Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Excited to be Featured on TheologyMix.com

Hi, everyone!

This week, I'm very honored and excited to have my article, "Depression and the Holidays" featured on TheologyMix.com

They have just recently launched their brand new website and it looks fantastic. The three grown daughters of a fellow author, John I. Snyder, are the administrators and are very talented at what they do. Please check it out!

And, I want to wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Working Together as Christians can be Rewarding

Recently, our congregation was involved in a community service project, called “Community Care.” 

It was a very hands-on type of effort which included such things as cleaning out people’s gutters, fixing exterior doors and windows, replacing fascia boards, pulling weeds, installing shutters, pressure washing home-siding, and a large amount of scraping and painting. It was a lot of hard work, but definitely well worth the effort.

On the Friday, a few of us, primarily retirees, did quite a lot of prep-work to get ready for the big painting job on the Saturday. I’ve got to be honest with you – I was more than a little concerned that we had bitten off more than we could chew. 

If you’ve every tried to scrape loose paint off an older home to prepare a good and paintable surface, then you know from first-hand experience that it’s hard to know when to quit. The more you scrape, the bigger the job seemingly becomes. So I just wasn’t sure that we would have the time and/or manpower to complete the work in time.

But, I’ve got to say—it’s amazing what 35 or more energetic and focused Christians can do when they set their minds to a common task! The sky’s the limit!

We started on our big painting job Saturday morning at around 8:45am, after a hearty breakfast together, which was prepared by some of our sweet ladies in the church fellowship hall. By 11:45am, most of the house had received not only one but two coats. I couldn’t believe my eyes. 

Things went so smoothly, except for when I got stung on my left ear by an aggressive wasp. OUCH! It stung like fire, but a combination of ice and a copper penny did the trick to draw out the bad stuff—though my ear did start to swell up.

We took a break for a delicious taco salad lunch at the noon hour, got back on the jobsite by 1pm and were cleaning our brushes and picking up trash and debris by 3:00pm. It was astounding to me how quickly things went. I really couldn’t believe it. But, then I suppose that the group was able to cumulatively accomplish hundreds of hours of work in a relatively short timeframe. 

That’s how it’s supposed be in the body of Christ, each member doing their part and using their gifts and talents to the glory of God.

Some of the skilled older men from the congregation had helped with setting up scaffolds and accomplishing some of the more technical carpentry work, for which I was grateful. The younger ones, primarily college students put their efforts into the painting dimension of the work and property cleanup.

Working side by side, sharing a unified goal and spiritual purpose between us, and everyone being willing to do their share of the work produced success. Of course, God had provided some wonderful, sunny weather to allow us to accomplish the work we set out to do.

After the work was complete, I thought to myself, “Oh, ye of little faith!” I had significantly underestimated what was possible when dedicated disciples are willing to work together in peace and harmony, and give sacrificially of their time and energy. It was truly inspiring for me to see this dynamic at work.

There was a sort of synergy present, whereby we each encouraged one another to keep on working when we grew tired, balanced each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and whereby each person unleashed their own respective know-how, skills and talents to contribute to the work. It was a beautiful thing to behold. And it was such an honor and privilege to be just a small part of the work.

I love projects like this because it allows individuals in the church to personally participate who may be shy, those who may possess special hidden talents to shine, or who are starving for good Christian fellowship.

When we work for the Lord and not for men, and with all our hearts, God will bless our efforts to his glory. That’s what it’s all about!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kids of the Kingdom

Children are precious to God and they should be to us too!

It’s always a joy and delight to see our children learning about God and growing up in the Lord. In a different kind of context, the apostle John writes (in 3 John 1:4), “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

The Bible has a lot to say about children, and their unique place in the kingdom of God. Within God’s household, we are all (no matter our age) his beloved adopted children (John 1:12; Rom. 8:16).

Jesus loved children and was always deeply concerned for their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. He always made time for little ones—to speak to them, hug them, and hold them, even when his own disciples thought they were a nuisance (Matt. 19:13-15).

God is protective of his little ones (See Matt. 18:1-6). He has assigned them guardian angels for their special care (vss. 10, 14). God does, however, have certain expectations of children.

Recently, I asked the sweet children of our congregation to think of various qualities that children ought to possess, and for them to use the word “KIDS” as an acronym. They far exceeded my expectations. While there were a few duplicate ideas, I think their insights were amazing.

Here’s some of what they came up with: K = Kind, Kindness; I = Innocent, Inquisitive, Incredible; D = Discipline, Delight, Determined; S = Self-control, Sinless, Sincere, Sacred.

What follows are the qualities that I thought of prior to receiving the children’s input. Kids of the kingdom need to be the following things:

Kind. In a world full of bullies, children within the church need to learn how to be kind and considerate, compassionate, merciful and loving to others. Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Children need to learn to share their toys with others. Be nice to children whom others mistreat. Stick up for the underdog. Be friendly to kids who look or behave different to them or their your friends because they either lack social skills or have a mental disability.

