The Choice

What I’m commanding you today is not too hard for you. It isn’t beyond your reach. It isn’t up in heaven. So you don’t have to ask, “Who will go up into heaven to get it? Who will announce it to us so we can obey it?” And it isn’t beyond the ocean. So you don’t have to ask, “Who will go across the ocean to get it? Who will announce it to us so we can obey it?” No, the message isn’t far away at all. In fact, it’s really near you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart so that you can obey it.

Today I’m giving you a choice. You can have life and success. Or you can have death and harm. I’m commanding you today to love the Lord your God. I’m commanding you to live exactly as he wants you to live. You must obey his commands, rules and laws. Then you will live. There will be many of you. The Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to take as your own.

Don’t let your hearts turn away from the Lord. Instead, obey him. Don’t let yourselves be drawn away to other gods. And don’t bow down to them and worship them. If you do, I announce to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You are about to go across the Jordan River and take over the land. But you won’t live there very long.

I’m calling for the heavens and the earth to be witnesses against you this very day. I’m offering you the choice of life or death. You can choose either blessings or curses. But I want you to choose life. Then you and your children will live. And you will love the Lord your God. You will obey him. You will remain true to him. The Lord is your very life.

Deuteronomy 30:11-20 NIrV

The choice is not between a list of do this and don’t do that on one hand and freedom on the other hand. The unbelieving world often sees it that way. The truth is; it is a choice between choosing love (life) on one hand and separation from God (death) on the other hand. God is waiting to shower blessings on you and your family. He is waiting for you to make your choice. Talk to Him – He is listening. Listen to Him – He has much to tell you. The Lord is your very life.

God as Creator – the Source of All We Need

Our Needs

Teen-agers turning to drugs. Single mothers floundering in depression. High-ranking business men sneaking out for extra-marital affairs. Lonely people marginalized by society resorting to deadly violence.

We all hurt in one way or another. What is it that we do with that hurt? How can we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps? Where do we go for help?

Reach Out to God

God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Christians readily acknowledge this fact. However, we must come to the realization that God also created all the resources we need. He also created the principles by which we live – healthy principles that benefit everyone. He also created purpose for our lives.

God is the source of Everything.

God is the source of healing and help in every day-to-day situation. He has provided what we need, not only live, but to thrive throughout our life. When we need to be restored, we must go back to God. He is the one who created life in the first place and it is only He who can bring life back into dead circumstances. We cannot do it on our own.

In Matthew 6, Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God, and all the things we need will be given to us.

See the source image

Reach Out to Others

God has also provided the Body of Christ to lift one another up, to encourage one another. We need them: a support group, a Christian counselor, a sincere Bible study group. We need a place where we can share our deepest needs, fears, and temptations. We need someone to meet with regularly as well as someone we can call on at a moment’s notice. Ask God to provide this support for you.

Reach up and reach out. The God of hope will fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13

These thoughts come from the wonderful book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend titled How People Grow, What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth.

John Adams

I have just finished reading John Adams by David McCullough.

What an amazing read!

Though I do enjoy history, I do not care for politics. David McCullough did a masterful job of weaving Adams’ biography with the detailed politics of the early United States. It was a compelling narrative that kept me engaged to the very end.  

The author leads us through John Adams’ studies to become a lawyer, his early law practice, both the Continental Congress sessions, his time oversees as an ambassador, his vice-presidency, his presidency and his retirement. Adams’ personal diary and his thousands of letters give us great insight into not only what he did, but how he thought and how he felt. It was fascinating!

John Adams was a major player in the building of our nation. He was incredibly intelligent while still maintaining his personal integrity. His thorough understanding of world politics, philosophy and human nature were paramount in his adamant stand for America’s independence and continued strength. He worked tirelessly to build the ground work for our nation.

“I fear that in every elected office, members will obtain an influence by noise not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls… There must be decency and respect.” John Adams

“He who loves the Workman and His work, and does what he can to preserve and improve it, shall be accepted of Him.” John Adams

 “The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know…. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.” John Adams

John Adams – we need you today!

Heal Our Land

Texas. Ohio. Nevada. Florida. Georgia. Colorado. North Carolina. Arkansas. Alabama. Virginia. Connecticut. California. Oklahoma. New York. District of Columbia. Missouri. Maryland. Indiana. Tennessee. Rhode Island. Kentucky. Mississippi. Michigan. Oregon. Wisconsin. Pennsylvania. Washington. Louisiana. Michigan. Iowa. South Carolina. New Mexico. Massachusetts. Hawaii. Nebraska. West Virginia. Vermont. Minnesota. New Jersey.

A Very Sad Face…

We are a nation in mourning. The senseless killing continues. We Must do something.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 

God’s promise is an If, Then promise. If people do this, Then God will do that. Our step comes first.

  • Be Humble
  • Pray
  • Seek His Face
  • Turn from Wicked Ways

Micah 6:8

“He has shown you, O man, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Pray, Read the Bible, Ask God what he wants in your heart and in your life.

