Monday, March 31, 2014

James Fraser on Endurance



Preparation, delay, and growth are characteristics of God’s working both in history and in nature.  Scripture and the facts of nature meet, when James, exhorting us to patience, says, “The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it.”  The same principle applies to our own spiritual lives, and to our labour in the Lord.  A mature Christian is not the product of a day or a month or a year either.  “It takes time,” said the late Dr. Andrew Murray, “to grow into Christ.”  We must strike our roots down deep in the soil of the Word and be strengthened by long, long experience.  It is a slow process, and it is right that it should be so: God does not want us to be spiritual mushrooms.

                        -       James Fraser

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Quote of the Day


Perfectionism is not as much the desire for excellence as it is the fear of failure couched in procrastination. -- Dan Miller

Friday, March 28, 2014

Defining Success


The Lord promised Joshua that if he would meditate on the Book of the Law and obey the Lord, God would give him success.  For Joshua that meant conquering the Promised Land.  For believers today, it is somewhat more difficult to define success.  Is it more money?  More influence?  A long earthly life?  For a church or ministry, is success a larger budget?  A bigger building?  More people coming?  More impact on people? 

Terry Burns, a Christian author, shares a wise insight for how Christian authors can define success.  What if God wants to use an author to only influence a few? . . .

"How do we know if we have succeeded in our writing goals if we haven't defined what success is to us?

When I wrote the novel Mysterious Ways, God obviously knew where He wanted it to go and He saw to it that it went there. As I said, I have no idea how that was accomplished. It wasn’t a large group, but it was where He intended it to go.

We all have to ask ourselves that question: What if the market God has in mind isn’t a large number, what if it is a smaller group?"

Read the entire article, "How Do You Define Success in Your Writing?" by Terry Burns here.

Fantastic Family Friday: The Family Altar


One of the marks of the life of Abram was the regular building of altars.  As he moved from place to place, he built new altars:  From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent . . . .  There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD (Genesis 12:8).

What takes place at an altar?  Worship occurs.  People commune with the Lord.  An altar is a place where you meet with God.

Our families need altars.  They need times and places where we stop and give attention to the Lord.  In our day so many things clamor for our attention!  So many modern distractions (that were non-existent 100 years ago) threaten to steal our time and focus. 

Our children grow up in a culture where they regularly see television, have constant internet access, use smart phones habitually, and experience an abundance of means of communication.  However, in spite of all of that they still need altars to meet the Lord.

Dads and moms, one of our roles as parents is to build habits and experiences into the rhythms of our routine where we and our families encounter the Lord.  Some people call that a "family altar" or "family worship."  It is a time when the family turns aside and focuses on God.

Children need to see their Dads and Moms open the Bible and read to the family.  They need to hear us pray - for them and with them.  They need to hear us open our mouths and talk about the Lord and how God relates to life in our world.  Their spiritual development requires that we model for them how to turn off all of the modern devices at times and listen to the still small voice of the Lord.

Donald Whitney suggests three reminders when thinking about leading family worship: brevity, regularity, and flexibility.    Keep it simple, keep it habitual, and remember to adjust and bend.

Dads, here we are in the last days of March.  I have learned that without a plan, I often fumble at family worship.  Why not take a few moments this weekend, quiet yourself before the Lord and ask him to guide you in planning some family worship for the next month?

Some days this year I have taken my family through parts of the story of Old Testament Joseph.  Other times this past month I have used pages from Charles Stanley's simple book How to Listen to God as fodder for discussion.  Or at times I find it helpful to share with them what I have read that day in my own Bible reading.  Remember, something is better than nothing.

There is no such thing as perfection in leading family worship.  The goal, though, is to be faithful, which involves making it a habit in our lives.

Charles Spurgeon put it well:

If we want to bring up a godly family, who shall be a seed to serve God when our heads are under the clods of the valley, let us seek to train them up in the fear of God by meeting together as a family for worship.







Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Walk with Jesus Tuesday: Review


How easily we do forget!  I had to accept several years ago that I was wired mentally like an absent-minded professor.  I can stand up from my desk with the intention of doing one particular thing at the other end of the house.  By the time I walk from one end of the house to the next, I have forgotten that thing. 

As a pastor, I know that I do not remember everything that I hear through my ears.   A notepad close-at-hand often assists the filing cabinet of our brains.

