If it doesn't count for Christ, it doesn't count.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

4 to 7 and the fade in between.

There is a song that you may or may not have heard called Slow Fade.  It is done by Casting Crowns, who are one of my favorite groups.  I have listened to the song and watched the video all the while saying, "Yeah, I know somebody like that. I see it happening."   Did you catch that? "Somebody" - as in "else".

Why is it so easy for us to see a decline in someone else, and yet we don't recognize when the same thing is about to happen to us?  And praise God that He sees it coming, and He sends up red flags, flashing lights, and various and sundry other warnings that we are free to heed or not. And, thank you, Lord, for the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the spiritual feet to move away!    

A video was forwarded to me through e-mail by a good friend a couple of weeks ago. (I'll post the link below because you really should see this, if you already haven't.) The video is a brief, but powerful teaching from Mark Hall, of Casting Crowns, on Psalm 1.  The beginning words in this scripture paint a portrait of a person on a "Slow Fade".  In his teaching, Mark points out that a fall from Christ never really happens all at once. It may begin in ways that seem so innocent or harmless to us, but that only leads to the next step, which seems just as harmless because the first step is already behind us, and after all, whether we realize it or not, we have begun a downhill slide, and we are bound to pick up momentum. (it gets easier).

I was immediately struck by the truth and simplicity of the message. I actually thought how wonderful it would be if God used me and gave me insight like that so I could help others avoid the "slippery slope". (HAH!)

A very short while later, at some point in the day, one of my posts contained "4" - nothing else. The next day, I entered "7" - nothing else.  Neither these numbers nor their objects would mean anything at all to anyone else, because there is no way anyone else would have known what they were about.  It was purely a matter of me entertaining myself on FaceBook. (Entertaining myself on FaceBook - How pathetic is that?!?)  My conviction came when someone on FaceBook asked what it was all about.  I had to stop and think, "What is it all about?"  And then I saw it, an almost imperceptible, ever so slight, fade.

(Deep breath. Here we go.) On FaceBook, these ads and apps keep popping up on the right side of the screen. They cover a wide range of subjects from "play this game" to "watch this ad".  One of those is something called "Rate A Hottie". Up pops this picture of a young lady, dressed appropriately for the subject at hand, with an invitation to use that app to "Rate A Hottie".  I have not used that app. (I don't use those apps.) But, I wouldn't use that one anyway.  They just kept showing up from time to time, until one appeared that looked so "self aware" (for lack of a better term) that I said to myself, "O.K., I'll rate you." So, I typed a "4" into my post.  No one would know, or care, what it concerned, and even if they did, they would not have seen that particular photograph by which to register their own agreement or disagreement.  It was just something to do.

Later, after several more such ads popped up, I decided one was a "7".  Didn't want to go where I suspect that app is designed to take me, so I did not push that button. Could have just stated it in my mind and gone on to other things.  But, I didn't. This might be fun. These mysterious numbers appearing in my posts for no apparent reason.  Very entertaining . . . to me. (There I go again!)  So I entered "7".

One morning soon after, here comes a question on FB to the effect of "What's going on? What is all this counting about?"  Conviction begins to move in. Then a comment from another person that really brought it home. "That's just Dennis being Dennis."

Suddenly, I didn't feel so funny. I didn't feel so self entertained. I did not want this episode to be any part of me being me. I have already acknowledged my suspicion that the app itself, "Rate A Hottie", probably leads to a darker place, a place that I do not want to go. (Did you notice how I subtly inferred my moral strength?) But, God was showing me that my own "harmless, innocent enough" fun was pointing me down a path I didn't want to follow. The "4" was ok. "Poor thing. She really thinks she's all that. She's trying so hard to be Miss Hot that she's definitely not."

The "7" is something else altogether. You see, after arriving at the 7, I realized that I had to consider what would make a 9 or a 10, or a 6. I had to go beyond innocent appreciation of God given beauty.  I was being drawn into a game that should not be played because to continue to do so would require me let down my guard.  The game would require that I actively and voluntarily think in terms that I actively and intentionally guard against! I would have to knowingly take myself away from God's protection with the intent to move in and out of the game under my own power. (and how long can that last?) And I am not talking about immediate lewd, vile, and indecent thoughts.    

Let me hasten to say that there was no lust involved in this process.  None in the least. No "lewd, vile or indecent" thoughts. It was just "innocent fun". But, don't you see? That's the way it works. "It's a slow fade."  If we allow ourselves to get away with even the slightest compromise, there will be another, and then another, and then another . . .  Until one day we find that we have compromised away our commitment to living our lives in a way that pleases God. We have compromised away our witness. We have compromised away all that God ever wanted for us.  We have compromised ourselves away from God . . . away from His influence . . . away from His protection.

