Thursday, January 31, 2019

Faith, Family, and Freedom E-Newsletter - Week of January 27, 2019

Click here to view my e-newsletter, Faith, Family, and Freedom. 

Included in this week is the fourth part of my series Surprised by God as well as my article Christians: Engage in Politics and the Public Square.

Also, read Lorne Sanny's wise words about prayer and see the Family Research Council's response to the new abortion law in New York.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Empire State of Death

"It should have been blood red, like a warning. Crimson, like a siren -- or STOP. Instead, the spire of New York's One World Trade Center was lit up in it's-a-girl pink, a 408-foot reminder that the law it celebrated will mean fewer daughters, fewer mothers, fewer chances. From miles away on Wednesday night, people could see the tower flashing in the dark sky, announcing the arrival of a new evil in the war against America's children.

On the streets below, some New Yorkers shuddered. It was one thing for state leaders to carry out their threat against the unborn, and another thing altogether to revel in it -- cheering wildly as Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the warrant for the execution of more innocents. In a state where the womb was already the most dangerous place for a child, this law begins a new era. Open season on our own. From now on, nothing stands in the way of a woman taking her baby's life -- days, hours, or even a minute before she's born. A fully grown, healthy human baby that thousands of struggling couples would give anything to have.

That's the savagery New York leaders call 'progress.' That's the 'achievement' Cuomo turned into a pink beacon, shining 'a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.' "

Picture used by permission from Pixabay

Friday, January 25, 2019

Faith, Family, and Freedom E-Newsletter - Week of January 21, 2019

Click here to view my e-newsletter, Faith, Family, and Freedom, for this week.

This week's edition includes "5 Ways to Take in the
Bible" and "Surprised by God, Part Three," where I share one of my favorite personal stories of how God guided me when I met my wife.

See how the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of a World War I cross memorial under attack from a humanist organization.

Also, read about the Family Research Council's support of our Second Lady, Karen Pence, in the article First Freedom and the Second Lady.

Quote of the Day

Thursday, January 24, 2019

5 Ways to Take in the Bible

For thousands of years, one hallmark of God's people is the belief that the Lord chose to reveal Himself through words that could be written down and preserved. Yes, we believe in Jesus and the accounts of Moses, David, Peter, and Paul. But the primary reason we know these things is because of written words preserving their stories and writings.

Evangelical Christians believe God is fully able to preserve his written revelation. When we read the Bible, we read the very words of God – not just man. When we hear the Scriptures read, we can do so with a trembling in our heart and respect in our mind.

Moses told the Israelites, “They are not just idle words for you--they are your life” (Deut. 32:47 NIV).

Isaiah proclaimed, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (40:8 ESV).

And Jesus said, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4 NLT).

These written, preserved words matter. In a video-saturated day, we are wise to train youth how to love the written word and how to sit still and listen to the spoken word – yes, without a video!

Different Ways to Read the Bible

Pastor Stuart Briscoe writes in his introduction to The One Year Devotions for Men, “There are different ways of reading the Bible. Some do it as a purely academic exercise . . . . But my concern is that we read it with a view of benefiting from it in our daily lives. We call this reading the Scriptures devotionally. It is reading with an inquiring mind and a thirsty spirit, longing to know God better and to live more in keeping with his principles. When the Bible is read in this fashion, it becomes a source of joy and delight, of encouragement and direction, of correction and instruction.”

The Navigators disciple-making ministry used The Hand Illustration for decades to teach people about Bible intake. Each finger represents a different form of consumption: hearing, reading, memorizing, meditating, and studying. And each type of ingestion of God’s Word yields different results:

Hearing helps the Word go into our subconscious.

Reading larger amounts helps us understand the general scope and sequence.

Memorizing allows the Word to become a substantial part of us, arming us with little daggers – or the rhema – as we seek to stand in the Lord.

Meditating enables us to absorb the Scriptures’ meaning, focusing our mind and spirit.