Adrian Rogers once said that the weakest pen is greater than the strongest mind. 

As important as it is to write down tasks like "I need to call Jim back," or "go look at shelves at Lowes," or "send Aunt Betsy a birthday card," how much more important it is for us to write down things that the Lord gives us.

For years I have practiced keeping a spiritual journal.  However, my journal is no fancy endeavor.  At any given time I have one three-ring binder that includes a spiral notebook.  I keep it handy for jotting down Bible verses, prayers, quotations, or guidings from the Holy Spirit that I come across during my times of Bible meditation, reading for spiritual development, and prayer times. 

God speaks in a myriad of ways.  The active listener learns to write down things that we believe come from the Lord to us.

However, once again, I find it easy to forget even those spiritual lessons.  The Lord can grab my attention through a sermon, book, or time of prayer - only for me to forget it a few days later.

While going through the workbook Masterlife by Avery Willis, I learned a valuable lesson to assist me to not forget.  Willis recommends that once a month we take some time to stop and review our spiritual journal from the previous 30 days.  Were there any Bible passages that especially encouraged us?  Was there a specific answer to prayer?  Was there a new prayer-focus?  Was there a promise we claimed?  Did the Spirit of God impress something specific on us during our prayer time?  Was there a directive or a step of obedience we intended to take?

When God prepared His people to cross into the Promised Land, he exhorted them about the importance of remembering His words and instructions:

They are not just idle words for you--they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.  Deuteronomy 32:47

As easy as it is to forget - even important things - this practice helps us to remember.  The Bible is replete with instructions to remember what God has said and not forget.  If we forget - we may not obey and experience God's best.

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you. - Deuteronomy 8:2

Take one day a month and review what God has given you.  That is a whole lot more important than just remembering to pick up the laundry!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Great Homeschool Convention


 
 
We attended the Great Homeschool Convention in Greenville, South Carolina, this weekend.  This year was our fourth year to attend.  We receive encouragement from being with so many other homeschool families from all across the Southeast, we attend some great sessions that challenge us toward godliness and discipline, we run into many old and new friends, we enjoy a fantastic exhibit hall filled with lots to explore, and we get to spend time in one of our favorite cities - and eat out several meals!  (This year's choices included The Clock drive-in, Southern Fried Green Tomatoes, and Chick-fil-A!) And we always come home with a new load of Adventures in Odyssey CD's!
 
 
 


Friday, March 21, 2014

Fantastic Family Friday: Taking for Granted


This morning I heard that an associate pastor at a Southern Baptist church in upstate South Carolina has an inoperable cancer with little hope of long-term survival.  The man is 41 years old and has two children in elementary and middle school. 

Wow, how that hits close to home.  I am a 41-year old pastor of a Southern Baptist upstate South Carolina church.  I have three children in middle and elementary school. 

When newlyweds stand at the altar, we tend to think of all of the wonderful things life has in store.  We dream of the positive goals we hope to accomplish and dreams we want to fulfill.

Life, however, can change dramatically and quickly.  Most people never expect a sudden car accident, heart attack, or diagnosis of a terminal illness. 

Reflecting on the news of that brother in Christ, I could not help but think about my family.  How life would change for them if that were me.  How fast the ethos of our world could be altered.  It also made me do a quick evaluation of things that really matter versus things that just hold our attention.

What things have I done this week that really mattered?  As I reflected on that question, I thought of a few . . .

  • Spending a few one-on-one moments with my eleven-year old daughter in her room.  Taking her hand and dancing her - allowing her to stand on my two feet - at her request.

  • Our family taking a leisurely lunch with an old college friend and his family - catching up and learning how God has been at work in their lives.

  • Making myself carve out some minutes to stop getting more "busy-work" done and instead open my Bible to read and pray.

  • Taking a moment to thank a friend for the investment she has made in the lives of people.

  • Stretching out in bed with my boys and wife and not rushing - asking questions about each other's lives, listening, and trying to give some feedback.

None of us know how much time we have on this earth - and how many opportunities will come to invest in things that really matter.  We may have decades to enjoy life's goodness and share Christ's presence - or we may have only moments.

Let's take the opportunities in front of us to live for what really matters.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mountain Fun















Walk with Jesus Tuesday: The Three Legs of the Stool


The Lord created us for healthy relationships.  God created humanity first to enjoy a relationship with Him.  Paul wrote that God, who has called us into fellowship with His Son Jesus, is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9).

