Wednesday, July 31, 2013

August 1, 2013

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6
Of all the amazing promises in the Bible this is one of best! What matters more to you than the spiritual development of your children? And this great verse promises that if parents build the proper formation under your children, God will be actively involved in the construction of the rest of his life.
Building the right stuff into your children will make it much harder for them to do the wrong stuff!

Implicit in the word "train" are four guidelines for building the "right stuff" in your precious prodigies.

"Train" means to define what it means to be a Christ-follower in your family.

"Train" means to direct that process of becoming Christ-follower in your family.

"Train" means to discipline those developing Christ-followers in your family.

Discipline has become an unpopular term in our modern culture because discipline acknowledges that actions have consequences and our culture hates that idea. Discipline also involves delayed gratification and our culture wants it all and wants it all immediately!
So what is the heart of discipline and how do you build it into your kids?
"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."  Proverbs 22:15
"For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Romans 3:23
Discipline is the process of teaching your children (and yourself) to say "no" to the fool in your nature and "yes" to Jesus, "the gift of God", in your new nature.
Easier said than done! Proverbs 22:15 essentially says foolishness has to be beaten out of us! So, discipline must necessarily involve some pain and it must involve some rewards. We must make it painful to do the wrong things and rewarding to do the right!
The goal of discipline is to make it more rewarding to do the good than the bad until our children eventually learn self-discipline. It is, perhaps, the hardest task of parenting but also the most urgent responsibility.
Are you self-disciplined enough to discipline your children?
It is foolish not to!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 31, 2013

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6
I remember the first time I was involved in a church building program. I was very anxious to see that beautifully designed building become a reality on our recently purchased property! Even though it was four decades ago, I recall clearly when they began digging the hole for the foundation. After they dug out the hole they began pouring the footings and then the floor and basement walls. To an anxious young pup that I was, it seemed it took forever to get that foundation in place! Intellectually I understood the importance of a solid foundation but emotionally I wanted to see those walls rise and the roof put on so the community could see that a new church was about to be opened!
That building stands strong today on Dover Road in Princeton, Illinois because a good foundation was laid under it! I am glad the construction workers didn't share my impatience!
The wisest man who ever lived expounded on the importance of building a strong foundation under your children. And, he gives you some practical insights on how to do it!
When he uses the word "train" he is offering a word loaded with meaning! I will devote the next several articles on exploring the four facets of Solomon's instructions. “Train” is a loaded word in the Hebrew language in which it was originally written and you can render it several ways: “to narrow, to initiate or discipline; to dedicate" or, as I will interpret them: "to define", "to direct", "to discipline" and "to dedicate".

A good foundation for a child begins with defining who you are as a family who follows Christ and who bases your values and decisions upon the Word of God. That needs to happen early and often. Your child should know clearly what it means to be a Snyder, or a Thomas, or a Rockwell, or a Medina, or a Kline, or a Beasley, or a Jones, or a Clark, or a Tippey, etc.

Also, a strong foundation for your child requires a direction. Direction is given first by example. Lead them by the example of your walk. Direction is given by exhortation. As you show them the way, also tell them the way. Put clear guardrails along their path and impose consequences for veering off course.

"Training" a child requires consistent defining and persistent directing but will put good solid footings under your child's foundation for a lifetime!


July 30, 2013

“Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

We began our VBS this evening and we had a bunch of high energy, fun-loving little ones invading our church!

Our staff had planned well and was prepared for the arrival of this collection of cute and curious kids!

As I was observing the high octane activities being enjoyed by the kids and by the adults who were leading them, it occurred to me we were helping "train up" these youngsters in the Way! Using contemporary and creative methods in the limited time we have, we are attempting to infuse some life-altering truths into their fertile little minds that will attach to their eternal spirits.

Before the week is over we will have several children make decisions to trust Christ as their Savior! We will be used by God to set them on the road to righteousness and eternal life.
This is precisely what we, as Christian parents, are exhorted and expected to do. Our responsibility as a church is to support the parents in "Training up a child in the way he should go" so that when they become adolescents and adults, they won't depart from this way AND will then  they will raise up the next generation of believers as we have instructed them.

