Jun 162015
 

“I believe God’s word is true, but now what? How do I take it from just being a book of words to truly changing my life?”

If you’re in a season where the Bible seems dry to you, or are a new Christian trying to figure out how to really live out the words you’re reading there, maybe these five steps will help?

Five Ways to Make the Bible Come Alive

1. Open it

When my oldest son first started playing the fiddle, he wasn’t very good. He was pretty terrible the next day, too, and even a few weeks after his first lesson. He learned to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star pretty quickly, but little violins have terrible sound quality, so he still sounded pretty bad.

Now, almost five years later, he’s performed Ode to Joy in front of 500 people with his little brother and is gearing up to compete in a local fiddler’s convention this summer.

Get in the habit of spending daily time in your Bible, even if it’s just to read a Psalm and a Proverb. It may not come easily, but just as my son needed time spent practicing his instrument to improve, we need time in the word of God to begin trusting that it’s true.

2. Know it

As you spend more and more time reading your Bible you’ll see something amazing start to happen! You’ll find yourself thinking about or living in a certain situation when a verse you just read (that applies to what you’re going through) will pop in your head! That’s God! That’s the word being alive and active in you! And it’s amazing.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been comforted by a verse at just the right time. Whether God drops it in my heart, or the heart of a friend, He chooses to use His word to comfort, correct, sustain, and build us right when we need it most.

But if we don’t open it, and don’t know it, that won’t happen.

3. Speak it

Finish reading this by clicking the link below!!

Source: Five Ways to Make the Bible Come Alive

Jun 042015
 

Sometimes revelation comes in just 140 characters.

Tonight I had another Christian tell me on social media that he was okay with Josh Duggar fondling young girls “because he repented”, but has a big problem with Caitlyn Jenner, who he said was willingly sinning and being “sexually deviant.” The former he sees as a typically flawed believer restored and deserving of our forgiveness, the latter as an unrepentant, dangerous presence in the world who needs to be condemned and called out.

As we talked more, my virtual friend’s comments clarified the duplicity of his position: a child molester is excused because he’s said sorry to God (even though he and his family concealed the activity until recently exposed), however a transgender individual is clearly immoral by openly seeking to be the most authentic version of herself she believes is possible. One engages in criminal activity and still gets the benefit of the doubt, while the other operates completely within the law and is still vilified. One exploits their family and their faith on a reality TV show and is revered as a religious role model, the other lambasted for leveraging her own story for publicity and personal gain.

And we wonder why Christianity is leaking so horribly from every crevice, why so many churches are becoming barren ghost towns and dusty museums, why organized religion is on virtual life support in America?

Thinking like this is why intelligent, thoughtful, rational people are finding it harder and harder to want to be associated with Christians, and why faith seems less and less an option for so many of them. The Church is heading off a cliff and it’s we who are actually in the back, pushing the hardest.

People are watching and worrying. They see it from a mile away, our vacillation. They see the inconsistencies of our outrage, our selective sin policing, our schizophrenic moral stands. They notice how often we can defend one person’s deplorable activity just because he or she is a professed Christian, while simultaneously demonizing another outright the moment the discussion turns to the “naughty body parts.” In examples like this week, we’re content to ignore and overlook the scarred, flesh-and-blood victims of a sexual offender because he claims to have repented, yet we can somehow manage to manufacture untold invisible, theoretical victims of someone seeking to make their own peace with the mirror, on the other.

Sadly it seems to all come back to sex.

Our religious panic buttons are so easily pushed by gender identity and sexual orientation, that when the topics surface so many of us stick our fingers in our ears and run around the room like embarrassed third graders, yelling “Nah nah nah, I’m not listening to you!” In times like these, we knee-jerk our theological responses out without bothering to wrestle with the complicated, nuanced aspects of the situations, let alone stopping to consider the deep humanity of the people involved and how we may be trampling over it.

This is a problem, friends. In fact, it could be a near-fatal blow to our faith tradition outside our walls and maybe it should be.

