How Can I Help when Disaster Strikes?

The following is my monologue from my radio interview with OPC Disaster Response Coordinator David Nakhla , September 4, 2017. 

Showing Christ’s Love in Relief Work
by Jonathan Shishko, Pastor, Reformation OPC, Queens, NY

“Helpless” – unable to help oneself. Unable to care for yourself or protect yourself. Weak. Deprived of strength or power. Powerless, especially against danger. As in ‘a helpless infant.’ Helpless. Helpless is the word that comes to mind as we consider today’s topic of disasters – commonly called ‘natural disasters.’ Tsunamis. Volcanic eruptions. Earthquakes. And particularly relevant in the New York area throughout each fall…hurricanes. Disasters reduce us to feelings of helplessness. No matter how grown up we may be, our strength is like that of an infant when compared to the mighty forces of a hurricane, or of an earthquake.

“And, in our day and age, these feelings of helplessness are radically compounded by the relentless onslaught of breaking news. We don’t just hear of earthquakes and hurricanes in our area. With the progress of globalization and the digital revolution has come a world-wide mingling of people and their cares and concerns. With a global economy comes a global interest in the people of the globe. Tsunamis in Japan, earthquakes in Mexico, hurricanes in New York, New Orleans, Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico affect us all – compounding our feelings of helplessness.

“Though we don’t like to admit this, we’re relieved when the stories of disaster slip from the front pages of our news sources. It’s too much to have on our minds when there’s so little we can do. Helplessness is as unpleasant a reality as it is a feeling. To sidestep despair, we mark us and ours ‘safe’ on Facebook, we go on with our lives, eager to ignore disasters in other areas of the world – though we know about them, though we’re sad for them, though we wish we could help – how can we? What can we do? Aren’t we helpless?

“In the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible, the word ‘helpless’ is only used one time in the New Testament. Matthew 9:36 says that when Jesus saw the crowds He had compassion for them because they were ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Sheep without a shepherd are helpless. But, sheep with a shepherd – sheep with the great shepherd, sheep under the shepherding of King Jesus – are not helpless. Simply put, Christians are never called to resign to helplessness. In Jesus we’re not helpless. Part of the beauty of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is that through the church, what would otherwise be impossible becomes possible. ‘With God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26 ESV).

“As Christians, we must refuse to resign to feelings of helplessness and must instead stand in the great promises and instructions of our great shepherd, King Jesus – who has not left us helpless. While we cannot always understand how all things are working together, we nonetheless ‘know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28 ESV). In this same chapter of Scripture, the Apostle Paul mentions disaster when he asks, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?’ He concludes, ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (Romans 8:35, 37 ESV).

“As Christians, we stand in these promises. Before, during, and after disasters, we have the comfort of knowing that our Great Shepherd, King Jesus, is with us always, is at hand, is ruling and reigning from the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Therefore, before, during, and after hurricanes and earthquakes, we have every reason to give ourselves to prayer and fasting, praying on behalf of our brothers and sisters across the entire world. And we ought never to pray as a last resort – but always as the first response, knowing a direct line of communication with God is more powerful than anything else.

“But, as Christians, there’s more. We are not called to faith and prayer only. We are called to action. We are called to be first responders in prayer, support, and service. We are called to ‘be doers of the word, and not hearers only’ (James 1:22 ESV). The Bible asks, ‘If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead’ (James 2:14-17 ESV). A living faith is a faith at work. Real faith is faith at work. Faith in Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, boldly declares, in Jesus and through His church – I am not helpless. Where would you have me go, O Lord? How can I help, dear God? I am praying for them – but I’m also praying that you use me – my treasure, my talents, my time. Here I am, Lord, send me! Use me and your church to help those in Mexico, Japan, Puerto Rico, New York, Texas, Florida, New Orleans. Make us a church that does ‘good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith’ (Galatians 6:10 ESV).”

Listen to find out how you can help! Follow me on twitter at @jon_shishko. Message me there if you want the recording for this show.

What’s the Bible all about?

