Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. - Matt 10:32 NLT
I ran across this really good allegory. The author has allowed me to post the first part of the story here but requests that you click thru to his site to finish the story:
There once was an invisible man. Though no one could see this man, they could see his shadow. Over the years, people tried to learn about the man by observing his shadow. They recorded their findings, carefully documenting every detail they saw in the shadow.
But they ran into some problems.
For one thing, the shadow didn’t always look the same to everyone. It would acquire the color and texture of whatever it happened to be resting on. And it seemed to change shape depending on the time of day and the angle from which people observed it. Some saw the shadow as extraordinarily tall and skinny, while others saw it as short and squat...
To continue this story, go to: http://www.beingfilled.com/2015/01/the-invisible-man-and-his-shadow.html
I have been pushing myself and others to read more of the Bible in 2015 than 2014. My desire to know the Scriptures was formed though my mother’s faithful practice of reading Bible stories and other devotions to me and the family from the time of her conversion when I was about two through my high school years. But what did she read to us that worked? Reading straight from the Bible to toddlers can work if you are very selective and brief in the chosen readings and want to offer A LOT of explanation, but most prefer some type of story Bible for children that summarizes key stories of the Bible. Here are a few of the books that I have used and still use with my daughter, some of which my mother used with us growing up.
Kenneth Taylor’s The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes is a classic. It works for toddlers and preschool aged children. On one side of the page is a large picture of a Bible scene, and on the opposing page there is a short summary of the Bible story. The sentences are short, basic, and are followed with a couple of discussion questions. I can still see many of the pictures in my mind. At right is “old” edition that I grew up with. At left is a picture of the new edition with new illustrations. I have not looked through the new edition, but I have heard good things about it. It might be worth owning or at least inspecting both before purchasing.
My favorite book, though, and the one my mother read through to us repeatedly, and the one I have read through repeatedly with my daughter, is The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos. I grew up on one of the old editions. The original was published in 1935. A fifth edition was published in 1984. I have studied and considered may different story Bibles and have never found one that is better at summarizing Old Testament stories, teaching biblical history through the reigns of the kings, and linking everything to Christ. It is still popular because it is that good. Sure, you will quibble here and there with a few of Vos’ theological remarks and a few old-fashioned ways of putting things, but the good so far outweighs those small problems you will likely stick with the book. This is the one to read every night to your child, one story at at time, from beginning to end. When you finish the book, you will know your Bible stories better, you will probably do something else for Bible reading for a while, and then you will probably start working through this book again. It just draws you back to it. This book works with kids from about five years old through high school.
Other helpful books that are in a series are A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories. Each one has a set of Bible stories with accompanying illustrations. I read through one with my daughter when she was in 2nd grade and was impressed with the clarity of the story summaries and the gentle applications of them. These books are published by Concordia, which is the publishing arm of the conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Concordia has a reputation of publishing top-notch educational materials, and these books are no exception.
Another good story Bible that would be great to start using with a child who has outgrown The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes is The Story Bible, published by Concordia. This story Bible has 130 Bible stories, each beautifully illustrated with discussion questions, suggested activity, and a prayer. This book is highly recommended until your child is ready for more detail. Even then, the book is worth keeping for use in children’s ministry at church.
The last good story or family Bible I will mention is the ESV Family Bible. This book has actual excerpts from the ESV text connected by the editor’s summary statements. It is quite good in content, but more than once my daughter and I were frustrated with the brevity of the stories or detail that was left out. Yet, it is well-done; it just won’t give you the big picture of the Bible’s story line like The Child’s Story Bible will. But oh, the art! The illustrations are fabulous in this book.
Why use one of these story Bibles with children? Simple: all people need to be grounded in biblical stories and their teachings, and learning these stories thoroughly as a child will produce a million spiritual benefits. Children will catch biblical allusions in literature and movies, they will grasp sermons better because they will be already familiar with the Bible, and they will build a biblical worldview. So get some of these books and read steadily, faithfully, and systematically to your kids.
This post was written by Russ Veldman. You can find his original post here: https://fasteruntothee.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/bible-reading-with-children-some-of-the-best-books/
BE A MAN.
Those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Hope gives us strength. We need strength for the journey of recovery. We need strength to make the changes that need to be made -- and strength to grieve the losses which come with change. We need strength to keep on keeping on. Recovery requires a great deal of physical, emotional and spiritual strength. We draw that strength day-to-day from hope.
There are times when hope will allow us to soar. We will feel the exhilaration of change and new freedom. We will think about the future and imagine good things. We will soar with gratitude and joy because of hope.
There are other times when hope will allow us to run and not grow weary. We will keep going. Keep changing. Keep working. Keep feeling. We may get tired but hope will keep us from getting weary and wanting to give up. Hope helps us to keep running.
