Archive | February, 2013

The Poisonous Pet

27 Feb

Read: Psalm 18

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” – Matthew 23:37 NIV

 

I glanced beneath the checkout stand, lightly tapping the canning jar with my finger.

Inside, an unusually large, visibly pregnant, female spider glared out at me.  She had been delivered to us several days earlier by a customer who was, it seemed, terrified that he was going to die simply because he’d managed to trap her in the aforementioned jar.  I’m not quite sure why he bothered to catch her if he was so certain he would die from doing it, but he did and once we’d told him that he wasn’t likely to drop dead from touching her through the glass jar, he didn’t want her back.

It wasn’t really a good idea setting her loose again since she would promptly be squished by someone else who lived in equal fear of all members of the recluse family.  So we kept her in a jar and watched as she built herself a little nest.  Eventually, being satisfied that her home was perfectly ready, she wove herself a little yellow basket and laid her eggs inside.

As the weeks wore on, I watched with fascination at the way she leapt atop her little egg sack each time someone tapped the jar.  This behavior continued even when it became obvious that she was growing hungry and that nothing was very likely to come out of the eggs inside the little hammock.  I confess to being rather disappointed the morning when I came in to find her lying dead, just beside her nest.

Scripture describes Christ’s love for His people as being like that of a mother hen.  Though a hen is good deal different from a spider (it has more feathers for a start), most mothers in most species have similar protective instincts.  They watch over their young with care and willingly sacrifice themselves if doing so will result in the well-being of their offspring.

What a marvelous thought that the God who created the Universe loves enough to do the same!

Challenge:  Take a moment to make a list of all the dangers, obstacles, and trials you currently face.  Then, one at a time, give each of them over to God.  Let Him be your shield.

 

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Prayer Wall

25 Feb

Christian community is invaluable and there is nothing like praying for others and knowing that they are praying for you.  That’s why the Prayer Wall has made it onto my list of favorite iPod apps.

Designed to facilitate a sense of global connectivity, Prayer Wall gives users the opportunity to share their needs with other believers throughout the world.  Open the app and you’ll find a wall filled with post-it-note requests.  Click to uncover the details and for the opportunity to commit to praying for each one.  Leave a message to show your support, then keep in touch as situations unfold.

Want to be a special support?  Look for the starred requests.  These have yet to receive a prayer commitment and you can bet that your willingness to pray will make a difference!

Want to share a request of your own?  Click the “+” symbol at the bottom of the page and you’ll be given the opportunity to do just that.  Check back as other Christians commit to pray for you and don’t forget to keep them informed about how God is answering their prayers!

The FREE version has a lot to offer, but if you want more, you can always pay the $1.99 upgrade fee.  The upgrade includes the ability to search the wall for specific requests (a feature that I find particularly useful, since it allows me to seek out others who are facing similar struggles) as well as the opportunity to further connect through an assigned user name.

If you’ve got the social bug and are ready to get on your knees, Prayer Wall is definitely the app for you!

Politics and Evangelism: The Question of Submission

22 Feb

“Then I’ll go to jail!”  I stormed away from the table in a rage.  Couldn’t my parents understand what I was saying?  What the government was doing was wrong!  How could I comply by giving them money from my hard-earned income?

When questioned about paying taxes to Caesar, Jesus had replied, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”  (Matthew 22:18-21)  Since Washington, Lincoln, and Grant were all dead, it was clear that this command did not apply to me as a U.S. citizen.  For the government to demand that I hand over part of my salary to support all sorts of nefarious activities wasn’t just unconstitutional: it violated God’s written Word.  And I would have none of it!

I’ll admit that my motivation had more to do with wanting to retain my pay than any desire to avoid funding sin. I’ve come around since my teen years and I have paid taxes ever since I got my first job… despite my concerns about what they might be funding.  Why?  Because God said to.

Perhaps one of the hardest commands Scripture gives us is that of 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…”  Such submission doesn’t come naturally to most of us.  We want to see, do, and know for ourselves … even when that seeing, doing, and knowing might harm both ourselves and others.  What do we do when we don’t understand the purpose for a rule or, worse yet, that rule is unjust?  We break it.

Of course, this may not be our intent at first.  After all, most of us want to be viewed as law abiding citizens, even if we don’t like the laws by which we must abide.  So we look for wiggle room or try to find a loophole.  Yes, the speed limit is 25, but police officers only stop drivers if they’re going 30 … so it must be okay.  Of course the sign says “No Swimming”, but the city put that up to warn weak swimmers, not Olympic quality athletes like myself … no problem!