Studying helps us go deeper, digging into specific meanings, theology, and gems.

The palm of the Hand Illustration also reminds us that without application of the Word, the use of the fingers is, well, useless. It is when we practice all five habits of Bible intake and then apply – or obey – what the Word says, that we have a grip on the Word of God. And it has a grip on us!

As a senior in high school, I determined that I needed to put God’s Word in my life daily. The Billy Graham team in their early days agreed on the motto No bread, no bread. It simply reminded them that they would not eat physical food each day if they had not first eaten spiritual food.

5 Practices

Here are five practices I find helpful in receiving regular Bible intake:

1. Read the Bible systematically.

For years, my wife and I have used the One Year Bibles that divide the entire Bible into daily reading, including Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.  This year, for the first time, I am using the One Year Chronological Bible.

And remember, the goal is not simply to read the entire Bible in a year. The goal is to meet God through the absorption of Scripture. To encounter Jehovah on a daily basis. To walk with Him in the garden of my soul.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t finish your reading plan. It’s ok. Some days I may read the entire section. Some days I may get stuck on just a few verses and meditate on them over and over.

2. Practice listening to the Word.

Because of digital technology, what amazing opportunities we have today to listen to the Word! I keep sermons, apps of favorite Bible teachers, and audio versions of the Bible handy. Driving in the car offers great time to renew my mind with the spoken Word.

3. Enjoy devotional literature.

I still have on my shelf the worn, blue copy of My Utmost for His Highest my mother gave to me when I graduated from high school.

No, daily devotionals should not be my only intake of the Bible. That would be like living off of green beans. However, devotional reading is a wise practice.
It helps me focus on a specific truth from Scripture.

It gives me the wisdom and counsel of a godly author – remember, there is wisdom in many counselors.

It offers a great spiritual vitamin during times of the day when I just have 3-5 minutes and need a spiritual boost.

Don’t let reading devotional books be your only source of Bible intake. But, incorporating this discipline in your life will enrich your walk with God.

I gleaned from Pastor Johnny Hunt the value of always reading three solid, meaty devotional books at one time. Through the years I have used many different ones: My Utmost for His Highest, Streams in the Desert, 52 Greatest Stories of the Bible, and Wisdom Hunters, to name a few. This year, I am starting the year using the following:

Every Step an Arrival by Eugene Peterson

4.  Find a way to memorize Scripture.

This year my family is using the Topical Memory System from the Navigators, which gives 52 verses to memorize by topics. We are attempting to learn one verse a week together word for word.

Many Scripture songs exist today on CD and in digital format for children and adults. Get some Scripture songs. Put them on your playlist, on your phone, and in your car. The Bible to music is an easy way to learn God’s Word.

5. Take time to meditate.

Dr. Charles Stanley taught me much about the value of Bible meditation through his sermons and his book How to Listen to God.

The 19th century pastor and caretaker of orphans George Mueller practiced the habit of reading his Bible on his knees.

Like many believers, I find it quite helpful to stretch out on the floor (preferably on carpet!) with an open Bible. In that posture, without other distractions, I expect to meet with Jesus one-on-one. I can slowly read one verse or a few verses, chewing on those truths, asking the Spirit of God to speak to me and illuminate my mind, and setting my heart to listen.

The Chinese translation of Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still until you are aware of God’s presence.” Meditation helps us do just that.

We need the Word. And a wise believer disciplines his life to take in that life-giving Word.

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

The Hand Illustration is used from the Navigators.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Sad and Evil Day

"A sad and evil day." 

New York legislators cheered and applauded Tuesday night after the state Senate removed restrictions on late-term abortions, allowing unborn babies to be aborted on the day of birth. 