“The Bible really is a story of kingdoms in conflict, and the battle rages on the field of your heart. It rages for control of your soul. The two kingdoms in conflict cannot live in peace with one another. There will never be a truce. There is no safe demilitarized zone…Each kingdom demands your loyalty and your worship. One kingdom leads you to the King of kings and the other sets you up as king. The big kingdom works to dethrone you and decimate your little kingdom of one, while the little kingdom seduces you with promises it cannot deliver….You either pray that God’s kingdom will come and that his will be done or you work to make sure that your will and your way win the day.” – Paul Tripp, New Morning MerciesAugust 16

Psalm 2 (ESV)

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Struggling with Stress and Burnout?

“Mr. Dollar is asking, ‘How can I make more money?’
Mr. Ambitious is asking, ‘How can I get a promotion?’
Mr. Pleaser is asking, ‘How can I make my boss happy?’
Mr. Selfish is asking, ‘How can I get personal satisfaction in my job?’….
Mr. Perfectionist takes pride in flawless performance. If he ever makes a mistake in his work, he berates and flagellates himself….

They all look and feel miserable.

Then we bump into Mr. Grace, who’s asking, ‘In view of God’s amazing grace to me in Christ, how can I serve God and others here?'”

– David Murray in Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture

Here’s a helpful question to ask yourself: Are you regularly sleeping well? If not, something is wrong. Do you feel guilty for sleeping? If so, something is wrong. Adam slept in paradise God says sleep is a gift to his beloved, and Jesus slept in the boat even though a deadly storm raged. Never forget, “He gives to His beloved sleep,” – Psalm 127:2.

 

Public School? Private School? Home School?

The following is the monologue from a radio show I hosted on June 3, 2017.

Thank you for joining us today. I’m Pastor Jon Shishko. This radio show is entitled Public School? Private School? Home School? And we’ll consider the different options available to us for the education of our children.

But, before diving into all the education options and difficulties that typically come to mind, I want all of you to stop and think. I want to turn your attention to something that may surprise you — something so obvious that it usually hides in plain sight. And that is this: Everyone, all of you listening, each of you…..home school. We’re all home-schoolers….of one variety or another. In fact, you may be home-schooling right now.

Let me explain. A perfectly good definition of the word “school” is “a place where people are instructed in certain disciplines.” And the home is certainly “a place where people are instructed in certain disciplines.” That is inevitable! That is why “home life” and “family values” and “sociology” are always important and often talked about topics. Much of life comes back to home-schooling.

Every time you sit on your bed Googling something on your tablet or smart phone – you are self-educating at home – or home schooling. Every time you sip coffee while reading a book in your living room, you’re home schooling. Every time you follow a recipe, plant a garden, fix something in the house, or have company over – you’re home schooling. And when children enter the picture – well… Before children can  even speak they are already in advanced stages of homeschooling! Homeschooling is, after all, how children learn to speak! Watching, listening, learning, instructed by the example set by mom and dad, instructed by each brother and sister, instructed through everything that’s going on in the home. Coloring, playing with blocks, reading, and being read to, drawing, writing  – it’s all “homework” it’s all “homeschool.” Children are learners and their first school is the home school.

And, as followers of Jesus Christ, one thing we must always be thankful for is how very practical His Word, the scriptures, the Bible, really is. This reality – that we all home school all the time – is something the Bible understands better than we tend to. In one of the most well-known passages of the Old Testament, we read,  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deu 6:4-7 ESV).

In the New Testament, writing to the fathers of homes, the Apostle Paul insists, “Bring  [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” God made us male and female in his own image. God designed us to live in and be part of families. God intends for the home to be a school. And the home is always a school whether we think of it that way or not. “How we were raised” shapes and defines us at every point. All of us not only home school, but have been home-schooled.

Now, please don’t take this to an absurd extreme. There’s often a place for outside schooling. Throughout the Bible we find many instances of specialized schooling. In the Old Testament we find a group called “The Sons of the Prophets” that seems to be a special prophet school to which Elijah and Elisha belonged. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were trained in the schools of Babylon – schools that were radically hostile to their faith. In the New Testament we read that the Apostle Paul spent fourteen years in special training – special schooling – for his work as a missionary. And the explosion of Christianity in the New Testament happened in cities where there were all sorts of schools – schools of philosophy, trade schools, and religious schools. Even Jesus Christ profited from specialized schooling! In Luke 2 we read that when Jesus was 12 years old he spent 3 days in the temple at Jerusalem “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” So – while the home is a school – there is often a place for specialized schooling as well.

