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.)

silhouette-1082129_1920

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.)

ruler

“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

What would you do without your Bible? (day 17 of the #encourage marathon)

IMG_1181

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

~ Romans 15.4, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 17 of our #encourage marathon. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there has a starving soul. It might even be you.

What is your reaction when you misplace your cell phone? What do you do when you leave home without it? Do you feel a spike in your stress level?

Why?

Because we use our phones for everything. It’s a source for music, books, news, communication, information, weather, and navigation. We can get help instantly in an emergency (as long as we have a signal). We can even monitor our home security systems. It’s become a valuable tool and a lot of people would feel lost without it… unfortunately.

Now, what would happen if your only bible went missing? Continue reading

Overcome or Overcomer?

alone

“Its only Monday, and the world is already falling apart.”

She raked slender fingers through her long hair, willing the movement to ease her tensed nerves. Her heart seemed to gravitate towards the floor. Why couldn’t something go right for a change? No matter what she did, it all seemed to unravel in the end.

As the minutes ticked by, the room grew darker until she realized her own hands were barely visible. The encroaching darkness brought relief, but only for a moment. Tomorrow she would have to face the catastrophe reverberating from today’s events.

Seized with sorrow, she sank to her knees and wept.

Plagued with doubt. Overwhelmingly defeated. Dogged by despair.

She lifted her hands to pray, her words only audible to the One who could hear the desperate cry flowing from a burdened heart.

“Why, Lord?” she gasped through tears, “Why?”

As the tears rolled down, words crept into her mind—words she had read several days ago: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”

Words from the Bible. Words that Paul—who suffered multiple losses and countless disappointments—had written to fellow Christians. Words she needed at this dark hour. Peace and comfort soothed her aching heart like a warm compress. Though the pain lingered and the problems persisted, relief came. God had not abandoned her. He was present with her in the gathering gloom.

These moments of doubt, defeat, and despair visit every person at some time in their lives. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you live, or how righteous you are. For many, the three D’s lead to the destruction of faith and/or life.

You may think the righteous of times past never struggled with the three D’s, but they did:

Moses

“I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” (Numbers‬ ‭11:14-15‬)

David

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭13:1-2‬)

Elijah

“I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings‬ ‭19:10‬)

Jeremiah

“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.”
‭‭(Lamentations‬ ‭3:17-20‬)

Jesus’ disciples

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened…” (Luke 24.21)

These examples merely scratch the surface. All who have served God faithfully have been tested and tried in this way. What we see in the scriptures is the enduring mercy of the Lord. He does not abandon us in the pit of despair, but always shines through in the darkness to those who cry out to Him in Faith.

He replaces doubt with trust, despair with hope, and defeat with victory. We are more than conquerors through Christ.

If we read further through each of the above passages, we see the dispelling of the three D’s:

Moses

[God speaking to Moses] “And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” ‭(Numbers‬ ‭11:17‬)

David

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” ‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭13:5-6‬)

Elijah

[God speaking to Elijah] “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings‬ ‭19:18‬)

Jeremiah

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations‬ ‭3:21-24‬)

Jesus’ disciples

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road…” (Luke 24.32-35)

The afflictions of doubt, defeat, and despair are ones we all must endure. What defines us in these moments is not our own strength, but upon whom we lean for strength. When we reach out to God, He will not push us away.

When there is doubt, he will bring certainty.

When we feel despair, he will supply hope.

When we suffer defeat, he will transform it to victory.

As you read the word each day, make note of how God demonstrated his steadfast love toward those who served Him in times past. To download a free PDF worksheet to use for your own encouragement, click here.

So we do not lose heart. 

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~ 2 Corinthians 4.16-18

Don’t forget to download this free printable for your personal study!

3 Words You Need Every Single Day

pile of books

Every single day we face some form of testing. Every day we are beset with a trial of some kind. Every day God is watching to see what we will do with the time we are given.

A couple days ago, I listened to a successful woman talk about how she built her business out of the trunk of her car while she was homeless. Today, she earns six to seven figures every year. While I didn’t agree with everything she said, there was one thing that was spot on—stop making excuses! People have been making excuses or blame-shifting since the beginning of time.