Just as our society looks back at the era of slavery and thinks, "How could so many educated, generally moral people approve of such a practice?," or we wonder how ancient cultures could offer their babies as offerings in the fire to their gods - and we think, "Our society is so above such a horrific practice," future generations may look back on ours and say the same about abortion. Hillary Clinton and New York legislators stand by cheering and applauding of the vote to allow a woman to have her baby killed on the day of birth. This is sad, sick, and wrong - and indicative of a society and a political party that has exchanged truth for lies and the knowledge of God for golden calves made in our own images.

Picture used by permission from Pixabay

First Freedom and the Second Lady

" 'What's next?' David French asks. 'The belief that public figures should not teach Sunday School? Serve in domestic or foreign missions?' Once you start down this path, where do you draw the line? Make no mistake: this is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to religious freedom. The far Left wants to push Christian education and Christian institutions into some sort of spiritual ghetto, and then bar those people from the public square. That's profoundly un-American and an unconstitutional reverse religious test. Yet here is the other side, pushing hashtags like #ExposeChristianSchools. Guess what? There's nothing to expose that isn't in the plain text of Scripture.

Private schools are exactly that: private. No one is forcing children to go there. In fact, most families make great sacrifices to afford the kind of education that instills the values America's public schools will not. There isn't another version of the First Amendment for people in public office. Karen Pence has just as much right to live and work by her faith as any American. 'If Lois Romano [or any other critic] wants to argue against Christian theology, then have at it,' French writes. 'Most Christians I know welcome the dialogue. But if they want to condemn a woman for the free exercise of her Christian faith? If they want to argue that there's something inherently wrong with orthodox Christians' associating, worshipping together, and teaching their children? Well, then they're exhibiting a deep intolerance that's at odds with pluralism itself.'

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Left, the Wall, the Truth

"Democrats and others on the left offer three reasons for their opposition to building a wall on America’s southern border.

1. A wall is ineffective.

2. A wall is too expensive.

3. A wall is immoral.

Each one is false, so false as to constitute lies. So, the only question is: Do Democrats and others on the left believe these lies?

This question has plagued me all my life. Leftism is built on lies — and has been since Lenin. That’s why he named the Communist Party’s lying newspaper 'Pravda' ('truth')."

Franklin Graham on Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, may be a very talented singer and actress, but her comments about Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence are misguided and unfortunate. She said, “To Mike Pence, who thinks it’s acceptable that his wife work at a school that bans LGBTQ, you are wrong.” She added, “You are the worst representation of what it means to be a Christian.” Excuse me?

As Christians, following Christ means following the teachings of God’s Word. The Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin—among many others—and they all have a cost. We are to seek to live our lives in obedience to His Word. He set the rules, not us; He is the one who defined sin, and out of His love and mercy, He provided a remedy for sin—all sin—through repentance and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. I know Vice President Mike Pence and Mrs. Pence, and, to me, the way they conduct their lives and exhibit their faith make them the best kind of Christian. What a blessing they are to our nation!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

BGEA Backs WWI Memorial in Supreme Court Case

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has jointly filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court, urging the high court to reverse a prior decision that a cross-shaped war memorial violates the separation of church and state.

Built in 1925, the almost 40-foot tall cross was created to honor 49 fallen World War I soldiers. Private citizens funded the marble and cement cross that now sits at a busy junction in Bladensburg, Maryland, just seven miles or so from Capitol Hill. The monument drew the attention of the American Humanist Association, and in 2014 the anti-religious group sued, claiming the historic memorial was unconstitutional because of its shape and its location on now state-maintained lands.

Lower courts agreed with that thinking, but the American Legion appealed, disagreeing with their reasons why and the precedent they used. The Supreme Court accepted the case, and arguments are expected to begin in late February.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

My E-Newsletter - Week of January 14, 2019

Click here to view my e-newsletter, Faith, Family, and Freedom, for this week.

This week's edition includes "When the Godly Are Depressed" and "Surprised by God, Part Two."

Quote of the Day

"Is masculinity a problem? No, the real problem is men whose values are shaped by a secular culture. Sexism and bullying are the result, not of being masculine, but of being sinful. The solution is men who love Jesus & adhere to biblical values in their own lives." 