The natural overflow of a healthy walk with God is healthy relationships with other people.  The testimony of the early church shows that it was the regular habit of believers to come together two different ways weekly. 

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46).

First, they worshiped together in a large-group environment, most likely for preaching and gathering for songs and prayers.  However, they almost met - sometimes daily - in homes in what we would call "small group meeting."  One home would only house a few families.     These smaller gatherings became the place for people to get to know each other, share life together, laugh, pray and encourage one another.

Some believers today avoid going to church with other Christians, thinking, "I can worship God on my own and listen to great preaching online or on the television."  Yes, you can.  But, the example of Scripture is that believers are to come together.  Jesus promised His presence when two or three gather - not just when we watch others gather via our computer.  When the early church gathered to pray, the Bible says that the place was shaken.  There is an element of the manifest presence of God that He reserves for corporate worship.

Other believers worship corporately but do not involve themselves in small group settings, whether that be a Sunday School class, a prayer group, or a small meeting for Bible study, encouragement, or accountability.   However, it is in those settings where lives touch other lives face-to-face, where relationships and bonds are formed, strengthened, and oiled, and where people feel connected.

Studies have shown for years in churches that individuals who do not get connected in some type of small group setting will not likely stay connected to the church long-term.

I observed this once in my ministry.  Two couples attended the church for more than a year.  Both couples attended a potential-members class.  I later had conversations with the husbands from both families.  One told me that they did not feel like they knew how to get connected on the inside of the church.  They did not think that people would allow them to come in on a deep level.  They felt like people would not allow them to be involved. 

Two days later, the man from the other family initiated a conversation with me.  He told me how deeply loved they felt in our church, how they have never known a church that was so inviting, and that he has told his wife several times, "This church has showed us what church is really supposed to be about." 

Two very different conversations and outcomes.  In reflecting on the comments, one reality stood out to me.  The first couple came to worship but did not get regularly involved in any Sunday School class nor small group.  Their primary connection was the Sunday morning worship experience.  They attempted to serve in a few capacities but without getting connected in a small group setting.  The other couple, however, dove deeply into the Sunday morning Life Group (Sunday School) class - and the man got quickly involved in a men's small group that meets weekly.  He and his wife jumped headfirst into both of those experiences.  The result?  They felt deeply connected, very valued, and sincerely loved and wanted. 

God made some things simple.  The key to feeling those things described by the second man is involving ourselves with other believers in a small group setting - building some authentic relationships.  I have noticed through the years that some Christians have a tendency to "lean away" from face-to-face relationships in small groups.  I believe the model of the New Testament, however, is that healthy Christianity requires that we "lean in."  As one of the deacons in our church says regularly, we need a place where we can come and lay aside our false faces - and allow other people to love and encourage us.  There is a balm that comes from participating in a group that I do not control but that allows me to come in and relate just as I am.

Larry Crabb describes it this way: Maybe the center of Christian community is connecting with a few.  It's time to consider a radical understanding of "going to church" that centers on releasing the power to change lives that God has placed within every member of the Christian community, a community that Christ calls his body a community made up of lots of people connecting to a few others. . . .  [M]y prayer is that "going to church" will become the most important activity of our lives, the activity of building healing communities of a connected few.  (Connecting: Healing for Ourselves and Our Relationships)

Years ago I heard a Navigator missionary share that a healthy Christian life required three things, like the three legs of a stool.  Every Christian needs a one-on-one time with the Lord - often called the quiet time or devotional life.  Then, a believer needs to worship regularly in a large-group setting with other Christians.  And thirdly, believers need to engage with other Christians in a small group setting weekly.  To have only one or two legs of the stool will make it unbalanced.  All three, however, lead to a firm foundation.

Spend time with God daily.  Worship with other believers corporately.  And build relationships in small group settings.  Those are healthy connections.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tuesdays and Fridays


This week I am beginning two additions to my blog: Walk with Jesus Tuesday and Fantastic Family Friday.

Every Tuesday I will post a discipleship tip to help us walk closely with the Lord.

Every Friday I will post a family tip to help us experience healthy family life.

I hope it is a blessing to you!