Here are a few examples of excuse-makers from the Bible:

Adam and Eve.

“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3.12-13)

Moses. 

“They will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.”

“Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exodus 4.1-17)

Jesus.

Hang on! Jesus didn’t make excuses!

Exactly. 

Even though He had plenty of times when He could have chosen to disobey or do something different, He did what He was supposed to do and never had to make excuses.

When Jesus faced Satan in the wilderness in Matthew 4, he was hungry. He’d fasted for 40 days in the middle of the desert. There was no Starbucks nearby, no McDonalds, and no market. When Satan tempts Jesus, He doesn’t start with the “worship Satan” bit; Satan strikes at Jesus’ immediate physical need. He attacks Him where He thinks He’ll be most vulnerable: “Command these stones to be turned into bread.”

After 40 days without a morsel of food, heaven-made bread sounds mighty tempting. Could Jesus have done it? Yes! Would this have please God? No! Did he have a good excuse to turn stones into bread? Well, surely if he was hungry… at least, that’s what we would think.

Jesus refused to make excuses. He obeyed God without wavering. 3 times Satan tempted Him and He didn’t budge. He wasn’t going to slip and then make some lame excuse to His Father.

How did Jesus resist temptation? You might say, “Well, He was the son of God, wasn’t He? He couldn’t be tempted at all.” He was the Son of God, but He was also in bodily form. He still hungered. He still thirsted. He was still subject to the same emotional and physical discomforts and yes, temptations. In spite of all these things, He resisted temptation with three words.

Are you ready to learn the 3 words that need to fill your mind, heart, soul and lips?

When you face trouble of any kind, say these three words in your mind:

IT IS WRITTEN

If you are tempted, say to yourself, “It is written” and then recall to your mind what God has said on the subject.

If you are tempted to stare overlong at that attractive-looking woman, the first three words to pop in your head should be: “It is written,” If you start looking at your friends and all their neat-o stuff and start wanting it for yourself, the first three words to pop into your head should be: “It is written.” If you find yourself burning with anger against a friend who has wronged you, don’t justify or excuse your feelings, say aloud or in your mind, “It is written.”

“Hang on, Elihu—you didn’t fill in the rest! I can’t walk around saying, ‘It is written’ because I don’t know what to fill in the blank!”

That sounds an awful lot like an excuse to me.

Why don’t you know what to fill in the blank? Because those 3 words aren’t driving you! You cannot bring every thought into captivity, you cannot fight temptation and you will not stand in time of testing if those 3 words don’t motivate you.

In Hosea 4, God says this through the prophet:

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land;
There is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
They break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish…
Yet let no one contend,and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest…

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,I also will forget your children.

Hosea 4.1-6, ESV (click the link for the full context)

We, like the Israelites will be undone if we do not commit God’s Word to our heart every single day for the rest of our lives. We always think we have more time than we really do. I hear about people dying every day. Pixels and ink bring us the last vestiges of people who died in sudden crashes, earthquakes, cancer, heart attacks—all of whom thought they had more time.

We only have today. What are you going to do with your time?

It is written: 

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.

Ephesians 5.15-17, ESV

and

 

Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.

Psalm 119.11, NASB

 

When you hear yourself make excuses about not having time to read, stop yourself mid-sentence, grab your Bible or your iPad or your iPhone and start reading. You don’t even need an app, just go to BibleGateway.com. It is urgent! The time to commit the Word to your heart is today, before the next temptation comes your way! Yes, we are covered by grace! Yes, things happen! But those should not be excuses for neglecting the most powerful tool in our arsenal against Satan.

Would you go to battle with no weapon?

What would Jesus do if He was living in your life, walking in your shoes? He’d make knowing God and meditating on His Word priority one. He’d meet temptation with the Word, ready to say, “I won’t do that because it is Written…” Jesus would pray for wisdom. He’d prepare to wage war against the devils schemes.

 

Today, as you prepare to face whatever challenges lay before you, repeat these three words, “It is written.” Take time on your drive to work or while you’re eating breakfast with your children to start putting the words of God into your mind so you will be ready when the time of testing begins.