While these little “fudges” may not look like much to us, they are often a very accurate reflection of our attitude towards sin … an attitude which can make or break our efforts to share the Gospel message.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at what the Bible says about submission and how our actions and attitudes influence the way others view our faith and, more importantly, our God.  We’ll examine some common pitfalls and take a look at practical ways to avoid them.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!

When Was the Last Time You Watered This?

20 Feb

Read: John 4:4-42

“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water.” – Jeremiah 2:13 NASB

 

I watched as the man strode through the doors that led in from the nursery.  His grumpy mood was evident to us all, but none more so than the staff member struggling to keep up as she tugged upon the green cart bearing his merchandise.

 “That’s twenty percent off,” he informed me, stabbing his finger towards the small Bristlecone Pine, “but it should be fifty.”

“Nope,” our nursery worker informed him, trying her best to suppress her irritation.  “Just twenty.”

“Well, it should be fifty,” he said again.  “When was the last time you watered this?  The Fourth of July?”

“It gets watered every night,” she politely responded, watching as I rang the purchase through the register.

Huffing, the man stuffed his credit card back into his wallet and signaled for the employee to follow him to the door.

She returned a moment later, obviously agitated, but only a little worse for the wear.  “If I hadn’t watered it since July, it would have been dead!” she complained, offering a whiny imitation of the customer’s complaint.

I grinned.  Sometimes customers just don’t see the obvious … and sometimes Christians don’t either.  Just like the tree in my story (which, I might add, was an excellent looking specimen), we as believers need regular watering if we’re to survive the droughts of life.  Only when we draw close to God (the only source of Living Water) can we be assured that we’ll have what we need when the time comes.

The biggest difference between us and a Bristlecone Pine?  While the tree depended upon our hard-working nursery staff for the moisture required, each Christian must take responsibility for himself.

Challenge: Are you taking time to “drink in” God’s Word?  If not, make the commitment to make a change.  Try to find five or ten minutes to read your Bible each day for the next few weeks.  You’ll be well on your way to the kind of “daily watering” program that we as believers need!

The iPod Evangelist

18 Feb

Of all the tools I’ve used as an evangelist, my iPod is one of the best.  Small and portable, it gives me a great way to store a mass of information that otherwise might not be readily available.  Yet finding the apps that give me the greatest “bang for my buck” isn’t always easy.  Type the word “Bible” into iTunes and you’ll get a list of 4,449 unique apps – more than most of us have time to explore.

That’s why, over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting a few of my favorite apps for evangelism and spiritual growth.  I’ve taken the time to limit them to only those which can be acquired for less than $1.99 and which offer the most flexibility and ease of use.  These are, in my opinion, the best of the best and it’s my hope that you’ll agree!

Because one of the key elements in evangelism is prayer, this week, we’re featuring “Prayer Prompter – Christian Prayer Time Organizer” by Rick Austin.  I’ve tried a few dozen different prayer apps and this one (available as a FREE download) is by far the best!

The “God Speaks to Me” section offers a variety of devotional verses on topics ranging from faith and worship to anger and submission.  The lack of denominational slant allows believers to focus wholly on what God’s Word says, spurring them to live a more Christ-centered life.

When you’ve finished meditating on the Scripture, take a moment to explore the “I Speak to God” section.  Individual verses recommend ways to pray for yourself and for others while “file drawers” allow you to enter your own requests for everyone who touches your life.  Based upon the information you enter, the app will create randomized prayer lists.  After you’ve prayed for a topic, hit the “Prayed Today” button and move on to the next.  The app keeps track of how long you’ve spent praying each day, allowing you to see whether you’re taking the time to sincerely talk with God about each topic or simply flicking through the list.

Perhaps my favorite features of the app are the ones which aid in developing a regular prayer time.  Set the alarm and the app will give you a daily reminder to sit down and commune with God.  Download the “Dropbox” app and you can share your requests with multiple users – keeping each other accountable for time spent praising God and interceding for others.  It’s a great way for family members, church prayer chains, and Bible study groups to keep up with each other’s prayers and praises!

With all of that to offer, it’s not hard to see why this comprehensive prayer app is one of my favorites!

