Archive | February, 2013

Book Signing at That One Place

14 Feb

Next 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!

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I Was Listening

13 Feb

Read: Philippians 1:12-20

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV

 

My attempts to sign people up for the garden club did not always meet with an enthusiastic yes, despite the program’s many benefits and free price tag.  For every agreeable customer, I met a handful set upon simply ignoring the offer and a scattered few who were downright offensive about it.

It was for this reason that I felt rather hesitant when a lady stepped up to my table with the words, “This is the second time you’ve told me about this.  I was here last weekend too.”

I smiled, feeling rather sheepish for not recognizing her (not that I should have been able to given the number of people who passed the table each day) and was about to apologize when she stopped me.

 “I think I’ll sign up this time.  It sounds useful.”

Astonished, I grinned and handed her the enrollment form.

She had begun to fill in her contact information when another customer walked over from the check stand, receipt in hand.  “I’ve listened to you talk about this over and over while I was waiting in line.  It sounds like a good deal and I’d like to sign up, too.”

Of course later, I couldn’t help considering the similarities between these women’s reaction to the garden club and the way some people respond to the Gospel message.  While it would be nice if everyone we met immediately responded to God’s offer, statistics tell us that most people who accept Christ do so only after receiving a steady witness from another believer.  As with the garden club, sometimes someone needs to hear the message just one more time before it makes sense to them.

God has promised that His Word will never return void … and it’s a promise that can be trusted.  We may not always see immediate results, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep sharing!

Challenge:  Are you feeling discouraged about your evangelism efforts?  Don’t!  Sometimes people just need to hear the message a few times before it sinks in.  This week, take some time to talk to other believers in your community.  Ask them how they came to faith in Christ.  You may be surprised at how many of their stories sound like my customers’ tales!

Cold Case Christianity

11 Feb

What does Forensic Statement Analysis (FSA) have to do with the Gospels?  More than you might think!  Most of us are familiar with the archaeological evidence for the reliability of the Gospels, yet few of us have encountered (or analyzed) the forensic evidence.  And that’s what makes J. Warner Wallace’s new book “Cold Case Christianity” special.

Using this relatively modern branch of science, Wallace (a former atheist) teaches readers to effectively apply the skills of a police detective to the Gospel accounts.  From circumstantial evidence to the chain of custody to conspiracy theories, Wallace uses real life cases to walk his readers through the steps necessary to secure a conviction in a cold-case homicide… then teaches them to apply the same standards and procedures to the case for Christ.

Throughout the pages of this entertaining volume, you’ll learn how detectives harmonize eyewitness accounts, determine the reliability of their witnesses, and filter out biased testimony.  You’ll travel with Wallace to the scenes of robberies and homicides as you learn to collect and assemble enough evidence to result in a conviction… and develop a solid case for the Gospel.

Written clearly and concisely, the book is as entertaining as it is informative.  Wallace’s skill as a story teller is surpassed only by his common sense approach to apologetics.  “Cold Case Christianity” is an excellent primer for anyone interested in presenting a solid case for their faith in the Bible and the God it portrays.

“Cold Case Christianity” was published by David C. Cook and is available in print or e-book through Amazon.com.

Politics and Evangelism

8 Feb

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard more than your share of political news over the course of the last few months.  A presidential election, a school shooting in Connecticut, and a fiscal cliff have left everyone with plenty of opinions to share and not enough listeners to go around.

I’m not saying that there’s a problem with expressing one’s opinions.  I understand the impulse.  Events like these often leave us feeling helpless.  Our votes don’t count.  Our opinions don’t matter.  People think we’re worthless and that our thinking is defective.  No one hears what we say.  No one cares.  All that’s left it to yell – to make people listen whether they want to or not.  And when nobody listens despite the noise?  We yell louder.

But what happens when, in the course of exercising our “freedom of speech”, we get it wrong?  I’m not talking about simply calling names (though such behavior is never becoming of a Christian), but about an even more grievous offence: misrepresenting the other side of the argument.

We’ve all seen it happen.  A conservative angrily flings the term “baby killer” at a pro-abortion liberal.  A liberal asserts that all of those who oppose gun control want to see convicts given access to deadly weapons.  In a moment of frustration, such statements may express our feelings… but they certainly don’t express the truth.  And it’s the truth with which we, as Christians, ought to be concerned.

