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Authenticity = Totally Undisputed Credibility; The Difference Between Character and Reputation

images-4It is fascinating to me in our contemporary culture,  how easy it can be for an individual to foist a reputation that is based on very little true substance.

Our current society feasts on the fluff of evaporating charisma while it starves for the true grit and moral fiber that is needed to shape history.   It has become simpler and simpler to manufacture a reputation with little or no personal foundation to back it up.

At every venue in society–the media, politics and even in church– bigger than life personas grab center stage with very little conscience about their ability to back up their act.  Things that used to matter, like character, authenticity of heart and a call to serve others have fallen by the wayside and are being negligently overlooked.

In short, in my opinion, character is very different than reputation.  Below, in the remainder of this post, I have put together some quotes to stimulate thinking on the subject.  Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts about the differences you observe between character and reputation.

 

Do You Have Character or Reputation?

Reputation is seeming; character is being.

Reputation is manufactured; character is grown.

Reputation is your photograph; character is your face.

Reputation is what men say you are; character is what God knows you are.

Reputation is what you need to get a job; character is what you need to keep it.

Reputation is what comes over you from without; character is what rises up within.

Reputation is what you have when you come to town; character is what you have when you go away.

Reputation is what is chiseled on your tombstone; character is what the angels say about you before the throne of God.

Quote by Robert Stuart MacArthur, Quick Truths in Quaint Texts

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Beware Fall Fall-out, Shelter Needed from Death by Watching…

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As the temperatures descend and the evenings get chilly most of us move indoors.  Fall leaves fly and the center of family life changes from the backyard and the patio grill to the family room and the entertainment center.  It is a natural change but beware the subtle fall-out that fall may bring to your family nest.

Fall-out is a term that was invented in the nineteen-forties to describe a phenomenon connected to the after-math of a nuclear blast.  Fall-out is the word used for the slow descent of minute particles of toxic radio-active debris into the atmosphere. “Fall-out” expands outward from the site of an atomic explosion and becomes largely invisible, extremely poisonous and can lead to a slow-death for those who come in contact with it.  While the metaphor is admittedly a bit overstated, the sad truth is that the effects of a fall-winter-and-spring spent tied to an entertainment center, can produce its own version of a deadly fall-out—a deadly fall-out that leads to what can only be termed “life-decay.”

Today the number one form of leisure activity in the United States is T.V. watching.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation “American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television more than any other single activity other than sleeping.  By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching T.V.”  Former president George Bush on C-SPAN in an interview about American T.V. consumption stated, “They put an off button on the T.V. for a reason.  Turn it off…I don’t watch much T.V.  His wife Laura Bush an ex-librarian and reading advocate categorically stated, “Children cannot learn to read by watching television.  Television is just background noise and a distraction.”  Prominent voices seem to agree that too much T.V. watching is not a good thing.  

If the inordinate amount of wasted time spent by children and others watching were not enough there are other deleterious effects linked with excess T.V.  It should be pointed out that—for every hour spent in front of the tube—over fifteen minutes of that hour is spent solely in the viewing of advertising.  Commercials are the centerpiece of programming and are meant to penetrate our minds with thoughts of consumption, need and greed.  Jerry Mander, an expert on media and its effects on society explains, “While watching television, the viewer is not seeing the world as it is.  He or she is looking at a world created by advertising.  Television programs are put together with the conscious attitude of promoting a consumer society.  The fall-out of television advertising overload is a spirit-poisoning, self indulgent attitude that subtly begins to creep in and controls us.  The consequence for our society is an ever-expanding consumerism that keeps us all knowing exactly what we must obtain next if we are to be truly happy.

Consumerism isn’t the only kind of harmful fallout American families who are glued to the tube are susceptible to.  The harmful fallout from T.V. watching is not limited to the effects of overdosing on advertising.  In 2014, the number one type of T.V. programming was “Reality T.V.” a popular style of programming with its own set of dangers.  “Reality T.V.” is that genre of T.V. that has no real story, no content, it is just watching someone else experiencing some part of life while you sit back and voyeuristically observe.

Millions of people each night settle for living life vicariously through others while life passes them by.  They watch the loves, the losses, the adventures, the successes, of strangers on the small screen while experiencing little “true living” themselves.  Reality T.V. is a type of video entertainment fraught with serious fallout. We are on the verge of becoming a nation who “loves to watch” above all else.  We put on hold our emotional, our physical and our spiritual interactions—in order to spend hours watching—and the result is a numbing slow death to what it means to be human beings created in the image of God with a plan and a purpose.

This fall as you move indoors consider the invisible fall fall-out your family becomes vulnerable to as you face off with the entertainment center once again.  Pay attention to how much time you spend in front of screens—inactive and focused on “synthetic life” with its demands and absorptions.  As the leaves fall why not consider turning over a new leaf and make each hour of each day more productive and full of living and giving.  You may need to schedule some alternative activities to fill the vacuum left by fewer hours in front of the T.V.  Why not take a walk and talk to God, prepare a home cooked meal with the family and catch up on small talk, attend a small group fellowship with friends, go for a Starbuck’s with your spouse and have some “couples time”, or get creative and start that home improvement project you’ve been putting off.  Experience LIFE that’s what living is all about!

Contemplate the reality that we are all God’s workmanship created for a life time of living out good works that He has planned for us (see Eph. 2:10).  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to miss out on the abundant life God planned for me because I fell numb under the effects of video fall-out, a life-decaying—death—by watching.

 

 

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Why I Facebook and Twitter

When I tell people I Facebook and Twitter I often get

STRANGE REACTIONS…

Uninformed people often roll their eyes and question me.

They ask how I can justify

wasting so much time in such frivolous pursuits!

Well, this weekend I had that experience once too often!

I set up a table in our church lobby…

with the aim of recruiting bloggers and social-network enthusiasts.

My intention was to start a Blogging and Social-Networking Group.

A group which would gather people

who are interested in the SKILL behind Internet Social Media.

A group focused on learning new ways to reach out and

effectively communicate with more people on the worldwide web.

A group whose goal is, ultimately,

to stay in step with our culture and

to share our Christian values in culturally relevant ways!

But what did I get for all my trouble!

FRUSTRATION!!!

I was horrified as a talked to large numbers of people

who are CLUELESS about the value and importance of social media.

It was not one or two people who questioned me,

about why I view social networking as having redeeming social value.

It was, in fact the majority of people.

Well, a couple of days have passed since then…

and, my frustration has not passed!

So, I have written this post to answer my critics,

I want to scream ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

HAVE YOU BEEN LIVNG ON THE MOON?

I just want to take the time to point out, I am NOT THE CRAZY ONE!

If you think becoming effective at social media is frivolous or valueless;

YOU ARE UNINFORMED.

Our culture is currently in a SOCIAL MEDIA REVOLUTION and whether you know it or not,

there is…

NO TURNING BACK.

Social networking is the BIGGEST thing on the internet.

It is BIGGER than porn!

And BIGGER than on-line shopping!

IT REPRESENTS A MONUMENTAL SHIFT

IN COMMUNICATION STYLE!

IT REPRESENTS PERHAPS THE BIGGEST SHIFT

IN THE STYLE OF COMMUNICATION IN HISTORY!!!

Please educate yourselves and watch the following video!

Please save me the awkward chore of insulting you!

THIS IS WHY I FACEBOOK AND TWITTER!!!








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We Need A “Community” In Order To Really Know God

The pub where Lewis and his friends experienced "community.

My husband, Tom and I have been discussing an amazing quote used by Tim Keller in his book “The Prodigal God.” It comes from C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves.

For context, it’s important to point out that Lewis is referring to community within the Inklings, a small group of men who met weekly for almost 20 years. Lewis’s closest friends seemed to be in this group, and Charles and Ronald were both members. “Ronald” is J.R. R. Tolkien and “Charles” is Charles Williams.

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity…Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically *Caroline joke (see below). Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases.

In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another. The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”

*”Caroline” is an adjective which comes from the Latin for Charles, which is (I believe) Carolus. So a “Caroline” joke would be a “Charles-y” joke – in other words, a joke of the type Charles told.

Another interesting tid-bit gleaned from the blog world, Tolkien never liked Charles Williams and wondered what Lewis saw in him. He also was a bit jealous of Lewis splitting his affections between him and Williams. So we may wonder to what degree he would have endorsed this paragraph from Lewis!

What are your reactions to this quote and the importance of community that it underscores?

Other posts you might like: A Vision For A Church God Can Grow https://womenatcrossroads.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/vision-2009-%E2%80%93-a-vision-for-a-church-god-can-grow/

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Rethinking Beauty Part 2

In part 1 of this series I discussed in detail the fact that most women whether they think they are beautiful or unbeautiful  struggle with talking honestly about beauty…Here I pick up where I left off and continue on with a discussion of–what incorruptible spiritual beauty really is!

