All posts by Scott Shiffer

Faith and The Walking Dead

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It is interesting to note that many sitcoms, even family oriented sitcoms today speak very little about God.

But this stereotype that many current shows fit into is not true for one show that may be somewhat unexpected: The Walking Dead.

If you have seen the show than you know it is less about zombies and more about how people work together to survive in a world that no longer resembles everything they knew and loved. The characters face a number of big threats in the series, but the biggest are always other people who act inhumanely towards humankind. The main characters struggle with accepting that their world has been turned upside down while at the same time continuing to hold on to virtue, goodness, and a moral foundation of right and wrong.

The characters discuss God and either their belief in him or lack thereof fairly regularly. One character, stands out above the rest – Hershel Greene.

In the 4th season of the show, he is pictured a number of times reading directly from the Bible. He is a good man. He is a Christian, and he is not perfect.

One person has even pondered whether or not this character might be the most important Christian character on television.

Click Here to read about what makes Hershel an important Christian.
Click Here to read about what makes Hershel an important Christian.

Needless to say, I really like this show. It is well scripted, well filmed, and the acting is superb. It is by far one of the best current shows on television. I enjoy its thought-provoking nature, and the writers’ willingness to allow bad things to happen to both good and evil characters on the show.

The show does not mock religious faith or practice. It exposes human sin. It recognizes standards of right and wrong. And it presents a worldview of hope in a time of trouble.

To end this post, let me share a quote from Hershel’s character:

“You step outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. And nowadays you breathe, and you risk your life. Every moment now…you don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you are risking it for.”

What are your thoughts about the show? What are your thoughts about Christianity on TV?

 

Can Sponge Bob Teach Us Anything?

Some people love that little square fry cook and his pet snail. Others think he is the “Abomination of Desolation.” How should we as Christians think about Sponge Bob? Should we let our kids watch the cartoon? Should we shelter our children from his influence? What do we do?

While parents know their kids better than anyone and should be able to recognize how what they watch effects their behavior, I want to take a moment to talk about the importance of watching shows with your kids. It is good to know what they are seeing and what messages they are receiving from the shows they watch. When you know what the messages are, it is easier to talk to your kids about things that go hand-in-hand with Christian beliefs and things that do not.

Sponge Bob teaches us a number of things. Mr. Crabs loves money but his love of money almost always causes him grief. Sponge Bob is a nice person who wants to help people. He may be annoying, but he is almost always willing to give of himself for others. Sponge Bob’s friends often share wisdom and different perspectives with Sponge Bob. The show displays some negative behaviors, but it also shows virtues. The material provides many opportunities to discuss with your children how someone’s choice had negative consequences. It also provides opportunities to discuss with your children how we should act when the characters make good choices.

The key is making sure your child is old enough to understand what is going on in the show so that when he or she views the material, you can have a meaningful discussion about it.

What shows do your kids like? What shows do you let them watch? Do you interact with them about the shows? How do you use cartoons to teach lessons, build character, and to teach your children right from wrong?

Using Social Media to Share the Gospel – Whaaaaat?

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Can we use Social Media to share the Gospel? If we aren’t we are falling behind the times. Elder M. Russell Ballard has been encouraging members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to share the Gospel through Social Media since 2007. To learn about his approach, click here and here.

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http://internetcafedevotions.com/

Internet Cafe Devotions is another group that has been around since 2011. This group offers Bible studies and devotional thoughts for women.

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Perhaps the biggest contribution to aiding believers in learning to share the Gospel via social media has been the book listed above. In this work, Erin Ann McBride helps people learn how to connect with others on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. She focuses on what kinds of things to say, how to say those things, and she shares what not to say.

So my question is this: How do you use your online presence to share the Gospel and further the Kingdom of God? What things do you do? What things do you avoid? In what ways does your social media practice glorify the Lord? In what ways does it point others to Jesus?

Why People Need Joel Osteen

Joel Osteen is frequently the subject of controversy, and I will admit that in the past he has said some things that I do not agree with. However, instead of bashing Joel, I want to share today some reasons why I think people need him.