I’ll be honest.  I know a lot of liberals and if any one of them genuinely believed that abortion was murder, they’d oppose it with all of their hearts.  I also know a lot of conservatives and I’ve never met one who wanted psychopaths to have access to firearms.  So what happens when we express these emotional reactions on Facebook and Twitter?  What’s the result of our forwarding misguided e-mails in order to “rally the troops” or posting anti-(insert the political view you most dislike here) statements on our blogs?

The answer is that we lose credibility.  And this is where evangelism comes in.  As Christians, our primary charge is that of Matthew 20:18-19, also known as “The Great Commission”.  It is our duty to “Go into the world and preach the Gospel…”  Not just to our conservative friends.  Not just to our liberal pals.  But to everyone.

Accomplishing this commission becomes a challenge when we’ve already clearly and openly misrepresented the views of those with whom we intend to share.  After all, if we can’t accurately explain the liberal/conservative/green party view – why would anyone believe that we can accurately represent God’s point of view?  Perhaps, obedience to Christ’s command requires that we spend a little less time exercising our constitutional right to “freedom of speech” and a little more time exercising our listening skills.  After all, wasn’t that one of Jesus’ chief commands, “He who has ears, let him hear?”

If you don’t already have a selection of friends who don’t agree with your point of view, I suggest you take time to make some.  Treat someone from “the opposition” to a cup of coffee and ask them to explain what they believe and why.  Then listen.  In a world full of shouting, such genuine enquiry is often quite refreshing!

When they start to express ideas with which you don’t agree: don’t rebuttal.  Don’t try to question them until they contradict themselves.  Don’t try to convert them.  Just listen.  You may be surprised at what you learn.  And you may even make a friend.

The last time I checked, George W. Bush didn’t turn out to be the Antichrist and, the way things stand right now, it doesn’t look like Barack Obama will either.  So the next time you feel like sharing your opinion about someone else’s politics, take a breath, say a prayer, and remember that God is in control regardless of who holds office or what the politics of “the masses” will or won’t allow through Congress. It’s not our job to expose every error in the opposition’s thinking and it certainly isn’t our job to create error where there is none!  Speak the truth and, if you don’t know what the truth is, take time to find out.  A little less angry noise will do a world of good.

I Did You a Favor

6 Feb

Read: 1 Samuel 15:10-26

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

1 Samuel 15:22 NIV

 

A co-worker of mine had decided to do me a favor.  Whether it was out of the goodness of her heart or not, I don’t really know.  What I do know is that the task she took on was one which regularly belonged to me and, seeing no sign of its accomplishment when I sat down at my desk, I set about completing it just as I did every morning.

I was nearly finished when my coworker walked past my desk for the tenth time and, looking down at the now nearly finished stack of paperwork declared, “Oh, I already did that!”

There was nothing to do but laugh.  I thanked her and jested that she owed me one for having allowed me to sit there and complete work which had already been accomplished.  (To this day, I don’t know why she failed to tell me what she’d done.)

Much to my surprise, her expression changed to one of affront. “No I don’t!  You owe me!”  Despite the fact that her favor hadn’t actually been a favor, she had tried and now her position was being made clear:  help or no help, I was in her debt.

 King Saul once performed a similar “favor” for the prophet Samuel and, sadly, it didn’t turn out much better.  Having been instructed to refrain from going into battle until Samuel had made the appropriate sacrifice, Saul had waited.  And waited.  And waited.

When Samuel didn’t come, he did the most rational thing he could think of: he offered the sacrifice himself, then proceeded to conquer the enemy.

Samuel’s response, however, was less than grateful.  Saul had been so eager to do good that He had broken God’s law!  God would rather have seen Saul go into battle without the sacrifice than disobey Him and make the offering!

 Like my coworker and King Saul, we sometimes find ourselves tempted to do “favors” both for others and for God.  Yet not all favors are helpful… or wise.  As Christians, we must be careful not to get ahead of ourselves, but to prayerfully consider each action in light of God’s Word. Our Master is far more interested in seeing a task done properly than in seeing it accomplished quickly.  And our interests ought to mirror His!

Challenge:  The next time you find yourself seeking a short-cut or a way to speed up the work being accomplished, take a step back and pray.  Only proceed once you’re certain that your “favor” really will honor God and be a help to others!