…If we don’t believe we fit the narrow stereotype society says is beautiful; talking about what beauty entails–tends to make us feel inferior, inadequate and just plain not good enough.

What I think is interesting however is that we have been fed a bill of goods about what true feminine beauty is.  In centuries past before visual media could be blasted throughout the known world—the social norms for beauty were wider.  You had a few very beautiful girls in your community and you also had some not so beautiful ones–but the community determined what beauty was and most women fell somewhere in the middle.

Today however it is much different from—those days gone by—today the media—decides what is beautiful and then airbrushes it and sends it around the world.

While the average size of a woman in the U.S. is a 14, Madison Ave has decided that “what beautiful is” is a size 0 or 2 and they reinforce their taste by featuring only models, actresses and spokespersons that fit that narrow grid.

And ladies it is not only those who think that they are “unbeautiful” who have it bad!

Those who think they might possibly be beautiful, also struggle because they know that beauty is fleeting and that they can age, change, or fall out of style and be un-beautiful again in a flash.

If the truth be known, even the most physically beautiful women wonder how long they can hold on to their beauty.

So you see, the pressure to be beautiful and keep your beauty in our society is an equal opportunity crazy maker.

But the question is–are we really viewing beauty accurately? –Or are we viewing the entire subject through a faulty lens?

Because–whether society will ever recognize it or not, God says true and lasting beauty is on the inside of a woman!  The Bible is emphatic about exhorting women not to be absorbed with outer beauty but to build up the hidden person of the heart.

I Peter 3:3-4 tells us, Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. I Peter 3:3-4

Now to be brutally honest when I first came upon this verse years ago I hated it with a passion. I felt it was unfair that God should show a discretionary bias towards a gentle and quiet woman.  This was my opinion, because in my mind, He had created me the polar opposite of the “gentle and quiet” stereotype that I believed He deemed beautiful.

Upon closer examination however, I was surprised to find out that the terms translated “gentleness” and “quietness” in English in the NT — did not mean exactly what I believed them to mean.

“Gentle” is the translation of the Greek word praeos, a word that is routinely translated in the NT as “meek”.  When Jesus referred to himself,  “meek” was the word that he was most likely to choose. Today the term meek tends to carry with it an idea of passivity and subservience, but it must be understood: the Biblical concept of meekness is different.

In the first century “meekness was a good thing” and meek was one of the great Greek ethical words. Meekness is strength under the control of God; it is the quality or characteristic of being even-tempered and having composure in every situation.

The term “quiet” in 1Pet. 3:3-4 is also different than we might think.  The Greek word translated quiet is better translated “restful” or “tranquil.” It has nothing to do with “not talking” or being “silent” but instead depicts a relaxed God-controlled disposition.

Perhaps what stands out to me most about both of these biblical characteristics is that they are qualities that do not come “NATURAL” to anyone. They are not qualities born of a personality type but rather born of the Holy Spirit of God working in one’s life.

I LIKE THAT, because God is not expecting me to shed–the personality that He has given me, but He is instead calling me to submit all that I am to Him–that my personality might be channeled appropriately in a Christlike way.

And on rare occasions in my own life I have actually witnessed “strength with composure” and “a relaxed God-controlled” spirit coming forth as a result of the Holy Spirit working in me.  It does not involve me not being me, but me– surrendering who he has made me be–to His Spirit and His divine superintending of my life.

In Eccl. 3, God promises that He makes everything beautiful in His time Eccl. 3:11. By His hand he works miracles in us that beautify us.  He places us in situations and circumstances that make beauty come forth and sometimes the places where beauty blossoms forth the strongest are in the most difficult places of life.

In man’s realm time diminishes beauty, while in God’s realm time perfects beauty—Beth Moore

I love God’s realm don’t you!

It takes a lot of courage to say this, but the truth is: I am beautiful as I am.  I have the looks and the shape that was gifted to me.  My breasts are no longer perky like when I was younger and my hips are wider than a fashion model’s–but for this I am glad, for these are the signs of a well-lived life! and meanwhile I know that God is at work on the inside of me—gracing me with his incorruptible beauty and making me more beautiful that I ever dreamed possible.

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Rethinking Beauty–Part 1

Rethinking Beauty…

Who is beautiful to you and why?

Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

Beauty is one of those tough topics for women. It is tough because so many of us have been avoiding REALLY talking about it in honest ways for most of our lives.

I think we avoid it–because it makes MOST of us feel INSECURE.

If we don’t deem ourselves beautiful, beauty is certainly not going to be one of our favorite subjects.

If we don’t believe we fit the narrow stereotype current society says is beautiful; talking about what beauty entails–tends to make us feel inferior, inadequate and just plain not good enough.  It’s a painful topic.

But those who think they just might be pretty, have it equally as bad or worse.

Those who think they might possibly be beautiful, also don’t want to bring up the topic–they know that beauty is fleeting and that they can age, change, or fall out of style and be un-beautiful again in a flash.

If the truth be known, even the most physically beautiful women wonder how long they can hold on to their beauty.  And ladies, that–makes them even more insecure and miserable than the “average” girls.

So you see, beauty as a subject, whether you figure you have it or you don’t, is not a popular topic for deliberation among females.

But the question is, are we really viewing beauty accurately?–or are we viewing the entire subject through a faulty lens?

Whether society will ever recognize it or not–true and lasting beauty is on the inside of a woman!

The Bible exhorts women not to be absorbed with outer beauty but to build up the hidden person of the heart.  According to the Scriptures we are to adorn ourselves with incorruptible beauty–a gentle and quiet spirit–that is precious in the sight of God.

I Peter 3:3-4 tells us, Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

So, where does that leave us, to be brutally honest, when I first came upon this verse years ago I hated it with a passion.

I felt it was unfair that God should show a discretionary bias towards a gentle and quiet woman.  Was He prejudiced against women of strength who possessed a voice?

This was my opinion, because in my mind, He had created me the polar opposite of the “gentle and quiet” stereotype that I believed He deemed beautiful.  I viewed myself as “strong and extroverted,” and deep down I resented God for crowning the lucky “gentle and quiet” ones as the queens of the ball. How fair is that?

It brought up some of the same emotions I had experienced growing up as a brunette and realizing that “blonds had more fun.”  In those days it felt like the media had made a pejorative judgment against all women with dark hair judging our lives dull and boring.

But in the case of the “gentle and quiet” girls, now it was GOD telling me that they were better. I wanted to run out and get a personality transplant!  It was irritating, because once again, even in the “spiritual” beauty department, beauty seemed outside my grasp.

INSECURITY raised it’s ugly head.  Would I ever be able to attain “incorruptible beauty” in the sight of God, as a strong female leader, who liked to talk?  It was from this starting point of utter frustration that my own personal investigation into “what is true inner beauty?” was born.

In Part 2 of “Rethinking Beauty” I will seek to unravel the mystery of what having a “gentle and quiet spirit” really entails.

MEANWHILE, I know many of you agree that–it is tough being a woman in a world so preoccupied with outer beauty. What are your main insecurities when it comes to the subject of beauty? (Be honest)! I would love to read your thoughts and experiences…so…please feel free to join this thread.

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F.Y.I. Some Thanksgiving History

What is Thanksgiving all about?  Today, most families in our nation will hold some type of holiday gathering but the majority will not really spend any of that time doing the activity for which the day is intended.

What about you?  How do you spend this contemporary feast day?  Do you know the specifics of the origin of Thanksgiving?

During the reign of Elizabeth I, queen of England, a sect of Puritans separated from the new Protestant Church of England and after much persecution took refuge in the Netherlands. They finally determined that the ultimate answer to their search for a peaceful residence for their families was to immigrate to America.  On September 16, 1620, these Separatist “pilgrims” became part of a group numbering 102 men, women, and children who left Plymouth, England, for America on the Mayflower. On November 21, the Mayflower dropped anchor in the sheltered harbor off the site of present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts.

It was in this vicinity that the Puritans met up with Squanto, a Patuxet Native American. Squanto was a unique individual who had encountered Europeans as early as 1614 in what is now Massachusetts and had aided the English in their early exploration of the American continent. He learned the English language and served as a ships guide and interpreter for expeditions from Britain.  He had even survived a kidnapping at the hands of rogue Englishmen who had attempted to sell him as a slave.  Upon meeting up with the British Puritans he taught them how to catch eel and grow corn.  He also served as an interpreter for them and it is thought that without Squanto’s help none of the Puritans would have survived their first year in the New World.

As it was the first winter took a demanding toll of life on the Pilgrims and between the time of the landing in November and March of 1621, only 47 colonists survived the diseases they contracted on the ship and the adversity of the new continent.  After the first harvest was completed by the Plymouth colonists in 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer shared by all the colonists and neighboring Native Americans.

The same Governor Bradford of Massachusetts made the first “Thanksgiving Proclamation” three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth and declared.

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.  Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th of the year of our Lord 1623 and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock there to listen to ye pastor and render thanks giving to ye Almighty God for all His blessing.”