Please allow me to unpack this word "train" over these next several posts so you will have a clear and complete understanding of what your parental role is in shaping your children to become saints.

The word “train” is a loaded word in the Hebrew language in which it was originally written and you can render it several ways: “to narrow, to initiate or discipline; to dedicate" or, as I will interpret them: "to define", "to direct, to discipline" and "to dedicate".

Each of these concepts represent an aspect of training that is necessary to shape the soul of your sons and daughters.

First, you must "define" the Christian worldview and values in your children so they can compredend God's vision for His creation. Your child is on a steep learning curve you must define how his reality should be shaped according to the Word of God.

What is right for your children?

You must define that for him/her! That is what God calls and commands you to do in regard to your children!

Someone WILL shape your children's values and views according their value system and once those values and views are written on their soul, they are hard to erase!

That someone had better be you!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 29, 2013

Its pretty hard to improve on anything from the mind and pen of a true spiritual giant, so I won't even attempt it. I will just give it to you straight from the man himself.


3 Spiritual Lessons from Jonathan Edwards

If they were important to Jonathan Edwards, they should be important to you!

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is considered by many to be one of the smartest philosophers and theologians in American history. But more than that, Edwards is one of the great spiritual thinkers as well. Edwards helped the churches in New England navigate the work of the Spirit in the “Great Awakening,” and he continues to help pastors walk through these issues through his great work, Religious Affections (one of the most beloved spiritual classics of the Protestant church).

How can we learn from the spiritual practices of Edwards? Here are three lessons that are as important today as they were in Edwards' time:

1. Spiritual Practices Are God-Focused.

When engaging in a spiritual practice, whether reading the Bible devotionally, praising God in church or even listening to a sermon, it can be incredibly easy to start focusing on side-issues. Maybe our lips are moving while singing a praise song, but our minds are thinking about everything else we have to do. Maybe we are reading the Bible for something to say that will sound smart and informed rather than hearing from God.

Whatever the case, Edwards would encourage us to have a God-focused understanding of practices. In other words, when we engage in spiritual practices, like those mentioned above or practices like fasting, prayer or solitude, the purpose is to be with God, rather than merely trying to get a task done. Once we forget that, we very quickly focus on making sure we are doing the act right.

In other words, rather than learning to be with God, the goal becomes perfecting the technique of a spiritual practice. This digresses rapidly to a self-focused form of spiritual practice, which is nothing short of idolatry.

2. Spiritual Practices Are Relational.

In light of the God-focused nature of spiritual practices, Edwards would remind us that spiritual practices are always relational. This can be hard to remember. Whenever we are learning a new practice, even if it is something like reading the Bible, we have to devote a good deal of energy and brain power on figuring out how to do it. The mechanics are not irrelevant, but as was just noted, they must not overtake the purpose of being with God.

Therefore, in the midst of our spiritual practices—all our spiritual practices—God is calling us to himself. Whether we are reading Scripture, singing praise songs, practicing silence and solitude or fasting, we are called to be with God and to know him in relationship. Spiritual practices are a means of grace, Edwards tells us, and grace is always relational.

We do not come to know a distant god, or an infinite power; we come to know God as Father in his Son Jesus Christ. In Christ we are able to call God Father and to know ourselves as His children. Therefore, our spiritual practices should always lead us in relationship and should always be built upon that relationship. Once we start trying to do spiritual practices to establish our relationship with God, even if we do so subconsciously, we fail to embrace the free gift of God in Christ.

3. Spiritual Practices Should Lead to Affectionate Knowledge of God.

Lastly, it is true that we can often feel overwhelmed when we engage in spiritual practices, frustrated that we fell asleep again in prayer, drifted off again during the sermon or found our time in the Word dry and heartless. Nonetheless, Edwards would remind us, God has called us to have more than just a working knowledge of Himself. God wants us to know Him affectionately.

