Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ben Carson''s Best / Worst Analysis Formula

4 Questions for the Best/Worst Analysis Formula by Ben Carson
  1. What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?
  2. What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do this?
  3. What is the best thing that can happen if I don’t do it?
  4. What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do it?

As parents we’ll never be able to create a risk-free life for our teenagers.  But we can equip them to better deal with the dangers and uncertainties they will encounter for the remainder of their lives if we provide them with basic risk-analysis tools and encourage them to pursue and enjoy activities that expose them to acceptable risks.  – Ben Carson

Take the Risk

My article "Take the Risk" appeared on the My Writers Conference blog this week.

Read it here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Soil of our Hearts

What condition is the soil of my heart?  The condition of the soil determines how well the seed can be planted and grow . . .

"In the parable of the sower, Jesus teaches that it takes good soil to produce a plentiful harvest. He warns against planting seed on the rocky places and also speaks about dangerous thorns that choke the plants. He directly applies the parable to our spiritual lives, explaining that the seed is God’s Truth; it’s only in the soil of a devoted and steadfast heart that the Word is received and spiritual fruitfulness is produced. In fact, He says soil that’s prepared to receive what is planted can produce a crop 30, 60, or 100 times what is sown."

Read the entire devotion from InTouch Ministries here.

Dads and Teenage Sons

Dads, here is a very good book to read with your pre-teen or teenage son. My 13 year old and I are reading it, and it is one of those I wish someone had read with me when I was 13.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Quote of the Day

"The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." ~Winston Churchill

Discipleship Tuesday: Take the Risk Part Three

Continued from Take the Risk Part One and Take the Risk Part Two . . .

Dawn Scott Jones shares great insights in her article What Can God Do When You Stop Playing it Safe?  Using Christopher Columbus as an example, she explains how he defied the odds and explored unknown territory.

Two types of people resist taking risks: sticklers (perfectionists) and what Jones calls "invisibles."

Perfectionists are motivated to get things right.  The flip side of that is a fear of getting things wrong.  To the perfectionist, if it is not "perfect" - whatever they subjectively deem to be perfect - then it is not worth doing.  The perfectionist often wants to be in charge of a project.  Jones shares, "Often paralyzed by their unrealistic standards, if sticklers can't do something perfect, they won't do it at all."

Charles Stanley explains that perfectionists often have a deep feeling of inferiority.  They often strive for perfection in order to feel good about themselves.  They wrongly think they have not pleased God and don't have his favor unless a task is deemed perfect. 

Freedom comes in realizing, that with God's complete acceptance of us in Christ, He doesn't expect us to get it right all the time. 

We can't be perfect, and we won't ever be perfect, but we can enjoy the perfection of Christ Jesus.  We can accept his lovingkindness.  We can acknowledge that He doesn't expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to keep growing in Him, to stay in relationship with Him, and to keep trusting Him day by day. 

Nobody can be the best always.  Nobody comes in first every time.  Nobody gets it right every time.  If you are seeking to be perfect, not only are you seeking to do something that is impossible, but you are saying to yourself and God, "I'm not satisfied with the way you made me.  I'm made with the capacity and the ability to fail.  I have flaws.  I have weaknesses.  I'm not perfect.  And I don't like it."  The Source of My Strength

Two realities help me overcome the fear of perfectionism. 

1)  The wonderful grace of God.  He accepts me just as I am.  Any work that I do for Him is first seen through the acceptance I already have in Him.  The cross was the perfect work.  All of my other works are like the drawings, creations, and crafts brought to me by my children.  Though technically often imperfect, to me they are perfect expressions of their love because of the relationship we share.

2)  I have to let go of my fear of being wrong.  The Lord showed me one time that the root of that fear was actually my pride of wanting to be right.  I have to humble myself, accept God's grace, and get to work.

Michael Hyatt shares some great insights about the trap of perfectionism.  He writes, "When you sit on something until it's perfect, you miss a lot of opportunities. . . .  It’s better to do good work really well. That way you’re contributing to people’s lives, instead of locked in your own head about whether your work measures up to an impossible standard."