Involved. God expects children to be integrally involved in the life and ministry of the church. This means that their parents need to participate in church work so that their kids learn how important the church is. Parents need to set the right example when it comes to prioritizing their time, resources, and efforts for the sake of God. The powerful story of the boy with the 5 loaves and 2 fish comes to my mind (John 6:1-14). The boy was following Jesus, listening and personally involved. Because of him, one of the greatest and most memorable miracles of Jesus’ ministry was performed—the feeding of the five thousand. Our children can get involved in various church-related activities and service projects.

Disciplined. Parents must appropriately and lovingly discipline their children so that they ultimately learn self-discipline, respect for authority, and obedience to God (Hebrews 12:5-11). Godly discipline produces the fruit of righteousness. Prov. 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Children are taught to honor, respect, and obey their parents in Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20-21.

Servants of God. When God called to the boy Samuel in the tabernacle at night for the third time, Samuel replied, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:10). Kids need to learn the responsibility of serving others and need to discover the joy that comes from selfless and humble service in God’s kingdom. Jesus fleshed this out for us in his earthly ministry (Philip. 2:5-8). In a self-absorbed world, let our children learn the meaning of Christian service.

God loves and blesses kids and calls them to love and serve him in return.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Divine Dissatisfaction" points us back to God

I seem to find myself in a constant state of restlessness. It often feels nearly impossible to quiet my mind and still my spirit. 

Okay—I confess—it’s likely that I have way too much going on in my life all at once. Can you relate? I bet you can!

The Bible speaks volumes about our common experience of restlessness and dis-ease as human beings. 

Eve’s restlessness in the Garden of Eden was the byproduct of Satan’s diabolical scheme to sow seeds of doubt in her mind about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:1-7).

Abram and Sarai’s (later renamed Abraham and Sarah) impatience during their long wait for a promised son resulted in them taking things into their own hands. They foolishly decided to use their Egyptian servant Hagar as a surrogate mother to provide a child (Gen. 16, 21)—with grievous results.

Jacob’s dissatisfaction and power-hungry-pursuit in being the second-born led to his manipulative and deceptive behaviors in stealing both his older twin Esau’s birthright and first-born blessing (Gen. 25:29-34; Gen. 27).

Israel’s murmuring in the wilderness while impatiently waiting for Moses to descend from Mt. Sinai from his sacred summit with God resulted in their persuasion of Aaron to create for them the Golden Calf (Gen. 32), invoking God’s displeasure.

Samson’s impulsiveness led him to pursue idolatrous Philistine women as wives and lovers, resulting in his demise at the hands of Delilah (Judges 14-16), when he revealed to her the secret of his superhuman strength.

David’s boredom and lust caused him to become an adulterer when he allowed his passion to consume his attraction to Bathsheba, causing him to plot her husband Uriah’s murder (2 Sam. 11). David’s punishment was the tragic death of his baby boy (2 Sam. 12).

Solomon’s edginess, despite his unparalleled wisdom and wealth, resulted in him turning from the Lord through his ill-advised marriages with many non-Israelite, idolatrous women (1 Kings 11). His haunting, self-reflective words penned in his old age are eye-opening in Ecclesiastes as he recognized “all is vanity and a chasing after the wind.”

As finite beings, each one of us, remains in a state of incompleteness, of incessant searching. In fact, we are most vulnerable when we achieve some great desire and recognize its ultimate futility. 

We all struggle with “Divine Dissatisfaction,” a condition no carnal or temporal happiness can cure. The things we feverishly pursue are usually inadequate substitutions of the spiritual things which we actually desire beneath the surface. But as this-worldly material “things” they never fully satisfy our longings within our souls.

You see, human desire, the quest for something that will satisfy us, points beyond finite objects and imperfect persons. It points through these objects and persons towards their real goal in God himself. Education, qualifications, prestigious careers, relationships, money and stuff—none of these can ever fulfill that for which we ultimately search.

This is the paradox of hedonism—a view which holds that pursuit of pleasure is the ultimate good. But worldly pleasure is unable to satisfy the soul. This is the “Divine dissatisfaction” which points us back to God. 

To the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said (in John 4:13-14), “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

Only God himself can satiate our spiritual hunger and quench our spiritual thirst.

St. Augustine prayed: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” 

We have been created by God and experience a deep sense of longing for Him which only he can satisfy. The Psalmist expressed this concept vividly: “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you” (Psalm 42:1).

We enter into the life of faith and discover God through belief in that which is beyond us. We can't build any worthwhile kind of life unless we have God at the core—as the very foundation of our existence.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Introducing Amy L. Sullivan

Hey, everyone!

Allow me to introduce you to my author friend, Amy L. Sullivan. I'm very honored to be her guest on her blog this week. Amy is all about getting up and serving others.

Her new book, When More is Not Enough, celebrates the idea of more: more prayers cried out, more time spent together, more use of our talents, more interest in strangers, more forgiveness of hurt, more of what Jesus taught us each day of his life.

Filled with Biblical reasoning, real-life anecdotes, practical resources, and start-this-very-second kinds of activities, When More is Not Enough is for families who are ready to move beyond seeing generosity as a series of tasks and instead, turn it into a way of life.
Click here for Amazon link!