A Slow Fade that we never even noticed.

As for me, God warned, I heard, and I took a step back. I won't be rating any more "Hotties" - not for my own "innocent" entertainment or anyone else's.  Was I on a fade?  Or was that just a little stumble, a "bobble", a rock kicked down life's path?  Have I made too much of it?

Well, all I can say is, by comparison, ask an alcoholic, "Of all the drinks taken, of every sip of whiskey, glass of wine, or can of beer that passed through your lips over the years, which was the most devastating? Which one caused the most damage?  Of every swallow of alcohol you've had through out your life, which is the one you most regret?  Is there a single drink you wish you had never taken?"   The answer will probably be, "I wish I had never taken the one that seemed so harmless . . . the first one." 

"It's A Slow Fade . . . It never crumbles in a day."

There are a lot of paths that we can take that will cause the light of Christ to fade within us. We should all take a look in the mirror every now and then just to be sure that we still shine just as bright as we did the moment Jesus entered our heart.  Call it a fade check!

And, about my 4th paragraph, apparently I needed to learn it before I could teach it! Thanks, Sandy.

And thanks to Gail and Marcelle. You didn't know it, but you made me look .................at me.

Please take a few minutes to watch these two videos. You will be blessed by them.




Friday, October 30, 2009

A few words about the home depot thing. And, NO, I will not capitalize the name!

Some think this is a small, insignificant thing.

I have been stating over the past few days that I have not and will not make any more purchases from a place "they" call the home depot.  I have said this because the home depot fired an employee in Florida for violating their dress code. The violation, attached to his home depot apron, was a button with a picture of an American flag on it and the wording "... one nation, under God... INDIVISIBLE".  Reportedly, he had been wearing this button for about a year.  He recently began bringing his Bible to work and reading it on his breaks and lunch hour. He was told to stop wearing that button and offered one that says "United We Stand".  He chose to take a stand, and that was to stand up for his belief in God and country.  home depot fired him.

It is interesting to note that home depot had no problem with the button until he started reading his Bible on his lunch hour.  When home depot saw that this young man, Trevor Keezer, was serious about his relationship with God, home depot decided to end its relationship with Trevor.  Apparently, home depot feels that their business is better off without God in it.  (Except for the money they take in which has the statement "In God We Trust" on it.)

Trevor is making a stand, and I am standing with him by no longer shopping at home depot. I have already made a phone call to home depot's headquarters in Atlanta, as well as every home depot store in our area to tell them that I will no longer be doing business with them.

What difference will that make? Well, if it is just me, then I can only make my stand, with little or no effect on home depot. But,I can stand! And you can, too! If it is all of us, then it certainly makes a difference.  You can continue to shop there. You can make a reference to this situation with every little nail or light bulb you buy there. But, as long as they are getting your money, nothing will change. You see, this decision by home depot is motivated by neither religious, moral, nor spiritual values.  It's all about the money.  If they can make more money by keeping God out of their stores than by allowing their employees to acknowledge Him in their stores, they are going to keep doing what they are doing.

As long as protesting Christians continue to drop their money into home depot's coffers, home depot will continue to deny people like Trevor the right to even passively express their belief in our Almighty God.  How many other home depot employees do you think have been intimidated into removing their "I  serve God" buttons and pins? And, do you think it is only home depot who enforces such a policy?  Call Belk and JC Penney and any other large retailer and ask if their employees are allowed to say "Merry Christmas", even as they are processing YOUR Christmas purchases!

A small, insignificant thing? Huge losses are made up of small compromises. Please understand, God has lost nothing here.  But, we Christians have given ground and given ground and given ground until we can hardly recognize the landscape around us. This is an easy stand to take.  It may mean we have to suffer a little inconvenience.  How are we going to have the faith and the strength for the very difficult stands to be made in days to come when we won't stand here?  Satan is pushing. He certainly won't stop with home depot.       

This is not about requiring home depot to believe in or even acknowledge God. We cannot and should not even attempt that.  It is about honoring God with His provision.  It is about saying "My money is God's money, and it will not be spent at any establishment which will not allow Him to be honored."  

Romans 11:36 (New International Version)  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

And what wonderful things might our God bring from this simple matter?


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tell Yourself, Dent!

It is amazing how God takes those stupid things we do and uses them to teach us some very profound lessons.  You will probably see many posts here at CrossConnected resulting from a lesson learned from a stupid turn.  I seem to get a lot of those!

