We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine


Two Way Conversation

Gene Edward Veith, author of the book Reading Between the Lines, weighs in on the subject of communication by saying:

“We can never know anyone intimately by simply being in that person’s presence. We need to have a conversation in order to share our thoughts and our personalities. By the same token, we need a conversation with God–two-way conversation through language–in order to know Him on a personal basis.

Just as human beings address God by means of language through prayer, God addresses human beings by means of language in the pages of Scripture. Prayer and Bible reading are central to a personal relationship with God. Christians have to be, in some sense, readers” (Reading Between the Lines, p. 18).

Joshua understood this well when he penned his thoughts on the pages of Scripture:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)

Psalm 119 is a beautiful depiction of the love that God’s children should have for His word. This Psalm makes it clear that reading and meditating on God’s word has joyous results! Despite any trials you are facing, make certain to be a Word-centered person, taking delight from the Word of God. Then you will be able to say with David,

If your law had not been mydelight,

I would have perished in my affliction.

I will never forget your precepts,

for by them you have given me life.

(Psalm 119:92-93)

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Soap, Soup, or Superconductors

I recently reread the story of a man named William Lever in Boys of Grit who Changed the World. The youngest of seven children, Lever worked in his father’s shop as a child. The story tells how, when he was engaged to be married, “his salary was five dollars a week.” But Lever “knew how to value every spare moment,” and his diligence was evidenced by his consistent habit of rising at four-thirty every morning.

As a young man, Lever went on to develop his own business–selling soap. Though his father desired for him to help in the family business, he allowed his son to follow his passions and apparent God-given bent. So he loaned him the start up money, which enabled him to buy a small abandoned factory.

The story tells how “he was never ashamed to do the hardest or the dirtiest work” in his own factory. At first, Lever was uncertain whether his soap business would succeed, but within three years he was producing 450 tons of soap weekly. Lever took care of his employees, too. Cottages for his workers were within walking distance to the factory, dotting the landscape with gardens and walkways. He established an academic center for the children as well as an orchestra for advanced studies in music. People from all over the world bought his soap. In 1911 “he was made a baronet . . . and became Sir William Lever,” knighted by King George of England. And his soap is still sold today!

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon encourages us to use our time wisely, for “in all labor there is profit,” (Proverbs 14:23) whether you’re making soap, soup, or super conductors.

Published in: on October 18, 2010 at 6:40 am  Leave a Comment  

The Art of Spear Throwing

In the book, Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards tells the story of David and the spear-throwing King Saul. What I love about the story is how the author crafts a parallel from David’s continual threat of being speared by King Saul to our lives today. Spear throwing and spear fleeing seem be a rite of passage for those whom God is preparing for leadership positions. If you are leading anyone, then this preparation awaits you.

I can testify to this spear-throwing apprenticeship program. As I look back on 33 years of ministry, I can see why I was continually dodging spears. Thankfully, I had read Tale of Three Kings early enough to recognize that these spears were divine projectiles, preparing me for leadership.

If you find yourself under attack, resist the natural urge to pick up the spear and throw it back. Just as they prepared David to be the next king, these spears are preparing you. Besides, those who engage in spear throwing always turn the color of bitter.

Are you feeling like target practice these days? Rather than taking up the art of spear throwing, take up the shield of faith, which will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. Picture an Old Testament shield made of leather and soaked in oil. When a burning arrow pierced that shield, it was immediately quenched. We must be soaked–or drenched–in faith, in God’s love, in God’s truth, and in God’s forgiveness–our shield of faith. Then the daily onslaught of fiery darts shall be extinguished, and we will be better equipped to wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

We will be ineffective at wielding the sword of the Spirit until we first take up the shield of faith! (Ephesians 6)

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Unwearied Labor

Charles was just four years old when he was separated from his mother in a dreadful storm at sea. Endeavoring to save her baby girl, Charles’ mother could not save the life of her son. Assuming him lost forever, the grieving mother slowly rebuilt her life and treasured her daughter as the apple of her eye.