Book Signing at That One Place

17 Feb

This Thursday from 11:30-1:30, writer and author A.C. Gheen will be signing copies of her book, Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce, at That One Place at 552 N. Capital, Idaho Falls, ID.

Retail Ready features a selection of daily meditations based upon the difficult and downright wacky experiences of a retail worker.  Each day’s devotion includes a Scripture reading, memory verse, and lifestyle application challenge to help teens learn to better integrate the teachings of the Bible with their daily lives.  Readers are encouraged to approach their job with purpose, intention, and a good dose of humor!

A. C. has worked as a cashier, freight worker, retail sales clerk, buyer, event caterer, elected official, and Staff Assistant to a U.S. Senator.  Her eight years in youth ministry qualify her to offer teens this uniquely Biblical perspective on what it means to live an active Christian life while achieving success within the secular workforce.

As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in a number of periodicals including “Discipleship Journal,” “The Upper Room,” “The Journal of Student Ministries,” “Breakaway,” “DevoZine,” and “Group.”

Excerpts from Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce are available online at: https://acgheen.wordpress.com/category/devotions/retail-ready/

And don’t forget to grab lunch or pick up a snack on the way out!  That One Place is home to A. C.’s all time favorite homemade potato chips!

Politics and Evangelism: Tips for Speaking with Honesty and Grace

15 Feb

Last week in “Politics and Evangelism”, we took a look at the dangers which can sometimes accompany our eagerness to express a political opinion.  We examined the importance of speaking the truth when we represent those who don’t agree with us and (in passing) the importance of doing so with grace.  This doesn’t mean, of course, that we don’t express our views … just that we take the time to ensure that we are expressing them in a godly fashion.  But what do you do if, like me, you find it hard to keep your tongue in check?  This week, we’ll be taking a look at a few good tips for developing a more diplomatic approach to political involvement – one that will reflect well upon both us and the God we serve!

  1.  Practice in private what you want to portray in public.  This should go without saying, but it doesn’t.  I remember plenty of Sunday mornings’ spent yelling at the members of the “Meet the Press” crew like they could hear me through the thousands of miles of cable that stood between my television and their studio.  I’ll be honest, the things I was saying weren’t flattering … and sometimes they found their way out of my mouth when I was nowhere near the TV.  If we want to behave gracefully in public, the place to practice is in our homes.  That means holding our tongues whenever we find ourselves compelled to express our opinions in a way that degrades or belittles others.
  2. Think twice before hitting the “forward”, “repost”, or “share” buttons.  We’ve all seen those cute, sarcastic cartoons taking stabs at those with whom we disagree.  We love those witty one-liners and scathing reviews.  But what may be funny in private, isn’t always so amusing when diffused throughout the internet.  Before you share that brilliant repost, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”  Odds are, He wouldn’t be taking cheap pot-shots at His opponents … and neither should we.
  3. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  We learned this from our grandparents, but I’m inclined to think that very few of us listened.  (I know I didn’t!)  Grandma wasn’t advising us to speak only when we were in agreement with others, but rather to season our speech with grace.  In other words, if you’re going to disagree, do it nicely.  Jesus would have put it, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  If you can’t speak without taking a stab at the opposition, you’re better off just keeping your mouth shut.
  4. Pray.  I know.  It’s one of the simplest suggestions, but it’s also one of the most effective.  I’ve never found it easy to pray for someone and slam them as being worthless at the same time.  The two simply aren’t compatible.  Try it the next time you start to get riled.
  5. Avoid temptation.  If you know you have a tendency to go off the deep end when others express opinions less well-formed than yours, avoid placing yourself in situations where you’re “overexposed” to those opinions.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t listen to what other have to say or take the time to acquaint ourselves with someone else’s world view, but it does mean that we don’t do so in a way that leaves us with the steam coming out our ears.  If something consistently gets you worked up, turn it off or put it down.  You’re better off being ignorant than   blowing up and dishonoring the Name of Christ.

Following these rules doesn’t always come easy.  If you’re like me, you’ll still periodically find your finger hovering almost irresistibly over the “share” button or trying to “sneak a fix” from Fox News or CNN.  The question isn’t whether we occasionally slip and fall back into these negative behaviors, but whether we’re actively trying to represent the cause of Christ in our political expression.  When we succeed, we gain credibility – giving others a reason to trust our testimony when we speak of things more important than the latest bill to pass congress or the most recent EU crisis.

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