Faith Fitness

Do you like to exercise?  Enjoy running or jogging?  When I was young, my favorite exercise besides chasing a ball on a court or field was swimming.  I would work out for baseball and basketball constantly as a teenager – in the swimming pool.

We live in a time in history when fitness is taught, sought, and expected.  There is nothing new under the sun; the fads of physical fitness have come and gone before. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)  Planet Fitness, sports apparel companies, and “coaches” on social media have all benefited from this current trend.

The Bible does tell us to care for our bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 instructs:  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Just as our physical bodies need exercise and proper nutrition, so does our spirit.  The faith we hold to needs exercised daily.  Faith needs to be motivated in the “little things” and stretched in the “big things.”

You have heard it said: “Practice makes perfect.”  Not true.  Practice can only make “better.”  No one is perfect in this life on earth.

Athletes train to get in the game.  They practice, sweat, work and prepare to perform as best as they possibly can.  They invest time, money, and mental energy as they get ready for the game.

Paul challenged Timothy on this in 1 Timothy 4:8, For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

I like sports, but practicing with a baseball, basketball, or golf ball is not nearly as important as practicing faith!  How can I have faith that is fit?

Faith fitness is worth the effort.  Here is what you need to know to be more “faith fit.”

Each Step is a Step of Faith.  We Walk By Faith.  When teaching how we are merely traveling through this life, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7, (For we walk by faith, not by sight:).

Every Christian Lives a Life of Faith.  We Live By Faith.  Galatian 2:20, I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I ______; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the ______ which I now ______ in the flesh I ______ by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Playwriter Jean Racine (1639-1699) asked a practical question “Can a faith that does nothing be called sincere?”  Real faith really does impact the everyday life for the believer in Jesus.

Examination of Self Requires Faith.  Athletes set benchmarks.  They put goals in front of them.  They asses the level they are currently at with speed, BMI, strength, longevity, etc.  Note the following assessments a person exercising faith will look at:

  • Am I saved? 2 Corinthians 13:5, Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the ___________; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
  • Am I more like Jesus? Galatians 4:19, My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be __________ in you…
  • Is there any Bible discipline in my life?  1 Corinthians 9:27, But I keep under my body, and bring it into _________________: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Are there any practices that I should include in my “Faith Fitness Training Plan?  Yes, there are!  We can find several ways to practice faith in Psalm 37:1-9.

Psalm 37 is a “Wisdom Psalm” of David.  In the form of a Hebrew alphabet acrostic poem, David shares how FAITH is the key to getting back into the game of life!  Powerful words such as trust, commit, rest, and delight are included in this faith fitness plan.

Before the faith fitness plan, however, we need to know there are several enemies of physical fitness.  Laziness, tiredness, dehydration, overheating, and lactic acid building up in the muscles are all enemies of physical exercise.  What about our faith fitness?  There are enemies of faith fitness too – and they can be detrimental.  These enemies can sideline you and get you out of the game – fast!

  • Don’t Overheat. 1,7.

“Fret” is the Hebrew term “charah,” which means “to glow or grow warm.”  -Strongs

Overheating is the internalizing of things that make you angry.  It could be the seeming advantage another person has.  It could be the idea that “I have to work harder than the other.”  Overheating is fueled by comparing my life to the life of others.

  • Don’t Get Overly-Excited. 1

I can struggle with this.  I anticipate before a basketball game or golf match.  Like a good athlete, I envision how I want to shoot the ball or swing the club.  Then when it does not happen the way I like due to injury or loss of ability (i.e. getting old),  I can be disappointed.

“Envy” is the Hebrew term “qana’” meaning “zealous, i.e. (in a bad sense) jealous or envious.”   –Strongs

Evangelist friend John Goetsch recently tweeted: “If you can stay cool in hot places, sweet in sour places, and small in big places, God can use you.”

When we lesson r expectations in self and in others, we will be less disappointed in life.  In the spirit of passion and enthusiasm, we can spend all our energy too early and have nothing left to finish the game of life.

Life is not a sprint – it is a marathon.  Some of my favorite verses in all the Bible teach this.  Hebrews 12:1-2.

  • Don’t Go Overboard. 8

“From Anger” is the word “aph,” having to do with “the nose or nostril” and “from the rapid breathing in passion” and “ire or anger.”

You have heard the advice of breathing calmly and cooling down following intense anger.  “Go cool off for a little while.”  That is what this is talking about.  “Stay Calm and Carry On!”  Anger is an enemy of faith fitness.  In the moments we allow anger to control us, our faith in God is not in control.  The feelings of physical shortness of breath and lack of oxygen in the muscles are similar to the problems caused by not calming down and focusing on the will of God.

Interestingly enough, “wrath” is the term “chemah” and means “heat, anger, and poison.”  It is a term associated with “bottles.”  Like a pop bottle shook up, it could explode.  When we hold in wrath and anger, we may get to the point of exploding all over someone.  That is against faith fitness!  Like the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, once it kicks in – your body becomes too tired to win.

How foolish anger can be!  I once played baseball with a promising athlete who was a major league prospect.  He was perhaps the most capable baseball pitcher I have ever played with.  His arm rocketed the ball from his hand like a loaded spring.  This teammate, after a disastrous inning in which someone hit a home run off his 93 mph fastball, came to the dugout and in anger smashed his hand by punching the concrete block wall.

I have news for you – block walls win the battle with your body – every time.  He broke his hand in anger and obviously could not pitch for quite some time.  While he eventually came back to pitch in high school again, as far as I know, he never made it to baseball in the minors or majors.

How can I achieve a healthy fitness level in faith?  With Fear, Failure, and Falsehoods a real part of life, what faith practices should I have in my Christian life?

  • Trust Your Faith. 3

The Lord will give you everything you really need for daily living.  We must have faith.  We can dwell in the land.  We can enjoy the food and provision that the Lord makes available to us.  David continues this marvelous truth of God’s provision in Vs. 25.

Our faith is not in “faith itself.”  Our faith is not in our ability to work, earn a living, and make a life.  Our faith is in God.  Jesus taught His disciples and teaches us today in Mark 11:22, Have faith in God.

Faith – in the face of fear.  Faith to factor for failure. Faith to fight against falsehoods!

  • Treasure Your Faith. 4

“Delight” (`anag) means “to be soft or pliable.”  Not really what we often think of when we first hear the word delight.  It means to “be flexible.”

I was taught in ministry classes and by my evangelism mentor at Neighborhood Bible Time, Dr. Charles Homsher, to be “flexible in ministry.”  It is good for all the Christian life.

Have you noticed the most satisfied and joyful people are those who are flexible?

When we are flexible in life, delighting and enjoying all that God gives us, we will find that God gives us the desires of our hearts.  That is not to say that everything that your carnal mind and flesh desires will come to pass.  God gives us WHAT to desire, and He brings it to pass.  In other words, the priorities of our life on earth are changed to the priorities of God when we are being flexible and delighting in Him.

Of our own choosing, we would not ask for hardships, trouble, pain, and suffering.  But God includes these in the spectrum of our life.  Things we fear, moments of failure, and falsehoods in life are events and circumstances that every other follower of Jesus of all time has encountered.

