3 Reasons Why I Deleted Fortnite – Episode #8

I first learned about Fortnite from some kids at our high school youth ministry at church who described playing Fortnite as a “sport.” And this wasn’t coming from a kid who didn’t know what actual sports were. This was from a kid who plays high school football!

Feeling intrigued, and looking for a little mindless distraction in my downtime, I decided to check Fortnite for myself. I downloaded it for free on my iPad, and began playing. I was instantly hooked.

For those who have never played Fortnite before, Fortnite is a first-person shooter game. It reminds you of video game classics like 007 James Bond Golden Eye on Nintendo 64, or for those of you who are little older, like Duck Hunt on the original Nintendo.

Now, imagine of 007 and Duck Hunt got together with The Hunger Games movie, and had a baby. That baby would be Fortnite. 100 people from around the globe are placed in arena, with the object being to kill as many people as possible without being killed, and to be the last person to survive.

It didn’t take long for me to see why Fortnite was so powerful with the high school youth at my church. It is tremendously fun to play, and gets your blood pumping as you hide from those trying to kill you in the game, or while you chased someone else down to kill. The game is full of adrenaline and dopamine hits all day long. You will literally find yourself holding your breath in the suspense this game is capable of constantly building.

Without a doubt, Fortnite is the most addicting game in video game history.

And I have to confess, that as a 36 year old man, who is a banking professional, with a wife, and living a very comfortable middle class life style… I was hooked.

So, in light of such, I would like to give you 3 reasons why I decided to delete Fortnite from my iPad.

Reason #1: It Is Crazy Addicting

What started off as simply a quest for some mindless distraction and form of entertainment quickly became a powerful drug that I found myself hard to say no to.

I found myself fitting in 30 minutes of Fortnite into my morning routine. It was becoming something of a devotional I would do before heading to work every day. And then when I’d get home, I would play Fortnite before my wife got home and we’d have dinner. Then after dinner, I would play Fortnite for a couple hours while chilling out. During my work week, I’d easily find myself playing Fortnite for 3-4 hours a day. And on the weekend, I’d easily play 5-6 hours a day. This lead to my next reason.

Reason #2: It Was Distracting Me From Things That Matter

Since becoming addicted to Fortnite about 10 months ago, I found myself reading less.

I’ve been losing weight lately, and have been trying to workout more. Fortnite has been hurting my “gainz” and the progress I’ve been making in our home gym. Sometimes I would choose Fortnite over an extra workout session during the week.

And the real dagger to the heart, I found myself telling my wife “hold on” more frequently whenever she’d ask me to do something. “I just have to finish this game!” I’d tell her, while she patiently waited on me to finish. I was acting like some sort of 14 year old man-child telling his mom something. My wife never called me out on this behavior, but I caught myself saying it, and I decided I just couldn’t do this any more.

Reason #3: Fortnite Conflicts With My Ethical Beliefs

For those of you who may not know, I am a Christian and a pacifist.

I take the Sermon on the Mount quite literally. I believe I am to love my enemies and to turn the cheek to whoever tries to do me harm, just as Jesus taught His followers.

And while Fortnite is “just a game” and probably as ethically innocent as kids playing Cops and Robbers, I found something in my spirit just wincing while playing a game that involves running around murdering people for sport.

And although it may or may not be a sin to play a mere game like Fortnite, for me, it was becoming sinful. And ultimately, I decided “as a man” I had to make a manly decision, and “put away childish things” like the apostle Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians.

So, I decided that I needed to “man up” and delete Fortnite from my life.

Fortnite was proving to be more than just a fun little distraction for me, it was something that was ultimately creeping over into the things that mattered much more to me.

Overcoming Addiction

But, it’s not just enough to delete Fortnite from my iPad. If all I do is delete Fortnite, it’ll eventually somehow find it’s way back into my life, or I’ll fill it with another game like Fortnite.

The key to overcoming any life challenging to addiction isn’t just to cut something out cold turkey, as that will leave a void in your life. The key is to replace addictive behaviors with other positive life affirming actions and habits that make you a better person.

For me, that means I’m going to replace my Fortnite addiction with things like working out more, reading more, spending more time with the Lord, spending more time serving my wife, and working on this blog and podcast.

