The Devil of It All In Ferguson

The situation in Ferguson is a very physical reality. It is emotionally volatile. But what we see and hear should not serve as a camouflage for another reality that is readily apparent. Satan is having a field day in Ferguson.

Rival Racers Share Their Story

Randall Hill, Jeff Smith, and Craig Reece, rivals and champions of racing tell their story of reconciliation in Christ.

Talking to Your Kids about Media

Important information for parents to help you talk to your kids about media, movies, and apps.

What the News Telling Us About Ebola

These are not just medical workers, these are missionaries with an eternal, Kingdom perspective. What if we were so sacrificial in our own communities?

August 20, 2014

My ALS 50 for 50 Challenge, A Twist


ALS Challenge with a Twist from Brian Branam on Vimeo.

I took the ALS challenge from Joel J Dison, but I want to add a twist. My friend ChrIs Jones has been trying to move his family to sLOVEnia to be missionaries for the 2.5 years that I have known him. He has sold his business and his stateside stuff, his kids are enrolled in school in Slovenia, he is ready to go. They need to be there by Sept. 1. They are $2500 per month away from their goal. I issue a new challenge for every follower of Christ watching this video. Share this with your friends. I need 50 for 50! 50 people to pledge $50 per month for a year so the Jones family can get on mission in Slovenia. Let's send them!!!! Donate here: http://www.send.org/info/jones/

August 19, 2014

The Devil of it All in Ferguson

The story of the protests in Ferguson, MO is complex.  Why did the police officer gun down an unarmed teenager?  How will justice in the case be served?  How much of what is going on there is magnified by the angles of media coverage?  I'm sure Ferguson is a populated place.  What else is going on in the town?  There are people protesting and causing chaos in the area that are not even from Ferguson.  For that matter, many of them are not even from Missouri.  Who is sending them?  Why are they coming?  What is their agenda?  Are they being helpful or hurtful?  Who is taking advantage of the situation and who is actually working to rectify it?  Furthermore, what else has happened in the area to make the situation so volatile?  These questions need our attention, but it seems no one is interested in knowing the answers.

As a discerning Christian we should be sensitive to the specifics of the complexities of the people and issues involved.  We should not be merely image driven, but rather driven toward truth.  At the same time, a text from Scripture is very apparent in this that we cannot ignore.

In John 10:10 Jesus described the evil one as someone who comes only to "steal, kill, and destroy."  No one can deny, those three words are inseparable from this situation.

The situation in Ferguson is a very physical reality.  It is emotionally volatile.  But what we see and hear should not serve as a camouflage for another reality that is readily apparent.  Satan is having a field day in Ferguson.

From a social perspective this is a situation that will only aggravate racial tensions.  The media capitalizes on this.  But there is more here than skin color.  This situation is an assault on life and peace.  It is the noise of demonic chaos designed to drown out the message of the gospel.  What we hear on the television is that we need the National Guard, we need Presidential policy, we need the ACLU and the NAACP.  We need judicial justice.

No sir, we need Christ in Ferguson.

In the midst of his own very tense, judgmental situation, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul pens these words:

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:13-21 ESV)

