In this week’s episode, I share an interesting idea about trusting big brother, an interesting article about the difference between discernment and criticism, and continue our interesting study of Pilgrim’s Progress by exploring the end of the sixth chapter where Christian tours the Beautiful Castle.
– Subscribe to the Podcast: https://anchor.fm/xtianninja
– Article: https://buildingjerusalem.blog/2021/07/20/being-discerning-and-being-critical-are-not-the-same-thing/
– Briefing Episode: https://albertmohler.com/2021/06/28/briefing-6-28-21
– Pilgrim’s Progress Free Book: https://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-pilgrims-progress
– Support XtianNinja OM: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=7XJFMCJKESBEG
Hello, today is Friday, July 23rd, 2021 and welcome to “Of Interest”.
My name is Al Descheneau, known on Twitch as Christian Ninja where, every week, from Monday to Thursday we’re working together to build an open, encouraging and meaningful online family through gaming, real talk, and God’s Truth.
This podcast is all about stimulating thought and starting conversations, but it’s just one part of what I’m up to, and you can find links to everything else: like my Twitch channel, free Books, Livestream Gaming Chats, YouTube videos, my private Discord channel and more – at ArtoftheChristianNinja.com.
In this week’s episode I’m going to share an interesting idea about trusting big business and big brother, an interesting article about the difference between discernment and criticism, and continue our interesting study of Pilgrim’s Progress by exploring the endof the sixth chapter where Christian tours the Beautiful Castle.
Hello and welcome to the podcast, I’m super glad you decided to listen
Just two quick announcements before I jump in.
First, is that I’ve decided to stop streaming on Sundays. From now on, for at least the next little while, I’m going to stick to streaming Monday to Thursday at 12pm Easter Standard Time, for about 4 or 5 hours. It’s a decision made so that I can take better care of my physical and mental health, and give myself a little more time to work on side-projects like this podcast, YouTube and TikTok videos. The only way to grow on Twitch is to grow somewhere that isn’t Twitch, so if I’m going to do this right, I need to work on those things too. Please keep me in your prayers as I try to figure out this rhythm and make decent content.
And second, I wanted to take a minute to just thank God for all the amazing things that have happened lately. I hit the wall pretty hard last week and actually missed two days of streaming because I was such a mess – but while I was offline I was absolutely flooded with love and support from you guys – and then, after reaching out a bit more to some other Christian streamers – I was able to find literally dozens more believers all trying to impact Twitch in a Christian way. And they embraced me with open arms, flooded me with even more loving messages, and have become fast friends.
Of course, most of them aren’t trained pastors, theologians, or on-purpose missionaries like I am, but every single Christian streamer I connected with had a heart for bringing light, positivity, hope, joy, and God’s presence to the very dark place that Twitch can often be. I’m humbled to be joining this community and look forward to building these relationships and seeing how we can grow and serve God together.
Now, I know that most of you listening aren’t streamers, but can I just say that whatever you’re into – work, ministry, hobbies, interests, struggles – there’s probably a group of believers online or in your area that are passionate or working on the same thing. It is absolutely worth you googling what you’re up to, opening up to folks, and seeing if you can find that niche community full of love and encouragement. It’s not supposed to replace your church, of course, but so many times we think we’re alone in our hobbies, or weird in our interests, and feel like no one really gets what we’re about – but I promise you, God has made some people like you who would love for you to be part of their community. So take some time, take the risk, and open yourself up to seeing if there’s a group out there for you.
An Interesting Idea
Today’s interesting idea has to do with how important trust is – but not in the way you think.
On one of the most recent episodes of The Briefing by Albert Mohler he was talking about the tragedy of the Condominium Collapse in Miami, and talked a lot about trust. Not so much trust between people, but the trust we in North America have in businesses and the government. Now, those are not the first two things that leap to mind if we are asked who we trust the most, but, weirdly, they should be near the top of the list. Why do I say that?
Because, without even thinking, we put our trust in them almost every moment of every day. Listen to what he said at the beginning of the episode: “You can imagine the heartbreak and the anguish of family members looking at the building and also at the video and knowing of the human lives that were contained within that building trusting the architecture, trusting that the floor beneath their feet would stay where it was, and the roof above their head would stay where it was.”
And then near the end he said, “All this reminds us that we take so much for granted. For certain, we trust the buildings in which we go to sleep. We trust the engineering. We trust the architecture. We’ve been trained to do so because the reality is that buildings like this just don’t fall. When they do fall, it requires some extraordinary explanation.”
And then, at the end – and this is the part that really caught me – “We have to be able to take certain things for granted. We have to be able to trust certain realities. If we can’t trust the floor under our feet or the roof over our heads, basically operational life becomes impossible.”