- Dr. Michael Duduit

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

When the Godly Get Depressed

The following is a summary of my sermon, "A Depressed Prophet."  It is the eighth one in my series Elijah: A Man Like Us.  

Godly people become depressed.  Sadly, the Christian community does not always have a box for their depression.  Instead, we subtly think that if we follow Christ, every day with Jesus should be sweeter than the day before.

For years I have changed one line in the hymn "At the Cross."  Instead of singing, "and now I am happy all the day," I substitute "and now He is with me all the day."  Because following Jesus does not always result in happy days.

The nineteenth chapter of 1 Kings presents an incredible look at a depressed prophet.   For three and a half years this man has trusted God and experienced the victories of faith and obedience.  When God said rebuke the king, he went to the palace and became public enemy number one.  When God said go to the brook, stay there, and trust God for daily provision, he obeyed.  When God changed his directions, Elijah walked 100 miles, trusting God every step for safety from his enemies.  At Zarapheth, the man of God challenged a widow to walk in faith, and together they experienced miraculous provision of not only bread but of her son being raised from the dead.  After a long time, the Lord sent him back to Ahab in one of the most dramatic displays in the Old Testament.  God interveneddramatically on Mt. Carmel and vindicated his servant.  Then, one more time Elijah went to God in deep prayer, bringing the promised rain to fruition.  With every problem he trusted God.

Twenty-four hours later, Jezebel sends word to him, "I am going to kill you.  You are a dead man!"

He doesn't trust.  He doesn't pray.  He doesn't wait.  He runs, scared for his life.  And chapter nineteen outlines the depth of his immediate depression.  Full of self-pity, with his thinking all messed up, he wants to die.

Elijah was exhausted - emotionally, physically, and psychologically spent.  For three and a half years he has been trusting God in extreme circumstances.  The reality of his faith did not rule out the reality of his stress.  And then, following his greatest victory, it catches up with him and he temporarily snaps.

Elijah is human just like us.  He is a jar of clay.

God graciously and lovingly deals with Elijah:

He takes care of the man's physical needs.  He needs a lot of sleep, he needs food and nourishment, and he needs some exercise.  For forty days, God does not rebuke nor correct him.  He meets his needs and lets him refuel.  The man is exhausted.  He needs time to recuperate.

A Greek proverb says, "You will break the bow if you keep it always bent."

Finally, God speaks quietly and tenderly to him, reminding him that he is not as alone as he thinks.  There are 7000 other followers of Jehovah.  He subtly brings Elijah out of his self-pity.

Depressed people don't think correctly.  Their thought-patterns become skewed.  God has to help his man realign his thinking.

The man who trusted God for incredible problems in the past has to be reminded that God is bigger than Queen Jezebel.

And Jehovah points his man to three other people who can be involved in his ministry in the future.  For the past season, Elijah had to primarily go it alone.  Now he needs to link arms with some friends.

Charles Swindoll writes, "God has not designed us to live like hermits in a cave.  He has designed us to live in friendship and fellowship and community with others."

R. T. Kendall shares valuable insights about depression in his book These Are the Days of Elijah  [the points are his and the notes mine]. . .

1.  We fail to realize that the best of Christians can sometimes become depressed.

2.  If you happen to be a leader or a person with some profile, you are especially vulnerable to the kind of satanic attack Elijah was under.

Christian and secular leaders are prone to fall in at least one of three areas: sexual temptation, pride/lack of accountability, and financial indiscretion.  Reading the biographies of noble Christians, I have discovered that when a man or woman stands above those temptations, there tends to be a fourth area that can trip him - discouragement and depression.  It is as if Satan sees if he can't trip them up in one of those deadly three areas, he will send a thorn of dark discouragement.

Read the stories of godly heroes like Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham, Hudson Taylor, and others.  They at times battledsevere bouts of discouragement and depression.