5 Benefits of Memorizing Scripture (and 4 ways to do it!)

Even if you hate memorization of anything, you need to read this post!

There seems to be a trend to dismiss memorization as a worthless practice. It is not. Nor is it only for middle school kids. Children as young as two can commit verses to memory, especially if those verses are put to music. (For a great article on memorization from edutopia.org, click here.)

Consider the following five benefits to memorizing scripture:

1) The ability to make connections.

Critics of the Bible LOVE to talk about all the “apparent” contradictions within its pages, but rarely—if ever—mention the connections. There are themes and even similar phrases used throughout the Bible which point to an ultimate Editor, (and it wasn’t the translation committee). When you commit verses to memory, those connections become more apparent. The Bible talks a great deal about God’s justice, mercy, faithfulness and love. It recommends, time and time again the need to put trust in the Lord and shows us the scheme of redemption the God set in motion from the beginning.

2) The ability to think critically.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a passage misused, I’d have more money than the Powerball winner. If you begin to commit the word (and not the precepts of men) to memory and imprint it on your heart, you begin to spot improper teaching as clearly as a blood stain on a white sheet—and it will be just as disturbing!

3) Memorization stimulates meditation

If you memorize something without really thinking about it, you will have a harder time committing it to your brain. Math facts, for instance, should not be drilled into a child unless they are already practicing those facts. My daughter is learning subtraction. The program has her begin with -0, then -9, -8, doubles etcetera and the worksheets practice each concept. The child is encouraged to build the problem with blocks, write the answer and then say the whole math sentence, “six minus zero equals six.” Concurrently, the program encourages memorization of those facts via flash cards or other drilling method so that they are firmly planted in the child’s mind. It’s quite effective!

Right now, I am working on memorizing Hebrews 12, two to three verses at a time. It’s amazing how much more meaning one grasps when each word has to be mastered and not just the overall gist of the text. Both are necessary, but the meaning becomes more deeply fixed and understood in the process. In the first two verses, the version I’m memorizing says, “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a could of witnesses…” If you see the word, “therefore” you need to remember (or find out) what it is “there for.” That word should be part of your understanding of the verse, which means you ought to read chapter 11 to find out more about this great cloud of witnesses and what they did. “We also” indicates that the author wants us (the Christians) to apply what follows to ourselves.

4) During dark times, the Spirit recalls those verses to mind to comfort, strengthen, encourage and correct us.

I am going to walk out on a limb here, so please don’t chop it off without considering the entirety of what I’m about to say.

I do not presume to know exactly how the Holy Spirit works, but I firmly believe that we limit Him when we choose to remain ignorant of the Word. I can only speak from my personal experience about this. In some of the darkest, most agonizing moments when I have cried out to God with the inevitable “why” or “you feel so far away, where are you” questions, the Spirit recalls to mind such passages as “I will never leave you nor forsake you” or “we walk by faith and not by sight” or “this I recall to mind, therefore I have hope: through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed…” In moments of temptation, scriptures gently roll into the forefront of my mind, urging me to do better (like “do not let the sun go down on your wrath” or “if you do not love your brother whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen?”) Anger, resentment, lack of love—just a few of many subtle temptations! God is trying to work these things out of me. I need to train my mind to be more receptive to His desires and less plugged in to the ways of the world.

I have never heard an audible “voice,” in these moments, and I’m confident some psychologist or cognitive scientist could explain it all away, but consider: who created the mind? God! How he chooses to work on it, in it or through it is far beyond me. I have drawn great comfort from those moments when I hear the Words of God leap into my mind so sharply and I am confident that it is the Holy Spirit working within me.

5) The ability to defend the faith on the spot, even without a Bible in your possession.

My spouse may jokingly call me the walking concordance, but it is not true. There’s been plenty of times I haven’t been able to recall where I’ve read something and honestly, there are times I can only remember what side of the page it’s on in my particular bible. Memorization solidifies these things and helps us to be more effective contenders for the faith.

Memorization is a wonderful thing, but what are some effective ways to do it?