My favorite radio preacher, Dr. Adrian Rogers, once said: “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”  Good advice.  Our faith is tested every day.  When we allow God to re-prioritize the important things from the meaningless things in life, He gives us the desires of our hearts.

The “desires” David is talking about here are our prayers: “requests, desires, petitions.”  -Strongs

What is it that God has impressed upon you to pray for?  If your prayers are not delighting in God, then God will not answer that desire.  James 4:2-3 reveals, Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

The “heart” David mentions is our intellect and will.  Only when we are flexible with our desires will God show Himself in our life.  God’s plan is something we should treasure with all our heart.

Our will must be bent to the will of God the Father.  When that happens, faith will carry you to places you never dreamed possible.  You will see the hand of God at work in amazing ways!  We are to “lean in” towards God!  James 4:8 coaches, Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you….

  • Train Your Faith. 5

“Commit” means to “roll a way or to run.”  I really like this term.  When we commit or “run the way to God,” we win.  He brings His will to pass in our lives.  Running down the path God sets before you will change your life for the better.

The Christian life is a series of decisions.  Each decision either takes you closer to the Lord and His plan or further away from God and His plan.  David says it so clearly in Vs. 23-24.  When we train our life to follow faithful steps, God will take us to the places He wants us to go.

Order your life after God.  Put daily spiritual routines into place.  Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, memorizing Scripture, and encouraging other saints in the weekly church services are all part of the “order” God desires in our lives.  Like any serious athlete who hopes to get in the game, he will schedule practice.  He will plan for workouts.  Organize your life in spiritual arenas.

Enjoy your life with God.  “Delighteth” in verse 23 is a totally different word from “Delight” in vs. 4.  It’s the term “chaphets,” and it means “to incline to; to bend; figuratively, to be pleased with, to have pleasure.”  The Christian life is fun, satisfying, and fulfilling!  We will have trouble, pain, and suffering, but we have the joy of the Lord in our life no matter the circumstances.

Put your hand in God’s hand.  Fear will occasionally paralyze us.  Failure will sometimes sideline us.  Falsehoods will find a way to slow us down.  But faith in Jesus is more powerful!  You are not alone – no matter the situation!  Even if we fall like verse 24 says, we should anticipate the Lord will lift us back up.

You can get back in the game of life.  You can get off the bench and service God again.  Stop sitting on the sidelines.  Be encouraged in Jesus.  Don’t just be on the “Christian team” – get in the game!   Run down the field.  Listen to the Coach.  Make a difference on the winning team.

No matter what circumstances you face – have Faith In God! Let Him pick you back up, dust you off, help you recover, and with His power, performing His will – get back in the game!

Take a moment to write down some daily practices that will help your faith be more fit…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Falsehoods

“Do not take life too seriously.  You will never get out of it alive.”  –Elbert Green Hubbard

Elijah was depressed.  This prophet and preacher for the Lord had a classic case of what is known today as “clinical depression.”  His story is found in 1 Kings 19:1-10.

Doctors who study this passage suggest that Elijah had clinical depression that was brought on by several considerations:  environmental circumstances, emotional choices and perspective, and physical tiredness.

Elijah was tired.  He literally and spiritually had a mountaintop experience.  On Mount Carmel, he called on God, and God sent fire from Heaven to prove that He was the One, True God.  1 Kings 18 is an amazing chapter of the confrontation of the 450 prophets of Baal with the Prophet Elijah and the Lord.  Elijah was facing the religious leaders, the political leaders (Ahab and Jezebel), and the entire population of Israel.

The top of Mount Carmel is somewhat rounded, and as I walked around there, I imagined hundreds of people circling around the pinnacle watching to see what was going to happen.

Baal is the false god in the Bible that originated with the Babylonians at the tower of Babel.  His name means “master or lord.”  Baal was known as Bel, and the sun by the Canaanites, Molech by the Ammonites, and Jupiter by the Greeks and Romans.  (American Tract Society Dictionary)

Those worshipping him would often offer children as sacrifices.  It is believed that when this god was fabricated out of metal, he would be in the shape of an owl.  They would offer burnt sacrifices by starting a fire below the idol.  The children offered to him were placed in the blazing hot wings of this idol.  What a sad religious practice to this pagan god.  I have read that “The Grove” in California includes sacrifices to an image of an owl in our times.  (Thomas Horn, Saboteurs)

Baal did not answer.  The false prophets had been shouting, offering sacrifices, even mutilating their bodies in an attempt to get Baal to answer them.  Nothing happened.

The land of Israel had been experiencing the judgement of God for 3 years to this point by drought and thus a famine.  People were desperate.  They had turned their back on the one true God, and God sent judgment.  There is a natural spring of water near the top of Mount Carmel.  Perhaps this is where they found the water to drench the sacrifice Elijah offers.  The Mediterranean Sea is about 5 miles away.

Elijah offered a simple prayer to God after having the altar, wood, and sacrifice drenched in water.  4 barrels of water soaked the wood 3 times!  Elijah’s prayer is found in Vs. 36-37.

Then God showed up.  Fire fell.  Like a lightning bolt, the flash of light and heat of fire swallowed up the sacrifice, the wood, and the entire altar. The people of Israel saw the awesomeness of God on display.

It was intense.  It was emotionally and spiritually draining.  Elijah was spent.  He was tired.  Standing up to the Satanic forces of the false god Baal and the false prophets was a real challenge.  While the enemy numbered many and the day was long, God came through and answered the prayer of Elijah.

Then revival.  The people bowed down to the ground and worshipped God.  They pledged allegiance to the Lord Whom they had previously forsaken.  (See Vs. 39).  After this, Elijah told the people they needed to get rid of the occultist false prophets.  False prophets, witchcraft, and wizardry was punishable by death in the civil law of Israel.  Moses gave them that law years before.  (Deuteronomy 13:5, Leviticus 20:27).

Then the rain came! (18:41-44)  After 3 years of no rain, the Lord answered Elijah’s pray.  They could see and hear the rain off in the distance.

Then chapter 19 reveals the emotional struggles that Elijah was having.  Even though the false god that Jezebel worshipped proved to not be real, Elijah was afraid.  Jezebel was the wicked wife of King Ahab.  She put out a death sentence on Elijah.  And Elijah was afraid.  Even after all the people pledged allegiance to God, Elijah was fearful of this conniving, hateful woman.

We can be fearful of people and circumstances that are not worthy of our fear.  Jezebel’s party was coming to a close.  Her influence and power were about to be snuffed out.  Yet, Elijah talked himself into fearing her and this death warrant.

He had been in more dangerous situations before, but in this tired moment, his negative thoughts got the best of Him.  He started to let his circumstances dictate his thinking.  Beware – we do not control our circumstances, but we can control how we think about them.  Circumstances should not control your thinking!

