Monday, April 29, 2013

Are You Counseling a Saint, Sufferer, or Sinner?

Michael Emlet encourages pastors and church leaders to approach people as “saints, sufferers, and sinners.” This categorization helps the counselor know whether to turn to Scriptural passages that remind a person of their identity in Christ, console them in the dark day of suffering, or confront them for their unrepentant sins.

Emlet provides a clear, simple approach in our ministry to the spiritual needs of others.

Heaven Won't Be Boring

What’s your attitude toward heaven? Does it fill you with excitement? How often do you, your church, and your family talk about it?

If you lack a passion for heaven, I can almost guarantee it’s because you have a deficient and distorted theology of heaven (or you’re making choices that conflict with heaven’s agenda). An accurate and biblically energized view of heaven will bring a new spiritual passion to your life.

When Religious Beliefs Become Evil: 4 Signs

CNN shared an article titled, "When Religious Beliefs Become Evil: 4 Signs".  It addresses the bombing in Boston but demonizes all who would hold to a firm faith system of belief. A couple of their observations:

  • Truth is now seen as the first step toward "evil."
  • Experts say that "healthy religions acknowledge that sincere people can disagree about even basic truths." 
The article simple declares that no one should be really serious about their faith to the point of believing it's really true. If you get that serious you're probably on your way to being a terrorist. (secularism and pluralism at its best). The article also addresses the need to avoid taking "sacred literature" too seriously. As Bible-believing Christians we would say:
  • The Bible is the word of God. It is truth without any mixture of error.
  • Jesus is the only way of salvation.
  • There is absolute truth.
  • The most loving thing a Christian can do is tell the world the truth.
"Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:23-25, NASB).

What Are You Doing With Your Life?

God has entrusted to us this one and only life. How are you spending it? I like the story of John Wesley:

John Wesley was rescued from a burning building when he was a child.  The experience of being saved by a loving God who deserved his grateful service never left him.  In serving that God he traveled 250,000 miles on horseback, averaging 20 miles a day for 40 years.  He preached 4,000 sermons, produced 400 books, and learned to use 10 languages.  At the age of 83 he was annoyed that he could not write more than 15 hours a day without hurting his eyes; at 86 he was ashamed that he could not preach more than twice a day.  He complained in his diary that there was an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Is It 'Unspiritual' to be Discouraged?

A good article that confronts an ongoing issue:

Is it 'Unspiritual' to be Discouraged? - Sinclair Ferguson: “From time to time over the centuries some Christians have taught, sometimes with tragic consequences, that a truly spiritual person never gets discouraged. To be cast down is, by definition, to be 'unspiritual.' Unless we are well-grounded in Scripture, it is very easy for us to be overwhelmed, confused, and even more discouraged by such teaching.”

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ben Affleck is living on $1.50 a day

Jim Denison writes about the condition of the poor in our world in today's devotional thought...

First, the bad news: 164,000 children died of measles in a single year; 881,000 people were killed by malaria.  Extreme poverty is responsible for these deaths, as $5 will buy a measles vaccine or mosquito net.  Poverty is the difference between an earthquake in Los Angeles that killed 63 people and an earthquake of similar magnitude in Haiti that killed 220,000 people.   

Now the good news...   See the full article

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Really? ALL THINGS Without Grumbling? Really?

Really? ALL THINGS Without Grumbling? Really? This really spoke to me today.

4 Warning Signs You May Be Wandering from the Truth

4 Warning Signs You May Be Wandering from the Truth  “It's very rare that anyone ever decides to abandon the truth. What happens much more often is that people wander. It happens gradually.  It happens when you do not have any particular goal. You lose your moorings and you drift.” Here are four warning signs that you may be wandering from the truth. 

Same-Sex Marriage as a Civil Right — Are Wrongs Rights?

Al Mohler takes on the hottest topic of the day and speaks well and in simple terms to the complex issue:

"The key question we now face is this: Does recognition of civil rights for all people require the normalization of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage??..."