How does the gospel instruct us as we watch what is happening in Ferguson?
  • There is a spiritual reality of demonic activity, in a fallen world that we cannot ignore. Humans are not well. We need miraculous intervention in our lives, not from policy, not from politicians, not from military might. We need the Lord. We do not need a change in a situation, we need a change in our nature. We must be born again (John 3).
  • The work of reconciliation should not be relegated to response in crisis. The work of reconciliation is something we are called to everyday. There should be more to the work of law enforcement to patrol a community, it should also be their work to know the community. The tensions of relationships are being exploited by the media and driving nightly ratings through the roof. The real work of reconciliation is not done with posters, T-shirts, or in protest. There is more to knowing a person than viewing his picture. The work of relationships is done at dinner tables, in homes, in church communities, and in conversations. Knowing what is in the heart of man is not a newsflash.
  • The gospel calls us to an ideal higher than ourselves. The talking heads are running to the podium to bring peace to the situation. The problem is that this situation will not be solved in pleasing a person or appealing to an ideal, the question in all of this should be asked, how does our handling of this please the Lord? The need for justice and the ensuing emotions as well as the various opinions should all be subject to the desires of a righteous God as revealed in Scripture. The Lord is not pleased in all of this. We cannot lose sight of that reality. Reconciliation will not be made by making statements. Reconciliation is made through repentance before a righteous God. All we want to do is win the argument and prove who is right. Until we are willing to kneel together and confess what we have done is wrong, there will be no peace.
  • The church must itself become a community of protest and demonstration. I do not mean this in the sense of causing chaos in the streets, but the church should rise up and articulate the implications of the gospel in the culture. The church should be able to offer a convincing narrative of what is wrong and how to make it right. If there is racial prejudice, the church should not be merely a microphone for political pundits, the church should demonstrate that the gospel creates a peaceful community for both Jews and Greeks, men and women, white and black, rich and poor, etc (Gal. 3:25-29). What is in our pews should show an alternative to what is going on in the streets. Until the church repents of its own prejudice we have no voice in this.
  • Through the lens of the gospel, Ferguson should cause us to open our eyes in our own communities. What is happening in Ferguson is merely a flashpoint for underlying tensions. We should not watch this situation from a safe distance, we should watch it and think critically about all of our communities. What is happening in Ferguson could just as easily happen in your town. We can't turn a blind eye to this. Ferguson is a micro-narrative of a macro problem of secularism, spiritual apathy, unrestrained evil, and human rivalry that is threatening the fabric of our culture in all places. We need an awakening. We are blind. Ferguson is teaching all of us that it will cost us far more in human life and property if we wait until our problems are on the news before we begin to address them.
What we see on the news should force us to our knees. This is not a Ferguson problem, this is a gospel issue. God planted a garden on the Earth for us to tend and to keep. His desire was for us to subdue the earth, not to cause more chaos upon it. Instead of a garden, we dwell in a dangerous wilderness. We cannot neglect the hard work of spreading God's Lordship and dominion over all the earth. We need to tame the chaos and turn wildernesses like Ferguson, like America, into gardens of God's good graces. We should seek gospel centered reconciliation and not underestimate the power of God to bring peace to Ferguson and to our culture.


Rival Racers Share Their Story

In January of this year, car owner Randall Hill of Hill Motorsports was in my home asking for prayer for a rival driver, the Bad Boy of Dalton, Craig Reece.  In mid-July Craig found new life in Christ and came walking into the church I serve.  After the service two of the great teams in dirt track racing stood together in reconciliation through the power of the gospel.  A few weeks later these men allowed me to interview them about their story.  I could not have preached a better sermon about the power of sharing your story than these men demonstrated that day.  If you are a racing fan, this is an interview you will not want to miss.  If you are a Christian, this is a powerful demonstration of the importance of sharing your story.  You may not know a lot of theology, but you know what Christ has done for you.  Share your story, people are dying to know.


Rival Racers Share Their Story from Brian Branam on Vimeo.

August 5, 2014

Parent Resources for Conversations with Your Kids about Media (The Topics Series)

The Topics Series
Parent Resource Sheet
Media, Movies, Apps, and Games


Biblical Truths we can’t ignore:

  1. Human nature has been ruined by sin.
  2. God has given us His son to redeem us from sin.
  3. God has called the redeemed to live a holy life. 
  4. Satan has a real agenda to pervert truth and steal, kill, and destroy life.
  5. Media choices may not condemn us, but they will desensitize us to the truths of the gospel that are supposed to impact our life.
  6. Parents are given the responsibility to disciple their children and to be the guardians of the home.
  7. Kids don’t think like adults.  There is less of a discernible line in their minds between fact and fiction.  They need parental guidance.
  8. Even though there are no Bible verses that speak directly about our modern day movie rating system, video games, or apps - there are plenty of principles the Bible teaches that should govern our approach to media.


Romans 12:1–2

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 

Matthew 15:18–20

18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” 

1 Corinthians 10:31

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 

Proverbs 10:23

Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding. 

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Romans 8:5–12

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 

Psalm 101:3

I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. 

Use Discernment:  (by Kris Roberts, http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/mind-over-media-kris-roberts-sermon-on-entertainment-67516.asp)

M – Message – What is the message and how is it coming across?
E – Effect – What effect does this have on me?
D – Damage – Will I suffer damage from this? (ex. unhealthy fantasies)
I – Instead – What could I be doing instead? (ex. productive, constructive)
A – Ask God – Does this glorify God, - 

Our discernment usually begins with one question - will I enjoy it or do my kids like it?  Personal happiness, displeasure, or personal taste is not the standard.  We should be more concerned that our media choices reflect obedience to God - John 14:15.