There are other times when hope will allow us to walk without fainting. Some days, in our recovery journey, continuing the journey at all is very difficult. The struggle we face may be so intense that we would faint if it were not for hope. But hope helps us to take the next step. One slow step at a time. Step by step, without fainting.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of hope.
Thank you for the days when hope
allows me to soar.
And for the days when it
allows me to keep running.
And thank you for the days when hope
gives me the courage to walk
Thank you for hope.
Copyright Dale and Juanita Ryan
National Association for Christian Recovery
From long experience and observation I am inclined to think, that whoever finds redemption in the blood of Jesus, whoever is justified, has then the choice of walking in the higher or the lower path. I believe the Holy Spirit at that time sets before him the ‘more excellent way,’ and incites him to walk therein; to choose the narrowest path in the narrow way; to aspire after the heights and depths of holiness, — after the entire image of God. But if he does not accept this offer, he insensibly declines into the lower order of Christians. He still goes on in what may be called a good way, serving God in his degree, and finds mercy in the close of life, through the blood of the covenant.
I would be far from quenching the smoking, flax, — from discouraging, those that serve God in a low degree. But I could not wish them to stop here: I would encourage them to come up higher. Without thundering hell and damnation in their ears, without condemning the way wherein they were, telling them it is the way that leads to destruction, I will endeavor to point out to them what is, in every respect, ‘a more excellent way.’
— John Wesley, Sermon 89 “The More Excellent Way.”
How do you measure the effectiveness of a church? Is the strength of a church measured by worship attendance, small group participation, the size of the weekly offering, or the number of programs offered throughout the week? Can you judge the health of a congregation by how many first time guests visit, the number of those guests who are uniting in local church membership or even the number of professions of faith made over the course of the year?
Denominational leaders will tell you that any evaluation must include quantitative data alongside qualitative insight into the life of congregation. But does that fully capture how effectively a particular church is living out it’s mission? That raises an even more critical question for pastoral and lay leaders. What is our mission?
I have always been haunted by these words from Marcus Borg.
“You can believe all the right things and still be miserable.”
It was early on in my ministry when I came across that statement, but with each passing day my affirmation of this simple truth grows. Serving as a pastor has taught me a great deal about life’s ultimate struggles and how alone most people feel in the areas of their greatest need.
Which leads me to consider the idea that perhaps the real measure of how effectively a church is living out it’s mission is the impact the ministries of church is making in the daily living of those who are connected to that local church body. It’s measured by what happens at the place where our concrete beliefs intersect the daily reality of individual lives.
It’s where the “church world” meets the real world.
But herein lies the problem. Most pastors do not spend much time outside of church world. We wrap ourselves up in it everyday. We give great attention to what some have referred to as the “ABC’s” of church world: attendance, building and cash. We have a good reason for this in that while a pastor is tasked with providing care and spiritual direction for a congregation, we are also charged with leading and ordering the organization that serves those needs. And while it is true that we experience the same concerns as many of our congregants, we struggle with anxiety, stress, and relational and financial strain. Pastors often process these issues within a Christian community that shares our values; others do so in the real world where they must face competing value systems.
So, how do can pastors help your people at that place of intersection? How can they connect better with their congregations? How do you bridge the gap between the church world and the real world?
Here are a few thoughts for you to consider.
1) Listen to their stories. I lead a men’s group in our church that gathers once a month to discuss how we can be better husbands, fathers, and followers of Jesus. While the group is made up of men who are highly active in our church, we spend very little time talking about the Bible. Instead, we spend the majority of our time discussing the dominant “life issues” that men in their 30’s and 40’s who are early in their career and the life of their families are facing. It’s tremendously valuable for the men who attend, but I have also found it to be a great benefit to me as well. I spend a lot of time listening to their stories and in that process I am reminded of the real challenges that these men face in their workplace, their marriages and their other key relationships. It is vitally important that pastors spend time listening to the challenges that our congregants face every single day.
2) Model it in your teaching. If you can believe all the right things and still be miserable, does that mean that what we believe has no value? Certainly not. What we believe has great significance for our lives, but where many need help is understanding how those convictions lead us to interact with a world that often leads in the opposite direction. Pastors should spend time reflecting on several questions. How have I modeled this for my congregation? How am I engaging some of the dominant concerns that people hear about and experience every day? In what way am I enabling my congregation to filter out truth from falsehood? How have I helped them to look for and partner with God’s spirit at work in the ordinary moments of their lives?
3) Spend more time in your neighborhood. Instead of spending the entire week in the office, consider carving a portion of your time to spend beyond the walls of your church campus. Make the finishing touches on this weekend’s message or an upcoming sermon series at the local coffee shop, involve yourself in other local civic or service organizations, and be intentional about developing relationships with your own neighbors. Take it to the next step by evaluating your current church programming. As you do, consider if you are asking your congregation to spend too much of their time “at church” as well, at the expense of their involvement in living out their faith by “being the church” in their own neighborhoods, workplaces and key relationships.
