Pastor's Corner

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Church Is What God Is Doing

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In our generation we have seen a shift take place in the thinking of Americans in many areas of life. In one area in particular I am thinking about today, want, we have gone from wanting the “new thing” to wanting the “next thing.” Someone is always coming up with some new product, some new thing to market to you and make you think you simply can’t live without it. But, the craving is for more than just new, it is for what is next

The personal computer was the next big thing, then mobile phones were the next big thing, and the tablet computer followed in behind that. Next, not just new. We go crazy over this stuff, folks stand in lines for hours to get the next iPhone model!

This craving lapses into all areas of life though, it is not just technology. And in recent years some folks have been talking about how “Church” needs to be replaced by the “next” also. The idea is that the church is old fashioned and no longer relevant, because this “next” thinking is being applied to it.

Matthew 16:18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

It is important that we do our best to communicate the truth of the gospel to every generation in a way in which they can understand it. The truth must remain the same, but various forms of communicating it can and should change as times change. But when it comes to the Church, it is always the BIG THING God is doing. There is no “next” when it comes to this. The Church is what every Christ-follower is brought into when they come to Christ for salvation. The Church provides some of the most basic needs for the human heart and soul because it is in the Church we enter into community. It is in Church we become a part of something far bigger, we are a part of the household of God. The Church is timeless because the inherent needs of the human soul are built into what God intended for the Church to be.

The folks looking for “next” when it comes to the Church, are looking for it because they have simply not experienced what God intended for Church to be. That sense of belonging, the connection which is only found among God’s people, and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the midst of God’s people are all a part of what God is doing. Maybe you have not found what God intended, in fact, perhaps you have found something less or something destructive instead. I am sorry, not all of God’s children live as they should. I would encourage you to not give up, be what God intended for the Church, and be a part of what God is doing – and what God is doing, He is doing with His Church.

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The Tyranny of the Urgent

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As the design administrator for the company I worked for, there were always time demands. Schedules and deadlines are normal business practice for any company. But despite the scheduled deadlines and appointments, it seemed like I was often being forced into emergency mode by salesmen and management. It finally became such an issue that I posted a little sign at my cubicle which read, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” While the little sign made a statement, it never stopped anyone from working by the method of putting out fires. Everyone seemed to move from fire to fire, there was always another emergency.

Some folks live their lives in the same manner. They always seem to be rushing from thing to thing, always seem to be stressed about one thing or another. And they never seem to get caught up, they always end the day exhausted.

Proverbs 27:12A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

In our lives there are times when deadlines get out of control, and although it was not our fault, we end up having to deal with an emergency situation. This happens on the job for example, because we are not solely responsible for a project we end up having to deal with what was not done by someone else. This can be frustrating because there is little we can do about it since it is how the job has gone.

But in our personal lives, this does not have to be the way it is. We can do some things which can enable us to live our lives with a little more peace of mind and a lot less stress.

  1. Have a set of priorities about your life, know where you want to go, and stay on course. Don’t let other things throw you off course. There are many good things which can be a part of in our lives, we have to choose what really is what God wants us doing.
  2. Don’t over schedule, maintain a calendar and set appointments for what needs to happen during your day. This should include family time and time alone with your spouse if necessary so you make sure these things happen, and are not crowded out by the urgent. Also, build in some down time, or some flex time. We know things happen which are out of our control, leave some open space in your calendar so you can have space to take on the problem situation and not throw your whole schedule off.
  3. Learn to say “No” more often. There are people who seem to always turn to us because they trust us or know they can count on us. We need to be able to say “no” when there are encroachments into our world which are not appropriate. Maintain some boundaries so your priorities stay as they should be. Know your limits and don’t cross them.
  4. Learn to relax. Sometimes the sense of stress we are feeling is not so much because of circumstances, as it is because we have allowed our life to be stressed for too long. When we do this, our body’s ability to cope can become physically drained. Schedule periods of rest, don’t just hope for some sleep at the end of the day.
  5. Be God driven, not people or schedule driven. Keep God as the number one priority of your life, and doing His will above all else.

These are just a starting point, there are other ways to regain control. Don’t let the urgent push your life, live your life with purpose and keep the urgent in its place. 

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The Voices in Your Head

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All of us grow up with multiple voices in our heads. No, we are not psychotic, we just have a lot of different influences which involve themselves our thinking. You hear the voice of your mother or father telling you things like, put down the toilet seat when you are done. The words of a parent can play a very prominent role in our thinking, which is why parents must be careful about what they say and how they say it to their child.

But it is not just our moms in our heads, it is the constant barrage of media noise telling us what to buy, what to think, and how to live as well. These influencers are so constant, we mistakenly imagine they are our own thoughts, when instead what has happened is we have given way to the propaganda. Then there is another influence, a religious one, the apostle Peter could not separate from his own thoughts at the time.

Mark 8:31 “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

Jesus does not say, “Get behind me Peter…” Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan.” Jesus knew the source of those words coming out of Peter’s mouth, and it wasn’t Peter. There are demonic forces daily attempting to influence our thoughts. Unfortunately, as this example shows, it came as what seemed like good advice, “Avoid pain and suffering.” But Jesus demonstrates the dividing line for us, how to distinguish what is not the type of thinking we should be allowing into our lives. It is in His last words in the statement, “You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

So we have our own thoughts, we have the thoughts from our parents, our culture, our society we live in, the media, and even demonic influences to contend with. Fortunately, we also have the Holy Spirit to speak into our hearts and minds as well.

John 16:12 "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

God would work with us to filter out the noise, to learn how to hear Him more clearly than all of the other noise. Every time you watch TV or listen to radio broadcasts, you are willingly subjecting yourself to propaganda which ultimately makes it more difficult to hear God clearly. The entertainment you are choosing is almost without exception, promoting something contrary to God and His word. Nothing is neutral.