Advertisements

7 Money Saving Tips – Episode #7

I want to help you save more money without telling you to do things like boycott Starbucks or cutting the cable cord. Of course, you can do things like that if you want. But, if you follow my financial tips below, you can save money while continuing to drink $5 latte’s and keeping your cable subscription (if you so choose).

Tip #1: Track your Spending, and Make a Budget.

There is no getting around this. You need to track your spending, and you need to make a monthly budget. As financial guru and author Dave Ramsey says in his Total Money Makeover book, “Tell every dollar where to go instead of wondering where every dollar went.”

Tracking your spending and making a budget isn’t hard. It’s not rocket science. It’s really very simple. Yes, it’s boring. But if you don’t do this first step, you’ll probably never save a single penny, and you’ll live perpetually paycheck to paycheck, no matter how much money you make.

However you do this is up to you. Whether it is on paper, on an Excel spreadsheet, using your favorite bank’s website, or using apps on your smartphone… the choice is yours. Just make sure you don’t skip this very important step. While I’ve tracked my expenses and made a budget the old fashioned way (paper and Excel), I highly recommend big banks like Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, and Bank of America. Their website software is excellent and free for all account holders, and tends to be better than smaller credit unions, with data always being live and up to date.

Also, consider apps like Mint, or You Need A Budget, but realize that these apps have their limitations, and their ability to track your spending is often delayed several days.

Tip #2: Pay Yourself First.

One of the greatest personal finance books of all time, and is more than a century old, is called “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George Clason. In this fictional book about a man living in ancient Babylon, timeless financial advice is dispensed. The most important point in the book is that you must learn to “pay yourself first.”

The idea behind this is really simple. If you do not learn to pay yourself first, you will always be paying someone else. That is why the first check you write (apart from money you give in tithes/offerings for religious purposes), should always be to yourself instead of your debtors.

This means you need to systematically save your money, every month, without fail. Whatever you do and no matter how tight things are… pay yourself first. For failure to do so will always leave you in a situation in which you are constantly having to rob Peter to pay Paul.

And in order to actually practice this idea in reality, you should setup separate savings/checking accounts apart from your primary savings/checking accounts. Every time you get paid, transfer money to these separate savings/checking accounts so that you ensure you pay yourself first and foremost.

My wife and I, after completely blowing our Christmas budget in our first year of marriage, found this a very practical way to save for future Christmases. Afterwards we setup a “Christmas account” in which every month, we transfer money to a separate savings account that we use to pay for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and other random “gifts.” As a result, we always have money every year for all the major holidays and events, and we control how much we spend. Because once it’s gone…it’s gone. As a result, Christmas and the other holidays are a lot less stressful, and we never have to worry about where the money is going to come from to pay for such things, because we systematically set aside money for the things we want to spend throughout the year.

Tip #3: Continue to Build Your Savings WHILE Paying off Debts.

If you have consumer debt beyond your mortgage, such as credit cards, auto loans, student loans, medical bills, etc, financial gurus like Dave Ramsey recommend that you have a $1,000 emergency fund on hand, and then any savings you have beyond that you should plow into debt reduction.

I admit, such isn’t terrible advice. But, practically speaking, I’ve learned this sorta thing is very difficult to do in a world in which monthly expenses can and do regularly fluctuate.

Instead of doing what Dave Ramsey recommends here, I personally recommend you take half of your excess, and put it towards debt reduction, and then take the other half, and continue to build your savings. First, this allows you to continually “pay yourself first.” Second, it provides the much extra needed financial cushion to protect you from the every day sorta expenses that randomly pop up in life. The $1,000 that Dave Ramsey recommends simply isn’t going to cut it for most folks, and you’ll probably find yourself perpetually stuck on the “baby step” of replenishing you $1,000 emergency fund more often than Dave would ever tell you about.

Yes, this might leave you in debt a little bit longer, and you might pay more in interest, but you’ll also have greater peace of mind as you both build your savings and reduce your debt. And if you get to a point where you have something like $5,000 in the bank, and you feel comfortable doing such, then feel free tossing extra money towards debt repayment. But whatever you do…. always make sure you pay yourself first.

Tip #4: Invest Your Savings and Make Your Money Hard to Access.