In his concluding paragraph, Mohler states, "At the end of the day, the argument over same-sex marriage is never just about same-sex marriage, and debates about civil rights are never just about civil rights. Deeper truths and worldview implications are always at stake, and it is our responsibility to make certain that we know what those are and stand humbly and compassionately for those truths, regardless of the cost."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to Respond and Pray in the Midst of Crises

This simple presentation by David Sanford blessed me this morning in the midst of seeing so much brokenness in the world and problems so overwhelming. Sanford shares:

"In seven out of every ten psalms, the writer is either crying out to the Lord for physical salvation, thanking God for sparing his life, reminding himself of the differing fates of the righteous and evildoers, or renewing his allegiance to God and His Word in the face of rampant wickedness.

If the psalms teach us anything, it’s how to turn to God in times of trouble and distress. Here’s a brief synopsis with specific examples from various psalms."

1. Call out to the Lord…
“Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer”
(Psalm 61:1).

2. …and ask for help!
“Hasten, O God, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me”
(Psalm 70:1).

Measuring Post-Christianity: How Will It Impact Your Ministry?

Mark Howell shares a summary of a recently released study by the Barna Group regarding change in the religious landscape of America. He writes:

American culture is becoming less Christian...Analyzing 42,855 interviews conducted in recent years, the research explores the emerging post-Christian landscape of the nation by examining 15 different measures of non-religiosity.  To qualify as post-Christian, “individuals met nine or more out of 15 criteria. Highly post-Christian individuals met 12 or more of these 15 criteria.”  The measures they selected were:

Don’t Forget to Pray for One Another

Larry Barker shares a timely encouragement to pray for one another:

God has been challenging me to spend more time alone with Him.  All too often prayer is overlooked by those who prefer to be busy.  If you are a highly driven person you probably find it difficult to pause long enough to hear His voice each morning.  Being a “doer,” it is hard for me, by nature, to slow down and spend quality time with God.  I am so thankful that He has been patient with me and even when I have been too busy for Him, He has never been too busy for me.

Let me share a great verse with you that stresses the importance of praying for one another.  Col. 4:12 “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”

Advice for Raising Godly Children

Advice for Raising Godly Children - Ten pithy sayings from John Witherspoon, Scottish Presbyterian pastor, President of Princeton (1768-1794), and signer of the Declaration of Independence, on parental authority and child rearing.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Integrity - Character Counts

Mark Beeson shared regarding Henry Cloud’s new book, integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality. 

“In that book Cloud tells the story of a woman who asked him to speak with her adult sons. She wanted him to meet them for lunch and talk with them about success. She pressed to know what he would say to them.
Cloud made a couple of points, then told her,

Now, having said that, let’s get to the real issue that I would want to talk to them about. I would tell them that the people who possess the first two abilities are a dime a dozen. There is no shortage of talented brainy people who are very, very good at what they do and are able to work the system and schmooze other people to get things done. There are zillions of them, and we all see them every day. But if your boys are truly going to make it, they have to have the third ingredient as well:

They have to have the character to not screw it up.

Proverbs 11:4-5  
A thick bankroll is no help when life falls apart ,but a principled life can stand up to the worst. Moral character makes for smooth traveling; an evil life is a hard life.

Character: Who we are on the Inside

John Maxwell shares some thoughts on character...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Research: Spiritual Maturity Tied to Strong Doctrinal Beliefs

by Russ Rankin
Professing Christians progressing toward spiritual maturity will have a firmer grasp on important doctrinal positions, according to findings from LifeWay Research. However, plenty of churchgoers still struggle with basic truths about God, the Bible. and salvation.

Quotes on the Holy Spirit

Quotes on the Holy Spirit Good reminders of the forgotten member of the Trinity.

The Bible -- fact or fiction?

This article appears today on the Fox News website. It is simple and well-done in engaging those who might be interested in the Bible but wonder if it is true. Rice Broocks writes:

The enormous success of “The Bible” miniseries on The History Channel has left many production houses scrambling to get more movies/shows based on Scripture in production. 

The record-setting ratings give the general faith community something to cheer about after several years of disturbing trends: overall decrease in church attendance, an increase in those claiming no religious affiliation, and a perception that religious people are intolerant and out of touch with mainstream values.

In spite of the 11.7 million viewers that tuned into the series finale and the half million DVD units sold within the first week of release, the real question is: do people believe these Bible stories to be fact or fiction?

Read more: 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Kingdom of God

What is the kingdom of God? The answer cannot be reduced to a word study of the term kingdom. That would be a helpful exercise, but the Bible describes the kingdom even when the word is not used.