This proclamation instituted what would come to be the first Thanksgiving festival celebrated in the New World.  It was this early celebration of Thanksgiving by the British Puritan founders of our country that began the tradition of a November Thankgiving feast.  These historical events represent the origins of our current national holiday of Thanksgiving.

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Staying Married Over the Long Haul–Requires Putting Jesus Christ First!

Today is my thirty-seventh wedding anniversary. For nearly four decades I have been married to my best friend.

I am among the most fortunate of people because I have endured the adventure of life and find myself still in relationship with my original team-mate.

You might ask me, what makes a strong Christian marriage?

And, my answer would be, two good Christians, and by this I mean two people who both love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart.

It is my belief that a strong marriage must have as its foundation two lives where Jesus is the priority. If this foundation in place then you have the ability to faithfully, together, pursue a path of obedience to Jesus Christ and His plan for your lives.

Marriage is first a commitment and then it grows into a deep love.  And, the base of the commitment in marriage, is first of all, not to each other, but to Jesus Christ and His will.

Centuries ago the prophet Malachi warned those who had cast their marriage commitments aside,

You cover the altar of the Lord with tears,
With weeping and crying;
So He does not regard the offering anymore,
Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.
Yet you say, “For what reason?”
Because the Lord has been witness
Between you and the wife of your youth,
With whom you have dealt treacherously;
Yet she is your companion
And your wife by covenant.
But did He not make them one,
Having a remnant of the Spirit?
And why one?
He seeks godly offspring.
Therefore take heed to your spirit,
And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.
“For the Lord God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”
You have wearied the Lord with your words;
Yet you say,
“In what way have we wearied Him?”  Mal 2:13-17 (NKJV)

Marriage is, first and foremost, a covenant before God and as soon as you get married, Satan will come after you.  He will target you because the bottom line is–he would love to destroy the covenant that you have made and the family that you have established.

In the end, the best way you can protect your marriage, is to develop a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the bedrock for your own life. A marriage between two people with Jesus Christ as the true center is the best protective insulation you can have against the assaults of this world.

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The History of Halloween! Is It Really Something Christians Should Celebrate? And if so how?

History of HalloweenInformed Christians should understand the origins of Halloween as they assess their level of involvement in celebrating what is actually a “pagan” holiday.

According to Wikipedia,

Halloween is typically linked to the celtic festival of Samhain which is derived from Old Irish and means “summer’s end”. The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and the beginning of the “darker half”, and is sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year.”

The celebration has some elements of a festival of the dead. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honored and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.

Another common practice was, divination which often involved the use of food and drink.  The name ‘Halloween’ and many of its present-day traditions derive from the Old English era.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween

The Bible doesn’t speak directly about Halloween, but some biblical principles apply. One overriding principle is clear — all pagan practices should be avoided. Witchcraft, occult practices, sorcery, etc. are strictly forbidden in the Bible (Exodus 22:18; Acts 8:9-24; Acts 16, 19). It is obvious that a small child dressing up as a character to go trick or treating isn’t involving themselves directly with witchcraft but what are the boundaries that a responsible Christian parent should set up?

Parents, the decision is up to you, but do not proceed in your decision from a place of ignorance.

If you decide Halloween is something fun for your children, it is probably most important that they are kept far away from the evil aspects of Halloween. When believers participate in anything (even Halloween), their attitudes, dress, and behavior should glorify Christ.

Every year at Crossroads Church of Denver we offer a special alternative celebration for parents who are interested in allowing their children to dress up and go trick or treating in a controlled environment. This year the event we are offering is a Trunk or Treat Celebration.  The event is held in our parking lot and we encourage participants to dress up and decorate their open car trunks as a site for handing out candy to the kids. The children go from car to car collecting their treats and a great time is had by all.  The parking lot is well lit, safe and secure and participants are monitored (nothing evil or too scary allowed)!

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Ten Great Personal Benefits to Blogging

1.         Blogging allows you to meet interesting new people that you would not ordinarily meet and it is a great tool for introducing yourself to others.

2.         Blogging is a great way to get attention to the cause of Christ and share information about your personal mission.  In the last two years that I have had my blog I have averaged about 1,500 visitors a month to my blog and with each one I have had the chance to share insights about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My blog has greatly enhanced my personal ability to be a witness and share the testimony of my walk with Jesus Christ.

3. Blogging is a means of self documentation.  A blog helps you document many of the facets of your personal life.  It is a tool to help you express what you are experiencing, believing and feeling at a given point in time.  I value my blog because it is a valuable personal resource and an online record of my life that I can easily go back to and reference later.

4.         Blogging helps you leave a legacy. I write because I love writing and my blog will survive allowing my kid and grandkids to see a different side of me. I wouldn’t mind writing a book someday, but until then my blog is something I am proud of that is a compilation of my beliefs, experiences, thoughts and creativity.

5.         Blogging can be a team sport: you can get a lot of people in a community involved in blogging and when the interaction starts it can be really fun. Blogging is simple to do and doesn’t require a lot of technological genius to get started.  A great side benefit is that it is easily accessible to a wide range of people. When I started blogging I was not very computer savvy, but in no time at all I had learned the ropes and I was reaping the benefits.

6.         Blogging helps you become better at using words. Writing is much more comfortable than speaking for a lot of people.  When writing we can think without the pressure of  having “the immediate right words” to say.  The written word, plus current technology gives us the opportunity to go back and edit statements.  In my life the opportunity to undo and amend my thoughts before communicating them has been a big plus

7. Blogging is a vehicle that can be used to declare your personal dream or vision. What I blog tends to be a declaration of what I believe is the right attitude to have, the right way to behave or the right thing to do.  My posts reflect what I am dreaming of and the way I wish things were.  While writing is much easier than doing, recording things in an organized way is a definite step towards pin pointing and actualizing the dream that is in one’s heart.

8.         Blogging expands your personal horizons. Blogging not only allows you to share stories about your expertise, but it also gives you the opportunity to post photos, videos, and audios fairly easily and the creative options are endless. Blogging has given my readers a multimedia experience with me!

9.         Blogging gives you an audience of supporters and detractors. If your mission, dream or vision has a passionate edge to it, a blog has the ability to join you with supporters, which validates your cause.  And on the other hand a blog also supplies you with access to a pool of detractors giving them a place to voice their concerns and opinions. It is important to be in touch with supporters and detractors because this can only serve to hone your focus and sharpen your reasoning abilities and skills.

10.       Finally, blogging will cause you to have to learn more. It is a richer life when you are constantly on the lookout for more opportunities to learn, more insights to be gathered and more wisdom to be shared.

These are some of the reasons I blog.  How has blogging been beneficial to your life?  Please feel free to comment.

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What You Always Wanted to Know About Sabbath-rest but Were Afraid to Ask!

I took some much needed time off this week. It was a brief respite away from home and my daily grind but it yielded great benefits.

 

Given a few days away, I began the gradual unwinding process that is always needed and required for me to find true rest.

 

Today, I am back at home and I am much more in touch with my need for rejuvenation and restoration and the need for us all have to have Sabbath-rest for our souls.  As a result of contemplating the topic of rest, reminding myself of the basic info and doing a little research; I came up with the following post.

 

The Bible orders us to rest.  In fact—one of the “big ten” in terms of commandments is the charge “to remember the Sabbath rest and keep it holy.”

Ex 20:8-11, tells us, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

 

The root idea of Sabbath rest is simple.  It is as simple as the changing of seasons and as basic as the inhale-exhale process of breathing— living things were designed by God to flourish only with a pattern of regular rest and rejuvenation. 

 

The Bible specifies the need for one day of rest out of each seven day interval.  And a day in Scripture is always measured from one evening to the end of the following day-light period. Gen. 1:5 states, God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.  In accordance with this the Jewish Sabbath began in the evening and ran from sunset to sunset. 

 

Jewish tradition also dictated that the weekly “rest interlude” was always preceded by a time of preparation.  Beginning at 3 P.M. every Friday the faithful would prepare their food for the next day and perform all labors which were forbidden on the Sabbath and yet had to be done. Before sunset they would bathe and purify themselves, dress in their festive apparel, set their tables, and light their lamps.

 

The observance of the Sabbath always began with the Hebrew family partaking of the pre-prepared Sabbath meal followed by prayers and the compulsory call for the whole household to sleep.  The arrival of night and the opportunity to sleep was not only a necessity but symbolically it provided a natural relinquishment of control.  A good night’s sleep broke the cadence of work and set a rhythm for the entire Sabbath rest period. When we are sleeping, we cannot be working, we cannot direct anything, or control anything and we give ourselves temporarily over to God’s care.  A believer shuts his eyes and believes that the Lord will take care of him through the night.  Appropriately the first hours of Sabbath observance were spent sleeping.

