4 Reasons Boycotting the National Anthem Hurts Rather Than Heals


It is a privilege to live in the USA, an honor most of us take for granted on a daily basis. While many still face prejudice, even that is quite tame to the immense freedom and prosperity all enjoy in our amazing country.

So our NFL players got the idea that kneeling during the National Anthem and saluting of flag would evoke change. Since they are boycotting the flag, are they also willing to boycott the freedoms that come with it? I think not.

From my perspective, the problem with NFLers demonstrating during the National Anthem is multi-fold:

1) The National Anthem, along with saluting the flag, is not the issue nor does it represent the issue.

The National Anthem resounds with powerful words of freedom and patriotism. Blood, sweat, and tears were shed for the words of that song to be more than just words. When people kneel when it is sung, it is disrespecting the sacrifice of our ancestors and legacy of their bravery. If you want to make a statement about racism and injustice, pick another way. It feels like you are throwing the baby out with the bath water here.

2) Americans are guilty of giving their sports heroes credibility in subjects they don’t deserve.

Yes, they are incredible athletes who have risen to the top of their sport. They are not politicians, historians, attorneys, orators or anything else they often try to represent. We must recognize this fact. Sure they have a right to express their opinion, but we should not give so much credence to them just because they can throw and catch a ball well. We empower their voice to be more than it really is, more than we ought to.

3) We have to be more direct in dealing with the problems.

Kneeling during the anthem doesn’t make change. It only causes controversy and divisiveness. Change comes when influencers of all races come together to find forgiveness and set the tone for peace and unity. Standing as one – a team representing a diverse group of people united for a common purpose – is far more effective in the fight against division. On the field and in every facet of life.

4) Boycotting the National Anthem is hypocritical.

You can’t boycott the symbol of freedom, yet partake in all its blessings, and be taken as an authentic voice of change. I don’t think racism is acceptable on any level.  However, protesting this way is not only ineffective but makes the situation even worse. The hypocrisy of the athletes has only brought more unhealthy intensity to the issues, and we are more divided than ever.

In this great country, we do have a right to protest. But we have a greater responsibility to love, to respect, to uphold each other. To stand as one nation under God, indivisible, for liberty and justice for all. With this pursuit, may the only knee we take be to the One who can bring us all together.

Why Our Kids Are Turning Into Zombies


Why are our children becoming zombies?  Because we let them be!

Heads bent, eyes hidden from view, fingers moving rapidly — even an earthquake couldn’t distract them. Medically, this is known as Social Media Zombie-ism (okay, so I made that up) and has reached epidemic proportion due to an obsession with electronic devices. It certainly affects my kids. Children also suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as they engage in the social world frenzy that is at their fingertips. Besides, it’s not like we are setting the best example; we are often device-zombies ourselves. It seems innocent until you add up the hours of missed conversations and physical activity; only then do you realize the slippery slope.

Gut check here:  putting devices in their hands benefits us as parents. It works to keep them occupied because when they are bored, trouble is not far behind. We allow the excess usage often for our own benefit.

Here are some suggested boundaries you should consider; and yes, boundaries are needed and healthy for kids and adults!

1) Let device time be more of a reward than expectation.

Our kids expect to be able to be on their devices rather than seeing it as a privilege. Retrain them!

2) Set the example by your own balance in using social media.

When our children see us on our devices 24/7, do we really expect them to do otherwise? They are following our example!

3) Don’t just limit time on devices, but set time for face-to-face interaction and connection.

We are becoming less and less personal thanks to social media. We don’t spend time in face-to-face conversation as we did 20 years ago. We need to set time aside to have meaningful and personal conversations away from social media.

4) Set privacy settings so only friends can interact with your child.

I probably don’t have to tell you that social media can be a dangerous place for kids. There are a lot of people with evil intentions looking for kids to victimize. Don’t wait until it is too late to set something up.

5) Check your kids’ social media accounts for secret accounts.

I have learned that many kids have secret Instagram accounts for example. By its very nature, there is nothing good about a kid having a secret account that parents are not allowed to see. Don’t be naive and think your kid would never do this. It is the naive parents whose kids do want they want behind parents back.  Ask your children what types of social media they are using and be sure to check thoroughly.  There are many options out there and our children are using them, often unbeknownst to us!