9 Facts About Social Media You Should Know - Joe Carter (http://thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-social-media/)

1. If social media companies were countries: Facebook (over 1.1 billion users) would be the world's most populous, behind only China. Google Plus (693 million active users) would be number three and Twitter (554 million users) would be fourth, ahead of both India and the United States.

2. One out of every seven minutes spent online is on Facebook. Each day Facebook users spend 10.5 billion minutes (almost 20,000 years) on the social network (excluding mobile devices).

3. Every minute of every day: 684,478 pieces of content are shared on Facebook; Instagram users share 3,600 new photos; Foursquare users perform 2,083 check-ins.

4. There are 58 million tweets per day; 9,100 happen every second. 222 million Twitters don't tweet but watch other people tweet.

5. The average Pinterest user spends 98 minutes per month on the site and 14.2 minutes per visit, has 171 pins, 229 followers, 3 boards, and 28 likes.

6. Women account for most users of social media. The male vs. female ratio of social media users: Facebook - 60% female/40% male; Twitter - 60% female/40% male; Pinterest - 79% female/21% male; Google Plus - 29% female/71% male; LinkedIn - 55% female/45% male.

7. Older users account for the recent growth of social media platforms. On Twitter the 55-64 year age bracket is the fastest growing demographic with 79% growth rate since 2012. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook's and Google Plus' networks are the 45 to 54 year age bracket at 46% and 56% respectively.

8. We interact with our mobile devices 40 to 80 times a day. 91% of mobile Internet access is for social activities. 73% of smartphone owners access social networks through apps at least once per day. 50% of smart phones connect to Facebook every hour of every day.

9. 45 percent of church staff use Facebook every day. 51 percent of churches said that at least one of their senior staff regularly blogs or updates social media. 56 percent allowed or encouraged staff members to update their personal social media pages while at work. 46 percent of churches say that social media is their most effective outreach method.



7 dangerous Apps that parents need to know about, A look into the some of the scariest Apps for your kids
by Kristin Peaks  (http://www.checkupnewsroom.com/7-dangerous-apps-that-parents-need-to-know-about/)

I work in public relations at Cook Children's. It's my job to be on social networking sites, peruse the internet and keep up with the latest Apps offered on smartphones. It's a great job and I love what I do, but over the last couple years, I have learned so much about the dangers of Smart Phone Apps. It's downright scary.
Technology, especially if you're a little behind the times, can be very deceptive. Your kids may be downloading Apps that you think are innocent and just a simple way for them to keep in contact with their buddies, but unfortunately, this isn't always the case.
To keep your children safe, it's best that you monitor their phone. Look through their apps, texts and pictures. They may feel that you're invading their privacy, but let's be honest... You're paying the phone bill, so you can do whatever you want! So, as you monitor your kid's phone, keep an eye out for these 7 apps you may not be aware of, that in my opinion are very dangerous:
Yik Yak - This App is one of the newest and one of the most dangerous. It allows users to post text-only Yaks of up to 200 characters. The messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking. Users are exposed to - and contributing -sexually explicit content, abusive language and personal attacks so severe that schools are starting to block the App on their Wi-Fi. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.
SnapChat - This App allows users to send photos that will disappear after 10 seconds. Once the recipient opens the picture, the timer starts. Then it's gone. From both the sender's phone and the recipient's phone. However, the recipient can take a screen shot of the photo and have it to share with others. This App enables kids to feel more comfortable "sexting" with peers.
 
KiK Messenger - This is a private messenger app and is coveted by those under 18 for a number of reasons. The App allows kids to send private messages that their parents can't see. There is very little you can do to verify the identity of someone on Kik, which obviously poses the risk of sexual predators chatting with your child. And again, this is an easy tool for sexting.
 
Poof -The Poof App allows users to make Apps disappear on their phone with one touch. Kids can hide every app they don't want you to see on their phone. All they have to do is open the App and select the ones they don't want you to see. Very scary! The good news about this App is it is no longer available, which isn't uncommon for these types of Apps. But, if it was downloaded before it was deleted from the App store, your child may still have it. Keep in mind that Apps like this are created and then terminated pretty quickly by Android and Apple stores, but there are similar ones being created constantly. Some other names include: Hidden AppsApp Lock and Hide It Pro.
 