 

Sabbath rest is a time that is supposed to be sanctified or set-apart for God’s use in our lives. However in our present day American culture few of us have really understood or appreciated the concept.  What we don’t seem to understand is the fact that Sabbath rest is not just discretionary free time.  It is not just a block of open time to be utilized as we see fit.  Sabbath rest in actuality is to be used in a deliberate manner for rest and restoration of body, soul and spirit.  And in remembering the Sabbath, we are to put aside work but we are also to put aside our own time agendas and even the act of creating.

 

Many people miss the importance of taking into consideration the Sabbath that God Himself modeled for us.  God initiated Sabbath rest first and foremost by resting from creating.  In Gen 2:3 we are told “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  If God needed to rest after creation how much more do we also need to be re-created after our creating? Working wears us out and creating pulls from our pool of resources and literally empties us out!  We do not have unlimited resources as God does and as humans beings our finite resources are limited and must be restored.  We cannot be creative, fruitful, and productive or reach our long term potential without Sabbath rest.

 

One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping in contemporary life is leisure.  Leisure competes with the concept of Sabbath and is what Sabbath-rest tends to become when we don’t know how to sanctify our time.  The definition of leisure is “vacant time without occupation to be used at one’s will.”  Leisure is an attempt at Sabbath rest without any focus on the sacred aspects.  One author has rightly stated that “the Golden Rule of Sabbath Rest is to cease from what is necessary and instead embrace God and what truly gives life!”

 

Some present day believer’s may bristle under the call to Sabbath rest because they believe it to be an antiquated Old Testament ritual. The necessity of rest however is not just an Old Testament pronouncement; the need for rest is emphasized throughout the entire Bible.

 

Jesus promised that knowledge of Him would bring rest for the soul. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matt 11:28-30 (NKJV).  And He insisted that his disciples should rest. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31 (NIV)

 

The Bible proclaims that a pattern of sanctified rest is a vital and needed practice because it supplies us body, soul and spirit with what is needed to survive and thrive as humans.  The Bible teaches that rest it is an important vehicle for “making contact with God.  God tells Moses in Exodus 33 that rest and His presence go hand in hand, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Psalm 46:10 states clearly, Be still, and know that I am God.   The central nature of rest is underlined for us in psalm 23.  In the familiar psalm David speaks of the Good Shepherd’s dogged determination to make his beloved sheep rest, He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; Psalms 23:2-3 (NKJV)

 

Rest is a physical reminder that we are not in control of everything and that at the end of the day; we are not the ones who have the power to hold it all together.  After all, ultimately managing things—being in control– is God’s job and we need to remind ourselves of that regularly (say at least once a week).  During busy times it’s easy to be distracted from our relationship with God and treat our work as if it is our God.  We must not however fall prey to work-worship for very long.   If we make work our God we can in an incredibly short time find ourselves reaping some very serious consequences. 

 

Work-worship has the ability to take an incredible toll on a human being and can jeopardize our physical, emotional and spiritual health.  As Christians living in this incredibly stressful era we must repent and hear the clarion call back to one of the most basic principles of life and give God the time that is due Him. When we practice sanctified rest we focus back on God and allow Him to restore us—and that is a very good and necessary thing.

 

What are the culprits in your life that keep you from realizing the divinely ordained benefits of Sabbath rest?  Have you fallen victim to inserting leisure into the place of Sabbath rest in your weekly routine?  What is your opinion about the priority you believe Sabbath rest should play in the lives of contemporary believers?  Please feel free to reply to these questions or any other question this post spurs in your mind.  As always any comments are encouraged and welcomed!

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Meek and Humble Christians, What a Concept!

peanuts-book[1]At times I grow weary of the way Christians posture themselves with one another.  

Sometimes it seems to me that the main objective of evangelicalism has degraded to being all about “correctness.”

Rather than shining forth the characteristics of Christ and being a beacon of love, peace, mercy and humility to each other and to a hurting world; I find that more and more Christians are consumed with being “right.”  

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be known for pride, arrogance and condescension.  I want to follow Jesus and to be his ambassador to those around me.  Today my prayer is Lord make me like you one who is “meek and lowly of heart.”

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matt 11:28-30 (KJV)

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Making a Believing Preparation for the Divine Blessing

 

A Word For Today

From Morning and Evening

by C.H. Spurgeon

Entry May 16th Evening Verse

 

“And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye and your cattle, and your beasts.” 2Kings 3:16,17

The armies of the three kings were famishing for want of water: God was about to send it, and in these words the prophet announced the coming blessing. Here was a case of human helplessness: not a drop of water could all the valiant men procure from the skies or find in the wells of earth. Thus often the people of the Lord are at their wits’ end; they see the vanity of the creature, and learn experimentally where their help is to be found.

 

 

Still the people were to make a believing preparation for the divine blessing; they were to dig the trenches in which the precious liquid would be held. The church must by her varied agencies, efforts, and prayers, make herself ready to be blessed; she must make the pools, and the Lord will fill them.

 

 

This must be done in faith, in the full assurance that the blessing is about to descend. By-and-by there was a singular bestowal of the needed boon. Not as in Elijah’s case did the shower pour from the clouds, but in a silent and mysterious manner the pools were filled. The Lord has His own sovereign modes of action: He is not tied to manner and time as we are, but doeth as He pleases among the sons of men. It is ours thankfully to receive from Him, and not to dictate to Him.

 

 

We must also notice the remarkable abundance of the supply –there was enough for the need of all. And so it is in the gospel blessing; all the wants of the congregation and of the entire church shall be met by the divine power in answer to prayer; and above all this, victory shall be speedily given to the armies of the Lord.

 

 

What am I doing for Jesus? What trenches am I digging? O Lord, make me ready to receive the blessing which Thou art so willing to bestow.

 

I felt the Holy Spirit as I read this entry from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional today, so I decided to post it. If after reading it you feel it is fitting for the situation you are in or your church is in or if you have an insight or opinion please take the time to comment.  

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Passing on Wisdom: The Art of Mentoring

 

Throughout history, training in the areas of marital life, childbearing, mothering and homemaking have always been lessons best passed on through one-on-one relationships.  Generation to generation, the most important of life’s skills have been passed on informally in the context of community.  “True wisdom” has continued down a chain linking older to younger and more experienced to less experienced for millennia. The term given to this life-driven kind of guidance is mentoring. 

      

           What is a Mentor?

 

 

The English word “mentor” has ancient origins; it is derived from Homer’s Odyssey.  In this Greek classic, Odysseus goes off to war and turns the guidance of his son, Telemachus, over to his friend, Mentor.  With his father gone, the boy is “mentored” by Mentor in the paths of life.  In the Bible, we see mentoring as the major means of educating women. Naomi takes on the guidance of her daughter-in-law, Ruth, Mordecai is a voice into the life of Esther and Elizabeth serves as a mentor to Mary.  The basis of the relationship is that the mentor has authority in the mentee’s life.  Due to this responsibility of speaking into the life of another, a mentor is usually a rare type of person. Mentors are individuals of unimpeachable credibility whose advice rings true. They are people whose past achievements back up their counsel and whose diverse experiences are what qualify them.  The accomplishments of the mentor should correspond with the area that she is mentoring in. For example, if you are a mentor for mothers, it is more important that you have raised a houseful of healthy children than that you possess a college degree. 

 

Why is Experience the key?

 

 

Experience is the key to mentoring because mentors base their life-shaping instructions on their real life experiences rather than the teaching of empirical knowledge.  The mentor imparts what she’s learned through sharing stories, anecdotes and experiences, not through covering materials or working through a curriculum. Mentoring requires an intimate relationship characterized by vulnerability and spontaneity.

During mentoring, training occurs in a free-flowing informal exchange.  Mentoring takes place through conversation and hearty dialogue rather than monologue. A mentor is not a college professor in front of a classroom surrounded by students taking notes. Mentoring is less formal than teaching and more about the individual being mentored than the information that is being exchanged. It is because of this unique characteristic of mentoring that the mentor must check any personal agenda at the door. 

 

 No-Agenda required!

 

 

In short, mentoring is not about one person living their life through another person.  Serving as a mentor is not about creating a mini-you. The mentee is a unique individual with unique talents and abilities who is following their own God-ordained course in life.  An overriding theme inmentoring is the intention to help someone help themselves. Wise mentors recognize that their guidance is most appreciated when it’s specifically asked for.  They offer up plenty of possible suggestions to their mentees without requiring a specific course of action.  They refrain as much as possible from telling their mentee what to do.  It is as if the mentor and mentee are driving down the road of life together.  The mentee is the one in the driver’s seat and the mentor is riding shot gun.  The mentor’s job is to ride along offering up advice and warning the driver about approaching bumps and turns but the mentor never takes the steering wheel and begins driving the car herself.

   

 

What about Trust?

