Why The Bible Matters


bibleReposted from Radical Mentoring

Why do so few people read the Bible?

I’m not talking about a random verse pulled out to make a point, I’m talking about the book itself . . . the entity . . . this thing that’s integral to our faith. It’s one of the most important topics!

God’s Word is eternal . . . it’ll last beyond the internet, the Super Bowl, the iPhone, the Final Four . . . everything. In heaven, we’ll recognize the words, the wisdom, and the authors, and we’ll never tire of learning what it all means.

So why bother now? Why not wait until heaven when we’ll have all the time in the world? (. . . or out of the world?) Besides, is this stuff really important? Is it really true? Why do we struggle to ‘get into it’?

There’s the fact that God’s Word has been around . . . unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and almost half the world’s population believe its essence. A friend of mine was ready to commit his life to the nine ‘insights’ spelled out in The Celestine Prophecy. I asked, “Wow, what if the author changes his mind, or discovers some new truth?” Shortly after, he published The Tenth Insight. My friend later became a Jesus-follower.

Isn’t it smarter to build your life on a time-tested plan?  The New Testament approach to life is wise, effective, stable, practical, and true.

“But isn’t the Bible just a compendium of stories and folklore, pieced together by church people with a motive?”

Sounds convincing, until you try to explain how the Dead Sea Scrolls perfectly matched earlier manuscripts and were untouched by church people from their recording until their discovery in the 1950’s. The Bible is true. You can depend on it.

“But is it relevant?” You bet it is! Here’s just one example . . .

You get a new job or have your first child or move to a new church. You’re scared out of your skin! But when you read 2 Timothy 1:7, God reminds you “the spirit of fear is not of God, but God is love, power and a sound mind.” Suddenly, you realize “Hey, I can do this! God loves me! This fear I’m feeling isn’t coming from Him . . . I have His power within me . . . I can discipline myself . . . I have a sound mind . . . let’s get on with it!” You’re no longer afraid.

And one more point . . . the Bible is supernatural! I’m not kidding.

Remember Hebrews 4:12? For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Paraphrase: God will use His Word to help you sort out your thoughts and attitudes regarding what you want (i.e., your “heart”).

I take that to mean when I read the Bible and ask, “God, what are you teaching me here?” or “Lord, what would you have me do?” He’ll often give me wisdom I’m not smart enough to discover on my own.

And then I try to obey. I also write it down in my journal, because I don’t want to forget. I’ve unearthed much of what’s written in my blog posts this way.

So . . . read your Bible. And chat with the Author as you read. Pray. Ask questions. Listen to His answers and instructions.

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From A Mustard Seed


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Reposted from The River Walk

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

I remember going to a conference when I was a student at Central Bible College. Tommy Barnett was doing a leadership seminar and Nixa Assembly was sending its ministry team to go and hear him. Pastor Barnett was speaking on faith, I don’t remember the specifics, but at the end everyone was to write their dream on a little piece of paper, go up and leave it at the altar, and pick up this mustard seed in exchange.

Up to that point I’d never seen a mustard seed before. I knew conceptually that they were small. I’d been told so in countless Sunday School classes. This little seed was tiny. I’d say it was less than half the size of the little bullets you would use for a BB gun. On the flip side I knew that mustard trees were a pretty good size. I saw them on those Sunday School flannel graphs. I just didn’t realize how big they really can grow. From a seed that is less than two millimeters in diameter can grow a plant up to twenty-five feet high and nearly twice as wide,

There are different gifts given to different people in the church. Some people have faith. I can look at them, listen to them, and I am amazed. I’m more of a “trust, but verify” type of guy. You might say my faith is as small as a mustard seed. Good thing that is enough. I remember there used to be a magazine called Mountain Movers. It was chuck full of miracle stories of missionaries in other parts of the world. Each of those stories seemed to have two things in common, the missionary needed, God provided. There would come a point when a missionary realized they couldn’t possibly do what needed done, and then God would step in. Sometimes it was protection, sometimes provision, sometimes healing, always God would move.