If you really want to draw closer to God and be able to hear Him above the noise, try this experiment. Turn off all media, except perhaps Christian worship music, for three months. During that three months, spend time every day in prayer and reading your Bible without distractions. Quietly sit before God for a minimum of 15 minutes every day as well. At the end of the three months, go back and look at what you have been listening to or watching before the experiment. You will be shocked that none of it has bothered you before. And hopefully, you will not want to go back.

There are a lot of voices in your head, a lot of influences that have settled in there and demand to be heard. But wouldn’t you prefer to hear God above all of the noise?

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Anger as an Ally

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In the “Star Wars” film series, there is a scene when Darth Vader is trying to turn Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side. As they engage in their light saber battle, Vader keeps encouraging Luke to give in to his anger, to let it consume him. And when you are consumed by anger, it is a destructive force because it has become your master… not God. But anger, like all emotions in general, is not something which must necessarily be a destructive element in our lives.

Ephesians 4:26BE ANGRY, AND {yet} DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”

Paul does not say do not be angry at all, his word is to be angry, but do not sin. This is very different.

Anger can be a positive force in our lives. But like all emotions, it must be controlled and not be allowed to lead and direct our lives. Emotions are what they are, feelings we have as a reaction to something or someone we have encountered. Feelings are complicated and unpredictable though, and they cannot be relied upon to inform us about whether something is necessarily true. Nevertheless, feelings are natural reactions. All of us have and experience emotions on a regular basis, anger is not necessarily a bad thing.

If controlled, anger can be a useful ally in our lives. How?

When we experience anger in a healthy way, it can be a motivating force in our lives to accomplish something. You recognize something which needs to be different, and anger motivates you to not sit still until a change is made.

When we experience anger in a healthy way, it can be beneficial to our personal relationships. Couples who hide their anger over issues tend to not have heathy long-lasting relationships. Interestingly enough, the causes of divorce in many couples have been found to be the very things they have buried and not worked out in their relationship. We should not bury our anger, we should express it in healthy ways. We should use it to build our relationships, and when we feel those emotions, we should get a grip on them, and take the time to discover why we are angry so we can work those issues out.

Anger in the same way can provide us insight into ourselves. Whether we are at work, at home, or on the road and we become angry we have a chance to do some self-discovery. What am I angry about? Why am I so angry? Is my level of anger appropriate to the situation, or am I out of control? What can be changed about me so I no longer allow this to affect me so much? When you become angry, take the time to look a little deeper into your own soul and see why.

Expressing anger in a healthy way will reduce violence. Yes, angry people commit violence, but only because they have not understood their anger and have not expressed it in a healthy way. Does that make sense? People who have poor or little in the way of coping skills tend to move straight to violence.

Anger as an Ally:

  1. Act like a mature adult, and get a grip on your emotions.
  2. Understand why you have anger in various situations, and deal with the causes.
  3. Don’t use your anger to beat others down, use your anger as an ally to take action and make positive changes. 

 

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There are Giants in the Land

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When you are facing difficult circumstances, I cannot lie and say that what we are looking at doesn’t mean anything. The truth is they do mean something, and if they are extremely difficult circumstances we would be foolish to ignore them. But the reality of things is we would prefer to have God make everything easy, and never allow pain or turmoil into our world at all… ever.

In the Bible book titled Numbers, in chapter 13 there is a story which reveals a great deal about human nature when facing larger than life circumstances. God has made a great deliverance for the people in bringing them out of Egypt, and God has led them thus far, taking care of their needs along the way. But now, on the edge of the Promised Land, spies are sent out to determine the way the people should go. They were only to go and explore which way to go, not whether they should go. God had clearly told them to go into the Promised Land already. In the land they found everything was fruitful the way God said it would be, but they also discovered the people of the land – and they were giants. (Numbers 13:27-29)

The spies returned and reported what they saw and recommended against going into the land which God had promised them. This was the consensus of all of the spies, except two, Caleb and Joshua who advised going into the land.

Numbers 13:30 “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it."

As a result of the two reports, there was conflict between the spies, and the people were not divided at all – they were not going in the land. This is of course, normal for how we tend to react when pushed too far. Faith is what was needed at that moment, but faith tends to not be a natural human trait, we prefer to run from extreme challenges. Fear is an understandable response to discomforts, change, and the desire to not move from where we are. There is something about how bad reports tend to spread fear faster than a good word can spread faith. It would almost be comedic if it were not so sad, but the people then begin discussing going back to Egypt and appointing a new leader to take them there. (Numbers 14:1-4)

It is easy to exaggerate the challenges, easy to be overwhelmed by the appearances of things, and imagine there are giants in the land we cannot overcome. It is easy to get our eyes focused on all that is wrong to the point that we are unable or unwilling to see all that is right. This is what the majority of the spies were doing, and were also causing the rest of the people to do. It is understandable to look at your own capacities and resources and make some judgments based upon what you have and who you are.

But then there is Caleb and Joshua. People of faith are willing to move ahead, even in full knowledge of the overwhelming appearances of circumstance and situation. People of faith can see with eyes of faith. Caleb and Joshua had their eyes on God and this made the giants not look so big. They were believing God’s word to them above the threat that lie ahead. Caleb and Joshua survived the next forty years of wandering, and were able to lead a new generation into the land. I will not give you any corny sayings as you would read on some Hallmark card; moving forward means work, and overcoming obstacles will not be easy. But what God will do in us and through us – that is going to be amazing!

