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From Postnasal Drip to Praise

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

Thanks to ragweed and corn tassels, I woke up today with an itchy nose. My instinct was to whine, the way I usually do when allergies hit. And, wow, can I whine. With the best of them. But this morning, before giving in to the urge to whine and scratch, I thought of Joni Eareckson Tada.

Joni Tada produces a Christian radio show called Joni and Friends, and has done so for more than thirty years. I listened daily in college, and I caught a show recently on a drive to Illinois. Mrs. Tada was injured in a diving accident in 1967 and has been a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair ever since. She has written more that 70 books and magazine articles, and her five-minute radio program has been a source of Christian inspiration to millions since 1982. And in those books and shows, she doesn’t spend her time whining.

As I thought of Mrs. Tada, I was struck afresh at all the blessings the Lord has given me, including the blessing of being able to scratch my own itches, and then I wondered why I was going to whine. Really, aren’t allergies a minor inconvenience? Isn’t the itchiness just a temporary problem? And if Mrs. Tada doesn’t spend her time whining about being confined to a wheelchair, who am I to whine about a drippy nose?

My mind then wandered beyond itchy noses and diving accidents to Christ and all He endured on my behalf to pay the penalty for my sins and to give me new life in Him. Crucifixion and separation from the Father! Wow. And I realized again the silliness of whining over temporal hardships. What temporal hardship can be compared to our glorious future given and guaranteed in Christ?

Maybe today you are dealing with some temporal hardship like allergies, or something far worse. If so, focus on Christ and the promises You have in Him for eternity. As you do, I am sure you will find yourself rejoicing anew in that living hope to which you have been born again.

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE

§God’s Word to You: A Summary of the Bible in 311 Words. The folks at LifeWay decided to attempt to summarize the grand narrative of Scripture in as few words as possible. In the end, they summarized the Bible in roughly 300 words. Read their summary and see if you would have summarized it the same way. Is there anything in their summary that causes you to hesitate? If so, what? I’d love to hear your comments. Read the summary at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2012/08/14/gods-word-to-you-a-summary-of-the-bible-in-311-words/

§Study: Most Christians Seldom Share Their Faith. Eighty percent of regular protestant church attendees believe they have a Christian duty to share Christ with others, and seventy-five percent say they feel comfortable in their ability to share their faith effectively, but more than sixty percent have not shared their faith with another person in the past six months. What should we make of this? See if you agree with the author’s conclusions: http://technorati.com/lifestyle/article/study-most-christians-seldom-share-their/.

§Why No Archeological Evidence of the Exodus? This article confronts those critics who argue that the Exodus must not have occurred, as no (or little) archeological evidence has been discovered. Interesting reading: http://josiahconcept.org/2012/08/18/why-no-archelogical-evidence-of-the-exodus/.

§How to Miss the Point: A Guide to Dimwitted Discourse. I wish I had found this article back in college when I took Logic and Argumentation & Debate. It would have saved me a lot of time. Really, a wonderful read. Do yourself a favor and read this article: http://scgeis.blogspot.com/2012/08/how-to-miss-point-guide-to-dimwitted.html

A 5-Step Process for Conflict Resolution

I’ve been thinking lately about conflict resolution between Christians. The question I have asked myself is how two believers can resolve a conflict. What needs to happen?

The reality, or course, is that methodologies don’t resolve conflicts, people do; and if the people don’t want to resolve the conflict, it won’t be resolved. Still, I want to share the steps I’ve identified. Perhaps you will find them helpful.

Before diving into the specific steps, I want to say I take it as a given that the entire process must be saturated in prayer from beginning to end. And I don’t include that as a simple ‘tip of the hat’ to our spiritual responsibilities. Ultimately, in conflict resolution between believers, we are seeking a spiritual result, and if that is to occur, the methodology must also be essentially spiritual. This is a continual acknowledgement that we are seeking God’s will and not our own, that the pursuit of our resolution is His pleasure and not ours, and that we are willing to be humbled and confess our errors (as difficult as that may be).

In addition, I would suggest that fasting would be a reasonable accompaniment to prayer during many periods of conflict resolution. Only the Spirit’s leading can help the believer discern whether to fast or not. The best suggestion I can give here is that we endeavor to remain sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and be willing to fast when He desires.

