In this week’s episode, I share an interesting article about Christians doing weird stuff, continue our interesting study of Pilgrim’s Progress with the beginning of the seventh chapter when Christian […]
In this week’s episode, I share an interesting article about Christians doing weird stuff, continue our interesting study of Pilgrim’s Progress with the beginning of the seventh chapter when Christian descends into the Valley of Humiliation, and finish off with a new Bible-Study segment where I talk about how you can know whether or not God truly loves you.
Hello and welcome to the podcast, I’m super glad you decided to listen! How are you doing today? I hope you’re very well – I’ve just got a couple things to say up front before we jump in. …
First, is just the reminder that I’ve changed my Twitch streaming schedule a bit and that I’m now on there from Monday to Thursday at 12pm Easter Standard Time for about 4 or 5 hours. The format has changed a bit too in that I’ve been figuring out a good rhythm lately and think it’s working for me and the folks watching. From Monday to Wednesday I start with a little Verse of the Day devotional with prayer and a little chat, do a couple fun and silly things, and then do the Question of the Day. All of this is designed to dedicate the stream to God, spur conversation, and build up the community. After all that I usually jump into a game, but try to keep the conversation rolling for a few hours.
Thursdays is a little different in that I do a much longer bible study – basically a sermon – on Philippians – and then launch into what I call “Follower Appreciation Day” where I do special games, react to videos, play with the viewers, and do giveaways. I’ve been working on doing some gaming reviews for a company and they have let me win some gift cards, so I just turn them back into the channel as giveaways.
Speaking of the Twitch channel, can I just take a minute to thank all the people who have been supporting me over the past 5 months?
Yes, I’ve only been streaming for 5 months, and it’s been amazing to see what God has done in that time. As far as the numbers go, as of today, I’ve streamed for 312 hours, have 263 followers, and have gotten 64 people to hit the subscribe button (though, as it stands, I have 21 subscribers). When I first started the channel, for the first 3 months I averaged about 5.5 viewers per stream – but in the last month I’ve been averaging 12 viewers per stream, but have hit over 20 a bunch of times. For example, on my last stream this past Thursday, I averaged 16 viewers throughout a 4 hours stream, had a max of 25 people watching, and had 4 new subscribers. For a new streamer, those are really good numbers and I’m absolutely blown away by God’s grace to me and the response from the streaming community.
And speaking of the streaming community, I am so excited about what is happening there. Over the last few months I’ve been praying constantly for some like-minded Christian streamers to partner with, relate to, serve with, and grow together. And, as I’ve told you many times, that’s not easy. But out of nowhere, God has brought exactly those kinds of people into my life – and I’m overwhelmed by their kindness, love and support. They pray for me, ask me how I’m doing, join me on stream, recommend my channel, and have encouraged me so so so much lately. Just the other day one of the groups asked if I’d be a sort of “de facto” elder and leader in their gaming ministry. I’m so excited to see what happens over the coming months as God works through all of us.
I say that because I’ve already seen a few amazing gospel things happen. I’ve seen the community I’ve built rally around people during dark times in their life. I’ve watched as people in my chat go from profane agnostic to asking about which church to attend! I’ve had people drop into chat declaring how lonely, lost, and friendless they are – from all over the world – and have been able to counsel them, talk to them about God’s love, and bring them some hope in their dark day.
Being called to do this ministry full time has been one of the most exciting things I’ve been part of for a long while, and I’m so excited for what is happening here. But, I could never do this alone. You all know that I believe that God called me to do this full time and that I’m almost completely funded by donations right now – and so I wanted to take a minute here to just say a personal thank you to each of the people who have donated to help get this Christian Ninja online ministry launched, and those who continue to support it with their monthly gifts. I am so thankful for you.
So, David, Nathan, Mary Ellen, Markus, Stephen, Bill, Gabrielle, Brent, Guy, Terrance, Jeff and Chantal – thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support means the world to me. And a special thank you to all of my brothers and sisters in Hinton Alliance Church and The Lighthouse Free Methodist Church for your gifts and prayers as well. I’m so thankful for you all. And to those who have been so generous with buying me a game to play, or bringing by some groceries or food for my family, thank you so so so much!
I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m fully-funded, so if anyone listening is interested in helping out with monthly support, please head over to my website at ArtoftheChristianNinja.com and click the Donation Button.