Quotes of the Day - Grace


Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.  – Donald Barnhouse

To show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it.  Every time the thought of grace appears, there is the idea of its being undeserved.  – Charles Swindoll

Polish Me


Polish me like an arrow, tune my strings to play your song
Mold my heart to walk in all your ways to lead your sheep along
As we move among the masses, may we bestow the Father’s love
That His children may be reconciled, the awesome church of God

Chorus:

Polish me, polish me
May Your Spirit work within me, polish me
Make me like a sanded arrow
Shadowed by your holy hand
In your quiver you will hide me for the purpose of this land

 
As a leader in your kingdom let me know and do Your will
Give me an undivided heart that is quiet and so still
And as Your Spirit beckons, may we yield ourselves to Him
To know your ways and walk in them that name will be revealed

 
As the Master of the harvest weeps over His world
May He raise up vineyard workers as His purposes unfold
With the anointing of God’s Spirit, alert to follow Him
He will make us fishers of His men with more souls won to Him

 
To be led by Jesus,
To lead more like Jesus
To lead more to Jesus, that is our aim
As arrows in your quiver Lord, may your blessing rest upon your sons and
daughters as we seek to reach the world
 
 
- Rhett H. Wilson, Sr.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Captain America Comes to our Church


My eight-year-old decided to make a new Lego creation - a replica of our church's sanctuary on Sunday mornings! He made me on the platform preaching. You will note that we have many different types of hats in our service. And notice Captain America on the back row. It is nice to have an Avenger serve as the doorman and church body guard.





Friday, March 14, 2014

The Confidentiality Question - Keep This Between You and Me


There are some things we all wish we learned years earlier than we did.  For me, I wish someone had sat me down when I was in seminary and told me, "This is how to deal with the confidentiality issue."

For years I have cringed on the inside when someone walks into my office and announces, "I want you to keep this only between you and me."  Or, someone will sometimes say to me, "I do not want you to tell anyone - not even your wife about this."  When that happens, as it occasionally does for any pastor, red flags immediately begin to wave in my spirit.  I immediately think, "What are they about to tell me - and want my pledge of absolute confidence BEFORE they tell me?"

I remember the question being addressed in one of my doctoral seminars at Gordon Conwell Seminary.  One pastor, struggling with the issue, asked the professor if it was all right for him to tell his wife about details of counseling sessions.  As I mentioned, some counselees will want to draw the line that the pastor not tell his wife about their discussions.

The seminary professor, whose name I don't recall, gave an excellent - and very biblical - answer.  He shared that we need to be careful to not forgot the "one-flesh" principle in the Bible.  According to God's Word, a husband and wife are one flesh - that means one in not only body but in spirit and purpose.  No other relationship on earth is to come between that marvelous reality of the oneness in marriage.  And, therefore, no outside party ever has a right or privilege to dictate to the husband (or wife) what will or will not be shared with the other.

I witnessed a situation in a church, for example, when a mediator brought in to handle staff conflict dictated to the women on the staff that they were "not allowed" to talk with their husbands about the inner workings of the office and office politics.  That advice is a clear violation of the biblical "one-flesh principle."  And for the discerning Christian, such mandates by men should not be obeyed.

The one-flesh principle certainly does not mean that the pastor must tell everything to his wife from the counseling session.  It is a wise pastor who learns to not come home and dump everything on his beloved wife.  Some things make for a healthier and happier home when they are left at the office!  And not everything needs to be shared with her.  However, the fact remains that the counselee is not to decide that for the pastor.  For the godly pastor, a wife who seeks the Lord will be a wise sounding board for many difficult situations he faces.  Many times I have shared with my wife a delicate situation I faced in ministry and asked, "What do you think?"  It is a fool who cuts himself off from that vital stream through which God may communicate and guide.

For some people, they have an idealistic or unrealistic view of the pastor or counselor.  They want the one in the position of authority to act as in island, handling the situation with just them and God.  However, this notion often ignores the regular emphasis in the New Testament on the role of the body of Christ - not just one person - in dealing with problems in our lives, the sins and failures of believers, and the burdens we face.  The Bible is clear that the more difficult a situation, the more wise, godly counsel, prayer, and help is needed - not only from one pastor - but from a number of godly leaders.

Confidentiality is an ideal that simply cannot always be kept - nor should it always.  That certainly does not give a pastor or counselor permission to have loose lips.  My grandmother, a pastor's wife, once said that when a pastor dies, a lot of secrets go down in the grave with him.  How true.