What Hurricanes Teach Us About Sin

 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:22-23

If you read the title and thought this would be an article on how hurricanes serve as a judgment against America for immorality and ungodliness, then you will be greatly disappointed. What these hurricanes, and the devestation they bring, do is remind us of an absolute truth… this world is broken. I mean the physical earth itself is dying, just like us. The world we live in is groaning, as the Bible says, in need of divine repair. Natural disasters are a sign of its brokenness. Devastating natural events are a painful reminder to us that this all started millennium ago. When sin entered the world it effected creation just as much as it did humanity. Natural disasters are not God’s “lightning bolts,” hurled down upon us but rather a symptom of the Fall, effecting both the righteous and the wicked.

By “Fall,” I refer to the disobedience and subsequent dismissal of Adam and Eve from the garden. It was not just Adam and Eve who were affected but the very ground they once tilled for food with ease would now fight back. Weeds, insects, drought and many other obstacles would become the new reality because of sin.

What has happened in last few weeks in Texas and Florida is devastating. One bright spot to all of this has been how so many people in our country are rallying to help. Rallying around those hurting is humanity at its best. The loss of life has been tragic and the destruction of infrastructure is on a massive scale. I hope the church is one of the leaders in responding and showing love  to those hurting. How can we proclaim to care if we don’t help those in need when tragedy strikes?

This is a time for Christian leaders to step up and be a voice of hope and direction.  I pray not one pastor gets on TV or writes a blog or article and personalizes this to some kind of divine act of judgment against a certain person or group. What we do need to hear is these events are a sign of a creation in pain from sin. They can happen at anytime and anywhere as a reminder that sin effects everyone and doesn’t pass over anyone.  It should remind us of the redemption to come; that one day Jesus will return to not only redeem us but creation itself. Like us, our world is broken by sin.

Sure we should work hard to do our part to be good stewards as the keepers of this earth but brokenness runs too deep for us to fix by our own efforts. Our world needs divine intervention…. our world needs divine healing… our world needs the hand of Jesus, the same as us.

So let us pray for those affected by these recent hurricanes. Let us all also give out money and time to help them. Let us remember that tragedies like this exist because our world is broken and needs redemption by the grace and goodness of Jesus.

Five Christian Sayings You Need to Think About Before Using


I like Christian sayings. I like them when they maintain their meaning and don’t become cliche or just empty words. Here are five such phrases to consider:

1) I am praying for you- when we tell someone we will pray for them, we should definitely make sure that we actually pray for them! In fact, we should pray for them right then and there if we can. I don’t want to stand before God one day and He ask me why I kept telling people I would go to Him on their behalf and never did!

2) I don’t feel led– is it possible that this more times than not ends up being an excuse for what we really mean: Idon’t want to. We should be very careful to use God as our excuse not to serve. There might be times He directs us away from a specific role but be sure it is the Lord leading you.

3) I said the sinner’s prayer- in case you were not aware, there is not a specific prayer in the Bible for salvation. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray and ask God to save you. We need to make sure it comes from the heart and is in our own words, confessing our sin and crying out to God. When I became a Christian, I didn’t have any script to pray. In fact, I wasn’t sure what to pray! I just cried out, “Jesus.” I am confident God saved me in that moment.

4) I’m forgiven, not perfect– of course this is true but when it is used as an excuse to justify your wrong actions, it is hypocrisy.  If you have to use this phrase then be careful you are not using it to justify your actions.

5) God is in control- again, no doubt that He is in control but when we use this only when things are overwhelming and believe we are in control the rest of the time then there is an issue. Also, God is in control should not be an excuse for you not to do what is right or what you are called to do. Or when we use this when we are in agreement with God but would never utter this phrase when God is calling us to do something we don’t like, then it is hypocrisy.

Why Unbelievers Hate Christians


To be a genuine Christian in this day and age is no easy task. The culture berates you at every turn for taking a stand: “How can you not be ok with same sex marriages?”; “How can you believe all that fairy tale crazy talk about an ark, David and Goliath, and resurrection?”; “How can you not see every religion as good as your own?”; “How can you be so judgmental?”

The negative rhetoric is increasing in intensity against Chrisitans as our culture turns further away from recognizing God as Sovereign and Majestic. The word of the day is “tolerance.”  They speak tolerance but behind the words we see a more sinister evil at work. Here is the common attitude of the nonbeliever and what they are really saying to Christians:

Christian, my belief or non-belief should be ok with you because I say it is. That’s all that should matter. You have to accept my beliefs as being as legitimate as your own. If not the consequences will be severe for you as I cannot tolerate your unacceptance. If you discredit my beliefs or my actions, no matter how immoral you think they are, I will  take issue with you, Christian, because I desperately need you to accept it so that I can be justified in my deception. I think tolerance is my move towards progressiveness and enlightenment but truth is I am blinded by Satan and I will fight with all I have to pressure you into feeling guilty and ultimately trying to get you to compromise your convictions. It is because I hate God and therefore, I hate you. Oh I will say I don’t but my words and actions show that I most definitely do. I will accuse you of bigotry, discirimination, and hate but it is because I cannot stand the guilt your convictions put on me. I cannot tolerate that you think you have the only right way.