 

 

A solid mentor-mentee relationship is rooted in trust.  Trust has to be established from the beginning of the relationship and must deepen over time.  In a successful mentoring relationship a strong alliance will be built.  The mentee trusts that the mentor is on her side. The overall atmosphere of the relationship should be one of mutual sharing and caring. The mentor must be willing to give the valuable gift of their time to the mentee and it can never be a “don’t call me, I’ll call you,” arrangement.  The mentor makes herself available as needed within reasonable limits.  The best mentoring takes place in ordinary life settings where mentor and mentee have casual and regular exposure to one another.  In these life settings, the mentor can come along side the mentee as she tackles the normal obstacles of life.  

  

          Where do “life’s Obstacles” fit in?  

 

 

Learning how to overcome obstacles is one of the most important lessons mentors can pass on.  Obstacles in life create a learning curve and cause the mentee to be more open to receiving new input.  Obstacles make for teachable moments. The crisis makes any help the mentor is bringing even more meaningful and useful.  Mentors tap into their own experience banks for examples of how they confronted similar obstacles.  Tackling tough situations together is what bonds and cements a solid mentoring relationship.

       

       When is “Real” mentoring taking place?    

 

 

The atmosphere of the mentoring relationship is relaxed and real. An intimate mentor-mentee relationship necessitates genuine sharing of insights, observations and suggestions.  Mentors offer an objective ear but they also offer real accountability.  They are not meant to be syrupy-sweet cheerleaders offering only affirmation, or speaking only what their protégé wants to hear.  Mentors give feedback on performance and offer opinions and confrontation when it is called for.  A good mentor can share hard things with as much openness as easy things.

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Demonstrating Spiritual Maturity Through Our Emotions

One of the most incredible parts of existing as a human being is coming to grips with the fact that we were created in the very image of God. 

 

As creations made expressly in His image He gave us a mind, will and emotions. 

 

We have the ability to think, to feel and to make choices. 

 

Francis Schaffer said, “…as God is a person He thinks, feels and acts: so I am a person who thinks, feels and acts.  Yet despite the reality that we were created to be all three intellectual, emotional and volitional in nature, many Christians today have emphasized the mind and the will to the exclusion of the emotions. 

 

This prejudice regarding the superiority of the mind is demonstrated in the current stream of evangelical thinking.  Among most evangelical Christians, the mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to acquire facts and store biblical knowledge.  Many church systems perpetuate the idea that the more biblical truth you can cram into your brain the more spiritually mature you are.  This is a fallacy. 

 

While knowledge of the Scriptures is important, spiritual maturity comes through transformation of the whole person.  It involves applying the Scripture in order to be conformed to Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

The Bible is clear that the basic way to know whether a person is a Christian or not is not to assess how much a person knows but to look at how a person lives.  It is not only important that one think rightly one must also act rightly.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is clearly an emotion, so evidently the expression of emotion in a believer’s life is also a vitally important part of Christian maturity. 

 

Throughout the Bible, we see God expressing His emotions.  In the Old Testament, for example, one thing we are graphically taught is that God can be pleased and made happy and that God can also be displeased and moved to anger. 

 

In the New Testament, God’s emotional repertoire is definitely expanded.  We see Jesus as God incarnate expressing the entire myriad of human emotions.  He feels love, compassion, joy, fear, sorrow, grief, discouragement, frustration, hurt, loneliness and anger.  In fact, just like us, He experiences every emotion on the map and yet He does it all without sin.

 

Emotions despite the judgments many of us might make about them are neither negative nor positive.  They are neutral.  What we do with emotions is what causes the positive or negative impact on our lives.  How we express them determines the constructive or destructive quality of that emotion.

 

What separates Jesus and His expressions of emotions from our expressions of emotions, is that Jesus felt emotions and always expressed them appropriately and without sin.  Jesus’ most common description of himself was, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” 

 

The choice of the adjective meek is an interesting preference of descriptors. Meek is one of the great Greek ethical words and was a word charged with meaning for the first hearers.  It is an understatement to say that it does not have the same meaning today in our culture as it did in the culture of the original recipients.  While meekness in the culture extant at the time Jesus walked the earth described a person who had every instinct, every impulse, every passion and every emotion under control, the term has been downgraded in our society to mean gentle.

 

Use of the word “meek” today conjures up images of Casper Milktoast.  Meekness in the first century however, was attached to images of strength.  Meek meant power put under control.  Now it has come to mean the opposite “powerlessness”.  In Jesus’ time, meek was commonly used to describe an animal which had been trained to obey the word of command from his master. It was used to describe a horse which had learned to answer perfectly to the reins.

 

Meekness as an attribute said something very admirable about our Lord.  It said that although Jesus had all the resources to be all-powerful He chose to express himself as a person under restraint.  He expressed His personality, His emotions appropriately, always keeping His impulses and passions in check.  He was meek. 

 

As we desire to come into conformity with the nature of our Lord it also falls to Christians to cultivate meekness in their own lives.  We are to experience the full gamut of emotions that God created us to experience in his image, yet we should demonstrate true spiritual maturity and like Jesus exercise control over our emotions. 

 

Jesus expressed righteous anger in the temple when He cast out the money-changers.  He chose to overturn their tables and run them out of the place.  It should be realized however, that He could have struck them dead on the spot, summoned angels from heaven to destroy the place or caused an earthquake to level the temple. He demonstrated control.  He exhibited the appropriate emotion with the appropriate force for that circumstance. 

 

In conclusion, emotions are a valid part of each of us created in God’s image.  As Christians, we should never deny, ignore or even downplay the emotional part of us.   True spiritual maturity involves being conformed to the image of Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

Christ expressed a wide variety of emotions in His life, yet always in appropriate ways at appropriate times. That should also be our goal.  We need to be truthful as we express the emotions that are inside of us; that’s what makes us human beings made in the image of God. The key is that as Christians, we must strive to communicate our emotions in proper God-honoring ways.

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Changes Are Needed in Evangelism in America–Let Your Light So Shine Before Men

Linus’ buddy the little blonde girl may have had good results as an evangelist by hitting people over the head to get them to change their religious stance.  But in the current climate of religious change in our country; it is doubtful that hitting someone over the headwith your lunch box or even your version of the truth for that matter–will yield much fruit.

Preaching the gospel is getting far more difficult in our county where resistance to Christianity is spreading.  The old tactics of competitive evangelism –“my truth is better than your truth”– are simply not as effective as they once were. 

Many are calling for change in the predominant style of evangelism; a change that couples sharing gospel truths with demonstrations of Christ’s love and relationship in an impacting way.  In a post-modern America that is increasingly antagonistic to Christianity–just arguing for our version of the truth is frightfully anemic.

America is no longer a Christian nation.

President Barack Obama recently stated at a press conference in Turkey that “as Americans we no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation.”  This quote was startling to many people but in reality it was just Obama giving voice to the inevitable trend that is showing up everywhere — Christianity is no longer as popular or influential as it once was.

Obama’s comment came as a reinforcement of a published cover article for Newsweek magazine. The article entitled “The Decline and Fall of Christian America” discussed the shift in the religious identifications of the United States and claimed that according to polls done in recent years things look pretty dismal for Christianity. 

The article pointed out that the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen over 10 percentage points since 2000, and meanwhile the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation at all has nearly doubled in the same amount of time.

While such statistics may seem jolting to some, Christianity’s slipping image is in actuality old news.  In 2007, in a book entitled unChristian, Barna group president David Kinnaman, began revealing statistics about the spiraling downward popularity of Christianity. 

His research showed that: a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society.  While today, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.

Kinnaman also illustrated that Christians seem aware of the shift in people’s perceptions of “the faith.”  Barna polls showing: that 91% of the nation’s evangelical Christians believe that “Americans are becoming more and more hostile and negative toward Christianity.”  The author, Kinnaman writes,

“Some Christians fear the changing reputation of Christianity and it certainly represents an uncomfortable future. Yet, rather than being defensive or dismissive, we should learn from critics, especially those young Christians who are expressing consternation about the state of faith in America.

Jesus told us to expect hostility and negative reactions. That is certainly nothing new. But the issue is what we do with it. Is it a chance to defend yourself and demand your rights? Or is it an opportunity to show people grace and truth?

In order to deal with the vanishing common ground between Christians and those outside the faith, Kinnaman and many others such as John Piper, Mark Devers, Francis Chan and Rick Warren to name a few are all calling for changes in our evangelistic methodology.

What these best selling Christian authors are saying is that Christians need to begin to deal realistically with the pessimistic and skeptical views that those outside of Christian circles possess and that we need to take measures to change their view of Christians.

It seems to be a consensus that when we set out to evangelize in American society today, we must take into account the expanding hostile environment that surrounds us and have strategies to counter act the negativity. While it is true that none of us are perfect, our lives should lend credence to and speak well of the gospel we are preaching.  And our interactions with others should be the confirming echo of our witness for Jesus Christ.

 

It is taught throughout Scripture that our lives are meant to be God’s best advertisement in our community and that Christians corporately need to begin living that way.  Jesus Himself taught,

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

 

And the Apostle Paul reiterated the same emphasis on lifestyle and relational evangelism in the epistles.