Pastor Sam Storms shares thoughts about confidentiality: I wish I'd known about the delusion of so-called confidentiality. Pity the man who puts his confidence in confidentiality

A pastor for almost forty years, Storms goes on to say, Be cautious and discerning about to whom you promise confidentiality, under which conditions (it's rarely if ever unconditional), and in regard to what issues and/or individuals. "Sam, you don't appear to have much trust in human nature, do you?" It's not that I don't trust human nature. I'm actually quite terrified of it! What I trust is Scripture's teaching about human nature.  (What I Wish I'd Known: Reflections on Nearly 40 Years of Pastoral Ministry)

Storms is correct in saying "it's rarely if ever unconditional."  For discerning pastors and counselors, we need wisdom to know when it should be kept and when it is unrealistic and unhealthy to do so.

One book I wish I had read at the beginning of my ministry is The Handbook of Church Discipline by Jay Adams, who established The Institute for Nouthetic Studies.  To our loss, we live in a day when the idea of church discipline is overlooked, misunderstood, and outright ignored.  We live in a day when people, even Christians, emphasize their rights, their privileges, and what other people - including the church - owe them.  We do not live in a day when biblical rebuke, correction, and training (2 Tim. 3:16-17) are often welcomed.  However, the process of church discipline is a biblical one in order for the church and Christians to rightly function.

It functions as a part of the process to produce righteousness in the lives of Christians and the church.  It involves other godly, mature believers in the process of rebuking, correcting, and training an erring believer - so that the believer can begin again to walk in righteousness, to be restored to Christ's functioning body, and to experience the peace of God.  The process of discipline is to produce peace.

In his excellent treatment of what he calls "corrective discipline," Adams addresses the issue of confidentiality.  Discussing Matthew 18:15-17 and establishing the fact that, according to the Bible, corrective discipline includes involving an ever-enlarging number of persons, Adams shares the following:

The implications of this biblical requirement to seek additional help in order to reclaim an offender is that Christians must never promise absolute confidentiality to any person.  Frequently it is the practice of Bible-believing Christians to give assurances of absolute confidentiality, never realizing that they are following a policy that originated in the Middle Ages and that is unbiblical and contrary to Scripture (there is not a scrap of evidence in the Bible for the practice).

Both individuals and counselors must be aware of the all-important fact that absolute confidentiality prohibits the exercise of church discipline. . . .  Of even greater importance than the matter of hindering the process of church discipline and thereby depriving those parties involved of the assistance they need, including the help of Christ working through His church, is the fact that absolute confidentiality requires one to make a hasty vow.  No such vow to silence should ever be made.  A rash vow of this sort may put us in a bind where we are obligated to God to move the process of discipline on to a larger sphere. . . .  We must never put ourselves in  a position where we find it impossible to obey a biblical command.

Is it right, then, to refuse to grant any confidentiality at all?  No, confidentiality is assumed in the gradual widening of the sphere of concern to other persons set forth in Matthew 18:15ff.  As you read the words of our Lord in this passage, you get the impression that it is only reluctantly, when all else fails, that more and more persons may be called in. 

The next bit of advice by Adams is worth the price of one entire class in seminary!  I wish someone had given it to me years ago:

What then does one say when asked to keep a matter of confidence?  We ought to say, "I am glad to keep confidence in the way that the Bible instructs me.  That means, of course, that I shall never involve others unless God requires me to do so."  In other words, we must not promise absolute confidentiality, but rather, confidentiality that is consistent with biblical requirements.  No Christian can rightly ask another for more than that.

In closing, sometimes love demands that we speak and share.  Sometimes love demands that we not meet the requests of others.  Sometimes love demands that we not keep confidentiality.  Some of our modern law even reflects that reality.  When a counselor or pastor, for example, learns that a counselee has attempted suicide, that counselor under law is supposed to notify other persons.  Why?  In order to get them help - even if that help is unwanted.  If a pastor learns that a counselee is being sexually or physically abused, that pastor is to contact other people - including the police.  Why?  To get that person help - even if the help seems intrusive. 

And sometimes love demands that we involve other people in the Body of Christ in order to help a wayward brother or sister - with the hope that others will love them, pray for them, correct and train them, with the goal of restoration - a person walking uprightly in God's grace once again.

