“Don’t Send Me Vibes… Pray!”

I’ll be the first to admit it, life is hard. It doesn’t matter who you are, there are days when you just don’t feel like getting out of bed. Stress and anxiety can become so overwhelming that it may even start to affect your health. You’ve been there, I’ve been there, it’s no fun. What can we do? I’ve learned that letting other people in on what is happening in your life helps. Other people can give you a different perspective and perhaps a little clarity on the situation. Also, its helps to know that other people are praying for you. Yes, prayer is vital. However, it seems like we don’t believe that anymore.

Social media has connected the world like no other time in history. We can have a moment by moment glimpse into individuals lives. We don’t have to wait for news to be passed on when something happens, it’s posted instantly. This also gives us a striking glimpse at what people believe, and maybe not in the obvious way that you would think. When someone posts about having a hard time with stress, anxiety, health, a death in the family or a number of other difficult situations, the way people comment lets us in on what they believe. “Sending good thoughts your way. Sending vibes out into the universe. I’m thinking of you.” These and similar sentiments point to a disheartening reality: namely, we think we don’t need God.

I understand the desire to say something nice when someone is hurting, but are these types of comments really “nice” at all? What is a “vibe” and how exactly are going to send it? Do you possess some sort of a Jedi-like power that we are not aware of? How exactly is this “vibe” going to help this situation? Does sending said “vibe” into the universe make it more powerful? Yes, I’m being a little tongue in cheek, but honestly, what do we expect to happen with such comments?

Or hearing that someone is “thinking of you.” Ok, that’s nice I guess, but how does that help? Next time my daughter hits her head, instead of getting her an ice pack, I’ll try telling her that I’m thinking of her. Do you think that’ll go off well? Probably not. Don’t think about me, do something. Again, unless you have Jedi mind powers, your thoughts are useless.

So… what can we do? Sometimes the simplest answer is the right one; we can pray. “But isn’t praying the same thing as sending vibes?” Perhaps, but only if you are doing it the wrong way. Sometimes I hear people say, “Sending prayers your way.” If that’s what you mean by prayer, then yes, in this case, praying would be just a synonym for vibes. However, if we look at what the Bible says about prayer, we will see that a prayer in not something that is sent to another person, rather, prayer is communication with the Almighty God of the Universe.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” We’ve all heard this quaint saying and there is truth here. Prayer is not asserting my authority or ability on a situation but calling out to the One who has all authority and power. I pray, therefore, because I know that God is in control. I pray because I recognize that I am powerless by myself; I am utterly dependent on God for everything. It is only when I see my weakness and inability that my trust in God is truly strengthened. This is why the Bible says, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6), and “They ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)

Please, don’t send me vibes. Pray for me! Next time someone is having a hard time, don’t tell them that you are sending them thoughts or vibes. Instead, let them know that you are calling out to the Creator on their behalf.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ

“Keep Your Eyes On Jesus”

A familiar passage in the Gospel of Matthew is the Apostle Peter calling out to Jesus as he sees Him walking on the waves of the sea. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” To which Jesus responds, “Come.” (Matthew 14:28-29) As Peter makes his way onto the water, things seem to be going well until he begins to look around; then being filled with fear, he starts to sink. As he cries out Jesus grabs him by the hand and pulls him to safety. Peter is questioned about His doubt while the disciples fall down to worship Jesus. What’s the point? Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Sounds simple enough, right? Christians must live with their eyes fully focused on Jesus every step of the way. Similarly, Bible-believing churches must remain focused on Christ. However, it seems that is not always the case. Too many times professing Christians and churches have substituted something other than Christ to focus upon. Whether we are talking about political agendas, humanitarian causes, or theological imbalances, we must recognize any “double vision” in order that we may call out, as Peter did, “Lord, save us!”

When the church gets sidetracked and loses focus, it is usually because there are important and worthwhile things to attend to. That is to say, even “good things” can become bad when they take the center stage position that belongs to Christ alone.

Political Involvement
Desiring godly political policy is a good thing. Christians should be involved in the political process and should vote with firm footing on a biblical worldview. However, good politics will not save us. “If only this person was in office and not that person. If only this law would pass and not that one. If only this political party was in power and not that one… then all would be right in the world.” Dear Christian, if this type of thinking pervades your mind and conversation, you are sinking. Turn your eyes back to Christ.