Consider the following 4 methods:

1) Music 

This is, by far, my favorite technique. The only problem with this method in most cases is that scripture set to music doesn’t have the reference and you’d have to memorize it separately. When my oldest daughter was 4, the curriculum we purchased for her homeschooling included a disc called Sing the Word from A to Z. The majority of the melodies were either familiar or catchy and the verses were usually repeated at least twice along with the reference. I’ve memorized quite a bit of them along with my kids. Every so often I’ll hear old memory verses drifting down the hall from the voices of my children. It’s a great way to memorize! On a side note, it’s not something I enjoy listening to for its musicality. The bulk of the music is done via synthesizer and that might jangle the nerves of some. It rattle mine for a little while until I saw the results in my kids.

I can quote Psalm 23 not because we took the trouble to memorize it, but because the church sings hymns on occasion that quote from it. After hearing and singing them throughout my life, they are firmly fixed in my brain. There are hymns and songs like that all over the place.

If anyone knows of any good songs or CDs they have had success with, please share in the comments below.

2) Writing

I may love to read, but I tend to be a bit of a speed reader. If something is familiar to me, I have a difficult time slowing myself down to really absorb it. During my college years, I found my most effective study method was writing. I would take my short-hand notes and rewrite them, often adding additional info I remembered from the lecture and writing any particular critical fact that had to be memorized on a 3×5 card for instant review. I didn’t have to cram for finals quite so much because the practice of rewriting my notes helped me commit them to memory. Is it time-consuming and tedious? Yes. But why do you think the old Jewish Scribes knew the law so intimately? They knew it because they copied it over and over and over again.

Also, as you put pen to paper, words that you have overlooked will jump out, deepening the meaning. Pay special attention to the flow of thought. What point is being made? What is the process of reasoning? Having that in order will help you recall the phrasing properly.

So grab a fun sheet of paper and some fun pens and start copying the verses you are wanting to memorize. Get creative and make certain words more noticeable with color or artistry. It really helps!

3) Auditory.

Many people learn best by listening. Music is an auditory method, but you have to have something set to music in order to listen to music. Hearing the verse—whether through audio bible or having someone read it to you from your 3×5 card—repeatedly will help in the memorizing process.

4) Iron sharpening

This method requires at least two people. When I went through college, the preacher at my congregation had a Tuesday night bible study for the college kids. At multiple points throughout the study, he would spontaneously ask us to quote a verse that he wanted to reference. He would say (for example), “you know what 2 Timothy 2:15 says…”

[Crickets…uncomfortable shifting in our seats.]

He would resume, “ok, I’ll start it for you: ‘Be diligent to present yourselves…”

The light bulbs would start flashing over heads and one of us or all of us would be able to either quote or paraphrase the rest.

He would also ask us where a particular account could be found, like the sermon in the mount. He’d give us a hint like, “it can be found in the early part of Matthew…” Then we’d dredge up the chapters from somewhere in the recesses of our minds. By the time I graduated college, someone could ask me where an account or a certain topic was located and I could name—if not the chapter—then at least the book. It was such a great teaching tool. I wish more teachers taught that way!

Have your friend or spouse or child work on memorization with you. Have them start and you continue or the other way round. Quiz each other at random. It will benefit you both just as “iron sharpens iron.”

Don’t discount memorization. Just like daily bible reading and daily prayer, this isn’t a self-justification or gold-star winning process. We don’t memorize or study or pray so that we can puff out our chest and proclaim what awesome Christians we are. We commit these things to our heart so that God can make us more like Him. We do these things to renew the mind and be transformed.

Do you memorize scriptures? What methods do you use? What are you currently working on?

4 things to do before age 60

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”

~ Ecclesiastes 12.1, ESV

 

youth

When we are young, we think we have an abundance of time. After all, our parents and teachers tell us, “there’ll be time for that later,” or “not until your older.” We spend the first 18-20 years of our lives waiting until we are “older” to “do” things.

There is one thing we should never put off: serving God.

I remember asking my father if his hospice patients (those who were not Christians) tried turning to God near the end. They had lived their lives the way they had wanted—perhaps profligately—and now, with death staring them in the face, surely they’d want to make a change. He looked rather sadly at me and replied, “Once people get to that age, they’ve resisted God for so long that they have lost all desire for Him. Deathbed conversions occur once in great awhile, but it’s far more rare than it is common.”