 

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.  Philippians 2:14-15

 

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. Col 4:5-6 (NLT)

 

Real Christianity is an attractive thing when it is lived out and we as Christians need to take heed to that and begin to demonstrate it in the communities in which we live. Christian evangelism today needs to be a lot more about demonstrations of  Christian love, faith, relationship and the power of God to change lives and a lot less about correctness and aggressively assaulting the other guy’s truth before you have earned the right to speak.

 

We need to learn from the advice of the Apostle Paul who in the first century was also operating in a culture that was antagonistic and suspicious of Christianity.  David Kinnaman has pointed out and I agree that Paul’s exhortation to “live wisely among those who are not Christians’ and to ‘let your conversation be gracious and effective,” (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT) is perfect counsel to committed Christians in America today. 

 

Let’s put away our “I’ll hit you over the head with the truth” techniques of old and begin sharing the truth clothed in Christlike love, integrity and authenticity the way Jesus did and maybe then they will listen to our truth.

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Thou Shalt Not Commit Blog Fraud

In this so-called “post-modern” world one of the big buzz words repeated again and again is authenticity. 

 

Post-moderns want to be authentic and call for those around them to be authentic as well.

 

If you are foggy about the exact definitions of these terms, let me refresh your memory.

 

authentic: adjective — not false or copied; genuine; real.

authenticity: noun — the quality of being authentic; to have totally undisputed credibility. 

 

The problem that I see with the overuse of these buzz words is a blatant temptation to be hypocritical.  We have a generation that is calling for authenticity in a world that is beset with opportunity for all-out fakery.  

 

In this 21st century social milieu—in a world increasingly defined by the internet and the possibility of faceless, voiceless communication; authenticity is vanishing.  Social networking sites such as: Facebook, My Space and Twitter and information brokering systems like blogs deliver the temptation to be anything but authentic. Occasions to be fake, fraudulent and a counterfeit are offered in a plethora of ways everywhere online.

 

The young country music artist Brad Paisley expertly summed up the reality of blog deception in a song he entitled “Online”.  In the tune he tells the story of a “mama’s boy” turned “poser” online. 

 

I work down at the Pizza Pit
And I drive an old Hyundai
I still live with my mom and dad
I’m 5 foot 3 and overweight
I’m a scifi fanatic
A mild asthmatic
And I’ve never been to second base
But there’s whole ‘nother me
That you need to see
Go checkout MySpace

 

‘Cause online I’m out in Hollywood
I’m 6 foot 5 and I look damn good
I drive a Maserati
I’m a black-belt in karate
And I love a good glass of wine
It turns girls on that I’m mysterious
I tell them I don’t want nothing serious
‘Cause even on a slow day
I could have a three way
Chat with two women at one time

I’m so much cooler online
So much cooler online

 

We may think such unashamed hypocrisy is rare but the news in the blog world reveals the opposite– in actuality–blog fraud is rampant.  Online “posing” is on the rise and it is not always as harmless as it seems. Recently, the U.S. chapter of the IT Service Management Forum filed a defamation lawsuit against its former executive director, alleging that he tried to discredit the group via blog comments posted under a fictitious female name.  It is the first such case to get to court but if the man accused loses he will pay “big” money in damages.

 

In another example of blog fraud, the online community had been wondering for a long time about the “real” identity of the anonymous blog author of “OffAgain-OnAgain Boy”.  The web-log which featured a graphic exposé of the life of an IT support manager was attracting a hefty readership and many questions.  As a result a newspaper investigation was launched to solve the mystery surrounding the anonymous blogger’s identity and they hit pay dirt.  The paper soon revealed that that the writer did not actually work in the IT industry at all but was in fact a £3,000 per night prostitute.  Online reports revealed that “the stories of late night sessions spent identifying the cause of widespread spreadsheet corruption, and the details of three hour meetings debating the merits of Windows upgrades were pure fantasy.

 

Recently in an example closer to home, on a blog authored by a Christian skeptic named Daniel Florien another case of blog fraud was exposed.  Florien revealed in a post called “Pastor caught lying for Jesus” that a Christian minister was in fact on his blog fraudulently posing as an atheist.  The lying pastor falsified comments in which he attempted to make a supposed atheist contributor look like a total immoral idiot. 

 

He wrote, “What’s wrong with killing babies? I see no problem with it. I have enough mouths to feed. I don’t get the argument and I am an atheist. Since I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in anything characterized as good, bad / right, wrong. So, what’s the big deal?”

 

At first Florien reported that he was shocked that anyone could say things like that and then he realized that he was dealing with a “fundie” in disguise, a sheep in wolves clothing. He had done some digging and realized that the deceiver was using a variety of names on his blog. 

 

Florien states, “In a few hours, he (the poser) went from apologizing for our past dealings with slimy lying Christians, to suggesting it’s okay to abuse women, kill neighbors, and slaughter children under the guise of atheism. So I banned him. I found what he did to be disgusting. It would be like me pretending to me multiple Christians on a Christian blog, asserting there’s nothing wrong with raping women and killing children because God commands it in the Bible.”

 

I probably would not agree with Florien on many subjects but on this one we are in accord—I cannot tolerate liars.  It is disgusting when people practice this kind of lack of character and authenticity.  Such posers are guilty of fraud and it is particularly repulsive when this kind of activity comes from a Christian minister.

 

In my opinion it is one thing to use a moniker or hide behind an avatar but it is another to falsify comments, pose as someone you are not, or dream up blog content. I like blogging and interacting anonymously on line as much as the next person but at times there is obviously a fine line between “blog fun and games” and lying. We must remind ourselves as we are tempted by blog fraud –the ninth commandment still unequivocally states–“thou shalt not lie.” 

 

In conclusion, I believe if we in this post modern world are going to preach about the necessity of being “authentic” we better practice “authenticity.”  And for those of us who are Christians if we are true adherents to our faith we should obviously practice what we preach as well. 

We, who so vehemently stand for advancing the Truth, should (duh) tell the truth. We need to be as aware of lying on line as we would be if we were doing it face to face. As we conduct our online relationships and become citizens of the worldwide internet community let’s strive to raise the moral bar rather than trampling all over it. Let’s hold one another accountable to a standard of truthfulness and spread the word –“thou shalt not commit blog fraud.” 

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Finding Refuge

Today, here in my home town, we are enduring a typical early spring March blizzard. 

 

 

 

And for fortunate people like me who work inside it has provided an unusual opportunity to experience finding refuge. 

 

Those of us lucky enough to be able to hunker down and enjoy viewing the snow from our cozy nests have encountered what it feels like to watch the bluster of a storm pass by while being safely and blissfully hidden away. 

 

Taking pleasure in a hide-away it seems is almost a universal human delight.

 

The drive to sneak away and be hidden seems to be virtually instinctual.  Children and hiding places go unanimously together.  Whether children are found living in the country or the city, give a couple of kids an hour or two and they will be nested away in some kind of secret shelter.  Tents, tree houses, snow caves, attic perches, niches and crannies of all descriptions are relished by children as hide-outs. 

 

Yet at times all of us—no matter what our age—may find ourselves longing for a hide-out.  We desire to find a refuge, a hiding place; a place that is tucked away and secure from the problems that are at hand. We dream of coming upon a locale where we can while away the hours unmolested and at peace. 

 

You see, just because we’re Christians the storms of life don’t just disappear.  In fact, because we are Christians sometimes our spirits cry out all the louder for a peaceful place.  It is nothing to be ashamed of—this desire for refuge—some of the greatest men in the Bible expressed their need to find a safe haven in which to hide. 

 

In one of his deepest moments of pain and sorrow over the sin of his people, Jeremiah called out…Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them (Jer. 9:2).  And David expressed similar sentiments in Ps. 55:6-8 Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.

 

Fortunately for all of us, Scripture tells us that there is a refuge.  There is a safe place in the storm that is much stronger and secure than we could ever imagine. Hannah sang about it There is no one besides you; there is no rock like our God (1Sam. 2) and David wrote about it, The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God my rock in whom I take refuge.  In fact, David’s favorite metaphor for God as refuge was: God as refuge and Rock. 

 

In verse after verse the man after God own heart had more to say about God as our Rock than any other biblical character.  David’s own Psalm 62 features this metaphor.  This famous Psalm internally gives no specific historical setting.  However, most commentators seem to be in agreement choosing to place its context as written during David’s time in the wilderness. 

 

Authors ascribe these words to David during that time when he was fleeing Saul with his band of men.  It was a time in David’s life where it was typical for him and his men to retreat to the crags and caves of the mountains of Palestine for refuge.

 

During this time of running for his life the “Cave of Adullam” was David’s home.  The cave was a wicked refugee camp, a dark vault on the side of a cliff that reached deeply into a rock hill.  Huddled in this cave with him were 400 losers—a mob of miserable humanity.  1Sam. 22:2 it tells us, all those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. 