Truth be told, depending on your personal financial situation, you’ll probably NEVER need immediate access to more than a couple thousand dollars at any given moment due to surprise life events.

As a result, I personally recommend that any savings you have beyond a couple grand (decide what is best for you), that you completely invest all that money. I recommend those savings be invested in something conservative, like a high yield bond mutual fund, or some Index Fund/ETF. However, there is no need to let cash sit idle on the sidelines as it gets eaten to death by inflation, while your bank pays you less than 1% on your savings.

Invest your savings in something safe and conservative, and something that has a little more yield than your savings account. That way you’ll put your money to work so that it’s working for you instead of sitting idle, and your savings will continue to grow by the magic of compound interest. This way you further protect your money from you, as investing it makes the money harder to access and harder to spend. And, if for some reason you have an expense that’s larger than your checking account, you can always simply use a credit card to hold you over until you liquidate your investments to pay for those expenses (as they take several days to clear).

Of course, consult your CPA, financial advisor, lawyer, or other professional before making any investments. For a great book on personal investing, I recommend A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel. I also recommend A Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore (et al). And don’t forget to check out The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley.

Tip #5: Make Yourself Uncomfortable.

Save so much that it hurts, if you can. If you are properly saving, you should feel a little bit of a pinch and a level of discomfort from the aggressiveness of your savings. Live modestly and frugally. Live below your means, not within them… and yes, there is a difference.

If you simply live within your means, you are virtually guaranteed to blow your monthly budget. Living below your means adds some additional padding and margin to your lifestyle, allowing for sudden unplanned expenses.

To live below your means, do practical things like own a gently used 2-3 year old car (NEVER BUY A NEW CAR EVER, UNLESS YOU ARE FILTHY RICH) . Drive your car for at least 250,000 miles, and make sure you buy something reliable like a Honda Accord.

And don’t always buy the latest and greatest in technology or fashion. Always be one or two cycles behind on gadgets like iPhone’s and laptops. Never stand in line to be the first to buy anything. Wear nice clothes, but buy them somewhere reasonable. Avoid luxury goods like Air Jordans. You’ll be better off financially wearing shoes like New Balance or Clarks. Buy something of good quality, but that doesn’t have a huge big name label.

For some great tips, I personally recommend the blog of “Mr. Money Mustache,” who practices extreme frugality. I don’t endorse everything he says or the way he says it, but, I have a lot of respect for the frugal lifestyle he lives and has extensively documented for others to see.

Tip #6: Save with a Purpose.

Know what you are saving for. Don’t save merely to save, or be frugal to frugal. That’ll kill you emotionally and spiritually, and people will hate you for it. Heck, you will hate you for it.

Instead, examine your life and determine what financial goals you want to achieve. Save towards buying a nice used car in cash, towards remodeling your home, towards going on a missions trip, towards starting a business… whatever you want. Just make sure you save for something you have a real purpose for.

Tip #7: Prioritize Giving.

Last, but not least, be sure to give, and to give generously. Live to give. God has blessed you with so much, not so you can selfishly spend on yourself, but so that you can be a financial blessing to others. Give to your church, give to charity, give to the poor, and put money back to work in your community to make it a better place. Don’t blow all your money on you, because it’s not really your money anyway, that money belongs to the Lord. We are merely the stewards of what He has given us to manage. So manage it well.

How to “Defend” Your Christian Faith – Episode #6

Some of you live in bubble.

You live in a country in which most people would probably claim to be some sort of Christian. And if you are like me, and live in the “Bible Belt,” (Charlotte, NC) you live in a world in which many of your parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, and coworkers are probably Christians.  

But this is changing.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, the number of “nones” (people not claiming any religious affiliation) has doubled in the past 20 years.  Now, more than 20% of the population identifies as atheist, agnostic, or simply not having any religious identity whatsoever.

We live in a world that is skeptical (or at times hostile) to the claims of Christianity. Those outside of Christianity often see our faith as something that isn’t based on reason or anything factual or real. Some people believe God is a pure fantasy, and that our religion is no different than all the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman myths, and one day will be treated as such. 

Consider the Following Quotes

Karl Marx: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opiate of the masses.”

Voltaire: “Every sensible man, every honorable man, must hold the Christian sect in horror. Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world. Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense. If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.”