I’m changing up the format of the podcasts a little bit and am going combine the Interesting Article and Interesting Idea into one section. I’m still going to have three segments here, and we’re still going to continue the Pilgrim’s Progress study, but I felt like it would be good to use my latest devotional message as the last segment. That way, anyone who missed it, or is interested in joining our journey through Philippians can catch it here – and anyone who already heard it can just stop listening after the Pilgrim’s Progress study is done.
So, this week’s Interesting Article is entitled, “Don’t Do Weird Stuff” and it’s by Sam Emadi, at 9marks.org – and I think it’s really good fodder for discussion.
The 9 Marks ministry, led by Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washing DC is essentially an organization dedicated to helping pastors and churches understand what a biblical church looks like and how to become one. The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, according to them are, “Expositional Preaching, Biblical Theology, The Gospel, Conversion, Evangelism, Membership, Church Discipline, Discipleship, and a Biblical Eldership.”
I personally agree with all of that, and it’s amazing to me that anyone wouldn’t. I mean, if you want to describe a biblical church, one that follows God’s design for what a body of believers is supposed to look like, those are the basics right? Preach and Teach the Bible, show that following Jesus makes you different, share that faith with others, support and hold each other accountable in love, and have good, godly elders that protect the church. That all seems like a no-brainer…
And yet the things that 9 Marks is saying has wound up being controversial among some. I won’t get it all here, but suffice to say that there are a lot of churches out there that don’t want to preach the bible, talk about sin and discipline, and despise the idea of an authority structure in the church. For them, church is whatever you make it, God allows anything, everyone is equal, everyone’s opinion is equally valid, and making someone feel bad is the worst sin you can commit.
One of my new Twitch friends recently went to church for the first time in their life. They’ve been watching my streams and chatting with me for a while now, and have been influenced by another Christian pastor streamer, and finally got up the courage to head into a real-life church. I couldn’t wait to hear how it went. I texted them and got a really defeating response – Let me quote “Yeah, I don’t think I will go there again. It was more like a holiday club. No one introduced themselves or asked who I was. They were at the front dressed as pirates, rewrote Kings of Leon songs, with some weird lyrics about Jesus dying after he was buried…”
This wonderful person put themselves out there to connect with a group of believers in her area they could learn more about the Jesus they’ve been talking about online – and was met by people who not only ignored her and sang bad theology set to, but were acting downright weird.
Which is sort of the premise of this article: Hey churches, “Don’t Do Weird Stuff”. For some reason, the whole thing has gotten flipped. The conservative church with elders that preach the from bible and talk about sin – are the weird churches —- while the dancing pirates singing songs from the radio are “normal”. It’s bizarre.
The author tells the story of one pastor in Kentucky who got bored of baptising people in water, so he started baptising people in pools of beer. He says that he recently saw a youtube clip of a pastor telling his congregation to take their socks off and wave them around over their heads while he singing “You spin me right round, Jesus, right round.”
And yes, I absolutely had to google this – and it’s really true, and you better believe I’m going to play it for you. So here you go …
The point of the article is simply this: There are a lot of Christians and churches out there who have fallen into these weird practices – and not just the really weird stuff like spinning socks, but lesser weirdness like abandoning congregational singing for stage performances, refusing to talk about anything sinful or sad because Sundays are supposed to be happy and triumphant, and promoting sentimentality instead of the gospel.
And he gives three good reasons. First, it’s because “we’ve lost our appetite for God’s majesty”. We no longer see God as awesome, fearful, and worthy of deep reverence. Our God is far too small.
Second, “we’ve lost our appetite for ecclesiology”. In other words, we don’t trust that God’s usual way of connecting with people — the basics of things like reading the bible, being led in prayer, having communion, singing together – have power anymore. They don’t have enough pizazz so we opt for things that are more exciting. Like pirates spinning socks over their head while singing show tunes. But, — and the author makes a good point here – those usual ways, those ordinary means of grace, are just as powerful as they always were, and… AND … God hasn’t authorized us to come up with worship services designed to meet our tastes. We’re there to worship Him, His way, not to please ourselves.
And third, “we’ve cultivated an appetite for entertainment and ‘positive emotions’”. This is absolutely true. We don’t just love spectacle, we are used to them being the norm. If it doesn’t drop our jaw, shock us, make us cry, or elicit some kind of emotional response, then we get bored and devalue it. But, those ordinary ways we connect to God: prayer, bible study, communion, singing together – those are the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes, of the faith. Sure, bread and butter and meat and potatoes aren’t the flashiest of foods – but they’re the ones that will keep you alive.