Okay, that said, here is my suggestion for a 5-step methodology for conflict resolution:

1. Confrontation. If there is a conflict, it exists between two or more persons, and one of them recognizes there is a conflict. That person has the responsibility to go to the other person and express the conflict. It doesn’t always happen that way, of course. Folks sometimes recognize a conflict and just leave it, allowing it to simmer until it congeals into bitterness or worse. But if there is to be resolution, the conflicting parties must clash (amiably, we hope).This requires great courage, and it is accompanied inevitably by risk to the relationship.

This raises the question of whether believers should ‘confront’ every little difference they have with others. I doubt they should. I think it depends a great deal on whether one is able to ‘let go’ of the conflict. (I’m not talking about clear cases of sin. I’m thinking of differences of opinion and personality that produce conflict, though I suppose one might make a reasonable argument that these are usually (always?) the result of sin.) We all have differing tolerances for conflict. With my poor short-term memory, I can legitimately forget some differences and remain blissfully ignorant of them until they are brought up by someone else. But not everyone has that gift of forgetfulness. And, honestly, some conflicts are too big to forget. So, it seems to me, if some conflict comes to mind when I say the words “conflict resolution,” you should probably seek its resolution.

There is an exception, however. I would suggest that you should not seek resolution if the problem is yours alone. If you are the one with the problem, if you are the one who is uptight, if you are the one causing trouble, fix yourself and recognize that the issue is yours. Recognize that, though there may be a real conflict, it may not necessarily be with the other person. (Think about what Jesus said about removing the beam from your own eye first. And yes, I know it can sometimes be difficult to know if the problem is yours or someone else’s. Seek wisdom from God in the matter and trust the Spirit to give you discernment to know the difference.)

Anyhow, the short of it is this: in general, if you want resolution to a conflict, go to the other person and seek that resolution.

2. Conversation. The second step toward resolution involves open communication concerning the problem. Both parties must have an opportunity to express their sides, and the conflict must be clearly stated and agreed upon. This may prove harder than it sounds. The conflict occasionally revolves around a conflicting understanding of what the conflict is. Significant amounts of time may need to be invested to come to an agreement concerning what issue is being addressed. But if this agreement is not achieved, the conflict will continue. The process will have proved no better than a bandage for a boil that has left the underlying illness unaddressed.

3. Choices. Possible solutions must be articulated. Many mediations, it seems, bog down at this point. Attempts at resolution remain in the whirlpool of conversation and become little more than venting sessions for the unhappy parties. But this isn’t helpful.Once the nature of the conflict has been agreed upon, participants must move on and brainstorm solutions. And once these solutions have been compiled, participants should evaluate them and chose the one that will be most pleasing to God.

4. Confession. If the participants have followed the previous steps, this will be the natural point for confession. Pursuing the resolution that is most pleasing to God will inevitably highlight differences between His desires and ours. We will need to confess those areas in which we have permitted our egos to reign, and we will need to confess, to God and one another, the harmful actions we have pursued in obedience to that reign. This, then, becomes a two-way reconciliation: to God and to the other party. We acknowledge the ways in which we have sought our will over His, and we confess the harm our thoughts and actions have brought others.

5. Commitment. The final step of the process is commitment. This commitment is also twofold. It is a commitment to pursuing God’s will, and it is a commitment to pursuing the agreed-upon actions toward the other party. Another way of stating this is to say that the final step involves a commitment to remaining engaged in the process of reconciliation. That is a recognition that we are apt to wander, that our egos are prone to reassert authority, and that we are called to submit to the Spirit’s authority in the moments and hours of each day.

As I review this, I conclude that steps four and five become an ascending spiral that engages the participant at higher and higher levels. Renewed commitment leads to renewed confession, leads to renewed commitment, leads to… etc. And that seems reasonable, inasmuch as the sanctification process is ongoing and will continue until our glorification.

So, there it is — a 5-step process for conflict resolution. What do you think? Have I left something out?

NEWS YOU CAN USE

§ When people name drop God in order to make you do something. I really enjoyed this article, even if I myself have been the one guilty occasionally of name dropping God. The suggestions for dealing with such folks are fun and may even work. (And, I’m not necessarily endorsing all the suggestions, particularly the one “Tell them you’ll ‘pray about it,’” unless you really are going to pray about it. Still I loved the author’s comment following that suggestion: “For centuries, Christians have been using this as a stall tactic.” – I wonder if any of the disciples tried that approach after receiving the Great Commission. Hmm.) Read the article at: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2012/08/when-people-name-drop-god-in-order-to-make-you-do-something/

§ 3 Ways to Become as Disciplined as an Olympian. This article identifies three key areas that open the door to Olympic levels of performance. The author argues that developing these three areas will permit all of us to perform at a higher level in our work and personal lives. It serves as a helpful reminder of some basic life principles. Find the article at: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/3-ways-become-disciplined-olympian.