Any kingdom will consist of a king, his realm, its citizens, and the law that regulates their lives. This is true of God’s kingdom as well. What follows is a short overview of the Bible’s presentation of God’s rule over God’s people in God’s place according to God’s law.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Four Suggestions for Parenting Sent Kids

Four Suggestions for Parenting Sent Kids — Jason Dukes Jason provides four suggestions for how our homes can become gospel environments where confession, reconciliation, restoration, and growth can reside.

George Beverly Shea, 1909-2013

George Beverly Shea, 1909-2013 We lost a legend when George Beverly Shea passed away earlier this week. Ray Ortlund provides a stirring tribute. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Forget None of His Benefits

These are great encouragements to remember from Psalm 103

See List....

Ten Simple Strategies for Prayer

Ten Simple Strategies for Prayer These are simple, helpful ways to grow your prayer life.

"Why the Revelations of Dr. Gosnell's Trial Don't Shock Me"

The Holocaust in Our Midst - Randy Alcorn shares “Why the Revelations of Dr. Gosnell's Trial Don't Shock Me, and the Holocaust in Our Midst.” 

I'm a little taken aback that so many Christians are utterly shocked only because of the fact that this man killed some babies after they were born instead of a minute, a week, or three months earlier. As if that makes the slightest difference to the babies or to God."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Post-Christian America?

The Barna Group has compiled research on religious attitudes in America for many years. This graphic shares religious attitudes and involvements that would seem to point to a "post-Christian" America.

Monday, April 15, 2013

King of the Mountains

I enjoyed this devotional thought and offer it up to you:

One way to understand the theology of the Bible is to trace its themes from beginning to end. One important theme is the mountain. The story of our Christian journey intersects with three major metaphorical mountains in the Bible: Mount Sinai, Mount Calvary, and Mount Zion—and Jesus is King of all these mountains.

From Marathon to Maranatha

Ed Stetzer responds to today's bombing tragedy. How do we respond to our broken world?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What Does the President of the United States Believe about Infants Born Alive after a Botched Abortion?

What Does the President of the United States Believe about Infants Born Alive after a Botched Abortion?

As momentum builds for ending the media’s refusal to cover the facts about the horrificKermit Gosnell abortion-mill case, I think it’s worth remembering that President Obama dealt for several years with the question of whether or not infants should be protected when born alive after a failed abortion. Here is one quote:
[I]f we’re placing a burden on the doctor that says you have to keep alive a previable child as long as possible and give them as much medical attention as—as is necessary to try to keep that child alive, then we’re probably crossing the line in terms of unconstitutionality.
—Senator Barack Obama, March 30, 2001, arguing against the the Born Alive Act before the Illinois General Assembly

5 Ways to Avoid the Drain of Busyness

5 Ways to Avoid the Drain of Busyness We all feel it at various levels. This article is helpful for busy people.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Prayer for My Cluttered Spirit and God’s Kindness

Scotty Smith writes a daily prayer and posts it. This one was particularly meaningful to me today. Be blessed:

A Prayer for My Cluttered Spirit and God’s Kindness
 God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Eph. 2:6-7
Dear heavenly Father, I’d be foolish not to start this particular day without immersing my heart in the truth and riches of the gospel. I already feel a busy, noisy, cluttered spirit revving up inside of me.   Whether it’s poor planning or just “one of those days”, I’m supposed to see more people and get more done than is doable.

The control-meister in me is at work, planning my day as though everything is up to me—as though I’m an orphan without a heavenly Father. In short, I really need the gospel today. It’s good to know your mercies are more than a match for my heart today, and every day.

So here’s what I choose to remember right now: You not only raised Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday, but you raised up all your children in him, including me. I’m seated with him in the heavenly realms, no longer cemented to the earthly way of seeing people and doing things.

You’ve called me to live today as a man of resurrection, not resentment—as a worshiper, not a whiner;  As this Scripture says, all day long, in the coming ages, and throughout eternity, you are committed to showing me the incomparable riches of your grace and kindness toward me in Jesus. I do believe this, but not as much as you intend.

Father, thank you for being so tenaciously present and compassionate with me. It’s the riches of your kindness, tolerance, and patience that lead me to repent in this very moment. Right now, as your Spirit convicts my heart; right now, with palms up, I both worship you and release my tight-fisted grip on this day.

