had a lot of fun) because as an athlete at school it brought me attention. I was the school’s mascot for football because it brought me attention.  Everything I did was all about bringing me glory and attention.

There was a section in the local paper each week set aside for teens and stories about teens in the community. It covered issues that teens would discuss, events that teens were a part of, theater, sports, politics, and so on. Frequently I was interviewed for various topics that were printed in that section. It got to the point where the reporter that wrote that section stated that she would just contact me for every story. I hate to word it this way, but at least in the immediate area I grew up in I could have been considered a local celebrity.  My father was the Pastor of a church, and often times considered the pastor for the town as a whole.  If Will Smith was considered the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” then I very well may have been considered the prince of Bowmansville for a period of time.  At the very least I was a favored son of my high school and my community.

I don’t say these things to pump myself up, but rather to paint the picture of what I had wanted at one time. In my community it was difficult for me to go anywhere without someone knowing either me or my father, and to a degree I liked it that way. I was the center of attention. My selfish desire to have glory and be well known and liked was being realized in the community.  At the time I felt that I cast a very big shadow and I most definitely had a big head.

I was center stage and life was all about me. While I claimed to be a Christian, and I strived to live a life that was considered to be good, I wanted all the glory. God was in the background of my life.  It was very evident. At the end of every performance or the end of a run of shows, when I was not the center of attention or in the spotlight, I felt very empty. Being in the spotlight was my drug.  Without it I felt I had a meaningless life.  Much like Solomon in Ecclesiastes I was searching for meaning, despite the fact that meaning was right under my nose in a Bible, I couldn’t find it.

I came to Liberty University in fall 2005 with every intention of continuing the trend. I intended to try and continue to draw attention to myself and be the center of attention. I auditioned for the theater program and because it involved acting a ministry team called King’s Players.  Although I had developed somewhat of a big head, I made attempts at being humble. Underneath the humility still lay the desire to be the center of attention though. But slowly my attitude began to change. It actually had begun with my decision to come to Liberty. My decision to come to LU was the first decision in my entire life that I actually stepped back and let God make for me. I allowed Him to direct me to LU, but He still did not have control over everything. I was still in the business of bringing glory to me.

The change really took shape after my auditions. During freshman week at LU my prayer leader shared with me 1 Corinthians 10:31. It says “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” He explained that everything we did in life, as Christians, should be done for the glory of God. This was a completely new concept to me, because everything I had done, all my accolades and accomplishments, were done for my glory. Every show I had done was to draw attention to me and my talent. I was trying to show everyone how good I was.  I thought about this for a while, and I realized and I asked myself exactly what the Bible says… what does it profit me to gain the whole world and lose my soul? I had spent my whole life trusting in me, my talents, and was trying to gain glory for me. I began to see why I was empty when I wasn’t the center of attention.  I saw that my talents were not there to bring me glory, but rather they were there to bring God glory.  I realized that if I began to try and glorify God in all things, all life’s little details and its big occurrences that I could find meaning and satisfaction in my life. I wanted to try this, so I decided to make 1 Corinthians 10:31 my life verse.

Remember that I had auditioned for two theater groups at LU right? Well, I ended up being cast in both.  I still had that talent; the difference was I had a new resolve to live for God’s glory instead of my own. Here came my first test in this. Because I was cast in both I had to make a decision. I could only choose one. Both directors gave me 48 hours to pick. On the one hand was glory and the spotlight in the school’s main theater group; on the other was a minimally funded ministry team that would not bring me much attention. I had to sit down and pray, and I applied my new life verse.  I prayed to God and asked Him which one I could bring more glory to Him through. Now, mind you this was through me, if you were in the situation God may have gained more glory if you chose differently than I, but for me God showed that He would gain more glory if I would choose King’s Players. This meant less glory and less recognition for me, but in the end I could glorify God more through my participation in the ministry team.

I have been a part of that ministry off and on for the last seven years or so. As a result of working with this ministry I gave in to God’s call for me to go into full time ministry. Up until then I did not want to go into ministry because chances were that I would not be the spotlight and I certainly wouldn’t get glory, money, or fame.  The point of my story is that I wanted to be the lead, not the background. I have grown to realize over the years that being the lead and wanting to be in control or the center of attention is a worldly desire. It’s worldliness. But stepping back and tacking the background and letting God take the lead and gain the glory, while difficult for me to do, is more satisfying. Also,  I still feel as though I am supposed to be great. But God defines that greatness. I believe that my success or my greatness is not defined by the greatness I achieve in man’s eyes but rather my obedience to God and His call on my life.

Lecrae’s song speaks to me because of its language. It’s a daily prayer for me.  I still struggle with the desire to be out front.  But I run these desires through a lens.  The line in the bridge where Lecrae says “Got plenty aims, but do they really Glorify Your name” is that lens. Do my aims glorify God’s name. I still often times get to be out front and be the center of people’s attention. I love to entertain.  But because I’m playing the background now, I make sure to point their attention to the lead……..The lead who saved my life despite my worldly and sinful desires.  I’m trying to embrace stage fright so that God can get the glory…because as Lecrae says all I am is “a trail of stardust leading to the superstar.”

