Category Archives: Faith

Search the Scriptures

When we read scripture we often see read or scan the words picking up on the intuitive meaning that is obvious in a casual reading. At times, certain passages stand out for us in ways they haven’t before. I believe that the Holy Spirit Image result for scriptureguides us as we read to give us the insight we need for the day or the season. Frequently the Spirit will help us connect one passage with another to see the consistency of the Truth contained in the word as breathed into the writers across the centuries.

One of the reasons we gather together as the Church is to worship our Creator, the God of the universe, and to listen to the teaching of Scripture. It is during such times of hearing Scripture taught that the Spirit speaks to us as well. Suddenly we see things that we hadn’t seen before. A recent example of such eye-opening happened on a recent Sunday.

This past Sunday the pastor was teaching on the model that Christ gave us for prayer. Beginning in Matthew 6:9 Jesus said, “Pray then like this:” and he went on to give us what we commonly call the Lord’s Prayer. For years I have read the Sermon on the Mount and missed a very important connection that is made several paragraphs later. There comes a place in the prayer where Christ instructs us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Many of us are familiar with this and leave it as an acknowledgment that our daily food is provided by our Father. Here is the next piece. Christ follows this prayer with additional instruction.

Fast forward to verse 25 where Christ says “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life …” When we’re praying about our daily bread, it is about much more than food and clothing. Christ explains beginning in verse 25 that this prayer is not just about food, it is about our faith in God as our provider, it is about our value in the eyes of God. He says, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”In this section, Jesus is teaching that if our Father who is in heaven will take care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, he’ll also take care of us. He tells us that because we are more valuable than anything else in creation we should be confident that our Father will provide clothing, food, and shelter to meet our daily needs.

The Lord’s Prayer is about God’s kingdom coming and God’s will being done. He knows that we need the basic necessities. Our priorities, as stated in the prayer and the explanation in verses 25 – 34, should be to first seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. His promise is that if we will set our priority to bringing God’s kingdom and righteousness to our world, all these basic needs will be given to us.

So, a new insight connecting the Lord’s Prayer to the passage that follows gives a new appreciation for the style of Christ’s teaching. It expands our understanding of how our Father wants us to view all of life from his perspective and priorities rather than our limited view of our natural world.

Let’s be students of God’s word, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15) Come together with other students to study the word and learn to connect the dots which only adds to the depth of meaning and complimentary teaching of the Scriptures. Searching the Scriptures with an open heart often reveals new truths that we have previously glossed over.

Just as God is infinite and beyond our ability to comprehend, so is his word as given through the authors. What a treasure we have in the pages of The Book!

Mixed Motives

Mitch Teemley says it well. Pride is the downfall of us all. Even being proud of the fact that we’re not proud. Prov 16:18

Mitch Teemley

janus

If it weren’t for mixed motives I’d have no motives at all.

I’m an idealist. I want (earnest cliche alert) to make the world a better place.

But I’m also a hopeless egoist, and no matter what I do I can never completely rid myself of the desire to impress. Argggh!  (Even now, as I write this, a part of me is hoping you’ll be impressed with my “humility”!)

What can be done? If I shift my focus to killing my self-absorption, the effort itself become an act of self-absorption! In C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon advises a junior tempter on how to keep humans stuck in this endless cycle:

Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble,” and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of…

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You Won’t Want to Miss This Concert!

Did you know how loved you are by God? Do you understand how much he delights in his people? God wants his people to rejoice and be glad. There is a joy and satisfaction that Image result for god rejoices over uscomes from the peace that passes all understanding. There is a calm that he gives his people in the face of trial and trouble. Those things will certainly come our way, but if we give all our worries and anxieties to him he will lead us beside the still waters and will restore our souls.