Fredrick Nietzsche: “God is dead and remains dead, and [I] have killed him…”

Stephen Hawking: “Heaven is a fairy tale invented for people afraid of the dark.”

I believe more than ever, the world is asking many questions, and demanding answers. As Christians, we need to be prepared to respond to people.

1 Peter 3:15 “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (NASB)

What is “Apologetics?”

The word apologetics doesn’t mean to apologize. It comes from a Greek word “apologia” which means to “offer a reasoned justification, or to speak in defense” of a position.

As Christians we believe our faith is factual and true. And as a result, it is worthy of offering reasonable intellectual explanations and defenses of what we believe and why we believe it. As Christians we need to wrestle with these things. You don’t have to be doctors of theology, and you don’t have to be able to answer every question or objection in the world, but you should understand what you believe, why you believe it, and be prepared to offer reasonable coherent explanations to people about our faith.

It’s like in mathematics, it’s not just enough to solve a problem, you also need to be able to show the proof of how you solved a problem. In apologetics, we are essentially “showing our homework” regarding our faith.

Some rules for the road…

First, it should be noted that when we discuss our faith with people about what we believe and why we believe it, we must make sure we speak to them respectfully and with humility. Even if they don’t believe in God and say all sorts of blasphemous things, they are people created in His image, and are worthy of love and respect, even if they show hostility to you and our faith. 

Secondly, you’ll never convince someone to believe what we believe by calling them a butthole or treating them like a jerk. Once you do that, people will be constantly on the defensive, and never hear a word you say. How you say something is just as important as what you say.

Third, please don’t feel afraid to ever tell anyone that you don’t have all the answers or to admit when someone has a valid point. Be intellectually honest and curious. Always be willing to grow in your knowledge of truth. Ask hard questions yourself, and seek hard and solid factual answers. Don’t be a lightweight whose answers are no deeper than the first page of a Google search or information merely repeated from Wikipedia.

General “Philosophical Proofs” of God’s Existence

God is not a physical being that is subject to empirical scientific scrutiny. You can’t put Him under a microscope and perform tests on Him to test his existence. God is too big for any science lab, and debates over His existence are, by nature, outside the realm of scientific inquiry.

Therefore when we talk generally about the existence of God, we are talking about the world of philosophy, and in particular, a branch of philosophy known as “metaphysics.”

The following are some philosophical arguments I believe reasonably defend the existence of God:

“The First Cause”

Everything comes from something. God is the unmoved mover from which all things created originate. He is before all things, and the One who set all things into motion.  He is an un-created being from which all of creation originates.

“The Watchmaker”

Our universe is extremely complex and organized, subject to numerous laws that causes it in many ways to function like a clock. The complex laws by which the universe operate shows evidence of design.

If the universe were not “intelligently designed,” then everything that exists today randomly evolved from a massive explosion that created the universe. And this universe now miraculously contains conscious beings are now able to reflect not only on their own existence, but to look back in time and explain how they came into being by a random series of events. 

And, if Earth were only 2-3% closer to our sun, then the world would be too hot to be inhabitable, and life as we know it would not exist.  Yet life does exist, and it exists in great abundance, and our planet contains life capable of reflecting on its own existence. Such is nothing short of amazing if all of the universe just randomly came into being. Such seems highly improbable, so much so that I would dare call it absurd

“The Moral Argument”

We have a sense of things such as moral goodness and perfection. We may disagree on the specifics of morality and ethics, but we all still have a very real sense that there is something such as moral perfection, goodness, justice, etc. 

I like what C.S. Lewis said on this issue. He said “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

“Transcendence”

This argument is less philosophical per say, but seems common to basic human observation and experience, based an an intuitive knowledge that seems fundamental to humanity everywhere. We look at the world and the universe, and in spite of all its chaos and destruction, we find great beauty and feel like there is something that exists “outside” of us that is bigger than we are, yet connects us all together. We identify this common transcendent like experience to be God, and it seems like we can find God in the beauty of every day things like a sunset.

Scripture makes this argument as well: 

Psalm 19:1: The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Romans 1:19–20 …that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

The Proof of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection from the Dead

Make no mistake about it, in my opinion, the best proof of God’s existence isn’t abstract philosophical arguments, but the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This event was witnessed by over 500 people who testified of this event, and some even went so far as to record their eyewitness testimony in the historical record as individuals that claim to have seen Jesus Christ alive from the grave.

