Archive | October, 2013

It’s in the News

30 Oct

Read: 1 John 4:1-6

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

Acts 17:11 KJV

 

Information.  Our world is full of it and, unfortunately, it isn’t always accurate.  (Just ask any college student who has used Wikipedia as a source for a term paper!)  While we may be quick to point to politicians, academics, and the news media as prime examples of truth twisters, they aren’t the only parties who are sometimes guilty of manipulating information.  Intentionally or not, Christians often fall prey to the same temptation to slant a story to elicit a specific reaction from others.  And in few places is this as evident as in the world of politics and government.

I won’t pretend that I was surprised at receiving calls urging the Senator to vote against bills which would result in the arrest of anyone carrying a Bible in public or fines for those who quoted its words.  I was, however, deeply surprised at the frequency of such calls… especially given that no such bill was ever considered either on the floor of the Senate or in committee. Perhaps even more surprising was that, when asked where they had received their information, nearly every constituent named a usually reliable Christian source!

It didn’t take long before I was checking the named sources for myself and, sure enough, many of them did warn of the threats posed by current legislation. Unfortunately, few of them took time to explain what the bills currently under consideration were actually designed to accomplish or how they were presently worded.  Indeed, without an extensive series of events (often involving the complete reworking of the English language, the passage of successive legislation with blatant malicious intent, and/or the abolition of our present form of government), the prophesied outcomes were unlikely to ever take place.  In failing to clarify their concern over the legislation (or the path by which they arrived at their concern), these “reliable” sources had created a panic.  And those acting upon their information rather than taking time to read the bill for themselves, looked more like fools than concerned citizens.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the New Testament writers took such care to commend the early Church for seeking truth in the original source documents.  While many pastors and teachers are both competent and faithful, there will always be a few who are not.  Only when we take time to confirm information for ourselves can we be certain that our words and actions represent truth and honor Christ!

Challenge:  This week, commit to discovering the truth.  Make a list of beliefs you consider to be “fact” then take the time to research them for yourself.  You may be surprised at what you discover!

Daily Devotional Podcasts

28 Oct

As Christians, we know the importance of spending regular time in God’s Word.  Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world, finding time alone with our Bible’s isn’t always that easy.  That’s why this week, we’re featuring three helpful podcasts which bring God’s Word to your ears even when your eyes are unavailable!

If you’re looking for an easy daily devotional, why not check out Early Light?  Brought to you courtesy of In Touch Ministries, this brief meditation gives a kick-start to your day with thought-provoking real-life stories and accompanying scripture readings.  At just under five minutes, these devotions are an easy listen with deep impact.  Like a vitamin shot, they’re great for aligning your focus – helping you put God’s Word into action as you head off to school, work, or even a day of play!

Looking for something longer?  Why not check out the Daily Radio Program with Charles Stanley?  These thirty minute sermons are a great way to get centered as you go about your routine.  Join Dr. Stanley as he takes a look at both Scripture and its practical application in the daily lives of believers.  At under 30 minutes, they fit nicely into the school/work commute or even as an accompaniment to your morning bowl of cereal or evening jog!

Want an afternoon pick-me-up?  Then check out Our Daily Bread.  A production of RBC Ministries, these five minute podcasts take a meditative look at Scripture and its relevance in the lives of believers.  Thoughtfully written, these devotions are sure to get you refocused after a long day at school or the office.

With plenty of great content, these podcasts are sure to help you keep your head in the Word… even when you can’t find a place to sit down and read!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Hobbies, Rest, and Evangelism

25 Oct

Last week, we discussed the link between “Hobbies and Rest”.  This week, we’re going to look at the connection between hobbies, rest and evangelism – and how the things we do to relax can play an important role in God’s work!

Before we begin, it’s important to note that not every interest or hobby we have is going to show a direct link to sharing God’s message.  And that’s okay.  Each activity we participate in gives us a unique connection to other human beings… and it’s that connection (not the content of the hobby, itself) which yields the opportunity for us to share God’s love.

A perfect example can be found in a friend of mine who used to play his guitar in a bagel shop every Saturday.  He liked to play and the coffee shop enjoyed the free entertainment, so it was a good fit.  It wasn’t a great feat of evangelism by any means and doubtless many Christians would have seen his hobby as a waste of time.  Yet at the end of nearly every session, someone would come up to him and ask why he offered the free entertainment.  His answer always tied into someone (Christ) who had once offered something free to him.  He got to relax and enjoy himself and, in the process, God was glorified.

A number of years ago, I took up the even more obscure hobby of philately (stamp collecting).  The hobby was largely a solo one and my only real contact with the “outside world” was the company through which I placed my orders.  Each time I submitted my payment and a fresh order, I’d slip a gospel tract into the envelope.  Since it was a small company, I’m sure nearly everyone had seen my unique form of payment.  When a serious mistake was made concerning my account, I had the opportunity to live what they already knew I believed as I worked to straighten out the misunderstanding.  I had found a hobby that I enjoyed and God was glorified in its pursuit.