Invisible people, on the other hand, habitually play it safe.  They prefer living in the shadows.  Some of these folks are naturally lazy and just want to get by in life.  Jones writes that "they live much smaller than they should."  They don't volunteer, they don't set goals, and they don't achieve much.

The Lord challenged Peter to take a risk and get out of the boat.  The reward?  Peter experienced walking on the water.  Every other disciple observed from the boat.  None of them would get the t-shirt that said, "Even though I sunk, I walked on the water with Jesus."

Some folks in churches and organizations stay in the boat and observe.  They won't volunteer.  They won't teach a class, join a small group, participate in a team, or help with children or youth.  They carefully stand back and observe at a safe distance.  For years I have said that those folks like to come into the foyer and feel a part but not get too close to the front of the sanctuary.  Other people jump in with the attitude, "Hey, I may not have all the answers and I can't see my way clearly, but I will help be a part of the solution.  What can I do?  How can I help?"  From the vantage point of the boat's safety, observers can point out problems.  But those who jump into the water work on solutions.

Charles Stanley says, It’s in the water that you put your trust in God.  It’s in the water where God will be able to demonstrate things you can never learn as long as you are playing it safe.  (Sermon - Fear of Faith?)

So what happens when we get out of the boat?

7.  We leave the company of our potential support.

Rahab the prostitute, confronted with the reality that the God of the Israelites was real and powerful, made an incredible decision.  She chose to let go of the support of her countrymen, her city with its fortified walls, and the business that sustained her and her family.  Turning her back on her neighbors at Jericho, she vowed her support to the Israelites.  The scarlet cord marked her deliverance from then on, gaining her entrance into the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews eleven.  But she had to go it alone for a few steps.

At times to go forward with the Lord means letting go of familiar people. 

In order for Bilbo Baggins to experience the adventures of the fellowship of the ring, Gandalf challenged him to leave the familiar comfort of the Shire.  Though naturally inclined to avoid adventures, something "woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick."

When God was ready to start Barnabus and Saul on their missionary career, he brought significant changes to the church in Antioch.  For one year the church experienced the "dream team" of leadership from Barnabus, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul.  Suddenly, in a time of prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit instructs the church to set aside Barnabus and Saul for a new work.  The dynamic duo must leave the familiar support of the booming and exciting Antioch church in order to move on with God. 

Charles Swindoll writes about their experience: "Serving in the center of God's will can be dangerous business.  But whether in times of relative ease or abject hardship the primary principles stands: obedience requires change. . . .  None of those folks back in Antioch would have expected God to lift Barnabus and Saul from the mix. . . .  But it's so like the Lord to select the very people you and I wish would stay forever.  Erase all the boundaries.  Tell the Lord you're willing to cooperate.  But don't forget, you may be the next Barnabus or Saul the Lord decides to move.  Remember, we're dealing with change - changing so we might obey."  Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit

When I was a teenager, I occasionally dreamed of becoming a lawyer, politician, or writer.  My dreams always involved, after school, returning to my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, where I would live the rest of my life.  I would live about ten minutes from my parents, seeing them regularly.  I would attend the church of my boyhood with my parents for the rest of my life.  I would regularly see friends from high school and church.  I was a city boy and loved the suburban life of the city.  I had no plan on ever leaving for long the support of the community in which I was raised.  I had no desire to leave the familiarity of that life. 

The past twenty-five years, none of that has happened.  Through the years I have learned that following God often involves letting go of the familiar, of our comfort and potential support, and moving into the unknown.  He often requires that we trade the recognizable routine for the unordinary and unnatural rhythms of discipleship.  We learn to deny ourselves and accept His yoke.

L. B. Cowman wrote, "You must be willing to take your ideas of what the journey will be like and tear them into tiny pieces, for nothing on the itinerary will happen as you expect.  Your Guide will not keep to any beaten path.  He will lead you through ways you would never have dreamed your eyes would see."  Streams in the Desert

8.  We risk.

Ron Leach says, Jesus was a risk-taker.  "He went places where people wanted to hurt and kill him.  He hung out with people no one else liked.  He did things that seemed crazy and counter-cultural.  When kids see how Jesus lived, they’ll be bold risk-takers." 

