Devotions, Retail Ready

Bearing Each Other’s Burdens

(The following excerpt is taken from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”, available for purchase on Kindle for $7.99 or in print from Amazon for $9.99.)

Read: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

It was a slow afternoon in late October and I was sitting at the check stands pondering whether I should complete the remaining tasks on the “to do” list or leave them for another day.  I can’t say for certain that I remember coming to a conclusion on the matter, since my meditations were interrupted by a gentleman seeking to purchase three cubic feet of potting soil.  “I can’t lift it, so would you bring it in here for me?”

I told him that I would and speedily ran to the next room to retrieve the requested product.  Lofting the rather large, clumsy bag onto my shoulder, I headed back towards the check stands.  Before I made it to the door, however, I was stopped by another gentleman with a list of urgent enquiries.  There being no particularly polite way to excuse myself, I quickly answered each question, then turned once more towards the checkstands.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said, laughing and pointing to the bag I was holding.  “The fellow who wants it is with us, so you have plenty of time to answer a few more questions for me.”

For the next ten minutes, I toted the potting soil around on my shoulder as I answered what appeared to be an unending stream of questions.

What I found most amusing about the situation was that this gentleman (who apparently couldn’t lift the potting soil for his friend) didn’t seem to care at all about how much it weighed when I was the one carrying it.

Unfortunately, many times, as a Christian, I have been equally guilty of failing to recognize the weight of others burdens.  Absorbed in my own trials and struggles, I have been unwilling to take the time necessary to understand and support those who have also been called in Christ.  Perhaps because human nature does turn so readily towards self-centeredness, God has commanded that we pay close attention to the needs of our brothers and sisters in the faith – then act in such a way as to ease their load!

Challenge: How are you doing when it comes to recognizing and bearing the burdens of other believers?  This week, take the time to observe those around you.  Listen to their trials and frustrations, then commit to help them carry the load!

Get Involved, Missions Monday, Prayer, Study Helps

Faith Comes By Hearing

Romans 10:17 tells us, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (NKJV)  But what if you’ve never had the opportunity to hear?  This is a question asked daily by Christians around the world – and one of the many ways that God is answering is through the ministry of Faith Comes By Hearing.

For over forty years, these dedicated missionaries and their partners have been providing audio Scriptures to people around the world – overcoming the barriers of literacy through the spoken word.   Today, thanks to the work of over 60 teams of national workers, the Bible has been dramatized and made available to over 500 different language groups.  This unique way of presenting the Gospel allows those in oral cultures to more fully enter into the story of the Bible, committing its words to memory as the Holy Spirit works within their hearts.  And you can play a part!

Visit their website and view the video outlining their work and download an audio copy of the Bible in the language of your choice or subscribe to a Bible podcast.  Join the “You’ve Got the Time” initiative where you can commit to listen to the Scriptures for 30 minutes a day – the entire New Testament in 40 days – and challenge your friends to share the endeavor with you.

Want to do more?  Why not consider making a financial gift to the ministry and help bring God’s Word to people around the world or even joining Faith Comes By Hearing as a career missionary?

Whatever you do, commit to make a difference today – because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God!”

Answering Questions about the Bible, Apologetics, How Do Christians Determine What They Accept As Scripture

How Do Christians Determine What They Accept As Scripture: The Test of Detail

Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken a look at the role that prophesy plays in helping Christians determine whether a writing or group of writings ought to be accepted at Scripture.  We’ve discussed both the importance of “Testing a Prophet” and examined the application of “The Test of Uniqueness” to prophetic utterances.  This week, we’re continuing our series with a discussion of another important test: the test of detail.