Why does he do this? The Bible tells us he does this because he cares for us. Can you recall the last time he restored your soul? Do you know where to go to have your soul restored and refreshed? You can find safety and solace in the words of Scripture. These words contain his promises and tell the story of how much he loves us. These words, which are actually God’s words, talk of joy in the midst of trials. They tell us that he cares for us like a Shepherd cares for his flock, by protecting, leading and guiding.

Pastor Tony Evans tweeted today, “Peace doesn’t mean that you will not have problems. Peace means that your problems will not have you.” God delights in his people and wants them to place all their concerns at his feet and let him work them out. He may work them out by giving you the wisdom you need to navigate a choppy relationship, or he may change the other person’s heart. When we let him work things out we need to remember that his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than ours.

Knowing full well that this world is filled with sin and bad things are going to happen, he wants us to have joy that is unspeakable, or difficult to describe. He delights in his people. He is waiting to help us be his hands and feet here on this earth. He wants us to do good and to feel the inner joy that only he can provide.

I was reading the words of our God as he gave them to the prophet Zephaniah. Here is just a taste of what God gave Zephaniah, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph 3:17)

God is telling us not to fear. We should give all our fears to him. The picture he gives us is not to let our hands hang limp and helpless as we often feel like doing when we are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do in our current situation. If he is with us there is nothing to fear! He is might to save. There is song written by Hillsong that we have often sung in church that our Savior can move the mountains, and he is mighty to save. He will quiet us with his love. Do you remember being quieted by the love and protection of your mother or father? God’s love is so much greater and stronger and more consoling than any of us have ever felt from a family member or friend here on earth. Let your soul be quieted.

This next part is so awesome that I am not going to miss it! To have God so pleased with his people that he will rejoice over us with singing! Think about it! If you list all the best singers you could possibly name, then remember that our God made each of them and gave them their talents. Now think about this God, our God, the Creator, so happy with his people that he is going to sing over us!

I have friends out tonight at a private concert of a world renown singer. I gave one of my friends my ticket to the concert. But, tonight’s concert won’t be able to hold a candle to us hearing our God singing over us. There are no tickets for that concert. Everyone who has placed their faith in Jesus will hear this concert! No good deeds to be done. The price has already been paid. Place your faith in Jesus and come to the concert! It will be the best thing you’ve ever heard!

In times that are filled with fear, uncertainty and doubt, we need to be strong and courageous as God told Joshua over and over again, because the Lord our God is with us and is so delighted with us that it makes him sing. He will quiet us with his love. It is going to be a concert that you won’t want to miss!

Scarecrow in a Melon Patch

Where is our confidence? Where is our trust? Jesus said, do not worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of its own. He told us not to worry about what we Image result for scarecrowwould wear or what we would eat. Look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field that are beautiful to watch and to look at. We are more valuable to God than all the other parts of creation. Don’t get all hung up over something that will impress others. Who are you living for and what will all these things do for you? They won’t bring you happiness!

Many of us in the Baby Boomer generation are spending a lot of time engaging people who will help us plan to make sure our finances will last as long as we do. Many have accumulated collectibles, homes, toys, etc. that are the result of planning and playing out our personal passions. The proverb says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (15:22) And another, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (21:5) We need to know that God applauds planning.

Yet, in recent years, many have become uncertain about their security or the future of those things we’ve collected being placed in the hands of their beneficiaries. We must however keep all these things in proper perspective. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk..Do not fear them, they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” (Jer 10:5)

Our stuff is just stuff. All our collectibles may be good hobbies which keep us active and capture our interest, but the things and money that are the results of our diligent planning are just things. They are inanimate and exist in our lives much like a scarecrow which serves only to scare off the birds that would otherwise eat the fruit of the garden. The scarecrow can’t hear you. In fact if you talked to it, some might begin to wonder about you and your ‘friends’.

Jesus also said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 19:23) That is because these things begin to own us. We allow them to become part of who we are and a path for acceptance among people. The only path for acceptance we should be pursuing is to be accepted into the kingdom of heaven by God. Another proverb on planning tells us that “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevails.”

