At our church we have women's small groups that meet monthly to discuss a devotion, pray, and fellowship. Our church has four main services on Sunday morning so the goal of these groups is to connect the women from each service and age groups. Many people have commented on March's devotion as being helpful for them, so I wanted to share it here...
There are those Sundays when “It’s just too cold,” “I want to sleep just little more,” or “We could take a day trip to the beach.” I have had plenty of those myself. There was a time when I remember using one (or more!) of those excuses to ‘skip’ church every so often. Then, I became so good at it, I decided to work on Sundays. It wasn’t every Sunday, but it was enough for me to justify “touching lives” and being able to have the highest income by working on that day of the week. Not only were my clients watching and learning from my priorities, so was my husband.
As winter winds down and spring begins to blossom we can easily loose focus of the most important part of our lives here on earth: reaching our world for Christ. During the coming spring and summer months it becomes easy to forget our mission and fall back into 1) mundane church activities, or 2) minimal, if any, church attendance (often times we may only be present physically).
Mark Mittleberg puts it like this: “[We] need to be reminded of why [we] are here. Evangelism is not an optional activity. It is at the very core of our mission, which is to reach our world with the gospel. That’s why Jesus spelled it out so clearly: to go into all the world (including next door or down the hallway) to reach everyone we can for him (Matthew 28:18-20). This Great Commission wasn’t one choice among many options. It’s what we’re here to do.”1
Worshipping God is an act of service, both inside and outside of the church building. That is how we reach the world with the gospel. Listen to the words of Mohandas Gandhi: “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. Its just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ. If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”
These words, as true as they are, frighten me, break my heart, and make me remorseful because I am one of those that he is talking about who is so “unlike Christ.” But more than that...they motivate me.
When it comes to church, we must come ready to worship and serve the one true God. Then, we must go out into the world and unpack what we have learned for ourselves, family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. This is how we will reach the world for Christ. Continually worshipping. Continually serving.
After all, this is God’s will—let’s make a commitment now, and be bold about it.
“You are the light of the world...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give flory to your Father who is in Heaven.”2
1 Written by Mark Mittelberg in Sean McDowell’s A New Kind of Apologist, p. 51.
2 Matthew 5:14-16, paraphrased.
Victoria Harris holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. She is a former Miss Florida Teen USA and Mrs. Florida U.S. Victoria is a lover of Jesus, a wife, biological mom of a toddler and soon-to-be adoptive mom of a tween. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vdharris, on twitter @VictoriaDHarris, or on instagram @VictoriaRatliffHarris.
Last night my husband and I watched the beloved classic, Beauty and the Beast. After having read reviews from its first viewers and from those that have chosen to boycott the film and Disney, I knew that I had to see it. The movie well surpassed all of my expectations and was a delight to see. It depicted a culturally relevant worldview of the enchanted fairytale, first written in 1740 and brought to the big screen by Walt Disney in 1991.
So, why would someone not want the new version of this movie to be seen? Perhaps because it goes against one’s views of marriage, sexuality, gender, or something else. As one who believes strongly in the Biblical (traditional) definition of marriage, keeping natural born gender as the only option, and sexuality to be expressed only in the role of a traditional marriage, I will watch this movie again (and probably again and again). Likewise, I will watch it with my older children. Why? Because it allows for important conversations to be had inside the home about the world around us.
1.) Conversations: To think that we can close our eyes and dream of the world the way we want it to be is ignorant. In the words of Paul: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” We see an example of this hardness of heart in Mark 3:1-6 when Jesus heals the withered hand of a man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were waiting for Jesus to “make a mistake,” so-to-speak, so that they could have him destroyed (verse 6). In this passage, Jesus asked these religious leaders a simple question: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” The hardness in their heart was shown in their silence. While the Pharisees could have thought this was a trick question, if their hearts had truly loved God they would have known that there was only one right answer: “to do good…to save a life.”
As Christians, we have three choices. We can 1) choose to be silent, like the Pharisees, and have our hearts hardened (or, in this case, desensitized to our changing world), 2) condemn those whose sin looks different than ours through actions such as anger outrage and boycotts, or 3) love people with the compassionate, gracious, accepting love that Christ has for us. The only way we will win people’s hearts to the Lord is through speaking truth in love. And, those conversations begin at home.
Beauty and the Beast is the perfect opportunity to discuss what God says about sexuality, including homosexuality, and gender identity. This is the main reason why my husband and I will watch this movie (and others like it) with our children when they reach the appropriate age. [A great resource on how to have these difficult conversations in a world where everything is relative is The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowell. You can read my review of the book here.]
The rising generation is being saturated with “equality for all” messages, produced by pop culture and endorsed by parents. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in equality for all. The equality that I believe in is objective. It has a standard that makes everyone equal and does not discriminate against race, gender, culture, ethnicity, or type of sin. The difference is that this equality must have a personal Creator who understands our struggles and provides the same solution for all.
2.) Belle: Belle makes the movie. She is the epitome of grace, dignity, strength, and courage, all-the-while showing signs of real-life acceptance issues. She has the desire for others to want and accept her, but she chooses to uphold her boundaries, even when it makes her an outcast. In one scene Belle’s father tells her that people mocked her mother as well, but one day she found those same people imitating her. Jesus was mocked on many occasions (Luke 22:63; Mark 14:65; Mark 15:17; Matt. 27:29, Luke 23:39). His life was different. He had a purpose. He had a mission. His mission was to do His Father’s will. He wasn’t concerned with what others thought. Paul mocked those who followed Christ. Until one day, he saw Christ, and began to imitate them (Acts 9).
This is what Belle depicts. She doesn’t fall into the trap of pursuing the guy every girl wants or sacrificing her passion even when others think it is unimportant or ridiculous. How I wish someone would have had a discussion about Belle with me as a teenager. This is the type of girl I want for my sons; one who knows her boundaries and seeks her passion wholeheartedly, without compromise.
3.) The Gospel: Beauty and the Beast is filled with opportunities to share the Gospel. In the opening scene with the Prince, he is warned to not be deceived by appearances because beauty lies within. He chooses to ignore this old lady, and, you know the story, after given a second chance, it then becomes too late and he is put under a curse. He begs for forgiveness, but this lady had seen the hate in his heart and continues with her plan.
As the movie progresses we see Belle talking to the other “people” in the castle. While she talks to the Prince’s friends she notices that they love him even though they did nothing and he cursed them. These friends of the Prince had a love based on condition. They loved him because they wanted something from him and only he could give them what they wanted. Yes, it is true that we want eternal life, but having our hearts, minds, and souls love the Lord by believing that Jesus Christ is the only atonement for our sins is the only way for that to happen. He sees our ugly. He sees the ugly on the outside that everyone else sees, just like the ugly that Belle first saw in the Beast. But, He also sees the ugly on the inside that no one knows except us and Him. What a wonderful opportunity to speak of God’s unconditional love; a love that can never be earned, only received as a free gift.
My advice? Take your children that are of age. Enjoy a delightful fairytale. Prepare to have difficult conversations with them. and most importantly, have the conversations. If you don’t, someone will. And they may not go as you would like…
Victoria is a wife, mom, ambassador of Jesus, and a lover of all things that involve learning.