Omegle - This App has been around since 2008, with video chat added in 2009.  When you use Omegle you do not identify yourself through the service - chat participants are only identified as "You" and "Stranger". You don't have to register for the App. However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests.  When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook "likes" and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes. This is not okay for children. There is a high risk of sexual predators and you don't want your kids giving out their personal information, much less even talking to strangers.
 
Whisper - This is a meeting App that encourages users to post secrets. You post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can search for users posting within a mile from you. A quick look at the App and you can see that online relationships are forming constantly on this App, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. One man in Washington was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl he met on this App just last year.
 
Down - This application, which used to be called "Bang with Friends," is connected to Facebook. Users can categorize their Facebook friends in one of two ways: they can indicate whether or not a friend is someone they'd like to hang with or someone they are "down" to hook up with. The slogan for the App: "The anonymous, simple, fun way to find friends who are down for the night." If that alone doesn't scare you, I don't know what will!


This list is important, but understand it will not stay current.  The app marketplaces change every day.  Some apps that are censored by parents, are simply redistributed with different names.  It can be overwhelming to keep up with your kids and their online habits. But just remember to check their phones often, and even more importantly have real life conversations with them. Rules do not replace values.  Rules may be a starting place, but teaching your kids the importance of sharing your Biblically based values is the only true guard for their heart.  Discuss the dangers of the Apps and make sure they understand the need to keep personal information private. 

Resources:
PluggedInOnline - pluggedin.com - movie, books, and television reviews by Focus on the Family.
Covenant Eyes - covenanteyes.com - internet safety, accountability, and filtering.

Protect Your Family Online - A How To Guide for Parents - http://www.covenanteyes.com/learn-to-protect-your-family-with-this-free-how-to-guide/?utm_campaign=porn-stats



August 1, 2014

Perspective on Ebola

The Ebola outbreak is all over the news this morning.  In a matter of hours the first Ebola patient will cross the border of America, and actually be in the state where I live.  The media is reporting that 50 medical workers have been infected and died while working with patients in Africa.  One worker, they report, refused treatment sacrificing himself to save the lives of others.  

What the news is not reporting is that these are not merely "medical workers" dedicated to medicine.  These are missionaries dedicated to Christ.  They are giving up treatment for themselves not because they are dedicated to a cure, but because they know who they are and where they will be in Christ.

I received this message in an email this morning from one of our Kingdom servants in Senegal.  What a perspective!  What if we were so sacrificial in our own communities for the cause of Christ?

_____________

There have been people sending me messages asking if we’re in danger because of the Ebola virus that has hit Western Africa, because so many have been infected and died from this disease.  We are a good long distance away from these areas.  However, that doesn’t give any of us an excuse not to pray.  Our eternity is secure (all the members of our family).  Also, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim. 1:7 NKJV

We must pray, with a heart of compassionate urgency, for those affected by this epidemic, that they have an opportunity to hear the Truth.  I do pray for the American missionaries infected with this illness, but they know in whom they’ve put their trust.  I’m not saying that the loss of their lives is not a tragedy.  It is!  It is cause for grief when anyone dies, especially from such a horrible illness.  But, to die for them is not a lasting suffering.  It is just for a moment.  Then, they are in eternity without pain or grief, and in the presence of a great God that has loved them and chosen them since the foundation of the world.

For those that suffer with this incurable disease, death for them means unending terror and suffering as they’ve never experienced in this lifetime.  Worst of all, they spend an eternity separated from our loving Almighty God.  It breaks my heart to think about those that would suffer so terribly, then succumb to death (which Christ has overcome) and would not enter peaceful rest, but into an eternity of suffering exponentially more horrible than what they have endured in life.

Oh, precious brothers and sisters, we are getting ever nearer to the time when our Savior and Lord Jesus will return to take us to the Heavenly Home He’s created for us (Hallelujah!).  But, there are so many that are lost without Him.  My whole being aches with the grief of this sometimes overwhelming lostness. As we stop to consider all that have died just in just the past few weeks in Palestine, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ukraine, Mali and other places around the world (that have not been media-worthy), we must be pressed with an urgency like never before to prepare so many others for this Glorious Appearance.  Because when that trumpet sounds, it will be too late.

July 25, 2014

Girl on Fire (Points from Power Ballads, Psalms and Songs Series)

I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s.  We invented the power ballad.  What child of the most eclectic and unreal generation of music hasn’t sat at a red light belting out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and actually thought you sound just like Steve Perry?  I do.