4) Walk into the tension.For those who wrestle with the difficulty of following Jesus in contexts and relationships that consistently encourage a different set of standards, they need help addressing the confusion this often creates. For pastors, I think this means that at times we have to resist our urge to provide the simple answer and instead invite our people to wrestle with the deeper questions. If there really were only five steps to happiness, most of us would be there already, but we are not. Life in the real world is not always black and white. It requires people of faith to constantly address and navigate the gray. Sometimes the greatest value a pastor can add is not providing an answer, but instead walking into the tension and inviting the consideration of a deeper question.
This post was written by Rev Alexander of Seedbed. For the original post, go to: http://seedbed.com/feed/4-ways-pastors-can-connect-better/
I haven’t been in ministry for many years, but I did grow up in the church, though I wasn’t for a good portion of that time walking what I was talking. Yet even through it all I understood, or at least I believed I did of how important and essential it was for God to be at the center of whatever I did. Yet, recently I was checked hard about that.
Every week I have the task of preparing my lesson for my youth. It is focusing around a theme that I believe God has laid on my heart and from there my lessons take shape based on what I am reading and believe God is wanting to say to His people.
However, as I was confronted recently by the spirit through the words of one who has many more years with God than I, I realized that what I knew that I knew that I knew as maybe not as known as I once thought. As the threat of just throwing it into autopilot is always present, I seemed to develop a catchphrase through my actions and my preparation that I was completely unaware of. As I looked back at my weekly preparation and the steps taken as I develop the lesson, to the moments leading up to Wednesday nights all the way to the delivery of the message, I realized that I had hung a figurative big sign up at the entrance of the youth area and didn’t even realize it.
The sign read, “God welcome, but not necessary.” As I sat and reflected back on services of past I was stunned to realize that I had become so busy prepping, trying to be relevant and wanting to fill the seats and possibly the biggest of them all feeling that I, let me say that again I, had it all under control. At some point I crossed from, “God help us and meet with us” to “God if you can show up tonight great, but if not I got it, no biggy.”
Somehow I had lost sight of the biggest proponent of life. Apparently at some point without fully realizing and allowing the mechanics of ministry and life to make God an option, not a necessity to ministry. It was as if somehow I believed or allowed the idea to creep into the day to day that whether God was there or not. We were going to do ministry and we can and did sing songs of worship, discussed and taught over and over again without once stopping to ask, is God even here? Is this even what He wants or desires for us.
It was as if we were a football team that determined that the coach was great to have on the sidelines, yet somehow not a must. That we could get to the goal all on our own strength and by any means we saw fit. Then when the enemy breaks through our line and drives us back to their territory we look to see what the coach wants us to do and realize He isn’t there. He is sitting in the stands as a spectator because that is the role we have reduced Him to.
The saddest part of it all is that this mentality can easily sneak into our everyday lives. From our dealings with our children and spouses to merely the manner in which we conduct ourselves. We would like it if God was there, but really we can do this thing called life without Him. I know I don’t want to spend my life wandering in the desert, but would rather be at the center of His will.
God welcome, and wholeheartedly necessary.
This post was written by Rev Adam Cheek, Youth Pastor at Grace Pointe Church of the Nazarene
BE A MAN.
“but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever.” Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith…” 2 Peter 1:5 (NKJV)
“…exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NKJV)
Spiritual health, like physical health, requires both input and output. We must not only take on those things necessary for spiritual health but we must also do those things that exercise ourselves toward godliness. This balance of input and output is meant to produce godliness in us. Godliness is essentially Christ-likeness. We want to be like Jesus. Since we want to be like Jesus, then we need to do those things that will produce godliness in our lives. Christ-likeness will be seen in specific ways.
My mind will be filled with Truth.
My affections for God will be fueled.
I will share Christ’s love as His witness in the world.
I will partner with other believers to advance God’s Kingdom.
I will invest in the lives of others.
I will progress (grow) in holiness.
We see all of these things when we look at the life of Jesus. When we grow in godliness, or Christ-likeness, we will see these things in our lives as well. As I look at these things two truths stand out to me.
Godliness is more than what I know. While knowing is certainly a part of what it means to be godly, there is more to it than just knowledge. The knowledge of what is right must lead us to do what is right. Behavior matters as much as belief.
It takes more than Bible study to grow in godliness. While Bible study is certainly foundational in godliness, more than Bible study is required to grow in godliness. There are a variety of ways we must “exercise” ourselves if we want to grow in godliness.