  1. Joel Osteen is encouraging. We all need encouragement and when we listen to Joel we feel like he is building us up. He calls us to place our faith in God and to do what is right. He tells us we can do it. He makes us want to have a healthy spiritual life.
  2. We need help. Bookstores are filled with books about self-help. Most people in America are interested in becoming better. The problem with many of these books is that they make us think we can do it on our own. Joel presents self-help ideas from within a Christian framework. He teaches us that it is God who helps us become the people we are meant to be. He redeems the concept of self-help and re-frames it so that we can glorify God as we learn to rightly think about our self-worth and abilities.
  3. Infants don’t eat steak. Joel may not be the deepest expository preacher on the block, but he does have a high view of Scripture and he desires for people to grow in their walk with the Lord. The Christian faith has a long history and the doctrines run deep. New Christians cannot be force-fed the intricacies of the faith on the first day of their conversion. Joel’s simple messages provide a foundation upon which to grow. As one begins to mature in the faith, it is likely that the individual will begin to seek deeper understandings of the text and of Christian doctrines, but Joel wants to help people understand the basics. It is important to reach people where they are at.

How much freedom should parents have in raising their kids?

I recently read a news article that suggested parents were being neglectful because they allowed their kids to walk home from the neighborhood park without an adult. The kids were around 6-8 years old. When I was a kid I was allowed to ride my bike all the way around the block when I turned 6. By the time I was 8 I could go about 4 blocks away to see my friends and play at our neighborhood park.

I know we often say that things are different now or that the times have changed, but the question is, should parents be able to decide when their kid is old enough to walk home alone or should there be rules in place about it? If there are rules in place, does that hinder the ability of parents to cultivate their children towards maturity or does it keep them from making the kids “grow up” too fast? These questions can be applied to anything. Should parents wait until their kids are 13 to let them see PG-13 films or should they have the right to decide to let their mature 11-year-old watch some PG-13 films? Should there be laws in place about how old a child can be before he or she goes hunting with a parent or should parents make that call?

What are your thoughts? How much freedom should parents have in deciding when their children are old enough to do certain things?

GET OUT OF MY WAAAYYY!!!!! – Road Rage and the Christian Attitude

http://digestopia.com/road-rage-impairs-driving-safety/
http://digestopia.com/road-rage-impairs-driving-safety/

Living in anywhere comes with its ups and downs, but we can probably all agree that traffic problems are an unavoidable down to nearly every place.

We sometimes hear about people being victims of road rage that lead to hospital stays or even death.

How should we as Christians handle road rage?

First, Jesus commands us to love our enemies and this involves showing patience and grace towards those who frustrate us. Most people on the road are not actively trying to become your enemies. Some may not even realize it if they are being inconsiderate on the road. As one pastor told me, some people drive crazy because they just need to get home so they can relieve themselves. We do not know the situations of other drivers.

In addition to being patient with others, we need to refrain from becoming their enemies as well. We need to keep from making obscene gestures at other drivers, we need not stare at other drivers with whom we have become offended, and we need to keep from blocking the passing lane or tailgating other drivers.

In the words of the great philosopher Queen Elsa, we need to “Let it Go!!” When we do not take things personally on the road, we are less likely to become offended and find ourselves in a confrontation with another driver.

Finally, we need to pray for grace. Pray that God would give us the grace to keep our heads on our shoulders as we commute. We also need to pray for God to keep us safe. Our lives our in his hands, and we can trust him to keep us safe until it is his time to call us to himself.

If you struggle with having a bad attitude in traffic, one great way to change the behavior is to replace it with another behavior. Perhaps you could commit to praying for the safety of yourself and other drivers when you start to get frustrated. Though it may take a little time to become second nature, it is certainly worth trying.

For some reason I feel like this picture should conclude this post:

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Spiritual Gifts Part 2

Spiritual Gifts

This week as we continue our discussion on spiritual gifts, we ask two questions. Are all spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible? And what are the gifts mentioned in the Bible.

First, let me say that while the Bible may not list every way that each gift can be used, I believe that it does provide enough information to get a general idea about how all kinds of gifts are to be used. So the Bible does not make a distinction between a youth leader, a women’s minister, or a pastor of discipleship, but the same principles defined in Scripture provide enough info for people called to any of those areas of service to know how to use their gifts.