Let’s not let the scarecrows run our lives. Enjoy the fruit of your diligent planning. Know that the Lord has honored your diligence for a purpose. Consider what he wants you to do with your resources to further his purposes. When we commit our lives to God, that includes our assets and resources. Let’s give it all to him and let God direct our paths.

Lots more to say on this subject, but for now, be wary of the scarecrows in your melon patch.

Never Better

Our pastor has the license plate NVRBTR and if you ask how he is doing, his response is consistently, “Never better.” These two words describe a world view. It is a view that Displaying 20170202_130217.jpgconfidently proclaims that the day of Christ’s return is closer today than it was yesterday, so without a doubt, we have never been in better position. Many, if not most of us could learn from that perspective. We could learn that no matter what is going on in our personal worlds, keeping in mind that Christ’s return is one day closer, should be an encouragement to us. As men and women of faith, this is our ultimate hope … the Day of Christ, the Day of His return, when we will be caught up with him in the clouds into a glorious eternity that God has promised for us.

God told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that because they followed the lies of the serpent (Satan), life would be hard. It would be much harder than just caring for the garden. Weeds would begin to grow, there would now be a conflict in marriage that would be a struggle for leadership for the rest of man’s days on this earth, there would be incredible pain in childbirth, and our children would be in conflict with one another. The challenges of family are not new to our society or our culture. Yes, some of the things we do, like pushing God out of our lives, exacerbate the problems, but the problems we see today, began with the first man and woman on this earth, the real first family.

This did not catch God by surprise and God told Adam and Eve that he had a plan to make a way for us to have eternal life. This was first told when God confronted Satan, Eve, and Adam after the fall and that is found in Genesis 3:15. From the beginning of time, God had a plan. This is in line with my previous blog referencing Isaiah 44-46, Be Strong and Courageous. God created everyone of us with a plan for each of us. Some of us have chosen to identify with “The Way” and others are still looking to define our own way. Those who have taken God’s Way, are in a position to live rewarding lives fulfilling God’s plan for us. I can promise you that nothing is more satisfying than to watch how God guides us in his steps and helps us fulfill our mission here on earth.

All to say that for those who are following “The Way” and are filled with the hope that really is eternal, this life is always better today than it was yesterday, because we’re one day closer to The Day!

Here’s hoping and praying that you have never been better and are experiencing the blessing of living the life God had planned for you!

Be Strong and Courageous

I am the Lord and beside me there is no other …

Image result for strong and courageousThis phrase is repeated ten times over three chapters of Isaiah 44 – 46. To be repeated this often, perhaps God has a message for us? What is he saying? What are the implications of this saying?

It is interesting to note that there are also five instances of “I made you, and formed you in the womb!”

He’s telling us that he has things under control. He put the king of Persia in place to serve his purposes in rebuilding Jerusalem. Just as he made us he also made the king of Persia and just as he has a purpose for us he has a purpose for the king, even though his people had abandoned the God who created this world.

There are many messages in these three chapters, but a consistent theme is God’s confirmation that He alone is God and there are no other gods like him. He has things under control to the point where he made us and formed us in the womb with a purpose that serves his greater purpose.

If God is in control, we should not be shaken by the events taking place in this world, such as terrorist attacks or changes in leadership. We should not be shaken when our personal worlds are shaken by financial instability or sickness. I have friends who have come through cancer, and other debilitating illnesses. I have friends who are currently going through treatments for illnesses. I have recently lost a friend to a sudden heart attack. There are many in my life who are going through a period of financial hardship. Indeed my own world is shaken in the mighty winds that blow.

There is a two word phrase often repeated in the scriptures, “but God …” Those two words give us hope. God has a larger plan, he sees the larger picture and tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love him and follow him. He also has a plan for this world that will not be thwarted. One only has to look at the book of Revelation to read about the end of the story. It ends with God and everything that is good and right in his eyes surviving and finally bringing the peace that we all seek.