One of the most distinguishing marks of Biblical prophesy is (drum roll, please) – its specificity.  Do you remember our prophesy about a balloon crashing atop a house in Manhattan tomorrow?  While the prediction failed the test of prophesy in that it didn’t come true and fails the test of uniqueness in that such a crash could be orchestrated and thus, self-fulfilling, it does fulfill the test of detail.  And similar detail is evident throughout the Christian Scriptures.  Take, for example, Psalm 22:14-18:

“I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And You lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.” (NASB)

Known as “The Psalm of the Suffering Servant”, the text is replete with detail.  The man described has been pierced in his hands and feet, his bones are visible, and men are gambling for his clothes!  If these details form an image in your mind, it isn’t surprising.  That’s just what they (and all genuine prophesy) were meant to do.  They illustrate a specific, identifiable, situation (in this case John 19:16-30).

One of the best tests of a prophet, both Biblical or otherwise, is in whether he “hedges his bets” with vague descriptions (like that a cataclysmic event will occur sometime within the next hundred years) or whether he’s willing to put it all on the line by detailing his prophesy.  In this case, the Psalmist who wrote the description painted a vivid description of a form of execution which would be popularized by the Persians beginning in the 6th century B. C. – nearly 400 years after his poem was written! (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Micropedia Ready Reference, 1988)  While readers (or listeners) may not immediately be able to recognize or anticipate the events described in a prophesy, the details are sufficient to ensure that many who have heard the prophet will recognize the fulfillment of his words when it takes place.

And this leads us to another important test of whether a prophesy should be considered Scripture: “Does the prediction offer something of genuine value to its readers?”

We’ll take a look at this question next week, but for now, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!

Works Cited

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Micropedia Ready Reference (Fifteenth ed., Vol. 3). (1988). Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

Devotions, Retail Ready

Paint Pigment and Sesame Street

(The following excerpt is taken from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”, available for purchase on Kindle for $7.99 or in print from Amazon for $9.99.)

Read: 1 John 1:5-10

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah 64:6

I was terribly excited when my first employer decided to teach me to mix paint.  I had spent plenty of time watching the other employees use the fancy color matching machine, gazing over their shoulders with fascination as they added pigment to the white base inside of the paint cans, creating an exact match for the color which our customers had chosen.

Perhaps it was thanks to my intense interest that I picked up on the process quite easily.  In a very short period of time, I had taken to mixing colors like a pro and was feeling pretty confident in my skill.  There was, however, one warning which they had inadvertently forgotten to share and the mess which resulted from my lack of understanding was about to have a noticeable affect upon my weekend.

It was a busy Saturday afternoon and I had retired to the back to mix up a gallon for a customer.  Unfortunately, it turned out that the last person to use the machine had not cleaned it properly and the pigment nozzles were clogged.  It didn’t seem to matter how much pressure I applied to the levers, I could not get the small metal tubes to squirt out any pigment at all.  Digging through the supplies, I found a nail and began to follow the prescribed procedure for clearing the nozzles.  Shoving the nail up into the tiny hole, I pulled it out again with a wad of dried pigment attached.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned wad of pigment was not all that was in the hole.  The wad had formed a sort of scab on the end of the nozzle, preventing some of the liquid pigment involved in the previous mixing from leaving the chamber.  When the wad was removed, this liquid pigment saw its opportunity to escape and, within seconds, my hands, arms, and shins were covered in a shade of blue that would have made a Muppet proud.  (To this day I do not recall how I managed to get the pigment all over me like that.)  I finished mixing the paint and, while it was in the shaker, I wandered into the bathroom to wash off the mess. And it was here that I discovered that pigment is less like paint and more like permanent dye.  Thanks to this, I spent the rest of the day and a good part of the next week looking just like Grover from Sesame Street.

Scripture teaches us many truths about sin and, one of the most important is that, like paint pigment: it doesn’t take much to cause a great deal of damage.  While the stain of paint pigment eventually does disappear through time and exposure, the stain of sin isn’t quite so “easy” to remove.  The Bible tells us that only the cleansing blood of Christ is strong enough to remove sin from our lives and return us to our intended state!