And that brings us to the options and difficulties we typically think of when we consider education. We all homeschool. The question is – to what extent should we make use of specialized schools? Are public schools the best way to raise our children in the Lord? Are private Christian schools the best way to go? What do we do here in NY where every option seems so labor intensive and financially challenging? To what extent should we make use of the programs and opportunities were already paying for through taxes? If we do more with homeschooling, what about socialization?

My wife Lauryn and I have a 9 year old son, 7 year old daughter, and a 5 year old boy. We wrestle with education & school-related questions all the time. Today’s show is an effort to start answering them.

Listen to find out more! Follow me on twitter at @jon_shishko. Message me there if you want the recording of this show.

Death. How should we think of it?

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. – 1 Corinthians 15:26

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-56

What’s a Christian Worldview?

“Who, after all, made the world of nature, and then made possible the development of sciences through which we find out more about nature? Who formed the universe of human interactions, and so provided the raw material for politics, economics,sociology, and history? Who is the source of harmony, form, and narrative pattern, and so lies behind all artistic and literary possibilities? Who created the human mind in such a way that it could grasp the endless realities of nature, of human interactions, of beauty, and so make possible the theories of such matters by philosophers and psychologists? Who moment by moment sustains the natural world, the world of human interactions, and the harmonies of existence? Who maintains moment by moment the connections between what is in our minds and what is in the world beyond our minds? The answer in every case is the same–God did it. And God does it.” – Mark Noll

“When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, observed Luther, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And He does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared our meal. We might today add the truck drivers who hauled the produce, the factory workers in the food processing plant, the warehouse men, the wholesale distributors, the stock boys, the lady at the checkout counter. Also playing their part are the bankers, futures investors, advertisers, lawyers,
agricultural scientists, mechanical engineers, and every other player in the nation’s economic system. All of these were instrumental in enabling you to eat your morning bagel.” – Gene Edward Veith Jr.

“In the beginning, God created…” – Genesis 1:1

“In him we live and move and have our being.” – Act 17:28

Why Did Jesus Get Angry?

The Emotional Life of Our Lord[1]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), to be “human” is to be, “distinguished from animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright posture.” According to Webster’s New World Dictionary (WNWD) to be “man” is to be, “a hominid (Homo sapiens) having an opposable thumb, the ability to make and use specialized tools, articulate speech, and a highly developed brain with the faculty of abstract thought: the only living hominid.” What is fascinating about these definitions is their neglect of man’s emotional capacity.[2] Man is more than matter animated by reason. Man is more than speech and opposable thumbs. A man without thumbs is a thumb-less man; a man without affections is no man at all. Dehumanization is not synonymous with thumb-removal.[3] Man is made in God’s image. Man, like God, is emotional. The Gospel accounts perfectly record and describe the only perfect life of the only sinless man to have ever lived. The Gospels present a fully divine and fully human Christ—and they do not do so by describing His thumbs. The Gospels depict a fully emotional, and yet always sinless Jesus and it is this emotional and sinless Jesus that B.B Warfield assesses in his article, “The Emotional Life of Our Lord.”

In an age in which “being cool” and detached are supreme virtues, it is curiously inconsistent that feelings instead of principle so often dictate behavior. Neither a withdrawn detachment nor tyrannical feelings characterize the life of Jesus. Warfield begins by identifying the two extremes positions which have plagued the church since its early days:

One, derived ultimately from the ethical ideal of the Stoa, which conceived moral perfection under the form of apatheia, naturally wished to attribute this ideal apatheia to Jesus, as the perfect man. The other, under the influence of the conviction that, in order to deliver men from their weaknesses, the Redeemer must assume and sanctify in his own person all human pathe, as naturally was eager to attribute to him in its fullness every human pathos. (93)

Jesus wasn’t a detached apathetic stoic; neither was he a feelings-obsessed existentialist. Jesus perfectly executed the will of His Father and His emotions were always in perfect harmony with that execution. Man is emotional in his performance of duty, and yet duty demands the intentional tempering of emotion. While there was never sinless excess, emotion accompanied our Lord’s actions.