Let's be willing to take risks.  Let's be willing to not play it safe.  Let's do something that may receive rejection.  Let's try something new. 

Let's not go through life always trying to control circumstances, the outcome, and other people before making a move. 

Don Wilton counseled a couple who believed the Lord called them to go so seminary.  He asked, "Why have you not gone?" 

They replied, "Well, we are trying to work out details, figure out housing, find schools for the children, etc." 

Pastor Don said, "So in other words you are trying to get your ducks in a row" 


"You know," Don said, "I have read the Bible several times from cover to cover, and there are no ducks in the Bible."

When my wife and I believed the Lord was challenging us to start a new church several years ago, we took the biggest risk of our lives.  Suddenly, after years of working in established churches, we had nothing but a few people and their prayers in our ministry.  No building, no budget, no resources.  My salary and benefits reduced to the smallest in my entire working career.  Every day became a new challenge of trusting God.  But, as American author T. S. Eliot said, "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."

And Mark Twain said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover."

Let's get moving.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Quote of the Day

“The only way to learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.”   - George Mueller

And from one conversation in Mueller's life . . .

"'Mr. Muller, do you know how dense the fog is?'

No,' he replied, 'my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God.' "

Our Summer Garden Helper

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Perfection Trap

Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, shares some great insight about overcoming perfectionism . . .

"There’s nothing more useless than unfinished projects. But it’s easy to watch them stack up, isn’t it? So what can we do to wrap them up and ship them out?

I’ve been thinking a lot about unfinished projects since watching this video by my friend, Jeff Walker. Don Miller has also talked recently about completing things. It’s tougher than it looks, right?

I can tell you where my difficulty comes from."

Keep reading here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fantastic Family Friday: 16 Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Marriage


16 Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Marriage

Sixteen years ago today I covenanted with Tracey Funderburk to become one in marriage.  We stood with our family and friends at the First Baptist Church in Lancaster, South Carolina, on that hot July day.  In some ways it seems like it has flown.  In other ways, that memory seems distant.

What lessons have I learned in sixteen years?

1.  Marriage is the best thing God has got going on this earth for most people.  We love being married.  Marriage and family are awesome.  We would do it all over again.  When God created the world, He created one man and one woman for a lifetime together.  Marriage makes it into the first chapter of the Bible.  The family is more important than and is the building block of church, government, and society.

2.  All those prayers are really worth it.  Dr. Earl Crumpler challenged the congregation in a Sunday night sermon in about 1986 that young people should begin praying for their future mate.  As a seventh or eight-grader, I then began asking God to select the woman I would marry.  I know my mother regularly prayed for years for God to give me a good mate.  Boy, did He.  If you’re not married, pray for your future mate.  Pray for the mates of your children and grands.  Some things really, really matter, and who you marry is one of those.

3.  Sometimes love awakens quickly.  Laying on my dorm room floor on Friday night, January 31, 1997, I wrote in my journal, Whatever is in the future, Lord I trust You.  To lead along new paths.  Ways I have not known.  I am Yours.  I give myself to Your love.  I walk into the unknown trusting.  I then got up, walked across campus to a music school party in a friend’s apartment.  A cute blonde from South Carolina walked into the room, got my attention, and I met Tracey Alane Funderburk. 

Eight days later, we went on our first date.  Standing in the foyer of Tumbleweed Restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, on a cold February evening, I thought, “This young lady next to me is gorgeous.”  Sitting knee to knee at a small table over supper, I realized there was a lock to my heart whose key was kept only by this woman in front of me.  I knew at that moment that I would spend my life with her.

4.  When the decision is something massive in your life, as you seek God for direction, He will move heaven and earth to guide you.  The Bible promises that when our hearts are fully His and we seek Him hard, He will show Himself to us (2 Chronicles 16:9; Jeremiah 29:13).  To read more about how God showed Himself to me during those days, read here.