Elijah started to believe lies.  Lies about God.  Lies about himself.  Lies about his situation.  This caused great fear, intimidation, and trepidation in his mind.  James 1:6 encourages us, But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

When we “waver” in our minds between faith and falsehoods, faith and fear, or faith and failure, we become unstable emotionally.  We are “driven with the wind” or circumstances.  But this does not have to happen.

Believing that Jezebel was more powerful than God, fearing for his life, thinking that he was alone, Elijah runs.

Name several lies that have hurt you in life.

What action steps have you tried to overcome the lies?

Elijah takes a 70-mile hike.  That is about the distance from the city of Jezreel to the town of Beersheba.  Are you tired after driving a car for 70 miles?  Imagine walking 70 miles all at once!  After he arrived at Beersheba, he walked another day’s journey “into the wilderness,” sits under a juniper tree (a bitter shrub-like bush) and asks God to kill him.  What?  He did.  He was in so much despair in these tender moments.

Have you ever been in such despair that it did not matter to you if you lived or died?

It’s OK.  You are in the company of many good people if you have ever felt like that.  Keep in mind, it is only a feeling.  Feelings can and do lie at times.  Elijah was not thinking accurately, Biblically, or truthfully in this moment of depression.

1 Kings 19:1-4.  Elijah took another 40 days to walk to the top of Mount Horeb, which is also known as Mount Sinai.  This is the same place where God met with Moses and gave the 10 commandments.  From Beersheba to Horeb is only 270 miles.  With normal walking at 3 mph this distance could be covered in 3-4 days of walking.  It tells us he walked day and night.  40 days is plenty of time to get there. Why did it take so long?  Perhaps it took Elijah 40 days to get there because he was in “secret agent mode”, trying to evade Jezebel’s officers.

The pinnacle of Mount Horeb is 7,363 feet high.  I understand that depending on where you are starting from, you can hike to the top of Horeb in as little as 5 hours.  Vs. 5-8.

Add all the fresh rain to the parched earth, and all the paths, trails and roads were either flooded or muddy.  Those are not good traveling conditions.

More probably, it took so long, because he was in a depressed state of mind.   Life is now slow.  The bright lights and tumultuous action of confronting the false prophets is gone.  He feels alone.  He is forcing himself to take each next step.  He is having trouble finding a reason why to go to Horeb.  His motivation is gone. 

Even great Christians can deal with trauma and crisis in unhealthy ways and can result in severe depression.

Drs. Tim Clinton and Ron Hawkins, of whom I read much, write in their book Biblical Counseling the following descriptions of types of depression.

  • Clinical/Major Depression is distinct in that symptoms are so severe that they disrupt one’s daily routines.
  • Dysthymic disorder is a low-grade depression.
  • Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a type of mood disorder with severe changes in affect. A person may have periods of euphoric elatedness contrasted with periods of severe major depression.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a severe onset of “winter blues” when one experiences depression, most often believed to be due to the lack of sunlight (vitamin D).”
  • Endogenous Depression is “rooted in the biological.” That is, it is caused by biological factors alone.

Perhaps most depression begins with what is known as “Reactive Depression.”  Dr. Clinton and Dr. Hawkins write: “Depression can be caused by many life issues, including anger; failure or rejection; family issues, such as divorce or abuse; fear; feelings of futility, lacking control over one’s life grief and loss; guilt or shame, loneliness or isolation; negative thinking; destructive misbeliefs; and stress.”

I believe the source of most cases of depression is Reactive Depression.  Drs. Clinton and Hawkins continue: “Persistent reactive depression will change one’s chemical balances and may compound depression.”  That is something that I propose happened in Elijah’s life.

Of course, the chemicals in the mind may have genetic, chromosomal, and other biological factors impacting and triggering depression.  Nutrition, vitamins, and health conditions also affect brain function.  Certainly, those who have abused drugs have an exponential increase in the rate of depression because of the manipulation that the drugs have induced on the brain.

What should a person do?  Is there any hope once a person is in the depths of depression?

God gives 4 clues to healing from depression by giving us this account in Elijah’s life.  Medicine is available today and could be taken (only as recommended by your doctor), but with the brain capable of making the same chemicals that are found in synthetic drugs, these clues God gives could cause your mind and body to heal itself.

  1. The Physical. (5-9) Following exercise, be sure to stay hydrated; eat healthy, wholesome food; and get plenty of sleep.
  2. The Spiritual. (15-17) Keep doing the will of God. God has given us special revelation, and when we obey the Lord, it helps us!
  3. The Psychological. (18) Begin to believe truth. Lies abound in depression.  Turn the page. Open the door.  Flip on the light.  See the truth.  Embrace God’s reality.
  4. The Relational. (19-21) Don’t isolate yourself. Find a helper.  Make a friend.  You do not need to live alone in life.  We are created to be social creatures.

While Elijah’s life was in danger, he was not in immediate danger.  His heart was not in the cross hairs of a long bow.  No arrows or spears were aggressively pointed his way.  While he was a wanted man – there was no impending danger.

Yet this thinking urgently instead of accurately became part of the cause of his depression.  Most of our mental and emotional problems occur when we do not think truth!

Most depression can be resolved when a person chooses to change his thinking.  Like Philippians 4:8 teaches, Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are ______, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are ______, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, __________ on these things.

Elijah got back in the game.  It appears that he served the Lord another 10 years!  The Lord did an incredible thing with Elijah.  Chariots of fire swooped down and whisked Elijah away into Heaven without him experiencing death.  God was pleased with Elijah – even after the severe depression.

Good news!  God will be pleased with you too! Several hundred years later, Elijah has another mountaintop experience (several hundred years after his earthly lifetime).  Elijah has the privilege of being on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus Himself as found in Mark 9:2-4.

Have Faith in God.  Change your mind to have the thinking of God.  Depression can be overcome.

 

 

If you are experiencing the type of depression that changes your routines and has affected daily choices and motivation, please set up a meeting with a Christian counselor.  They can help you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Factoring For Failure

(There are fill in the blanks and room for answering questions in this post).

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” –Michael Jordan

Feelings of shame.  Feelings of sadness.  Feelings of second-hand.  There are real considerations following the failure of any kind.

“A failure is a person who has blundered but is not able to cash in on the experience.”  -Elbert Hubbard

“A failure is not someone who has tried and failed; it is someone who has given up trying and resigned himself to failure; it is not a condition, but an attitude.” –Sydney Harris

“Any man may make a mistake; none but a fool will persist in it.”  -Cicero

No one likes to fail.  No one sets out to be a failure.  Some people fail early on in life and are so discouraged that they live life through the thoughts of “I am a failure” or “I can never win.”  This is a tragic way to live, yet many people, even Christians, live this way every day.

When a Christian succumbs to one temptation, he may feel like such a failure that he gives up and commits other, more degrading sins.  For example, the sin of uncaused and misdirected anger when left unconfessed will lead to other sins.  Ephesians 4:26-27 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.  Many unknowingly “give place” in their life to the devil.  Relationships are ruined.  Work is stalled. And God is not glorified.