I don’t need a lot of faith to see God do the miraculous in my life. All I need is to attempt the impossible. If I am always doing what is easy, if I am always living in the safe and the comfortable, I will never see a miracle. There won’t be any need. It is only when I step out that I will see Him step in. If I want to see Him move in big ways, I need to take my tiny faith and attempt big things with it. It will grow, but only when plante

Hope for Hurting Parents When Kids Rebel


Reposted from Pastors.com

As a pastor, more than other people, I see the hurt and the heartbreak that happens in a family when a child rebel-400x267makes rebellious and destructive decisions. And thankfully, there’s a story in the Bible that offers us a lot of insight.

What has often been called “the story of the prodigal son” is really a picture of how God shows his holiness, his goodness, and his kindness to his children – both of his sons were rebellious in their own ways. Some of the insights we learn about parenting from this story might surprise you.

The story, found in Luke 15:11-32, unfolds in three stages.

Stage 1: Rebellion.

Beginning in verse 11, “Jesus said, `There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.’”

Stage one is rebellion. In every parent-child relationship, there’s going to be a struggle. It’s a struggle for control, a power struggle.

At birth, as a parent, you are 100 percent in control. But as your child grows, the power gets transferred. Your control is not permanent. Kids want control sooner than we want to give it. They think they deserve it sooner than we’re ready to give it out. Kids have a sin nature. If you don’t believe that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” you’ve never been a parent.

So what do you do when a child is legally independent and you can’t control them anymore?

  1. Let them go.
  2. Let them make their own mistakes.
  3. Let them experience the consequences of their own choices.

There is a price tag for rebellion. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (NIV).

How do you as a parent feel when your child rebels? Guilty? Embarrassed? We tend to practice a lot of self-condemnation when our children rebel, but you are not the only influence in your child’s life. Your child has choices that he makes. She has friends that she chooses. He has teachers that you don’t control. She has books and movies that she sees. He has all kinds of influences and choices.

Stage 2: Regret.

Back to our story. Verse 17 says, “When he came to his senses…” You might be praying for that sentence in your child’s life. When is my kid going to wake up? When is he going to come to his senses? When is he going to see that he’s ruining his life? You’re praying for that.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and I will say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.””

Notice the change in attitude. He goes through a process of re-evaluation, regret, and repentance.

What do you do during this stage, while you’re waiting for your child to come to repent? Three things.

  1. Pray for your child, non-stop.
  2. Commit your child to God’s hands.
  3. Wait patiently.

Stage 3: Return.

Verse 20 says, “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Remember that in this story, this is the ideal father responding. This is God. This is not a typical human being. This is what God would do.

In fact, it is what God does to you in your rebellion. It’s a model for us.

  1. Love them faithfully, stubbornly.
  2. Accept them unconditionally and affectionately. (This doesn’t mean you approve of their actions.)
  3. Forgive them completely.

Verse 22 says, “But the father said to his servants.`Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate!’”

What I like about this father is he didn’t rub it in. He didn’t keep reminding his son, holding it over his head the rest of his life. The father gave him a second chance. He forgave him completely.

This story shows how God deals with our rebellion. That’s the primary purpose of it. We’ve taken matters into our own hands. The Bible says that we’ve all sinned and we’ve all done our own thing. We’ve messed up our lives. But God says, “Come on home!” God gives us another chance.

 

The Ministry of Presence – Be There…


presenceReposted from chrisaomministries

So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

There is much to be said about Job, and how Satan brought destruction and disease to his life. How his fear opened the door, how in his affliction, he stood, as in the day of his prosperity, alone, and without compare in the earth.

Notice here Jobs comforters. Much has been said, about how wrong they were in their evaluation of the reasons for Job’s distress, but in this passage, they did right. They saw the destruction that had occurred in Job’s life, and they did what very few seemed to have learned these days: they did not speak! They simply sat with him, their presence attempting to bring some solace to a grief torn soul.