5.  Laughter is great medicine.  The first year we dated, I often thought that Tracey was to me like one bringing laughter.  Through the years we found that laughing together, laughing with each other, and laughing at ourselves helps brighten the days, bond us together, and help us make it through the rough spots.  May our homes be filled with laughter.

6.  The family that plays together, stays together.  We enjoy having fun.  If we had enough money, I think we could officially be full-time “having-funners.”  Look for ways to play, explore, and discover.  Spend time together.  Communicate to your family with your time that you would rather spend your free hours with them than with anyone else in the world. 

7.  The family that prays together, stays together.  Through the years I learned that prayer doesn’t have to be long, complicated, or impressive.  Prayer simply opens our lives to the Spirit of God.  Take the time to grab your spouse’s hand and say, “Let’s pray.”  As children come along, make family prayer a natural habit.  Pray for your family and with your family.  Teach children to pray out loud.  Walk into their bedrooms at night while they sleep and pray quiet prayers over them.  Open the door for the Lord to walk through the doors of your home.  Open that door through prayer.

8.  Make regular, spiritual habits a normal part of your marriage, and do it early. 

I knew that I wanted our family to be one where talking about things that really matter, like our faith and our feelings, was natural and regular.  Early in our marriage I began regularly opening the Bible, reading and praying with my newlywed wife.   We had many conversations those first few years that started with, “Let me tell you what I read in my devotional time this morning.”  We learned together to talk about our feelings, our hopes, and about things we believed about God and how He was working. 

If you will establish that atmosphere between the two of you when you start your marriage, it will already be established when children arrive.  They will grow up in a home marked by spiritual things, good communication, and the love and fear of the Lord.

9.  Sex is a fantastic pleasure of marriage, but it is not the main course.  I heard a Hollywood actress say, “In the movies, life is mainly about sex with a few other things thrown in.  In real life, life is mainly about a whole lot of other things with some sex thrown in.”   When a guy is twenty, he usually thinks that marriage is a whole lot about sex.   In reality, sex, as designed by our Creator, is a part of a relationship marked by mutual submission, trust, and sacrifice.  Sex at its best is a whole lot about communication and pleasing each other. 

Sex is fantastic.   I think it is one of God’s best blessings He created.  But it is only one part of life.  And, as Kevin Leman says, it begins in the kitchen: unloading the dishwasher, cleaning the house, getting the oil changed, speaking kindly, and having a good attitude to your mate.

Also, remember, the need for purity never stops.  Read more about the need for purity in marriage here.

10.  Expect from the Lord.  Morris Keller gave me great marriage advice when I was in college.  He said, “You will want to expect from your wife, wanting her to meet your needs.  That’s a trap.  You need instead to learn to expect from the Lord.”   Psalm 62:5 says about the Lord that “my expectation is from Him.” 

When we expect from people and they don’t deliver, we feel disappointed.  We may withdraw our affection from them because they did not meet our expectations.  However, if we expect first from the Lord, then it frees us to graciously receive the good things that do come to us through our spouse.  Enjoy those blessings.  But then when our spouse does not meet our need as we might wish, instead of falling into an expectation trap we are free to love them.  Expecting from God first and being satisfied with what He allows us to receive from our spouse frees us to love and appreciate them without always trying to make them into something else.

11.  Children are a blessing from the Lord.  They are to be cherished.  Thank God for those children.  Together we share in the miracle of creation.  The Bible says that one of God’s purposes for marriage is that we may produce godly offspring.   Start praying now for your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  God’s Word says that our lives influence many generations.
When Tracey was pregnant with our first child, I read James Dobson's book Straight Talk to Men: Timeless Principles for Leading Your Family.  That book greatly impacted me as Dobson shares stories from his own life and relationship with his father and son.  Dads, we have about eighteen years to impact our children.  Make the most of it.  They need us intentionally investing in their lives from day one.   