I’ll leave the rest of the article to you, but I’d love to hear what you have to say about it, so shoot me an e-mail, send me a text, join my discord, or come by the stream sometime and let me know what you think.
An Interesting Study – The Valley of Humiliation is CH 7
The second 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 at the beginning of Chapter 7, where Christian enters the Valley of Humiliation.
I hope this book is coming alive to you the way it is to me. And, I hope that us taking it super slowly is allowing you to savor the book as much as I am – because I’m absolutely loving reading it slowly with you.
Today, I want to take a look at just the first paragraph of this chapter – because it’s amazing. Christian has spent some time in the Beautiful Palace, chatting with the princesses, learning lots and being encouraged by them, but now it’s time for him to continue his journey. Let me read the paragraph to you and point a couple things out along the way. It says:
“Then he began to go forward; but Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence, would accompany him down to the foot of the hill. So they went on together, reiterating their former discourses, till they came to go down the hill. Then, said Christian, as it was difficult coming up, so, so far as I can see, it is dangerous going down.”
Pause there, because that’s a really good thought. What is he referring to when he says that it was difficult coming up? The Hill of Difficulty, right? It’s kind of a no brainer to say that difficult times are difficult, but what I want to point out here is Christian saying, “Wow, it’s has hard going down as it was coming up!” What’s he going down to, “The Valley of Humiliation”.
One of the positive effects of going through a difficult time and coming out the other side, is that it gives you an opportunity to learn humility. Think of Christian, right? He meets Jesus at Calvary, gets new clothes, a scroll, is feeling pretty good – and then meets Simple Sloth and Presumption. He tries to get them going, but it’s no good. How does Christian feel? Pretty good about himself, I’d imagine. He’ still on the road! He’s moving forward! Then, he meets Formality and Hypocrisy, two fake Christians who refused to obey Jesus. But Christian did things right! Then, as he is heading up the hill of difficulty he meets Mistrust and Timorous who are too scared to go on, and are running back home. I don’t want to read into the story much, but maybe, just maybe, a little pride started to grow in there about how much better he is than all these other failures.
But then, he hits the Hill of Difficulty and realizes just how fragile he really is. He doesn’t face the difficulty well, messes up big time, almost quits the faith, and is filled with regret before he gets to the Beautiful Palace. But, after spending some time there – which, as I said before, is probably an allegory for being a member of a healthy church – he feels better. But he’s not the same as he was.
One of the gifts that difficulty has given him is humility. I love how John Bunyan writes this here. Wow, going through that difficulty was hard, but discovering humility, living humbly is hard too.
Let me keep reading, “Then, said Christian, as it was difficult coming up, so, so far as I can see, it is dangerous going down. Yes, said Prudence, so it is, for it is a hard matter for a man to go down into the Valley of Humiliation, as thou art now, and to catch no slip by the way; therefore, said they, are we come out to accompany thee down the hill.”
Another amazing section I don’t want to rush by. Christian says, “Wow, it’s tough to face the process of being humbled.” And Prudence says, “Yeah, that’s why we’re here. We’ll help you so you don’t slip, fall, and die.”
But remember who these princesses are! Their names are Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence. In other words, when facing times of difficulty, when circumstances are humiliating – as in actively making you more humble – and God is working to make you more like Jesus by teaching you humility — stick with your church!
While you’re going through that very hard time, the church will help you with Discretion – meaning, they will help you decide what is best to do in whatever situation. Don’t try to do this alone! Talk to your brothers and sisters in Christ, your deacons and elders, ask for their wisdom – use their Discretion.
And, along with that, as you stick with your church, they will help you remain Pious – in other words, they will help you keep doing the things that make you spiritually healthy. As you face humiliation, difficult times, you’re going to feel pretty terrible, and you’re going to be tempted to stop reading the bible, stop praying, stop worshiping, to find comfort in dangerous and worldly things. Lean on your fellow believers!! Let them read the bible to you. Let them pray for you. Let them lead you in worship. Let them hold you accountable. They’ll keep you from blowing your world apart.
Same with Charity and Prudence – also known as Kindness and Cautiousness. When we go through tough times, it’s easy to either pull inward and get selfish and protective – or to freak out and start acting out in wild ways hoping to make the problem go away quickly. It is your Christian family and friends and pastors and elders – spiritual mothers and fathers – that will be the guide-rails on either side of your life, helping you stay cool, calm, collected, and kind. The reason for this is because many of them have made this journey before – many more than once – and would love to help make sure you don’t go tumbling down the hill and hurt yourself.