Humanitarian Causes
Helping other people is a good thing. Throughout the Bible we are called to care for, feed, and clothe the poor and downtrodden. So many churches begin outreach programs in order to follow these commands. Yet taking care of physical needs is not enough. The primary need of every person in this world is not physical but spiritual. Feeding and clothing people who remain dead in their sin leaves them no better off than when you first “helped” them. Yes, we should help with physical needs but our primary goal should be to share the saving message of Jesus Christ with people. When any humanitarian cause becomes our primary, all-encompassing mission as the church, we’ve lost our focus on Christ. Under the water we go…

Imbalanced Theology
Theology is studying the truths of God’s word. I love studying theology! I love opening the Bible and learning more about God. I love reading books and taking classes on theology. Theology is a good thing. The purpose of studying theology is so we can know God more and worship Him more. Yet, when studying becomes about being a “know-it-all” or gaining religious superiority, we lose sight of Christ and begin to sink

Likewise, an imbalance in our understanding of theology can lead to loss of Jesus-focus. Too many individual Christians and even whole churches can become obsessed with certain topics (usually secondary or tertiary issues) at the expense of the focus of the Bible writers, namely, Christ and Him crucified. The Bible tells us we are to teach the “whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) Nevertheless, instead of focusing on the primary teachings of the Bible, some people get distracted with end times issues. They want to know the details of what’s going to happen in the future, so most of their time is spent trying to connect current events with prophetic texts. Or, some get distracted by focusing on spiritual warfare issues. Every little thing that goes wrong in their life is attributed to Satan or demons. Again, theology is important and each of these topics has their place. What I’m trying to say, however, is these should not be the topics we are consumed with; we should be consumed with Christ. If a Christian can give you details on Daniel’s 70th week or tips on how to exorcise a demon but cannot give you an orthodox definition of the Trinity, they may be sinking.

We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. We must remember that all that we have and all that we are is because of Him and what He has accomplished for us upon the cross. I echo the words of the Apostle Paul in 2nd Corinthians 11, “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Beloved, don’t take your eyes off of your Savior!

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ

“Life Is Sacred” Part 3

“If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?” We’ve all heard this before. You may have even said this before. The point, we all understand, is to show kids that they don’t have to do or be like others around them. However, take a look at popular trends and you’ll notice that indeed, everyone does do exactly what their friend does. What are the new styles in clothing and music? That’s what is going to be everywhere. We can’t help it: advertising does work. Don’t believe me? I could list for you a number of stupid things that I have bought throughout my life because it looked so good in the commercial but it turned out to be nothing other than cheap garbage.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about the very difficult subject of suicide. In this brief series of articles, my aim has not been to deal with the very nuanced reasons an individual might have for taking their own life. Rather, I’ve been trying to point at a bigger (and I believe foundational) culprit in the landscape of the suicide issue; namely, that our popular culture has such a disdain for life that suicide has become merely a choice among others.

I’m not trying to trivialize suicide or those who have struggled with these thoughts, I’m trying to point out that we are all products of our environment and perhaps we live in an environment and culture that has nurtured a disdain for life to the point that we’ve normalized this saddening act. In fact, it seems to me that we not only have normalized that act of suicide, but by our jokes and romanticizing, we make light of suicide.

How many times have you heard someone say, “Uh… I just want to kill myself.” Why? “Because the ice cream machine was broken at McDonalds.” Now, we all know that person doesn’t really want to commit suicide because they can’t get a dipped cone, but why this choice of language? Why do we think that it’s ok to express frustration in terms of ending one’s own life? We take something trivial, like ice cream, and we raise the stakes by making it a life or death situation. I’m not saying that people kill themselves because we make jokes about suicide. What I’m trying to point to is how we have made such a serious topic into something as common as talking about the weather. Also, I have to wonder how much the idea of seeking a permanent solution (suicide) to temporary problems has infiltrated the minds of people, if only in part, by this type of jesting.

Secondly, we’ve romanticized suicide to the point that we’ve made it seem that there is something larger-than-life or even beautiful involved in the act. This is especially true when we hear of celebrities who have taken their own life. “Musicians and actors are such great artists so they must know something about life that us common folk do not.” Celebrities are cementing their legacy when they take their own life. “Now they will always remember me.” This all seems attractive in some way to many people. So much so that after a celebrity commits suicide you can be sure that the number of suicides and attempted suicides will rise. According to CNN, there was a 10% increase (nearly 2,000 deaths) in the suicide rate following the suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams in 2014, most of them enacted in the same way as Williams. “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?”

Again, this is a very sad and difficult topic. We don’t want to simply turn these horrible deaths into statistics. At the same time, we need to recognize that, as a culture, we will reap what we sow. Because we’ve treated suicide in such a loose fashion for so long, we can’t act surprised when these type of deaths happen. Life is precious. Why can’t we pass that on to the culture? I pray we can stop treating life as expendable and cheap. We must not continue the atrocities at abortion clinics, we must move forward with laws that prevent doctors ending people’s lives, and finally, we must stop this easy attitude we have with suicide. Life is a gift from God, it’s time we start acting like it.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