12.  Create margin in your life.  Our first year of full-time ministry, we attended a conference for pastor families sponsored by the South Carolina Baptist Convention.  The key note speaker was a medical doctor beginning to receive notoriety because of his writings.  In books like Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives , The Overload Syndrome, and In Search of Balance, Dr. Richard Swenson challenges the pace of our society and the consumer culture of always having to produce more, what he calls the escalation of the norm.  That weekend, a strong seed was planted in our lives.  We determined that year to take the challenge of learning how to build margin into our lives.

Swenson writes, “Marginless is the disease of the new millennium; margin is its cure.”

As a young pastor, I realized that  I can win the world and lose my family.  Andy Stanley has a great book for dads called When Work and Family Collide.  The book was formerly titled Choosing to Cheat.  He challenges dads to not regularly take time away from their families.  I decided that, using Andy Stanley’s illustration, I would not regularly cheat my family of time and attention.  I would not be a pastor who tried to please everyone else but neglected my own family. 

Your children won’t care about the plaque they gave you at work or school.  They will, however, remember sledding down icy slopes, leisurely reading books by the fire, and taking long walks in the woods.

13.  When life stinks, you can’t check out.  Life will be different than you expected and much harder than you expected.  When newlyweds stand at the altar, they dream of all of the good things that will happen.  I doubt if many think, “Life will be very stressful at times.  We will get on each other’s nerves.  We will have financial struggles.  We may lose our jobs.  We will watch our parents die.  One of us may watch the other one die of cancer.  Our children may give us heartache. “

The first time Tracey and held hands was a Sunday night at church.  At the close of the service, the pastor told us to join hands with the person standing next to you.  I rejoiced and thought, “Please pray a long time!”  I still remember that evening a young woman sang the solo, “Life is Hard, but God is Good.”  Well ain’t that the truth?  Life is hard. 

Tracey and I have journeyed through unexpected trials, heartaches, and valleys.  The stress and challenges that come with being a couple in pastoral ministry have at times been daunting and disappointing.  Pastoring a church the first year of marriage was what I call being baptized with fire.  Whatever your lot in life, life will include difficult times.

In such times, we cannot check out.  We need each other.  Though we may like to stay in bed, pull the covers over our head, and check out, we simply cannot.  Life goes on.  Lean into each other instead of leaning apart.  Give each other grace when the other one is not at his or her best.  This is a season.  There is something to be said about just showing up.  Elisabeth Elliot often taught this simple, practical advice: Trust God and do the next thing. 

Or, as Dolly Parton sings in her song "Try," And whenever you think you ain't gonna make it, put a smile on your face, suck it up and fake it for a while.  Give it a try. At least you'll know you tried. 

That’s good advice.  And yes, I used Elisabeth Elliot and Dolly Parton in the same point.

14.  Everyone changes.  Choose to change together.  I have a bald spot now that surfaced a few years ago.  My weight increased quite a bit since our first date.  Bodies change.  Interests change.  Hobbies change.  Musical tastes change.  Dreams change. 

Tracey amazes me how she has changed for the better through the years.  When we first dated, she had no interest in history and bored easily with reading.  She mainly wanted to have a good time.  Seventeen years later, she can’t get enough of books.  She wants to read about classical education methods and historical biographies.  This year begins her ninth year of homeschooling our children.  She directs our homeschool community of about thirty families.  She exhibits a thirst for learning that still surprises me.  Sometimes I say, “You would have never been interested in that in 1997.”  And she agrees and laughs.

You and your spouse will both change.  The key is, learn to change together.  Move towards each other.  Don’t expect him to be just like he was twenty years ago.  Enjoy the fact that she acquires new tastes and interests.  Just make sure you adapt together.

15.  Friends are a blessing.  Charles Swindoll says that you are blessed if, when you die, you can count four or five people in your life who have been real friends.  You will have many people move in and out of your life.  The only contact you will have with some of those folks in your wedding party ten years from now will be annual Christmas cards.  Some friendships are seasonal.  Their purpose and blessing is for a specific season of life and marriage.  Then as seasons change, so do relationships.  A few may last over various seasons.  Some friendships will fade away or end abruptly.  Some walk away from you.

Enjoy the friends God gives you.  Life is better with friends.  But remember, friends come and go.  But God remains.  Put your trust in Him, and love your friends.