Some years ago, I was called to minister to a woman, who’s mother had died, and who had been very traumatized by a series of horrible events in her life. There was so much I wanted to say, as my wife and I would visit her, but Holy Spirit would put a zip on my lip, and I would simply, quietly sit with her.

Even that appeared too much for her, so I would lift her up in fervent prayer, crying out for God to do what no man could do, heal her, give her hope and an future. One day when I was praying, I saw a picture of her, and it seemed that all of her skin had been burnt away. I was reminded of a medical procedure I had heard of for victims of third degree burns, where the victim was immersed in some sort of fluid, while the skin grew back. That any touch to the person before that, caused them excruciating pain.

In the picture the Lord showed me that as I prayed, this woman was being immersed in the Holy Spirit, and His comfort was the healing she needed.
I did not see her for a couple of years, but when I did, I was amazed! She had married, and was the very joyful mother of two beautiful children! Truly God had turned her mourning into joy!

Sometimes, all we can do after tragedy, is simply be there, then quietly pray for the afflicted, from a distance. God’s love and healing, go deeper than anyone’s deepest pain. Jesus is Lord!

I read an article about Job’s wife that was thought provoking, extolling the virtues of Job’s wife.

The Scripture is unclear what happened to Job’s wife at the end of the story, but this author quoted believes she lived through Job’s trial (personally, I am not so sure). Here’s what they said:

“While we weep with Job, we miss the faithful, steady presence of his wife. She put aside her own grief to stay care for her husband. Imagine the exhausting drain, caring for a suffering soul like Job. Imagine the loud howls of agony, hour after hour, day after day. Imagine the one you love walking the thin line of sanity, suffering excruciating, debilitating pain.

Job’s wife continued this mission of mercy without the resources of a helpful support network, without any financial resources, without relief. Their children were gone, their friends and family scattered, her God seemingly absent.”

In any case, there is a love and comfort from Holy Spirit available in our deepest trial, a peace that passes all understanding, a love that endures, faithfully to the end, stronger than death…

Is Christianity Dead?


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Reposted from Beauty Beyond Bones

Well folks, another Christmas is in the books!

Christmas 2K16 is officially behind us. The eggnog has been consumed. Gifts gifted. Food coma endured. And for those brave souls who took on a real tree this year, its pine needles are officially all over the floor and will be mysteriously appearing in random crevices for the next 4 months.

Ever since I was of “appropriate age,” my family has always gone to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It is one of my favorite memories and traditions. The caroling at 11pm. The candles. The trumpets. For the past, say, 15+ years, we have been going, and every year, we’d always get there right at 11:00, throwing elbows, and staking out our pew, as it is always standing room only. And don’t even bother coming at 11:15…because there will be no parking and you’re guaranteed to be standing – two deep – in the back.

But over the past couple years, I’ve noticed that each Christmas, we don’t have to arrive quite as early. And the full-court-press/box-out/battle-to-the-death to get and save a pew has ever so gradually deescalated.

Until this year.

When the church was half empty.

Half empty.

For Midnight Mass. Christmas Eve.

There wasn’t a snow storm. The zombie apocalypse hasn’t happened….unless of course, I am terribly mistaken about that one..

But where the heck was everyone?

And I couldn’t help but ask myself, as I looked around and saw several dozen teenage boys counting the ceiling tiles, looking as though they wanted to die…is our faith on life support?

Are we experiencing the decline of faith and church as we know it?

Is Christianity dead?

And that friends, is not the type of thought pattern you want to be mulling over while in church, literally celebrating the birth of Christ.

As with everything in life, looking in the mirror is a hard thing to do. Facing the truth, acknowledging and accepting it…is an exercise in extreme humility, to say the least.

But let’s call it how it is…we are experiencing a decline in Christianity. Look it up. Pew studies. People identifying as Christian. Church attendance. Prayer. Christians actively living their faith are going down. Especially in Gen X’ers and Millennials.

And that. Is scary.

Leafing through the church bulletin after mass, I was almost in a fog. Nevermind the fact that it was nearing 2am and I had just come off a 7am flight from NYC the day before…but my mind was just swirling after witnessing the stagnant, lifeless state of my once vibrant and spiritually ablaze childhood parish. So I was numbly flipping through the pages.