(Note: I’m not sure if you see the connection to worldliness or if there is even one. I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to share this, hopefully my thoughts are coherent and that this story accomplishes what it was intended too. Which, was to bring God Glory!)

Brandon Witmyer—Director and host of Lift Your Voice

Lecrae: I Am Second

Posted: January 24, 2012 by liftyourvoice1 in Testimonies, Worldliness

I felt it was appropriate to share this testimony from Lecrae. It is a great picture of turning from a materialistic worldview to a Christ centered worldview. Lecrae has gone from being of the world to being in the world as a minister of the Gospel.

Falling Bible

Posted: January 23, 2012 by andreacaresse in Worldliness
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

You may think this a strange title, but you’ll see the meaning behind “Falling Bible” at the end.  It ties into this week’s discussion of “Worldliness,” which is not only an issue that affects our witness to non-believers, but it affects our relationship with God as well.  We as His children can never lose our salvation, but we can lose our fellowship with God.  The more we are of the world, the farther we are from God.   Worldliness is an issue that ranges from everything from daily distractions, to deep-rooted sinful desires that are born from being too attached to what the world desires.  If we are focused and dependent on God, worldliness should be so disconnected from our character that others around us can see a visible difference in the way we live and think.

As Christians, we are called to “be in the world, but not of the world.”   We are meant to be “light and salt in a wicked a crooked generation.”  God has chosen us to be a beacon of light and truth to those who don’t know His name.  One of the most important things to remember is that if we are distracted by the same fallen desires that entice the world, then no one will be able to see any intelligible difference in us, and they will not listen to the Truth that we need to share.   We are the image bearers of Christ.  What the world sees through our lives, they assume is a result of our beliefs in Jesus Christ.  If they look at us and see the same kind of individual as any other secular person, then they can freely suppose that our faith makes no difference and is not important to us.   Our faith in Jesus Christ should be the foundation that we build our actions, beliefs, attitudes, and desires on.  If we allow the world to dictate our values, then all we are doing is allowing ourselves to be “tossed to and fro, and carried about” by everything that’s wrong in the world.

What does the Bible say on the subject? Check these verses out:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:15-16

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:19

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

So what exactly do we mean by worldliness?  Think about these typical examples of someone “living of the world”:  A lifestyle of sexual promiscuity; addiction to drugs or alcohol; dancing the night away at raves; viewing pornography; destructive and harmful behaviors towards self or others…. Obviously these things are sinful behaviors that are a result of fallen humanity, but what about these?:  exposing yourself to movies, music, and games that promote acts of sexuality, violence, and profanity: wearing clothes that intentionally and provocatively show off your body; speaking with abrasive language and profanity; joking around with others on topics displeasing to the Lord; being a fan of an artist or actor that endorses actions you yourself don’t approve of; behaving a certain way simply to fit in with the crowd… These can sometimes be more subtle in our lives, hiding in a “grey area,” but they are destructive to not only our witness, but to our own minds…  Now what about these actions?:  Putting friend time before quiet time with God; reading your favorite novel over the Bible; humming that song in your head that you know is displeasing to God; wasting your time on facebook pressing the refresh button instead of doing your homework; chatting with someone online you don’t even know; being disobedient to authority in your life; not reading your Bible or praying because you’re “too busy”; allowing discontent feelings about your life to cause you to be angry with God.   Some of these are just not “smart choices,” but are they “worldliness” issues as well?  I think so, because they are results of us being too overcome with the pleasures of this world that we lose focus on what’s truly important and right in our lives.  So often we think of just “the big sins” (even though all sin is equal in God’s sight) as the definition of worldliness, but more often the subtleties of life are what begin to erode our faith and cause us to slip even further into actions that are no different from a non-believer.

The issue of worldliness goes way deeper than simply how we behave on the outside, but its source is how we think on the inside.  If our hearts are right with God, our actions will prove themselves.  If we are distant in our fellowship with our Savior, then our behavior will reflect that, and we will be vulnerable to the desires of this world.   The beautiful thing about light is that it radiates.  The closer we are to Christ, the more we glow, because we are reflecting more of Him.  But if we are so filled with the distractions of this world and distance ourselves from God, then our light will be muted and hard for others to see.