 

In this unlikely place, it became David’s responsibility to turn a hap-hazard mob into an organized, well-disciplined fighting force, his mighty men of valor.  And at the end of days spent eluding Saul he would run back to the rocky hills with their caves and nooks and crannies and find a safe haven.

 

 It was during this chaotic time in his life that David inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote:

 

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. …

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge

 Psalm 62

 

To find refuge is to find that safe place of being covered or protected. To find refuge is to find a place that is immune to exposure and vulnerability, where one is sheltered and hidden away from the storms of life. 

 

David found this place in God.  This year as we sit behind our window panes watching the storm swirl around us let’s take the time and reflect on the refuge God provides for us.  Let’s realize the shelter and place of safety he supplies and join with David in his song of praise.  

 

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,

I call as my heart grows faint;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  Psalm 61: 1-5

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President’s Day: Celebrating the Legacy of Two Outstanding Christian Leaders

Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are the presidents whose birthdays we celebrate annually on President’s Day. Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 and Washington was born on February 22, 1732.  

This year, February 16th, is the date set aside to commemorate the great contributions of these outstanding leaders of our country.

Time has not tarnished nor years decayed the reputations of this duo who represent the finest of U.S. statesmen. 

In fact, CNN annouced this weekend the results of a recent survey constructed and given by C-SPAN that reported that Lincoln and Washington still rank first and second at the top of presidential ratings among historians.  CNN reported “It’s been 145 years since Abraham Lincoln appeared on a ballot, but admiration for the man who saved the union and sparked the end of slavery is as strong as ever.”

Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, who helped organize the survey of 65 historians for the cable television network stated, “As much as is possible, we created a poll that was non-partisan, judicious and fair-minded”  And he added, “It’s fitting that for the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln that he remains at the top of these presidential rankings. Lincoln continues to rank at the top in all categories because he is perceived to embody the nation’s avowed core values: integrity, moderation, persistence in the pursuit of honorable goals, respect for human rights, compassion”

In the ranking by historians of the 42 former White House occupants Abraham Lincoln finished in first place.  Founding father George Waxhington finished second, followed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, in that order.

In my opinion it is no coincidence that both Lincoln and Washington were also devout Christian men.  Lincoln in his second inaugural address communicated the following paragraphs which I believe are particularly fitting considering the context of the challenges that our nation faces today.  Lincoln spoke candidly from a clearly Christian mind mind set and called for a repentance amongst his fellow country men.  We still need that repentance today, let’s reflect on the truth Lincoln penned so long ago.

“It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in Holy Scripture, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” [March 30, 1863]

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2Chronicles 7:14

Do you have any comments, prayers or opinions as you contemplate President’s Day please share them with us!

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A Valentine’s Day Mystery

This week on February 14th Americans across this nation will celebrate the holiday known as Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is the annual holiday honoring love and romance and as you probably know it is celebrated by the custom of sending greeting cards or gifts to express affection. The cards, known as valentines have become big business in the U.S.  According to the National Greeting Card Association, 25% of all greeting cards sent this year will be valentines and that will amount to over a billion dollars in profits.

What you may not know is the history behind the holiday, the background of the saint for whom the holiday is named or the origin of the custom of the cards themselves. So for you who enjoy a little history as I do, I did some research, compiled the facts and I invite you to please read on.

The historic roots of Valentine’s Day are found in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that was enjoyed annually by the ancients on February 15th .  In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day by declaring it Saint Valentine’s Day.  It had become customary as Christianity came to dominance in Europe that pagan holidays were recast and changed to reflect Christian values.  Celebrations such as Lupercalia were frequently renamed for early Christian martyrs and the festivals became feast days instead. It was in accordance with this tradition that the Pope renamed Lupercalia for Saint Valentine. These are the clear facts about the holiday.

But who is this mysterious saint and why has the honoring of love and romance become synonymous with his name? That is where the topic becomes interesting because the history of Valentine’s Day and its patron saint is surrounded by obscurity.

The reason that the holiday’s history is so unclear is because there were at least three Catholic Christian Saints in the early history of the Christian church by the name of Saint Valentine. Exactly which Saint Valentine this early pope intended to honor has been lost in history and remains a mystery.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, concerning the history of the three Saint Valentines: one was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni and the third was a virtual unknown except for the fact that he met his end in Africa. The astonishingly fact however, is that all three Valentines were chronicled as to having been martyred on February 14.

Most scholars believe that the “real” St. Valentine whose name the holiday bears was the priest in Rome. It is thought that the priest attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270 and that is where his fame and his trouble began.  Credence is given to this Saint Valentine being the one Gelasius honored because of the amount of myth and legend surrounding his name.  The Legenda Aurea, a collection of stories recounting the lives of the saints, which was compiled around the year 1260 and was a medieval best seller, contained several entries about the Saint Valentine of Claudius II’s reign.

Wikipedia states,

“According to the Legenda Aurea, St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman EmperorClaudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.

The same Legenda Aurea, also portrays Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first “valentine” himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his belovedthe jailer’s daughter whom he had befriended and healed. It was a note that read “From your Valentine.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentines_Day

On February 14, 270 AD, Valentine was executed and that is a documented fact. While the legends may be embellishedthe combinations of these stories—represent the most plausible explanations of how Valentine became a Patron Saint, and spiritual overseer of an annual celebration of love. Early in the history of the Saint Valentine Feast Day it became linked with a custom which involved young Romans offering women they admired, and wished to court, handwritten greetings of affection on February 14.  This is presumably how the greeting cards acquired Saint Valentine’s name and by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

The custom of the Valentine’s Day card spread with Christianity, and the holiday is now celebrated all over the world. One of the earliest cards that museums have on display was sent in 1415 AD by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. The card is now show cased in the British Museum.

Whoever Valentine actually was and whatever the circumstances of his death actually were may have become a mystery cloaked in myth and legend, but one thing we know for sure is that he was an actual person who was martyred for his faith.  His existence cannot be denied because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to him.

In 1836, relics that were exhumed from the catacombs on the Via Tiburtina, then near (rather than inside) Rome were identified with Saint Valentine and placed in a casket. These remains were transported to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland where they reside today.  Many tourists visit the remains on Saint Valentine’s Day, when the casket is still carried in solemn procession to the high altar for a special Mass dedicated to young people and all those in love.

Catholic or non-Catholic it does not change the facts about the origins of Valentine’s Day. Do you have any opinions or comments about the great Valentine’s Day Mystery?  Please feel free to contribute.

As for me, I like to focus on the fact that it doesn’t really matter which of the three early churchmen was the real Saint Valentine, they were all martyrs for the Christian faith and that makes all three of them worthy candidates for the respect and honor of fellow Christians.  It is just too bad (IMHO) that the meaning of the holiday could not have remained focused on, or even become inclusive of; honoring love for God, which is the one thing we know with a certainty that all three Saint Valentines had in common. I guess the bottom line is–what can we expect in a society that has worked over time to even eliminate God from Christmas and Resurrection Day celebrations–it is the way of the world.

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Pray for Our New President

 

Many Christians were inspired by Rick Warren’s inaugural invocation prayer. 

 

Pastor Warren was straight forward in his prayer and was in no way subtle or apologetic about his faith in Jesus Christ. 

 

In the New Testament we are advised by the Apostle Paul to pray for our leaders.

 

Let’s use Rick Warren’s prayer as inspiration for our own prayers offered for our new president and his family.  Here is the text of the prayer as it appears on the Associated Press website. 

 

Let us pray, Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone.  It all comes from you, it all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory.  History is your story. 

 

The Scripture tells us, Hear, oh Israel, The Lord is Our God: The Lord is one.  And you are the compassionate and merciful one.  And you are loving to everyone you have made. 

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time.  We celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our fist African-American president of the United States.  We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. 

And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in Heaven.  Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity.  Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and everyone of our freely elected leaders. 

Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.  When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us.  When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us.  When we fail to treat our fellow human beings an all the Earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. 

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches and civility in out attitudes even when we differ.  Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. 

May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet.  And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you. 

We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle, and his daughter, Malia and Sasha into your loving care.  I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (hay-SOOS), who taught us to pray,

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, they kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

For more excerpts of the inauguration and comments from a Christian perspective click on the following link and view the post entitled “A New Era Begins.”
What are your opinions about Rick Warren’s dynamic prayer at the inaugural, please take the time to comment!

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A Call To Give Thanks

 Thanksgiving by definition means to express gratitude towards God. Thanksgiving was central to the Jewish faith and an essential part of worship according to the Old Testament.  It was offered generally by the Jews in response to God’s concrete acts in history but sacrifice and offerings were also to be given continually out of a grateful heart.

 

In the Old Testament it is taught that thanksgiving should never be given grudgingly but always with a generous and willing heart. In Judeo-Christian tradition it is the duty of the faithful to express thankfulness to God for His constant love, care, provision and mercy. The praises of His people were considered the most valuable sacrifice of all, more pleasing to Him than the blood of animals.