To paraphrase Edwards, God does get your mind off of fleshly things by beating you up, but by showing you something better. The something better He shows you is Himself! Jesus is God’s self-revelation to the world, and that revelation should break open hard and lifeless hearts to His life of love. Therefore, just as our spiritual practices should be God-centered and relational, they should lead us in affection. But what if they don’t? If your heart isn’t moved by God, then we pray “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) and “Without you I can do nothing” (John 15:5).
God is the one who must give us eyes to see His beauty, but we are called to open our hearts to Him in love. Spiritual practices are the means by which we do so. But there are many temptations when practicing any kind of spiritual practices. At the top of the list are the opposites of our three points here.
We will always be tempted to make practices self-centered, becoming proud at our discipline; we will be tempted to make practices mechanical, thinking the “right method” will solve our problems; and we will always be tempted to use practices to cover our guilt and shame rather than using them to turn to God in affection.
Edwards highlights these pitfalls for us and shows us a better way. Focusing on the Christian life as a journey of love that is God-centered, relational and affectionate reminds us who our God is. By embracing the love of our God we can come to walk with Him in all that we do. Edwards is a great guide to show us how we can do this in every aspect of our lives.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

July 28, 2013

"Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations."He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." Romans 4:16-25
I was reading in Romans 4 this morning. What an amazing treatise on faith! Hebrews 11 has always been the "Faith Chapter", but this chapter is strong! Let me see if I can help you get your heart and mind around it.

Abraham believed what he couldn't see. He trusted for something he had never see before. He was committed to a Higher Reality.
Why did he do that?
Because of a promise from God - "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as had been saint to him, 'So shall your offspring be.'" V. 18
Faith is believing what you have never seen - seeing with your spirit - because you trust the promise of God.
Abraham not only trusted God in his mind and in his spirit, but he acted on what he believed. He took his wife and possessions and left for a place that had not yet been revealed to him. Every day he acted on what he believed God wanted him to do. As James tells us, "Faith without works is dead."
Why did he behave that way? He believed in the Person of God.
If you say you believe it is going to rain but you leave the house without your umbrella, you are not acting like someone who really believes. True belief, faith, expresses itself with action.
To say that you believe that the Bible is God's Word demands that you actually read it, know it, and live according to its truths. If the Bible doesn't shape your behavior, you are not a believer.
Because Abraham believed in the promise of God and the Person of God, but he also believed in the power of God to help him possess what He had promised! And because he believed and behaved like a believer - God believed in him.
The power to become is founded in the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead. Abraham's faith was amazing because not only did he experience God's power prior to the Resurrection, he believed it before Jesus was even born!
Abraham became a literal father, but because he believed and behaved as a man of faith, God made Him a spiritual father. If you could look up faith in God's dictionary you would find a picture of Abraham because to God, Abraham = faith.
God counted Abraham as the righeous father of a great nation, even when he was childless.
God loves it when, by faith, we become what He has designed us to become!
It was out of the faithfulness of Abraham that the Hebrew people became a nation. And it was out of this nation that Jesus was born. So not only is Abraham the example of faith, he is the father of THE Faith.
How is your faith?
Do you believe in God's promises? Do you behave in a manner consistent with His Person? Are you becoming like like Jesus by His power?

Friday, July 26, 2013

July 27, 2013

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22
You have probably heard this: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death."
The moral:

It doesn't matter if you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.
No one enjoys being fearful, but fear is a powerful motivator. In our verse for today, the Psalmist offers some great advice, "Let your anxiety drive you to the Lord."

"Cast your cares".

"Cast" in Hebrew means: to throw out, throw down, throw away, to hurl. It does not mean to take back what you have cast, nor to cherish, or keep - but to cast, toss, throw away from yourself.
"Cares" in Hebrew means: whatever is given by providence. That means every part of your personality, talents, thoughts, body, emotions, worries, burdens, joys, and gifts.
"LORD" as used here in Hebrew means - Eternal, Jehovah, self-existent. The One with no beginning and no end. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty." Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13.

Piece all these truths together and you get: "Throw and hurl everything that has been given to you onto the Lord. Everything that has been given to you, you are to throw onto the Lord and not to take it back."
That is your part. If you will do your part, here's what God will do:

"Sustain" in Hebrew means: "To keep in and contain, To abide, remain with and reside, To receive, comprehend and guide, To feed, nourish, make provision for and provide sustenance for."
God makes this personal - "You" - means God is willing and able to do this for you, just the way you are. No changes are needed to come before the Lord God Almighty.