§ 3 Tremendous Benefits of Coaching. Life-coaching may seem like a new fad, but it has been around for a long time. It used to go under different names, such as “mentoring” and even “discipleship.” This article highlights the benefits of remaining in an accountable relationship with a coach. Read it at: http://www.faithvillage.com/article/08152b177bd9450d80d751e812a555cc/3_tremendous_benefits_of_coaching.

§ What Happens in Vegas (does not) stay in Vegas! (Loved the title.) This article addresses the care Christians should take in their use of words, and it took me a few minutes to catch the link between the topic and the title. Still, it’s a good article and good reminder that we should glorify God with our words. Read it at: http://coffeeshopjournal.com/2012/08/06/what-happens-in-vegas-does-not-stay-in-vegas/.

§ What Humpty Dumpty Can Teach Us About Sexual Purity. (Another great title.) This article makes creative use of the well-known nursery rhyme to reiterate biblical truths concerning sexual purity. It also serves as a great example of how to use something well-known in popular culture to illustrate and underscore scriptural principles. Read it at: http://www.christianpost.com/news/what-humpty-dumpty-can-teach-us-about-sexual-purity-79593/.

§ Judge Rules 10-year-old Jewish Girl Can Convert to Christian Despite Mother’s Objection. This news report describes an interesting situation that occurred recently in Britain, and it raises some interesting questions. Should a judge be able to overrule a parent’s objection to his or her 10-year-old’s participation in a religious ritual? Could the daughter have converted without acting against her mother’s wishes? Let me know what you think. Read the report at: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2012/08/judge_rules_10_year_old_jewish_girl_can_convert_to_christianity.html.  

Why Attend Church?

Why attend church? Good question… how would you answer it?

This week I was reminded of two possible answers.

I happened on the first answer in a book entitled “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty” by Dan Ariely. This book, written by a behavioral economist at Duke, is meant to challenge readers’ preconceptions about dishonesty and urge them to take an honest look at themselves. The author describes, using extensive sociological studies, the pervasiveness of dishonesty and the far-reaching impacts of its presence. The bottom line? Most everyone cheats, at least a little.

Okay, that’s not a huge surprise. But Ariely does not leave the matter there. He then identifies practical and proven methods by which readers can maintain higher ethical standards. That’s where it gets interesting.

As Christians, we know that everyone battles with the temptation to be dishonest. The observation that all people are (a little?) dishonest seems self-evident, and Ariely’s restatement of that truth seems a little ho-hum. We recognize that we often ‘fudge’ the truth, to ourselves and to others. So that part of his research does not seem terribly enlightening. But when Ariely turns to methods of maintaining higher standards, I find real enlightenment. In his research, he and his colleagues discovered that the reminder of a moral code or standard dramatically reduced dishonesty for a short amount of time. Even more astoundingly, this result occurred in test subjects regardless if they personally ascribed to the remembered moral code! Wow.

Let me explain that in a little more detail: The researchers found that, given the opportunity to cheat on a self-administered test, most participants cheated a little. Ariely describes this ‘little’ as the subjects’ ‘fudge factor.’ (It’s that amount of dishonesty a person can commit while still maintaining the illusion of personal integrity. Think of it as the “Oh, well, I really should count that answer, ‘cause I was just about to mark it when the buzzer sounded…” thinking.) But could this ‘fudge factor” be curtailed? Was there a way to bring subjects to a higher ethical standard? Well, remarkably, there was! The researchers discovered they were able to eliminate cheating simply by asking subjects to remember as many of the Ten Commandments as possible before the test. The tests given were the same as before; the opportunity for cheating remained exactly the same. The only change in the two situations was the ‘priming’ that occurred as subjects remembered the Ten Commandments. – Let me say it again… wow!

(Incidentally, you’ll notice that I said that this reduction was effective only for a short period of time. This reality was demonstrated through testing too. Reminders of moral codes given months before proved ineffective at preventing cheating. Only reminders given before an activity and in a relatively recent timeframe proved effective.)

This, then, suggests one reason why Christians (and non-Christians) can profit from regular church attendance. Assuming that a church extols the moral code found in the Bible, attendees will be reminded of that moral code on a regular, frequent basis. Their attentions will be drawn again and again to the importance of adherence to that code. These reminders, then, will produce valuable fruit, as they prompt attendees to conduct themselves ethically. In other words, attendance at church reminds us to live our lives in God-honoring ways.