Then Listen. Please, Stop and Listen.

Psalm 95:1-2

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” 

Created for Relationship

When God created the world, He did so with Relationship at its core. Humanity was created in order to be in Relationship with God, and in Relationship with one another.

If either one of these Relationship Dynamics is off track, then our emotional, mental and spiritual health is out of balance. We begin to try to fill the holes with many other things: money, sex, material possessions, power over others … the list goes on.

If both of these Relationship Dynamics are in good working order, then we are able to grow into mature Christians, who are in turn able to give to others who are in need.

Those are the simply basics of how life works.

When God created Adam and Eve, there was perfect union with both God and with each other. The two people walked with God in the garden, talking with Him and being open and honest with each other. Genesis 2:25 says, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” This is not only about no clothes. This is two people being completely intimate physically, but also emotionally. They were in harmony. They were vulnerable with each other, not hiding anything. They “knew” each other completely. There was no shame.

We were created to be in that kind of Relationship with both God and others. To be open and honest. To be intimate. To be accepted.

Someone once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the world is. Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:37-39

Everything in life comes down to these two Relationships.

We must be reconciled to God. We must ask His forgiveness and we must cultivate a daily relationship with Him.

We must reconnect with others. We must care for each other, forgive each other, reach out in love and support for each other.

Photo courtesy of Fairfax.gov

So how do we do this? Jesus gives us this very important directive in living our lives. “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  John 14:13   

James tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

We know what God wants for us and what we need – Intimate and Honest Relationship.

We know the first step in getting those Relationships. Prayer. Talk to God. Admit that you need Relationship and ask Him to help you restore them.

That is asking in Jesus’ Name and He will do it.

Is there a Relationship in your life that needs restoring? Start working on it today.

Shame/Fear/Self-Doubt

“You can’t do it.”

“Half the people will laugh at you; the other half will be disgusted at your incompetence.”

Image from: lifehack.org

These voices -and many others just like them – shoot through my thoughts time and again. Every time I hear them, the knot in my stomach gives a lurch and pulls tighter.

I am working on a large project that affects many people throughout my small community. I have spear-headed this project before and it was quite successful. So why do those feelings return?

What exactly am I feeling?

Shame? Self-doubt? Fear? Timidity? Yes, I think so.

Shame = a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior (either real or perceived)

Self-doubt = lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities.

Fear = of disgrace, embarrassment, degradation, being demeaned.

Timidity = a lack of courage or confidence, fearful, apprehensive, frightened, scared, faint-hearted.

Image from: https://dailybreadforlife.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/shame.jpg?w=798&h=600&crop=1

I push the thoughts back into the recess of my mind. Don’t let them out! The knot in my stomach grows again.

Where do these thoughts come from?

My mother was very much this way. So, did it come to me by way of DNA? Or maybe learned behavior? My father often seemed to take delight in pointing out, quite loudly, where I had failed. Our self-image formed in childhood is quite powerful – for good or for bad.

Yet – I am an adult now. I have not lived with my parents for over 30 years. Certainly, I cannot blame them any longer for my thought patterns that I have this week.

Insight for Living has a devotional video that I have watched several times that is titled Our Weaknesses.

With a big, hearty smile, Chuck Swindoll talks about how great it is when we admit our weaknesses.

Really? What a relief it would be!

Instead of pushing back those thoughts, it is now time for me to bring them into the light. Stare them in the face. Examine them carefully. Talk about them.

Yes, it is true. I am not perfect. Never have been, never will be.

I will do my best. I will ask for help.

I will take everything to God in prayer! I will let the Holy Spirit flow through me!

Now! Time to get back to work on this project. It will be great!

Invisible Forces

The evil king of Aram was out to kill the king of Israel and plunder the countryside. 2 Kings 6 Time and again he plotted where and when to attack the Israelites. Yet the king of Israel was warned each and every time and made well his escape. When the evil king was notified that Elisha the prophet was the source of the military leaks, the king sent horses and chariots along with a strong army force to get rid of the man of God.

The Arameans surrounded the city where Elisha and his servant were staying. In the early morning, Elisha’s servant stepped outside to begin preparations for the day – there was the enemy army! They were all around!

The servant ran back inside and shouted at his master, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?”

Elisha was not concerned. “Don’t worry about it,” he told his servant. We have a bigger army than they do. As a puzzled servant stood there with a muddled look on his face, Elisha prayed. “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”

The servant did not know what was out there. Even the enemy army did not know what was out there. Yet God had provided all that was needed – more than what was needed. They just couldn’t see it.

For we live by faith, not by sight.   2 Corinthians 5:7

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  2 Kings 6

Chris Tomlin wrote a wonderful song about this “God of angel armies.”

The chorus goes like this:

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind

The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

Listen to the entire song here:

Angels are real. Angel armies are real. But most importantly, God is real. Pray and ask Him to open your eyes.

The Passion of Jesus Christ

The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper is an amazing book. The subtitle is: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die.

Reason #6 is To Show His Own Love for Us.

Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

[He] loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

John Piper writes: The death of Christ is not only the demonstration of God’s love (John 3:16), it is also the supreme expression of Christ’s own love for all who receive it as their treasure. The early witnesses who suffered most for being Christians were captured by this fact: Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). They took the self-giving act of Christ’s sacrifice very personally. They said, “He loved me. He gave himself for me.”

John continues: Surely this is the way we should understand the sufferings and death of Christ. They have to do with me. They are about Christ’s love for me personally.

This book has changed the way I view Christ’s death and his resurrection.

What does Christ’s death mean to you?

How do you see his resurrection?

Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

I was reading a blog the other day that was very sad.

This person told about breaking up with their boyfriend, then going to a terrible party, getting drunk, then feeling miserable about her life. One bad incident triggered three miserable events.

I realize that this happens often, to both men and women.

But why?

There is an old country/western song that said,

 “Looking for love in all the wrong places, Looking for love in too many faces, Searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces of what I’m dreamin’ of.”

Looking for love. That is the very essence of who we are.

Why? Because God created us that way.

God planted deep within our hearts a powerful yearning for authentic love. That yearning was intended to bring us closer to Him. It was also intended to bring us into families. Children desire love above all else. Women long for a deep relationship with one strong man. Men long for a deep relationship with one tender woman. We want to be special. We long for commitment and security in one intimate relationship.

When those longings are not fulfilled, our lives crash. After my own divorce, I hit rock bottom.

The song goes on to say, “Playin’ a fool’s game, hopin’ to win.” And “I did everything I could to get me through the night.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. God has longings too. He longs for us to turn toward Him so He can pour His love out on us. He longs to provide the relationships we desire.

God will hear.

It took me lots of time before I realized I just needed more of God. When I rededicated my life to Him, He filled my life to overflowing with Love!

But we have to ask. Try it. Start talking to Him today. The Name of Jesus is very powerful. Ask in Jesus’ name for what you need. God will hear.

You must be willing to set your pride down and admit where you have gone wrong. God will hear.

Have you experienced God’s love? Share your story here.

7 Keys to Teaching Children About God

Passing on our personal faith in Jesus Christ to children is one of the most important things we can ever do. A recent Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. 

https://www.barna.com/research/evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids/

Sometimes kids can be difficult to teach. They need to bounce. They need to talk about their pets. They interrupt. But put a few tools in your teaching tool belt and the problems will smooth right out.

  1. Teach the kids – not the curriculum. Many times, teachers enter the room with prepared curriculum and are insistent that the class get through the material. I have watched kids sit through lessons as words fly past them. Then the kids get up and go home with no idea of what it was all about. Speak to them, look into their eyes, let them ask questions. If you don’t finish all the material, bring it back for a second lesson. It’s better for the kids to go home with one firm thought, than for them to leave with everything over their head.
  2. Ask them if they have any questions. I often start my lessons this way: “What questions do you have about God?” I am amazed at the deep questions the kids have, that no one has taken the time to answer. “How can God be everywhere at once?” “How can Jesus be God if he is on earth and the Father is in heaven?” “Why is the Bible so hard to read?” “How did Jesus know what was going to happen to him?” These are all very important questions. If you don’t know the answer to something they ask, that’s okay. Just say, “I don’t know.” Then go find out and report back. Kids often feel shy about asking these kinds of questions, so I always let them know how important their questions are. The next time, they won’t be so hesitant.
  3. Give them hands on activities to connect with the ideas. Children are tactile. They need to see and touch – even taste. Let the kids act out Bible stories in mini-skits. They LOVE any kind of costumes. Keep the lines short and simple. Usually when we act out a Bible story, it only takes a minute or two, so we repeat it several times with different kids in different roles. Everyone is excited to try every role at least once! By the end of our time, they know the story very well. Paper cut outs, drawings, water paints, and clay molding all work very well too. Give them a theme and let them get to work. You will be astounded at some of the results.
  4. Respect their individual maturity levels. Some kids are full of deeply thought through questions while others just want to talk about their last soccer game. Don’t push kids. When they are ready, they will respond.
  5. Keep it short. Young elementary kids need a change of topic or activity every 10-15 minutes. Older elementary can maybe go 20-25 minutes, then change up the activity. Get them up and moving. Give them something to create. Watch for signs that they need a change. When the kids lose focus, they are not being disobedient, they are being the kids God created them to be.
  6. Really listen to them. What did they go through in the past few days or week that was hard for them? What excites them? Children often struggle with the death of a pet for far longer than we think they should. If they are still talking about something, it’s important to them.
  7. Teach in small groups. Five to eight students in a group is ideal. Any more than that and some kids will get lost in the crowd. Those are the ones who will most likely choose to stay home when their parents give them the choice or when they become teenagers. And they may never come back.

Children love hearing the stories of the Bible. And they love any adult who will sit with them and share their own stories of faith. I teach children because they pour their love right back to me.

What have you found helpful when teaching children? Let’s get a conversation going and reach those kids for Christ.