Putting this all together: The Lord Jesus Christ will do all these thing for the one who casts to Him all that they have been, are now, and will be. Every facet of your life must be given away for Him in order for your joy to be full. God Himself will nourish and help you through what you are going through, no matter what it is!

"Fall" in Hebrew means: "To waver, slip, shake, fall; To be carried, cast, be out of course, be fallen in decay."

Add it up like this: The Lord God Almighty will never ever cause the just, clean and righteous person to slip and fall or be carried, cast, or be out of course and be fallen in decay. The Lord God will keep His child, that means the one who trust in Him and loves Him and obeys Him in Spirit and in Truth, He will keep that child cared for and nurtured, steadfast in His Love and protection.
What kept you from sleeping well last night? What caused you to awake with anxieties today? You can carry that again today or you can cast it on Him. Your fears can drain you or they can drive you to Him.
Listen to the Psalmist!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 26, 2013

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." Psalm 42:1

You have been there. So have I.

On a hot summer day after exercising or working in the yard, you feel like you are dying of thirst. You can't get to the 'fridge fast enough to crack open a bottle of water or a sports drink. And when you do - ahhh, the relief! The cool feel of the liquid down your parched throat and on your tongue is immediately refreshing. You thirst is slaked and your strength returns.
The Psalmist parallels that physical experience to a spiritual need. He says that he has the same desperate thirst for God as when he longs for a refreshing drink of cold water. His soul "pants" for God.
He was in the heat of a spiritual battle. He was opposed on every side. The heat from the battle was exhausting him and he was about to faint. His need was critical to the point of desperation.
When was the last time you were that desperate for God?
Jesus said, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
God promises to respond to spiritually desperate people.
And I want you to notice that the Psalmist was not just talking about a drink of water, he was talking about "streams" of water. That is significant for several reasons.
First, a stream flows from a source. It always flows down from a source that is higher than us.

Second, since a stream flows, it is constantly fresh. Unlike a pool or a pond where water collects and stands, a stream continually refreshes itself.
Third, a stream is a steady and reliable source of refreshment.
Fourth, it is an unlimited supply of fresh cool water.

Are you getting thirsty?

Science says that about 60% of our bodies are made of water. So God built us with a big need to be hydrated with water.

Spiritually, the same is true. Our spiritual life and growth are highly dependent on His living water. You can say that we need to be hydrated or "high-drated" - or "He-drated".

Are you desperate for God? Is your soul panting for Him? What are you thirsting for?

When you have the thirst, He has the stream.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 25, 2013

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.'" John 14:6
I found this story that illustrates the power of life in Christ, the power of knowing that you are in the truth and on your way to heaven.
“I have everything I need for joy!” Robert Reed said.His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette. Robert has cerebral palsy.The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis Junior College or from venturing overseas on five mission trips. And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language. Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa. I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched his stiff fingers force open the pages. And I watched people in the audience wipe away tears of admiration from their faces. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, “I have everything I need for joy.”
Everything needed for joy? What is he talking about?
He is talking about life - life in Christ, Who is Life. And because of the Life that was at work in him, he pointed others to the "way, the truth, and the life".
What about you? Do you know that life? Do you know Jesus? Are you telling others how to find "the way, the truth, and the life"?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 24, 2013