One might suggest, I suppose, that these benefits are not derived exclusively from church attendance. It can be suggested that one might gain the same benefits from a daily time of Scripture reading. True enough. I don’t think it is an ‘either-or’ situation; it is a ‘both-and’ situation. The greatest benefits surely come from a combination of personal devotions and regular church attendance.

Someone else might suggest that these observations are pragmatic and devoid of the Spirit. I will grant that they are pragmatic. But I’m not so sure that they are devoid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in the lives of both believers and nonbelievers to convict of sin, righteousness and judgment. Certainly the Holy Spirit can and does use moral codes as reminders of our own unrighteousness and our need for Christ’s righteousness.

But in an effort to be more specific regarding church attendance, allow me to turn to a second answer.

I happened on this answer while watching football practices for the Buffalo Bills and the Geneva Panthers – “B” team. You probably know who the Buffalo Bills are, but the Geneva Panthers “B” team may need introducing. It is the peewee football team Josiah is on – a group of twenty ten-year-olds.

The extremes of the football-playing spectrum can be summed up in these two teams, so I take it that the practices I saw were common to most teams around the world. And what I saw at both of these sessions was this: an emphasis on teamwork, friendly competition (at least it looked like it from a distance), and a desire to live up to team standards. These values drove the players to do their best, whether they were professionals or first-time-on-a-team 10-year-olds.

I won’t belabor the point. You see where I’m going. A commonly desired goal and commonly held values, when rehearsed in a commonly held setting, can bring out the very best in people. And that is true in church. When we gather together, affirming our common love of God and others and reminding ourselves of our collective goal – the evangelization and discipleship of all the nations, we place ourselves in a nurturing, encouraging, invigorating environment that can bring out the very best in us for God’s glory.

Can we adequately summarize all that the body of Christ is as it gathers together to worship and minister? I doubt it. There’s a lot more to be said about church meetings. ‘Church isn’t just a training camp; it’s the game too.’ ‘Church isn’t just rehearsal; it’s the performance too.’ Etc. Etc. Yep. All true. But, for what it’s worth, there it is… two quick answers to the question: “Why attend church?”

What do you think? How would you answer the question?

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE

§The Day I Stopped Eating. This author of this article records her struggle with an eating disorder and shares the up and downs she experienced in her recovery. If you thought Christians do not struggle occasionally in this area, think again. If someone in your extended family is fighting such a disorder, this article might serve as a starting point for a redemptive conversation. Find it at: http://www.prodigalmagazine.com/stopped-eating/.

§My Reply to Jerry Coyne: Why Darwinism is False. Jerry Coyne oversees a website entitled “Why Evolution is True,” and he is known for his commentary on the intelligent design debate. In February of 2009, Michael Egnor posted this response to Jerry Coyne. It’s a bit old now, but it is definitely still worth reading. One comment in his response seemed worthy of additional underscoring: “…there isn’t a single detailed, evidence-based explanation for the evolution of any biomolecule from primordial precursors.” Also revealing was his requote of a statement by Coyne’s mentor at Harvard, Dr. Richard Lewonitin which exposed the presuppositions driving the evolutionary academics. The quote reads (speaking of Lewonitin and his colleagues): “…we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.” Revealing, isn’t it? Read the response in its entirety at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/02/my_reply_to_jerry_coyne_why_da017681.html.

§Saudi Convert Criticizes Islam. This is a small news article about a Saudi woman who recently converted to Christianity. Her testimony of how the Lord brought her to Himself is fascinating and parallels the testimony of many other Christian converts from Islam. Read it at: http://www.worthynews.com/11660-saudi-convert-criticizes-islam.

§Refuting the King James Only Position. This brief article summarizes some of the problems with the “King James Only” position. If you interact with folks from a church that holds such a position – and they are pushing it on you – you may find this article helpful. Find it at: http://paulwilkinson.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/refuting-the-king-james-only-position/.

§Be Careful What You Tweet. This article focuses on the wise use of Twitter, but it can also easily apply to our use of other forms of social media. The author encourages Christians to ask – before posting something – this question: “Is this tweet/e-mail/facebook update Genuine, Accurate and Positive?” Applying this G.A.P. question before hitting the ‘send’ button can prevent a lot of unnecessary heartache. Read the whole article at: http://www.bigisthenewsmall.com/2012/07/30/be-careful-what-you-tweet-the-twitter-gap-method/.