Be careful to not put confidence in confidentiality - but in Christ and His Word. 




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Keep Believing

 
I have been reflecting in my spirit a lot the past week about the grace of God.  Sunday morning I preached on the awesome display of God's grace in Abram's life - simply amazing.  

God teaches Abram the following life-principle:

The grace of God is able to work out His promises in our lives in spite of our fears and failures as we continue to walk forward in faith.

In Genesis 15 the Lord renews His covenant with Abram, assuring him that the promise is not lost and that he will indeed have many descendants naturally - not through the servant Eliezer.  The chapter begins in verse one with "after these things."  After what things?  These three little words refer to many experiences Abram endured since the Lord first gave him the call and promise in chapter twelve.  Some of these things include the following - and I have included how they relate to our own experiences . . .


·       The initial call to venture in faith (12:1-7).

When you started out with conviction, enthusiasm, and courage

·       Establishing the pattern of regular worship – going to the throne of grace (12:8-9).

The beginning and keeping of spiritual habits in your life

·       A pathetic blunder of fear, sin and embarrassment (12:10-20).

When we walk in the flesh, temporarily forgetting God

·       A time of quarreling, resulting in the separation from those he thought were a part of the promise (13:all).

When unexpected disagreements arise, resulting in significant loss

·       When the battles of other people affect you (14:1-12).

The troubles and fleshly choices of other people bite us

·       When those you love are negatively affected by life’s battles (14:12).

We see those for whom we care buffeted and tossed

·       When life causes you to have to fight (14:13-16).

Sometimes we have no choice but to roll up our sleeves and do battle

·       When you have experienced losses  - sometimes by choice and sometimes not (14:18-24).

When we choose the right thing and it costs us

·       When you fear retaliation from people you have upset (14:1-16).

Standing for truth and justice has a way of attracting enemies

Abram, sitting in his tent or at the entrance of his tent, is probably rehearsing the events in chapter fourteen.  He just led a small army to defeat several kings and their nomadic groups.  He recovered the stolen goods and people that had been taken by force from Sodom.  In a noble act of integrity, he refused to keep the wealth and instead gives it back to Sodom's king.  Now, after the dust and excitement have settled, he sits alone and no doubt is thinking, "Those kings I defeated are going to come back and whoop me!  And I can't believe I just gave away all of that money."

In that moment the Lord initiates one of the high-moments of Abram's life.  God speaks, "Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward."  In other words, "Abram, I know where you are and where you have been, I will protect you from any retaliation, and I will provide for your needs."

Realizing he has the Lord's attention, Abram dares to ask something that no doubt has been on his mind for years - why has the initial promise not yet been fulfilled?  "You have given me no children; so a servant from my household will be my heir." 

Likely Abram is taking responsibility for his part in the journey.  He realizes, "I have failed at times - like when I blew it in Egypt and misused my wife.  I have had losses and battles I never expected.  Life has thrown several curve-balls.  Lord, I probably don't deserve the initial promise anymore.  And I am probably not a fit vessel anymore.  So it is ok if you fulfill the promise through Eliezer.  That is fine."

But God had different plans.  Immediately the Lord speaks that Eliezer will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body."  Then, in dramatic fashion the Lord tells Abram to come outside of the tent and look "up at the heavens and count the stars - if indeed you can count them."

In other words - Abram, come out from what you can do and that which limits your vision.  Get your eyes off of yourself.  Look at Me and what I can do.  I did not give you the promise without knowing what your future held.  I did not give you the promise without knowing your forthcoming fears and failures.  Abram, the fulfillment of the promise rests on My shoulders - not yours.  Stay in a posture of simple faith, Abram, believing not in your righteousness or your ability to make things happen, but instead, believing in Me."

The covenant depends on a relationship with the Covenant-maker.  Yes, if a person continuously hardens their heart toward the Lord and lives habitually in unbelief and disobedience, then the promise can be thwarted.  But what the Promise-Maker looks for is people who will keep coming back to Him, keep trusting, keep submitting - not for people of perfection.
.
It appears in Scripture that in the life of His children, the key element God desires from us is simple, surrendered, believing faith.  After all of Abram and God's interaction, when he gets him outside of the tent, it brings Abram to the pivotal point again - "Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness."
 
