Sharpening Christians

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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What happens when you use a knife repetitively? Over time, the blade starts squishing tomatoes instead of slicing them.

Pencils need sharpening. Pens need refills, drills need charging. Tools have to be maintained in order to be effective.

In a similar way, we are instruments of God. Are we sharpened, filled, and charged for action? Or, are we gunked up, run down and dull? Continue reading

When life is overwhelming…

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Do you feel it?

Anger.

Apathy.

Angst.

The trio of trouble.

Anger abounds, fueled by perceived injustice, the prosperity of the ‘other,’ and the erosion of our foundations.

Apathy ambles about, numbing us to the downward slide, willing us to be indifferent to covetousness, deceit, and injustice.

Angst lives in the very air; we unwittingly inhale it’s noxious fumes and it’s effect spreads cancerously into every pore of our being.

Election years are always tumultuous here in the states, but the last four presidential elections have been particularly pernicious. One side foretells utter doom if the other side wins. One side threatens to abandon the country if so-and-so is elected (aaaand they never do). This house is divided, and if we don’t start getting our act together, it’s going to fall. Fear pervades every citizen.

Anger, Apathy, Angst—all are present for the show.

Do you feel these things?

Are we as Christians supposed sequester ourselves in a “joyful” bubble—unaffected and unaware?

I submit to you that even though the joy of the Lord sustains us, even though we know the world is not our home, we are keenly aware of the gathering gloom. It hangs heavily upon us and we are not immune to it’s influence. Temporal though it may be, we are living in this world and cannot isolate ourselves from the tumult around us.

What are we to do when the very fabric of our lives threatens to unravel?

Many who sit in the ivory towers of education negate the value of the Bible as an outdated tome of mythology. Professing to be wise, they have become great fools. The contemptuous treatment of ancient truths threatens to be our downfall.

To us who believe in the Lord, His words are the breath of life. A keen student of the word can observe patterns of human behavior, the consequences of pride, and the faithfulness of God. We find security in the wisdom an consistency of God. The words of the Bible may be ancient, but it’s truths are timeless.

No matter how we feel, nor how desperate the situation, the Lord will always be in command. While the world around us wears itself out with worry, we can rest in God.

Get down, look up, and zero in.

Get down.

Get down on your knees and pray. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 4.6-7, ESV

Get down into the word of God so that you will know His promises.

  • He promises to be with us. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13.5-6)
  • He promises to give us peace. (see above)

  • He promises to save us. (Mark 16.16)

  • He promises to return. (2 Peter 3)

 

Get some rest.

Find a quiet spot and let your mind have some peace. Don’t overbook yourself and live life in a frenzy. Make some time for quiet.

Look up.

I am as guilty of this as most people. I look at my screen way too much. I need to look up more and see the world and the people around me. The emails and messages on my phone are important, and require my attention, but I also need to address the emotional needs of my neighbors, my friends, my spouse and my children.

The concerns of the world are like those emails, phone calls, and text messages. They have to be addressed, but they should not consume us. We need to look up and into the eyes of the God who loves us. Only he can give us the peace we so desperately crave.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

~ Colossians 3.1-2, ESV

Zero in.

A rifle has to be zeroed-in before a hunt so the hunter can be sure of his aim when he shoots. In the same way, we need to spend time getting our mind zeroed in on God. Find a quiet place, shut off the distractions, and make a mental tally of what you are thankful for.  Commit the promises of God to your heart so that when all else crumbles you will still be standing on the foundation of God’s promises which cannot be shaken.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

~ Philippians 4.8-9, ESV

 Are Anger, Apathy, and Angst hanging out with you today?

Get down, look up and zero in.

Converting Converts into Strong Christians

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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Water rolled down her cheeks as she was lifted from the cool water. A thrill of joy sang within her. Her sins were gone! She was no longer lost! She wished Jesus would come right at that moment so she wouldn’t mess up this new life into which she was entering. After drying off, she re-entered the auditorium where a small crowd was waiting to hug and congratulate.

One older lady, embraced her tenderly and said, “The angels in heaven are rejoicing for you, dear.”

Yes, the angels were rejoicing! “And so am I!” she thought.

Two weeks later, the same girl lay curled up on the floor of her bedroom crying. Continue reading

What’s slinking around in your heart?

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In case you’ve been wondering, I have not forgotten about the GenNext series, nor have I fallen off the face of the earth. I’m currently working on editing some of the tools in the upcoming articles, and waaay behind schedule. I posted the following to our Elihu’s Corner Facebook Page a few days ago, and am sharing it here on the blog for my readers here. This is a short excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.

We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case.

When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated.

On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

From Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

 

Navigating the labyrinth of life.

Over an hour ago, I was preparing to add tags and hit publish on this post when…

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…this happened.

Continue reading

How to Equip Your Children to be Future Christians (Raising #GenNext)

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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Yesterday, we covered why we need to teach our children. Today, we will be covering how to teach our children. This is merely an overview. Entire books have been written on this subject!!