Relatively Irrelevant

Fozzie: Hey, why don’t you join us?
Gonzo: Where are you going?
Fozzie: We’re following our dream!
Gonzo: Really? I have a dream, too!
Fozzie: Oh?
Gonzo: But you’ll think it’s stupid.
Fozzie: No we won’t, tell us, tell us!
Gonzo: Well, I want to go to Bombay, India and become a movie star.
Fozzie: You don’t go to Bombay to become a movie star! You go where we’re going: Hollywood.
Gonzo: Sure, if you want to do it the *easy* way.
Fozzie: [to Kermit] We’ve picked up a weirdo…

— from The Muppet Movie (1979)

I spent the weekend in Silvis, Illinois at one of our supporting churches, and what a great weekend it was! Great discussions, great fellowship, and great worship! But what wasn’t great was the twelve-hour drive home. As the sun warmed the car, I struggled with boredom and drowsiness. To battle these, I resorted to stopping at every other rest area. This permitted me to pace myself in hour long intervals, and it gave me a chance to get out of the car, stretch, and walk around. And during those stops, I played a little game, challenging myself to see if I could engage someone in conversation and learn something unique about him or her.

I struck gold at a rest area just outside of Chicago. I was waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant when a lady walked up behind me, smiled, and said hello. She was middle-aged, probably forty-five or fifty, dressed in business casual, slim, rather plain, and unmarried (if the absence of a wedding ring tells us anything these days). She was also sporting a 2012 campaign-style button on her shirt, one that named two people I’d never heard of as presidential candidates. I returned the smile and the greeting.

There was an awkward pause as we both studied the menu above the cash register and waited. Then she cleared her throat and said, “Are you planning to vote in this year’s election?”

“Yep. Planning to,” I answered.

“Then can I give you these?” She handed me several business cards. They were embossed with a large green and yellow logo that featured a circle, a dollar sign, and a snake wrapped around the central vertical line. Beneath the logo was printed the name of a political party I did not know.

“We’re conducting a ‘write-in’ campaign for the presidency,” she continued, “and we’re sure our candidates are really going to turn the country around.”

Hmm. A ‘write-in’ campaign. Didn’t Bozo the Clown do well in one of those campaigns years ago?

I asked a few questions to see whether she really thought her candidates stood a chance.

“Oh, yes,” she answered. “All it takes is word of mouth, and we’re confident that, as the word goes out, everyone is going to recognize that this is what we need and elect our candidates.”

I reexamined the business card and read the slogan printed in small print: “End the ruling class to launch the wealth of mankind.” And on the back, I found more text. It read: “Would you support a law that guarantees the conditions for you to prosper and live happily? This is what [this party] is all about. The Prime Law, the 3000 Year-Old-Secret guarantees those conditions in your life.” Uh-huh.

“I’m just now coming home from our convention in Chicago,” she added. “It was such a wonderful time! I just know that our candidates are going to make this country great!”

At that moment, the worker behind the cash register motioned me forward. I thanked the lady for her card and moved on.

As I drove away from that rest area, I kept hearing in my mind Fozzie’s comment to Kermit: “We’ve picked up a weirdo!”

This interaction reminded me of something I have witnessed in my Christian life, the tendency of some Christians to be sidetracked and sidelined by irrelevant or unhelpful causes, rendering them barren or unfruitful.

Let me start with an analogy. Picture in your mind a flowing river. Everything flows along nicely until the river encounters a large rock. The waters separate and then rejoin on the other side of the rock and continue their journey. Occasionally, the disruption leads to more disruptions and the waters separate for a prolonged time. Sometimes that separation is permanent and the river is no longer one river. It has become two. And then, at other times, the water that separates finds no outlet and stagnates, having become separated from the river. These eddies need not be permanent, but, often, they are.

I think of the history of orthodox Christianity as a flowing river, starting with Christ and the apostles and flowing down to our present age. Throughout history, that river has encountered obstacles, and there have been times of separation and reunification as well as times of separation and ultimate departure. But my focus here is not on those. My focus here is on the times Christians have become unhealthily consumed with minor issues and have become irrelevant and unfruitful in their generations.

These issues have varied over the years. Let me mention a few issues in ‘Christendom’ I consider whirling eddies of our day: music in worship – traditional vs. contemporary, translations of the Bible – King James vs. New King James vs. ESV vs. NASB vs. … (ad nauseum), lifestyle issues (what’s modest vs. what isn’t, and what’s worldly vs. what isn’t), and perhaps even areas of theology (i.e. angelology, eschatology, etc.).

