RSS

Monthly Archives: August 2017

What are you feeding your mind?

I am surprised, amazed, saddened … by what people think about and share with the world. There is a decided lack of civility in public discourse, especially regarding politics. On the one hand, Facebook is filled with posts about depression, anxiety, and darkness. On the other hand, it is also populated with trivial games, comments, videos, and frivolous pursuits.

When you calculate what people are thinking about, is it any wonder our world is in trouble?

This morning, I was challenged by Jeremiah 15:16 – “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”

The verse reminded me of the apostle Paul’s instruction in Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

As Christ followers, we need to make healthy choices about what we feed our minds. While we cannot avoid the negative, we also don’t have to focus and meditate on it. We must make the choice to fill our minds with Scripture in order to gain God’s perspective on life. We must choose to focus on those things which will build us up rather than tear us down.

What are you feeding your mind?

 

Following God … to a Dead End

Have you ever felt like your life hit a dead end? You were heading in the right direction. You were making good progress in your marriage, career, relationships, etc. And then without warning, everything went off the rails. You came to a sudden, inexplicable, jarring halt. You couldn’t go forward and you couldn’t go backwards. Regardless of your best efforts, you were stuck.

That was the dilemma the nation of Israel faced when they found themselves trapped between the Red Sea and the armies of Egypt (Exodus 14). Before they could go forward, they needed to learn some new lessons about who God is and what he was going to do on their behalf.

God often places us in situations where we have to rely on him (1-14). On those occasions, God displays his glory so that we might know him better.

God led Israel into a cul-de-sac in order to demonstrate his glory (1-4). With armed fortresses to the north, the desert to the south, the Red Sea to the east, and the armies of Egypt advancing from the west, Israel was at a dead end. God led them into this problem so that they might know him better.

It appeared that Israel’s enemies had gained the upper hand (5-9). A few days after the Passover, Pharaoh changes his mind about allowing the Israelites to leave. He dispatches 600 of his best chariots and armed forces to bring them back. It appeared that he had them trapped in a geographical cul-de-sac.

Rather than rely on God, Israel reacted in fear (10-12). They weren’t merely afraid, they were greatly afraid. They were in full blown panic mode. Like many of us, they cried out to God and then blamed the leadership (Moses) for their predicament.

God wanted Israel to depend on him (13-14). God gives them four commands—fear not, stand firm, see the salvation of the Lord, and be silent. Like Israel, we tend to do just the opposite. We are afraid, run away, don’t look for God, and complain to everyone around us. In so doing, we miss what God is doing.

When we trust God, he fights our battles for us (15-29). Contrary to human wisdom, God instructs Israel to move forward (15-18). God then moves to stand between Israel and her enemies (19-20). During the night, God opens a path through the Red Sea (21-22, 29) and then destroys the Egyptian army when they try to pursue Israel (23-28).

Seeing God at work should cause us to trust him and to worship him (30-31).

There are four life lessons I take away from this account. (1) It often takes dead ends to break lifetime habits. God often has to bring us to the end of ourselves and our resources in order to truly change and transform our lives. (2) When you have nowhere else to turn, trust God. Far too often, trust in God is viewed as a last resort. (3) If God is to get the glory, he must fight the battle. If I can do it myself, I will take the credit. (4) Red Seas open and close according to God’s timing, not ours. God’s timing is always best, but it is always different from mine.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 13, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Practical advice for good communication

Book Review: Before you Hit Send: Preventing Headache & Heartache, by Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.

How many of us have created a mountain of heartache reaped a harvest of hurt feelings because we hurriedly posted a comment on Facebook, tweeted an inappropriate response, or vented in a blog post or email? Dr. Emerson Eggerichs has written a very practical volume to help prevent that from happening again.

While Before you Hit Send: Preventing Headache & Heartache is aimed at the phenomenon of social media, it provides helpful and practical advice for communication in every form. Emerson poses four questions that should guide all of our communication—Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? and, Is it clear? He devotes one chapter to each one of these questions.

The chapters are laid in identical form. They begin with a Scriptural Meditation on the question. He gives numerous verses that provide biblical guidelines for true, kind, necessary, and clear communication. He then discusses the heart of the issue, trying to define what is most important regarding the topic. He discusses how the Golden Rule applies to each question. He then identifies at least twenty mistakes that we make when it comes to true, kind, necessary, and clear communication, as well as how to fix the problem in your own communication and how to address those who abuse it in communicating to you. He closes each chapter by reminding the reader of the standard that God calls us to in communication.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Books, Social Media

 

FCBC Softball – Playoff edition

Congratulations to the First Central Bible Church Softball team. They ended the season in a three-way tie for first, swept the first round of the playoffs, and made it to the league championship last night. Unfortunately, they came out on the wrong end of the score, but that did not diminish a great season. The team did well and the fans of all ages supported them with enthusiasm.