About the Eyewitness Testimony

The best source of this eyewitness testimony is the New Testament.

Some may discount the idea. But when you understand what the New Testament is, it simply cannot be dismissed because contains biased “religious writings.” 

Of course the New Testament is “biased.” It is written by people who claim to have either seen Jesus, or been the associates of individuals that claimed to have seen Jesus. It’s as biased as anyone claiming to be an eyewitness would actually be.

And we must understand, the New Testament isn’t just one part of the Bible. It consists of 27 independent books and letters that originated in the first century, many written within 2-3 decades of Jesus’s ministry. And it was written by individuals claiming to have seen Jesus, or to be the associates of those who were early eyewitnesses.

Their writings were preserved and copied and passed down to subsequent generations. It was only centuries later when these writings were officially bound together as one volume of documents known today as the New Testament. But prior to such, they were books and letters that existed independently of each other, and circulated among the churches as authentic accounts of what they had all come to believe. Today, we have over 5000 ancient manuscripts that have been preserved, all which claim that Jesus Christ was raised from dead. 

If you wish to research on how these documents came together and were circulated and eventually put together as one volume, I highly recommend the writings of the late and great New Testament scholar, F.F. Bruce, and his book “The Canon of Scripture.” 

These are real writings written by real people in the first century claiming to be eyewitnesses, or associates of the first eyewitnesses. Considering the following verses in which the early followers of the risen Christ, and consider their claims: 

1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

2 Peter 1:16–18: For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”—

18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

These witnesses all claim to have seen Jesus risen from the dead. They saw, they heard, they touched.

These texts cannot simply be dismissed because they are the Bible. They are claims by people reporting to have seen, heard, and touched Jesus Christ. And we must take these claims seriously.  For either they happened in history as these eyewitnesses claim, or these were lies or mass delusions that the earliest followers of Jesus Christ invented. 

The Empty Tomb and Christian Persecution

If the early witnesses were liars or delusional, it’s been 2,000 years, and we still have an empty tomb, and nobody has yet to produce the corpse of Jesus Christ. 

If Jesus wasn’t raised, the religious and political leaders that were trying to refute the claims of early Christians could have easily produced Jesus’s corpse, and silenced their testimony. They knew where His tomb was, and never produced His body, because it simply wasn’t there. Instead they contrived their own story, and said the disciples stole His body even though it was under armed guard, guards who would have been executed for failing to protect Jesus’s body.

Instead of producing a body, the Jewish officials and the Romans that refused to believe decided to persecute the early Christians, by throwing them in jail, beating them, and even killing them.

And one of those who participated in this scheme was a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus, now known to us as the apostle Paul, who would eventually have his own eyewitness encounter with Jesus, and turn from a violent persecutor of Christians, to a preacher of the faith he once tried to destroy. And men would later persecute him over that faith, leading to multiple imprisonments over many years, and his eventual beheading under Nero, at which Paul is said (according to one account) to have “run” to his execution block, as a proof of his testimony.

But even in the face of great persecution, all these eyewitnesses still maintained their testimony. If it was all a lie or mass delusion, we would expect that some of his earliest followers would have changed their story, and denied that Jesus was resurrected. We would expect that some would have had a last minute confession that supported the claim of the Jewish and Roman leaders, that the disciples stole Jesus’s body.  Many could have easily recanted their faith and denied it all, and found release from the threat of death and torture. But none of them did that. They maintained their claim to the point of death. 

A Unique Messianic Theology

I’m indebted to this brilliant insight offered by New Testament scholar N.T. Wright and his book “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” 

In it, Wright argues that in first century second temple Judaism, all theologies about the Messiah that they developed at that time had to do with a conquering king that would overthrow the Romans by force. They expected an insurrectionist that would lead an armed rebellion against the pagan army that was occupying their land. And indeed, history shows that everyone that every claimed to be the Messiah during this period of time lived up to this theology. The Jews of this time period simply never expected or anticipated a Messiah that was peaceful, taught them to love their enemies, and that the Messiah would suffer, be crucified, and bodily resurrected.  Indeed, no Jew today believes this either. 