That made me pause for a minute and think. These days it’s extremely fashionable to diss the government, say how corrupt big businesses are, talk smack about the Prime Minister or President, Walmart, Coke and Nike – and declare that we’re living in a 1984 Orwellian Dystopia where Amazon and Facebook are just Big Brother with different hats – and certainly there are some HUGE issues – but just take a minute to consider how… as Al Mohler said… that in North America, we have to trust certain realities because if we don’t, life becomes basically impossible.
When you go to work, it doesn’t really occur to you that your car might explode on the way there, right? Why? Because of manufacturing laws and required safety testing.
When you open up a bottle of pop or a bag of chips, you just start pouring it you’re your throat and munching away, right? You don’t do a bunch of chemistry to see if it’s poisonous, or pour all the chips them all out on a plate and pick through them to see if there are rat droppings or nuts and bolts or whatever in there. Why? Because you trust that the giant company you bought it from has quality control standards and that someone would shut them down if your chips were unsafe.
Same with when you walk up a flight of stairs, go into an elevator, take medicine, or plug any device in your house into a wall socket. You don’t even think of it – but imagine how much faith you just put in these huge companies and nameless, faceless government agencies that the floor would stay put, you wouldn’t plummet to your death, that the medicine was done right, and that your cell phone isn’t going to explode in your hand.
What’s my point here? I guess it’s to talk about perspective and being thankful. As a society we absolutely love complaining about big organizations. Small churches scoff and big churches. Small businesses shake their fists at big chain stores. Citizens gather in droves to argue about whoever is in power that year, demonizing and criticizing everything they do.
I just want to take a different tack for a minute and say that I think we should be at least a little bit thankful for these big, complicated, powerful engines of our modern world. It’s the big churches that fund some of the best curriculums and books that everyone uses, and produces some of the most important theologians and missionaries in the world. It’s the big-businesses that can ship that critical piece of hardware that you need right away, or create a network that allows food and internet and security to be distributed in areas that could never afford it themselves. Your small business wouldn’t exist if you weren’t buying tools and materials from huge manufacturers. And while the government might get a lot of much deserved grief for some of the things we hear on the news, there are countless other workers and officials that keep almost everything else in our nation greased, moving, and safe.
All I’m saying is to take a minute and be thankful for at least part of what they do. Except for Nestle… Nestle is just freaking evil.
An Interesting Article
This week’s Interesting Article is entitled, “Being Discerning and Being Critical Are Not the Same thing” and it’s by Stephen Kneale, at buildingjerusalem.blog – and it really struck home for me. And let me tell you why…
In Christian circles I have what they call a “Critical Spirit”, some might call it a “Type A Perfectionist Streak”, some might just call it being a big, grumpy, jerk who takes things way to seriously.
After a lot of years I’ve learned to keep most of that negativity to myself – and I’ve tried to learn to cut myself some slack – but, honestly – that little voice inside my head that keeps criticizing, saying whatever I’m doing is not good enough, that it doesn’t look nice enough, that it’s too boring, too simple, not accurate enough, the lights are too bright, the powerpoint isn’t changing fast enough, the article or talk I’m hearing isn’t organized properly, the audio has a buzz, the transitions aren’t smooth enough…
If you have a critical spirit then you know what this brainwave radio station sounds like – although, I’m sure everyone has had this at some time – but we can all agree that it’s no fun. And, most times, it’s not even true! Everyone around me is having a great time, people are enjoying the content or talk or whatever, and when I ask afterwards if people noticed all the “mistakes” I made, literally no one ever does. It’s all in my head.
For a long while I had convinced myself that this was a positive thing. That my higher standards and desire to make things perfect was my way of loving others and honouring God – and in a way, it kind of was, but it was mostly just distracting and destructive. So destructive, that at times it becomes pretty soul crushing. Especially when the thing I’m trying to do is “for God” or in His name, and that little voice starts going, it sometimes gets confused and I start to wonder if it’s God Himself that’s disappointed with what I’m doing. That makes me anxious, and depressed, and I put more pressure on myself… and then I get sick, and sad, and crash. Then I feel guilty.
That’s not God. That’s my own sinful nature and the enemy of my soul doing everything he can to knock me off my game, disconnect me from God, and get me to stop pressing forward with what God called me to do.
By the way, if any of this resonates with you, I would love to hear from you. Shoot me an e-mail or text, or, even better, join the Discord or come chat while I’m on stream. I honestly love hearing from you guys and hearing from you is the absolute highlight of my days.
Anyway, back to the article. It begins with a helpful little paragraph about the difference between a discerning person and a critical one. He says, “Discernment is both the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong and – as Spurgeon famously put it – the difference between right and nearly right. However you cut it, discernment is about telling things apart. It is concerned about knowing the difference between what is right, good and true and what is veering off course.
Criticism is not so much concerned with the difference between right and wrong. Someone with a critical spirit is merely concerned with what is wrong. It is not about telling the difference between what is good, right and true and what is not. It is more interested in pointing out everything that it perceives to be wrong, inaccurate or not entirely on point.”