It is this tension and harmony that we find in the Gospel’s sometimes more and sometimes less pronounced accounts of our Savior’s emotional life. Warfield demonstrates this by recounting the Gospel witness of Christ in Gethsemane:

If the distant prospect of his sufferings was a perpetual Gethsemane to him, the immediate imminence of them in the actual Gethsemane could not fail to bring with it that ‘awful and dreadful torture’ which Calvin does not scruple to call the ‘exordium’ of the pains of hell themselves. Matthew and Mark almost exhaust the resources of language to convey to us some conception of our Lord’s ‘agony’…in this dreadful experience. The anguish of reluctance which constituted this ‘agony’ is in part described by them both…by a term the primary idea of which is loathing, aversion, perhaps not unmixed with despondency. (129-30)

Warfield later remarks that in the garden of Gethsemane, “the horror of death and the ardor of obedience met,” (131, quoting Bengel).

Christ execution of the will of God the Father was accompanied by Christ’s perfect human emotion—always present, often extreme, and yet, always tempered:

The series of emotions attributed to our Lord in the Evangelical narrative, in their variety and their complex but harmonious interaction, illustrate, though, of course, they cannot of themselves demonstrate, this balanced comprehensiveness of his individuality. Various as they are, they do not inhibit one another; compassion and indignation rise together in his soul; joy and sorrow meet in his heart and kiss each other. Strong as they are — not mere joy but exhultation, not mere irritated annoyance but raging indignation, not mere passing pity but the deepest movements of compassion and love, not mere surface distress but an exceeding sorrow even unto death, — they never overmaster him. He remains ever in control. (141-42, emphasis added.)

And yet, the moral perfection of our Savior did not only temper his affections. His moral perfection evoked emotion:

The moral sense is not a mere faculty of discrimination between the qualities which we call right and wrong, which exhausts itself in their perception as different. The judgments it passes are not merely intellectual, but what we call moral judgments; that is to say, they involve approval and disapproval according to the qualities perceived. It would be impossible, therefore, for a moral being to stand in the presence of perceived wrong indifferent and unmoved. Precisely what we mean by a moral being is a being perceptive of the difference between right and wrong and reacting appropriately to right and wrong perceived as such. The emotions of indignation and anger belong therefore to the very self-expression of a moral being as such and cannot be lacking to him in the presence of wrong. (107, emphasis added.)

By this theological-philosophical approach, Warfield has done today’s minister a great service. It is hard to imagine sinless emotions. It is difficult to envision the anger of a sinless being. Perhaps partially due to the sin of selfishness, men are almost unable keep from projecting their own prejudices and proclivities onto others, and it is precisely this that today’s minister need to constantly overcome. The affections of Jesus were not neutered or truncated. Jesus’ perfection did not only come to expression in the tempering of his emotions, but also in the extensive accompaniment of his emotions to his actions. He did not just heal people; he was moved with pity to heal them. He did not just help people; he loved them.

This aspect of his emotional life is perhaps hardest to grasp. Why would Jesus love those who had nothing to offer him? This love is not so much a child’s love for his parent as it is the parent’s love for his child. In considering Mark 10:21, Warfield offers this helpful distinction in considering the love of Jesus, “Here we are told that Jesus, looking upon the rich young ruler, ‘loved’ him, and said to him, ‘One thing thou lackest.’ It is not the ‘love of complacency’ which is intended, but the ‘love of benevolence’; that is to say, it is the love, not so much that finds good, as that intends good,” (101). A child’s love for his parents ought to develop and grow with every good thing his parents give him. The parents, on the other hand, grow in love for the child as they dedicate and invest themselves in the child.