Last semester my light was muted, quite frankly it was just plain out.  I had lost my focus on my Savior, and instead my thoughts were concerned on this world and all that was either going wrong, or just wasn’t how I wanted.  I can look back to last year and see how a snow-ball affect started in my life.  It began with tiny little thoughts, thoughts about life and how I was dissatisfied with some things.  Slowly those thoughts turned to actions; I didn’t take my fellowship with God seriously.   My heart wasn’t concerned on seeking His face in fellowship; I wasn’t hungry for that one-and-only friendship. There were days when I didn’t want to seek His face at all, but I wanted to seek His hands (what He could give me).  At the time, it wasn’t clear to me that I was doing this, but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t thinking like I should.  I became overly concerned on how busy my life had become, and I found easy excuses for not opening God’s Word.  Either a distraction would come in my way, or a desire would overshadow my thoughts.  There were weeks when I only read perhaps a handful of verses.  And many other weeks when I would “read” without even absorbing the words… my eyes would just follow the lines.  As my fellowship with God distanced, my behavior changed.  Those who saw me on a daily basis detecting this change, often asked me how I was doing with some concern, but the same answer always came, “I’m good.”   Once the fellowship with God distanced, I didn’t have joy during worship.  Convocation, which was in past a great joy for me, became an arduous duty.  I engaged in conversations with others that, in truth, weren’t pleasing to God, and I knew it.  I developed “friendships” with those who weren’t making God their first priority.  My dissatisfaction for life in general grew, and not only did I not have time to read the Bible, but I didn’t have time for anyone else.  My entire attitude became one of self-interest and dissatisfaction.   As my thoughts and behavior worsened I began to dislike who I had become, and instead of running back to God, I sank further into a state of depression and stress.  I wanted so desperately to break free from the unhappiness that had consumed me, but I had no idea where to begin.  Soon, self-pity added itself to the mix, along with being overly concerned with other’s opinions of me.  No one else really knew what I was feeling; they just thought I was “busy.”   But that’s where my concern for the things of this world had led me.  Not only had seemingly harmless worldly thoughts separated me from fellowship with my Creator, but they kept me from being a light to others.  Who can be a light while they are dark on the inside?  Believe me, I’ve tried.   You can’t be a light in your own fleshy strength, it’s just impossible.   Simple daily distractions and concerns had caused me to forget what was truly important in my life: Fellowship with my God.

My life at this point was entirely run by my schedule.  My life was daily planned out before me and any purpose that remained in me was dedicated to staying afloat through my busy days.  Right about this time, I had a project due in art class.  The assignment was to create an image with a hidden meaning, something that made you look twice.   After getting the details on what was required for this work, I did what I do with every project:  I took some time just sitting and thinking, letting whatever thoughts come into my head, and asking God what He’d like me to do.  (Even though my fellowship with Him had distanced greatly, I knew I still wanted to create something He would want… it’s basically the premise behind all my art, and thankfully that part of my relationship still remained.)  So as I sat there thinking, I looked down on the desk and saw my weekly planner.  The pages were open and I could see how distracted and hurried I had become.  I closed my eyes to try and forget what I just saw, but it was still there.  I started thinking about how busy all of our lives are in this world.  We have so many attachments, distractions, senseless worries.  We rush to and fro, never giving God the time of day.  Like Manhattan during rush hour we never get to where we need to go, and we’re constantly feeling late, even if we’re “on time.”  I just sat there and started imagining the blur of traffic lights streaking all around and in the center of it all was my Bible falling away from me.  Its pages were morphing out into everything that was causing a distraction.  As the objects grew the more of the Bible they consumed, and the farther away the Bible fell.  All I could think about was, please, be still and know that I am God.  Stop the worrying, stop the hurrying; just be still.  Below is the final product.

This symbolically represents everything that distracts us in this life on earth; pictures of the worldliness that encapsulates our lives.  Its title is “Falling Bible,” because the more we are attracted to things of this world, the more the Bible falls away from our hearts.

Starting in the top-left, going clock-wise: Cell phone (all the connections and communications that distract us),  Earbuds (the media we allow to enter our hearts and minds that keeps us from hearing the voice of God), Keys (the multiple earthly possessions that we lock away in our hearts as being oh so important), Money (the love of it, or the financial stresses we face), Car (status symbols or objects that we flaunt to others), Ipod (music, videos, games, and internet access that we feed off of on a daily basis), Watch (time, one of this world’s most costly possessions and distractions), and finally an actual page from my planner… the thing that started it all.   The words Be still and know that I am GOD, appear as though they are set in stone, sunk deeply into the Word.  No longer can one’s eyes just skim over the lines on the page, we are forced to read them.  When we are in the midst of the rush of life, these words are a needed food for the soul.

I had many weeks to work on this, and during this time I was able to analyze myself very well.  This wasn’t necessarily the “turning point” for me; I had a lot of work to do to get back to where I had started.  But this project helped me see how distracted I had become; now I had to act on it.  I knew I had to change something, but I had to discover the what and how.  I finally recognized that what was going on inside me was my own doing, and was started by my own thoughts.  I started talking with godly friends and family, I finally genuinely asked God to help me (no longer in the accusatory “why don’t You help me?”  way I had been praying, I made intentional time for God and stopped doing, and just listened.  It took lots of time to unwind everything that had wound itself around my heart.  But Praise God with His help, it happened.

I’ve learned since then, that little distractions in life caused by this world can do a great deal of harm spiritually.  Since then, I’ve also learned what it means to have an “eternal perspective.”  Often during the course of a day I tell myself, “Life is short compared to eternity.”  It makes those life stresses and distractions not matter so much, and it keeps me from becoming too attached to this world.  Remember, we are not here forever.  We are only traveling for a very short time here on this earth.  While we’re here, we are to shine God’s light for the world to see!  To make Him famous, not ourselves.  To shine His light through our lives.  The closer we are to the world, the less the world will see His light.  The closer we are to Him the brighter we shine.