 It makes me sick that you do not allow me to live like I want and be as blasphemous as I desire and it not be ok. I don’t want to be held accountable. Therefore, I will attack you in the name of tolerance until I can get you to not take a stand against me. 

I am ok if you judge some things, especially those things I do not practice. I don’t murder, so you can judge that. Stay away from any belief or immorality that I practice though. It makes me feel bad when you say it is wrong and I don’t want to feel bad so I will rally against you. I need it to be ok that I do whatever feels good to me. I don’t want to live in accordance with a higher standard or purpose. 

What I really want from you is to cower before my god, Satan. I want you to be passive and scared. I want you to be worried about being seen as judging and hateful because you stood up to me. I will do everything I can to shame you and make you feel discriminatory. I do it all because I need to be justified. I need to be ok. I don’t want to live for your God so I need you to say it is ok that I live my way. If you will do this Christian then you and I will be ok.

Christians, we cannot compromise the truth or cower in the face of pressure. We are not bigots and hateful for standing up for truth as long as we do it with love and respect. Don’t lose your voice for the truth!

Seeing Guests as God-Sent Gifts


My wife and I were newlyweds and had just moved to a new city. We were looking for a church to call home. We wanted a church where we could get connected. We had already visited a few churches, but we just didn’t have the “warm fuzzies” about any of them. We decided to give one more church a chance. That Sunday, the music was probably good. The sermon the pastor gave probably kept our attention. But what we remember the most is how they treated this pair of newcomers to their church. We were treated as their welcomed guests rather than their unwanted visitors.
Every Sunday, God sends guests to churches to be welcomed. It is unfortunate that so often we do not prepare to welcome and receive these God-sent gifts. Pastors and church members, the guests God will send your way this Sunday are gifts and they deserve to be treated as such.

Often churches feel that guests will be welcomed because they are friendly and welcoming to the people that they know. Often a church’s approach to welcome guests is summed up in a set time for greeting in the worship service. While nothing is wrong with these things, these things alone will most likely leave a guest feeling like an isolated outsider.

Here are three things every church can focus on in order to treat newcomers as welcomed guests:

The Pre-Service

Invest in adequate signage, keep your property looking maintained and inviting, and have friendly and informative greeters at the doors.

The Service

In the worship service genuinely greet your guests. Without calling our your guests by name, greet them from the stage. Also, in the worship service you will want to make it easy for your guests to give you their contact information. A guest might feel welcomed by a small gift of appreciation for visiting the church. This could include information about your church, as well as future connection opportunities.

The Post-Service

You hope a first time guest becomes a second time guest. If your attitude of hope does not translate into action this may never happen. The time between the end of the worship service one Sunday and the start of the worship service the next Sunday is time that must be used to continue to connect with your guests. I would recommend making contact with your guests during the week in two ways: Send a personal note to each guest in the mail and call/email each guest.

Welcoming our guests this, and every, Sunday with the love of Christ we will be connecting people to Him. This is our greatest priority.

Written By: Nate Williams, Pastor of Discipleship and Connection, Heartland Church

Top 5 Arguments Skeptics Give Against the Christian Faith

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Whenever you find someone who believes strongly in something, there will be those who also doubt it. As Christians, healthy questioning of what we believe is needed,  as holding to a set of beliefs only because they were passed down to us makes our faith shallow and weak. I have no respect for untested faith, where someone is unwilling to let their faith be questioned out of fear or laziness.

Now that doesn’t mean everyone who questions your faith deserves a voice. Apostates lurk the blog world, looking for Christians they can attack. Jesus spoke about these kinds of people. He told the disciples to “shake the dust off their feet” if the apostles encountered someone not willing to listen. It is not my responsibility to convince a bitter and angry skeptic to believe in the faith. Because they want you to enter their arena of attack, they will guilt you with words like “the burden of proof is on you” or “if you are a Christian then you will stay loving and humble,” while they have the freedom to curse, demean and berate you. They lure Christians to enter dialogue where their fellow antagonists wait to attack. They are not our targets to evangelize. We should heed Jesus’ words and feel no guilt for their faithlessness. The Lord will be their judge.