Romans 8:18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

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In the Strength of His Might

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I helped a brother move the other day. There were a few of us so the job went fairly quickly, which is nice. But two of the guys there, both younger men, were the go-to-guys on the bigger pieces. They made short work of a couple of pieces of furniture that I could have wrestled with all day and still not made it up the stairs with them successfully. Not only am I older than them, I am also a desk-jockey these days, my work requires a lot of sitting in front of a computer instead of wrestling large pieces of furniture. So I gladly let the younger, stronger, and more ready young men do the heavy lifting.

Kind of a bummer, but when faced with the reality of trying to be the strong man and hurting myself, I accept my situation and lean on the younger men for such things. Every once in a while my mind fools me and I believe I can do what I did thirty years ago… and I get hurt. Then, as I sit there enduring the pain I think, “That was dumb…”

Ephesians 6:10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”

Many of us make this mistake on the spiritual level as well. We think ourselves much stronger than we are, we think we are more capable than we are. But this mistake always gets us hurt. We think we can go without prayer, go without spending time studying the Bible, and we imagine we can do the Christian life without the rest of the Body of Christ… and we get hurt. We get hit with temptation in our weakened state and we keep getting our hind-end handed to us. We imagined ourselves as stronger than we really are, and we find ourselves in the midst of some disaster because of it. We forget it is because we were broken, weak, and spiritually dead Jesus came for us. We forget that it is only because of Him we can live this life.

This is not a young or old issue, it is a strength issue. And Paul, who is the strongest of all of the apostles knew better than to rely on his own strength. This man who had survived beatings, rods against his back, and even a flogging that could have killed him did not lean on his own strength. And he tells us not to lean on our own strength as well. You must come to accept this, you are just not all that…

It is God’s strength we must lean on, trust in, and let uphold our lives. We must learn to lean into the Lord and His strength through prayer, time in the Bible every day, and spending time with other believers who can stand with us and add strength to our spiritual lives. And probably, if you keep going to those who are just like you, you are not going to grow. Seeking a comfort level in the midst of God’s people rarely brings about growth. “Iron sharpens iron” the book of Proverbs tells us (Proverbs 27:17), so it is among those who push our limits and move us to greater growth we should consider being among. But ultimately, this is all about God’s might at work in our lives. Live in God’s strength!

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Hello, I am a Christian

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What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it just a label you put on? Is it simply attaching an identity to yourself? Is it something you get from saying a short prayer, or joining a church? Does it mean you now stop smoking, stop drinking, start listening to certain types of music, or avoiding certain types of movies? What is it?

Matthew 16:24Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

To the crowds who were following Jesus, there was a line drawn. When you are making the decision to follow Jesus, you are at the same moment deciding to deny yourself, die to yourself, and follow Him. You deny your will, your goals, your ambitions, your life choices – and you do this all to take on His desires for you, His will for you, and His goals for you. You decide to die to all that you are and pursue Jesus with all that you are instead.

Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self---in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.” ― C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

This is a whole life decision, and all that Jesus is becomes all that you are. Listen to the apostle Paul.

Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the {life} which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Many people know of, or remember, the genocide that took place in Rwanda. Thousands of people were slaughtered as the Hutus and the Tutsis fought each other. During the approximate 100-day period from April 7, 1994, to mid-July, an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed, constituting as much as 20% of the country's total population and 70% of the Tutsi then living in Rwanda. But here is a little known fact. Before the genocide broke out, more than 80% of all Rwandans would have identified themselves as Christians. How can this be?

The Rwandan church’s failure to apply a biblical worldview, a kingdom perspective, to all of life. For most Rwandans, Christianity was “little more than a superficial, privatized veneer on a secular lifestyle characterized by animistic values and longstanding tribal hatred and warfare…” – Corbett & Fikkert, When Helping Hurts, pg 47

The missionaries had brought Christ and Christianity, but there was no depth of reality to the faith among the Rwandans. Ultimately the façade of what was thought to be Christianity fell off in the face of the reality of the hatred which stirred inside of the Hutus. These Rwandans had not embraced Christ, they had simply added Him to the mix of their culture and secular lifestyle and the result was deadly.

These realities beg the question then, what do you have? Have you really embraced Christ, or have you tried to simply add Him to your own personal culture and secular lifestyle? Have you done what Jesus asked, “deny yourself, die to yourself, and follow Him…” This is what it means to be a Christian. I know this is not what is popularly preached in churches, but it is what Jesus said. 

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A Transforming Global Shift

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There is a world transformation taking place, and for more than two decades this global shift has been going relatively unnoticed by North American churches. Those who work in missions know about it, but church leaders have not been paying much attention. What is the change that is taking place? There is a major shift in who is leading in world evangelism.

“I confessed, “Lord, you are doing something in the world I never knew.” We went to the conference expecting to hear how the church in North America was leading the global church into the new millennium. In contrast, we left the conference praying, “Lord, please don’t leave the church in North America behind as you move powerfully into the world.” – Paul Borthwick, Western Christians in Global Mission

A few years ago when the Lausanne World Conference on World Evangelism was gathered, it was not North American church leaders who were the most represented for the first time since the Lausanne Conference began. The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (Cape Town, 16-25 October 2010) brought together 4,200 evangelical leaders from 198 countries, and extended to hundreds of thousands more, participating in meetings around the world, and online. Church leaders from China, Africa, and South America were more densely represented at the gathering than their North American counterparts. Ironically, some of these nations are sending missionaries to the United States because they see a desperate need here. One of the blessings of this shift is that other nation evangelism provides a means of removing the “Western Religion” image that Christianity has had for centuries. Other nation leadership will also provide a more global view of how church can be done.