When a power ballad charts it defines a moment for a generation.  Power ballads make a strong statement about empowerment and overcoming some of life’s most difficult trials.  
The Book of Psalms also has a collection of power ballads.  Psalm 30 provides an example of a redeeming moment in David’s life when he was struck down, but somehow rose again.  The result is a classic for his generation that would also be used at the dedication of the Temple.  
Yet in comparing Psalm 30 with the power ballads of our culture’s pop music we find a major difference.  Today’s power ballads are about self-sufficiency; yet it was David’s self-sufficiency that was also his undoing.  “As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved.  By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong.”  
David was on top of the world.  Even though he was enjoying the blessings of God, he forgot his benefactor.  The end result was that he was dismayed when God turned His favor away from David (30:7b).  The lyric in verse 2 implies that he must have gone from being on top of the world to being gravely ill.  In the end David cried out to God and rose again a worshiper instead of a self-promoter (30:8-12).  
What you overcome may not be as important as how you overcome it.  
We all go through trials, but when you land on your feet is the resulting power ballad of your story full of pride, determination, and self-promotion or is it a story of contrition, spiritual growth, and a marked change of direction?
Alicia Keys is arguably our generation’s most talented singer, songwriter, and musician.  She is Whitney Houston with a keyboard.  When she released the chart topping Girl on Fire, she also released this statement to her fans.
“Girl On Fire is about new beginnings, new perspectives and fresh starts. It’s about finding your own inner strength and channeling it in a way you’ve never tried before. To be “on fire” is to allow yourself the freedom to take full control of who you are and how you want to live your life. To live your passion and shine your light unabashedly!! It’s that moment you choose to claim your power and be extraordinary!With this album, I hope to empower you in the way you have me… I hope to move you to be your own phenomenal self in life. Thank you for your tremendous support throughout my career and for being a part of my journey as an artist. I’m so proud to share Girl On Fire with you all. I can’t contain the flame!!!! Never contain yours!!!”
While this statement sounds encouraging and persuasive, it is ultimately empty and void of truth.  Look at it.  Over and over again by affirming one’s self-sufficiency Keys is declaring that we are ultimately on our own.  The world is all about you, “allow yourself the freedom to take full control of who you are and how you want to live your life?”  Really?  I’m sure if she said that in a concert the crowd would give her an uncritical and thoughtless roar of approval, but tell me on what planet that ideology actually works.
She goes on to say,
It doesn't matter who you are," she continued, "how you are, in what way you express it - that's what's important about it.” 
I’m sure she means that as a statement to lift our self-esteem, but in the end it is self-defeating, empty propaganda.  Think about it, “It doesn’t matter who you are.”  Oprah would applaud her here, but is there any worth in us if it doesn’t matter who we are?  Keys says, “it doesn’t matter how you are.  It doesn’t matter in what way you express it.” 
What she is trying to say is that you are so incredible what ever you do is acceptable, but what she ends up saying is that you are worthless. Why?  If you can do whatever you want to do, be however you want to be, and do it any way you want to do it and it doesn’t matter - well then, “you don’t matter.”
But we do.
The problem with the philosophy of self-sufficiency is the misguided belief that value is drawn from the well of self.  Yet when we lower the bucket into the pool of self-sufficiency we find nothing there.  You may have a lot of confidence in yourself as a serial killer, but you are worthless to society.  You may have a lot of confidence in yourself as a child molester, but you are worthless to a society that values children.  You may have a lot of confidence in your ability to conquer every Halo world in 2 hours, but the time you spend sitting for days on end in a basement by yourself with a video game is worthless to a society in desperate need of productivity.
The Bible teaches that we are not autonomous.  We live in a world created by a moral God who is aware and responsive to our actions.  What we do matters.  How we do it matter.  Who you are - matters!
In Psalm 30 David tried to be his own man on top of the mountain.  Borrowing a lyric from Alicia, David felt like a “Man on fire.”  “I shall not be moved.”  But in the next breath, he found himself dismayed.
We will all need at some point to overcome and land on our feet, but what sort of person will you be on the other side?  Will you be more confident but clueless?  Will you be more skeptical or hopeful?  Will you be a self-promoter or a worshiper?
Katy Perry - Roaring
Katy Perry’s lyrical journey is proof that what you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.  She is representative of a generation of kids raised in church who rejected faith as they entered adult life.  In 2001 she was Katy Hudson singing Faith Won’t Fail.  In 2008 she was Katy Perry singing I Kissed a Girl.  A few years later came the power ballad for homosexual teens, Firework.  After a difficult separation from Russell Brand, Perry came out with Wide Awake.  It was sort of her power ballad of the fallen ready to rebound.  She even included lyrics which recalled her former faith.
I'm wide awake
Yeah, I am born again
Out of the lion's den
I don't have to pretend
And it's too late
The story's over now, the end”
Next from Perry came Roar.  Roar is a me against the world type power ballad that expresses her intent to voice a new message.  A message once censored by her past will soon be proclaimed.
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready 'cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