We who claim Christ can no longer be people who abandon logic and decency and compassion for the sake of religion and get a pass. No one is buying that anymore thankfully, and so we need to fight to transform our faith from the inside; those of us who believe that Jesus is better and more loving and more beautiful than the bitter, judgmental junk that’s been representing him lately. I know I do. People outside of the faith may indeed eventually reject Jesus, but I’d rather them do that than reject the bastardized, counterfeit version of him that they getting far too frequently from us.

I’m not sure exactly how we can recover a corporate faith that consistently does more good than harm in the world, but it seems like the thing is upside down right now and that grieves me terribly. I want people to receive the best of this faith from us. I want a Church that accurately represents Christ to the world. I want a Christianity that defaults to compassion not contempt when it sees people from a distance. I want one that purposefully removes that distance and steps into other’s stories to find the inherent goodness and to remind them of it. I want that for both Josh Duggar and for Caitlyn Jenner because both are equally deserving of that as they are.

Some might contend that bringing up my online friend’s commentary is just a noisy, massive straw man designed to distract, but I’ll argue that it’s our great religious blind spot, made crystal clear in real-time.

You may choose to see my conversation with my friend as an isolated, anecdotal event without a larger meaning, but I view it as a telling symptom of a bigger sickness.

The bottom line, is that this week too many Christians are far more outraged at a person altering her own body, than one assaulting another’s. 

I’d say that’s a shame.

Actually, I’d say it’s more than that.

I’d say it’s a sin.

Source: The Duggars, The Jenners, And The Growing Exodus From Christianity

May 032015
 

About a month ago, our family was having dinner with some friends at their house. I walked into the kitchen just as the other mom, while winking at me, handed my son a second cookie and whispered, “shhhh. It’s a secret. Don’t tell your mom.” To my delight {and surprise}, my son exclaimed, “Oooooh, but we don’t keep secrets in our house. We do surprises.” In that moment I thought, he gets it and he’s not afraid to say it, thank goodness.

You see, thanks to an excellent Sexual Abuse Prevention workshop that my husband and I attended, called Parenting Safe Children, we have a “no secrets” rule in our house. We have this rule because secrecy is a key ingredient to the sexual abuse of a child. In fact, sexual predators count on the fact that the child will keep a secret. Sometimes they even test the child by asking him to keep small, innocent secrets first to see if he will keep bigger ones later. So, when we teach our children that we don’t keep secrets, even about small and seemingly harmless things like a cookie, we are also instilling in them that they don’t have to keep big and unsafe secrets, like that of someone touching them inappropriately.

This other mom, the one who asked my son to keep the secret, is a friend of mine and I know that she meant no harm by it at all. Nonetheless, the interaction created a great opportunity for me to share with her about our Body Safety Rules {which we also adapted from the workshop}, one of which is that we don’t keep secrets. I shared with her that we have “surprises” instead of secrets because surprises are something that you keep quiet about temporarily; then you share the surprise and people are happy. But secrets are meant to be kept quiet forever and they’re often to protect something that would make people unhappy.

My friend asked me more about the Body Safety Rules – what they are, why we have them, where we keep them, how I talk about them with my kids – and I began to explain that we have Body Safety Rules in effort to keep our kids safe from sexual abuse, to empower our kids, and to communicate to others that our kids are off limits. I told her that we keep the rules posted front and center in our kitchen; that we went over each rule with our kids when we first made the sign and that we discuss them regularly as situations arise. For example, when I’m trying to get a moment of peace, err go to the bathroom by myself and one of them comes barging in, I remind them that because we’re the bosses of our own bodies, we’re allowed to have privacy when using the toilet. And {for the love} Mommy would like some privacy while going to the bathroom. Or when we go to the pediatrician, I remind them, “no one is allowed to touch your private parts {which we call by their correct name}, but because the doctor is checking to make sure you are healthy, he needs to check your whole body, including your private parts and because Mommy is here, it is ok.” We talk about the Body Safety Rules in the context of different every day situations and we also sometimes play “what if” scenarios, like “what would you do if you were playing at someone’s house and they asked you to take your clothes off?” My kids would likely respond, “I would tell them that we play with our clothes on.”