We can have a sense of that peace even today. By placing our faith in the Son of God, we can have peace in the middle of the storm. We can have the hope of an eternity with God. Four times in the first chapter of Joshua, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. In verse 9 he says, be strong and courageous because the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

He is the Lord who made us, named us, and formed us in the womb. He is the Lord who made this world and everything in it? There is nothing in this world big enough to disrupt God’s plans for us and for this world. God’s purposes will be done and our job as believers is to be strong and courageous salt and light in our world. Be an encouragement and tower of strength for those who don’t know the God who made them. He said in verse 7 of Isaiah 45, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.”

We have a God who made us to be salt and light for him in this world. Each with a purpose and each with access to the hope that he has offered us free of any obligatory behavior. There is nothing we can do to curry favor with him besides believe in his Son whom he sent. Through faith we are all children of Abraham.

Rather than buying into all the fear, uncertainty and doubt in this world, know that he said, “my peace I leave with you.” It is the peace that passes all understanding.

Carpe diem, seize the day, the Lord your God goes with you, it is he who has made you to overcome the world. Be strong and courageous! Let’s have hope and peace even in the face of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

God has told us “My counsel will stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Have faith. Have hope. Love God first, then love your neighbor.

Preparing our Kids on Faith and Science

We live in a world that we can no longer ignore and pretend to live separate lives. No matter how we try to protect our children from the disinformation, outright lies, and conflict in our world, our children and grandchildren will face questions many of us never confronted, either in school or in the public square.

One of my favorite bloggers is a thoughtful mom, Natasha Crain. She has written on why we aren’t succeeding at preparing our young people to engage thoughtfully in faith vs. science dialog. I offer this today as food for thought for those of us who have children and even for those of us who have grandchildren. Let’s not be afraid to train up our children in the way they should go!

5 Ways Christian Parents Fail to Prepare Their Kids to Engage with Questions of Faith and Science

5 Ways Christian Parents Fail to Prepare Their Kids to Engage with Questions of Faith and Science

I’m coming down to the final six weeks of writing my next book and am very much looking forward to being on the other side of that deadline! I’ve missed being able to blog regularly during this intense writing time, so I had to take a break today and share a new post inspired by some of the topics my next book will address. (On a side note, watch for a new post very soon to reveal the cover and title of the book!)

My favorite section to write has been on Science and God, because I know so many parents are looking for help in talking about this subject with their kids. While writing the chapters in that section, I thought a lot about how we, as Christian parents, are collectively failing to adequately prepare our kids to engage with questions of faith and science. Today, I want to share 5 ways I believe that’s happening, and encourage all of us to consider what we can do better in our own homes.

1. We don’t talk about the relationship between faith and science at all.

This is, without a doubt, the number one way we fail our kids in this area—we fail to say anything at all. Not only do we need to say something, we need to say quite a lot. Over and over again, researchers have found that a leading reason why so many young people walk away from faith is that they believe they have to choose between Christianity and science. Meanwhile, other research has shown that only ONE percent of youth pastors address any issue related to science in a given year.

This is a giant disconnect.

Regardless of the fact that churches need to do a much better job in this area, parents need to take the reins. This is our responsibility, and there is absolutely no doubt that questions of faith and science will challenge our kids in some way…whether this is an area we feel equipped to discuss or not. If you do feel equipped, great—get started. If you don’t, that’s OK—start learning. Those are really the only two options.

2. We boil all “science versus faith” conversations down to one (or two) issues.

I find in talking with parents that when you say the words “science and faith,” most people quickly launch into a conversation about evolution. There’s no doubt that evolution is one of the most important topics in this category, if not the most important topic. But there are many other questions our kids need to understand, especially at the more philosophical level. For example, people throw out broad statements like “science disproves God” all the time. Kids need to know what to make of those kinds of assertions just as much as they need to know what to make of the subject of evolution.