Some Christians are so afraid of failure that they become reserved, overly cautious, and uninvolved in life. They follow a policy of guarded living, holding back time, talents, and treasure from God’s service. Their motto is: To keep from failing—don’t try! On the other hand, those who are willing to make mistakes and risk failure are the ones who ultimately achieve great things. Instead of being filled with fear, they go forward in faith. Problems are challenges. While they may not all be solved, these courageous people would rather live with that reality than have a clean record of no failures and no accomplishments. Benjamin Franklin said one time, “The man who does things makes many mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake of all—doing nothing.””   -6,000

Some have called this the “Paralysis of Analysis.”  We can study, overthink, and be so focused on potential failure that we refuse to act in the first place.  However, God can use the failures and potential trouble in our life to refine us and to develop our walk with Him.

“Trouble is one of God’s greatest servants because it reminds us how much we continually need the Lord. Otherwise, we tend to forget about entreating him. For some reason, we want to carry on by ourselves.”  -Cymbala

Fear of failure should not prevent us from the action.  The only people who never fail are the ones who never live to begin with.  Take the next step.  Reach forward in life.  Step out in faith.  Factor failure as a normal part of the human experience.

What are the factors of failure that we should take into account?  Here are 3 examples.

  • The Shame Factor.

The life of Moses can be categorized into three 40-year stages.  Exodus 2:1-10 describes the first 40 years when he was a prince in Egypt, having been adopted into the household of Pharaoh’s daughter.  1 Chronicles 4:18 tells us her name is Bithiah.  She was a compassionate and loving mother.  For those adopting, I commend you – you could give a family to a future leader for God.

Bithiah (bith-yaw’) means “daughter or worshipper of Jah.” (-Strongs)  It appears that after Moses was rejected from the kingdom, his adoptive mother was also kicked out of Egypt because she led everyone to believe that Moses was her flesh and blood.  It seems that God adopted her into His family.  She marries a man named Medred of the Tribe of Judah.

In the second part of His life, Moses was an outcast from society.  He took judicial matters into his own hands.  Getting back at people, making society pay, and attempting to right wrongs, is not something any individual should do.  Being “Wanted: Dead or Alive” in Egypt, Exodus 2:11-25 tell us Moses ran for his life.  It was near the end of this 40-year stretch that as Moses was shepherding sheep for a living, God heard the prayers of His people in Egypt.

Exodus 3 is when God revealed Himself to Moses and called him to service that lasted for the next 40 years.  This chapter is rich with theology, as God says His name is His memorial.  “I AM THAT I AM… hath sent me (14-15).  The One Who always is – was calling and commissioning Moses to get back in the game.  He was sending Moses to do the impossible in his hometown – to deliver his very own people.

Moses wasn’t willing to go back to his hometown after committing some terrible sins.  He had fled in fear away from Egypt.  He was a well-known and recognizable figure in Egypt.  Going back could cause some flashbacks of some tough memories.  He left his hometown and country as a failure.  In the eyes of his himself.  In the eyes of his adoptive mother.  In the eyes of his fellow Jews.

The Shame of the Past.  Now he was coming back.  His objections to God’s call are rooted in fear and past failure.  See Exodus 4:1. “They will not believe me, nor listen to me.  Why would God visit a murderer and outcast?”  He had flashbacks to 40 years earlier when an assailant condemned Moses and said “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” Exodus 2:14.

The Shame of the Present.  After demonstrating that God was going to be with him, Moses offers a second objection in Exodus 4:10-17.  “I can’t talk well.  I ain’t eloquent enough.  I get nervous when I stand in front of people.”  I hear ya Moses.

Lack of ability and lack of confidence are a normal part of life.  And it is those who are not confident in self, but confident in God whom the Lord can use.

God used Moses, by all accounts an unlikely hero, to rescue the people of Israel from slavery!  When God uses the unlikely, it glorifies Him even more!

Philippians 4:13 I can do ____ things ____________ Christ which strengtheneth me.

2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for _______ I am _______, then am I ___________.

  • The Sadness Factor.

David’s story begins in the book of 1 Samuel.  King Saul was the first king of Israel, but because of his rebellion against God, his time on the throne was cut short.  God had the prophet Samuel anoint with oil another person to be the next king.

David burst onto the scene at the Valley of Elah during the battle with the Philistines when they brought out their champion, the giant, Goliath.

Fast-forward to David after he was king. (There is much time/events in between David’s meeting Goliath and David’s becoming king, but that will be for another day.)  Everything is going well in David’s kingdom.  He is relaxed.  Too relaxed.  One evening, while lounging on the rooftop of the palace, David peers over the wall and sees a gorgeous woman taking a bath.  David knows it is wrong, but he brings this married woman to his home and commits adultery.

Sexual sins are sins against yourself, others, and God.  Fornication (any form of sexual sin) is deadly per the book of Proverbs.  On top of this, David’s lust drives a conspiracy, cover-up, and murder of a faithful man, Bathsheba’s husband, Urijah.  God was not pleased.  The “man after God’s own heart” had gone astray.  2 Samuel 12:13-25. 

David was sad.  His heart was grieved.  The prophet Nathan who confronted him was right.  David was wrong.  Could he be forgiven?  Could God ever bless him again?

David was not only sad he got caught, but he was also sad for his sin.  You can gain insight into David’s heart of true repentance in Psalm 32 and 51.

How did David face another day?  After the death of his first son, what did he do?  How did he overcome the intense sorrow and pain that his actions had caused?

David Repented of His Sin.  He does not hold back. He prays fervently.  He opens his heart to God and with tears sincerely cries out to God for forgiveness.   Psalm 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

David Refreshed His Fellowship with God.  Sin separated David from close fellowship with God.  He was still God’s man and the king God-ordained, but he was not close.  For about 1 year, David covered up his sin.  Those were months of heartache and pain.  What if someone found out?  David confessed and chose to refresh his fellowship with God.

1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have ____________ with us: and truly our ____________ is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

David Renewed His Usefulness to God.  Psalm  51:1-17 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a __________spirit: a __________ and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.  God uses humble people.  David’s prayer oozes humility.  He has nothing to be proud of.  It is the humble whom God respects and uses!

David got back in the game.  Could you even look at Bathsheba again if you were David?  Imagine how many would experience guilt and shame on an ongoing basis.  Not David.  He knew that when God forgave – He forgave.  It is amazing to me that in 2 Samuel 12:24-25, David returns to his new wife Bathsheba.

God blesses David and Bathsheba and gave them a son.  David was again on good terms with Nathan, the prophet of God, and Nathan names the boy Jedidiah which means “beloved of the Lord.”  Despite David’s failure, God blessed him again.  Be encouraged that when you fail, once you make things right with God, He can use you again too!  Be sorry for your sin!  Turn the sadness and sorrow of each moment of life into joy and gladness.

  • Condemned no more! Esther 8:16 The Jews had ________, and gladness, and ______, and honour.
  • We can go home! Isaiah 51:11 Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with __________ unto Zion; and everlasting _________ shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and ________; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
  • God’s plan is real! Luke 1:14 And thou shalt have _______ and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

We know the baby son’s name as Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived.  Amazing!

  • The Second-Hand Factor.