That being said, I do not believe that the Bible expressly lists every gift but I do believe it lists every kind of gift. In fact, here are the 16 kinds of gifts mentioned in the Bible. As you read through the list, think about what your gift(s) might be.

  1. Teacher – This is the spiritual gift and ability to explain and comprehend the Word of God.
  2. Pastor-Teacher – This is the spiritual gift and ability to shepherd others (God’s flock).  A pastor-teacher is one who does visitation, weddings, funerals, and hospital visits; the two are definitely connected and you must be able to do both.  This is usually called the office of elder, pastor, or bishop in the church today.  Elder and bishop mean honored and respected one and overseer (Ephesians 4:11).
  3. Ministry/Helping/Showing Mercy – This is the spiritual gift and ability to show up with soup at someone’s door.  The person with this gift is the one who takes care of your kids when you are in the hospital and the one who comes over and cleans your house when you are sick.  You know you have this gift if you do not wait to be asked, or if you ask to help; you just show up and do it.  This is the person at the church who helps park cars, greets people when they arrive; the person who ushers people to their seats, or the person who runs copies of the bulletins. These are the people who are behind the scenes.  They have an important gift but are not highly publicized.  The church cannot exist without this gift.
  4. Administration/Ruling – This is the spiritual gift and ability to plan and organize the work of others so that one can accomplish that much more.
  5. Evangelism – This is the spiritual gift and ability to share Christ with people.  Scripture teaches that these people primarily equip others to do evangelism (the work of ministry).  We are all to share our faith; it is our responsibility whether it is our spiritual gift or not.  This group of people, however, has the ability to help others share their faith.  They train and equip others to share or to become more effective in witnessing or to be a more effective witness.
  6. Exhortation or Encouragement – This is the spiritual gift and ability to draw people closer to the Lord and make them feel more motivated when they leave.
  7. Giving – This is the spiritual gift to give beyond one’s means or beyond what is expected.
  8. Faith – This is the spiritual gift and ability to live by faith.
  9. Apostleship – he spiritual gift of being an Apostle is being one who delivers the living word of God.  The gift today is different than the calling placed upon the first leaders of the Church. In Ephesians 4:11, it is obvious that this is a spiritual gift and not just a church office.  In Matthew 16:19, Christ gave the Apostles power. This is also mentioned in I Corinthians 12.  Today, missionaries can be seen as apostles.
  10. Prophecy – Sometimes the Apostles used this gift, but spoken prophecy is not equal in authority to the Scriptures (Acts 21:4-11).  Prophecy is to be tested by Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:14-21).  Prophetic words today are human words and are not divinely inspired in the same way that Scripture is.  The Lord may show a prophet things or convict him or her of what to say, but a prophet cannot stand and proclaim, “Thus says the Lord.”  If God reveals something to a prophet today, the prophet tells it in his or her own words.  Therefore, it is only a revelation in a very broad sense.  People do not receive Scriptural revelations today.  Prophecy is different than teaching because it is based upon spontaneous prompting of the Holy Spirit.
  11. Knowledge  – This is the spiritual gift to speak words of knowledge in various situations.
  12. Wisdom  – This is the spiritual gift to speak words of wisdom in various situations.
  13. Discerning Spirits – Discerning spirits is the ability to discern the words of the prophets, or to distinguish between true prophets and false prophets.
  14. Tongues – The New Testament gift of the tongues is the spiritual ability to speak in a foreign language that one has never studied (Acts 2:5-12).  The speaker may not understand the language (1 Corinthians 14:2 and Acts 2:6-7).  Tongues can be prayer in the spirit but not the mind (1 Corinthians 14:14-15).  The gift of tongues is to be self-controlled and not ecstatic (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). If tongues are spoken in public, they must be interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:15).
  15. Interpretation of Tongues  – This is the divinely-bestowed ability to interpret the gift of tongues and to discern when the gift is valid or not.
  16. Miracles and Healing  – This is the gift to perform miracles and to heal.  Jesus performed miracles of healing and more, but the Apostles virtually always performed miracles that had to do with healing or reverse healing, like the time that Paul blinded the witchdoctor.  The purpose of the gift of miracles is to be a sign to authenticate the Gospel message.