You will give me all the grace I need to do anything you ask of me today. You will give me all the kindness I need to be kind to the people you are bringing to me. You will give me all the mercy I need to be present in the moment and not anxious about the next thing on today’s schedule.

At the end of today, you will be the God who, yet again, worked in all things for my good and your glory. So very Amen I pray, with confidence and gratitude, in Jesus’ centering and freeing name.

The Good News in Jesus’s Beatitudes

As we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount each Sunday, I am more attuned to things I read about this teaching of Jesus. In this article by R.W. Glenn, the topic of the Beatitudes is addressed. It is a wonderfully freeing thought:

"Jesus never tells us to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger and thirst for righteousness. His beatitudes never demand that we be merciful, pure in heart, or peacemakers. And, of course, we aren’t commanded to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. That doesn’t even make any sense! You can’t control whether or not people will raise their eyebrows, or their fists, at you for your faith.
No commands here. Just declarations — declarations of who the blessed people are and where that blessedness leads them.

So then, what is Jesus doing as he introduces the greatest sermon ever given? If he’s not giving us a checklist to complete that will lead to a blessed life, if he’s not giving us the rungs on the ladder we ascend to true satisfaction with God, if he’s not telling us what we must do in order to experience life in the kingdom — then what on earth is he doing?

It's a work of the grace of God...a gift of God for us...READ ON...

Living in the Valley - For Now

Jonathan Parnell writes an interesting devotional thought related to Psalms 22, 23, and 24:

"As Christians, we simply can’t read Psalm 22 without seeing Jesus. Then Psalm 24 comes right behind it. If Psalm 22 is a Good Friday meditation, Psalm 24 is our Easter morning song. This kingly chorus is commonly associated with the reign of Jesus as our victorious ruler. But between Psalm 22 and Psalm 24 sits an even more famous psalm — the beloved 23rd. Many of us instantly recognize its first words: “The Lᴏʀᴅ is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). But what exactly is it getting at?

How do we read Psalm 23 together with Psalm 22 and Psalm 24?...

Bill O'Reilly, Gay Marriage, and the Bible

Bill O’Reilly, Gay Marriage, and the Bible - Rick Phillips provides a helpful addition to the many articles related to gay marriage. O’Reilly presupposes that the Bible is not an acceptable source of authority for our culture. Conservatives must accept that liberals will not listen to Scripture and therefore craft a moral consensus on grounds other than the Bible. What he fails to realize is that apart from God and his Word, the only moral consensus possible to man is an evil pagan idolatry.”

Four Truths About Hell

4 Truths About Hell - Tom Ascol: “So, what should we think of hell? Is the idea of it really responsible for all the cruelty and torture in the world? Is the doctrine of hell incompatible with the way of Jesus Christ? Hardly. In fact, the most prolific teacher of hell in the Bible is Jesus, and He spoke more about it than He did about heaven.”

Seven Questions About Suicide and Christians

Suicide and Christians - Responding to the news of Rick Warren’s son’s suicide, David Murray writes, “As well-publicized suicides tend to increase the suicide rate quite dramatically, I thought it would be good to address seven of the questions that arise in our minds at times like this.” (You may also want to check out his round-up of excellent articles on the subject).

What We Can Learn from African Christians

Through my experiences in African minstry and as I eagerly seek and anticpate a new opportunity on the African continent later this year, this article describes key things I too have observed in African Christians and churches. It is what draws me to the place - the things they teach me.

Four Ways You Can Help End Slavery

Jim Denison writes - "Two children are sold into slavery every minute, 1.2 million every year. There are around 27 million slaves in the world today, more than at any time in history; 79 percent are sold into sexual exploitation. Half of all slaves are children.  The average price per slave: $90.

Most people think slavery in the United States ended with the Civil War. Sadly, that's not true—200,000 slaves are working in our country today, and 17,000 more will be trafficked in next year. Those who profit in human trafficking generate annual profits of around $32 billion, more than Google's annual revenue. In addition to sexual exploitation, slaves are traded for domestic servitude, forced marriage, armed conflicts, and organ removal. Human trafficking is the fastest growing international criminal industry in the world..."