For starters, let me make a disclaimer: I am a youngish parent. My kids are all under the age of 9. What I am about to suggest are principles I have learned from older, wiser people and/or have put into practice myself. Continue reading

Equipping our Children: Raising #GenNext Christians

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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“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 6.4-8, ESV

The ancient Israelites showcase the rewards of following God and the pitfalls of apathy. We would do well to learn from their mistakes. The above passage from Deuteronomy, while addressed to the Israelites, holds a very important principle for parents and teachers alike: actively teach your children about the Lord and His commands. 

Commit this verse to your memory and to your heart. Write it down and then put it into action—today.

In this series on training GenNext Christians, we have covered two of our 6 E’s—Engage and Exemplify. This next string of posts will cover E number three: Equip: Teach and Train. Continue reading

Justice is weeping today.

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Photo from Wikipedia.

I don’t normally discuss politics or national news on this blog; I typically devote all my articles to learning about God and how to walk with Jesus. I hope you’ll indulge me, just this once, in a short commentary on current events.

Brilliant flashes of colorful fireworks set the faces of my children aglow beneath the darkening Texas sky. We reveled in our new-found Texas freedom and the love of country that swells in this region of the United States. I was thankful to live in this nation, in spite of the issues that plague us.

That was Monday.

Monday feels like an age ago.

This week has been traumatic for Lady Justice and her best friend, Wisdom. They weep unrestrainedly at the black events of the past few days.

On Tuesday, the FBI washed their hands in Pilate-like fashion of the blood of Americans murdered in a preventable, yet cowardly attack in Benghazi. Carelessness by a top official was treated as no great offense. It only resulted in sensitive information falling into the hands of our enemies. It only contributed to the death of a few Americans. It only compromised our national security. It could have been prevented, but, in the words of the offender, “what difference does it make?” My dear, it makes all the difference in the world when you ask for the privilege to lead people whose lives apparently matter very little to you.

The FBI admitted to the commission of a crime, but refused to take legal action. Why?! Only God knows. I’ll spare you my little theories, for that is all that they are.

Justice wept bitter tears.Wisdom cried aloud in anger.

Last night, the country witnessed a cowardly attack on law enforcement. Eleven officers were shot and five were killed.

Five people.

Five people are dead.

Five circles of influence shattered.

Five sets of families are left with a gaping hole.

Five oceans of tears.

Six people.

Six people with survivors guilt.

Six people who will suffer the life-changing agony of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Six families who have to relearn how to live with the one they love, because that person will be forever changed.

Put yourselves outside of your life and into the shoes of these people. Imagine how you would feel if that was your father, fiancee, or friend? These families are suffering, and all the news can talk about is how two police shootings sparked this deadly attack.

STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!!

How about we talk about compassion for those left behind? How about we send messages of support during their time of grief? How about we make sure there is funding for counseling for all those involved?

How about we talk about the trickle down effect of disregard for law? How about we realize that our country has given evil far too much license? How about we focus on our very broken (and corrupted) justice system? Instead of criticizing cops, what if we were to give them what they needed, which is leadership that upholds the law instead of undermining it (and administers appropriate discipline towards them when necessary)?

Our President responds with shock. How touching. Maybe if he hadn’t undermined the authority of law enforcement throughout his tenure, we would not be seeing the tragedy that unfolds before us today.

On Monday we celebrated independence. On Tuesday, the powers that be rendered our independence to be unmerited. On Thursday, we experience tragedy.

There is a new kind of tyranny at work today, and our country is enslaved by it—the tyranny of the entitled. They demand everything without the willingness to give anything. They overturn justice. They call evil good and good evil. Nothing is ever enough.

The men and women who stand in the fray, protecting us from things we can barely imagine, are the ones being vilified. The criminals who disregard justice, on the other hand, are exalted as paragons of virtue. Many good men and women are walking away from these jobs as protectors because they do not feel the sacrifice is worth it any longer. What we will get in their place is what many think already have—a corrupt, gestapo-like force.

The leaders of our country consider themselves above the law, even though they are supposed to be beneath it, upholding it. When we allow those in power to flagrantly disregard truth and justice, the citizenry will follow suit.

God, who is righteous and just, sees all these things. He will ensure that, one way or another, Justice has her day. We may never see that day while we live on this earth, but we have confidence that He will carry it out in His own good time.

 

Thanks be to God that we are just passing through and belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. This week has been another reminder of the fragility of governments and of life. Put your trust in God.

Take time today to pray for the families of the fallen. They need and deserve our compassion.

4 ways to shine your light to fellow Christians

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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No matter how old you are nor how long you’ve been a Christian, it’s your job to be a good example whether you are with Christians or non-believers. Your choices and lifestyle reflect what is in your heart. Do these things encourage or discourage your fellow Christians?

If we want to see the church stand firm tomorrow, we need to be a solid example of faith today. How do we shine our light to each other? Continue reading

Do you want your children to follow in your footsteps?

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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Children are keen observers and imitators. Compliant children will try to do what their parents do in order to make them happy. Strong-willed kids amy try to be little rebels, but even they have a tendency to imitate their parents to some degree. They are always watching how we handle our circumstances.

What we do has a greater influence than what we say. Continue reading