The second section of my next book will address six of these broader questions:

  • Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?
  • Do science and religion contradict one another?
  • Do science and religion complement one another?
  • Is God just an explanation for what science doesn’t yet know?
  • Can science explain why people believe in God?
  • What do scientists believe about God?

3. We teach overly simplistic answers that ignore important nuances.

I understand that science is not a “user-friendly” topic for many people. The only C grade I ever received in my life was in high school chemistry and I’m still bitter about it.

Unfortunately, this leads many parents to either 1) ignore the science-versus-faith dialogue completely (see my first point) or 2) teach overly simplistic answers that can inadvertently do major damage to their kids’ faith later.

One of the most important ways we can avoid this is by taking the time to define key words. For example, consider the question, “Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?” If someone asked me that, I couldn’t even answer their question unless I first asked them: What do you mean by science? What do you mean by prove or disprove? And what do you mean by God? People use those words in many different senses today and you simply can’t have a meaningful discussion without understanding their more nuanced underlying question. They may be asking:

 Can a specific branch of science provide evidence that strongly challenges a specific historical claim of a given religion? (Answer: Yes.)

Or, they may be asking:

Can the field of science, when defined as the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the natural world, say anything about the existence of God, when defined simply as a supernatural being who may or may not have created the world? (Answer: No—and even most atheists would agree.)

While we may wish we could simply teach our kids easy answers like, “Of course science doesn’t disprove God!”, we fail to adequately prepare them for this challenging secular world when we do.

4. We teach only one of several Christian views on origins (age of the Earth and evolution).

If you’ve read my first book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, you know how strongly I feel about this. There are eight chapters written to explain why Christians have varied views on how and when God created the world—based on both scriptural and scientific considerations. While many parents don’t teach their kids anything at all on this subject, many of the remaining parents only teach their kids one specific view (for example, young-Earth creationism, old-Earth creationism, or theistic evolution). Whatever view you teach, your kids will hear challenges from both other Christians and from atheists—a very confusing position for them to be in if you’ve never explained the issues at stake.

Note that I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t tell our kids what we believe. There’s no problem at all with explaining our own convictions. The problem lies in teaching them our views in a silo rather than taking the time to explain why fellow believers and skeptics interpret science and/or the Bible differently than we do.

5. We’re overly fearful of suggesting there’s a conflict between Christianity and science.

One of the things I found most interesting when preparing to write on whether or not science and religion contradict one another was just how quick Christians are to lay out a case for why Christianity and science are not in conflict. Much of the time, Christians jump straight to showing 1) how science can’t say anything about a Being outside of nature and/or 2) how there’s no reason to expect that science could even be done if there weren’t a God to rationally design the universe. Those things are true. But much of the time when skeptics talk about the conflict of science and Christianity, they’re talking specifically about the conflict between mainstream scientific consensus and a specific claim of the Bible that intersects with the natural world—for example, the age of the Earth (based on the young-Earth interpretation of Scripture) and direct creation (versus evolution). If we just keep insisting “there’s no conflict,” when there actually are apparent conflicts in some areas, we miss some very important discussion opportunities with our kids. Again, we have to define terms clearly.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the accurate interpretation of scientific data and the accurate interpretation of the Bible will never be in true conflict. If apparent conflicts arise, (at least) one interpretation is wrong. When we’re convicted of the accuracy of our interpretation of Scripture, we shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge when the Bible conflicts with scientific consensus; Scientists can be wrong. On the other hand, when there is an apparent conflict, we should be willing to thoughtfully consider the scientific data; Our biblical interpretation can also be wrong.

Rather than sweep apparent conflicts under the carpet, we can help our kids significantly by 1) confidently explaining why apparent conflicts may arise and 2) studying the scientific and scriptural considerations together.

What questions about science and faith do you most have trouble discussing with your kids? If you don’t currently have these discussions, what’s your biggest barrier?

A Little Wobbly?