So, in this very Jewish world, there arose a group of Jews who claim their executed Messiah (of which there were many) all of a sudden was raised from the dead.  Well, being that there was no theological basis for any Jew at the time to believe such a thing could happen to their Messiah, on what basis did the Jewish followers of Jesus suddenly start claiming Jesus was actually raised from the dead?

The only reasonable explanation is simple. Jesus was raised from the dead, and that became the theological basis for which first century Jewish followers of Jesus would make this novel claim. 

The Jewish followers of Jesus would not have made it otherwise, just as no other Jews ever claimed any of their crucified Messiahs had been raised from the dead, as there was no basis whatsoever for them to ever claim such.  It was simply outside their realm of thinking, and therefore it would be intellectually and theologically impossible for them to make this claim… unless it really happened.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

All these proofs of are fine and good.

But as great as they are, there is something we must always remember. The preaching and defending of the gospel is subject to the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. God is at work in our lives, and the inner sense of the Holy Spirit we experience is the ultimate proof and defense of the gospel, as it works in us and in lives of others.

Few of us believe the gospel because we were simply diligent students of science, philosophy, and history, and simply reasoned “hey, all this makes sense in the same way 2 + 2 equals 4.”  There evidence for what we believe and why we believe it is reasonable and persuasive, but it can also be reasonably dismissed. 

Therefore, when sharing our faith with others, I like to keep the following passage in mind from the writings of the apostle Paul, who said: 

1 Corinthians 2:1–5: And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.

2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,

4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

While the intellectual arguments for the existence of God and the defense of Christ’s resurrection are all nice and good, and are deserving of serious consideration, at the end of the day, our ability to take the “leap of faith” necessary to believe comes down to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives through the preaching of the gospel. With His working in our lives and the lives those we witness to, we will never be able to persuade anyone to believe.

In my own life, I have had moments of intense doubt as I’ve attempted to wrestle over some of the powerful arguments against Christianity. Everything from evolution to the type of “higher criticism” you read in Bible College and Seminary. And, while I can honestly say I cannot answer every objection to Jesus and the Bible, at the end of the day, I’m at the point in my life where I can say with great confidence that I believe that Jesus Christ is risen from the grave.

And, that confidence exists, not only because I’ve done my homework and looked at some pretty difficult things and wrestled with some pretty bold claims, but because I’ve had my own personal encounter with the Lord, and feel the Holy Spirit ultimately working in my life and heart.

I Don’t Love Like I Should – Episode #5

Jesus taught us to love others extravagantly, like He did. After a recent retreat and funeral, I’ve come to realize I don’t love others as fully as Christ taught us.

In today’s podcast, I share two recent stories from my life about a recent High School church camp retreat and seminar that I helped lead, and a funeral of a pastor I knew that has caused me to re-examine my own life, and my capacity to love others as Jesus loved others.

On a scale of 1 to 10, after some significant soul searching, I’d rank my ability to love others as Christ taught to be somewhere around a 6. I feel such is embarrassingly low as someone who has been to Bible college and seminary and has been involved in the life and ministry of the church for many years now.

I thought I was doing better than that. After all, I don’t actively hate anyone. I don’t have a bitter or unforgiving spirit. I try to look out “for the least of these,” and try to actively love those I perceive to be my enemies.

But a recent funeral changed my opinion on how well I’m doing. At this funeral of a former youth pastor I knew from a church I attended for a couple years, I heard all these amazing stories that people gave regarding this pastor about what an amazing contagious love and joy this man had for others.

And these stories weren’t just the “everyone say something nice about the dead” type of stories you hear at funerals. These stories were too specific, and were volunteered easily by many. And I knew these stories to be true, because from my own interactions with this pastor, I knew him already to be an exceedingly loving and joyous man. He simply radiated the love and joy of Christ towards others.

So I thought, what if I were to die today, and people attended my funeral. Could they say the same things about me? I imagined what that would look like. I just imagined what people would say about me. They might use adjectives like funny, bold, smart, ambitious, serious, etc..

But would they say I was full of love for my fellow man?

I concluded they would not. My wife might say I was a loving person. And so might SOME of my family. But what about everyone else?

I don’t think they would.

Nobody would confuse my love with a Christ like extravagant love. Such really hit me hard.