When a child knows his body safety rules and feels empowered to say no to inappropriate touch and to keeping secrets, it communicates to a potential predator that the child is off limits. And when friends or child care providers see the Body Safety Rules hanging in our kitchen…

Click to read the rest of this article! 

Source: Why We Don’t Keep Secrets In Our House {Child Abuse Prevention}

Apr 252015
 

God told me the other day. . .” a friend said matter-of-factly, and then proceeded to tell me what she felt the Lord had instructed her to do.

How to knowThe concept of hearing messages from God sounds like a topic for an alternate reality television show, but in truth, it’s a very biblical concept. From the beginning of creation God has spoken to his people. In the early days, before the canon of Scripture, he spoke to believers in several ways: through his audible spoken word (Gen. 6:13), through angelic messengers (Dan. Luke 1:11), through a Christophany—a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ (Gen. 18:22), and through the prophets (Jer. 1:7).

Today he speaks primarily through his messengers (pastors, teachers, and fellow believers), his Word, and the Holy Spirit’s voice in our hearts. But the question remains:

How do we know we’re hearing God’s voice rather than our own or someone else’s?

Here are some guidelines:
1.  What we hear must agree with Scripture. In other words, God never tells us to do something contrary to his Word. This means the abortion clinic bomber who testified that “God told me to blow up this place” may have been hearing voices, but they weren’t the Lord’s. This is why we must read the Bible daily and become familiar with its truths. It becomes the plumb line for all other input.

2.  God usually repeats an important message. He knows we’re sometimes spiritually dense, so he gives us more than one opportunity to get it. You may read something that applies to your life in your morning quiet time, read it again during a devotional reading, and hear a preacher or teacher mention it in a sermon or lesson. God’s willingness to repeat himself is blessed confirmation if we think we’re hearing from God but aren’t quite sure. This is why it’s important to journal during our Bible reading and prayer time and take notes during teaching and preaching times. Sometimes the pattern of God’s messages to us becomes clearer when we write them down.

3.  An idea may come to us while we’re praying. If it’s something simple, like Send Sally a note of encouragement; she’s been struggling since Dan lost his job, and isn’t contrary to Scripture, I usually act upon it immediately. It’s probably the Holy Spirit prompting me. If it involves a greater commitment, I test the thought by waiting to see if God reinforces it in other ways.

For years the Lord had prompted me to write inspiring articles for homeschooling moms. Friends encouraged me to compile them into a book. When another friend invited me to attend a writers conference, the idea began to take shape. I sought confirmation by speaking to an acquisitions editor at the conference, and he invited me to submit a proposal. When I shared the idea with a Christian businessman, and he offered to help, I knew the idea had been from the Lord.

4.  If an idea is from the Lord, the desire usually grows stronger with time. I confess—I get some crazy ideas sometimes. Crazy or not, I write down the idea and begin to pray about it. As the days pass, I’ll often find my enthusiasm and desire waning. Other times the desire grows, develops, and blossoms into a full-fledged calling. God confirms it in other ways and reinforces it with appropriate Scripture.

5.  It usually requires an element of risk and faith. God seldom calls us to do something completely off the normal path of our lives. Instead his call is usually the next step, albeit sometimes a BIG step, on the path we’re already on.

For years our family’s been involved with missions. We’ve financially supported missionaries, prayed and provided resources for them, and hosted them in our homes. When my husband and I began to experience a desire to take a short-term missions trip with our family, we sensed it was from the Lord.

We began to pray about it, and the desire grew stronger. We already knew a mission trip was scriptural, so when one of our missionary friends mentioned how they’d love to have a family work with them in Mexico, we knew the Lord was calling us to go.

Although it seems a bit mysterious, God loves to speak to his children. To hear him, we must learn to recognize his voice. This ability comes with patience and practice. Missionary Frank Laubach accurately expresses how every conversation with God involves learning to listen:

“The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says, ‘Amen,’ and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving him our ideas.”

May God bless you as you learn to listen to his voice.

How about you? How does the Lord usually speak to you? And how do you know it’s him speaking? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re reading by email, click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the post, then click on Comment to leave your thoughts.

Source: Hungry for God: How to Know God’s Speaking to You

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