It was an eye-opening statement, and one that has remained planted in my mind. We need to fix our desires, mindsets and habits now, before we do not have strength.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. 

By youth I mean anyone who is under the age of 60 not plagued by dementia or alzheimer’s. Even 70, if you’re still in great shape. Just because a child is 1 or 2, doesn’t mean you can’t start teaching them about God. Today is all we’ve got—make the most of it. I have sadly heard too many parents put off “church-going” because they think their kids won’t remember or “they’re too young.” They are more aware than you realize.

So, while we are still “young” we need to work on the following:

#1: Practice Forgiveness.

This should be a top priority. As I mention in this post on forgiveness, failure to forgive results in firmly rooted bitterness. We need to emulate Christ who forgave even his torturers. He also forgave us.

#2: Meditate on the Word.

Daily.

Don’t rely on Sunday sermons to fill you for an entire week. Even reading once a day isn’t meditation.

Meditating is not simply reading the Bible—it’s reading and pondering.

Here are three different ways to meditate on the Word:

  1. writing: keep a journal.
  2. walking alone: Some of the best thoughts come to me on my walks when I have time to think about passages I’ve read and sermons I’ve heard.
  3. talking with Christians: I love those kindred spirits who happily discuss biblical topics with me and allow me to think things through with them out loud.

#3: Pray Daily.

Again—daily. Multiple times per day.

If you are not in the habit of praying, start with meal-time prayers. After you get that set in place, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier get out of bed (this is important so you don’t fall back asleep) set the timer for 10 minutes and pray. After awhile, you may discover that 10 minutes isn’t enough!

Having regular communication with God while young will give us a stronger connection with him when we are old.

#4: Cultivate Joy.

This is one of my biggest challenges, especially as someone who is inclined to be a “brooding Irish” type. Joy does not equal happiness. Happiness is a momentary feeling swayed by circumstance; joy is a determined attitude.

There’s a few things involved in getting a joyful attitude:

  1. Know your home.
    This life overflows with uncontrollable circumstance. All that waffle about being the “captain of your destiny” is absolute rubbish. Most concentration camp survivors will tell you they couldn’t get out by their own power. A few succeeded in escaping, but most were stuck, plagued by illness or simply too helpless. The only thing you can control is your own mind. Knowing that there is an eternal home beyond the vicissitudes of earth is a source of joy for the Christian. We look to what Shakespeare calls, “The Undiscovered Country.” I long for that country which has been discovered by my brothers and sisters in the Lord who have gone on before me.
  2. Refocus the mind.
    If you are a long-time reader, you know that I have dealt with depression for many years (you can read more here). I still do. It is a daily fight to stay upbeat. I’m not always strong enough to keep my head above water, but God is! When this mess called life begins to weigh on my heart I have to recenter myself and focus my thoughts on what I know to be true.

    This is my constant aim:

    Finally, brethren,
    whatever is true,
    whatever is honorable,
    whatever is right,
    whatever is pure,
    whatever is lovely,
    whatever is of good repute,
    if there is any excellence
    and if anything worthy of praise,
    dwell on these things.

    The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

    ~Phillipians 4.8-9, NASB

    Bring the mind back into focus. Let it dwell on the things listed above. For more on this, read here.

  3. Pray.
    As I mentioned in the previous point, I know I’m not strong enough to fight the weight of the world. I need help. Only God is powerful enough to pull me out of the stormy ocean of emotion and circumstance. Fix your eyes on Him. I have always treasured the account of Peter stepping out on the water toward Jesus. He walked on the water (which is physically impossible) as He looked toward Jesus. As soon as He took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the raging waters he sank like a lead weight. What did he do? He cried out to the one who could save him—and Jesus reached out and pulled him to safety. You can read the full account here in Matthew 14.

    When life threatens to crush your joy, cry out to God. He will lift you up.

Serve God today while you still have breath and mental clarity. For while there is life, there is hope.

Day 29: The Bible

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

bible

We are nearing the end of this series! As I indicated in my post about light, these last few posts are focusing on the greatest lights of all. I’ve talked about love and hope. Today, we are going to talk about the Bible.