In my podcast I outline 3 things that limit our ability to love others:

  1. Selfishness
  2. Indifference
  3. Fear

And I also outline 3 things that can help us to grow in our capacity to love:

  1. The attitude of Christ
  2. The vision to see people as we ought
  3. Bulldog tenacity

Please consider listening above to the podcast to hear these ideas fully fleshed out.

What Did You Want To Be When You Grew Up? – Episode #4

Early in school, most of us were asked the seemingly simple question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And as time went by, we increasingly became forced to develop senses of purpose and calling, and how that translates into an occupation capable of paying the bills, and what it means for our identity as people.

In today’s podcast, I explore how we are asking the wrong questions, and confuse our purpose with our occupation. I also show how we need to be asking better questions. Instead of asking “What’s my calling, what’s my purpose, and what’s my ministry?” we need to ask “What’s God’s calling, God’s purposes, and how can I participate in them?”

Starting with Romans 8:28-29, I show how no matter what myriad of occupations we may hold in our lifetime, occupations which may fluctuate dramatically and be wildly different than anything we set out to be as children, that ultimately, all of us God has called to be “conformed to the image of His Son.”

And from there we need to learn to distinguish between purpose and occupation. For our purposes are eternal, and will never change. However, our occupation is always contextual, and may change from age to age depending on our stage of life, our skills and our talents, and what the market may ultimately have need of from someone who has our unique talent and skill-set.

To Hell with the Rich! – Episode #3

As Christians in America, we feel pretty cozy with the idea of wealth and prosperity. So much so that we’ve created a “prosperity gospel” in which we declare that Jesus not only wants us make us wealthy, but that He wants us to pursue wealth and all the material blessings of our society. In my latest podcast, I contrast this idea with a sermon that protestant reformer John Calvin once gave on the 8th commandment, in which he openly decries the pursuit of wealth, and how his sermon takes us back to a time in which serious minded Christians challenged the notion that Jesus encouraged us to become wealthy and to pursue wealth.

Indeed, when we look more broadly at the teachings of the Scripture regarding wealth, we see a lot of things that I think would make guys like Dave Ramsey, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Steven Furtick blush in embarrassment. Instead of having a comfortable relationship with wealth, there are many instances throughout the Scriptures, and especially the New Testament, in which we are warned sternly about the dangers of wealth and pursuing prosperity.

Consider Scriptures such as Luke 6:24, in which Jesus said “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort in full!” In this sermon, Jesus warned us that wealth, instead of being a sign of God’s favor towards us, could be a warning signal that something is wrong with our souls, and that God is judging you by giving you all your possible eternal comfort in the present. “Woe” is a strong word in the Bible, and is not to be taken lightly. It’s a powerful word of lament and warning about impending judgment. In effect, when Jesus makes woe against the rich, His language is so forceful that He might as well be saying “To hell with you who are rich!”

That’s some pretty strong language if you ask me. And it’s not something we should take lightly. Nor should we take lightly the numerous other Scriptures in which Jesus and the apostles warn about the dangers of wealth and prosperity. Jesus reminds us elsewhere in the gospels that we should never hoard our money into barns, lest our soul be required of us. Jesus warns us that you cannot serve both God and wealth, and that the two are masters that will divide the affections of our heart. And instead of looking at the wealthy as the individual whom God has blessed, Jesus reminds us that God has blessed the poor.

Looking at 1 Timothy 6:8-11, we see how the apostle Paul calls us to live our lives in which we are content to have food and clothing. We should strive to live our lives in simplicity, modesty, and frugality. Instead of pursuing wealth and endangering our souls, Paul encourages us to “flee from these things” and instead calls on us to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Our faith as Christians, even Christians living in America, is to be free from the “love of money, which is the root of all evil.”

That’s not to say we can’t have some nice things and enjoy the fruits of our labor and other creature comforts. And that’s not to say money can’t be a form of God’s blessing on our lives. But, even when it is, as Christians we ought to have a very uncomfortable relationship with wealth and prosperity. We should be as cozy with wealth as we are in handling a stick of dynamite. Wealth is something that should give us pause for consideration on where we actually stand in our relationship with God, and not just assume that because we are wealthy and successful that such is a divine stamp of approval on our lives. For as Jesus warned, such wealth could be a sign of our eternal destruction.