 

I will  I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better       

than   than an ox or bull, which has horns and hooves.  Ps 69:30-31 (NKJV)

 

      The Old Testament Law called for constant and continual thanks to be offered before the Lord.  In the eras of the Jewish Tabernacle and Temple certain Levites were appointed to give continual praise and thanks to God. 

 

He appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the Ark by giving constant praise and thanks to the Lord God of Israel and by asking for his blessings upon his people. (1Chronicles 16:4, tlb)

 

In the New Testament believers are also taught that praise and thanksgiving should be a regular part of our routine

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1Thes 5:16-18 (NKJV)

 

It is good to make thankfulness a habitual part of our worship of God and to bless Him regularly with the expressive and spontaneous fruit of our lips.

 

It is good to say thank you to the Lord, to sing praises to the God who is above all gods.  Every morning tell him, “Thank you for your kindness,” and every evening rejoice in all his faithfulness.  Sing his praises, accompanied by music from the harp and lute and lyre.  You have done so much for me, O Lord. No wonder I am glad! I sing for joy.  O Lord, what miracles you do! And how deep are your thoughts!  Psalms 92:1-5 (TLB)

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The Jewish Roots of a Thanksgiving Feast

The Pilgrim Separatists who settled at Plymouth Massachusetts and celebrated the first American Thanksgiving feast were Christians but the precedent for thanksgiving feasts traces back to the Old Testament and Judeo-Christian roots. 

The tradition of thanksgiving feasts began with the Jewish people thousands of years ago.  In the Old Testament God commanded the Jews to participate in a feast to celebrate the in-gathering of the harvest each year. 

The purpose for celebrating the feast was two fold.  First the feast day was meant to be a time of thanksgiving for all.  And second the celebration was designed to impact the children of the nation with teachable moments where truths and knowledge of significant spiritual events of Jewish history could be passed on.  The Word of God instructed the Jews about the importance of spending time with their children and teaching them to love God and His ways. 

 

In Deut. 6:4-9 it says,“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

 

The celebration of the Feast of In-gathering or Tabernacles was very participatory in nature.  It was a week–long festival from the 15th to 21st of Tishri, which marked the completion of the whole harvest by the ingathering of the grapes. Because this was the time when everyone went out into the vineyards for their “communal working holiday” and lived in tents, it was an excellent time to remember the religious lessons of the forty years when the whole nation had lived in tents between their sojourn in Egypt and the possession of Canaan (Leviticus 23:34–36; 39–44; Deuteronomy 16:13–15).  At the end of the agricultural year in the land to which God had brought them, thanksgiving was expected to be shown and appropriately celebrated (Exodus 23:16; 34:22).   

 

By New Testament times the celebration of the feast of the In-gathering or Tabernacles was a spectacular ritual. Tents made of palm leaves were placed on rooftops, in courtyards, and in gardens, and people lived in them for the week.  Two priestly processions left the Temple each morning; one went to collect leafy boughs, and the other went to the Pool of Siloam. When the priests returned there was a procession round the altar (once around for the first six days of the festival and seven times on the last day — a reminder of the ritual at Jericho, Joshua 6:3–4) and a tabernacle, or booth, was made for the altar itself. The water was poured out on the Temple steps so that it would flow down and out through the Temple to the world outside, and so indicate the way that the Jewish faith would satisfy the world. During the festival four large candelabra were set up in the Court of the Women, Everyone in Jerusalem could see the light, and there was music and dancing beneath with flaming torches. The light symbolized the revelation and truth of the Jewish faith.

 

The Feast of In-gathering or Tabernacles was meant and designed from beginning to end to be atime of supplying teachable moments, building memories, facilitating family unity and expressing community.  The celebration involved participation by every member of the society. Males and females, the young and the old were expected to be active in the festivities.  For centuries sociologists have marveled at the fact that the Jews could keep their national identity after losing their homeland.  But it has been theorized that it was exactly the institution of such thick traditions as those involved in the celebration of thanksgiving that enabled the Jews to hold together throughout years without a land of their own.

 

Christians have never been required by the New Testament to recognize the Old Testament feasts. But as Christians today it is important to realize that all the previous works of God toward his people were leading to His greatest work of all on the cross.  Christians are asked by the Lord Jesus Himself to remember the cross and the celebration of Communion is in itself a thanksgiving feast complete with the reminder to do it in remembrance of Him.  A great addition to the celebration of our national Thanksgiving holiday is to celebrate Communion together as a family.  In this way we make the holiday uniquely Christian in its context and it gives us a participatory lesson which teaches our children about the central focus of the Christian faith.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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It’s November, let’s turn our hearts toward Thanksgiving

Tomorrow no matter what the outcome of our National election may be the reality is–life will still go on–and it will still be November 2008. 

Regardless of who wins and who loses we will be approximately three weeks off from the celebration of Thanksgiving and it will be a holiday that many of us will desperately need in the aftermath of all the political hoopla. 

In response to my need to get past the “election” and on to normalcy I have written the first in a three part series of special posts for the month of November on the topic of Thanksgiving.  Please give it a read!   

Part 1– F.Y.I.–The History of Thanksgiving

What is Thanksgiving all about?  In approximately three weeks time we will all have a day off of work and celebrate a national holiday called Thanksgiving.  Most families in our nation will hold some type of holiday gathering but the majority will not really spend any of that time doing the activity for which the day is intended.

 

What about you?  How do you spend this contemporary feast day?  Do you know the specifics of the origin of Thanksgiving?

 

During the reign of Elizabeth I, queen of England, a sect of Puritans separated from the new Protestant Church of England and after much persecution took refuge in the Netherlands. They finally determined that the ultimate answer to their search for a peaceful residence for their families was to immigrate to America.  On September 16, 1620, these Separatist “pilgrims” became part of a group numbering 102 men, women, and children who left Plymouth, England, for America on the Mayflower. On November 21, the Mayflower dropped anchor in the sheltered harbor off the site of present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts.

 

It was in this vicinity that the Puritans met up with Squanto, a Patuxet Native American. Squanto was a unique individual who had encountered Europeans as early as 1614 in what is now Massachusetts and had aided the English in their early exploration of the American continent. He learned the English language and served as a ships guide and interpreter for expeditions from Britain.  He had even survived a kidnapping at the hands of rogue Englishmen who had attempted to sell him as a slave.  Upon meeting up with the British Puritans he taught them how to catch eel and grow corn.  He also served as an interpreter for them and it is thought that without Squanto’s help none of the Puritans would have survived their first year in the New World.  

 

As it was the first winter took a demanding toll of life on the Pilgrims and between the time of the landing in November and March of 1621, only 47 colonists survived the diseases they contracted on the ship and the adversity of the new continent.  After the first harvest was completed by the Plymouth colonists in 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer shared by all the colonists and neighboring Native Americans.

 

The same Governor Bradford of Massachusetts made the first “Thanksgiving Proclamation” three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth and declared. 

 

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.  Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th of the year of our Lord 1623 and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock there to listen to ye pastor and render thanks giving to ye Almighty God for all His blessing.”

 

This proclamation instituted what would come to be the first Thanksgiving festival celebrated in the New World.  It was this early celebration of Thanksgiving by the British Puritan founders of our country that began the tradition of a November Thankgiving feast.  These historical events represent the origins of our current national holiday of Thanksgiving.

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Sarah Palin Calls for Intercession Believing God Will Do the “Right Thing for America”

While many are accusing Sarah Palin of arrogance and religious fanaticism, I view Sarah as the ultimate woman of faith.  She is calling for prayer believing that in the end God will listen and what is right for America will happen on Nov. 4.  Please heed Sarahs call to action and pray!

CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby reported today:

In an interview posted online Wednesday, Sarah Palin told Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” that she is confident God will do “the right thing for America” on Nov. 4.

Dobson asked the vice presidential hopeful if she is concerned about John McCain’s sagging poll numbers, but Palin stressed that she was “not discouraged at all.”

“To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder,” she told the influential Christian leader, whose radio show reaches millions of listeners daily. “And it also strengthens my faith because I know at the end of the day putting this in God’s hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4.”

Dobson praised Palin’s opposition to abortion rights, to which the governor affirmed that she is “hardcore pro-life.”

She said giving birth to her son Trig, who has Down syndrome, has given her the opportunity “to be walking the walk and not just talking the talk” in her long-standing opposition to abortion.

She also thanked her supporters — including Dobson, who said he and his wife were asking “for God’s intervention” on election day — for their prayers of support.

“It is that intercession that is so needed,” she said. “And so greatly appreciated. And I can feel it too, Dr. Dobson. I can feel the power of prayer, and that strength that is provided through our prayer warriors across this nation. And I so appreciate it.”

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/10/22/palin-god-will-do-the-right-thing-on-election-day/

          http://www.citizenlink.org/clspecialalert/A000008476.cfm

 

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