But little did she know that the unthinkable and unpredictable Providence of God was working behind the scenes, working all things together for good! Now reunited, as a grown lad, Charles recounts the story of God’s miraculous provisions. Raised by a rural minister, Charles returns as a man of purpose and conviction. His account of his upbringing will be an inspiration to all who read about the parenting instruction given by the wise old rural minister:

“Be unwearied in the labor of your calling. The vocation of a student is noble and honorable. Whether you study law, medicine, or divinity, in all these the welfare, either temporal or eternal, of your fellow beings is entrusted to you. It would be a fearful thought were you not in earnest in desiring to become master of your profession, and if, instead of contributing to the happiness of men, you, through ignorance and unskilfulness, should cause their injury. The years of study are the seed-time; make use of this precious time ere it flies away–else you cannot expect a joyful harvest” (The Little Lamb, p. 66).

As I read over these words, I thought what an apt reminder they are for those of us who are motivating and educating the next generation. Our children’s slackness could harm not only themselves, but future generations and even future civilizations as well. This realization should motivate us to inspire our children to pursue excellence in their gifts and callings.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1st Peter 4:10)

Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 6:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Forward Faith

Have you ever come up against an insurmountable obstacle? Have you cried out to God for deliverance, only to find that the obstacle seemed even more formidable? That is what Moses and the children of Israel faced in Exodus 14.

Picture yourself during the time of the Exodus. Gradually, over a 400-year period, you have adopted the culture of the Egyptians. Though you are slaves, you have entitlements and luxuries far greater than any nomadic people of the desert. You enjoy a higher standard of living than the greatest chieftain of the Bedouins. Three meals a day, desserts, herbs, fish, leeks, garlic, and now you find yourself moving to the brown desert sands.

In many ways we are experiencing a type of exodus in our land. We are slowly being pulled away from our full-filled lives to learn the same lesson that the children of Israel needed to learn. God was prying them loose from the “adoption” of their culture so that they might completely follow Him. Their obstacle indeed was formidable–an entire sea was blocking their way.

Here’s an inside look in Exodus 14:

But the Egyptians pursued after them, all . . . his army . . .

And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel . . . were sore afraid: and they . . . cried out to the LORD . . . And they said to Moses: Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you to day: for the Egyptians whom you have seen to day, you shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you . . .

What I love about this scene is the drama–and my childhood memory of Charlton Heston standing upon the rock with his rod! But Hollywood got it all wrong. It wasn’t Moses lifting his rod that parted the sea.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Why do you cry to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward. (Exodus 14:15))

Sometimes, it is not until we are willing to move forward and get wet that the wall of water will part. Too often we’re waiting for God to remove the obstacle while He’s waiting for us to take the first step–a step of faith.

Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 6:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Happily Confined

An old pastor once wrote the following words to a boy he had found on a river bank as a baby and then raised as his son:

“. . . At proper times, you may allow yourself innocent relaxation; only, never permit sensual pleasure to gain a mastery over your heart. He who lets himself be carried away by the pleasures of sense-even though he be not guilty of overt crime, is yet a slave of his pleasures, and therefore a wicked man. An inordinate inclination for sensual gratifications uproots in our heart the feeling for all that is truly great, beautiful, and good, and makes us unfit for the enjoyment of more noble gratifications” (The Little Lamb, p. 66).

These same admonitions were given by Plato, who urged his audiences to seek that which is good, and true, and beautiful. He warned against allowing our “appetitive parts” to gain mastery over us. Both sin and righteousness can be pleasurable, but the pleasures of sin bring slavery while the pleasure of righteousness brings freedom.

God promises that in His presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore! (Psalm 16:11) I see this truth as one of proximity. The closer you draw to God, the more pleasurable and joy-full are the experiences. The further we drift from the boundaries of His righteousness, the more enslaved we become to the pleasures that numb our senses and rob us of our creativity and productivity.

It is interesting that the word “happy” in the Greek carries the idea of being “happy, blessed, and confined.” Those who are truly happy are those who “confine” themselves within the boundaries of His righteousness.

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Remember

How is your memory? In Deuteronomy 8, God said, “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you, and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know, that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Have you remembered? In His all-wise love, God has designed wilderness experiences in order to make us know how to live according to his Word. But what is it that He wants us to know? “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”

Our loving Father allows us to go through wilderness experiences, sometimes for years, to prepare us for the abundant blessings He has in store. He has prepared brooks of water, fountains and springs! The amount of time we spend in the wilderness is dependant upon our memory-our ability to remember that God is leading our lives, for our good. He is removing Egypt out of our lives in order to replace it with His Promises! So don’t stay wallowing in the wilderness–REMEMBER!