Now please don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that these issues are not important. They are important, and we should each be convinced in our own mind concerning them. We should study the Scriptures about these matters and seek to glorify God in our obedient responses. All these issues are part of the Christian life, the flow of historical river of orthodoxy, and we must interact with them and respond to them with contextualized lives grounded in orthodoxy.

But the problem, it seems to me, comes when these matters become central in a Christian’s life. When studying and preaching these parts becomes a substitute for the whole Christian life and the overall Christian commission – to make disciples – stagnation has started. And those who engage in such behavior will become increasingly irrelevant, separated from the flow of orthodoxy and unhelpful in the advance of the Gospel.

Now, the reality is that we all have a tendency to move into doctrinal eddies. We all fixate at times on one aspect of the Christian faith. This seems to be part of the normal up and downs of the Christian life. But what is vitally important is that we do not permit ourselves to be permanently sidetracked. We must not allow ourselves to be consumed by the minor issues and neglect the major ones.

How can we avoid a life spent in the eddies of the Christian river? Well, first, we must regularly interact with the whole counsel of God. This means that we must find ways to read the Bible regularly in its entirety, avoiding the tendency to return repeatedly to a few favorite passages, thereby neglecting the more ‘difficult’ or ‘boring’ sections. Second, we must be careful to interact with the larger community of Christian believers. Christians in isolation can forget that God is also working in the lives of other Christians, and they can forget that God’s purposes and plans are both big and small. We can avoid that by interacting with other Christians at church, through the Internet, and by reading books and listening to audio programs. And, third, we must remind ourselves forcefully and frequently that our primary assignment is the making of disciples of Jesus who know and follow Him in everything!

Well, let me bring this to a close by returning to the lady at the rest area. After talking with her, I checked out the website on the business card. I was surprised to find that there were a few good ideas mentioned there. And, sure, there were some ideas with which I didn’t agree. But, the issue wasn’t whether their political party subscribed to a few decent ideas. What mattered to me was that it was all seemed so irrelevant. This party will never win the next election, and the vast majority of voters will never hear the names of these two candidates. Indeed, I think most people who do hear of these folks will think they’re part of a cult. So, as I thought back to the lady, I felt sad for her. I felt sad that she, for good motives (perhaps), had invested so much time, money, and energy into a profitless cause.

When it comes to politics, I don’t know much. Maybe some folks would say any time, money, and energy invested is a waste. I don’t know. But I do know that I do not want to be a Christian who neglects the most important matters of the Christian life by focusing too much attention on the minor matters. I do not want to spend my life campaigning for irrelevant causes. I want to spend my life campaigning for Christ. How about you?

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE… audio programs!

§Adventures in Odyssey. Most Christians know about Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, but if you don’t, let me introduce you to one of the best Christian radio programs available! Adventures in Odyssey tells stories from Odyssey, an All-American city, and shares Biblical truths in engaging, entertaining ways. Listen to archived episodes, play games, and more, at: www.whitsend.org.

§HisKids.net. This website is an alliance of ministries whose cornerstone is Jesus Christ and whose passion is reaching kids with Biblical truth through excellent media resources. At this website, you can listen to current broadcasts of “Down Gilead Lane”, “The Pond” and more! Find it at: www.HisKids.net.

§Unshackled! This radio program dramatizes true stories of men and women who have turned to Christ. This program is produced by Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, Illinois, and has been around for a long time. I remember listening to this program while I was attending Bible College – so you know it’s been around a while! Find archives of past programs at: http://www.unshackled.org/listen_home.html.

§Keys for Kids Daily Devotionals. Desiree Dawley forwarded me an online devotion from CBH Ministries, and I wanted to share the link. This is a GREAT resource! CBH Ministries is the home of “Uncle Charlie” and Children’s Bible Hour. Bookmark it! I’ve always enjoyed listening to Uncle Charlie. These devotions can be read or heard at the website: http://www.cbhministries.org/ForKids/KeysforKids/ReadListen.aspx.

…And Leonard?

A couple weeks ago, our daughter Grace and I had the opportunity to visit Brooklyn. While we were there, a friend took us on an outing to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and we spent a few happy hours wandering through the exhibits.

As we made our way through the labyrinth that is the European Paintings Gallery, we paused to gaze at each painting and to read the placard posted beside it. Many of these had a religious theme focusing on Christ, Mary, or one or more of the apostles. The placards read something like this, “Madonna and Christ Child, painted by [some Italian guy] in [some place] in [some date].” After doing this twenty or thirty times, it got a little tedious. All the scenes seemed the same, until we entered a small room and came face-to-face with a life-sized painting of two men and two women. The man on the left – the one holding a set of keys – and the veiled woman next to him were gazing humbly downward. The other woman looked outward at the viewer, and the man on the right – the one holding fetters – was glancing upward from the corner of his eyes.