 
 

Transforming lives through strategic stewardship

Book Review: A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities Through Strategic Giving, by Mac Pier

A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities Through Strategic Giving by Mac Pier is the follow up to his previous book, A Disruptive Gospel. In the first book, the author lays out the philosophy and strategy to using generosity to reach cities with the gospel. In this book, he tells stories of how it is taking place.

In this volume, the author weaves together three big ideas.

The first is God’s vision for the world as referenced in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah gives us the big picture of a God who comes to transform cities, who causes nations and nature to rejoice in him. Isaiah announces the coming of a Savior who will be the ultimate expression of the generosity of God in the gospel.

The second is that of movement. A spiritual movement is taking place when the Christian population is growing faster than the general population. A movement is taking place when the church is making an impact on the great social realities of a city or nation. A movement is taking place when Christian leaders are finding themselves in places of cultural influence.

The third big idea is that of a relational network, a movement of friendship.

The book contains 31 chapters in which the author interviews 40 leaders in 10 countries around the world who are using generosity for the sake of the gospel. While you can easily read the book in one sitting, you could also read one chapter a day over the course of a month and let the stories sink in. The interviews and stories are designed to encourage the reader to think of creative ways to use their own resources to help fuel the advance of the gospel.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Books, Finances, Generosity, Quotes

 

Helpful travel guide for the Holy Land

Book Review: The Holy Land for Christian Travelers: An Illustrated Guide to Israel, by John A. Beck

If you are planning a trip to Israel in the near future, you will want to consult The Holy Land for Christian Travelers: An Illustrated Guide to Israel by John A. Beck. The author has spent many years teaching field studies in Israel, Jordan, and Egypt and serves as a permanent adjunct faculty member at Jerusalem University College in Israel.

The book covers the waterfront and includes everything you need to plan your trip. The author begins by instructing the reader on a brief history of the land of Israel. He also includes sections on geography, seasons, and climate—winds, water, and rainfall. He also provides suggested itineraries for a one-week or two-week trip, as well as helpful facts that travelers need to know before coming to the Holy Land.

The bulk of the book gives detailed descriptions of what to see and do in every geographic section of Israel—Jerusalem, both walkable sites and drivable sites; the Coastal Plain; the Central Mountains South; the Central Mountains Center; and the Central Mountains North. The final section of the book contains historical maps of the land of Israel during various time periods of biblical history.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 8, 2017 in Books, Travel

 

The challenge of missions in China

Book Review: Dragon Ride: True Stories of Adventure, Miracles, and Evangelism from China, by Grace Jacob

When the Iron Curtain fell in the early 90’s, one of my mentors with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries lived in Moscow for several months. He was there to help set up the infrastructure for an outreach known as the CoMission. He commented that living in Russia was a full-time job. Whatever ministry you accomplished was gravy because it took all your time and efforts just to live there.

I was reminded of this comment after reading the book, Dragon Ride: True Stories of Adventure, Miracles, and Evangelism from China. Grace Jacob and her husband, Justin (not their real names) were missionaries in Hong Kong and China for 29 years. The book gives insight into the challenges of daily life and the persecution, sometimes subtle and sometimes overt, that missionaries face in a closed access country.

The first half to two-thirds of the book describes the challenges of daily life—securing jobs, finding apartments, dealing with unreasonable landlords, finding adequate health care. The remainder of the book describes some of Grace’s evangelistic discussions, Bible studies, and outreaches to university students.

Towards the end of the book, Grace explains how her ministry in China shaped her.

I was so blessed to have been able to spend 29 years of my life in Hong Kong and Mainland China, making Chinese friends, and speaking the dialects of their hearts. They opened up to me, and I opened my heart to them.

My Chinese friends taught me about love and committed friendship. They taught me the graciousness of gift-giving, lavish hospitality, and the importance of properly saying goodbye to the ones you love.

My Chinese Christian friends showed me how to suffer for my faith.

I came to their land, which is now my land, as fully American—I left as part Chinese.

In the great land of China, I came to know my God. Seeing him through the eyes of Buddhists, idol worshippers, atheists, Muslims, and an animist gave me an awe for the beauty of the God I worship. Living in the crucible of China, I came to know his great love for us and the power he uses on our behalf. Being stripped of the safety zones in live, I learned to pray and to trust the Lord; being stripped of pat answer, I came to know his Word.

The book is written in a simple, straightforward manner. It struck me as a cross between a newspaper article reporting the facts and reading someone’s journal. While perhaps not the best written book, I found the stories interesting. They dovetailed with what I have heard from other missionaries over the years.

I received an e-copy of the book from the author for the purpose of review. The opinions I share are my own.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Books, Missions, Quotes