But only if you stick with them. Only if you let them journey with you. Christian would have been in a lot of trouble if he asked his friends to stay back at home and tried to go it alone. It says in the next lines, “So he began to go down, but very warily; yet he caught a slip or two.” Guess who caught him when he slipped? Yep, his friends.
So, I know that the enemy keeps telling you to be alone, that no one cares, that no one understands, that if anyone hears your problems they’re going to judge you, hurt you, embarrass you, criticize you – but not everyone. Go talk to your pastor. Go talk to a Christian friend who you know has your back. If they are believers, you’re not going to get yelled at or condemned – they’ll meet you with compassion, understanding, and want nothing more than to help in any way they can.
And, I’d like to be there for you too. If you’re going through a tough time right now, facing the hill of difficulty, slipping down into the Valley of Humiliation, and you feel alone. Contact me! Send me an e-mail, join my Discord, come find me on stream, and I’d be happy to walk with you in whatever way I can.
From now on, the last part of these episodes will be dedicated to sharing the Philippians Study I’ve been doing with the folks who join me on Thursdays. I thought many of you would appreciate hearing it too – or, if you missed it – would like to be able to catch up.
If you want to catch the rest of these, they are (or will be) available on my YouTube channel. So… here’s this week’s study:
On Thursdays, we are slowly working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians – or rather, The Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Philippian Church. We’ve been doing this for about 14 weeks now and taking our time because there’s a lot to consider and learn from in this short, little letter. If you haven’t been following along and want to catch up, most of the previous studies are up on my YouTube page, and the rest are coming soon. Also, I’m going to start including these in my weekly podcast, so if you miss a stream, you can always pick them up there.
Today, we’re only going to look at one verse, but it’s one that encapsulates a lot of what Christians believe, so I think it’s important for us to park on it for a bit. It’s Philippians 2:8, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
I want to take a bit to consider the life of Jesus, from the perspective of being a “humble servant.” What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when I say, “Jesus”? For me, I think of words like, “Lord, God, Saviour, Gracious, Powerful, Miracles, Perfection, Wise…” and while all that is true, perhaps the best words that should leap to mind are, “Humble Servant”.
Let me pause here for a moment to tell you why this is important to you specifically. Before we talk about Jesus, let’s just make this intensely practical. As you live your life, right now, you’ve got some problems, right? There are external problems like people that pick on you, problems with your job, global pandemic, political instability, neighbourhood violence, whatever else – there are things outside you that make your life difficult, fill you with worries, fears, and want to drive you into misery, right?
But – and you know this is true – you know that if you can get a hold on all the stuff going on inside you that all the stuff outside wouldn’t be as big of a deal. You greatest desire isn’t for a new political system, or for the perfect job, or for more money, or to be untouchable and safe – your greatest desire is that the difficult feelings in side of you – the fear, anger, sadness, bitterness, addictions, shame, grief, worry, envy – would stop driving you into the ground. When you get down to it, and I’m sure you know this too, everyone outside you can do whatever they want – the world can be as miserable as it wants – you just want to feel loved. You could deal with everything else on the outside, all that turmoil wouldn’t hurt you nearly as much, if you knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you are unquestionably, undoubtedly, unwaveringly loved, right?
I’ve said this about myself many times. When my world has been falling apart, enemies surround me, external forces are battering me from all angles – I can handle it as long as I have someone in my life that I can run to, who I know will never reject me, never turn their back on me, always give me the benefit of the doubt – someone who loves me.
The worst times in my life have been when I’ve had all that terrible stuff happening around me, and have felt like I was facing it alone – or worse, when the people closest to me brought their own form of attack, and no one felt safe. That’s when suicidal thoughts started coming in. That’s when I started looking for chemicals to make myself feel better. That’s when my mind, body, and emotions started shutting down. It wasn’t the pressure or the attacks that crippled me – it was the loneliness.
I know some of you know that feeling. Which is why what I’m talking about today matters so much – because it answers a really big question: “Are you loved?” “Or, more specifically, “Does God love you or not – and how can you know for sure?”
That brings us back to Jesus, the humble servant. I want you to consider His story for a moment. The verse we’re looking at today, Philippians 2:8 starts, “And being found in human form…”. Consider that. Jesus is God. Eternal, All-Powerful, worshipped by angels, in perfect relationship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He needs nothing, deserves everything, and for all eternity existed in utter and complete perfection, holiness, joy, splendor, beauty, and love.