Challenge: Are you indulging sin in your life?  Remember that God’s rules are there to protect us.  Confess your failures to God, let Him remove the spots, then commit to living a life of obedience to His Word.

Apologetics, High School Ministries, Missions Monday

Cru High School

As teenagers, we question almost everything.  Perhaps this is why over 80% of all professions of faith occur before the age of 18 – when we are the most open to exploring possibilities beyond those of our personal preference or initial upbringing.  This is a time during which many of us establish a moral code and worldview that may be called our own… and when who we will be becomes solidified.

It is with this in mind that Campus Crusade for Christ established Cru High School (formerly known as “Student Venture”).  Their programs are making a difference on campuses across the nation and you can play a part!

Explore the issues surrounding our connectedness (or lack of connection) with God and others at Get Connected – a safe place to ask your questions about why the world is the way it is.  Then, Get Equipped to take on the issues you uncover with a variety of hand-picked study resources.  Finally, Go Global as you make a physical difference in the lives of other teens like yourself through mission trips or through joining or starting a Cru ministry on your own campus!

High School doesn’t last for long… so make a commitment and make a difference!

Answering Questions about the Bible, Apologetics, How Do Christians Determine What They Accept As Scripture

How Do Christians Determine What They Accept As Scripture: The Test of Uniqueness

Last week in “Testing a Prophet”, we discussed two tests that the Israelites (and modern Christians) use to help determine whether a man speaks for God and, consequently, whether the words he shares qualify as Holy Writ. This week, we’re going to pick up where we left off and take a look at another test that is used to determine “prophetic quality”: the test of “uniqueness”.  Unlike last week’s test, “uniqueness” is not a Biblical test of prophesy, but a logical one and it allows us to separate would-be prophets from real prophets based on the type and quality of their predictions.

If you think back, you may remember our discussing that if a prophet runs around telling people that a giant balloon is going to crash on top of a house in Manhattan tomorrow morning and it doesn’t happen – that man is not a prophet.  You may also remember us asking, “If a man prophesies that I will brush my teeth tomorrow… and I do?  Does he qualify as a prophet?”  While, obviously, the prediction of the latter prophet neither contradicted previous revelation nor failed to come true, it does fail three other tests of genuine prophesy.  The first of these is the test of “uniqueness”.

Most of us can make general guesses about the world around us and be correct a fair percentage of the time.  The sun probably will come up tomorrow and it’s likely that I will put on a pair of pants before I leave for work.  (At least my co-workers all hope that I do!)  Neither of these events are “unique” in that they are recurring.  Any reasonably intelligent person could make an educated guess as to what I will have for breakfast, what television I will watch in the evening, or which people I will encounter at work, simply by looking at the patterns which have already manifest themselves in my life.

Similarly, those who have deeply studied issues like politics, economics, and history can often appear to “prophesy” future events – foretelling economic collapse, civil war, and even the outcome of an election with unusual ease.  While such predictions may be beyond the realms of most of us, these too, fail the test of “uniqueness” in that they are made based on prior information, not upon future knowledge. True prophesy isn’t like playing the horses – it isn’t a matter of odds.

A second type of prophesy which fails this test is known as the “self-fulfilling prophesy”.  Unlike predictions which are based upon past events, a self-fulfilling prophesy may appear to have “unique” qualities to it.  It may predict an event which is, indeed, out of the ordinary, but which, upon closer examination could be intentionally fulfilled.

For example, someone might predict that I will go to the grocery store after work today.  I never go to the grocery store on a Friday, so it appears that there is, indeed, a “unique” quality to this prophesy.  Upon hearing the prediction, I suddenly remember that there are a few things that I need to pick up and, after work, I head straight to the local convenience mart.