The broad diversity and intense physicality of Christ’s emotional life is often underscored by the authors of the Gospels. Every time the emotions of Christ are related, the exegete must ask, why did the Holy Spirit communicate this particular affection of Jesus? What is its significance? Such questions often lead to a fuller and more realistic interpretation of the text. In a breath-taking paragraph, Warfield lists expression after expression of Christ’s emotional life. Jesus hungered, thirsted, was weary, knew physical pain and pleasure. He bodily expressed the emotions that stirred his soul when he wept, wailed, sighed, groaned, angrily glared, when he spoke chidingly and with asperity. He broke out in a rage-filled ebullition when he saw Mary mourning Lazarus. He reveled in joy over the God-given understanding of his disciples. In anguish, He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[4] Warfield concludes, “Nothing is lacking to make the impression strong that we have before us in Jesus a human being like ourselves,” (138-39).[5]

In addition to these insights, the essay is packed with linguistic and exegetical insight. In the middle of his piece, Warfield’s gives and extended treatment of Jesus Christ prior to Lazarus’ resurrection. The reading is a must for any who seek to understand what John is conveying in the passage. As a snippet preview, feast on this exposition:

[John] even traces for us the movements of his inward struggle: ‘Jesus, therefore, when he saw her wailing, and the Jews that had come with her wailing, was enraged in spirit and troubled himself’ . . . and wept. His inwardly restrained fury produced a profound agitation of his whole being, one of the manifestations of which was tears….The spectacle of the distress of Mary and her companions enraged Jesus because it brought poignantly home to his consciousness the evil of death, its unnaturalness, its ‘violent tyranny’ as Calvin…phrases it. In Mary’s grief, he ‘contemplates’ — still to adopt Calvin’s words…’the general misery of the whole human race’ and burns with rage against the oppressor of men. Inextinguishable fury seizes upon him; his whole being is discomposed and perturbed; and his heart, if not his lips, cries out, ‘For the innumerable dead Is my soul disquieted.’ It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill his eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words again, ‘as a champion who prepares for conflict.’

See how considering Christ’s emotional life can lead to a more accurate and gripping sermon? Never view Christ’s perfection as if it somehow came at the expense of his emotion. Never neuter the meaning and potency of the Evangelists’ words in order to make them seem more appropriate for Jesus Christ. When the Gospel accounts record that Jesus was indignant, irate, enraged, or furious, resist the urge to tone down the word’s meaning and potency. Doing so is taking away from Scripture. Instead, review Warfield’s masterful essay, and prayerfully dive into the glory of the incarnation. Discover the awe and beauty of sanctified human emotion. Crave them, labor towards them, and encourage the members of your flock to resist cool apathy and emotion-tyranny. Encourage them to be students and imitators of the emotional life of our Lord.

 

[1] Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, “The Emotional Life of Our Lord” in The Person and Work of Christ, (Phillipsburg, NJ: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1950) 93-145, a reprint of the essay which was first published in 1912. The essay is available on line at: http://www.the-highway.com/emotion-Christ_Warfield.html.

[2] One wonders why the definition for “humane” touches upon what is altogether missing from the definitions for “human” and “man.” According to the OED, to be “humane” is to be “Characterized by such behaviour or disposition towards others as befits a man…Gentle or kindly in demeanour or action; civil, courteous, friendly, obliging…Marked by sympathy with and consideration for the needs and distresses of others; feeling or showing compassion and tenderness towards human beings and the lower animals; kind, benevolent.”[2]

[3]According to the WNWD to “dehumanize” is “to deprive of human qualities, as pity, kindness, individuality, or creativity; make inhuman or machinelike.” Emphasis added.

[4] Cf. Mt 4:2, Jn 19:20, 4:6 11:35, Lk 19:41, Mk 7:34, 8:12, 3:5, 10:14 3:12, Jn 11:33, 35, 38; Lk 10:21, Mt. 27:46.

[5] A century ago, Warfield offered the best critique of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code which cavalierly claims, “the early Church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore, any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible.” Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday, 2003), 244.

Time?