We call Abram the "father of faith."  We even call those who follow the Lord "believers" indicating that they are people who have "believed" Him.
 
Watchman Nee, the Chinese pastor, said once that the true mark of the Christian is not that He first knows how to give - but that He first knows how to receive.  "Nothing in my hands I bring, only to thy cross I cling."
 
Despite Abram's personal failures and fears, in spite of all of the troubles and losses that had surprised him, and in spite of all of the years that had passed since the Lord first initiated Abram into the life of faith, God still desired to work in his life and fulfill God's promises in his life.  What God asked was basically, "Abram - keep believing."
 
When I was still living at home in Greenville in the 1980's - 1990's, we used to listen to the Christian music group called "Truth."  One of their popular songs was entitled "Keep Believing."  Some of the words went like this . . .
 
"Keep believing in what you know is true.  Keep believing, you know the Lord will see you through.  When troubles rise in your life and you don't know what to do; you'll be fine if you just keep believing."
 
Keep believing - not in ourselves and our plans - but in the Lord, His proven character, His sure Word.

4 Tactics to Keep God's Work from Being Done


Just as soon as God’s people step out by faith to do His will, the enemy shows up and tries to discourage them.

When doing God’s work expect opposition

As noted in our last article Sanballat was not happy when he heard that Nehemiah had returned to Jerusalem to help the Jews. He and his friends delighted in mocking their Jewish neighbors by pointing out the dilapidated condition of Jerusalem. Though they lived nearby they were not friends with the Jews. They were in fact the enemies of God’s people.

Nehemiah faced a great challenge and had great faith in a great God. The people had a mind to work and were dedicated to the rebuilding of the wall. Nehemiah was a godly leader and he recognized those who worked alongside him. (Nehemiah 4:6)

Read the entire article from Precept Ministries here.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Resting in the Will of God


Have you ever felt torn between what is and what should have been, could have been or would have been if such-and-such had not taken place?

Have you ever been plagued by the “if-onlys”? If only I had not done that … said that … gone there. If only I had said that … done that … gone there.

Have you ever been desperate to be in two places at the same time?

Read the entire article by Anne Graham Lotz here.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Raising Children of Honesty and Integrity


My five-year old son developed a habit of lying, and I was determined to stop it!  After numerous attempts at spanking as punishment, I wanted a creative approach to discipline.  Surely there was something I could do to nip this in the bud.

Finally, I devised my plan.  One year earlier, Hendrix became interested in the Star Wars movies.  One of his treasured possessions was my old collection of Star Wars action figures.  He thought they were gold. 

I decided that when he lied, he needed to feel pain in an area that mattered to him.  So, the new rule would be that he loses one action figure for every lie told.  One evening when he and I were home alone I initiated what I thought was the perfect tactic of creative discipline.  Hendrix told a lie, and I instructed him to bring me one Star Wars man and meet me in the kitchen.  He listened to my speech about the destructive nature of lies.  Then, I proceeded to heat up the frying pan.  I told my son that what I was about to do to his action figure would illustrate what lies do when they are told.  Hendrix and I watched as Han Solo slowly melted away until all that was left was a puddle of oozing plastic goo.

In my mind I thought, “What a great plan.  The little guy will remember this forever.  This may just break the pattern of lies tonight.  James Dobson and Kevin Leman will probably feature this idea in one of their books.”  I looked up at Hendrix, expecting him to break into uncontrollable sobs, wailing, “Daddy, I will never lie again!  I have learned my lesson!” 

Instead, Hendrix, who had not taken his eyes off of the frying pan, flashed his bright eyes at mine and excitedly asked, “Can we do another one, Daddy?”  So much for creative discipline. 

Children catch many of life’s values as we model them in life – not as we plan the perfect lesson with a frying pan.  Several years after the Han Solo incident our family experienced an object lesson in integrity and truth-telling that Hendrix still remembers.    Vacationing in Pigeon Forge, we ate supper at one of the infamous pancake houses.  The restaurant had a large, separate foyer and gift shop where people paid for their meal.  After eating, we left the dining room and waited for several minutes in the unattended foyer.  My children began looking at some pocket knives for sale.  Finally, a manager entered.  He apologized for the delay and said, “Thank you for your honesty.  You have no idea how many people in your situation just leave the store and do not pay.”  Then, seeing Hendrix looking at the pocket knife, he said, “Please, you all may have the pocket knife at no charge.  That is my way of saying thank you for being honest.” 