There’s a new trend among Christians to say that the New Testament is not the inspired Word of God, but consider: the Apostles were handpicked by Christ, witnessed His death, burial and resurrection and possessed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit led them as the toiled to bring people the gospel. God has always preserved His message for generations yet unborn. The Bible is His preserved message for us, and I am thankful that I have ready access to it. There are more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient historical document. God protected His message and I trust that He would not leave us in the lurch.

The light of truth

The Bible—all 66 books—brings us the light of God’s truth. Sometimes I wish that God’s expectations were laid out for us in a neat little list, but then we would seek to justify ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search it out. God wants us to dig through His Word and learn step by step, day by day, what He wants for us. It’s a life-long endeavor, but those who seek, find.

Truth is not relative. There is one truth: God’s.

Knowledge of God

Why do we study the Word? Our primary purpose should be to know the Lord. Every book teaches us about Him—His faithfulness, His steadfast love, His justice and His mercy. We see His hand working with the proud and the lowly. Nobody can thwart His plans. We learn that we can truly trust the Lord in all circumstances.

Life-saving instruction

In the Bible we see God has had a plan for us from the beginning of time. We see how salvation is to be received. We learn how to obey God the way He wants us to obey. We just need to have open eyes and a heart set on seeking His will and not our own.

I am thankful that God has preserved His Word for me and for the rest of the world. I am thankful for this beacon of truth that hasn’t been destroyed.

 

Testing, 1, 2, 3… [Coffee Chat #9]

coffee chat

I love a good discussion with a friend over a steaming cup of chai, but since I can’t gather all of you at a comfortable cafe, I’ll have to be content with this little corner of the Internet.

I want to thank each and every person who has come to these coffee chats and commented. I have thoroughly enjoyed your insights and inspiration! Thank you for your time.

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


On Monday evening, my spouse and I were engaged in discussion with two young men. They were teaching that they had “revelation from God” that gave more knowledge than the Bible. We had been having classes for a couple weeks and in each discussion, we were able to reasonably demonstrate to them that their “revelation” was full of holes.

Now, I want you to know that these discussions were quite amicable. There wasn’t shouting, fighting arguing or rudeness. It truly was a good setting for back and forth… definitely different from discussions I see on forums & comment sections that can get very acrimonious!

These young men had a minimal knowledge of the Bible. They knew the basic sketches of Bible accounts, but they were quite ignorant of the details. They liked to cherry-pick verses and base their doctrine on those out-of-context snippets. When they could no longer defend their position, the fall back answer was, “we just know, because God told us.”

After all our discussions, we told them that because their book contradicted the Bible, we would have no part in it. The “prophecies” contained in their book were short-term ones that could be easily brought to pass by the people who wrote them down. There were errors splattered everywhere.

It was nothing like the real thing.

We kept trying to gently show them the difference, but this was always the final answer:

“We’ve prayed about it. We just know these things are true. If you prayed about it, you’d know too. We just know.”

*sigh*

Ironically, the next morning, I was listening to the next few chapters in my daily reading of 1 Kings when I heard the account of a prophet who did not follow God’s instructions.

This prophet told Jeroboam, King of Israel that the altar he had built would be torn down. The king seized the prophet and his hand withered up. He begged the man of God to ask God for restoration. God granted the prophet’s request and Jeroboam’s hand was restored. Jeroboam, grateful to have two working hands again, asked the prophet to come home with him and get a reward.

This was the prophet’s answer:

And the man of God said to the king, “If you give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, for so was it commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.’”

1 Kings 13.8-9 ESV

It so happened that an old prophet heard about all this and set about to deceive this prophet. So while the man of God is on his way home, he runs into this old prophet.

And [the old prophet] said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’”

But he lied to him. 

So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water.

1 Kings 13.18-19

Now, as I read that, I asked myself: “Why in the world did this man of God, who had a direct line to God not check with God himself???”

What was he thinking?

If I could have back-and-forth dialogue with God, I would hope that if something contradicted His original instructions that I’d be saying to that old prophet, “Hang on a sec, I’ve got to check with the Lord Himself first…”

Why didn’t he ask God?