Fulfilled prophesy?  Hardly!  While the prediction didn’t rely on prior information, it did fail to demonstrate genuine future knowledge.  Suggest that pizza would make a great dinner, that a local genius should patent his invention, or that the Town Council should erect a long-needed meeting hall and you’ll likely find that the predictions come through.  Such “prophesy” isn’t predictive so much as “motivational” – encouraging others to do things which may be out of the ordinary, but which aren’t beyond their means to accomplish.  And, as such, it fails to meet the true test of “uniqueness”.

Another prominent feature of self-fulfilling prophesies is that they often suggest a framework for the interpretation of otherwise ordinary events. Just ask anyone who has ever read their morning horoscope.  What starts out as a perfectly beautiful morning quickly turns into a disaster because “Mars and Saturn are in conjunction”.  Never mind that you always forget to turn on the right burner, that your coworker rarely shows up for shift on time, or that your teacher is usually grumpy before midterms.  In such situations, perfectly ordinary events can take on special meaning simply because we expect them to.  There is, after all, nothing too odd about people behaving as they normally do.  It is our interpretation of the facts which makes the difference.

Next week, we’ll take a look at another test of genuine prophesy: the test of Detail.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts on the issue of “uniqueness” in the comment box below!

Devotions, Retail Ready

Please See I.D.

(The following excerpt is taken from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”, available for purchase on Kindle for $7.99 or in print from Amazon for $9.99.)

Read: 1 John 4:1-21

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35

Having spent a fair portion of my retail career in the check stands, I was used to seeing the words “Please See I.D.” scrawled (sometime almost illegibly) across the back of credit cards. Each time, I would compliantly request that the customer provide some verification of their right to use the card and usually met with little resistance.

On occasion, however, I would encounter someone who didn’t understand that once the card had been marked in said manner, we were legally bound to see not merely I.D., but legal I.D. A failure to do so could lead to the company being liable if the credit card was not in the possession of the proper party at the time of the purchase. Caution was warranted, yet more than once, I was presented not with a driver’s license or State I.D. card, but with a wallet full of other credit cards or club membership documents. Regretfully, I had to inform the customers that these were not sufficient to establish their identity and, on occasion, had to refuse to run the card.

Like my customers, we as Christians often mark our lives with the words “See I.D.”, yet are unprepared to validate our claims. We affix fish to our vehicles, wear crosses around our necks, attend Sunday School and Church regularly, and even participate in evangelistic crusades, but fail to support our identity as Christians by the manner in which we live our lives.

According to Scripture, it isn’t the clothes we wear or the places we frequent, but our love for one another that validates our claim that we belong to Him. Those around us know who we are by the manner in which we relate to our family, friends, co-workers, and fellow students. Our loving attitudes towards all of those we meet, saved or unsaved, serve as our identification with the Master.

Challenge: Is your I.D. valid? Do those around you know Who you serve? If not, commit to loving others in such a way that there can be no mistaking that you belong to Christ.

College Ministry, Get Involved, Missions Monday

Campus Crusade for Christ

College can be one of the most difficult times of your life, but if you keep your focus on Christ, it can also be one of the most rewarding!  That’s why in 1951, Campus Crusade for Christ began laboring to reach college students with the Gospel message and train them to become fruit-bearing disciples.  Through tracts like “The Four Spiritual Laws” and “The Spirit Filled Life”, they are reaching out to students around the world with the message that God loves them and wants them to join His family.

Online resources help college believers better engage with God through prayer and devotion, dig deeper through the discipline of Bible study, and put their faith in action by mentoring new believers while on-campus ministries provide the one-on-one training, encouragement, and fellowship necessary to live a fully fruitful Christian life.  (Click here to find a campus ministry near you.)

Want to get more involved?  Why not put your faith in action through one of Campus Crusade’s mission trips or volunteer to serve on-campus?

College is more than just academics – it’s a blessing and an opportunity from God.  Commit to using that opportunity to His glory.