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.'" John 14:6
Truth is still highly valued in our culture even though it is rarely practiced.
We take an oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." We have truth in lending laws and truth in advertising laws because we understand that truth is the foundation of trust and trust is necessary if we are to have a coherent functioning society.
The quest for truth is as old as mankind. For centuries thinking people have asked, "What is truth?" Good question.
When someone asks, "What is truth", I think they are asking three things:
What Is Real?
Truth defines reality for us. Or at least it should. Jesus not only knows the truth, He IS THE TRUTH! Truth is not just a concept or a precept or a principle, it is a Person. Jesus came to earth to make God real to us. Jesus was God in the flesh so we could see Truth, and hear Truth, and touch Truth.
I don't know anything more real that Jesus, do you?
What Is Right?
I believe people still prefer to do the right thing. I think people nowadays have trouble knowing what is right and doing right does not come naturally for us. These days right and wrong are determined primarily by how a person feels about a situation. So right and wrong have become entirely subjective. That is for those who don't believe in Jesus.
Jesus showed us what it means to be right. Right means being right with God. Jesus was not only right, He was righteous and became our righteousness when He died for all the wrong we did. The reason He could die for all our wrong was because He was righteous.
What Is Reliable?
Truth is reliable. It stands. It will be the same tomorrow as it is today. Another word for reliable would be "absolute" - but we don't like that word.
Jesus is reliable. He is "the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow". Who else do you know like that?
When it comes to the truth about how to get to heaven, who is more real, more right and more reliable than Jesus?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

July 23, 2013

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.' John 14:6'"
Logically, it seems that there should be several ways or even many ways to get to heaven. Afterall, there are multiple ways to get almost anywhere. You can google or mapquest a location and have the option of finding the fastest way or the most direct way. Americans love options. We are used to options because........well, because we're AMERICANS and we can have them!
With that being true, it is not hard to understand why many in our culture are offended by the notion that there is only one way to get to heaven. That doesn't resonate with post-Christian relativist Americans. When you make that claim you will get some resistance.
Maybe you have discovered that. If you haven't you may not be taking a strong enough for the faith.
So, how can you take a reasoned and confident stand on this unpopular position - the truth - that there is only one way to heaven and it is through Jesus?
It is pretty simple, actually. If you believe that Jesus IS the Son of God Who died for the sins of the world. And if you believe that He rose again from the dead. Then obviously you should know and believe what He has to say.
Our last post dealt with the fact that Jesus is "I AM". Today we focus on His second claim, "I am THE WAY....."
Do you want to know the way to heaven? Know Jesus, He is the way to heaven. That is true because He is the way to God and God is in charge of heaven.
Jesus is the way to heaven because He is the way to forgiveness from sins. Sin keeps us from God and therefore, it keeps us from heaven.
Jesus is the way to heaven because He has been there, came here and went back there. Who else can make that claim? If I want directions to a certain place, should I ask someone who has been there before or should I take directions from someone who has not?
Jesus is the way to heaven because He has paid the price of admission. Heaven, like almost every other place, has an admission cost. The price of admission is a righteous relationship with the God of heaven. But since you are morally and spiritually bankrupt you can't pay the price. That is why God sent Jesus to pay the price for your sins. When you trust in Jesus you get access to God which also gets you entrance to heaven.
Jesus is the way because He is the Son of God. Abraham needed a way to get a son. God made a way.
Noah needed a way to save his family from the impending universal destruction of the flood. God made a way.
Israel needed some one to deliver them from captivity in Egypt. God called Moses and Moses became the way.
When Moses was leading God's people through the wilderness to the Promised Land, he ran into a barrier known as the Red Sea. Moses needed a way over or through the Red Sea because Pharoah's army had trapped them against the sea. God opened the sea and made a way!
So, when Jesus says He is the way, you can believe Him. He has always made a way where there was no way.
Until you can find someone else who is a better "I Am" and who is also "the way", you had better trust Jesus to provide the way to heaven. In the meantime, stand confidently in Jesus, the "I Am" who is the "way"!

July 22, 2013

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" John 14:6

Let's take it head on. The thing that is most offensive about our faith in this age of relativism and diversity is the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ.

Honestly, we don't even like to think that our neighbor, Bob, who is so kind and helpful, who is a model husband and father, who volunteers in the community and coaches little league is going to die and go to hell if he does not trust Christ for salvation.

If that thought is hard for us to handle, imagine how it sits with an non-believer.

No wonder we will be challenged in our belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Expect it. Prepare for it. Brace your faith for the attacks.

How can I do that?

Consider Who it is that make the exclusive statement, " one comes to the Father except by me."

Jesus said, "I am...."

Where have I heard that before?