[Chorus]
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar
What is that message?  Perry is currently topping the charts with Dark Horse.  The accompanying video and performances have been laced with unmistakably dark pagan and satanic themes.  In response to her Grammy performance of the song E! news tweeted, “”Um, did we just witness actual witchcraft during Katy Perry's #Grammys performance?”
What you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.
No matter the trial of life, do you want to come out on the other side saddled to a witch’s broomstick?  If we come out on the other side and hate life more, love God less, and as Perry proclaims in Dark Horse, a perfect storm of black magic that is more dangerous than ever before, are we really better off or simply poised for an even more tragic mistake?

Some would argue that Dark Horse is not about Katy Perry, it is a song about drugs.  Oh.  My mistake.  But is that progress or a sign that a girl that God loves is even more deeply disturbed?

I pray Katy Perry finds what David found in Psalm 30.  Can you imagine a redeemed singer standing up at the Grammy's, not simply thanking God for "this award" but actually saying what David said in his Psalm?  Can you imagine Katy Perry standing on the world stage saying that she has been to Hell and back (Psalm 30:3) and has found that "His anger is but for a moment, and his favor for a lifetime (30:5)."  Can you imagine Katy Perry standing before millions saying at a time in my life when I was least committed to Him, Christ remained committed to me?  It is only when we become "wide awake" to this reality that we can truly overcome.
In Psalm 30 David cried out to a  God who heals and restores.  He was crushed as a dismayed self-promoter, but raised from the dust of death a worshiper.  In the end David proclaims that if he dies, the only thing God has done is that He has lost another worshiper.
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”  (Psalm 30:9-10 ESV)
I want to reprint a testimony from Sarah who grew up in the church I pastored in Birmingham.  As her pastor, I saw Sarah, her mother and sisters go through some very tumultuous circumstances.  Sarah certainly had a lot to overcome.  A year and a half ago, Sarah made a tragic mistake that took her to the place David found himself, the dust of death.  As you read her testimony, notice the absence of self-promotion and the sense that she has been raised purposefully by God as a worshiper.  What you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.
“Today marks 18 months that I should have died. I was supposed to be taking care of a 98 year old lady (who is now 100 years old!), but instead, she saved my life. My dependence on pain medication was no joke, and my senseless choice of drinking vodka on top of popping pills inevitably stopped my breathing. I should have died. My GOD SAVED ME by having this amazing woman make the calls for an ambulance to come. She had seen my heart and stomach convulsing, and the paramedics said that they were seriously about to intubate me- right as I finally started breathing. For so long, I was ashamed. Yes, I was angry at myself for making such stupid decisions to put those things in my body. I was very upset when I saw the faces of the people I love, and who love me, not just in the emergency room, but even after that horrible night for a long, long time. You think you're in control until you aren't. I wouldn't have known how people would have reacted, but the thought of my family and friends hearing the news of my death due to an accidental overdose had me in tears. How selfish of me to be so careless. Hurting people I love is unbearable. Then that guilt and shame comes with coping, analyzing why we do certain things, and opening up to work through the issues. Negative people will easily remind you of your mistakes and problems which will bring back that guilt. I am not ashamed anymore, and I want to help people who have been stuck in this awful place. I am not using Facebook as a platform for gaining attention, and I am definitely not bragging about my weaknesses and issues with addiction. If you struggle with meds (prescribed or not), or know someone who is, I encourage you to get help. Accountability is the most important way to keep on track (for me, anyway). I HAVE to testify and exclaim that my Savior has me here, still, and here for a reason. For His Glory, I must live. So many awful things happen to good people as well as good things happen to awful people. I do not know why I was given another chance... but I will definitely take it. To the wonderful family I was working for, who I've known my whole life, You know who you all are, and I am thankful for you brothers and sisters in Christ. I still think about Mamaw everyday. I don't know if she would remember me, but please tell her- the girl whose life she saved says Hello and that I thank God for her everyday (I thank God for all of you and the lengths you all went to so that my family would know).”
“Life is SO short, as we all know. But seriously, use this time to not only tell the people you love that you love them, but show it to them. I love you all!”
That is a girl on fire!

