Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Christmas Moments - Inspiring and Encouraging Stories


Looking for a good, easy Christmas read for you or someone you love?  I've enjoyed contributing to three Christmas books in the Moments series by Grace Publishing.

Christmas!  For many people the holiday season is steeped in traditions such as decorating, family gatherings, food, Christmas programs, parties, and carols.  

The books Christmas Moments,  More Christmas Moments, and Merry Christmas Moments are great coffee-table books filled with encouraging and inspiring stories of the Christmas season.  Authors share personal stories about the joy, excitement, change, sorrow, loss, and beauty of Christmases.

In Christmas Moments, I share a story of God's provision for me one Christmas.


In More Christmas Moments, I share about one of the favorite gifts I ever gave my wife the year we agreed to not spend any money on presents.

In Merry Christmas Moments, I share 5 ways that parents can impact their children spiritually during December.


All proceeds from the books support Samaritan's Purse ministry.  Books are available from Grace Publishing, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Remembering - and Moving Forward

 

In 1972, our country’s most popular song was “American Pie,” the Living Bible became the most popular nonfiction book, the Waltons premiered on CBS, NASA introduced the Space Shuttle Program, and one Monday evening in September, I took my first breath. This fall I hit the half-century mark, and I’m proudly wearing the “Vintage 1972” accompanying t-shirt and cap.

Turning a milestone age brings reflection. The world has changed tremendously in half a century. In some ways for good and in many ways for bad.

If I could speak to my eighteen-year-old self, here are a few words I’d give:

+Life is seasonal. Many relationships, blessings, and hardships will come and go. Enjoy them while they last. Know the bad things will eventually change. Most friendships are seasonal, not long term.

+Take a deep dive at knowing yourself. You will help the most people, be the most fulfilled, and receive the greatest benefits when you stay true to the gifts, talents, and passions God has given you.

+Spend little time worrying over what other people think. Don’t live by other people’s expectations.

+Discipline and persistence, not talent, are the keys to long-term success.

+Develop multiple streams of income. Don’t put all your financial eggs in one basket.

+Take more risks. Don’t play it safe all the time.

+God is utterly faithful, and His Word is eternally true.

+Get video or tape recordings of your grandparents and other older special people in your life telling their stories. You will miss them tremendously when they are gone.

+Society is going to reject truth, love evil, believe lies, and embrace absurdity. Don’t expect to be at home in Zion, but remember biblical heroes like Jeremiah, Daniel, and Old Testament Joseph.

+The little things will often mean more in the long-run than the things that get the most attention.

+Buy a lot of stock in Dell, Netflix, Redbox, and Amazon when they go public. I know the names are weird, but trust me.

+True love and its rewards are worth the wait. Be patient.


Dan Miller’s writings and podcasts have been great encouragement to me. He shares a helpful framework for every decade of life:

Learning (20s) – trying lots of things and making new decisions

Experimenting (30s) – sorting out your interests and eliminating

Mastering (40s) – focusing on your interest and developing skills and expertise

Reaping (50s) – and creating systems to keep you moving forward

Guiding (60s) – mentoring others and leveraging your life message

Leaving a legacy (70s) – preparing for when you are no longer here

Maximizing your zone of genius (80s): spending 75% of your time doing what you do best

Our society glamorizes youth. Classic wisdom, however, honors age, for with age should come wisdom and understanding.

Grandma Moses finished her first for-sale painting at age 76 years, which ultimately sold for $1.2 million. She spent the next 25 years painting.

Colonel Sanders franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62.

Laura Ingalls Wilder first published the first Little House book at age 65.

At age 52, Ray Crock purchased McDonald’s.

Ronald Reagan did not hold public office until his 50s.

Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence at age 70.

Peter Roget oversaw every update of Roget’s Thesaurus until his death at age 90.