We are in times of transition … in our lives … isn’t the aging process fun? This month the Image result for wobblyleadership of our country will make a shift not only in leaders, but also in philosophical direction. This is unsettling to many, especially when we hear more about the unhappy souls than about those who believe the shift will take us in the right direction. Turning on the TV or radio is akin to turning one’s stomach into a churning mass that begs for a handle bar to stabilize us.

Hebrews 10:23 tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Are you feeling a little wobbly? Let’s not lose sight of the real hope that we have. Let’s take a step back and keep our eyes focused on the hope of life with the only one who can and will deliver on promises. There is only one whose promises will be delivered at the end of our time here on this earth.

Use his promises to keep you from wobbling and wavering back and forth. Remember where your help comes from. King David said, “I will lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1-2)

Let’s take the assurance of the only One who will deliver on the hope He has given us. This world will come to an end. The doomsday prognosticators  are right on that point.

But for those of us who have laid hold of the Hope, it will be a glorious ending, for he who promised is faithful. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev 21:1 ff) I would add an exclamation point to that  What a fantastic future we have if we’ve taken hold of His promises!

Have a blessed day and stand firm!

Christmas Eve 1968

Do you know what was happening on Christmas Eve, 1968? I can tell you what I was doing. In addition to trying to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus, I was celebrating the birth of our oldest daughter, Debbie, the day before. She was born on December 23rd, 1968. Last night we celebrated her birthday with all the family together. As we were reflecting on what her presence in our family meant to each of us, there were ten mini celebrations of her impact in our lives.

That was indeed a life changing event for us all in so many ways. Her arrival in this world meant that I would be exempted from being drafted into the service of our country. Those were the days of the height of the Vietnam War. Being drafted was certain to have a battlefield assignment in guerrilla warfare. Those were the days of flower children, draft dodgers and when flag burning started. It was tumultuous time in our country. Lest you think the days we are in currently are uncharted territory, let me just assure you that the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes was so right when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

There was another significant event taking place that Christmas Eve. On December 24, 1968, three American astronauts were circling the moon. Many of you were not even born yet. Some were too young to remember, but many of us remember the day very well. What a historic moment! They sent back pictures of the earth and read the first 10 verses of the book of Genesis to an audience rapt in wonder and awe.

Seven months later, the United States landed men on the moon! As with so many major events, there is a back story. Eric Metaxas, who heads up the Colson Center shared one part of the back story in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Rather than restating the story, I’m providing a link to the op-ed Christmas Eve in Space and Communion on the Moon. The story shows that our battle against the powers of the air are not new. Satan, the prince of the power of the air, has been working to suppress the good news of the gospel since the Garden of Eden.

Mr. Metaxas shares the story of how that momentous arrival of men on the moon was celebrated by Buzz Aldrin with the taking of communion as the most appropriate thing he could do. He read portions of the book of John where Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches …” In light of the public pressure, even in those days, NASA advised that these actions and readings not be broadcast back to earth. Well known atheist, Madelyn O’Hair had filed suit for the Christmas Eve event. It is no wonder this story has been suppressed.

But on this Christmas Eve, I feel it is important that we hear the story of Buzz Aldrin. As so many in our country are giving their all to deny the truth of God’s word and the real story of Christmas, we should take encouragement from Buzz Aldrin’s story and his strength of faith.

Let’s be men and women who know who we are and Whose we are. Buzz knew Whose he was and could not let that moment pass without acknowledging the God of the universe. Let us take courage in our hearts to give thanks for the greatest gift EVER, the Christ child coming to earth for one purpose only. That purpose was to provide a way for us to have a relationship with the God who created the moon and the earth, not to mention thousands of galaxies that have yet to be discovered. We discover knew expanses of our universe every year, and our God created it all.

Blessings to you and your families this Christmas season. May Christ be your source of joy and peace as we give each other gifts to celebrate His birth, God’s gift to us.