I turned my attentions to the placard and began to read. “It’s by Corrreggio,” I said,”and was painted around 1515. It features…” I paused and reread the placard before continuing, “Saints Peter, Martha, Mary Magdalene, and … Leonard.”

“…and Leonard?” Grace giggled.

“Yep, that’s what it says,” I answered. “Leonard.”

Okay. Wow. It’s not often one sees a classical depiction of Peter, Martha, Mary and Leonard. And this led to an evening filled with jokes and speculations concerning Leonard. We decided it would be fun to start a fansite on Facebook for Leonard. (Look for it in a few months!) The slogan for the fansite will be “Like Leonard!”

In the following weeks, I have thought back many times to that painting of Leonard. I suppose one reason I have thought back to it was simple curiosity over the identity of Leonard. I did a little nosing around and learned that Leonard (Leonard of Noblac) died in 559 AD and was afterward considered the patron saint of prisoners, criminals, captives and slaves. The other reason I have been thinking back to it is that it underscored to me the marvelous reality of our position in Christ. Let me explain…

When I read the New Testament, I find it easy to fall into “Bible Character mode.” I read about Peter, Paul, James, John, and the other disciples, and I elevate them in my mind to a ‘super-saint’ position. This “Bible Character mode” thing goes beyond recognizing the apostles’ authority and unique positions. It fosters a separation in my mind between them as believers and me as a 21st century believer. I am apt to forget as I read, if I am not careful, that they are my brothers in Christ and I share equally with them in all the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Indeed, according to Scripture, I too am a “saint” in Christ Jesus (as unlikely as this seems to anyone who knows me well.) Perhaps that is why Peter reminds the readers of his letter that he is speaking to those “who have obtained like precious faith by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1)

Turning back now to Leonard, I remember laughing when I saw “Leonard” standing next to those heroes of the faith. But now, as I consider the truths of God’s Word and realize that I could, just as likely, see a picture of Peter, Martha, Mary and Christian, it seems even more laughable! I find myself giggling at the thought as I consider the grace of God that makes it possible for a guy like me to take his place with His saints! Truly this is work solely of God! Only He could do such a thing.

Now, of course, that is not only true for me and Leonard. It is true for you too. So today, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus, for just a moment, picture yourself as the fourth person in that painting, and rejoice in God Your Savior who has granted you such a position!

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE

  •  Why No Denomination Will Survive the Homosexuality Crisis. This article points out the reality that Christian denominations cannot have it both ways. They cannot simultaneously  remain true to Scripture and endorse members with homosexual lifestyles. The author argues that denominations cannot avoid taking a stand on this matter, and he encourages them to take that stand actively rather than passively. Read it at: http://www.christianpost.com/news/why-no-denomination-will-survive-the-homosexuality-crisis-78296/. 
  • ‘God Particle’ Discovery Ignites Debate Over Science and Religion. This article raises as many questions as it answers, but it is helpful in that it raises the questions that are worth further exploration. You may find this particular statement challenging: “This much is true: Higgs bosons – which permeate the universe – help us understand how something comes from nothing.” Hmm, is that the same thing as a belief in creation ex nihilo? What do you think? Find the article at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/14/higgs-boson-god-particle-religion-science_n_1672741.html. 
  • Germany’s Circumcision Ruling Makes Believers Anxious. A German court recently ruled that circumcision amounted to bodily harm, and this has raised issues of religious discrimination in Germany. This is particularly remarkable, considering Germany’s past persecution of the Jews. This ruling may soon be set aside, as German lawmakers are expected to pass a motion to protect religious circumcision, but the controversy is a disturbing reminder of political correctness gone wrong. Could we see this issue raised in the United States some day? Read more at: http://www.getreligion.org/2012/07/germanys-circumcision-ruling-makes-religious-adherents-anxious/. 
  • Memorize Scripture. This article reminds us of the importance of memorizing Scripture. The author also suggests some practical ways to increase one’s practice of this discipline. At the end of the article, she also lists a few other websites with Scripture Memory helps. Find the article at: http://www.cherylcope.com/memorize-scripture.

Honoring God’s Word

Did you know today is Flag Day? If you didn’t, don’t feel bad. You are not alone. I had no idea, myself, until Nicole reminded me this morning that she and I needed to attend a Flag Day program at Moriah’s elementary school.