These, of course, are only a couple of examples of how God can use our “rest” as an opportunity to accomplish His “work”.  Yet they serve as an important reminder that God created each of us with unique interests and skills which provide us with the opportunity to reach out to those who might not hear God’s message otherwise!  Someone who would immediately turn their back on a missionary or pastor might very well be willing to listen to you – simply because you enjoy the same activities!

In the end, everything we do in life (including our restful hobbies) is an opportunity.  Whether we play racket ball at the athletic club, go ballroom dancing, attend a sewing class, or decide to take up archery, we’re likely to find our path littered with chances to share God’s love.  Don’t pass them up when they come your way!

The Requisition List

23 Oct

Read: John 16:23-27

 “And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us.”

1 John 5:14

One of my minor duties as the Senator’s Staff Assistant was to help with the requisitioning of supplies.  Keeping a close eye on our consumption of paper clips and printer paper, I would carefully assemble a list of our needs.  Then, when a sufficient number of items had made their way onto that list or we were nearly out of something with which our office simply could not function (like the aforementioned paperclips) our Regional Director would make the requisition.  Before placing each call, she would turn to me from her office and enquire, “Is there anything else you need?”

While the question was intended to stimulate my memory of any last-minute additions, it instead opened to the door to a wide range of less-than-relevant responses.  My smart replies covered a variety of “necessities” ranging from a disco ball (for all of our wild dance parties) to gigantic blow up elephant to step on staffers who got out of hand.  I was quick to point out that the quality of our work would be vastly improved should each of us have access to a vibrating, heated lazy boy and didn’t hesitate to suggest that the addition of a video arcade might improve hand-eye coordination for those tasked with answering the phones.

My suggestions, of course, were not entirely limited to the impractical or downright fantastical.  A combination coffee maker/fax machine that gave a personal voice greeting every morning also made it onto my list, as did haz-mat suits for those opening the Senator’s mail.  I never got what I asked for, but this didn’t stop me from trying, and I was delighted when our Regional Director finally did concede to at least one of my requests and added a box of colored paperclips to our order.

Sadly, many of us approach God with a list of wants and desires which are not that far removed from my own bizarre additions to the requisitions list.  Seeking what we have deemed to be the “perfect” life, we ask for things that fulfill neither our needs nor God’s plan.

Scripture, however, portrays a different approach.  Instead of assembling a jumbled list of everything we want, Christians are instructed to draw close to God, learning His ways and walking according to His commands.  When we do, the things which we pray for begin to take on the form of His desires rather than our own.  According to the Bible, these requests will always be granted.

Challenge:  Are you praying in God’s will or are you asking Him to fulfill your own?  This week, take some time to carefully consider your prayer life.  Then commit to drawing close to Him!

The Screwtape Letters

21 Oct

C. S. Lewis was one of the greatest Christian apologists of our age.  An Oxford Don and confirmed atheist, he came to Christ through a slow and thoughtful conversion process.  His works have changed the way that believers approach the defense of their faith, but they’ve also played a profound role in the spiritual development of Christians worldwide.  Perhaps one of his best known is a volume known as “The Screwtape Letters”.

Dedicated to his good friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, this work of fiction follows the misplaced efforts of a young apprentice demon (Screwtape) as he attempts to beguile and mislead a new believer.  Exploring issues ranging from relationships to church to philosophy, the book provides a deep and insightful look into the dangers which await those who have chosen to walk the path of Christ as well as the victory available to us through the Holy Spirit.

This week, we’re featuring the dramatized version of this classic work.  “The Screwtape Letters” by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre features the amazing voice talent of Andy Serkis (Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy directed by Peter Jackson) as Screwtape along with a full cast of quirky characters.  At a running time of four hours, it’s a drama you’ll want to listen to again and again!

“The Screwtape Letters” is available in a 5 disk set for $28.58 and constitutes an investment well worth making!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Hobbies and Rest

18 Oct

Hobbies can be one of the most effective ways to rest our bodies.  They provide us with avenues for developing secondary skills and interests, for maintaining physical fitness and mental acuity, and for cultivating relationships.  Drawing our attention away from present difficulties, they present us with the opportunity to return to the “real world” with a renewed perspective.