With that said, we should still be aware of what skeptics are saying, especially in the questions they raise. Not all skeptics are close-minded and antagonistic to the faith. Here are five questions I see skeptics raising:

If God is a good God, how can He allow so much suffering and evil in the world?

shutterstock_492404062.jpg    One thing we cannot deny is evil exists in our world. Atrocious things happen to people that are seemingly undeserved. Yet, God is working in suffering; some of the most powerful testimonies have come from those who have endured great tragedy. God often raises beauty from ashes. It is God that gives us the hope that things can be better. We also need to remember that sin entered the world through disobedience and tainted all of humanity and the world. Disease, pestilence, drought, natural disasters, murders, bigotry, and all other catalyst of suffering are the result of sin. Some shake their fists at God, but it is we who brought this upon ourselves.

How could I come to church or believe in what you say when the church is full of hypocrites?

shutterstock_388569646.jpg   This is not totally false. Many hypocrites come to church every Sunday. I would argue it comes with the way a church is set up. Church welcomes all to come, including hypocrites. I wonder if anyone has been a part of any gathering, social club, or civic group where some didn’t poorly represent the greater identity? Poor examples don’t necessarily undermine the core as being strong and faithful. While the church should preach against hypocrisy and hold those accountable who practice it, people choose how they will live. There will always be those who confess Christ and live opposite of Him. The problem with this argument against the faith is it fails to acknowledge those who do live out their faith well. Not all live hypocritically, and as long as there are faithful servants of Christ, then the church is not lost. This argument is simply an excuse to justify their own unwillingness to set foot in church and to deny the faith. God transcends His followers as He is perfect and they are flawed and broken. Every Christian will make mistakes and be hypocritical in some manner.

Isn’t Christianity a crutch for people to avoid facing the realities of this world?

shutterstock_327126659.jpg    Karl Marx claimed that religion is “an opiate of society.” Skeptics argue in the same vein that faith is “pie in the sky” thinking, an unwillingness to deal with injustices in the world honestly. For a Christian, hope is found in Christ. It is not wishful thinking but the only reality that we can cling to that is consistent, loving, and pure. It is not a crutch or an escape; rather it is hope. Claiming that Christians are weak because they cannot face the harsh realities is a skeptic’s way of denying hope. What is life without hope? Faith is believing there is hope beyond what you can see. Some the most courageous people who have ever lived have been so because they clung to there faith. They faced incredible obstacles because God gave them strength to do so. They were not in denial of their sufferings but found hope in them through Christ.

How can you claim that Jesus is the only way to God?

shutterstock_218152.jpg     This is a big one. If God exists, why do Christians see their way as the only true way to God. Truth is, we don’t claim it. We do not exclude other faiths or deny their access to the true God. Jesus did. He said that He was “the way, the truth,and the life, and that no person comes to the Father but by Him” (John 14:6). Jesus made Christianity exclusive, and, as His followers, we do the same. It is through Jesus that one can be saved. It is not a popular belief, but it is the Gospel. Popularity has never been our goal. Narrow is the way and few who find it, says our sacred text. Many get tripped up by this, but we trust in the word of our Lord that says He alone is the way to God.

If God is real and Jesus is alive, then why doesn’t He do a public broadcast across the globe telling who He is and His intentions for us?

shutterstock_559280869       Silence is deafening for skeptics. They can’t get past the fact that God would be so “aloof” with His creation. At one time, God did walk among us. But through man’s disobedience, humanity was banned from His garden and presence. Now through Christ, we are reunited with Him by faith to one day see Him “face to face” again. When Thomas touched the scars after the resurrection, Jesus told him that he believed because He saw with his own eyes but “blessed are those who have not yet seen and still believe.” Skeptics are unwilling to acknowledge faith, but it is faith that saves us and brings us into right relationship with God. One day, God’s presence will be overwhelmingly evident to all. There will be no more skeptics on that day. “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord”—from the most faithful to the vilest to the most bitter atheist.

This list is far from exhaustive, but these are questions I encounter often as I talk with those who doubt our faith. We will never be able to “talk” anyone into salvation, but that should not stop us from sharing our faith and doing all we can to answer their questions. Not to do so shows a lack of care and willingness to help them see. Yet, many skeptics have one agenda: to ridicule and belittle the faith. They do this because they must. They need to justify their doubt lest they are proved wrong and condemned. Show them grace, but do not waste your time. Instead, find those willing to listen and spread the Gospel!