3.  We are all capable of extreme depression if we have been overworking and get overtired.

Working all the time, never taking a vacation, and always bending the bow are not marks of spirituality.

4.  This time in Elijah’s life shows that some of the best of God’s people have been suicidal.

In the Bible Elijah, Moses, Job, and Jeremiah all faced times when they wanted to die.

5.  A person under attack, as in severe depression, may not always demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit at a time like that.

When someone has been under severe stress, give them a break.  Only Jesus acted like Jesus all of the time.

6.  There is more than one cause for depression.

Look for the root.  If there is a chemical imbalance, which can result from prolonged periods of stress, seek medical and medicinal help.  If the root is exhaustion, look for a way to get more rest.  If problems in your past are triggering it, find ways to deal with the emotional and psychological roots.  If the problem is relational, work on your relationships.  If your life lacks margin, seek ways to build margin.  And, if the problem is spiritual, seek the Lord, repent of your sin, allow Him to realign your life with His Word and fill you with His Spirit.  If the root is spiritual, no amount of therapy or medication will solve the problem.

I am thankful that God gave us this picture in Scripture.  Even the godliest of people wear out and get in the dumps.  Thank the Lord that He was gracious with Elijah.  

May we be wise to learn from this example. 

The following is an excellent resource about godly people walking through depression:

Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro

For more help, see These are the Days of Elijah by R T Kendall and Elijah: A Man of Heroism and Humility by Charles Swindoll.

Friday, January 11, 2019

My E-Newsletter - Week of January 7, 2019

Here's my newsletter, "Faith, Family, and Freedom," for the week of January 7 - Embracing the New!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Looking for a Good Book?

January offers a good time to discipline ourselves. One area worth our attention is reading good books. Before the modern era, people viewed the reading of good literature as a means of learning and raising virtue, or morals. Today we often think of reading as just another form of entertainment.

For years I've heard the saying, "Leaders are readers." I've read the advice numerous times from ministry and corporate pastors and executives that leaders of people and organizations should set aside one hour a day for reading.

In our day, most people tend to bow to the idol of the television for hours a week. Why not lose 30 minutes a day of t.v. time and instead dig into a good book?

In her excellent book On Reading Well, Karen Prior writes, " [I]t is not enough to read widely. One must read virtuously. The word virtue has various shades of meaning . . .  , but in general, virtue can most simply be understood as excellence. Reading well is, in itself, an act of virtue, or excellence, and it is also a habit that cultivates more virtue in return."

C. S. Lewis warned that childhood and adolescent boys left to their own tastes and preferences will always choose low. In our day that means, boys left to choose their  own reading will always choose superheroes, potty humor, and generally sarcastic material (ever heard of Diary of a Wimpy Kid?). Our children need parents guiding them into good, virtuous literature. In classical education, that means digging into classic literature written well that extols the best of the human experience.

Prior explains in On Reading Well that we can improve our character by listening to and obeying God---as well as by reading and studying great authors. Prior introduces courage via Huckleberry Finn; justice in A Tale of Two Cities; faith as portrayed in Silence; chastity as seen in Ethan Frome; patience in Persuasion; and so on. Discover what virtues look like and where vice leads.

I gave a copy this Christmas to my two oldest children and am reading my own as well.

Click here to see my personal January reading list.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Out with the Old, Embracing the New

We bought the television from Kmart in Taylors in 1988. Long before flat screens or digital technology, this set included the turn knobs and required the antenna wires to be wrapped around the screws on the back of the tv. I watched many a show on that set while I lived at home. My mother – not one to be abreast of the latest technology – just got rid of this set one month ago. I surprised her with a new flat-screen television in early December, and we unplugged the old set that served our family for thirty years. I left the set at the dump to be released into 1980’s household electronics after-life.

Moving into another year involves letting go of old things and embracing some new ones. For me, the first couple of week of January include getting my mind in gear as I shift from the holidays into the winter of another calendar year.
I love the sights, sounds, routines, and excesses of Christmas. And partly because of my melancholy temperament, I find my spirit somewhat deflated the week or two after Christmas as the decorations go down and the feasting turns into dieting!