Talk about potential – Sampson had potential.  From his birth he was separated to the service of the Lord.  His parents dedicated him back to God. Many times, we describe the youth in church as having potential.  Potential itself is not enough to be successful in the Christian life.  All of us have some level of potential – but that does not amount to much without the qualities of willingness and usefulness.

Sampson allowed his eyes and mind to wander, and his potential was snuffed out in a matter of moments.  After several years of mediocre leadership, Sampson was set on a shelf.  Sidelined.  “Second-hand” is how he felt.

At the start, Sampson was the “Most Likely to Succeed.”  He showed off his muscles.  His feats were renowned.  But what he did was more about him than God.  A streak of selfishness is clear as you study his life account.

You can achieve some things in your flesh, but you cannot achieve all the things God wants you to achieve apart from His power, His Spirit, and His Word.  Redemption means so much more when we are broken over our sin and unworthiness.

In reality, Sampson achieved very little of what God intended for him to achieve.  Until Sampson realized his failures, the Lord was not going to use him again.  But it happened.  Judges 16:23-30.

Sampson was a castaway.  After not fulfilling his potential as a judge of Israel, the Lord allowed him to do one more great feat.

Here are 3 powerful truths to always remember when you fail:

  • God’s glory is better seen in the least likely to succeed.
  • God’s power is more visible when demonstrated through the weak.
  • God’s redemption means so much more to those who recognize their failure.

“Use me one more time Lord!  I am not worthy, but Lord, I give my life to you!”

Jesus illustrates this principle well when eating dinner with some Pharisees.  A woman known to be evil and immoral presents herself to Jesus and washes His feet.  She cries many tears, essentially washing His feet with them, as she breaks open a box of Alabaster ointment and with humility uses her hair to clean the dust off His feet.  The Pharisees condemned this situation and Jesus responds in Luke 7:40-48.

Get back up.  After failure, you are at as good a place as any to serve God again. 

Have some resilience to bounce back after failure.  You can say with J. Hudson Taylor, the most well-known missionary to China:

“I have failed,

I am failing,

I will fail,

But Jesus never fails.”

 

Write out your personal action plan for “Getting Back in the Game” following failure.

 

 

 

 

 

Facing Fear

(There are fill in the blanks and room for questions and answers in this posting).

What is the worst thing that could ever happen to you?  Death, while perhaps intimidating is not the worst thing.  There is an appointment with death that God has on His schedule for you.  Hebrews 9:27 teaches, And as it is appointed unto men once to ______, but after this the judgment:

Perhaps the way a person dies is something that could cause fear.

Fear itself is not evil.  In fact, the Bible instructs us to fear God.  Solomon, the wisest man to ever live wrote a message God gave him in Ecclesiastes 12:13, Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: ______ God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole _________ of man.

God wants us to “fear” Him.  What does this mean?

The Hebrew word for fear is “yare” and means

“to fear; morally, to revere; to be had in reverence.” -Strongs

History gives many examples of men who did not fear God.  Emperor Julian of Rome had decreed that Christianity be outlawed, and he vigorously sought to destroy it. Passing by an old Christian one day Julian said, “Where is your Christ now?” The old man replied, “Making a coffin for the Roman Emperor.”  At last death caught up with Julian, and he cried out, “O Galilean, thou hast conquered.”  –15,000

The Lord is worthy of all respect, awe, and admiration from you!  We should also be “fearful” of God if we remain at odds with God.  Our sinfulness apart from Jesus makes us enemies of God.

Hebrews 10:31: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  The lost are already judged and because of rejecting Christ are already condemned (John 3:18).  In light of Hebrews 10:31, Christians harboring sin, forsaking service with the church, and rebuffing the leading of the Holy Spirit are also at odds with the Lord.  They should be fearful of the correction the Lord may send.

Other than this healthy form of fear- fearing God, what is there to fear?  What are the six most common things you or people around you fear?

Did you list several of the hundreds of “phobia’s” the world fears?  When Peter and the disciples had questions and did not fully understand the will of God, Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. (Mark 11:22).  We need faith in God too!

Perhaps you have heard “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”  It is a valid thought.  Here are 3 Bible characters who faced their greatest fears and saw the Lord do great things!  They learned to have faith in God.

Faith can help you face your greatest fears…

  • When You Feel Surrounded.

Imagine waking up one morning and going out for the day and seeing an elite army unit has surrounded your house. They have their equipment for spying, communicating, and weapons of warfare at the ready. They are not surrounding your neighbor’s house – they are surrounding your house.  The bullhorn and listening devices are pointed at you.  The rifles are shouldered, and your body is in their crosshairs.  You are the target.

Don’t say you would not be afraid!  That would be a shock, a real jolt to wake up to! This is exactly what happens to the prophet Elisha and his assistant, Gehazi.  Gehazi is the one who walks outside and sees they are surrounded.  What are the immediate thoughts that you believe would come to mind if this happened to you?   ______________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

Read the passage: 2 Kings 6:8-23

These men for God were literally surrounded by a band of enemies that were sent by the King of Syria to “snatch and grab” Elisha.  Most governments do not like military interference that spying can cause.  Sharing military secrets is not a game.

The Lord had revealed in advance to Elisha the plans of Syria to capture the king of Israel as he traveled.  Because Elisha had warned the king of Israel, the king had evaded all their attempts.

The enraged king of Syria wondered which of his servants was exposing their plot.  When each cabinet member and military leader passed the cross-examination, they realized that it was Elisha who was revealing the secrets.  How?  I wonder if God does not give hints amongst leaders and militaries today.

Nothing is a secret to God.  Daniel expressed this in another governmental setting to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in Daniel 2:28:  But there is a God in ___________ that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days…

Who were these men surrounding Elisha and Gehazi?  It seems to be an elite group of military personnel working in conjunction with the espionage arm (CIA) of the Syrians.  For Syria to be the aggressor in this era indicates they had a more powerful army than Israel and were willing to go to war.

Here are several descriptions given of this “Snatch and Grab” unit: the Host (chayil) which means “a force or band of men.”  A different word, Bands (dwdg), is also used which indicates “a crowd of soldiers.”  It appears that this was not a full-scale attack army but rather an elite group of fighting men.  It was a specialized task force.

Gehazi is right.  There is no escape.  There is no way out of this one – or is there? When you feel surrounded by the problems and pressures of life, there are two truths you need to remember.

God’s provision is not always immediately known.

The Lord already had the situation under His control.  The angels of the Lord were already protecting His servants.  Elisha prayed that Gehazi would see God’s protection and provision.

Elisha already knew the score.  See verse 16.  This is a foreshadow of an amazing New Testament verse:  Romans 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be ___________ us?

God is rarely early, but He is always on time.  With imminent danger ready to pounce on him, Gehazi had given up hope.  The fear of being surrounded was real and deadly.  However, the Lord had a different plan.  See verses 17-18.

When Gehazi’s eyes were opened to the spiritual dimension, he saw for the first time the presence of God’s angels.  He was about to witness a lifesaving miracle for everyone involved.  Even the lives of the enemies were spared.  Notice in verse 18 how the enemies come down to Elisha.  Elisha and Gehazi see the angels, but these enemy soldiers do not.  If we were observing this event play out – perhaps we would not have seen the angels.