Miller writes, “If you plant corn, it will mature in 180 days. If you plant bamboo, it will mature in five years. If you plant walnut trees, they will mature in forty years. My recommendation, be doing all three in every stage of life. Be doing things that will give you a return in six months, in five years and in forty years.”

That’s good advice. I wrote the following prayer as a reflection on my 50th birthday. I hope it encourages someone:

Help me hold on to those things that reflect my true self, not driven by other voices, but Yours.

Help me listen to my calling – vocal – vocation – innately from within – congruent with the materials entrusted to me by my Creator.

Help me hold loosely the expectations of others, so I can pursue the best things, expanding on my unique abilities and passions, thus serving the greatest good where my deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.

Help me look back only for wisdom and thanksgiving. Keep my gaze moving forward, letting go of yesterday's losses, building on the strength of the past, embracing today’s limitless opportunities, and expecting a fruitful and prosperous tomorrow.

Help me create legacy, assisting, encouraging, and empowering fellow travelers and friends on life’s journey, embracing the good and walking in the divine Presence of the Unseen One.

Help me take action, thinking deeply, treasuring wisdom, grasping opportunity, making decisions, living creatively, sharing generously, advancing positively, choosing now, embracing love, faith, hope, truth, and joy – and dreams that parallel with God's reality.

Help me to laugh, reflect, rest, and enjoy the most important blessings of life.

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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.


Thursday, November 3, 2022

A Cultural Civil War

 
John Davidson writes in his article, We’re In A Cultural Civil War. It’s Time For Conservatives To Fight Back, “If you think what’s happening in America right now is crazy, you’re not alone. It’s true that something’s changed, that we’re in the middle of a crisis, that a cultural civil war is underway and escalating.

But it’s not true that this is a majoritarian movement. It’s not true that America fundamentally changed overnight. The hordes of protesters, impressive as them seem, don’t represent the country at large.”

Leftists infiltrated many of our American universities decades ago, systematically indoctrinating our culture with deadly ideologies:

(1) The jettison of absolute truth

(2) The “don’t offend anyone” narrative

(3) The “every idea is equally valid” falsity.

(4) The “America is fundamentally flawed” rhetoric.

Lawyer and talk show host Dennis Prager calls our modern battle America’s Second Civil War. He writes that in the Second Civil war, “one side has been doing nearly all the fighting. That is how it has been able to take over schools — from elementary schools, to high schools, to universities — and indoctrinate America’s young people; how it has taken over nearly all the news media; and how it has taken over entertainment media.

The conservative side has lost on every one of these fronts because it has rarely fought back with anything near the ferocity with which the left fights.”

Taking Right Ground

Lawyer turned evangelist Charles Finney wrote in the 1800’s, “The Church must take right ground in regards to politics . . . The time has come for Christians to vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics or the Lord will curse them . . . .

God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are a part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to their country as a part of their duty to God . . .

God will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics.”

Respect for law and order, for policemen, for the Constitution, for God, for the Bible, for people of different races, for the sanctity of human life, and for the people of America is constantly challenged.

Davidson writes, “It’s long past time to fight back. That won’t be easy, in part because the radicals are largely in control of messaging. They have the sympathies—if not the outright allegiance—of the mainstream media, big tech, and corporate America. They also more or less control the Democratic Party and much of the petty bureaucracy, including public schools.”

The Redemption of Culture

Twenty-five years ago, many churches across the nation embraced Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Church concepts, promoting that there are five purposes to the church: worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and missions. Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship and The Colson Center for Christian Worldview said at the time he always wanted to tell pastors to add another biblical purpose: the redemption of culture.

Colson wrote in his excellent book, How Now Shall We Live?, “The only task of the church, many fundamentalists and evangelicals have believed, is to save as many lost souls as possible from a world literally going to hell. But this implicit denial of a Christian worldview is unbiblical and is the reason we have lost so much of our influence in the world. Salvation does not consist simply of freedom from sin; salvation also means being restored to the task we were given in the beginning – the job of creating culture.”

The Lord’s Great Commission is linked with His cultural commission!