Then He came to Earth during the 1st century. The word theologians use is the “condescend”. Jesus “condescended”. We use that term in a negative way these days, describing someone who acts arrogant or patronizing, making themselves look superior, but that’s not what it means when describing Jesus. When Jesus condescended, he went from living in absolute perfection to – well – somewhere much worse.
He chose to be given the form of a baby – perhaps the single weakest, most useless, most vulnerable creature on earth. That baby was born to a young woman, married to an obscure tradesman, in a conquered country, who gave birth in a barn, his first crib a feeding trough. By the time he was two years old the king tried to murder him and his family fled the country as refugees. When he came back after some years, his family moved to Nazareth, a place whose population had a poor reputation and were mocked throughout the land. His father likely died when he was in his early teens, so Jesus grew up in a single-parent home, probably the sole breadwinner for his home for a while, until his brothers could grow up enough to take over the family business.
When He started preaching and teaching, pretty much everyone hated him. His family thought He was so crazy, they tried to drag him home. Within no time, his home town had tried to kill him, the government hated him, religious officials were trying to murder him, and every time he did something kind, people misunderstood – and when He wouldn’t perform for them – they either rejected him or tried to murder him too. Eventually, after doing nothing wrong for his whole life – never hurting anyone, never telling a lie, only spreading truth, love, and mercy – he was falsely arrested, dragged into illegal trials, and – though declared innocent by the governor – was still falsely convicted, beaten within an inch of his life, dragged bleeding through the city, nailed to a piece of wood, and propped up on display as a capital criminal. As he hung there, he was mocked, tortured, and insulted – even by the people hanging next to him.
Why would God put himself through that? Why would God the Father, put God the Son, who had done nothing wrong, lived a perfect life, allow the one He loves the most, to go through a lifetime of rejection, poverty, misery, and loneliness, and then face the worst torture humanity has ever conceived of?
Look at the verse, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Because Jesus was a “humble servant”. To who? God and us.
At any point in His life, Jesus had the power to do whatever He wanted. That’s what Satan’s temptation in the Desert was all about: “Jesus, will you forgo suffering and take the easy route, or will you keep facing misery as a humble servant of God and humanity?” Jesus always took the road of the humble servant, never using His power for Himself, but only ever for others.
Why? Well, I think a big part of it is to answer the question: “Are you loved?” “Does God love you or not – and how can you know for sure?”
Some of you think that God has it out for you. You think He either dislikes you or is totally indifferent to your needs. You think He’s either ignoring you or actively persecuting you. May I suggest you look at Jesus? Do you know why He faced all that misery? Do you know why He as on the cross? He was there to offer you a trade.
God can’t allow sin to go unpunished. He’s perfectly holy and a perfect judge, so He can’t just pretend sin didn’t happen. It needs to be dealt with. It’s an evil judge that lets bad people go unpunished, right? Sin must have consequences. Jesus lived that life of misery, only doing good and always facing evil, eventually being nailed to a torture device – as a way to offer himself as a trade for you.
God said that instead of punishing you, instead of pouring his wrath out on you, He would pour it out on Jesus instead. First, through a life of sadness and rejection, then through the torture of crucifixion, then through facing the entirety fury of the wrath of God against sin. Taking the brunt of concentrated Hell poured out on himself. The cross was nothing compared to that.
Why would he do that? Because you can’t save yourself, and He wants you with Him. Guilty people go to hell. The only way you can spend eternity with God – which is what He wants you to do, to be with Him forever – is if you’re considered “not guilty”. Well, you are guilty – and there’s no amount of good deeds you can do to negate your guilt. Like, if you murdered someone, it doesn’t matter how much good you do after that, you’re still a murderer, right? You can’t go to the judge and say, “Sure, I murdered people, but I also did a bunch of good things, so it balances out, ok?” That’s not how it works.
So, because God loves you, because Jesus loves you, because God wants you with Him forever, He made a way for that to happen. He would trade Jesus for you. Jesus goes through hell so you don’t have to. And then he asks you if you want to accept the trade.
All Christianity is, the root of the whole belief, is that we have said, “Yes, I’m a sinner. No, I can’t save myself. And the only way I can avoid hell, and have eternal life with God, is because Jesus paid my debt, took my punishment, for me. And proved it by not only dying, but rising again from death to prove He’d conquered it once and for all.” Christians are just people who have accepted that trade and live everyday thankful for it.
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.
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Thank you again, have a great week, and I’ll talk to you on Monday.