Answering Questions about the Bible, Apologetics, How Do Christians Determine What They Accept As Scripture

How Do Christians Determine What They Accept As Scripture: Testing a Prophet

It is generally agreed that the 39 books of the Old Testament were set in stone (so to speak) by the time of Ezra around 400 B.C.  These books were the direct work of acknowledged prophets, i.e., those people who spoke for God.  While some of these men are reported to have performed miracles (like Moses with the parting of the Red Sea), the primary test of their validity was not their works, but their words.   Deuteronomy 13:1-5 tells us:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.”  (NASB)

So the first test of whether a man was a true prophet whose words were to be accepted as Scripture were whether his words conformed to previous revelation, i.e., was he telling Israel to do the same things the previous prophets had commanded or was he encouraging them to “try something new”?  If the answer was the latter, his work and words were to be rejected by the Jewish people.  After all, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.”  (Numbers 23:19a NASB)

This doesn’t mean that God couldn’t, didn’t, or doesn’t continue to reveal new things to His people.  In fact, we’re told in Joel 2:28-32 that in the Last Days there will be many who prophesy and dream dreams and Revelation 11:1-13 even gives specifics about two prophets who will testify during the time of the Great Tribulation.

What it does mean is that the “new” things He reveals will never contradict what has previously been revealed.  If He tells us not to steal one day, He won’t be telling us that it’s okay to steal the next day.  Any prophet who says otherwise isn’t a prophet of God!

The second test of a prophet is found in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 where we read:

“But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”  (NASB)

Obviously, if a prophet runs around telling people that a giant balloon is going to crash on top of a house in Manhattan tomorrow morning and it doesn’t happen – that man is not a prophet!  But what about a man who prophesies that I will brush my teeth tomorrow… and I do?  Does he qualify as a prophet?

The answer to that question will have to wait until next week, but for now, take some time to think through these prophetic tests one more time… and share your thoughts below!

Devotions, Retail Ready

Look at Me!

(The following excerpt is taken from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”, available for purchase on Kindle for $7.99 or in print from Amazon for $9.99.)

Read: 1 Corinthians 10:23-33

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
-1 Corinthians 10:31

I looked up as a member of the staff wandered discreetly over to my check stand. Glancing around, she leaned in towards me and rather quietly and whispered into my ear, “There’s a lady coming your way and she talks a lot!” She quickly described the woman to me, then grinned and informed me that she just thought she’d warn me.

I laughed, figuring that this customer was probably just one of those folks who particularly enjoys sharing their life with other people. I was wrong: this patron really enjoyed sharing her life with other people… and she did so in a very rapid, incoherent succession of words and thoughts.

As I listened to her, she told me all about everything she had done during the last four years of her life (or at least everything of note), carried on a one sided conversation with three different customers, and then proceeded to wander freely about the store talking to absolutely no one at all!

What made the whole episode truly amusing was that she would begin a conversation with one person and then walk away, talk to the air around her, come across another customer, and continue talking as if she had been speaking with that particular customer the whole time!

After she had checked out… twice… both times through my line… another staff member strolled over to me, “Sorry about that, I should have warned you about her and would have if I’d known she was here.” A few minutes later another employee came rushing in with a similar apology, “I was trying to get in here to warn you,” he said, “but I got tied up with another customer and couldn’t get free!” It seems that my customer was well known to everyone in the store and only for her ability to talk!

While I can’t honestly say anything bad about the lady (she was really rather sweet, just a little scattered), she did force me to consider my own life and who (or what) I spend all of my time talking about. Our customer had said some rather nice things about other people (and even complimented my outfit three times), but a majority of her monologue had been about herself. As Christians, however, our first concern should not be to draw attention to ourselves, but to our Master. We are told that anything and everything that we say and do should be to His glory. Our speech and actions should proclaim His glory, not our own!

Challenge: Does your conversations draw attention to yourself? To others? To God? As you go throughout your day, spend some time analyzing your dialogue. Are there ways that you can make it more Christ-centered? If there are, commit to act on these ideas!