The goal of this personal spiritual growth plan is for us to commit ourselves to do those things that will produce godliness in our lives.
This post was written by Rev Ross. You can find the original post here:
BE A MAN.
The Bible is very clear that God’s will for every Christian is for them to grow spiritually. The Bible says salvation is the beginning and from that point on we are to grow spiritually. We may wonder what the purpose of spiritual growth is. Isn’t being a Christian just about having our sins forgiven and being right with God? The truth is being forgiven for our sins is just the start of the Christian life. Once we are saved we then need to grow and mature. The ultimate goal of spiritual growth is to become like Jesus (Romans 8:29). God knew each and every one of us before time began and He desires that we would become like Jesus. We become like Jesus through the process of spiritual growth.
In his book The Purpose Driven Church Pastor Rick Warren says there are six myths about spiritual growth that people believe. Believing these myths will hinder a Christian’s spiritual growth. The first one he mentions is the one that I tend to think hinders us the most. The myth is that spiritual growth is automatic once you become a Christian.
The idea with this is that you really don’t have to put forth a lot of effort to grow spiritually because it’s just something that automatically happens. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the most spiritually immature people I’ve ever known have been Christians for a very long time. Despite the fact that they’ve believed in Jesus for a very long time, they aren’t at all like Jesus in their lives.
Now this doesn’t mean that they don’t attend church or live moral lives. Many times they are very active church goers and live fairly moral lives. The problem isn’t their church attendance or morality. The problems is that since they haven’t matured spiritually, they still act like spiritual babies. If they don’t get their way they’ll take their toys and go home. If they don’t get their way they’ll gripe, moan and complain to make sure everyone knows that this isn’t what they wanted to do. If they don’t get their way they’ll do all they can to make everyone so miserable that they will give up and do it their way because it’s just easier that way.
One of the main reasons that it is so important for us to make spiritual growth a priority is that virtually every problem in every church revolves around spiritually immature Christians. Few churches ever split over significant theological issues. Instead, problems in churches usually revolve around insignificant issues such as style of music, color of carpet, pews or theatre seats and other silly things. Most of the time, if you can get to the root of the issue what you’ll find are spiritually immature Christians who are mad that they didn’t get their way and are determined to do whatever it takes to get their way.
What we want to do is ensure that we aren’t that person. We don’t want to be so spiritually immature that we have to have our way or we’ll pout, stir up trouble or leave. The only way to ensure that we aren’t that person is to ensure that we are growing spiritually and this takes intentional effort on our parts.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will beneither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:2-11 (NKJV)
One of the things that stands out as you read this passage is the emphasis on spiritual growth. We are told that we have everything we need to grow spiritually. Pay special attention to the fact that we are told to give all diligence to add to our faith. Notice that faith in Jesus isn’t the end but the beginning. Once we have faith, we are to give all diligence to add to this faith. Some of the other translations say we are to “make every effort…”
Nothing about this passage says that this happens automatically. Everything about this passage says that it happens as we intentionally put forth the necessary effort to grow spiritually. This isn’t just something that new Christians need to hear. This is something each and every one of us need to take to heart. Spiritual growth is a process that starts when we are saved and continues until we are like Jesus. Therefore unless we can say that we are just like Jesus, there is still room for us to grow spiritually. Since this is the case we all need to make spiritual growth a priority this year.
This post was written by Rev Ross. For the original post, go to: http://stacyjross.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/resolve-to-make-spiritual-growth-a-priority/
BE A MAN.
Near the climax of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a villain shoots Indiana’s father to motivate the distressed son to enter a booby-trapped temple and retrieve the Holy Grail. “The healing power of the Grail is the only thing that can save your father now,” he said. “It’s time to ask yourself what you believe.” I deplore what the evil man did, but he was on to something: What we believe determines what we do.
The word belief means to commit or trust, and it’s used in two different ways:
The weak sense of belief merely means “I think so.” We say, “I believe it is going to rain” when we don’t know for sure. But if it does rain, and if we had good reason for thinking it would, then we may say we knew it. So we often use belief as a first step toward knowledge. This is what James means when he says even demons believe that there is one God (James 2:19). They know that Yahweh is the only God, but they don’t fully acknowledge this knowledge.
Then there’s the second meaning for belief. This belief, that saves, goes beyond simple knowledge and commits our whole being to what we know is true. Paul expressed this higher faith when he said, “I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him” (2 Timothy 1:12). Martin Luther explained that this saving faith is “a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times.”
Indiana Jones chose to commit to the Grail, so he entered the temple and retrieved the healing water for his father. What do you believe? How does it affect the way you live before a world that needs God’s healing touch?
This post was written by Mark Witmer for Our Daily Journey of RBC Ministries. For more information, go to: http://ourdailyjourney.org
BE A MAN.