I did a little looking into the history of Flag Day, and I discovered that it has been around for quite a while. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1916 that officially established June 14 as Flag Day, and that proclamation was formally accepted by an Act of Congress in August of 1949.

The program at Moriah’s school consisted of several patriotic songs and the recitation of certain facts about our nation’s flag. Several of the children listed rules for handling the flag correctly, and I found that particularly interesting, since I hadn’t realized how persnickety it all was. When I got home, I decided to look up those rules. Here’s what I found out:

Federal law addresses flag etiquette. This section of the law is referred to as the Flag Code. Here are just a few examples of the stipulations found in that part of the law:

  • The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source.
  • The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
  • When the flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol for our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

Those are just a few examples of the stipulations. Wow. But it makes sense. It’s appropriate.

As I listened to the children recite the rules for the proper treatment of the flag, I found myself thinking about the Bible and the way people treat it. It is my observation that some Christians, people who would never lay the American flag on the floor, casually lay their Bibles on the floor. Some folks toss their Bibles carelessly about, treating them almost like the latest bestselling paperback from Wal-Mart. And I find myself wondering whether such actions manifest a proper attitude towards God’s Word.

I do not want to set rules for how we handle our copy of God’s Word. I’m not into that sort of thing. I understand that there may be times when it is necessary to place one’s Bible on the ground. Indeed, one’s Bible may become tattered through use, and that is a wonderful thing.  Still, though, I believe that our treatment of the Bible should reflect our reverence for God and our gratefulness to Him for giving us life in Christ Jesus.

So, no rules. I simply encourage you today to remember all God has given you in your Bible and to treat it with the respect it deserves.

God’s Word is a lot more valuable than a flag. Amen?

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE

  • A Letter to the Church from Billy Graham. In this article, Ed Stetzer shares a letter from Billy Graham included as a forward in his “The Mission of God Study Bible.” I appreciate Billy Graham’s integrity and faithful ministry through the years, and I was encouraged by his letter. I think you will be too. Read it at: http://www.edstetzer.com/2012/06/a-letter-to-the-church-from-bi.html

A Life of Faith

Where are we?” and, “Which road should we take?”

GPS navigational systems, such as those produced by Tom Tom and Garmin, have changed how we think about these two questions. For $100 or less, we can access satellite technology, determine our position, and set a course for a chosen destination. These devices have reduced the number of maps in our glove compartments – thank goodness – and have permitted us to focus our attentions on far more important questions, such as: “Where do we want to go?” and “Where do we need to go?”

That’s great for cars and road trips, but what about for people and their lives? Have you ever wished you had a personal GPS device to help answer these sorts of questions: “Where am I in my personal life?” “What should I do next?” and “Where am I headed?”

The good news, of course, is that all of us believers have been given something and Someone much better than a GPS device. We been given God’s Written Word, the Bible, a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path, and the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who promises to lead and to guide us in His ways.

As Christians, we know that. So why do we sometimes feel that things are malfunctioning in us? Why does it occasionally feel as though our metaphorical GPS unit is on the fritz? And is there anything we can do to ‘get things working again’?

Well, here are some possible reasons for those experiences:

First of all, perhaps we have forgotten that, if there is a problem, it isn’t with God’s Divine GPS system. Both His Word and His indwelling Spirit are prefect, Humans may fail, but God never does.

Second, perhaps we have forgotten to listen carefully to the directions God’s Divine GPS system is giving. In the midst of our busy lives, we may be failing to take the time or invest the energy to study God’s Word and hear His small quiet voice. We may even be drowning out the Spirit’s voice with amusements and diversions. Bottom line? Sometimes we just are choosing sin over sanctity.

Third, perhaps we have forgotten that the accurate setting of a destination is primary. If we don’t enter an accurate destination into our car’s GPS, we will fail to arrive where we want to be, no matter how accurately the technology guides us. In our lives, it is essential that we allow God to pick the final destination. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a role in ‘entering’ the destination, but it does mean that the destination we enter must be the one God desires.

So, what I’ve really been talking about here, very briefly, is how to live a life a faith. In short. I suggest that living a life of faith includes: remembering that God has provided us with everything we need for life and godliness in Christ Jesus; taking the time, daily, to fellowship with Him through Bible reading, prayer, and meditation; and, accepting wholeheartedly and embracing completely His overall purposes for our lives by obeying His commandments.

Then, I think, we will be living faith-ful lives.

What do you think?

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE