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Sojourner's paradigm challenges atheists and skeptics to make a shift in the way they examine and approach the claims of the Bible and Christianity. It is best to first watch the gospel message video and read the foundational truth of God. Other blogs speak on a variety of topics.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Entertainment" within the Church

The subject of entertainment within the church came up in dinner conversation. I love paradigms, so maybe I can stir one up.

The use of entertainment within the church can be discussed from many different angles. The issue can become confused by raising questions such as “what do we mean by entertainment?”, or “what do we mean by using it ‘in church’?” We might argue that to some degree Christ himself used entertainment by using parables. Or we might say that folks followed Jesus, at least for awhile, because they found him to be entertaining. We might even say that, while scripture is filled with the message of God, it is also filled with entertaining stories. These and many more perspectives can be presented and discussed but they may not get to the heart of the matter.

Opinions vary but they certainly aren’t authoritative. If we are to engage this subject at all, we must first determine, from God’s authoritative source, the directives and purpose of the church. We are briefly informed in Acts 2:42, “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” But what was the underlying reason for doing these things? To those of us who claim to be followers of Christ, the very fact that we follow Him is because He is our Lord and our salvation. We are engaged in the business of Christ because that is our entire purpose for living. Our ultimate goal is to bring glory to God. The purpose, therefore, of the church, is to equip believers for service in God’s kingdom in order to bring God glory. How does “entertainment” fit into all of this?

As one who works within the audio visual field, I would like to clear up some misconceptions. I have used media within the application of the church but I would not characterize its use as being “entertainment”. I do believe the use of this tool should not only be informative, but should also engage and stimulate the viewer. Even so, my goal should never be for the sole purpose of entertaining my audience. I am speaking of its use within the church service where the dictates of Acts 2:42 are upheld.

Pastors and teachers often like to use a story or illustration to introduce their topic. Jesus too used this technique with his use of parables or life illustrations. Rather than entertain the audience, this is intended to prepare the audience for the topic at hand. This too can be used through the use of audio visual means. Skits and drama too can be a tool to introduce the teaching, but I hesitate to depend upon them as the only means of teaching. God expects us to use His Word.

Where we cross the line is when we forget and neglect the purpose of the church and fail to adherance to scripture. If we aren’t being led by Holy Spirit inspired scriptural guidance, we can end up becoming more like the world, rather than becoming more like Christ. We may begin thinking that we must use the methods of the world in order to reach the lost. We are admonished throughout scripture not to mirror the world, but to mirror Christ. Our culture has become saturated with every form of entertainment which have become idols, a God substitute within our lives, oftentimes without us even realizing it.

When a church uses the audio visual medium as the main means of bringing people to salvation, they are forgetting this one main admonition from God’s Word, (referring to Christ) “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Is there a chance that we are utilizing entertainment to accomplish what only Christ can accomplish? This appears to me to be the main issue to be addressed.

While the church is to be about the business of preaching, equipping, praying, breaking the bread of communion, worship, praise, and fellowship; I am of the position that there can be a place for an “entertaining” medium within the Christian community. Entertainment for the sole purpose of entertainment will not accomplish the goal of Christ-likeness. But entertaining and being entertained is truly a privilege from the Lord. The Lord Himself entertains us daily through the intrigue and beauty of his creation. As men and women, formed in the likeness of God, we too enjoy the task of creation. We too can marvel at the creative acts of others and in so doing, provide glory for our ultimate Creator and Lord, Christ Jesus. This creative ability should be encouraged in others especially when it demonstrates giftedness from above and its intention is to bring glory to our Creator. We do ourselves and God a disservice when we deny ourselves this joy of living for Christ.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Be Strong and Courageous" - Joshua 1:9

This post is written in response to an inquiry from a friend:
Pop culture knows Joshua as the man who “fought the battle of Jericho” where “the walls came tumbling down.” We do ourselves and God’s Word injustice by limiting our knowledge of this man of faith, courage, and leadership to a few verses from a children’s Sunday school song.

First, let me offer up a few descriptive words concerning this man of God. Then I will address the passage from Joshua 1:9. Joshua is spoken of as “Moses’ servant. He had been an excellent understudy of Moses throughout the exodus from Egypt up until Moses’ death. Joshua had seen God act on behalf of his chosen people, the sons of Israel. But unlike his contemporaries who had seen God’s mighty power and deliverance displayed time and time again but never perceived with eyes of faith, Joshua took God at His Word. God revealed himself. Joshua received that revelation through faith, and then acted upon what he believed. God said it. That settled it. Through unwavering faith, Joshua knew he could proceed with God’s directives. How many people do you know who will take what God says in His Word then stand by faith and courageously act on that word? Would it be one out of 603 thousand? This was the number of the “fighting men” over the age of 20 who originally left Egypt. And this number didn’t even include the women and children. It is safe to say that only 2 men out of 2 million people had a “saving faith” and were then able to enter this land of promise. These two men were Joshua and Caleb. All the others of their generation died in the desert, and sadly, because they would not take God at His word, they never received God’s promise.

Joshua’s name had originally been Hoshea, which Moses then changed to Joshua. (Numbers 13:16) This Hebrew name in Greek is Jesus. This holds a profound implication. Moses represented the law of God. The law is not what brings us into God’s promised inheritance, just as Moses himself was not able to enter the land of promise. Faith, through Jesus Christ, is what brings us into God’s inheritance. Joshua was the undisputed leader of the chosen people of God. “Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the Lord has spoken.” (Deut. 31:3b) For those who believe God at His Word, Jesus is Lord.

So much more could be said about this but I’ll move on to the passage in Joshua 1:9.

This verse reads, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” The Lord repeats his admonition to be “Strong and courageous” in the preceding 6th and 7th verses as well. In the book of Deuteronomy, the book preceding the book of Joshua, the same account is given concerning the commission of Joshua as the leader of the people. Through Moses, the Lord repeats this same admonition, again in three separate verses. “Be strong and courageous!” Notice that this is a command. The Lord also repeats several times over that He will go before his people and deliver them before their enemies. They would have to fight, but they must fight knowing that God will give them victory over their enemies.

But the Lord declares something else even more emphatically. Look at the two verses right before the one in verse 9 of chapter 1. The Lord tells Joshua and the people, “be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Then He re-iterates this same admonition in verse 8) “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it: for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

In other words, if the people would be careful to follow God’s words, then they could naturally be strong and courageous in trusting that the Lord would deliver them. The Lord wasn’t going to deliver just anyone. He was not going to deliver the inhabitants of Canaan who cared nothing about obedience to God and his rule in their lives. Nor was He able to bring the previous generation of Israelites into the land of promise, because they too were a rebellious and faithless people who would not take God at His Word. No. It was his chosen people who were following Joshua and abiding by His commands and standing upon His words who would be given victory. If they believed God through the words handed down to them through Moses, then it would seemingly be an un-daunting task to be “Strong and courageous” because they would then trust God to do what He says He will do.

Now, the owner of Joshua’s bookkeeping may or may not have given this much consideration when naming her business. I applaud her for wishing to associate her business with this command and promise of God. I also hope that she is a kinsman of Joshua in spirit and stands equally upon the contingency of verse 9 found in verses 7 & 8.