That is so helpful, and so accurate! The big difference between a godly, discerning person who is an asset to the people around them – and a critical person who just makes everyone miserable – is what they see. The discerning person sees the good and the bad, and calls both out. The critical person only sees the bad.
That little voice inside my head, and maybe in yours, never really gets around to saying, “Wow, good job! This turned out nice! I think people liked that!”, does it? In the same way, you can tell if someone in your life – or you yourself – are a critical person by asking the question, Do I point out the positive things in my life and others at least as much, if not more, as the negative stuff?
He says something really profound near the end. He says that critical people aren’t discerning people because, “they never seem to be able to discern the truth.” And that’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it?
A critical spirit, a negative person, isn’t actually seeing the truth, are they? It’s not true that the world is always broken, dirty, and annoying. It’s not true that the project you’re working on is bad, or useless, or that people are going to dislike it. It’s not true that your gifts are unhelpful, your personality too flawed, your offering too small. That’s not true!
The truth is that the world has wonderful things and amazing people in it. The thing you are working on does have wonderful potential to bring help and joy to people – even if it’s not perfect – because maybe others will see it and get inspired to take it a step further. The truth is that God created to with gifts and talents and abilities and every time you use even 15% of what your capable of, most of the people around you feel blessed and thankful that you did! The truth is that the things you call “personality flaws” are just inside out gifts that not only set you apart and make you special, but give you the ability to connect with people that no one else can! And your offering isn’t too small – look what Jesus did with the Loaves and Fishes, or Gideon’s Army, or a bunch of fishermen… God loves turning small offerings into world shaking events.
Let’s agree to listen to the truth and seek to be discerning – not critical.
An Interesting Study
The last part of these podcasts is an “Interesting Study” on the classic book, “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. Remember, there’s a link to this book – for free – on my blog if you want to read along. This week we’re all the way to the end of Chapter 6, and Christians tour of the Beautiful Palace.
Ok, I’m just going to say it. The Beautiful Palace is church membership. It fits so perfectly! So Christian has his big talk with the girls, goes to bed, wakes up and is ready to get back on the road, but is stopped and told that he shouldn’t leave until they showed him around the place some more. And what does he see? He sees what a person sees when they start getting more and more involved in their church. He sees what people see when they commit to coming to Sunday service regularly, joining a service team, coming to Sunday School or Small Group, or whatever – connecting with local missions, and making the effort to get to know the people around them.
He saw things about Jesus he’d never heard before. He was opened up to history and his global context. He met powerful and amazing servants and heard inspirational stories that encouraged him. He learned how the bible can be trusted, what prophecies were, how they came true, and what is still to come. He learned how to connect to God more powerfully, spiritually defend himself, and even conquer kingdoms in God’s name. He was given a vision of God, heaven, and of eternity he would never have gotten by himself – and it energized and instructed and armed and equipped and trained him far more than he could have ever done on his own.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: You need to be an active part of a group of believers. You need a church – and if you can’t find a church because there are no biblical ones in your area, or you’ve got some kind of thing keeping you home, you still need to do whatever you can to open yourself to gathering with other believers – even if it’s online. That’s not ideal, but if that’s what you can do, do it.
One of the things that Jesus calls us is Sheep – and there’s a good reason for that. Sheep are no good without the herd. Sheep are no good at defending themselves from wolves. Sheep tend to wander off and need the shepherd, sheep dogs, and other sheep to help them not fall down pits or get lost.
We’re the same way. Like it or not, you’re the same way. You might think you are smart, sensitive, spiritual, wise, and strong enough that you don’t need anyone, but let me ask you three questions:
First, are you wiser than Solomon? Because once Solomon was distanced from God’s people, his life fell apart in a hurry.
Second, are you stronger than Samson? Because Samson’s refusal to be with God’s people cost him his life.
Third, are you more sensitive, more spiritual than David? Because it was when David stayed home alone, not joining God’s people where he was supposed to be, that the dominos in his life started to fall and he caused devastation for himself, his people, and all the family that would follow him.
So, unless you’re wiser than Solomon, stronger than Samson, and more spiritual than David – you need a faith community. No excuses.
And that’s it for today.
Thank you so much for listening, and I hope you heard something interesting.
Remember, this podcast is just one part of what I’m up to, and you can find links to everything else: like my free Books, Twitch Livestream, YouTube videos, more podcast episodes, new videos, my private Discord channel and more – at ArtoftheChristianNinja.com.
I livestream on Twitch from Monday to Thursday at 12pm Easter Standard time at http://www.Twitch.tv/XtianNinja . We do a lot of silly stuff, serious stuff, and everything in between.
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Thank you again, have a great week, and I’ll talk to you on Monday.