Yesterday, a collision between C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot resulted in this little poem:

Death day is a birthday
And today is part eternity
Tomorrow you may not see
And yesterday isn’t what will be
One day, some day, that’ll be the day
When you’re forever in forever’s play

Here’s the collision of Eliot & Lewis:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time. 
Through the unknown, unremembered gate 
When the last of earth left to discover 
Is that which was the beginning

– T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

“For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

 

Titus 1:1-2 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began  and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior…


					

As Christians, What Movies and TV Shows should we watch?

The following is the monologue from a radio show I hosted on April 1, 2017. 

Thank you for joining us today. I’m Pastor Jon Shishko. Today, we address an issue that confronts all of us all the time. Did you watch something last night? What did you watch? What did your kids watch? As Christians, what sort of TV, movies, and Broadway plays should we be watching? “Rated R”….. “TV-MA”….. HBO  ….Do these stand for “OFF LIMITS TO CHRISTIANS?” What about the Christian-themed movie The Shack? It is Christian-themed, it deals with God and forgiveness – and it’s in theaters right now. You would think that means churches and youth groups should be flocking to theaters in droves to watch it. But, do a quick Google search, and you’ll find that many Christians see it as full of lies and heresy. What about the number one box office hit, Disney’s newest Beauty and the Beast, in which Gaston’s companion Lefou, a man, is openly attracted to other men? If you take a moment to scan through your Facebook feed or read through various Christian Blogs, you’ll find conflict, disagreement, and not a little hysteria around the question – To Watch – Or Not To Watch? What are we Christians to do?

Once again, we find that God, through His Word, delivers us from the confusion that surrounds us. And yet, He doesn’t do so simplistically. From God’s Word, it seems us Christians are often asking the wrong question. To Watch – or Not to Watch? That’s not the question. Or at least, not always. Certainly there are some things no Christian should ever watch. But, Jesus Christ Himself makes clear that part of Christianity is being thoroughly in the world without in anyway being of the world. In John 17, Jesus Christ’s longest recorded prayer, Jesus prays for His people saying, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

Why is Jesus praying for us in this way? Because He knows we will always be surrounded by things that are “of the world”. He knows that His people will constantly experience a tension – a difficulty – asking – what should we watch? What should we listen to? Is this appropriate for me as a Christian? Is this ok for us to go to? Is this alright for my children?

And yet, we find Jesus asks even more of us! In Luke 16 He says, “The sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” You see, Jesus wants us “in the know” about what’s going on in the world that we’re in but not of. What beliefs are circulating? What does “the world” think? What do our neighbors and co-workers think is good or bad, right or wrong, acceptable or intolerable?

Another place Scripture informs us on this topic is the example set by St. Paul in the book of Acts. In Acts 17, Paul is in Athens, surrounded by nothing by idols, idolaters, and idolatry. Paul found this perplexing, but he didn’t retreat and hide from all that was wrong with Athens. Instead, he went straight to the heart of the city – the marketplace – what we would call a mall – and there he worked to understand Athens more fully. Then, he preached to that pagan world without quoting a single scripture verse – but instead by using pagan poetry and references to idolatrous things he had observed in pagan Athens. Paul learned their culture without becoming a part of their culture, and Jesus Christ would have us do the same in our day and age.

So, instead of only asking the overly simplistic question – TO Watch or not to Watch? Let’s work to listen to Jesus and to live like the Apostle Paul – realizing we are Christians. Realizing we, like Jesus, are of God. Realizing we are in a world that we often, and often vehemently, disagree with.  Realizing that Disney has never been in the business of producing Christian movies, and most of all realizing that Jesus Christ doesn’t treat us like dumb thoughtless fools – but instead like image bearers of God, redeemed to hold every thought captive to Jesus Christ – which means we realize that as Christians were are not always asking TO watch or Not to Watch but also, and even more frequently….How? How Should we watch this? How should we watch this show or that movie? What does it look like to watch a movie to the glory of God? How, as Christians, should we watch The Shack? How, as Christians, should we watch Beauty and the Beast? How should we then watch?

Listen to the whole show! Follow me on twitter at @jon_shishko. Message me there if you want the recording of this show.