With this shift taking place, global church leaders have some primary concerns regarding the West, in North America especially. One of their greatest concerns is whether the churches in the United States will have respect for the changing dynamics of global missions, another is whether North American church leaders will listen rather than allow their arrogance to cause them to be deaf toward global Church leaders. These global leaders have many concerns and issues for prayer, but these two issues were some of the most discussed. This is an exciting shift, but it leaves me praying with Dr. Borthwick about the role of North American Christians.

My concern and prayer request for North American Christians? American Christians behave like they have lost sight of the mission of God. A study conducted by LifeWay Research found 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month, believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61 percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months. Folks in American churches are far more likely to discuss, debate, and argue over politics than they are about Jesus Christ.

I see folks post something on Facebook occasionally, but it is trivial and posting something on Facebook is just not the same as talking with friends, family, and co-workers face to face. To effectively share your faith you must pray for people, develop relationships, build trust, and invite people to encounter the Living God through Christ who came to redeem them from sin.

So I pray for the Church here in the United States. I pray we would have a heart for missions and being missional in our daily lives. I pray we would gain God’s heart for the lost… that you and I would be on fire once again to see those who do not know Him, come to Christ.

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The Amish and Defining Terms

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Reading the news over the last couple of days, I noticed there is a real need to be cautious about terminology and definitions. The media while constantly trying to downplay the attachment of violence and Islam for some time now, is continuing to promote the terms extremism and religion as connected terms in general, especially in regard to Christians. There is a genuine hypocrisy to their words and I would encourage you to be careful about the reasoning behind it all. In our world of tolerance and political correctness, I have been seeing Christians going along with the propaganda so I want to caution you.

There is a deliberate push to label Christians as extremists if they are Evangelicals, or labeling anyone who takes the Bible seriously as a Fundamentalist. (As a terrorist thing and not in a good way.) Through this approach, they can promote their views and make connections which place Christians on the same level as the radicals of ISIS. Newsweek magazine recently has even run a whole issue mocking the Bible and Christians. If this article had been run as a story about Islam and the Quran instead of the Bible and Christians, everyone would have been up in arms over the hack job.

Religion although a primary cause of wars through the years, is not the only cause of war through the years. Money and greed would best top the list for causes of war, and corrupt world leaders would come well ahead of religion as well. Don’t buy the popular “religion is the only reason for war” lie.

And religious fanaticism does not necessarily lead to barbarism either. It can and does, as we have seen with the Muslim extremists of ISIS and the Taliban. But one does not have to lead to the other, it is not an automatic consequence. As a primary example, the Amish have been “conservative religious extremists” for centuries. Yet, you do not hear about Amish radicals doing beheadings and slaughtering innocent people. In fact, a few years ago when a murderer entered an Amish community and killed several young girls, the people of that community immediately responded with forgiveness and an outpouring of compassion for the murderer and his family. This Jesus style response shocked everyone.

Take the term fanatic, meaning a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal. The Jesus fanatic will follow Jesus with their whole heart and life. The Jesus fanatic will live like Jesus did and demonstrate compassion and care for everyone, including their enemies. The Jesus fanatic will not hate their enemies. The Jesus fanatic will take a stand against what is wrong and hurtful, even when their position is not a popular one. Not in a hateful way, but for the sake of the very ones who disagree with them or hate them.

Be careful about what you are agreeing with, there is another agenda beneath the surface.

Colossians 2:8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

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May God be Praised

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There is a majesty in God that elicits worship from those who see Him for who He is. In the book of Revelation after chapter four begins, we are constantly seeing an explosion of spontaneous worship take place. All of the creation together around the throne of God; the angels, the twenty-four elders, and the saints all cannot refrain from worshipping God. Unhindered by all that hinders us here, they, as witnesses of God’s glory, are compelled to express worship from the depths of who they are.

In all eternity the angels never walk away from the presence of God saying to each other, “You know, I just didn’t get anything out of worship today…” or, “They just didn’t do any songs that I liked today…” And there has never been any complaints about how loud the music is, or how it was not loud enough. None of the angels have ever complained about the style of the worship or the instruments involved. But humans do complain about worship. A lot... Why? Philip Yancey notes:

I see our blasé attitude toward the faithfulness of God in the waitstaff At Yellowstone. Even when they are finished their chores, they don't look up and marvel at the geyser going off. After all, they see it so often.” ― Philip Yancey

Sometimes it is because worship for those who are complaining is far more self-focused, than God focused. Some folks choose churches based upon whether they enjoy the worship music rather than whether they will grow spiritually. We carry these blasé attitudes because we are no longer, or never have caught a glimpse of the grand majesty of the God we worship. We no longer grasp or never have grasped that worship is a lifestyle and not just a short period of time during a Sunday Morning church service. Our whole lives are to be an act of worship. Or we have lost the wonder of worship being given to our great God and Savior!

There is a story about Italian poet Dante Alighieri being so deeply immersed in meditation during a church service, he failed to kneel at the appropriate moment. His enemies hurried to the bishop and demanded that Dante be punished for his sacrilege. Dante defended himself by saying, "If those who accuse me had had their eyes and minds on God, as I had, they too would have failed to notice events around them, and they most certainly would not have noticed what I was doing."

Psalm 100:1-5Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.  For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.”

Yes, we have many distractions around us during a time of worship. And those distractions can bother us if we let them. It is not like the angels for us, but a heart captivated by the glory of God is capable of leaving off those distractions. God is worthy of worship, worthy of our whole being engaged in worship. Give glory to the God who has saved us! He is worthy!