God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

When Moses asked for credentials to use when he went to face a powerful skeptic, God simply said, "I AM WHO I AM". God is the Eternally Present, Eternally Powerful, and Eternally Personal God. Jesus is His Son. We either believe that or we don't. If we believe it, then we must stand on it. The only way to stand against relativism is with absolute truth.

By the way, how did that work out for Moses?

If God is Who He says He is, and if Jesus is His Son, then what He says must be obeyed. Even if it offends people. Even if it doesn't "feel right" to us.

Moses prevailed over Pharaoh because He believed God and obeyed Him, even though what God told him to do didn't always "feel right".

Here's your challenge today: Will you be made right or will you settle for "feeling" right.

Friday, July 19, 2013

July 20, 2013

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1

I am fondly remembering a couple of Summers ago when I got to enjoy some time with my almost (then) 10 year-old granddaughter, Zoey. We spent the day at King's Dominion. She rode every roller-coaster she was tall enough to qualify for. She even rode the drop tower - 172 foot high that free-fall drops over 100 feet. I watched. She was fearless. I rode the Scooby Coaster with her.

I was thinking that it would be nice to be that fearless. Then I realized that one reason she was without fear was because she was with her dad and her granddad. The other reason is that she was 9 and didn't know any better. Plus, she was more focused on fun than she was on fear. Focus matters!

Those of us who have lived a little longer have learned to be fearful because of our failures, our painful experiences, and our losses. We fear the future because we project our past forward.

The Psalmist boasts about his fearlessness. He has chosen to fear no one. How does that happen?

Rather than project his fears forward, he chooses to frame his future with faith. But faith is only as good as its object. Fear is the result of misplaced faith. If I trust in myself or if I trust in a false hope, that faith will fail me.

His faith is in the Lord's light and the Lord's salvation. How does that work?

One of the major fear inducers is darkness. Most of us are afraid of the dark when we are children. Even as adults we are careful about about going into dark areas. Darkness represents a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding or knowing the wrong things. Darkness indicates a lack of relationship with God.

God is light. He bring us knowledge and wisdom and insight. We are able to see ourselves clearly and understand our need for Him. He exposes our fears so we can replace them with faith. We overcome fear as we walk out of our darkness into His light.

God is our salvation. Saved from what? From ourselves - our self-destructive nature. From our self-will that rebels against God. God's salvation delivers us from our past and secures our future - in time and for eternity.

Is fear an issue in your life? I am not talking about a fear of roller-coasters, I am talking about fear of the future. I am talking about fear that cripples relationships and paralyzes your potential.

These are fearful times. The days ahead look foreboding. How can we not be afraid?

Simple. Make God your Lord! How do you do that? Surrender your darkness to His light. Surrender your self-will and receive His salvation.

All you have to lose is your fear!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 19, 2013

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." Psalm 23
Here is the testimony of one satisfied sheep! The source of his satisfaction? A very good shepherd!

When was the last time you felt satisfied? What would it take to satisfy you? What would have to happen? What would it take? Do you even know?

How did it happen for this sheep? How did he become so satisfied?

The Present Care of His Shepherd

This satisfied sheep had a shepherd who cared for his every need. The shepherd provided for his physical sustenance by leading him to lush green pastures where he can graze to the full. The shepherd provided for his emotional security. Sheep are not built for swimming. They are terrified of rapidly moving water. Should a sheep fall into the water and his wool become saturated, he become seriously top-heavy and sink beneath the currents. But the good shepherd knows that and intentionally leads the sheep away from the swift streams to the quiet waters.

And, the good shepherd protects the safety of his sheep. He guards them with his rod and his staff. The rod is the weapon used against would be predators and the staff is used to steer a wandering sheep back to the safety of the flock.

If you are not sure what it would take to satisfy you, think about these three things: having a shepherd who provides for your sustenance, your security and your safety. That worked for this shepherd, what would that do for you?
The Promised Care of the Shepherd
The satisfaction this sheep is experiencing is attributable to the care he is presently receiving from his good shepherd. His physical needs, His emotional needs and his spiritual needs are all being met. That's helpful today, but what about tomorrow? Can I continue to count on my shepherd?
The fact is, when the Lord is your Shepherd, the future is your friend! He promises to care for you in the future just as He currently cares for you!
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
This satisfied sheep shows you that if you can find contentment in your Shepherd with His current care, you can have confidence in His continued care in days to come. 
Want some satisfaction? Follow the Good Shepherd!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 18, 2013

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ." Philippians 2:5

In real estate they say it is "location, location, location". For believers it is "attitude, attitude, attitude." And, I guess you could say that your attitude has a lot to do with your spiritual location!