I'll make what could be a long story short so as not to bore you with details. Suffice it to say that I did something stupid on I-55 the other day that resulted in some hard braking on my part. No contact, no bent metal, no one hurt, except for one bruised ego. (I pride myself on my driving since I drive better than anyone else temporarily in front of me.) This happened around 8:30 am.

The thing is, I drive a red truck, one of few-to-none traveling the same route I drive every day. This means that, if anyone else is paying attention, I am "that guy" in the red truck as opposed to one of those many guys in the white or beige truck. In other words, I don't blend in, and cannot easily be mistaken for someone else. My good driving may go unnoticed, but my poor driving shows up in bright red. I try to be conscious of this fact . . . but, sometimes I forget.  So, I'm out there showing everyone around me what kind of person I am by my actions behind the wheel of my vehicle. (That's the only basis any of them have for forming an opinion of me.)

What they see that big bright red truck do, though, is not so much a concern to me as what they see in that small Christian emblem on my tail gate. It probably doesn't say much when my driving is at its best. By that I mean that I don't think anyone is noticing what a good Christian I am because of my excellent driving. I do fear that it speaks volumes when my driving is not what it should be. "What kind of a Christian is he?" "Well, he can't be much of a Christian driving like that!" "etc."

On my return trip at the end of the day, as I passed by the spot in the road where my stupidity had taken me in a direction that I had not wanted to go,  I was again praising God and thanking Him that my earlier actions had been of no physical consequence.  I glanced in my rear view mirror, as I had been doing all day, and there was a message intended for that particular place at that particular time. It had to be, as this was the umpteenth time I had gazed into that mirror that day, and had not seen the message..

You see, I have another "Christian symbol" inside my truck. It is a tiny wooden cross that normally dangles from my mirror, . . . there for anyone who will look to see.  "Look at me. I'm a Christian!"

Certainly it had been there since my morning antics. But, if so, why hadn't I seen it? The little cross that normally dangles a good 5 - 6 inches below my mirror was now resting  in the center of the mirror itself! Whether it was the force of my hard brake much earlier in the day, or whether it was the hand of God Himself who placed it there, my little symbol to the world, the thing that I had used to say  "Look at me. I'm a Christian!" had flipped up and over and landed there in the mirror for no one other than myself to see.

The message was immediate, loud, and clear . . . and simple.  "Dent," (that's actually what my daddy used to call me, but maybe Jesus does, too,) "Dent, those people out there don't need to see some symbol of who you want them to think you are. They need to see the real thing. The only way you can show Me to them is for them to see Me in you!  So, here is something for you to look at. Keep your eye on the cross! Stay focused on Me! That's what I want them to see."

"Yessir, Lord."

Galatians 2:20 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Dennis (or should I say "Dent"?)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Welcome to CrossConnected

This is a blog that I created mostly for our Sunday School class, but, just like our class, anyone is welcome here to read and comment.

CrossConnected is the name of my Sunday School class at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Byram, MS.  Our name comes from Jesus' prayer in the Upper Room on the night before He was to be crucified.

John 17:23 (New King James Version)23 ". .. I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one . . ."

When an individual comes to the cross and accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, a connection is instantly created. The Holy Spirit comes into them, filling a place left void in humanity from the moment sin entered the world with Adam's act of disobedience. They are connected with Jesus. He is their personal Savior, Lord of their life.  They are connected with God. ("I in them, and You in Me . . ." They are connected with every other Christian in existence. ( ". . . that they may be made perfect in One.")  We are One. We're not perfect yet, but we are One, being made perfect by the work of Jesus Christ in us. We are connected by Jesus Christ by way of His sacrifice on our behalf on the Cross. We are connected by the cross. We are CrossConnected!

We each are uniquely and wonderfully made!  We were created different from one another. Satan has been quite successful in taking the things that make us different, our differentness, if I may, and turning those into differences, which come between us and divide us and tear us apart. This does not have to be so for Christians, and, indeed, it should not be so. It does not matter who we are, where we are from, what our background is, what our financial status is, what our race, sex, or ethnicity is. None of the myriad of things that make us different from one another matters. Our Lord is working to make us "perfect in One". That is His work within The Body, but we should all stop from time to time and ask ourselves, "Am I working against Him? Do I see the difference, or do I see the connection?"   

I'll leave you for now with this:

1 Corinthians 13:10-13 (New International Version)

10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
 13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God Himself is love. Jesus suffered immeasurably and died for us because of His love for us. I've said that I am not sure just what it means for us to be One, nor what being made perfect in One entails. But, that does not keep me from believing that it starts with love. . . Christ's love in us, and through us.