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Let It Go

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Hebrews 12:1-2Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

There is a story I heard some years ago about a man who went out hiking. He was the more adventurous type and he tended to hike and climb in places others would generally avoid. On one of those hikes, he slipped and began sliding down a steep ridge to the edge. Just as he was about to go over the ledge, he grabbed a hold of a small bush he was able to grab solidly. But this only kept him from falling immediately, he was not in a position to pull himself up. Hanging there, he began to pray. “God, help me… I am going to fall.” Then, hanging there, he heard God say, “Let go of the bush and I will catch you.” At first he was shocked to hear God, but then fear gripped him and he clung tighter to the bush. So God repeated His statement, “Let go of the bush and I will catch you.” With his hand now getting weaker in its grip, he looked around and shouted, “Is there anybody else up there?”

We are so afraid of letting go of things that are not good for us spiritually, physically, emotionally, or mentally. Many of those things we hang on to have been a part of our own personal means of controlling our lives. Bad relationships in an attempt to control our loneliness, alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, tight grips on our financial resources to the point of hoarding so we are always “prepared”, or whatever else you may be doing.

There is a long laundry list of sins which we just can’t seem to let go of. One man who was working through his pornography addiction said, “It is just so hard to let go of, it’s like letting go of my best friend.” While we all have different sins which seem to constantly plague us, we all have something that is a struggle. Anger, bitterness, hatred, rage, an inability to forgive, constantly advancing ourselves to gain approval – there is something in all of us.

But there is a great cloud of witnesses the writer of Hebrews says, who have passed this way of faith. Reading the list in Hebrews chapter 11 you realize that those who stand in faith with us, were all far from perfect people too. And yet, they made the list. So what do you do?

I don’t mean for this to sound simplistic, I realize that a sin that plagues you is not easy to let go of. Every situation demands further conversation, but here is the basic starting process. Let the thing go, whatever it is. Start doing the thing God has called you to be doing. Rather than making every effort being the stopping part, you start doing what you should be doing instead. You set a better priority and desire in your heart, and pursue that instead. You focus on Jesus rather than wasting your time constantly saying no to whatever you are letting go of. God is saying let go of the bush and He will catch you. What He has for you is far better. As long as you hang on to that troublesome sin, your life will continue to limp along instead of becoming strong and energetic.

And as a final word of encouragement, the farther down to road you go, the easier it gets. 

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The Life Jesus Died For

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I was listening to someone relate the story of having visited a church with some friends. And afterward during lunch, as folks are apt to do, they discussed the sermon. When asked about their thoughts, one man said, “I wonder if that was a sermon for which Jesus would have died.” The response cut to the value of the message preached; and not how well it was presented or how entertaining the speaker was. This was convicting to hear for me as a pastor who regularly teaches. I personally committed to God once again to do my best to present a message worth hearing every time I am privileged to teach. But I have recently been thinking of how this response can be applied in other ways.

Christian Liberty, in part, has some connections to the freedom we have in Christ to live and deal with our own consciences before God. (Unless there is a clearly defined commandment.) There are certainly many issues of conscience about which each of us must make some decisions. Drinking, style of clothes we choose to wear, food, and music selection are among the issues. Yet the lines are becoming blurred between the Church and those who don’t know Christ. This is not meant to be a rant, nor a cheap blanket criticism. I am just thinking about the response I spoke of in the opening of this blog and its connection to everything else in my life.

The works we do cannot save us, but if are in Christ then we would likely be living a life which is in sync with the Lord who saved us. This only seems reasonable. So perhaps you would consider this with me?

Is the life you are living one for which Jesus would have died? When you take a good look at your life, do you think Jesus would have gone to the cross for you to live in the manner you are living today? Paul addressed this in his letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 5:13For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Now, this church needed to stand for their liberty in Christ. There were some false teachers trying to hook them into legalistic living and compliance with the laws of Moses rather than being anchored in Christ. Yet, Paul still saw the need to remind them to be careful about what they called liberty. Why? Because what we call liberty is often an excuse for our flesh. And when we make this mistake, the unfortunate end result is a Christian life that is compromised and weak, a life unable to stand against the temptations and allurements of the world around us. As we give way to the liberty which is only an excuse for the flesh, we open the door to worse behavior. That is not what Jesus died for. What Paul says here in Romans is a large part of what Jesus died for.

Romans 6:17-19 “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.”

We have not been saved to remain as slaves to sin. Have you stopped long enough to be honest with yourself about your life and the choices you are making about how you are living? How about today?

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Where Miracles Happen

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There is a place where desire, God-given talent, a commitment to do something, and the will of God come together. It is at that intersection where something exciting, something wonderful happens! Mountains are moved, lives are forever changed… including our own. The trouble is we do not discover that place often enough in our lives. Something is missing from the mix, some part has not come together with everything else to find ourselves in that intersection.

Distractions get in the way, a loss of priorities, laziness, something just falls from the mix. It is not that I am saying that our lives are all in our hands, they are not, despite to claims of the motivational speakers. We participate in making things happen far more than we imagine, but all too often we are chasing things which are not a part of God’s plan for us in the world. He has given us gifts, talents, and natural abilities which He wants to put to work in us. But we neglect them, we abuse them, or we are blinded by our own goals to the point we cannot see what God is wanting to do. Twice Paul had to remind Timothy about this problem.

1 Timothy 4:14Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.”

2 Timothy 1:6For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

We get too busy chasing the stuff of this life, too busy occupying ourselves with being entertained. In the time it took for you to watch that whole TV series, you could have taken a college course. In the time it took for you to reach that top level and finish that game, you could have done something which would have changed someone else’s life.