It is a wonderful thing to have a few companions in the journey of life who will pray for and encourage you and your wife.  You pray for and encourage them as well.

16.  Life sure does move quickly.  Boy does it.  Blink.  Five years.  Blink.  Ten years.  Blink.  Fifteen.

An eighty-something year old widower told me yesterday that last week his boys helped him clean out everything from his house’s attic.  “It was a bittersweet week,” he said.  They rummaged through filing cabinets, toys, and stacks of his wife’s sheet music before sending some to Goodwill and throwing away the rest.  From that perspective, life moves quickly.

After sixteen years I can definitely say that I would marry her all over again. 


A Defining Moment in My Life

It was one of the defining moments in my life.
In January of 1997 I returned to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary after taking off a semester.  The previous fall, I wrote a young lady that I knew from college, expressing the desire to pursue a relationship with her.  I waited for several months for her reply.
The first week of January I asked the Lord to give me a word from the Scriptures to cling to in the coming weeks, one that would be a milepost for that new season of life.  On January 4 I wrote down Isaiah 42:16 in my journal,
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do;I will not forsake them.
For three weeks I memorized and meditated on that promise, trusting God to do those things for me.  The weekend of January 26, I visited my uncle and his family in Cincinnati, Ohio.  On Sunday morning, when I walked into the Sunday School room at their church, I immediately noticed a bright orange banner along the wall with Isaiah 50:7 painted across:
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
The Lord put a check in my spirit at that moment.  A check is when the Holy Spirit alerts you on the inside as if to say, "Listen up.  I am speaking.  I have something for you here."  I made a mental note of the Bible verse and wrote it down.
That night I drove back to Louisville and checked my campus mailbox when I arrived.  Inside was a note from the girl I had written in the fall.  Sitting down on my blue love seat in my small dorm room, I read the letter.  She kindly and respectfully turned me down and told me that she did not think we had a future together.  She also told me, "Since I received your letter in the fall, I have been praying two Bible verses for you: Isaiah 42:16 and Isaiah 50:7."
I was stunned.  The refusal from the young lady really did not phase me.  It was one of those moments when you feel, "Well, this is not what is best for me, so thank God."  The reality, however, of how the Lord spoke to me through those specific verses overwhelmed me.  I later learned that such an experience is what Robert Clinton calls a "double word confirmation" in his book The Making of a Leader
Taking my Bible, I walked across campus to a grassy hill that looks out at the library.  Time seemed to stand still as I sensed I was in God's presence.  Submitting my life to Him afresh, I asked Him to have His way with me in the coming days.
That was Sunday night.  On Friday night, I met the woman of my dreams - the one I would marry.

One Flesh

I sang this at our wedding on July 25, 1998 as a surprise to Tracey.
Before our lives began, before our mothers’ wombs,
God planned to join our lives in Him this afternoon.
Our families agree and our friends in one accord.
So as we make our vows, we covenant before the LORD

To be one flesh united by our Lord,
For the sake of the gospel and God’s glory.
And we have one goal, to be like Jesus Christ,
To love our Lord and to love each other fully.

Tracey Alane, you are a gift of love to me,
A sacred trust, a treasure, you’re my beauty.
Here’s my life for you alone, to serve you and help you know
That you are loved of God and you are loved by me.

Now may His peace rest, His blessing be ours
To radiate His glory in our union.
And may our home be filled with children, God’s grace and understanding.
And may our lives be marked by the love of Jesus.

We are Yours Lord, Yours and Yours alone.
Bless our union with the power of Your Presence.
Fill us with Your Spirit to serve and love each other.
And use our lives to make disciples of Your Son.