*All proceeds Amy receives from the sale of this book will benefit Transformation Village, a housing development for women and children and families in crisis in Western North Carolina.

Here's the touching trailer to her wonderful book!

Hope you'll check out my guest post as well as the rest of her website! The Positive Results of Christian Service: A Guest Post by Ryan Fraser

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Beautiful and Inspiring Prayer

This morning in our worship service at Bethel Springs church of Christ, a humble man named David Forsythe led one of the most beautiful and inspiring prayers that I've ever heard. I asked David for his special permission to share this magnificent prayer here on my blog. You will quickly see why I did. Get ready to be uplifted and inspired!


Our Father in Heaven,

We praise you for your marvelous Word, that tells us of your power and might that created the heavens and the earth and all they contain, even the air we breath, the water we drink, and the food we eat. 

From the beginning, you showed us your love for us by demonstrating your willingness to show us your eternal wisdom. Wisdom that provides us with understanding that is essential for life with purpose. We do not walk blindly as those without hope. We walk with the full assurance that we know our Creator, we have purpose, and we have a destiny.

You proclaimed that you created light. Even before you put the sun in the heavens you created light. We also acknowledge that you are light and there is no darkness in you. Such thoughts are too wonderful for us to fully fathom.

You have enlightened us to know your Son who proclaimed that he was the way, the truth, and the life. He also proclaimed that he was the light of the world and that those that follow him shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. Thank you for blessing us with this understanding.

You created us in your image. You gave us a soul. We are so much more than the animal kingdom. We have logical thought, and memory, and conscience. We can ask, “Where did we come from?” We can ask, “Why are we here?” We can ask, “Is this all there is to life?” For you created us to have the ability to think and reason, and we perceive that you created even thought. You created us with the insatiable desire to worship.

This thought—that we are created in your image—is too wonderful for us to behold. But we accept it as truth and joyfully proclaim to a lost world that desperately needs to hear and obey the truth.

Father, help us to respect your word and hold it up as that pure light that provides ultimate truth, hope, and purpose in a world that increasingly denies your Lordship. Help us never to quench the Spirit.

We would not know even your name, or your timeless account of history if you had not preserved your word, though many have tried and are trying to destroy it. Your divine thread of purpose ties the Bible’s books together—they provide us with an account of your creation, your eternal nature, your power, your holiness, your long-suffering, your mercy, your grace, your truth, your forgiveness, your steadfastness, your healing, your love, your protection, your faithfulness, your redemption, your discipline, your promises, your judgment, your intervention in our lives, your hearing of our prayers, and your provision of what we need for physical life and spiritual life. You are awesome—your character is matchless and incomparable. You are the living God.

Father, there are many things we cannot comprehend. But you, in your providence, you have created us to have an understanding that can provide wisdom even for our generation. You had your Word written down by the patriarchs, judges, kings, prophets, apostles, and others in a perfect way that the human mind can interpret. Even the logic that we use to interpret your Scripture is provided to us by you. 

Thank you for providing your Word so we can be at peace with you. Help us to study like the Bereans. Help us to accept your Word as absolute eternal truth. Confound the enemies of your Word with the truth. Help us to skillfully be able to use your Word as the basis for teaching others. Help us never to fight in the battle for the souls of men empty-handed.

Enable us to skillfully fight the battle with the your Word, the sword of the Spirit. We acknowledge that our reasoning without the foundation of your Word is powerless to win in this epic battle of good and evil. For we have heard and believe that your Word is sharper than a two-edged sword and able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

And we know that your divine power has granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Christ that called us by his own divine glory and virtue. We acknowledge that we have no knowledge of Christ’s divinity except through your Word.

Lord, help us to walk humbly in your sight that we my see your glory and share the truth with those that walk blindly.

Father we have many requests. Please bring healing to the sick, and healing to the spiritually sick so we can be at peace with you. Continue to forgive us of our sins, as we walk humbly with Christ as our savior—forgiving each other as we walk in the way. Please correct, admonish, and encourage us as we walk in the light of your Word. Bless us as we repent and confess our sins and follow Christ as our Lord.  

Father, in these troubling times, when Christians are persecuted for their faith, with uncertainties surrounding us, please continue to keep watch over us and protect your church from the schemes of the evil one.

Father, in times when the people and even governments promote and legalize immorality, when false religions promote physical conquest of territories, when murderous atrocities are viewed by all peoples and there seemingly is no authority to bring about justice, when democracies provide arms and support to murderous regimes, when nations attack other nations, when freedom of faith is under attack, when murder of the helpless is accepted as a reasonable choice, when children are taught that immorality is an acceptable choice, when military powers promote conquest over established borders, when our peoples are educated that there is no God, and when freedoms that were once enjoyed are denied—please encourage us to remain faithful when the uncertainty of our times seems overwhelming. When we compare history to our present time we know assuredly that you are our only hope. 

Help us to raise our children to know you and the truth that saves our souls. Help us to realize that our faith is under attack and your strength will help us overcome. Help us to be steadfast, unmovable, and faithful to the end and encouraged that souls are being saved every day, even in the midst of the turmoil of our times.

In the name of Christ our Savior,