Whatever it is God has called us to, He will have also gifted us to be able to do. What has God gifted you with? What talents, abilities, or special insights has God given you which would enable you to make a difference today, tomorrow, or from now on? It is waiting for you, at that intersection where everything comes together and the wonders of God are discovered. No, there is nothing easy about it. Despite the claims of some, seeing incredible happen takes deliberate effort on our part. When the disciples were unable to cast the demon out of the child, Jesus said, “This type only comes out through prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21) Not using prayer and fasting as the process, but as the preparation for the moment. Seeing the incredible comes as we are laboring to be prepared for the moment. Every artists knows this, every athlete knows this as well – preparation enables us to do the incredible when everything comes together.

Don’t neglect what God has given you, don’t forget to keep the flame lit. Every day is another opportunity to see the hand of God at work in your life, and through your life so become a blessing for others around you. 

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New Year's Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions for You and Your Church

Well, normally I write all of the blog posts here. But today, one of my favorite authors has penned an exceptional piece on New Year’s Resolutions for you to consider. Check it out.

It’s that time of year again.

We’re going to lose weight, exercise more, get out of debt, stick to a budget, stop smoking, save for the future, and spend more time with family.

We make resolutions because we want to bring change to bear on our circumstances. We want to improve ourselves and our quality of life. And the top resolutions, for most people, tend to revolve around the same three poles: money, health and family.

But what would a set of New Year’s resolutions look like for you and your church, your role as a leader, or simply as someone who wants to live a life of strategic Kingdom investment?

And specifically, what if they came from the Bible?

Though many more could be added, here are fifteen to consider:

1.     Pray more.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord… ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’” says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

2.     Invest in your spiritual gift(s).

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (I Timothy 4:14-15, NIV)

3.     Get more intentional about evangelism.

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (I Corinthians 9:22, NIV)

4.     Care for yourself spiritually.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12, NIV)

5.     Make the tough decisions you know are best.

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:22-24, NIV)

6.     Confront debilitating patterns of sin.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)

7.     Do the hard work needed to build community.

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (Matthew 18:15, NIV)

8.     Keep in touch with contemporary culture.

From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders…All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. (I Chronicles 12:32, NLT)

9.     Quit comparing yourself to other Christians, other leaders, and other churches.

Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?”

Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You — follow me.” That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you?” (John 21:20-23, Msg)

10.   Read more.

Timothy, please come as soon as you can…When you come, be sure to…bring my books,… (II Timothy 4:9, 13, NLT)

11.   Prioritize your family.

A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife,…attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? (I Timothy 3:2-5, Msg)

12.   Refuse to use ministry to satisfy your personal ambition.

Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. (Jeremiah 45:5, NIV)

13.   Love people, not just crowds.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13:1-3, Msg)

14.   Be more open to change.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

15.   Stay focused on the vision.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NIV)

James Emery White

Mechlenburg Community Church

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God, Justice, and Mercy

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In total, about 11 million people were killed under the reign of Adolf Hitler (Fascism). The highest death tolls that have been documented in communist nations occurred in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, in the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong, and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and Polpot. The estimates of the number of non-combatants killed by these three regimes alone range from a low of 21 million to a high of 70 million. The numbers rise to 85 to 100 million if you include war combatants. (Communism)

When we see what people are capable of in this world, we can feel overwhelmed by the horrific acts humanity can commit. The numbers do not fully represent the absolute horror of what the number of dead means. We see ISIS Muslim members beheading men, women, and children and we are shocked by their capacity to commit such acts. When we see film footage of what is known as the “knock-out game” or young female gangbangers beating up on another teen girl while others film it instead of stopping it, our hearts sink.

Quite honestly, as Americans, we live sheltered lives never really knowing the ugly realities of the whole truth of the horror humanity is capable of. We cannot comprehend such things because we have grown up with what we believe to be civilized people all around us for the most part. We cannot begin to know the hearts and minds of people who could do such things when we cannot reasonably comprehend what it is we are seeing people do, let alone their hearts. But God does, He knows the depths of the depravity in a human soul. We would flatter ourselves about our civilized self, God knows better than this. We would imagine ourselves not capable of committing such acts, God knows better.

This is why Jesus cut straight to the heart of the matter.

Matthew 5:21-22 "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty {enough to go} into the fiery hell.”

Everything begins within the heart of the person, God sees this long before we physically act upon what is in our hearts. God sees the hatred, sees the adultery, and sees the greed in our hearts even when others cannot. So when some would imagine themselves more merciful than God because they claim God should not send someone to hell, they know nothing of real justice and nothing of true mercy.

Seeing the depravity of humanity, this drove God to send His Son to pay the price of the demand of justice because we cannot repay or repair the damage we have done to others and ourselves. This is mercy, this is compassion for humanity in all of its brokenness! Judgment will come soon enough, and it will be perfect justice, not sentimentality and unjust preferences for those we like or those we don’t like. But to imagine yourself as more merciful than God? He looked at the worst of humanity and first offered Himself as the answer to the demand of perfect justice, this is love!! This is what He has done for you and for me, and for the rest of humanity.

Ephesians 2:3-5 “...Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.” (NIV)

Here I stand, in faith in Christ, as wicked as any other human being, but saved by grace!

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A New Year and a New You

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Psalm 16:11You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

Every new year, we find a whole host of opportunities and demands which we must face, sometimes whether we like it or not. This is life.

But something which happens every year about this time is the lure of new starts, or about how the new year brings new chances to make changes. And even if we did not feel this way personally, all of the marketing media is telling us this everywhere we turn. The media does this of course because they want to sell you something to help you make those changes like elliptical machines or treadmills. (Which make expensive clothes hangers by the way.) Because they know you are feeling bloated from all of the food you have consumed during the holidays, they want to take advantage of this and sell you something.