July 24, 2014

Public, Private, or Homeschool (Deciding Factors Part 3 - Freedom and Curriculum)

Continuing a discussion on deciding factors for choosing your child's education.
I would like to address two deciding factors at once in this point.
Personally, this is where I am beginning to part ways with public education.  I see great educators who love kids with their hands tied by bureaucrats.  Most decisions are being made by Washington and very few are being made locally.  I see more elitists at the top assuming there is no intelligence in the people who are actually gifted to educate children.  I see more passion for an ideology than I do for my child.  
I may be very jaded here, but my kids now both attend private school and I teach two hours a day in that same school.  The kids in our school, which is a Christian school, are just as flawed as the kids in any other school; but I can pray with my kids.  I can customize certain experiences for my classes based on who they are.  We can use the Bible as a text for life.  We can stop the course of the day and assemble for worship.  We can teach Creationism and intelligent design.  We can tell the real story of American history.  We can discuss both the flaws and the faith of our nation’s fathers.  We can purposefully lead kids to Christ and not fear losing our jobs.  
As a parent, I value freedom.  I do not value psuedo-freedom which says you are free to express your beliefs as long as it is doesn’t contain any ounce of the Christian God, opposition to homosexuality, the right to life for the unborn, or any perceived conservative thought.  
At this time in our lives we are not paying for private Christian education because we think it will lead our children to be greater Christ followers.  We are paying for freedom.  We are paying of the peace of mind of knowing our children will not be subjected to some sort of sensitivity training which leads to a compromise of Biblical morality.  We are paying for knowing the people choosing the curriculum.  We are paying for less government intrusion and greater freedom in customization of curriculum for our children.    Without a doubt, homeschool and private school offers the greatest degree of customization in curriculum and freedom of thought than public education.  
I know there is a lot of debate about Common Core in its motives, creation, and content, but aside from the propaganda, I have heard nothing good from the educators who are being forced comply with its standards.  Common Core seems to be a more radical ideological culmination of something public education has been setting itself up for, for quite some time.  For too long we have been teaching toward tests rather than teaching kids how to think.  The problem is now a radical leftist agenda is writing the tests.  Public education has become little more than government school.  
Public education in America was first introduced mainly by the churches as a means of preserving freedom and Christian values in the culture of our nation.  It was deeply rooted in the local community.  Now public education is a means of advancing an agenda and it is strongly dictated by the NEA and the federal government.  
If you choose for your child to go to private school or homeschool as a means of avoiding bad kids or placing them in an environment with better kids, wrong reason.  If you are choosing private school over public school because you think it will make your kids better than other kids, wrong reason.  If you are doing your homework and investigating philosophies, ideologies, and making choices based on deep conviction, now you have something to work with.
Can a child of faith survive in the public school environment?  Absolutely, but you as a parent must be more vigilant than ever.  This should hold true for all education, but especially for those who choose the public route, you need to be a student of history, science, and the Bible.  Read the books your kids are reading.  Stay on top of the content.  Keep your kids connected in a church that teaches the Bible faithfully.  Keep the conversation going with your kids.  Ask them what they are learning.  Don't be afraid to ask your pastor questions and for support from your church.  Be open about it - this is what my child learned at school this week, what do you - Sunday School teacher, pastor, youth pastor, mentor, friend, other parent - think about this?
Last year we actually had a doctrinal issue arise from something being taught in our private school and a group of parents in our church approached me about it.  As their pastor, I was more than happy to use it as a moment of information, teaching, and discipleship.  Any good church leader would be happy to help and support you as a parent as you journey with your children in education.  

Education doesn't mean we always have to agree.  In fact, if there is no disagreement, it is probably indoctrination rather than education.  Yet we must approach education with some standards, some semblance of deeply held belief.  
What I am about to say should be true of any parent to some degree, but especially so of public school parents; be prepared to offer critical thought in the home that can fill in the gaps or combat the ideology public education will be pressing upon our children more and more with Common Core.  You can’t assume that what your kids are learning in school is what you learned in the classroom in 1985 - it’s not even in the same galaxy.  
As a parent, with any educational choice, you must also be a student.  Know what your kids are learning, stay involved, and disciple your children in the Word. 

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