From a human perspective – there is no hope.  But God is always on time.  His timing is always right, even though we tend to question His timing.  He hath made every thing beautiful in his time… (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  Elisha offered a prayer to God, and God answered his prayer right as the soldiers were about to apprehend him.  You may not see it with your eyes, but you can always believe “they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

The band of enemy combatants was blinded temporarily by the Lord.  In an ironic and incredibly merciful scene, Elisha leads this band of elite soldiers right to the King of Israel.  Samaria was the capital of Israel at this time and is only about 12 miles from Dothan, where Elisha was confronted.

Gehazi experienced what David wrote about earlier in history in Psalm 34:4, I sought the LORD, and he _________ me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Be sure to pray for God’s deliverance when you feel surrounded.

  • When You Feel Too Small.

David was a teenager.  He was not the tallest or strongest, even in his very own family.  I imagine him to be about 5’9’ and 150 pounds (just a guess.)

When Goliath, the 10-foot, 400-pound giant arrives with the Philistine army, Saul and the Children of Israel have a major problem on their hands. The difference in size, stature, and strength is disparaging!  This potential discouragement alone would cause just about anyone to quit.

The army, under the leadership of Saul, had already quit.  No one was volunteering to face Goliath.  Fear was controlling the entire camp.  Israel under their first king was already in a real crisis.

The ravages of war are terrible. A group of academics and historians has compiled this startling information: since 3600 B.C., the world has known only 292 years of peace! During this period there have been 14,351 wars large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. The value of the property destroyed is equal to a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick. Since 650 B.C., there have also been 1,656 arms races, only 16 of which have not ended in war. The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries involved.  We human beings seem to have an endless capacity for conflict! -6,000 Plus

Doing the math in 1 Samuel 17:5, we find that Goliath’s armor alone weighed 125 pounds, nearly as much as David!  David is the classic “underdog.”

Read: 1 Samuel 17:30-51.  While Saul’s army thought, “Goliath is too big,” David thought, “With God, I can’t miss!”  Here is how David responded:

Remember the Cause.  29-31.  The cause for life is the glory of God.  While Goliath is mocking the God if Israel, David is suggesting that his cause is to glorify the Lord!  We have the same “cause” to rally around today.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, ______ _______ to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, ______  _______ in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Glorifying God could be understood as “doing the right thing, the right way, with the right attitude, at the right time, all while praising and thinking about God.”  Pleasing the Lord is central to a person giving Him glory.

Realize Others Are Afraid.  32.  David sensed the shame in the camp.  Fear had already captivated the Israeli army.  Even Saul, the tallest and most respected Jew in the land did not know what to do next.  David’s words were not of condemnation.  He was not critical of the other men.  He demonstrated great faith in God and encouraged the other men to have faith in God too.  Let no man’s heart fail because of him.

When people around you are afraid – it is a good time to remind them and yourself to trust the Lord.  Proverbs 12:25 teaches, Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it __________: but a good word maketh it glad.

Reject Bad Counsel.  33-39.  Man’s methods to overcome problems are not that good.  Saul initially says, “you are too young.”  Then he says, “you have no experience fighting in war.”  After that he offers his very own royal armor.  David was too small to fit in the armor.  It was too heavy, and he had never worn any armor.  This was not a proven or tried-and-tested form of defense for him.

David went against the accepted forms of defense.  He rejected the common way of looking at this problem.  He looked to God for an answer.

You will find that humanity has its own ideas of protectiveness and peace.  While David rejected the conventional method, the Lord had him use a sling and 5 smooth stones.  If you are honest, most of your responses (positive) or reactions (negatives) that you resort to in times of crisis are things that you learned growing up.  For David, who grew up in Jessie’s home in the hillside of Bethlehem, 5 smooth stones and his sling were familiar and comfortable.  It had worked in the past.

When we are confronted with a crisis, not everything from our past will work.  New (to us) situations may cause us to look beyond our experiences and background.  In those moments, we must look to God, His Word, and even His servants who are willing to give Biblical counsel to help us.  Be sure that while you reject bad counsel, you also receive Biblical counsel.  “The Lord delivered me out of the paw of the lion.” 37.

Do you react in negative ways when the situation is bigger than you?  Some people get angry.  Others believe if they get “louder,” then the battle will be resolved.  Or, do you respond?  Do you confess your need for the Lord? Do you look for His solution to the problem?

Rely on God.  46-47.  I have never been really good with the “Y” shaped slingshots, and I certainly am not experienced with the type of sling that is whirled around the head and then released.  David was an expert marksman.  It has been said that guns are a great equalizer – no matter how big or small, strong or weak a person may be – if both people have a gun, they have equal power and equal potential in a conflict.  True thought.

Goliath had all the armor and conventional weapons of the day, but he did not have a sling.  No one thought this sling-swinging teenager had a chance.  But God was there.  God is BIGGER than the biggest enemy.  The Lord used the skill of David, the willingness of this teenager, and a single smooth stone to eliminate the single greatest threat to David, King Saul, and the young nation of Israel.  While doing what he could and should, David relied on the Lord. That’s Faith!

When you feel too small, remember how BIG God is.

  • When You Feel the Suffering.

Let me introduce to you a man named Job.  He lived in the day when dinosaurs lived in plain view of humanity.  Job had one crisis after another.  The things he feared most just kept coming his way.  How did he cope?  How did he recover in crisis?

  • The livestock (1000 oxen and 500 donkeys) in the family farming business were all stolen.  The foremen and ranch hands were all dead.
  • A lightning storm struck, killing all the sheep (7000) and workers in the family clothing empire.
  • The camels (3000), part of the family transportation, caravan, and vacation business were all stolen, and the “drivers” were all killed.
  • With all the wealth and livelihood gone, the most tragic thing happens next.  Job’s children (7 sons, 3 daughters), at a party, were all killed when the house they were in collapsed during a wind storm.

This is found in Job 1:13-22.  Job’s plight continued as his health was immediately assaulted, and for the next 12 months his body is in utter and constant pain (Job 2).  He feels suffering every day.

Job describes how the things he feared the most actually happened to him in Job 3:25-26.  The idea of these verses is that he had one bad experience after another.  In swift succession, evil, pain, and suffering overwhelmed his life.  What he feared most happened, then the next thing, then the next.

Have you ever felt like that?  What pain and suffering are you going thought now?  Emotional, relational, physical?  What sickness or surgery are you facing today?  Life is full of Job-like events.

Ever say, “It can’t get any worse?”  No one likes pain.  I am like you – I avoid it if at all possible!  Some pain and suffering are unavoidable.  How can we have faith when the fear of suffering becomes a reality?

Job continued to worship God.  1:20.  Before, during, and after these events, Job worshipped.  Are you faithful to the Lord during good times, or do you only turn to him during bad times?

Job confessed the temporary nature of life.  1:21.  He blessed God anyway.  At least he was blessed to have had these businesses.  For sure he knew he was blessed to have had these 10 kids.  Even when his health is ripped away from him, he still had life and breath to be thankful for.

Perhaps health problems are the most difficult to deal with.  Our pain affects and tests not only our physical bodies, but our cognition, emotions, relationships, and even spiritual life.  Undiagnosed or untreatable ailments are terrible.  Job knew that kind of pain.

Life includes problems.  Pain is a sad part of life.

  • Job 14:1 Man that is born of a woman is of ________ days, and ________ of trouble.
  • Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our ______ unto wisdom.

Job persisted to bless the Lord.  (Verses 1:22, 2:9-10.)  He praises God in the good times and the bad times.

One of the possible struggles we have today is that we can be so busy making a living that we do not have a life.  Disasters, pain, and suffering tend to help us refocus on the main things in life: faith, family, and friends.

Job did not know it, but he was being persecuted for his faith – by Satan himself.  Paul encourages us when we too suffer for our faith in Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the ________________ of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the _____________ which shall be revealed in us.

God brought Job through the pain and suffering.  Job is restored double of everything he lost.  After a year of physical pain, his body is made whole.  He lives out his days closer to God than ever before.  He has a fresh perspective in life, and the hand of God (while evident during suffering) was also seen in Job’s blessing.

What to do when facing the fear of suffering?  Remember, that God has an eternal plan for your life, and it is worth the living!  His mercy can be seen even in the suffering you may endure.

James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the ______________ of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Whatever you fear, be encouraged – do not give up.  Get back in the game of life and glorify God!

In his autobiography, William Allen White related the story of a boyhood playmate, Temple Friend, who was kidnapped by the Indians when he was quite young. Ironically, Temple’s grandfather was a missionary to the Indians. The Lord’s servant persisted in believing his grandson was alive. He continued to love and serve the church. He never allowed Indian conduct to sour his spirit. When visiting an Indian village, the old man would line up the boys who would be about the age of his missing grandson, and whisper, “Temple, Temple,” quietly in the ear of each boy, so as not to excite them or the community. He followed this procedure day in and day out. Finally, he found about twelve boys the age of his grandson in one district—all eight to ten years old—and he started the same procedure. At the middle of the line a little boy’s face lighted up, and he responded, “Me Temple!”  -1000

Faith can help you face your greatest fears…

  1. What fear can you give to God? __________ ____________________________________
  2. What areas do you need to trust God with? ____________________________________ ____________________________________

 

 

 

Get Back in the Game

Fear. Aloneness. Anxiety. Struggles.

Failure. Losses. Stress. Falling. Disappointment.

Falsehoods. Lies. Stories. Regret. Pain.

Each of us will experience the above forms of suffering at some point in our lives.  Some of us may seemingly endure more pain and agony than others.  How do we cope?  How can we rise above the fears, failures, and falsehoods that life throws our way?

Faith.  Faith is the answer.  Easy to say – perhaps more difficult to put into practice.

One day John Wesley was walking with a troubled man who expressed his doubt as to the goodness of God. He said, “I do not know what I shall do with all this worry and trouble.” At the same moment Wesley saw a cow looking over a stone wall. “Do you know,” asked Wesley, “why that cow is looking over the wall?” “No,” said the man who was worried. Wesley said, “The cow is looking over the wall because she cannot see through it. That is what you must do with your wall of trouble—look over it and avoid it.” Faith enables us to get above circumstances and look to Christ who is over all, blessed forever.   -Knight’s

David knew about faith in the face of fear, failure, and falsehoods.  He wrote in Psalm 56:3, What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. And in verse 11: In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.

Faith is the answer to all of life’s troubling events.

This solution is not “faith in faith” but rather faith in God.  David looked to the Lord for help in times of trouble.

Even though David was sidelined from time to time, he got back in the game of life.  Fear has a way of crippling our actions.  Failing has the potential to discourage you to the point of quitting.  Falsehoods, lies by others, and even lies you may believe about yourself can knock you off your feet.

How do you get back up?  How can the Christian recover from the various problems he will face?  Can God use me despite my fear?  Can the Lord pick me up after my failure?  Can the falsehoods be forgiven and a new life forged?

Life crises happen.  A life crisis always precedes a faith crisis.  Your faith will be tested and tried.

Some people never recover.  Why?  Their response to the crisis makes all the difference…

Please follow the next few posts for more about Getting Back in the Game…..

 

 

 

Building Your Kids

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

The house is going up.  In the field where the large tree fell, a new home is being built.  On our way to school, my children make comments, and we enjoy watching the progress on this house as we drive by each day.  The house is going up systematically.  From the foundation on up, there is a building plan.  God gives us building plans for our kids.

An admonition, then a direct command, is given to fathers in particular in Ephesians 6:4.  From what I understand about ancient cultures, some pagan fathers in false religions could be very harsh, demanding, and demeaning to their children.  Prodding or provoking them to get a reaction out of them was a sadistic type of amusement that some would seek to find.

In a conventional sense today, as children misbehave, it is easy for a tired or busy parent to be more rash in their reactions to their children.  I read one study that suggested parents of young children are more angry than most people!  If you are nodding off while reading this after a sleepless parenting night, I totally understand.  But when our children misbehaving, or sin, not obeying and honoring like they should – do not fly off the handle.  Do not exact a revengeful form of correction towards them.

Commentator Adam Clark wrote well: “Cruel parents generally have bad children. He who corrects his children according to God and reason will feel every blow on his own heart more sensibly than his child feels it on his body. Parents are called to correct, not to punish, their children. Those who punish them do it from a principle of revenge; those who correct them do it from a principle of affectionate concern.”  The interaction of a parent with a child should not be rooted in shaming them, or creating a false sense of guilt, or even generating fake conformity.  Truly a parent must nurture the heart.

After this admonition to not cause wrath in a child, the Lord instructs the parent, the father, in particular, to bring up a child.  The phrase, bringing up, carries the idea of a systematic approach to building something.  Like the house being constructed that we drive by each day is being built with a specific order, plan, and design in place, the father should have a plan for the progressive building of his children.  Two words to consider:

Nurture is the tutilage or systematic training and educating of a child.   Remember, in school, the teacher took you through a book, page by page, and chapter by chapter?  Subjects and topics related to one another were taught to you in a complimentary way.  For example, in math class, you probably learned addition before you learned subtraction.  Then multiplication came before division.   You get the idea.

Admonition is to call attention to or to offer a mild warning or rebuke.   When a child is tempted to do wrong, that is an excellent time to provide a word of caution, a reminder of the consequences, a rebuke of wrong thinking or wrong attitude.   Paul says in Romans 15:14 that those with “goodness” in them can admonish one another.  Be sure to give consistent guidance to your children.  Two challenges:

  • Angry parents damage the emotions of their children.
  • Absent parents damage the emotions of their children.

Find the right balance to be building your kids up.  Just like a class in school and a house being built, you are called to systematically and continuously develop your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not easy in this world.  The Church will help you.  Sunday School and AWANA programs can help.  The church and the kid’s programs are not a replacement for the father.  No one can replace the healthy interaction and integration of Bible truth in their ones children.

Next time you see a house being built, think about how God has called you to develop your child.

Please offer suggestions for building up kids in the faith in the comment section…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tree Who Stood Alone

Not long ago, just down a ways from our church building, a property was cleared of nearly every tree.  This flat one acre or so of real estate was cleared and excavated for a new house.  After removing 30-40 trees, there was one tree left in this new field.  It appeared it was left to be a showcase piece.  Standing at over 60 feet tall, this tree would stand tall and proud in this recent development against the backdrop of a new house.

Then it happened.  A storm came.  The rain fell.  The wind blew.

The now single tree, standing proud by itself in the cleared field, fell down.  Great was the fall of it!  The tree had grown up in a community with other trees.  As it grew from a sapling to a tall height of 60 feet, it was not alone.  The fibers of its core were not stretched and bent as much as it had been during the wind storm that night.

As trees grow, the storms that come make them stronger.  The wood grain is stretched as the tree bends in the wind.  The fibers harden under stress a storm brings about.  In the woods with other trees, the other trees share the burden, slow the wind-down, and create a buffer from the ravages of standing alone in the storm.

Life is much like a storm to a tree.  A tree can stand alone, and many trees do.  But the tree is most likely to grow healthy and not fall over when in community with other trees.  A tree is less likely to fall over when it is with other trees.

The God Who created the trees and forests is the same God who created humankind.  He designed our humanity to need spiritual, social, and physical interaction.  We find the community we need in something called The Church.  Christians need to be with their church to grow, develop in healthy ways, and to help when storms come.

Sure, Christians in church occasionally fall, but no one is taking statistics on how many people do not fall because they are faithfully involved in a church community.  I have not seen reports about people who did not fall into sin, or who did not abandon their Christianity – because of the church.  But the fact that a church remains is evidence that it works.  The Bible teaches in Hebrews 10:25, Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Christian, we desperately need each other as this world grows increasingly sinful.  The storms of life may be increasing, but God is greater!  He has given you and I a healthy network of friends, fellow Christians with which to worship God, serve Him, and encourage others.

Your church desperately needs you.  Someone at church needs your friendship.  Someone at church needs to see your smile each Sunday and enjoy an embrace, handshake, or word of blessing.

Will some people in church fall?  Will some storms come that they will mishandle?  Sure.  That is what Solomon is talking about in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 

More people will succeed if you are there to encourage them in the first place.  Others will get back up after falling when they receive your help to stand back up with the other Christians in a church community.

Don’t stand alone.  Stand with other Christians.  Storms will come.  Others need you.  You need them.  Go to church. Participate.  Avoid falling.  If you fall, get back up with the church of others.  If you see someone fall, help them get back up.

Don’t be a singular tree in a field.  Stand tall with your church.

 

Grace and Peace

Grace be to you and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Galatians 1:3

In the opening comments from the Apostle Paul to the people of the Galatian region, he offers the words grace and peace.  As Christians, we are thankful for the grace of God, and we are blessed to know we have peace with God and the peace of God!   God loves you, and I so much that He gives us this grace and peace.  You are valuable to God!

Grace is something from the Lord.  It is not something we earn or deserve.  God’s grace is freely given and freely received.  Getting better than what we deserve is a fantastic thing about the grace of God!

Peace is incredible too.  Do you have peace with God?  Is a guilty conscience rattling your soul?  Is your life full of unresolved regret?   You can make peace with God today.  Confess any sin or regretful instances of experience to the Lord and ask Him to heal your soul.  He will.  Make peace with God by finding forgiveness and a new life in Jesus Christ.  Please see the “How to Have Eternal Life” section on this site.  Peace with God is looking to the future and ensuring your salvation in Jesus.

What about the peace of God?  The order of God is something for living each day.  All of us have challenges and struggles, and as we move forward in our peace with God, there are times where we may not fully realize the peace of God.  Peace. Contentment. Satisfaction.  All of this is part of the peace of God that we can enjoy daily!  This peace is living a life of less stress, more easiness of mind, and a better understanding of God’s presence.

Be encouraged with God’s grace and peace today – you are worth it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2020 is Good for More than Vision

What is your eyesight according to the eye doctor?  Need correction?  With today marking the new year and the calendar turning to 2020, be encouraged that 2020 is good for more than eyesight only.  What do you want to see in your life in 2020?  Do you have any goals or dreams that you would like to see the Lord achieve in your life this year?

With more than near-term thinking, could 2020 be the year of the rapture?  Could Jesus return to the clouds of this sphere and take Gospel believing Christians to Heaven?  It could happen.

Jesus says in Luke 12:40, Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.  Could 2020 be the year?  Theologian Charles Ryrie writes of this verse: “There is no place for slothful ease in the life of a believer while waiting or the return of the Lord.”  Very true words.

Sense 2020 is good for more than vision, what are some things I can look for in the year 2020?

  1. A rejuvenated love for Jesus.  Read your love letter from God, the Bible more.
  2. A renewed sense of serving Jesus.  Find ways to help others to glorify God.
  3. A rekindled participation in church life.  More than attend, participate.

Are these important?  Yes!  Jesus could return for the Gospel believer at any moment.  When He does come, our love for Jesus, service to Jesus, and participation with other Christians in church will take on a paramount priority in our life – but when the rapture happens, it will be too late!  Once the trumpet sounds, the love for Jesus will continue in Heaven, the service will continue (or begin for some) in Heaven, and the people we fellowship with at church (or avoid due to lack of attendance and participation) will continue (or begin) in Heaven!

Make the most of 2020 for demonstrating love and devotion to Jesus.

This world probably does not have another Century before the rapture.

The First Song Ever on Radio!

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  Luke 2:15

It was the year 1906.  Theodore Roosevelt from New York was President of the USA (and as a first for an American President, he left the country and inspected the Panama Canal), a revival was taking place in churches on the West Coast, the 7.8 earthquake rattled Los Angeles, Bradbury Robinson of the Saint Louis University throws the first forward pass in football, and the earliest broadcast on over the air radio was transmitted.  It was a progressive era.  The AM radio did not even have regular broadcasting on it until the 1920s.  The technology was new and cutting edge.

Inventor and Canadian Reginal Fessenden sent out the first radio broadcast on December 24.  For the very first radio signal sent, he chose to play the Christmas Carol O Holy Night.  After playing the song on his violin himself, Fessenden read from Luke 2, the Christmas story, according to Luke. This broadcast was made in Brant Rock, MA, with radio operators along the coast listening in.

The very first song played on the radio was on Christmas Eve, and it was a song about – Christmas!

How fitting that on the precipice of new and wonderful communication technology that in Biblical fashion, the good news is proclaimed and shared. Like and angels, the shepherds, and the first radio broadcaster, Christmas is good news worth sharing and giving.

With all the new technology our world is immersed in, phones, PC’s media, podcasts, XM, and good old fashioned AM or FM, don’t forget about Jesus.  In spite of all of the crackly “static” around you be sure to remember Jesus and share His gift with others.

Merry Christmas everyone!