Today, my family still has that knife with “Pigeon Forge” carved on its side.  And occasionally, one of the children will say, “That is the knife the man gave us because we were honest.”  That small knife reminds us of the importance of integrity. 

Here are some practical ways we can work at instilling integrity in our children.

Explain what integrity means

Teach children that integrity means to be the same on the inside as you claim to be on the outside.  The word is associated with the testing of metals.  Some rings are gold-plated.  Others are solid gold all the way through.  God wants us to be the real deal.

Read and memorize key verses

During mealtimes or family devotions, review Bible texts about the importance of truth-telling.  Some examples are Proverbs 12:19, Ephesians 4:15 & 25, John 8:44, John 14:6.

Read stories about people of integrity

As a family, read age-appropriate books or listen to radio theater stories of people with integrity (Gladys Aylward, Corrie ten Boom, and George Muller for example).  Then discuss lessons from their lives.  Also recommended are William Bennett’s The Children’s Book of Virtues and The Children’s Book of Heroes.  Three excellent sources for high quality radio theater are Lamplighter Theater, Adventures in Odyssey, and Focus on the Family's Radio Theater.   Our family has enjoyed dozens of hours the past several years with fabulous radio theater dramas!

Jesus is in the room

We try to teach our children that we always live in God’s presence.  At times we will say, “I need you to answer me with Jesus standing in the room with us.”

Sour tongue

When children do lie, take a small dab of vinegar and put it on their tongue.  We call this “sour tongue.”  The awful taste reminds them of how lies taste to God.

Model honesty and integrity

No better training exists than Dad and Mom living lives worth replicating before their children.  Those little ones see us day in and day out.  Remember, they catch what we do and say – and what we don’t.

May our children find us to be people of integrity – the real deal on the inside.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dealing with Rejection


This past Sunday I preached on the subject "Freedom from Rejection" based on Romans 8:31-39.

Those who feel rejected continually have a "rejection syndrome" or a “root of rejection,” meaning they expect others to reject them. Such people may go through life missing much of God’s love and love they could experience through others.
 

 

HOW CAN WE OVERCOME FEELINGS OF REJECTION?


 
1.  Choose to believe the right things. 
To have a healthy emotional life, we need to believe the right things. There are three essential elements that comprise a healthy attitude, and the Lord supplies them all. Through Him, we gain:
A. A sense of belonging. Those who are a part of the body of Christ belong to God’s family (Rom. 8:15-17; Heb. 13:5; Ro. 8:35,38-39). Once we fix this truth in our hearts, we’ll feel secure no matter what.
B. A feeling of worthiness. Jesus considered us so valuable that He was willing to die in our place (John 3:16).
C. A sense of competence. When we accepted Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit came to live inside us. One of His jobs is to enable us to accomplish whatever God calls us to do (Phil. 4:13).
2. Learn that negative feelings and perceptions are often grounded in lies – not truth.
              John 8:44    Satan’s power is in the lie
 
              Just because you feel it does not mean that it is true.
              The practice of discernment is the spiritual habit of sifting between that which is true        and         that which is false – and choosing what is true.

 
3.  Accept that there is a battle for your mind and feelings – and choose to fight the battle daily.
              2 Corinthians 10:3-5
God wants your mind because He wants you.  We become what we think about.  The whole process starts in the area of thought.  – Adrian Rogers
 
4.  Wage spiritual warfare when necessary against this battle.
              Use the weapons of warfare – the Word of God, the names of God, the blood of Jesus, the word of our testimony, and praise and worship.
              There are times when you need to claim victory out loud.  Lift up your voice!
5. Choose to involve yourself in relationships with other people – in person.  This requires risk, vulnerability, and patience.
Get involved where people are.  Join a small group or a Sunday School / Life Group class.  Get involved in a church.
 
Don’t  only have internet and texting relationships!  Get with people face-to-face.
 
You need some relationship environments where you are not in control.  Allow other people to encourage you and pray for you.
 
6.  Affirm your position in Christ daily.
Loved unconditionally , forgiven completely , accepted totally , complete in Christ
 
7.  Trust God with the past and the future – and choose to move forward.
              You can go forward positively with Him – no matter what.