Colson goes on, “The same command is still binding on us today. Though the fall introduced sin and evil into human history, it did not erase the cultural mandate. . . .  When we are redeemed, we are restored to our original purpose, empowered to do what we were created to do: build societies and create culture – and in doing so, to restore the created order.”

It's past time for people with a biblical worldview of reality to engage the public square and make our voices heard.

Believers must not be silent.  We must speak.

Pray. Love your neighbor. Speak Up. Speak Out.


Pictures courtesy of Pexels and Pixabay

 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Decision Magazine: The Midterm Elections

 

Issues surrounding life, marriage, gender, education, parental rights and religious liberty are all on the ballot this fall. As Christians, we should pray over the issues and vote for candidates who most closely align with God’s Word. 

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has prepared a free special midterm election edition of Decision Magazine to help you prepare to vote on November 8.

Check it out here at Decision Magazine.

Weighing Obedience and Resistance: What Romans 13 Does and Does Not Affirm about Governing Authorities

 

As America's Founding Fathers resisted obedience to King George III, they were motivated in part by their theology. And through church history, many early Protestants were thoroughly biblically literate, steeped  in the Scriptures, which led them to embrace resistance theories in opposition to tyrannical governments.

As the West continues to move further away from individual, God-given liberty, and closer to government-controlled tyranny, Western Christians need to be steeped like our forefathers in what the Bible does - and does not affirm - about responding to government.

David Schrock writes, “Instead of investing in a biblical theology of God and government, God’s Law and man’s laws, too many churches have, for generations, not taught their members in matters of religious liberty. We assumed that religious liberty was our lasting birthright, not knowing that we needed to fight to keep it.”

Hear Douglas Wilson's message, Resistance, Revolution, Reformation, and Romans (13, that is).


The following article by David Schrock draws from the thoughts of Doug Wilson and others. . . .

"In his commentary on Romans, Colin Kruse observes that in Romans 13 'Paul is drawing upon teaching in Jewish literature about God’s sovereignty over the rise and fall of earthly rulers' (Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 493).

Standing upon this biblical worldview is important not only for understanding Paul’s argument in Romans 13, but also for understanding its limits. In other words, as Paul commands believers to willingly submit to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1, 4), he does not mean that governing authorities have absolute autonomy or unchecked authority. As Romans 13:4 says, they are 'God’s servants,' hence subject to God himself. And it’s this point of reference—the relationship between governing authorities and God—that we need consider more fully.

Far too many have a simplistic, even child-like, understanding of Romans 13. And if the church is going to survive our post-modern, post-Christian world, we need to think more carefully (read: more biblically) about Romans 13.

Obedience and Resistance

When we read Romans 13 we need to see what it says and what it doesn’t say. Namely, the faithful Christian is to obey the command to submit to those in authority, seeing them as God’s servants. But at the same time, when governors misuse their God-given authority and violate God’s law, faithful Christians can and must obey God and not man. Or as Francis Schaeffer once put it, 'since tyranny is satanic, not to resist it is to resist God, to resist tyranny is to honor God' (A Christian Manifesto; cited in the Introduction to Lex, Rex, by Samuel Rutherford)."

Click here to see the entire article by David Schrock at Via Emmaus.


See also the following:

Does Romans13 Prohibit All Civil Disobedience? by John Piper

Submit or Defy: The Romans 13 Debate from the Standing For Freedom Center at Liberty University

And the following, What About Romans 13?, from Eric Metaxas and Dutch Sheets:





Picture courtesy of Pexels


Returning God to Government

 

How can we prevent a conversation about politics from turning contentious and polarizing? Best-selling author Tony Evans takes a step back to explore biblic
al principles for framing our view of the government's purpose, our political affiliations, and how we navigate divisive issues—while demonstrating Christ's love and compassion. Discover tools to speak with grace when you disagree! 

View Pastor Tony's series here.

And see his new book, Kingdom Politics.