I find it helpful to embrace disciplines early in January, turn my mind into preparing for a productive year, and set my spirit to seek the Lord afresh.

Here are five suggestions to help embrace a mindset of moving forward towards a successful year:

1. Make time to pray.

January offers a good time to retool my prayer life. Spend extra time in prayer and Bible meditation. Ask the Holy Spirit, Prepare my mind and spirit to walk with Jesus this year. Lead me in Your will and purposes. Let Your Word find a fresh home in my heart and your hands mold this clay as You wish.

Some Christians ask the Lord the first few weeks of January to put a word on their mind and heart for the new year. They ask, Lord, give to me a word, Scripture, or idea to be a theme for me in the coming days.

2. Make plans to grow.

I try and start my year by reading some positive instructional and motivational material. Stretch yourself with some plans to read.  By reading (or listening via digital audio resources) 30 minutes a day I can easily finish a book a week. Turn off the television and pick up some books! This week I chose five books to dig into this month:

The Power of Purpose by Michael Catt
A Resilient Life by Gordon MacDonald
On Reading Well by Karen Prior
Wilderness Wanderings by Bill Lawrence

3. Get organized.

As the decorations come down and a sense of tidiness arises, I decide afresh what in my life and family needs to be tackled organizationally. As taxes loom on the horizon, January always seems a good time to gather appropriate financial records. I loaded my Turbo Tax program on my laptop on December 29.

But, with a fresh surge of inspiration, I also ask what other areas need attention. This year I am diligently working to make sure my external hard drive backup is up-to-date. For me this includes tediously going through several saved and recovered backups from previous crashes and collecting everything I want to keep in one digital location.

This undertaking also involves deleting some of those unnecessary pictures (who really needs 30,000 pics of their family!!!) and organizing them into useful files. If I can never access them, they don’t help me.

Maybe you should work on a new system for your personal calendar, remembering birthdays of people you love, storing your addresses, planning for a family vacation, or preparing to shop in more efficient ways.

4. Review.

January offers a logical time to review some big-picture items from the previous year. I take some time to reconsider my journal entries from last year, asking the Holy Spirit to show me anything He wants me to remember.

You can ask questions like the following as you review: Are there recurring themes in my life from last year? What promises from God’s Word meant the most to you? What were your most meaningful moments with the Lord? What were you trusting God for last year? What was going on in your heart? What failures did you experience? Review any areas of neglect or disobedience. Did you let anything drop the Lord gave to you? Note any high or low points in your entries.

5. Set goals and move forward.

As you have done numbers 1-4, ask the Lord to help you set goals in various areas of life for 2019. Just like moving forward with a flat screen television meant I had to let go of the old set, we may have to let go of some things from 2018 – good and bad.

We didn't achieve every goal from last year. We made some poor choices. We have room to grow. But, we made progress in other areas and learned valuable lessons.

Where do I want to take my family this year? What books will we read as a family? What's a plan for leading some family devotions this year? How can I intentionally build into a meaningful relationship? What work skills do I need to add or improve? How can I better use my time?

As we learn from the past, let’s set our focus to learn new things from the Lord, trust Him today, and accomplish His purposes in our lives in this fresh year.

I’ve just started Michael Catt’s book The Power of Purpose. In the Introduction, he writes, “As long as God is on the throne, there is hope. . . . Whatever you are facing, look it in the face and look God in the face and ask Him what He wants you to learn. Wherever you are, it’s not an accident. God can take a setback and turn it into a stepping stone. . . . I believe hope and purpose are tired together. If I have a sense of purpose, I have hope. If I have hope, I have a sense of purpose. Purpose matters. . . . God didn’t place us here and wish us good luck. He didn’t make us in His image to be a victim of circumstances. He put us here to be overcomers.”

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay