A rule more precious than gold.

This is the fourth post in the series on Chip Removal for Christians. Read the previous post here.

friends

I drummed my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, glaring at the red tail lights directly ahead. The blue Honda civic lingered irresolutely at the stop sign. For over a mile I had been stuck behind this beat-up car, inching along at 20 mph in a 35 zone. My blood pressure was up and my patience down.

Finally, the vehicle rolled forward. After performing an obligatory “California stop” I fell in behind them once again. A minute later, I could see my destination. Relieved to finally be rid of the snail-like vehicle, I whipped into the parking lot. In my flustered frustration I accidentally cut somebody off. I blushed and gave an embarrassed wave, hoping they’d understand that I hadn’t meant to be rude. I had been through a rough day and was duly distracted by that driver that had been halfway driving their oxidized Honda.

Hang on… How on earth would they know I’d had a bad day?

It isn’t as if I could hop out of my car and say, “I am so sorry for cutting you off. I wasn’t paying attention. I was too caught up in my own frustrations.” That sort of conversation might only occur if the cars made physical contact in an accident.

As I finally pulled into a parking spot, I realized how foolish my thought process had been. Here I was, hoping someone would be forgiving of my mental preoccupation and error, while  I had failed to be patient with the car in front of me just seconds earlier. That driver in front of me could have been an elderly man, and barely able to see past the steering wheel. Maybe they were emotionally distressed and struggling to make it to a funeral. Or, maybe it was some teenage kid texting and driving. How hypocritical to hope someone would be patient with me while I was unwilling to be patient with anyone else!

How often do you find yourself in similar scenarios?

Imagine going into a coffee shop and spotting an acquaintance at a nearby table. After placing your order, you approach the table to greet them. Their rigid shoulders and reluctant glance make it obvious they want you to leave them alone. Is their cold reception aimed at you or just coincidental? Who knows? It’s possible they were just hoping to be alone for a few minutes and you unwittingly blundered into their moment of peace. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse and are struggling to keep their turbulent emotions in check. Again, who knows?

Instead of getting bent out of shape in these scenarios, why don’t we pause and consider?

How would we want someone to treat us if the roles were reversed? We would hope for grace to be extended to us; a measure of patience, understanding and love. At some point, we all get “caught” in moments when we are less than our best.

Previously, we discussed assuming goodwill from our brethren and perfecting the art of listening. This post deals with the very heart of the “offense” issue.

The Greatest Commandments

In order to avoid causing or feeling offense, our main objectives should be love and mercy. The majority of our daily interactions either flourish or flop depending on how well we extend those two things. When Jesus was on earth, the scribes and Pharisees were often testing him with “hard” questions, hoping to trip him up. In one instance, his authoritatively wise answers made a distinct impression on one particular man, and he posited a question to Jesus:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

~ Mark 12.28-34, ESV, emphasis mine

Notice that the scribe asked Him for the greatest commandment (singular). Jesus answered Him with one, but intentionally included the second greatest as well. The Ten Commandments can be summed up in these two. The first four commandments deal with a vertical relationship—God and man. The last six deal with horizontal relationships—person to person. Love does no harm to a neighbor, in thought or in deed.

We cannot perform the greatest commandment and neglect the second.

We love because he first loved us.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4.20-21, ESV, emphasis mine

“As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

When did you first learn the golden rule? I’m fairly confident that most schoolchildren—at least in the United States—are acquainted with it even if they are raised by atheist parents. Most honest people recognize the ethical and moral value of the maxim: “Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.” No matter how hard people try to eliminate God from their lives, they cannot shake the influence of His wisdom.

People want respect, but are often unwilling to extend it. People long to be loved, but fail to demonstrate true affection. People desire mercy, but refuse to forgive even the smallest slights. We may be taught the “golden rule” from our youth, but we have a hard time practicing it.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

~ Luke 6.27-36, ESV, emphasis mine

I still remember the day I was baptized into Christ. It was a chilly Wednesday evening on March 24, 1994. I had been living in fear of being lost and wondering perplexedly over why I was even on this earth. I knew I had sinned multiple times and I was terrified that if something happened to me before I turned my life over to Christ, I would be lost forever. My friends and family looked on as my dad plunged me into the cool water. I came up filled with joy, water running over my face mingled with salty tears. I was an enemy no longer. God had forgiven me even though I had done nothing to deserve His great mercy.

How often do we extend mercy and love to the undeserving in our lives? How often do we treat them, the way that God treated us? What makes us more “deserving” than they?

My friends, this is the bottom line: we will be less easily offended and cause less offense if we practice the golden rule. We must love our neighbors, our brethren in Christ and our family members by extending to them the treatment we would like them to extend to us. We may not get our kindness returned, but that doesn’t really matter. We need to be merciful as God has been merciful to us.

Coming next week: How to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Book Review: One of the Few

one of the few image

Title: One of the Few

Author: Jason B. Ladd

Release Date: November 10, 2015

“To become a better leader, a better spouse, and a better parent, you must first discover what is true. Then you must learn how to detect what is false. The world is full of lies: all religions are basically the same, Christians are anti-education, humans are just animals, sex is not sacred, and drunkenness is harmless. Your worldview will inform your judgments on these notions and more. Right and wrong exist, and the world, while sometimes grey, still has poles of black and white.”

~ Jason B. Ladd from One of the Few

Coming this November is a groundbreaking book by author Jason B. Ladd regarding the imperative need for parents, leaders and Christians to possess an accurate worldview and a tenacious dedication to Christ. His novel, One of the Few leads the reader through Ladd’s six-year journey toward Christ with the insight and experience of a marine fighter pilot.

Prior to becoming a Christian, Ladd described himself as one who had no opinion on whether or not there was a God. One simple question hit him like a shot in the arm: “What do you think happens when we die?” He couldn’t give a confident answer and it unnerved him. How he could be a good father to his new child if he couldn’t answer such a basic yet important question? That question was the catalyst. He decided to hop off the apathy train and engage in a search for truth.

Ladd expertly parallels the experiences of a marine with the need for Christians to be courageous, vigilant, and dedicated. His book challenges believers and non-believers alike to uncover the truth.

This book possesses three overriding themes:

1) The importance of having God’s view of the world,

2) The gravity of well-chosen words (and questions) to unbelievers

3) The need to shake off spiritual apathy

“The decision to follow Christ came slowly as I studied his Word and read authors with talents for excising unfounded objections.”

~ Jason B. Ladd, One of the Few

Most atheists and agnostics are of the opinion that one can only possess a faith in God if the ears are stopped and the mind is checked at the door. Ladd’s example demonstrates that one can explore contrary sources and still come out believing in God. He did not come to God in a moment of emotional frenzy or due to pressure from his wife. If he had, it would not have been a six-year process. It’s a subtle appeal to be patient with your atheist and agnostic friends.

“Like executing fighter tactics, living a holy life is a perishable skill. To stay current and proficient you’ve got to stay in the books—all sixty-six of them.”

~ Jason B. Ladd, One of the Few

Whether you are a military veteran or a civilian, Ladd’s book will be relatable and relevant.

We are in a spiritual battle and it’s important to be grounded in what we believe. As Ladd demonstrates in his book, the best way to establish and maintain a sound worldview is to diligently seek God and stay in His Word daily.

If you would like to read this insightful book by Jason B. Ladd visit his website at jasonbladd.com. For a limited time, he is giving away free copies of the Kindle format.

One of the Few will be available in the following formats:

Softcover: Amazon.com

Hardcover: Barnes & Noble

e-book: Amazon (Kindle) and Nook

Audiobook: Available through Gumroad

I received no compensation for this article other than a copy of the e-book for my honest review.

Happy Reading!

Praying for wives [The Effective Prayer – October 27, 2015]

This post is part of a biweekly series on effective prayer. To read the original post on effective prayer, click here.

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An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.

~ Proverbs 31.10-11, ESV

In our previous effective prayer post, we talked about praying for husbands and the challenges of marriage. If you have not read it, please click here. This post is built on the same principles.

As I mentioned in that post, marriage is about sacrifice made from a deeply committed, unconditional love. A lasting marriage takes effort, you can’t simply get married, hit auto pilot and expect smooth sailing. Turbulence, storms, low fuel and other variables require the couple to be attentive in order to stay intact.

There are many passages about wives in the Bible. Let’s dive in to a few before looking at focus points for prayer.

The “Submission” Issue

Ephesians 5:22 is probably one of the most controversial passages for women in today’s culture of female independence and dominance:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:22, ESV

Yes. It actually says that in the Bible.

“Submit” is viewed as one of those dirty words. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “to yield oneself to the authority or will of another; surrender. To defer to or consent to abide by the opinion or authority of another.” So many pop songs talk about surrendering to the one we love, but the real-world application is far more elusive. Consider the rest of the context surrounding Ephesians 5:22:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I included the verses leading up to 22 because I want you to notice that in the context, the passage talks about submitting to each other in the church. Submission is not a suggestion. It’s a requirement for every Christian.

Does this mean that wives should be a doormat—trampled on, wiped with mud and treated as common? Absolutely not! Notice that the immediate words following the instructions to wives are “husbands, love your wives.” I’ve never seen anyone shower their doormat with affection, have you? (Well, maybe at Pier 1.) So what does healthy submission look like for the Christian wife?

I will share my penny-worth thoughts: a submissive wife is the life-force of the home. She and her husband have agreed on the goals of their home and she does her part to help those goals be achieved. She discusses issues with her husband and he either delegates to her or takes on the task himself, but the success or failure lands on his shoulders. She honors her husband in front of their children and doesn’t run him down behind his back. He consults her because she is a pillar in the home and shows her love and affection. She supports her husband in the training of their children—they do not undermine each other.

Jesus submitted to God’s will in going to the cross. He prayed, “not my will, but Thine be done.” We submit to Christ when we are baptized into His death and raised to walk in newness of life. Our life is to be in submission to His will. The Church submits to Christ because He is the authority. Does He crush, berate, and belittle His church? No! He loves the church just as husbands are to love their wives.

Is it hard to submit to Christ? Are we willing to surrender ourselves to Him by changing our ways and walking with Him? It takes effort doesn’t it? We make every effort to do so because we love Him, we respect Him, and we trust Him.

Transfer those concepts to the marriage relationship as a wife. What does it mean to submit? Love. Respect. Trust.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

~ Ephesians‬ ‭5:33‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Do you love your husband? If you do, show him some respect. Don’t bash him behind his back, don’t perpetually roll your eyes at his every enthusiasm and don’t make him look like a fool. That behavior is cultural, worldly, and selfish. Don’t be conformed to the world. Be like Christ.

Does respect imply the absence of disagreement? By no means! If a wife is a true helpmeet to her husband, she will speak up if she sees as decision as a poor choice that will be detrimental to her husband or the family as a whole. It’s how she goes about disagreeing that is significant. For instance, if the husband decides that the family needs a boat, but the wife realizes that buying the boat will put the family in debt and under considerable financial strain, she’s going to hit the brakes. The wife approaches him and says, “I like that you want to create memories with the family and give us something for enjoyment, but I am concerned about the impact to our budget. We have our son’s braces to pay for next year and our daughter is going to need the next size violin in a few months…” Reasonable reminders, gentle persuasion. A good leader/husband will consider the rationality of his wife’s statement, concur with it and make the responsible decision.

A wife should speak well of her husband both to his face and behind his back. She should highlight his positive attributes and praise him in front of their children. She can also demonstrate respect by showing interest in his activities.

What if the husband isn’t a good leader and/or is not a Christian? 

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

~‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is no easy task and will be in the focus points for our prayers. It is no easy thing being married to a spouse who doesn’t obey God. The best thing for a wife in this situation is to focus on doing what God requires of her.

Live the way God wants you to live, love the way Christ loves and your example may have a powerful impact on your husband. Remember that he will stand before God on judgement day to answer for his choices as a husband and father. I do not encourage remaining in an abusive home as it can do great harm physically and mentally to a woman and children. When it is simply poor leadership or apathy toward God, remain and live for Jesus. Pray constantly for your husband.

If you are single, pray these things for your married friends! If you are a man hoping to be married one day, pray that you will find these qualities in a wife. If you are a woman hoping to be married one day, pray these qualities for yourself, paying particular attention to proverbs 31.

Dont fail to pray for the “strong” wives. Even if someone seems to have it all together, they are still human and subject to temptation and trial. They need your prayers to remain faithful and true.

What should we pray for wives?

  • Pray they will be devoted to God in prayer and study.
  • Pray they will learn to submit to their husbands in a healthy, Christ-like way and pray  their husbands will in turn show love toward them.
  • Pray they will be respectful toward their husbands both publicly and at home.
  • Pray for them to stand against temptation.
  • Pray they will honor the Lord in their marriage.

If a wife is in a difficult relationship with a poor leader or unbeliever, pray for her to remain strong in the Lord and have a positive impact on her husband that will lead him to Christ.


FREE PDF prayer guide. Includes bible verses and a few lines to add notes/names. Download by clicking here.

Pray with purpose.

Pray effectively.

Reach out and encourage!

Please leave feedback in the comments section re: the PDF download. I am still trying to format this effectively to be a tool for your use and mine. Thank you in advance for your help!

Coffee Chat 12 – Are we entitled?

coffee chat

Read previous coffee chats under the “discussion” category or click here.

Thank you to all my readers who have given me so much inspiration and insight with your comments. I love hearing from you! We had an awesome discussion at our last coffee chat on taking a break from technology. If you missed the dialogue, it’s never to late to check it out and leave a comment. You can read it here.


I have been mulling over the concept of the “propserity” or “health and wealth” gospel for several months. Lord willing, I will write a series on the subject in the near future, but the posts are still marinating. In the mean time, I’d like to have a little chat with you on this topic. So grab your pumpkin spice latte, black coffee, green tea or whatever you fancy and join me in a little discussion.

Side one: Goodness = Health & Wealth?

Have you ever read books or attended seminars by prominently polished people passionately promoting the idea that righteousness will lead to riches? The idea is that Christians can be wealthy and prosperous if they just work hard, persevere and live “right” (this is loosely defined). It is implied that if we are faithful to God and diligent with our resources, He will not only provide our needs, but endow us with great prosperity. After all, look at Job, Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon and Daniel. They were diligent folks. They succeeded at everything they did! They prospered!

The individuals who promote this idea say, “Look at me! I’m successful, I’m wealthy, I’ve worked hard and made it! You can too! Oh, and, uh, God blessed me because I’m so awesomely diligent and righteous.” Certainly, diligence deserves reward. Proverbs promotes this idea:

A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

~ Proverbs 10:4, ESV

Psalm 1 speaks of the righteous man who “is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

The beauty of living in the U.S. is knowing that perseverance often pays off. The elusive American Dream is to transform humble beginnings into great prosperity, with a little creativity and a good deal of sweat.

The burning question that I have is this: if we are hard-working, righteous, God-fearing people, are we entitled to earthly health and wealth? Does one follow hard upon the other? This is one of the big issues in the book of Job; his friends had a devil of a time with this concept. Job argued that evil people often prosper, so integrity alone does not secure riches. (Job 21)

Side 2: Goodness = poverty?

When Jesus came to earth, he lived a flawless life. He said the right words at the right time, showed abundant compassion, taught thousands of people, met with both the exalted and the lowly, and yet he had “no place to lay his head.” He was not wealthy—it would have detracted from His purpose. He did not descend to earth in order to establish a utopian kingdom of sensual pleasure and comfort; He came to demonstrate how to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. The kingdom of Jesus was to be a transcendent one: a collective of people who sought to reflect the Lord they loved in the lives they lived.

The apostles who carried the gospel into the world after His ascension lived impoverished lives. They didn’t sleep in soft beds or hobnob with Caesar and the Senators at prayer breakfasts. In the Bible, we read about them sleeping on stone prison floors shackled to Roman Soldiers. If they met rulers, they were not seated in a place of honor at the table. It was quite the opposite. Their missionary travel was done by foot power or wind power—they did not get carried on litters by servants or transported by chariot.

[I want to pause for a moment and note that the above juxtaposition is not a criticism of all prominent Christian writers or leaders. They have been put in their various places for a purpose and many of them have had a profound impact on thousands of lives. We should be thankful that good people are in positions of influence. My prayer is that they will use their position for the Lord’s purpose and not their own glory.]

Some of the early Christians were wealthy, some were not. Some were spared crucifixion/torture/consumption by lions; others were not. Were those spared more righteous than those killed? Were the wealthy more righteous than the poor?

Does one have to live in harsh circumstances to be right before God?


Here is my take on the whole matter:

Our justification from God (i.e. righteousness) does not entitle us to a cushy life. Those of us who are wealthy and successful need to be good stewards of what God has given us to further his purpose. Those of us who are barely scraping by—in spite of hard work, diligence etcetera—need to continue to share with others and give thanks for what we do have.

The apostle Paul said it best:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.

In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

~ Philippians 4:11-13, ESV

Paul had “learned the secret”: Whether rich or poor, full or hungry, He could be content through Christ who strengthened Him.

We are here to glorify the Lord in our lives, no matter what our circumstance.

If we are granted abundant earthly blessings in this life, we need to learn contentment and gratitude. We are to recognize that they are temporary gifts that we can enjoy and need to share with others. Our position is a tool that God wants to use for His good purpose. Are we allowing our blessings to be tools or are we slaves to our stuff?

If we are not granted riches, we need to learn contentment and gratitude. We need to recognize what the Lord has given us—even if it is the bare minimum—and be an example of joy and peace. Our position is a tool that God wants to use for His good purpose. Are we a vehicle for demonstrating a godly life or are we lusting after what we don’t have?

This subject is a point of confusion for many Christians. There are many who view “riches” as a result of righteousness, while others see them as a curse and think we need to engage in self-inflicted poverty or communal living.

What do you think?

Leave a comment below!

Mommy, who is He?

mother and daughter

And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers.

And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

Judges 2.8-10, ESV

What is the tragedy in the above passage? Joshua’s death? The death of the conquering generation?

The tragedy is in the last verse: “there arose a generation… who did not know the Lord. How did this happen? How did all those people grow up ignorant of God? Do you think they were completely clueless? Our conclusions are, of course, speculative. I suspect they knew about God on some small level, but they did not have a relationship with God. Their parents had failed to diligently teach who the Lord was and what he had done for Israel. To them, God was no greater and no different than the gods of the people of Canaan.

As a parent, the following set of verses resonates with me. The command was directed toward Israelites, but the example is still applicable for us:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

~ Deuteronomy‬ ‭6:4-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It is not easy to instill in children a deep, abiding love for the Lord. Not every child will readily take it to heart. Yet, like everything we do as parents, we have to be persistent in teaching and fostering their growth.

How do we help our children know the Lord?

  1. Direct Teaching. This should consist of daily reading of the Bible with your children. This is quite a bit harder than you might think. Other activities will regularly compete for this time slot. Fight to make it a routine. If there is a regular meal that you eat together as a family, take time to read one chapter from the Bible at that meal. If you have very small children, it might be helpful to use a “story” Bible to give them a visual picture of what they are reading. When my oldest was around 11 months, I used to read to her while she was snacking in her high chair—a captive audience!
  2. Teachable Moments. This takes creativity. You really have to keep your eyes pealed for things that teach about the Lord or the character of a Christian. Warning: Do not use your child’s mistakes as your sole teaching tool. If you only bring up God or character when they are in trouble, they will have a negative association with God.
    • Teach while working in the garden: pulling weeds is a good time to talk about pulling out sin!
    • Teach on a nature walk: show the beauty and design of God’s creation.
    • Teach with the current events: point out the results of poor choices.
    • Teach with literature and movies: ask questions about character and morality.
  3. Personal Example. Have you ever read this poem?

    A Little Child is Watching Me

      A little child is watching me
      Knows every move I make,
      Hears every word I utter,
      Sees every step I take.
      Is conscious of my attitude,
      Is wise to all my flaws,
      Is witness when I am unkind,
      Or angry without cause.
      She silently observes me
      As I go from day to day
      While in her mind an image forms
      Of what she’ll be someday.
      Yes, although I do so much wrong
      Leave so much good undone,
      I’m the model Lara has.
      I am what she’ll become.
      Dear Father, help me realize
      All that I must do.
      Let me train and teach my child
      To always live for You.
      But Father, more than training her
      By words and counsel true,
      Let me by the way I live
      Show her how to follow You.
    —Mrs. Debbie Scales

Does this one scare you a little? It should! A little fear is good when it evokes us to positive change. What does your child observe in you? How do you use your money, time, and resources? Do you make worship a priority or do other things usurp that hour? Do you help others? Do you admit when you are wrong? Do you control your anger? Are you impulsive or prudent? Do you talk about God regularly? Is He in your heart?

Look again at the above passage from Deuteronomy. It says, “These words… Shall be on your heart. You shall teach them…” Out of the mouth comes the overflow of the heart. What is in your heart? What do you talk about? What is important to you. These are questions I need to ask myself daily.

Today, pray the following for yourself and your spouse:

  • Ask the Lord to help you to make and guard time for regular Bible reading with your children.
  • Request that He open your eyes to see timely and teachable moments and grant you the wisdom to use them effectively.
  • Ask the Lord to make you aware of how your example is helping or hurting your children.
  • Finally, plead with the Lord to give you grace for your imperfections and extend mercy for your children.
  • If you are a single parent, ask that the Lord will provide good godly mentors to help you and your child because it is no cake walk being a single parent!

In the coming weeks, I hope to share some books and tools (Bible based and secular) that I have used with my own children. My children are still very young, so I am no expert and I do not have long-term results from my methods. I hope that some of my readers with grown children will share their tools and ideas as well!

How to Perfect the Art of Listening

This is the third post in the series on Chip Removal for Christians. Read the previous post here

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Communication is a lost art.

In spite of the vast amount of books, classes and seminars on the subject, we are probably worse listeners now than we were 50 years ago. We are instantly connected these days through social media, email, and texting and yet much is lost in the cacophony of wires, pixels and tones. (Those wires and pixels are often distracting us from fellow humans as well!)

What do you think is one of the major causes of conflict in our relationships? I suggest that it is often poor listening and foolish talking.

How often do you find yourself in one of these scenarios:

  1. While someone is talking, your mind is rapidly piecing together a response to what they are saying (instead of really digesting what they are saying).
  2. Your friend is going through a difficult time She sits across from you, pouring her heart out. Instead of discerning the uniqueness of her situation, you jump in: “Yeah! I know exactly how you feel! Let me tell you what happened to me…” (This unwittingly causes them to feel that you view their troubles as paltry compared with your own).
  3. You try to talk to your friend over lunch and they are sort of listening, as they thumb over their meDevice. They say, “mmm-hmm” to your non-yes-or-no question while scrolling through their texts and typing replies.
  4. You are in conversation with someone and, while you are still mid-sentence, they turn around and begin talking with someone else.

Have you been there? Were you the listener or the speaker? How did it make you feel?

No wonder there is so much anger and offense in our congregations and the world at large: We are failing to truly listen and respect each other!

Several years ago, I worked as a customer service representative for a mid-size corporation. I served customers like Cingular (now part of AT&T), Costco, T-Mobile and others. I was in charge of coordinating with the clients and the printers to get the projects completed and delivered to our factory on time. I learned early on that relaying information over the phone with my printing company was a mistake. They would eliminate critical details from time to time and there was no proof that I had conveyed the information. To reduce the amount of mishaps, I would call to notify them about the job and then send an e-mail confirming our conversation and supplying the specs for the job.

My correspondence consisted of neatly composed checklists complete with clarifying comments at the end. I even tried to work up a PDF form that they would like, but it never stuck. The situation did improve over time. We slowly learned to communicate more effectively with each other, but inevitably, there would be that high-dollar project for that challenging client that we needed yesterday and some crucial detail would be overlooked. When I asked why the error occurred, the answer was often, “you didn’t tell me.” I would breathe deeply (to avoid blowing a gasket) and ask them check the original e-mail. Remember the “e” in email? It means evidence. Evidence that I did say that. They would slap their hand on their forehead and groan.

Yeah… Guess who got to call the customer with the bad news…

Getting the right information from person to person was vital, and in our fast-paced work environment, there were inevitable problems in getting things right the first time. I should have asked more questions regarding their needs instead of assuming I knew the best way to relay information; they should have paid closer attention to my carefully submitted details. We were both at fault. We should have worked on our communication (and respect) skills!

Consider this verse in James:

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…”

~ James 1.19, NKJV

Ask yourself: Am I swift to hear and slow to speak… or am I slow to hear and swift to speak?

I often find myself mistakenly thinking that what I have to communicate is so vital. It might be, but my attitude should be one of discretion and discernment. Is what I have to say necessary or is it damaging? Is it helpful or does it merely add to the noise?

I saw the image below on the internet over a year ago. I printed it and put it in my kids’ notebooks for school. The acronym is useful for anyone striving to be more controlled in what they say:

before you speak

You can download this file at scribd.com by clicking here.

We would have so much less “offense” in our congregations if we would slow down and take the time to hear and comprehend what our brother or sister is really communicating. True listening is an act of respect and love. Love extends a higher regard to the one loved and places their needs above my own.

The 4 steps to better listening:

  1. Look. Look directly at the face of the person speaking. As they are talking, consider their expressions and body language.
  2. Pause. Let a brief silence hang in the air when they are done speaking. And while that pause is hanging, go to step 3…
  3. “T.H.I.N.K.” Their need to be heard and understood is greater than your need to speak. Consider what you have to say before it escapes your lips.
  4. Speak. It may be wise to reiterate what they said in your own words and ask if that is what they meant, or, ask a clarifying question about something they said. This demonstrates that you were indeed listening and resolves any possible misapplication. Once that is done, then, say what you think needs to be said.

The whole point of this listening exercise is to demonstrate your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ. In our instant message world, we are in such a hurry to shout our words that we end up running people over with them.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2.3-4, ESV

Take time to read the surrounding context of the above verse. Even Christ—the very Son of the Almighty God—humbled himself. He truly listened not just to what people were saying, but what they were thinking! He could have easily said, “What I have to say is far more important. Stop pestering me with your petty problems.” More often than not, He listened. As a boy of twelve, He sat in the temple asking and answering questions. As a teacher, He heard the pleadings of a Canaanite woman. He listened to the mournful cries of the suffering and dying. He read between the lines and touched people’s needs. He listened because He loved.

Quality listening demands humility. It requires love. It seeks to honor the other person.

What exercises help you to listen better?

Leave a comment below!

Our next post in this series on Chip Removal for Christians will deal with the Golden Rule.

Praying for husbands. [The Effective Prayer 10.15.15]

man holding flowers

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her…

Ephesians 5.25-26

Spoiler alert: Do not read if you think that marriage is all about living happily ever after on easy street.

If you’re ready for some harsh reality, read on.

Marriage is hard. It takes real commitment. It takes guts, endurance, and sacrifice.

Marriage teaches a person how to stick it out through thick and thin. The relationship shapes the man and woman into different people. Marriage is about sacrifice made from a deeply committed, unconditional love.

Marriage requires work.

Marriage has been devalued in the past 100 years (even more so in the last several months!). Divorce is rampant, pornography invades, distractions abound. Husbands are portrayed as buffoons who can’t change a light bulb let alone be sensitive enough for their wives. Husbands have to find the delicate balance of being a breadwinner and a helper; the tough guy with the romantic (read: sensitive) side. They’ve got to be climbing the ladder of success while making time for the demands of their family. They are expected to be all things to all people.

Is it any wonder that so many marriages fail? Nobody can be that perfect 24/7!

The passage quoted above is taken from Ephesians 5. Note the first two verses of that chapter:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5.1-2

It all begins with love. Not a gooey cinnabon type of love, but a sacrificial love. That means you don’t go to the football game when your wife is throwing up every 5 minutes and the kids are running amuck. It means refraining from buying that boat/car/tool/computer when the kids need braces. It means letting go of things important to you in the interests of the one you love. (This goes for both the husband and the wife).

Husbands are to be leaders in the home. Not domineering, overbearing arrogant leaders, but leaders who guide by example, who lay down their wants and needs for their families, who love through action. A good leader corrects error and guards the lives and souls of his wife and children. It is my perception that this concept has been sneered upon to the point that men feel like they need to be spectators in their marriage because as active participants they will never be appreciated.

There is a reason that Christ’s sacrificial love is used to compare the husband/wife relationship. Christ is the leader of the church. He Demonstrated his love and commitment to his bride by giving up heaven, suffering on earth, forsaking earthly power, and enduring shame through a bitter death.

Do husbands love their wives in a similar way?

People are imperfect. Not one of us can do exactly what Christ did, but we can follow his beautiful example. Write down names of husbands you are acquainted with using this free PDF template and pray for each man by name. There may not be enough room! Lay it out before the Lord as Hezekiah rolled out the letter of the Rabshakeh. (Isaiah 37.14)

If you are a husband: pray these principles for yourself (and for your married friends!). Ask God to help you fulfill the role of husband in a way that will please him.

Wives: it’s easy to become so focused on the praying for your children daily that you fail to pray for your spouse daily. He may seem like he can take care of himself, but he desperately needs God’s strength and protection like all people. Pray diligently for your husband.

Important note: Do not fail to pray for strong husbands. Remember King David, the “man after God’s heart”? He was strong in the Lord and yet he succumbed to temptation with Bathsheba. Remember, the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5.8) Lions are not afraid to attack other lions; so Satan is not afraid to attack strong Christians. Pray for the strong and the struggling.

Here are some focus points for your prayers:

  • Pray that they will be courageous. Yes, this is inspired by the movie of the same name. It takes courage to defend. It takes courage to love knowing that you will get hurt. They need to fight the devil who seeks to devour their family.
  • Pray for them to lead with strength and humility. Do you think Christ was weak or strong? It takes a great deal of strength not to lash out against attackers or defend one’s self against false accusation. Christ did that. He knew He was God, yet he stooped down and washed the feet of humble fisherman. Pray for these husbands to act in the same manner toward their families.
  • Pray for them to hold on to their integrity for dear life. Husbands must abstain from pornography, keep from lusting after other women, choose their situations with wisdom and be truthful with their wife. Fiercely protect that integrity!
  • Pray for them to love their wives. This may seem like a no-brainer, but over time those initial euphoric feelings fade away to (hopefully) be replaced by a deeper, more lasting love. People mistake the absence of “feelings” as indicative of absent love. Pray that they will strive to keep their marriage strong by showing their wife love in ways that she will recognize and in ways she may not. Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages is a great resource to really pinpoint the best ways to show love to your spouse.
  • Pray for them to be strong against temptation. Temptation gallops. It’s hard to look in any direction without seeing some form of it. It’s all lies. Read Proverbs 5.3-4: For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.” She may look great, but the result of succumbing to temptation will not be good for anybody.
  • Pray for them to be immersed in the Word. I can think of no better way for husbands to be strong than to be intimately connected with the Word of God and diligent in prayer.

FREE PDF prayer guide. Includes bible verses and a few lines to add notes/names. Download by clicking here.

Pray with purpose.

Pray effectively.

Reach out and encourage!

Please leave feedback in the comments section re: the PDF download. I am still trying to format this effectively to be a tool for your use and mine. Thank you in advance for your help!

Peeking inside my toolbox…

TOOLS

I always get a kick out of watching my son in the garage. His favorite thing to explore is the tool chest. There’s tons of shiny drawers to open, lots of strangely shaped gizmos, nuts, bolts, and screws—and its all part of how daddy fixes stuff.

My tool kit for bible study and blogging doesn’t look as exciting as that chest… at least, not to my four-year old.

I suppose that my kids have a certain fascination with the colored pencil highlighters, my iPad, and my journal… But the books and digital tools aren’t physically fascinating (not for my little ones anyway!) I wish I could say that I had more reference books in my library, but since we don’t have a lot of room to store books, I haven’t been purchasing anything but homeschool books for my children. Most of my reference tools are digital.

One of the online tools that I frequently use for both studying and blogging is the Bible Gateway website.

You may have noticed that my verses have links these days. If you click on one of those links, it will take you to Bible Gateway’s website and straight to the verse in the version I am referencing. Below is an example of what the page would look like. I have zoomed in on two things that I’d like you to notice.verse alone bg

Next to the book & chapter heading (in this case, Psalm 25), there is a stack of lines. If you click on this, it will enable you to view the surrounding context in that chapter. I really like this function because there are times when I do a search by phrase and I only get the one verse. I prefer reading the surrounding context to ensure that I am not referencing the verse incorrectly (i.e. proof-texting).

On the far right of the above image, I have highlighted something that looks like two combs side-by-side. If you click on those combs, you can view another translation of the verse(s) next to the original translation you have selected. You can view up to 5 versions. For those like me who do not have a hard copy of a multi-version bible, this is a wonderful tool.

multi version

In the above image, I have noted where you can click to switch versions and how to view the next chapter. If you are still viewing parallel translations, it will still continue in the next chapter.

A digital concordance

My spouse has teased me about being a walking concordance, but it isn’t true. I can remember the gist of a verse in my head (sometimes I can quote it word-for-word), but I don’t always know where to find it. This is when the search function becomes my best friend!

searching

I like being able to type a phrase and have multiple options come up:

search results

Another thing that I like is the ability to copy and paste verses into the blog. You could also do this with sermons, studies, devotionals or class preparation and save hours of typing and potential typos.

I have many more tools in my box. I will share them as the months go on—especially those helpful to study and learning. I hope that you have success with this free internet tool and that it enhances your bible study.

What is one of your favorite tools for Bible Study? Please share it with us below!

(Note: I do not receive any monetary compensation from Bible Gateway.)

Coffee Chat 11 – A tech sabbath

coffee chat

Read previous coffee chats under the “discussion” category or click here.

students & selfies

I’ve seen various discussions about technology taking over our lives. I saw a hilarious (and disturbing video) of around 8 girls sitting in the stands of a sporting event taking selfies and remaining absorbed in their phone. The sports commentators were getting a good laugh out of it… I’ll admit that I did too, but not because they were girls. I would have laughed if it had been anybody. Time to disconnect!!!

While I’m not in the habit of taking “selfies,” I’ll admit that I look at my phone a little too much. I’ve actually started leaving it in a different room while I’m home so that I can have an intentional break from technology.

Numerous studies have been conducted that demonstrate the deleterious effects cell phones have on our sleep (not to mention other things like our brains…). There is an article discussing this at WebMD (click here) and another at Chris Kesser’s blog (click here). I personally use my phone as an alarm clock, but now I’m thinking about buying a real clock…

The fact of the matter is, we may be getting too much of a good thing. Like so many things in life, it may be unwittingly overused.

One theme that is present throughout the bible is the need to rest or cease from certain activities for a time. God rested on the 7th day from His work (Genesis 2.2). The sabbath was instituted so the people would rest (Exodus 20.8-11). The land was supposed to enjoy a sabbath once every seven years (Leviticus 25.1-7). I’ve even read that it is currently a good farming practice to let the soil rest every few years. Rest is important. A break from worldly activities is important. We probably wouldn’t want to be at the office 24/7 or driving 24/7. We like to get a break, right? It’s ingrained in us to change activities or take a break.

We don’t really know how to “rest” in our society. Vacations are usually filled with an itinerary of activities; Sundays are often used to squeeze in whatever we didn’t finish on our Saturdays, evenings are used to wash dishes, do homework, watch TV conduct some sort of business… we have very little quiet time. And now, with technology providing us constant access to the latest news, entertainment and games, we don’t even have the opportunity to get bored while sitting at the doctor’s office.

We need rest. God designed us to sleep once a day for a reason. Our brains need a chance to process information. We need a break from the constant inundation…

What do you suggest as a way to let your mind have a break? What do you think about some sort of “tech sabbath?”

Do you think that it would be wise to have a day of rest from all information technology (i.e. TV, phones, tablets, computers, etcetera)? I tried turning my phone off one Sunday and just ignoring it from the time I woke up until that evening. It was a bit challenging at first, but it was an excellent break for my mind. I chose Sunday I already ignore my phone for at least 4 hours on Sunday while getting ready for worship, traveling to worship or sitting in worship. It was the perfect day to disconnect. Each person has to take into account their own situation of course; you may be waiting for an important call (or on-call for work). You still might consider turning up the ringer and putting the phone in another location within earshot in case it does ring, but allow yourself a break from picking it up and checking it.

What do you think?

Do you think we should try taking a “sabbath” (rest) from technology? How would you implement it?

Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

Daily prayers for our children

Good morning!

Over the weekend, one of my readers sent me a link to a great tool for parents and others who are praying for children. I inserted a screen shot below. She posts this on a refrigerator as a reminder of what to pray for her own little boy. To download the PDF click here.

image

We can never pray too often for our children. We need the Lord’s help to raise them because we certainly aren’t perfect. Our children our surrounded by a never-ending  war for their hearts and minds.  They need the Lord and they need us to make regular intercession for them.

I hope you find this tool as useful as I do. My prayers can get a bit repetitious and tools like this one help me to refresh and retool my prayers to be more effective.

Thank you, Samantha, for the excellent link!

Let’s pray to great effect today and everyday.