Utah Lighthouse Ministry

4 Feb

“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I.”  Bold words?  You bet!  If you’re like most of us, you’d be hard pressed to identify who spoke them… and you might be surprised to discover that they are found in an official account of a sermon delivered by Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Like many of the prophet’s teachings, these words come not from hearsay or the accounts of those who seek to destroy the LDS church, but from the records of the church, itself… in this case, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 408, 409

For many, claims like this, are sufficient to elicit suspicion.  After all, how many leaders of Christian churches would be so bold as to claim themselves capable of that which Christ, Himself was not?  Unfortunately, many modern members of the LDS church are unaware of the teachings of their founder and his early successors, choosing, instead to simply repeat the line that the Mormon church is Christian… merely a denomination of a larger faith.

It is for the purpose of addressing this claim and others like it that the Utah Lighthouse Ministry was established.  Created in 1983 by Jerald Tanner (a great-great grandson of John Tanner) and his wife, Sandra (a great-great granddaughter of Brigham Young), UTLM seeks to make teachings such as these readily available to both members and non-members of the LDS church in the hope of encouraging careful analysis of the doctrine of the prophets upon whose teaching the church was established.

Visit their website, and you’ll find a multitude of useful resources starting with Jerald Tanner’s testimony of his own journey out of MormonismView the stories of others who have left the LDS Church, then take a look at what they found to be a compelling case for their departure as you examine 3,913 Changes to the Book of Mormon as well as an extensive list of places in which the Book of Mormon directly contradicts the teachings of the Bible and view a few of the contradictions which exist within the LDS Scriptures.  Explore LDS Theology in-depth as you tackle topics from the test of a prophet to church teaching on the role of Lucifer.

Then, learn to effectively share your faith with your Latter-day Saint friends and family.  Check out a variety of FREE gospel tracts including Jesus and Joseph Smith, Testing the Book of Mormon, and The Fall of the Book of Abraham.  And when your friends are ready to leave, check out the comprehensive explanation of the process for removing your name from the church rolls.

The site is full of great resources from audio interviews and video clips to a selection of online books, so take your time.  Read the resources carefully and you’re sure to be ready to address the claims of the LDS church with your Mormon friends in a way that reflects both gentleness and respect!

How Do Christians Determine What they Accept as Scripture: Settling on the Final Selections (And Why You Don’t Necessarily Have to Agree in Order to Be a Christian)

1 Feb

Well here we are!  Over the last few months, we’ve taken a careful look at “How Christians Determine What They Accept as Scripture”.  We’ve examined tests ranging from prophesy and accuracy to authenticity and value.  (If you’d like to review any of these tests, click the highlighted link above.)  Today, we conclude our series with a look at how, when, and where, the final selections were made and what effect this determination does or doesn’t have upon Christians today.

Confirming the date at which the Bible was finalized in its present form can be tricky business.  Why?  Quite simply because it took a few decades between the composition of each book and its distribution to and acceptance by the individual congregations scattered throughout the world.  What is certain is that all 27 books of the New Testament were accepted and in use by the time of the Nicean Council in A.D. 325 – a council which (contrary to urban myth) never even addressed the issue of what should or shouldn’t be included in the Canon.

It was the Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393 that produced the first complete New Testament list and it is interesting to note that the Synod did not establish the Canon, but merely recognized it.  Indeed, it was the churches themselves, individual believers who had done the hard work of reviewing the candidates for Scripture, comparing them to previous revelation, and establishing their accuracy and apostolic authority.  Perhaps the greatest miracle of the Canon is that independent thinkers throughout the world came to the same conclusion that these 27 books deserved a special place within the faith.

So, do you have to accept all 66 books in order to be a Christian?  Absolutely not!  While I, personally, believe that the Old and New Testament are the accurate, inspired, and infallible Word of God, some of the most respected Christians in history have found what they felt to be sufficient cause to doubt.  Martin Luther, the instigator of the Protestant reformation doubted the books of Esther and James.  John Calvin, his northern counterpart, questioned Esther.

Christians sometimes encounter difficulties in Scripture which seem hard to resolve – but their doubt concerning the books themselves, does not equal doubt in God.  Nor does it equal lack of saving faith. Christianity, after all, isn’t about what you know, but about Who you know.  It is faith in Christ’s shed blood as the full payment for our sins which saves us, not absolute certainty that every word in our modern Bible is actually a part of Scripture.

So if you doubt, don’t lose hope.  Struggle with the hard questions.  Be open to admitting your doubts.  Seek the answers.  And cling tight to the One who gave His life in order to redeem yours!

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