- Rhett Wilson, 1998

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Christian Thing to Do vs. The Government on Border Control: Huckabee

Governor Mike Huckabee shares his thoughts on "the Christian thing to do" about the border problem.:

"I’ve been asked several times what is the Christian thing to do about the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who have fled to the United States illegally. Let’s be clear—there is a Christian thing and there’s a government thing. I find it interesting that the same people who scream for separation of church and state now want the government to act like a church and provide assistance and benevolence. Helping the poor and aiding the homeless and the helpless is indeed the duty of the church. But the duty of the government is to protect us—not provide for us. If the border agents are playing wet nurse and changing diapers and beds, then we aren’t protected very well. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. If Christians would give a dime of each dollar in tithes to fund assistance to the needy, the government wouldn’t need to be a big charity.

Government isn’t supposed to rearrange people’s social standing and redistribute income. Instead of straining social service budgets and education budgets and court budgets in the US, it would be better if our government acted competently and did its Constitutional job to secure our borders. The churches, charities and relief organizations could deliver supplies to those in need around the world. We should be interested in helping the people of other nations experience the fruits of freedom and free enterprise. If they wish to come to America, we should welcome them when they come through the same legal process that we would have to go through to go to their countries. But to not have a border is to not have a brain. We can love people and love security at the same time. But if you give up security, you really don’t love the people very much either."

Discipleship Tuesday: Take The Risk Part Two

Continued from Take the Risk Part One . . .

Dick Lincoln shared years ago at my home church that if Moses belonged to most Baptist churches today, this is how the Red Sea crossing would pan out.  When God tells them "forward march," Moses appoints a committee to study the feasibility of crossing the Red Sea.  They meet and meet, gather information, and collaborate to discover the depth of the sea, the probability of harm, and the likelihood of their crossing safely.  Then they bring back a report and decide, "We can't do it."  When God told Moses to move forward, he did not appoint a committee, he obeyed.  Lincoln exclaimed, "Faith is not feeling good about God.  Faith is obedience!"

Michael Catt said, "The last time God put together a committee, it was to discover if the Israelites should go into the promised land.  The result was that they wandered in the wilderness for forty years and did funerals."

Henry Blackaby and Avery Willis describe the risk of obedience this way:

God bore Israel on eagles' wings and again and again demonstrated that He was sufficient when the Hebrews flew by faith.  In all kinds of ways - the miracles in Egypt, at the Red Sea, the manna, the quail, and the water out of the rock - He showed that He wanted them to step out in faith.  If they fell, He picked them up and took them up again and again to teach them to fly.  As you reflect on what happened to Israel, recall a circumstance in which you felt God "pushed you or your church off the cliff" or when God "shook you into the air to cause you to fly by faith."
As with Israel, God brings His people today to a decision point.  He brings you to the place where you must exercise faith - stepping out on a limb that you don't know will hold you up.  When you step out in faith, you find God has provided wings - the wings of faith.  You begin to fly and fulfill the purpose for which God has designed you!  It's glorious!  God's people may be at such a point.  We will either believe God and follow Him, or history will record the story of our bleached bones in the desert..  (On Mission with God)

Jesus challenged Peter (Matthew 14) to leave the safety of the boat in order to walk on the water with the Master.  Today, Jesus still challenges people to take risks.  So, what happens when we step out of the boat?

5.  We choose to not play it safe.

When Jesus invited Peter to get out of the boat, He challenged him to step into a fearful situation.  Taking risks with God always involves some level of fear and uncertainty.

Eleanor Roosevelt shared, "Do one thing every day that scares you."

Some people have a vision of God like He is the eternal Mister Rogers.  Come into his land and everything will be happy and peachy.  I do think that Mister Rogers gave us one facet of the character of God.  However, balance that with C. S. Lewis' view from The Chronicles of Narnia.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Susan asks the Beavers about Aslan, the true king of Narnia, who is a symbol of the Lord Jesus:

"Is he - quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."

"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.

"Safe?"  said Mr. Beaver.  "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe?  'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good."

So it is with following Christ today.  Stepping out of the boat with an incredible storm billowing about, Peter dangerously walks on the water.  His eyes fix on the One who is often unsafe but is incredibly good.

When God challenges us to get out of the boat, it will feel unsafe, unsettled, and unsure. 

Peter Drucker shares, "People who don't take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.  People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year."

In other words, playing it safe and not taking risks does not protect us any more from big mistakes than does playing it risky.