Why didn’t he test the word of this prophet?!?!?!

The result was his death.

And [the old prophet] cried to the man of God who came from Judah,

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’”

1 Kings 13:21-22

I do not know if the old prophet lied to the man of God as a test or because he was seeking harm. Read the full account here.

Regardless, the lesson is plain: Just because someone says they have a message from God, doesn’t mean they are telling the truth.

Test their message.

Test them.

What litmus test do we use?

I read recently that the best way to recognize a forgery is to be intimately acquainted with the real thing. Bank tellers are taught the intricacies of real bills so that they can see the difference between a real dollar and a fake one.

What is the real thing? The Bible.

Now, riddle me this:

  1. Why didn’t the old prophet in 1 Kings get punished for lying?
  2. Why do you think the prophet didn’t ask God for confirmation?
  3. And finally, aside from my little anecdote, do you think that we can honestly distinguish between truth and lies by only using God’s Word?

I look forward to your answers while I sip some homemade iced chai!

Building Trust Through Prayer

gotanxiety

I’ve done a lot of writing about prayer on this blog. There is a reason…

God commands us to pray.

The Bible is filled with of examples of prayer.

Prayer is communication with God, our Creator and Father.

How much do you trust someone that you rarely talk to?

Parents—how awesome do you feel when your kids confide their fears to you? It gives you an opportunity to comfort, reassure and guide your children. It strengthens the bond between you. Our Heavenly Father (God) wants the same opportunity, but how often do we pour out our anxiety and worry before Him?

For those who are not parents—I’m sure you have friends. Isn’t it a blessing to have friends to lean on? Friends give you a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, and a warm hug. We aren’t going to make ourselves vulnerable to our friends if we don’t trust them. We aren’t going to trust them if we never communicate with them. Do you trust God and confide in Him as you would a friend?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 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 4:4-7 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything.

Pray.

Don’t simply go through a list of requests to God. Communicate your fears to Him.

One thing people in the Old Testament did in some of their prayers was to remind God of His promises. This scripture says, don’t be anxious, but pray and give thanks and the peace of God will guard your heart and your mind. That’s a promise! If I stop dwelling on my worries and fears and hand them over to God, He will give me peace. If you are not feeling peace, reverently remind God of this promise from His word… oh yeah, and don’t forget to read the word too…

One of my favorite examples of prayer is the account of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 37. In the previous chapter, the King of Assyria (Sennacherib) had invaded Judah and was headed for Jerusalem. Sennacherib sent a message telling the people in Hezekiah that they have nothing in which to place their trust.

Here are some excerpts of Sennacherib’s message:

Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”

Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”

~Isaiah‬ ‭36‬:‭14-15, 18, 20‬ ESV

His servants bring him the message and he is overcome. Notice what he does in chapter 37. He sends a message to Isaiah the prophet:

“Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’”

‭Isaiah‬ ‭37‬:‭3-4‬ ESV

He asks a righteous person to pray for Him and for Judah.

Then, he gets a letter from the Rabshakeh, reiterating what his messengers had already told him. Hezekiah takes the letter, reads it and then goes to the house of the Lord.

Where do we go in our distress, fear, anxiety or doubt? Do we go to the Lord? Do we go to other believers or do we simple seek out the “experts.” Do we hide or do we seek help?

Hezekiah went to the house of the Lord.

When he gets there, he spreads the letter out before the Lord and prays:

“Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

“It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.

Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God. “

~Isaiah 37:16-20

I love this part. He spreads the letter before the Lord. God already knows what it says. God doesn’t really need to see it. Nevertheless, Hezekiah lays it before God. He shows God reverence in his prayer. He reminds God that the Assyrians have degraded the Lord. He acknowledges that deliverance will not come from his own might, but from God’s mighty hand.

Spread out your fears and doubts before the Lord. He knows the troubles you are facing, but tell Him anyway. As you tell Him your fears, show him reverence, remind Him of His promises and acknowledge that He is a God of power.

The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

To build trust: Read. Pray. Renew. Praise. Repeat.

Lord willing, we will talk about “Renew” in our next post.

Remember to pray, dear friends.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5.6-7)

~Elihu