Now, you need to realize something. In the past, marketing was looking for trends in the culture and seeking ways to exploit them. They watched to see what people’s needs were and sought innovative ways of meeting that need so they could sell you something. But now, advertisers also create trends so they can sell you something. This is how the marketing world has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry in America and all over the world.

For example: Sprite was an average soda, but it was not selling enough and the corporation who owned it wanted to see it take a larger market share. So they began running new ads which placed the soda in “cool places” and began having “cool looking people” drinking it. But it still was not enough so they began having cultural icons in the ads with their soda and this began to work. Soon they were holding “cool parties” on networks like MTV; filling the room with “paid party goers”, and having some of the best rappers available perform. All of this so they could film it and make a show which of course highlighted their drink, Sprite. After a couple of decades of doing this aggressive marketing, Sprite has become a cultural icon all unto itself.

This is what is done, everyday, all of the time, just to tell you what you really need to have. This is how you are manipulated into spending money on things you really do not “need,” but they have convinced you to buy anyway. You are not buying a car, you are buying an identity. You are not purchasing a cologne, you are buying “sexy.” Try not looking at ads for a short period of time, avoid certain shows where they utilize “product placement” for marketing purposes, and watch how your attention will turn to other things. You will discover the real needs of your life and no longer be pulled along into purchasing things you could do without. Most of our kids’ life growing up we avoided allowing a lot of TV time, especially during the holidays. We tried to not let our kids be told what they needed, what brands to buy, what toy was the “must have” this year – none of that. As an adult, I wonder if you would try the same thing.

And in the quiet of marketing silence, as you look at your real needs, you will discover what your real need has been all along. The desperate need for God that has been silenced by the marketing and constant noise of over-busy lives, will be able to be heard. And what is truly amazing is that God will be there to meet you.

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I Shall not Forget Your Word

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Have you read your Bible today? Have you been a Christian for three years or more? If so, have you read your Bible all of the way through at least once? The Bible has never been so accessible all over the world, especially here in the United States. Yet, while it continues to sell, it remains unread.

"It’s a strange thing: the book has never been so accessible. According to Guinness Book of Records, L. Ron Hubbard’s writings of scientology have been translated into 65 languages; the Koran is supposed to be read in Arabic so it hasn’t been translated as much; the Book of Mormon is in about 100 languages. But 2,656 languages have all or some of the Bible. Some 65 million copies of the Bible are brought or distributed in the U.S. every year — nothing else is a close second. The average house has at least three. People cheer the Bible, buy the Bible, give the Bible, and own the Bible – they just don’t actually read the Bible. According to George Gallup: One Third of those surveyed know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Fewer than half can name the first book of the Bible; 80 percent of born-again Christians believe the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible (it’s Ben Franklin, if you’re curious). So I’m thinking a lot these days about how to help the people that God brings my way to know and love the book" – John Ortberg, People of The Book, Article pages 37-40 from Leadership Winter 2008

I encounter folks who know facts about the Bible, and about God. But this is where it all ends. They never seem to come to a point where the Bible and God become personal, and as a result there is no change in them.

Psalm 119:16I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.”

There is a profound transformation that takes place in the soul and life of the person who gives themselves to daily seeking God’s face, and daily studying His words. Taking up your Bible was never meant to be some personal discipline you are required to do every day, just to say you did it. It should be a personal encounter, a personal experience as you seek for Jesus on the pages so you can know Him better and better each day. And I think this is where the breakdown is for so many Christ-followers, it is not real or personal. Like any relationship, we must grow in our knowledge and familiarity with the other person if we are ever going to grow in our relationship with them. Time to go personal.

Don’t make a New Year’s resolution about the Bible as you enter the new year. Make a commitment to set aside the time to meet with God and to take in His word. Read it, think about it, meditate on it, and make it personal. Make the commitment to know God and His word, the Bible, like you never have before. 

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Reacting to Life

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I frequently read posts with statements about how “if you don’t like me… blah, blah, blah.” And these are meant to say how the person doesn’t care what you think of them, at least this is the impression they leave. To me, they are screaming how what you think matters entirely too much to them. They are reactionary statements, the person is reacting against others or how something has gone.

Often I find people react in unhealthy ways toward others, situations, or life in general. They go into a rage, they scream, they attack, they retreat into some hole so as to not get hurt, and a whole host of other very unhealthy responses. And sometimes, I have encountered folks who have reacted so badly they have done terrible damage to themselves in the process of reacting against someone else. In the heat of the moment, they have done something that has lifelong implications.

Proverbs 14:15-17The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps. 16 A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless. 17 A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated

A reactionary person will always find themselves in turmoil because they allow the situation or the person to get at them rather than controlling their own emotions, temperament, or sense of what is right. We have learned unhealthy attitudes, unhealthy behaviors, and so on along the way in life. Sometimes they have helped us to get what we wanted, other times they have not. And because sometimes we get what we want, our pragmatic selves imagine them to be good and practical techniques to achieving a desired end. For example, the person who screams imagines they are getting something from screaming. And while they might get something, it is always temporary results which are gained, but the screaming is always a damaging element to any relationship.

Galatians 5:19-23Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Whether we are living according to the leading of the Holy Spirit or our unhealthy habits is often easily detectable. What fruit is there in our lives? Paul’s list is not exhaustive, but it is clear. Our unhealthy habits and reactions tend to be knee-jerk reactions which have a hold on us because of constant use. When we rely upon God and look to the Holy Spirit to lead us instead, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

How do you really want to handle life? Will you continue to do damage to yourself? Don’t do something permanently stupid because you are temporarily upset. Lean on God, He will strengthen you to live wisely and in healthy ways. Your heart and soul will be glad, and you will find far less turmoil in your life because of what you have done. 

