Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Are We Boiling Yet?

I had the privilege of joining my daughter’s Bible study group last Friday. We had a great discussion about Christianity in our culture. One of the girls asked me what I thought of some currently acceptable forms of entertainment and leisure activities that many Christians participate in. I told her the story of the frog.

I’ve heard, although I’ve never tried this myself, that if you try to throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will immediately hop right back out. Smart froggie, that one. However, if you toss a frog into a pot of cool water and slowly turn up the heat, he will contentedly swim about until he boils to death. Apparently, he can’t decipher the nuances of change in the temperature until it’s too late.

This is the same tactic the enemy of God uses on us. He knows if he suddenly introduced pornography, violence, immorality, cruelty etc. into our culture Christians would have fiercely opposed them. But by introducing these things slowly, turning up the heat just an increment at a time, we don’t see anything drastic enough to be alarmed about.

Take television shows for instance. Years ago there was Casper the Friendly Ghost – a chubby little guy who does good deeds to help others. There was also Bewitched – a sweet housewife who just wants to live a normal mortal life. And I Dream of Jeannie – a voluptuous harem girl; hundreds of years old, yet innocent and na├»ve, living with a single man (but she sleeps in her bottle of course).

Today, television is rife with witchcraft, werewolves, sorcerers, ghosts, and demonic activity. They’re not only accepted in our culture, but popular children’s fare and the latest sex symbols for wide-eyed American girls. I can’t even begin to address the constant use of lewd conversation, illicit sex, violence, and profanity of God’s name.

In our schools, they told us we needed a “separation between church and state” so they removed the Ten Commandments and Prayer. Now lesbian and homosexual couples are allowed to grope each other in the hallways, yet a Christian student is expelled for praying over his lunch. Is the water getting a bit too warm for your taste?

One writer asked: What if you set a warm pan of brownies on the table for your family, but just as they leaned in to devour their favorite treat, you announced that a little poop got in the batter when you were making them. “It shouldn’t be a problem though,” you say. “You’ll hardly notice it at all.” Do you think they would still dig in?   

The thought of it turns my stomach, and yet I find myself guilty. Someone asks what I think of a particular show and I say, “It’s really good; it only had a little language/innuendo/violence.” The same goes for comedy acts, plays, concerts, books. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s poop in our brownies!

If we’re not careful about what we consume, pretty soon we’re not only going to put up with it as a necessary evil, but develop a taste for poop, asking for another helping on the side. And if we don’t test the temperature of the water from time to time and run from evil, we will end up like that poor frog – lulled to death by the slowly changing culture around us.

Here’s a few challenging phrases from Ephesians 5:6-17, New Living:

·         Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins
·         Don’t participate in the things these people do
·         Live as people of light!
·         Carefully determine what pleases the Lord
·         Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them
·         Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise
·         Make the most of every opportunity  
·         Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are You Getting Anything Out of Bible Reading?

Sometimes it’s possible to think you’re accomplishing something, when you’re not. Take today, for instance. I went to the gas station to fill up my tank and then bought groceries. When I was almost home, I happened to glance down and noticed the needle on my gauge said I was almost on empty. What happened? Didn’t I just get gas, or was my gauge not working?

For one brief moment, I thought about waiting to see if it went down from there. It is gray and stormy and I really didn’t want to go out again. But I was even less excited by the prospect of running out of gas on a dark and stormy night, far from help. So I called the station. Turns out, through a comedy of errors, I never actually received any gas.

So I put away the groceries and back to the station I went. This time I made sure the needle showed Full before exiting.

The same thing can happen in our spiritual life. If you are trying to make it a daily habit to read your Bible, how do you know if you are filled up afterward? Here are a few ways to tell.

One sure sign that you’re not getting anything out of your reading is if you’re constantly running out of gas. I wasn’t foolhardy enough to test this out with my car, but so often we do this spiritually. If this is happening to you, you may not be connecting to the gas nozzle, but this can be fixed. God is extremely interested in giving us the strength we need each day through His Word, so if you ask Him what needs to change, He will show you. It might help you to read aloud, memorize, journal, talk about it with friends, or ask others how they get the most from their reading.

Another thing that can happen is fly by reading. Since I did visit the gas station, I could have checked it off my list and called it good, but I still wouldn’t have any gas in my car. If we read the Bible too fast and don’t take time to focus, meditate on, or respond to what it says, we may be able to say we visited the station, but it won’t get us very far.

The gas gauge is a handy little gadget to have. I was relieved to discover mine was working after all. Several ways to gauge whether your Bible reading is filling up your spirit is to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Would you be able to tell somebody else what you read today and what it meant to you?
  • Does the Bible continue to speak to you throughout the day?
  • Does it regularly challenge you - to change in some way, wait for direction, seek forgiveness, speak out, shut up, or learn more?
  • Do you expect God to speak to you; do you respond?
  • Do you trickle in a few drops or invest in filling up?
  • Is it making a difference in the way you think and act?
  • Have your attitudes changed for the better since you started reading God’s Word?
I’m so glad I went back to fill up my car. It took extra time out of my day that I hadn’t planned on, but I will be much better off down the road. J  I promise you that if you invest time each day in the Bible, expecting God to meet you there, He will fill you up with such good stuff that your tank will overflow! And you will drive into your day prepared to meet whatever challenges come your way.       

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fresh and New in 2012

Ruby Joy Bradley
I had the privilege of holding Ruby Joy on Friday when she was fresh out of the box; just six days old. This is how she looked, although at the time she was sporting an adorable froggy sleeper with hand mitts. I had hoped to see her eyes open, but was transfixed the entire visit by her peaceful visage.

We laughed, talked, and passed her from person to person, but she didn’t stir. She wasn’t worried. She wasn’t afraid we were going to drop her. She wasn’t bothered by our noise. Ruby was the picture of complete trust and repose.

This has become a picture of my goal this New Year. I want to rest in my Savior’s arms with complete trust in 2012. Like Ruby, I want to relax and rest in Him, knowing He will meet all my needs for love, safety, and well being. In the past, the noises of the world, the enemy, and my own thoughts have startled me and knifed my heart with fear. This year, I want to be secure in Jesus instead.

My favorite definition for faith is: “resting your full weight.” When we go in a room and sit down, we don’t inspect our chair first to see if it’s sturdy enough to hold us. We place our full weight in it, never doubting it will do its job. Why then, would I doubt my Father’s ability to hold me? He is infinite in power and faithful in His love.

Brian and Britney would never dream of letting Ruby down. They are full to bursting with love and pride. They are willing to go without sleep to meet her needs. In the years to come, Ruby will consume their time, energy, money, and prayers. They will give willingly and generously, so their precious daughter will feel safe, loved, nourished, healthy, and equipped for whatever comes.

Would our Heavenly Father do any less for us in this coming year? Are you resting your full weight in His arms?

You and I may not be fresh out of the box, but 2012 is a new year full of blank pages for us to fill. I don’t know about you, but I want to fill every day with trust, courage, love, hope, joy, wisdom, and helping others find their way.

Happy New Year to you all! May 2012 be the year that you release your fears and past mistakes to God, and rest your full weight in Him. He will care for you.