In this podcast, I also examine the implications of a recently popular Instagram account called “PreachersNseakers” and in which some very popular and wealthy preachers are on display wearing the latest and greatest (and most expensive) in fashion, including shoes that range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, and what lessons we can learn from this disturbing trend.

Marriage Is Stupidly Easy – Episode #2

Our culture regularly says “Marriage is hard!” And in light of all the good marriages we’ve all known to turn bad, it’s not hard to see why so many people feel this way. But in spite of the many challenges marriage may face, I don’t adhere to this popular creed our society believes regarding marriage. In fact, I believe marriage is actually easy, and stupidly so.

In this week’s podcast, I challenge the claim that marriage is hard. That’s not to say marriage won’t face very real challenges, and even end in complete disaster. Marriages can definitely go sour and do so every day.

But I don’t believe the problems that marriages face have anything to do with marriage itself. For God is the author of marriage, and He created it from the beginning of this world to be good, and it is something He blessed. God setup marriage to be amazing and as easy as breathing.

Marriage only gets hard because we come to it with our cultural baggage. Because we come to marriage believing it is hard, we create a self-fulfilling prophecy and make marriage the very thing we believe it to be.

Marriage only gets hard because we come to marriage as the sons and daughters of Adam, and instead of embracing the good thing God made it to be, in a selfless union in which we give all of ourselves to another as a gift, we look out for ourselves and our needs, and behave selfishly.

So, the failures of marriage have nothing to do with the nature of marriage and the good thing God made it to be. Marriage gets hard because we bring perspectives and attitudes and behaviors to marriage that threatens the good thing that God gave all of mankind.

I Dare To Dream Small – Episode #1

We live in a world that encourages us to “dream big” and “shoot for the stars.” Everyone from politicians to preachers to self-help gurus say we need to be bold visionaries who “change the world” by setting “harry audacious goals.”

Personally, I’m starting to find such talk rather boring and uninspired. And I worry that perhaps, all of our “dreaming big” talk is getting in the way of the small and noteworthy things of value in this life. In a world full of dreamers that want to put a man on the moon and become titans of industry, I dare to dream small. I don’t want to change the world. I simply want to be a better neighbor, love my family, and look out for the marginalized and those in need.

And in the end, when we have to give an account of our lives to God and stand before the Lord in judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), it is the small things we will utlimately have to answer for. We will be judged on the small things that we did for “the least of these,” not on whether or not we fulfilled our big dreams.

Dare to dream small.

About Jimmy’s Table – Episode #0

Born in the North, but raised in the South by the grace of God, this groundbreaking episode introduces you to the host of Jimmy’s Table podcast, Jimmy Humphrey, where I look to have conversations about faith, life, culture, and sometimes food.

Jimmy Humphrey is 36 years old, and was born in the North but raised in the South (by the grace of God). Originally from Chicago (and by that I mean the suburbs), I moved to the greater Charlotte area when I was about 5 years old, where I’ve lived ever since. I like iced tea as well as ice hockey, I like Italian beef sandwiches as well as cheesy grits.

Growing up, I saw the importance of the kitchen table in the life in my family. The kitchen was the central room in our house, by which we entertained and fed family, friends, strangers, and neighbors. We had important and lively conversations about anything and everything, and ate some pretty legendary food along the way. Family and community were ultimately built simply by breaking bread together.

I don’t believe this is by accident. I believe this is by Divine design. Eating a communal meal together is one of the most basic primal and spiritual things we can do as humans beings, and often distinguishes us from animals, who tend to eat with a much more competitive “dog eat dog” mindset.

In the Bible we see the importance of eating together, and in the Scriptures, eating together is one of the great redemptive themes of Scripture. When God wanted to change the world, He didn’t lead people to march in the streets with clinched fists lifted in the air. When God wanted to lead a revolution, He did so by initiating a common meal. We see this in the Passover meal celebration, by which God liberated the Hebrew people from slavery and Egyptian bondage. We see this in the Last Supper, in which all of God’s redemptive work in Christ was forever memorialized by sharing bread and drinking wine. We see this in the apocalypse and in the book of Revelation, where all of the redeemed come together to celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.