That there are many benefits to developing a hobby is undoubted, yet the very activities which help us to rest can also turn against us.  Before you begin integrating hobbies into your rest, take a moment to ask the following questions:

  1. Does this glorify God?  Believers should never turn off their sense of discernment – even when at rest.  1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  This doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything fun, but it does mean that we need to ensure the things we do for fun are in keeping with God’s commands.
  2. Does this hobby boarder on or has it already become an obsession?  Scripture teaches the importance of self-control in all things and this includes our recreational activities.  (1 Corinthians 9:25, Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-7)  If a side interest begins to crowd out other obligations, it needs to be brought into submission or dropped altogether.
  3. Does this hobby encourage ungodly attitudes in me?  2 Timothy 2:22 advises believers to, “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…”  If your choice of recreation isn’t encouraging the godly attitudes listed here, it shouldn’t be on your list of pursuits!  (At the same time keep in mind that just because a certain hobby isn’t good for you doesn’t mean that it needs to be avoided by every Christian.  The same soccer game that leads to an abusive and overly competitive spirit in one believer can be genuinely relaxing and God honoring in the hands (or feet) of another!)
  4. Does this hobby actually result in rest?  Truth be told, not every hobby helps us to rejuvenate.  This doesn’t mean that we ought to chuck any hobby that doesn’t, just that we don’t include those activities in the time we’ve already scheduled for rest.

If you ask these questions about your hobby and the answer to each leaves you with a clear conscience, then feel free to include it in you “resting schedule”.

If the answer is “no”, it may be time to look for some other interests worth pursuing.  Ask a friend what they do to relax, take a look through the courses being offered by your local art association or community college, or just wander through a book store until you find a subject that peaks your interest.  You may be surprised at some of the unusual hobbies which present themselves!

The Label Maker

16 Oct

Read: Acts 16:22-31

“Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  Everyone who is victorious will eat of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven.  And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

Revelation 2:17 NLT

 

It was a dull afternoon.  All of the pages had finished their tasks for the day and were shut up in the “page cage.”  We were busy debating what to do with the rest of our day, when someone pointed out that we had several label makers available to us.  And what good were label makers if they weren’t used to label things?

Picking up one of the guns, one of the pages quickly printed out the word “door” and attached it to the door of our tiny office.  Passing it on, another page typed out the word “window” and immediately affixed it to the windowsill.  The next thing to receive a label were the chairs followed by the bookcases. We labeled the ceiling, the lights, the walls, and a paperweight… even each other.  And when we ran out of things to label?  We started all over in Spanish!

The Bible has quite a bit to say about the labels that each of us bear and none are more important than our names.  Given to us by our parents, they serve to identify both us and (at times) some of our unique characteristics.  They are labels which say something about who we are or what our parents hoped we would become.

Unlike the labels that the pages placed on the items in the room, these names may be more or less accurate and each of us knows someone who fails to live up to the name they were given.  This will all change, however, when we finally see God “face-to-face”.

Scripture tells us that at the end of time, God will give each of us a special name which He has chosen for us and which will describe us perfectly.  These labels will not be based upon what He hopes we will become, but upon what we actual are through the sacrifice and renewing power of His Son.  There’s only one catch if you want one of these perfectly accurate labels… you have to belong to Him.  Unlike pages, He doesn’t label other people’s property!

Challenge:  Have you accepted God’s gift of Salvation?  If you haven’t, consider doing so.  A little step of faith will lead to great rewards!

Wave Study Bible

14 Oct

It doesn’t take long to discover that not every Bible app available through the iTunes store is truly useful… or easy to use.  If you’ve gotten tired of downloading programs only to find that you need an internet connection to make best use of them or discover that the text of the Scripture is overwhelmed by excessive commentary, then the Wave Study Bible is for you!

Simple and intuitive, the Wave Study Bible provides you with a convenient way to go in depth as you compare Scripture translations side-by-side.  The app comes preloaded with the King James, the Greek New Testament, the New English Translation, and the GOD’s WORD translation (other translations are available for purchase).  Transition from one version to the next with a simple swipe of the screen.

See a word you want to study deeper?  Tap it and you’ll be granted access to the app’s lexicon – a wealth of information on Hebrew and Greek word-origins that’s guaranteed to help clarify the meaning of those tricky passages.

Concerned about trying to find the right passage in a hurry?  Tired of trying to correctly spell “Revelation” with that teeny-tiny keyboard?  The Wave Study Bible utilizes scroll system instead – allowing you to select your book, chapter, and verse with a slide of your finger!

Perhaps the best feature of this app, though, is its easy-to-view font.  Placed against a vibrant background, the passage you select is highlighted for easier viewing.  A quick pinch of the screen reduces font size while the opposite motion expands it, making the text easy-to-read regardless of the quality of the ambient light or your own visual limitations!