This verse is the hinge point of this portion of Scripture. After exhorting us about our attitudes, Paul points to the example of Jesus and says in essence, "Here's your attitude!"

That begs the question, "What IS the attitude of Christ?"

Obviously, there was obedience and there was humility but the BIG attitude here is GRACE.

It was grace that THOUGHT the plan of salvation. When Adam selfishly chose to rebel against God and wreck paradise, God could have been justified in vaporizing them and starting over. But His response was not vindictive or vengeful - it was gracious. He launched a plan to send a Second Adam to redeem the damage of the first Adam.

It was grace that WROUGHT it. God began to unfold His marvelous plan as history became the record of HIS story! Through Abraham, God raised up a nation through whom a Savior would arise. His grace orchestrated all the people and all the events that set the stage for a teen-age Jewish girl to give birth to Jesus in a manger in the stable of Bethlehem.

It was grace that BOUGHT it. Grace is free but it wasn't cheap! It cost God all that He had. Jesus demonstrated the divine attitudes of surrender, sacrifice, selflessness and servant hood. The Sinless One resisted all the temptations of the human experience, especially that which brought down the first Adam - selfish desire. Ultimately, the reward for His perfection was death on a cruel cross. In His sinlessness He was able to assume our sin, our shame, our guilt and our sickness and defeat them on the cross. As the words of the song express, "We'll never know how much it cost to see our sins upon His cross".

And, perhaps most amazing is His grace that SOUGHT us! He pursues you and me with His Spirit. He proclaims His love and grace through His Word. He presents His grace through people who have been touched and transformed by His grace. And that IS the challenge that comes to you and me. Will we surrender to His grace? Will we be saved and sanctified by His grace? Will we become living examples of His grace through our attitudes and actions? Can He use us to seek others? Will others be amazed by the grace they see in us?

If your attitude is like that of Jesus you will grace your world. If not you will dis-grace it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 17, 2013

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." James 3:1

Jesus told a story one day about two men. One of those men He referred to as "foolish" and the other he called "wise". Other than the fact that Jesus said it (and if Jesus calls you a "fool" you are one) what separates a wise man from a foolish man?
In Jesus' little story it was the men themselves who differentiated themselves by their actions. The "foolish" man built a house on a foundation of sand. While it was cheaper and easier to build on sand it was also short-sighted. When the first big thunderstorm of the season blew through with its torrential rains and winds the house crumbled as its foundation washed away. The "wise" man build his house on a solid foundation of rock. It is more diificult to chisel through the rock and anchor a foundation there. But the painstaking effort and expense paid off when that storm blew in and washed his neighbor away while his house stood strong.
According to Jesus, wisdom is not a matter of what you know but what you show! God is not interested in theories, He wants transformed lives. He wants obedience. He wants you to build your life on the foundation of a personal relationship with Him.
As the brother of Jesus, James echoes the same truth in his writings. He says, "You can't claim to be wise and act like a fool!" If you act foolish you will be judged as a fool. It is that simple.
Do you want to be wise? Build on a proper foundation. This verse tells you that you need understanding. You must understand truth from error. You must understand the importance of obeying God and living according to His revealed truth in the Word. The foundation of your life must be built on His truth and His commands and His will. You must know it and then show it.
If understanding is a key to wisdom, and it is, then humility is evidence of a wise heart. Humility is the by-product of obedience. You cannot be proud and obedient at the same time. Likewise, you cannot be wise and proud.
Intelligence can be measured by an IQ test. Can wisdom be measured?
James would say, "Absolutely!" In this third chapter he lays out an "OQ" test -an obedient quotient. The wise man passed his "OQ" test, the foolish man failed his.
How is your "OQ"?