The journey is worth it . . . don’t lose heart.

Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 6:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Have You Ever Eaten Crow?

Have you ever eaten crow? I have, many times, and it tastes terrible! No not the bird, but the humiliation you bring on yourself when you hold firm to your pride and stubbornness.

The phrase, “eat crow” was birthed during the War of 1812 when a British officer gained control of the musket of an American hunter. He made the hunter eat the crow he had just shot. After taking a few bites, the hunter regained control of his musket and then made the soldier eat the remainder of the crow.

The concept of eating or not eating crow really goes back to the time of Jesus. He said, “Agree with your adversary quickly.” This is never easy, but it is God’s prescribed way to end conflicts, which opens the door of your heart to be free again. To be shackled in conflict is a burden that is avoidable if we would just follow this simple step: “Agree with your adversary quickly.” Listen to the whole text from Matthew 5:25:

“Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are with him in the way, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.”

You don’t have to have full-blown legal action against you (or even a full blown marital conflict) to respond quickly with your adversary. And this principle of agreeing with your adversary quickly not only applies in marriage, but also in resolving conflicts with children, at work, with your neighbors, and at church. Agreeing quickly will help you avoid the bitter taste of crow, and allow you to enjoy the savory taste of God’s grace. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Published in: on October 10, 2010 at 6:32 am  Leave a Comment  

The Needle in a Haystack Prayer

Have you ever found a needle in a haystack?

Alan and his wife, Leisa, were tired after spending all day raking up leaves and pine straw from the backyard of his mother-in-law’s home. Even their 4-year-old daughter, Lydia, had tried to help.

Now, after hours of back-breaking work, the yard looked great. Towering pine trees stood majestic against the orange sunset, and the Smiths shared in the satisfaction of seeing the 12 huge lawn bags piled up in the center of the grass.

But satisfaction quickly turned to dismay when Leisa discovered her diamond wedding ring had somehow slipped off during the chore. “It could be anywhere on the lawn or in one of those bags,” she gasped. Sick with despair, Alan realized there was only one solution. He huddled his family together and encouraged them, “Let’s just ask God for help. He knows where it is.”

Suddenly, little Lydia jumped and said, “I know where it is!” She walked over to the bag in the middle of the pile and after spilling just a small amount of the pine straw, out came the ring.

What a wonderful experience for the Smith family–not just because they found something of value, but because they now understood the value of prayer. God could have chosen not to answer this prayer but instead he acted on behalf of a family who did.

Over the last decade I have observed an alarming trend of Christian parents, teens, and children who no longer converse with God about the little things–they no longer think to”Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Jesus said to ask and we would receive. I don’t think little Lydia will ever forget that day. God’s design is really quite simple . . . we have not because we ask not.

Published in: on October 9, 2010 at 6:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Duchamp’s Fountain

Picture a signed, upside-down urinal. It was first exhibited behind a curtain in 1917 at the Society of Independent Artists but was rejected as serious art. Now Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain is worth $3.4 million! This scatological “art” is intended to shock the public, parading its worldview that there are no absolute values.

A culture’s unrestrained morality will always manifest itself in its art, film and literature. Our children are being exposed to realms of evil and scatological themes that ought to be forbidden. Textbooks are filled with this new world view.

We are no longer repulsed by what was once only seen or heard in secret. Recently a Christian teacher casually shared how her teen daughter loves vampire books. I didn’t know what to say-how could she not know how harmful this is to her child? How could she not know that we are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ or that what a man thinks in his heart, so he becomes.

May I offer a suggestion that I call the replacement principle: if you take something away, substitute it with something better. I suggest the book, A Peep Behind the Scenes; printed in 1878, this book quickly sold over 2 ½ million copies. Another favorite is the book Ishmael, the inspiring story of a young man who changes the course of American history for women in America. This book inspired me so much that the follow day I started a new ministry.

For too long Christians have been silent as they passively watch others shock the culture with grotesque sex and violence. It is time to that we sharpen our skills and become the creators and cultivators we were meant to be as we replace grotesque shock with the attractive glory of God!

“. . . as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

Published in: on October 8, 2010 at 6:30 am  Comments (1)