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Giving the Bible as a Gift

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Thinking of buying someone a Bible for Christmas? Not sure what you should get? This is a common question and there are some good alternatives available for you. Here is the lowdown on various common Bibles for you to choose from.

NIV – Probably the most popular Bible in America is the NIV Bible. It is translated in a common language English without too many words that are difficult to understand. While this translation does not have a “word for word translation” of the original languages, it is still a reliable text to read. There are several Study Bibles available in this translation as well, including their own NIV Study Bible.

KJV – Another commonly sold Bible in America is the King James Version. While much of the KJV language is beautiful in form and many people enjoy hearing it read, it is “old school” English that can be difficult for people to read for themselves. Nevertheless, some people who are more traditional, still prefer it over other more modern translations.

NKJV – Related to the KJV, the New King James Bible is a translation based upon the KJV, but with all of the old school language (thee, thou, etc.) removed. This has enabled many who prefer the King James Bible to have an alternative to the old KJV which is more connected to modern English.

ESV – A relatively new translation available today is the English Standard Version. It is growing in popularity because the translators attempted to remain closer to “word for word” translation, while seeking to provide something simpler to read which is comparable to the NIV. It is a solid translation and the ESV Study Bible is probably one of the best study Bibles available today.

NLT – This translation, The New Living Translation, has been around for a little while and it is a good translation. The NLT is also growing in popularity because of its simple language. Many churches today have begun using this translation as well as the ESV as their pulpit Bible because these Bibles make it easier for everyone to understand what is being read during worship services and Bible studies.

NASB – The New American Standard Bible (1995 update) is probably the most reliable translation available in English today. This Bible translation team labored to create the most closely translated text for “word for word” expression of the original manuscripts possible while making their Bible still a readable text. More and more Bible publishers are beginning to create study Bibles using the NASB because it is the most popular Bible among those who desire the most reliable text.

The Message – Finally, there is a popular paraphrase Bible available known as the Message. It is not a translation, but it is a version of the Bible that is done with the essential meaning of what the original Greek and Hebrew says. The creator of the Message was attempting to provide a Bible that required a very low reading requirement and would read like the daily paper. This is a very popular Bible for those who have a difficult time reading. Folks can get the essential meaning of the Bible, but it is not a reliable Bible translation comparable to the NASB or the popular NIV Bibles.

There are a lot of folks who want to fight over which Bible is best. But in the end, it is about what Bible someone will read. If you have the best Bible translation available in your hands, but the person never reads it, then your mission is not accomplished. Every Bible translation or paraphrase has some merit and some drawbacks. The best Bible for anyone is the one they are going to pick up every day and read.

There are many more Bibles available beyond this list, but space is limited here. There are Bibles for specialized groups of people including some made just for children or in audio form for those who need to hear instead of read. You can look online to see more information. So, consider who you are giving the Bible to and what are they capable of reading? If you want them to have some tools to read the Bible and understand it better, a study Bible would probably be a good choice. If you have more questions, contact me and I will do my best to answer them.

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Single-parenting Realities

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My parents divorced when I was still young so I grew up in a single-parent home. I was a latch-key kid before this was a term in common use. We had neighbors who watched us; they did not babysit – mostly they kept an eye on the house to be sure my brother and I did not burn it down before my mom arrived home from work. She worked hard to keep things together, and my mom did this until I was about fifteen when she finally remarried.

Because this is how life was, my mom is one of my heroes. I had no idea what she went through until Jonnie and I were raising our own children. Then, it was not until I was a more mature adult that I better understood the pain she went through trying to raise my brother and I. My mom survived a horrible and violent marriage, worked crazy hours, and still made us meals almost every night. She rarely showed her frustration and pain, but I know it was definitely something she carried. My brother and I had to help around the house, especially when she broke her collarbone; so cooking, cleaning, and even sewing a button on a shirt when necessary was something we just did.

The result of this childhood is I have huge respect and admiration for single parents. I also grew up with respect for women, a lot of respect. Even as a teenager I had respect for women, including young women.

As a man who occasionally ministers to single parents, I wonder if I could suggest a couple of things. You can take them or leave them, I am not you, and every family is unique. But perhaps these can help.

  • Remember you are not and cannot be superman, ummm I mean woman. (The majority of single parents are women.)
  • Don’t compare your family situation to anyone else’s situation. (Every family and family situation is unique.)
  • Establish and try to keep some sort of routine. (Don’t let the demands of life push your schedule, make one and let it help keep your life controlled instead.)
  • Schedule play dates for you and your child. (Make sure you are doing something fun with your kids because the demands of life will steal this away and you will lose seeing the joy of their childhood.)
  • Be willing to seek and accept help from other adults, you need a support system (see point 1) (Every single parent needs a support system, like your parents, your siblings, etc.)
  • Don’t lean on your children like they are adults, they are not and they are not emotionally or mentally capable of carrying adult loads in their life. They cannot be your counselor or confidant, nor should you use them as a sounding board or someone to gripe about your ex-spouse to – that is still their parent.
  • Collaborate with your kids on how to run the house and live. (Talk to your kids about your life goals, hopes for tomorrow, next month, next year… and how to get there together – involve them. And remember, you are creating “normal” for your family.)
  • Take a break. (No one can be up all of the time, all of us need a break on occasion.)

In your relationships, don’t compromise, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed. Don’t give in and settle for a nightmare relationship just because you think it might make some of your struggles easier or you are lonely. Hold tight to what is right, especially in the hard times. You and your children will be better off in the long run.

I honor you single parent, you are an amazing breed of people!! And for all of you other folks, pray about being a blessing to a single parent somehow. They will truly appreciate your efforts and God would definitely smile on that. 

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