6.  We have to get out of the boat.

William Faulkner said, "You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore."

As redundant as it sounds, the fact remains that in order to get out of the boat, we must simply get out of the boat.  There comes a time to stop talking about it, thinking about it, and creating our risk/cost analysis.  There comes a time to leave the boat.

I met my wife in January of 1997 in Louisville, Kentucky.  We met the week she moved to campus.  I immediately thought she was fantastic and knew that she was the kind of woman I wanted to marry.  I could have spent months dreaming about her, thinking about asking her out, and hoping that she would like me.  Instead, seven days after meeting her I called and asked her out on a date. Eleven months later I asked her to marry me. I had to get out of the boat, and I never regretted it. 

When God redirected Paul's journeying through Asia in order to get him to Troas, the apostle learned that God wanted him to leave the continent and go to Europe.  Though Europe was not on Paul's agenda, when the revelation came via the Macedonian vision, the apostle had a choice.  Leave the boat - the expected and familiar aspect of Asia - and go in a whole new direction to a new continent.  Or, stay with his own agenda, play it safe, and keep knocking on doors in familiar territory.  They left Asia, set sail, and began a whole new adventure.

The last couple of years I began submitting articles and devotions to publishers with the hope of being published.  Any writer who submits understands the angst of submitting and waiting.  You write, working hard on a piece until you feel it is ready.  You find a magazine that you think will be a good fit.  Then there comes the big choice.  Do I really mean business?  Do I really want to send this to anyone?  What if they reject it?  What if they won't publish it?

Best-selling author Cecil Murphey shares that when writers tell him, "I sell everything I write," he thinks, "Then you probably don't send out many manuscripts."  (Unleash the Writer Within)

Any published author knows that receiving rejections simply goes with the territory.  It is normal.  Successful authors receive numerous rejections.  But they keep submitting. 

Some writers quit after being rejected one, two, or three times.  If your article gets rejected by one magazine, send it to forty-five others.  So what if you didn't get the job you applied for?  Apply for twenty-five more.  The person you wanted to date is not interested?  God owns the cattle on a thousand hills - and He knows every person in the world.  There are seven billion people on planet earth.  Keep trying. 

Jack Canfield shares excellent advice about rejection in his book The Success Principles.  He challenges readers to remember SWSWSWSW, which stands for "some will, some won't; so what - someone's waiting."  In other words, out "there somewhere, someone is waiting for you and your ideas. . . .  You have to keep asking until you get a yes." 

Colonel Harlan Sanders received over 300 rejections for his special recipe for fried chicken before he found the one "yes."  Because of his persistence, today we have Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Canfield writes, "When someone says no, you say, 'Next!'  Don't get stuck in fear or resentment.  Move on to the next person."

A no simply means that it was not a match for that person, magazine, or company.  It does not mean that you or your idea are failures.

We can sequester ourselves into our safe little worlds, or we can get out of the boat.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Protecting Your Marriage from Sexual Fallout

The need for purity never stops.  As a boy I memorized the Royal Ambassador Pledge, which includes the following line: To keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body.  Today our culture throws unwholesome and unclean smut at us habitually.  With the advent of the internet and the explosion of the online pornography business, the availability of temptations abound for men like never before. 

Years ago I heard a forty-something Christian say that a college student asked him ‘Once you reach age forty and you are happily married, does the temptation to lust stop?’ 

The older man replied, ‘Son, I did not know what the temptation to lust was until I was forty.”

Sadly, many men who started out well commit habitual sexual sins in their forties and fifties.  In the Bible, King David’s affair with Bathsheba occurred when he was about fifty years old.  As men, we can never get lazy on personal purity.  Every day we can offer our bodies, including our eyes and ears, to the Lord to be used as instruments of righteousness leading to holiness (Romans 6:19).  Remember the wife of your youth: may her breasts satisfy you always and may you be captivated by her love (Proverbs 5:19).  Women, that means that he needs you in order for him to stay satisfied and captivated.
Marriage is worth protecting.  God's Word says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed be kept pure" (Hebrews 13:4).