And there was something that caught my eye.

There was, of course, a big “welcome” section in the front. Offering Christmas greetings to parishioners, out-of-towners, guests, non-Christians joining us, etc. All nice. Great.

And then there was the line, “We are your church family and are here for you!”

And I hate to admit this, but I’ve got to be honest….that really rubbed me the wrong way. It felt painfully disingenuous.

There’s a stereotype about “church people.” And I for one, hate even giving the time of dayto negative stereotypes about people. Because they’re always hurtful and typically untrue.

But desperate times…

There is a decline in our faith, and it’s time to not mince words and take a cold, hard look in the mirror. Because like it or not, we are the face of the church.

But the stereotype is that “church people” are incredibly “judgey” people. That they prance around all hoity-toity and look down on “non-church people” and scoff at their “heathen ways.”

And we, as the face of the church, what are we going to do about that?

How are we going to fix that?

Because I can attest to the fact that that stereotype is, for the most part, false. 

But the commonly accepted (albeit misconceived) notion is that church is a boring, out-of-touch institution that is full of either judgy snobs, dowdy/orthopedic-shoe-wearing shut-ins, or “Jesus-freaks.”

And people don’t want anything to do with that.

So they just don’t come.

And I want to pause here for a second. I know this is only one factor. There are a lot of other issues – people having different priorities, having other interests, adopting “spirituality” while leaving behind “religion.” Not to mention the church’s often unpopular stances on hot button social issues, such as abortion and the sanctity of marriage, etc. This stereotype is only one contributing factor.

But you and I…we have a personal responsibility.

We have a job to do: and that is to change that stereotype. Turn people’s minds around. Change their hearts to be open to Christ and open to faith.

Is Christianity dead?

Only if we let it.

You can’t give away what you don’t personally have.

And if I want to share Christ’s love and have it be attractive and inviting to another person, I need to have it in my heart myself. I need to have His love be overflowing in my own life, so as to attract another person to Him. And attract them back to church.


The pathetic church attendance on Christmas Eve…I partially blame myself. Because I ask myself…how am I personally fighting to set the record straight on how a “church person” looks and acts.

Because I’m going to be honest…(and I hate to admit it)…but I don’t really wear my faith outspokenly on my sleeve, for fear of being labeled a “church person.” 
And I am filled with such shame typing that out, but it’s true. I don’t want to be labeled as “weird” or “out of touch” … so I keep my faith private. Let that be a personal part of my life that is between me and God.

But I realize now, that I am part of the problem.

My faith can’t be hidden. I can’t just be a silent by-stander as my church is red lining, in desperate need of rebranding and resuscitation.


Christianity is not dead. It is alive in our hearts. In our homes. In our prayers. But that isnot enough.

I’m going to go out on a limb. For God. Invite someone to church with me.

Because at the end of the day, if Jesus can stretch out His arms and die on a limb for me, I can go out on one, for Him.

Looking Back or Ahead


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Reposted from The Isaiah 53.5 Project

The end of 2016 is right around the corner. At the end of every year we look back at the things that happened during that time and reflect on them. Is there a change for the better? Did we accomplish what we set out to do at the end of 2016? Is our outlook better because of it?

Maybe, but chances are we’ve fallen short of the high expectations we’ve set for ourselves. I hoped to lose at least 30 pounds, but gained 5 more. Truth is, when we try to accomplish things alone, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. By allowing God to set the course and following what He has laid out for us, there can be no failure – no disappointment.

By looking back instead of forward, we are also placing limits on ourselves.  We can learn from our past mistakes, but we shouldn’t dwell on them.

As we look forward to 2017, let’s put our trust in His unending and constant care for us. No matter what the new year will bring, we can be confident in God’s unchanging love for His people. 

Dear, Holy, God, you have given us the promise of eternity with you. Help deliver us from fear and the evil which infests our world and ever walk your way, so that when we take our final breath we can be assured of perfection. Amen!