A simple app, the Wave Study Bible is sure to be one of your favorites!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Fitting Rest Into Your Schedule

11 Oct

From keeping our minds sharp and at the top of their game to helping us to maintain a positive and gracious attitude towards others, there can be no doubt that rest plays a vital role in our ability to clearly and effectively present the message of Christ.  Yet finding time to relax, enjoy a sunset, or take a nap isn’t always easy.  That’s why, this week, we’re taking a look at some ways to effectively fit time for rest into our schedules.  We’ll start with the most important suggestion:

  1. Actually schedule time for rest.  “To do’s” get lost.  Appointments don’t.  If you block out a few minutes on your calendar, you’re far more likely to fulfill the goal of resting than if you simply add “rest” to the interminably long list of things you need to accomplish each day.  Select the times which work best for you and follow through.
  2. Let others know about your schedule.  While issuing an “informational bulletin” doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be left alone, it does lessen the chances of your being interrupted once you’ve settled in with a cup of coffee and a good book.
  3. Find a place to hide.  While we don’t recommend becoming a hermit, it can be worth your while to find a place to retreat for your “resting appointments”.  By minimizing your availability to others and changing the scenery a bit, you’ll be maximizing the chances that your time of rest will be… well, restful.
  4. Plan your rest.  Blocking out an hour to listen to Rachmaninoff, go for a meandering walk, or watch the birds at your feeder can add the kind of structure that makes that “scheduled rest” feel more like a “must-keep appointment”.  The result?  You’re more likely to keep your commitment.
  5. Don’t plan what to do during your rest.  While planning rest works for some folks, it doesn’t work for everyone.  Sometimes a glorious hour of “nothing” is more effective than a well thought out plan.  Do whatever works best for you – even if it’s a bit of both!
  6. Determine when to quit.  There’s no end to our revolving “to do” lists, so it isn’t a surprise that they appear at both the beginning and the end of our “resting” advice.  Quite frankly, we can run ourselves ragged trying to keep up with all of the tasks which need to be accomplished.  Determine a time each evening when you’re going to call it quits then stick to it.  Put the “to do” list away, change into your jammies, and just relax.  You’ll find yourself sleeping better and waking fresher as you reap the full benefits of rest.

These, of course, are only a few ideas to help you make rest a regular part of your life and it may take time to fully implement them.  Schedules change as do the demands presented by family, church, school, and work.  The blocks of time available for rest this week may not be the same next week.  That’s okay.  The idea is to make resting a priority in our lives.

Next week, we’ll be concluding our series with a look at how hobbies help or hinder our attempts to relax.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own tips for scheduling rest in the comment box below!

 

The Moving Party

9 Oct

Read: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

“This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him concerning the events that will happen soon… God blesses the one who reads this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to it and obey what it says.  For the time is near when these things will happen.”

Revelation 1:1a, 3 NLT

 

It was exciting.  The tiny page cage was being redecorated and we were the ones tasked with performing the renovations.

The first thing to go was the two ton, solid wood, desk which blocked the doorway.  Built sometime during the eighteenth century, we speculated that it had been used by George Washington, himself, and carted across the country by wagon train.  An arduous journey, perhaps, but not too much for a piece of furniture built to survive an atomic blast.

The catch to moving the desk was that it was on the third floor of the capitol building.  We needed to get it down two flights of semi-circular stairs and onto the first floor where it would later be placed in storage.  Like pallbearers, eight pages and our Sergeant at Arms lined up to lift the enormous hulk, directing it cautiously through doors of the House chambers.

Finding it somewhat heavier than anticipated, we stopped to rest at the top of spiral staircase and began to debate what we ought to do next.  After some discussion, it was determined that we would maintain our formation with the strongest pages at the bottom and the rest of us relieving the weight from the top.  Then, lining ourselves up, we slowly began to make our way down the flight.

There wasn’t really enough room on the staircase for both the desk and the cadre of pages and we soon found ourselves in a very dangerous position sandwiched between the heavy piece of furniture and the cool marble wall.  With only about six inches between the desk and the railing/wall, we were all inhaling as deeply as we could and praying that we’d make the rest of the journey intact.

It was at the moment when we realized our danger that it happened: the top fell off.  The large piece of dark wood went flying down the stairs as if it had been aerodynamically gifted and landed in the entryway with the smack of a gunshot. Within seconds, the entire Capitol security compliment jumped into action, guns drawn and ready for a showdown. What they found instead were eight flustered pages and an apologetic Sergeant at Arms.

After His resurrection, Christ gave His followers a little insight into what would happen during the end times.  While the picture He painted was one of war and danger (not unlike the one envisioned by the Capitol guards when they heard the effects of our mismanaged adventure), it came with promise of redemption.  In the end, those who love Him will be part of a far more successful moving party as we relocate from earth to our eternal home in Heaven!  What a blessing to know that some renovations are guaranteed to end in success!

Challenge:  Are you worried about the future?  Take your concerns to God.  You may be surprised to discover just how many of your worries are truly unfounded… and just how much control our loving God really has over both our eternal destiny as well as our lives today!

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