Thursday, July 28, 2011

WITH God: Inspire Me

This story is a terrific reminder of God's nearness.  I bolded my favorite lines.
King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden statue made. It was ninety feet tall and nine feet wide. He erected it on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.  Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent out a summons to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other authorities of the province to attend the dedication of the statue that he had erected. So the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial authorities assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. They were standing in front of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
Then the herald made a loud proclamation: “To you, O peoples, nations, and language groups, the following command is given: When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and pay homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has erected.  Whoever does not bow down and pay homage will immediately be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire!” Therefore when they all heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations, and language groups began bowing down and paying homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
Now at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought malicious accusations against the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You have issued an edict, O king, that everyone must bow down and pay homage to the golden statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music. And whoever does not bow down and pay homage must be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. But there are Jewish men whom you appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – and these men have not shown proper respect to you, O king. They don’t serve your gods and they don’t pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar in a fit of rage demanded that they bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before him. So they brought them before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don’t serve my gods and that you don’t pay homage to the golden statue that I erected? Now if you are ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and pay homage to the statue that I had made. If you don’t pay homage to it, you will immediately be thrown into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. Now, who is that god who can rescue you from my power?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, “We do not need to give you a reply concerning this. If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his disposition changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times hotter than it was normally heated. He ordered strong soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So those men were tied up while still wearing their cloaks, trousers, turbans, and other clothes, and were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. But since the king’s command was so urgent, and the furnace was so excessively hot, the men who escorted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were killed by the leaping flames. But those three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell into the furnace of blazing fire while still securely bound.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was startled and quickly got up. He said to his ministers, “Wasn’t it three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied to the king, “For sure, O king.” He answered, “But I see four men, untied and walking around in the midst of the fire! No harm has come to them! And the appearance of the fourth is like that of a god!” Then Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire. He called out, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the most high God, come out! Come here!”
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged from the fire. Once the satraps, prefects, governors, and ministers of the king had gathered around, they saw that those men were physically unharmed by the fire. The hair of their heads was not singed, nor were their trousers damaged. Not even the smell of fire was to be found on them! Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praised be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent forth his angel and has rescued his servants who trusted in him, ignoring the edict of the king and giving up their bodies rather than serve or pay homage to any god other than their God! I hereby decree that any people, nation, or language group that blasphemes the god of Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego will be dismembered and his home reduced to rubble! For there exists no other god who can deliver in this way.” Then Nebuchadnezzar promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
From Daniel 3, NET Version.

Monday, July 25, 2011

BOOR July 2010: It's Not That Bad

Don't worry, you don't have to read much with this Best Of Online Reading!  I found this picture last summer and it's worth sharing again.

It's a little sad that this was the best thing I found online last July... but at least it's funny!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

WITH God: What It Looks Like

On a super practical level, what does a person who walks consistently with God look like?

I asked my summer staff that same question and this is what we came up with:
  • Loving
  • Compassionate
  • Humble
  • Servant
  • Genuine
  • Faithful
  • Devoted
  • Joyful
  • Secure
  • Peaceful
  • Satisfied
  • Evangelistic
  • Thoughts Focused on God

In any regards, walking WITH God is something that can be seen.  Check out 1 Samuel 16:18: One of his attendants replied, “I have seen a son of Jesse in Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave warrior and is articulate and handsome, for the Lord is with him.”

Can people tell that you are walking with God?  What traits would you add to the above list?

Monday, July 18, 2011

How I Read It: It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men

A few thoughts after finishing It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy:

Quotable:  "Every child I know who overcame long odds and grew into a responsible adult can point to an adult who stepped into his or her life as a friend, mentor and guide."

My Title:  I think a better title for this book would have been "S. Truett Cathy's Memories as They Relate to Raising Children."  Maybe not as catchy, but it would have been more accurate.  I was slightly disappointed that there was not more prescriptive advice that fell into the "Build Boys" category.  That being said, there were many practical reminders of how to relate to and lead children...

I'll Be Using This:  And those practical reminders are what I'll be using from this book.  The chapters on Respect, Trust and Generosity, Common Sense, Right Crowd/Wrong Crowd, and Stability will be great for me to review.  I also think some of the material would be good to share with the COCUSA staff at next year's training.

2011 Personal Impact Ranking: 
  1. One thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill*
  2. Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson*
  3. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck*
  4. The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
  5. Humility by CJ Mahaney*
  6. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  7. Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin*
  8. Crazy Love by Francis Chan*
  9. It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy
  10. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Relationship Pyramid

Due to some internal COCUSA logistics I'm taking a one week break from the WITH Series.  I think I first did the "Relationship Pyramid" devotional in 2006 (maybe 2007) in a morning devotional at COCUSA.  Every summer since then one of our returning staff members requests that I repeat it.  So here it is in blog form.  (Note:  The original idea came from Chip Ingram and I've slightly adapted and expanded it.)

I know that when I was in high school and college it was really difficult to figure out the whole 'relationship' thing.  I wanted to pursue relationships with the ladies in a Godly way, but I really didn't know how.  I wish I had seen this pyramid previous to my high school and college years, because it really provides a framework for a Christ-centered relationship with the opposite sex.  (Note: If you're goal isn't to have a Christ-centered relationship with the opposite gender, you can stop reading now.)

This is what they pyramid looks like:
Now I'll describe it from the bottom up:
  • Spiritual: Is this person a committed follower of Jesus? We learn in II Corinthians 6:14 and I Kings 11:2 that this is a big deal.
  • Social: Observe the person socially.  Ruth 2 shows an example of this with Ruth and Boaz.  If there's red flags here, stop.
  • Interpersonal: Get to know each other. It's between this step and the next that "best friends" are made.  I don't have a specific scripture passage for this one, but I'm open to ideas?
  • Emotional: Keep your emotions behind God's leading.  Genesis 29:20 is an example of how strong emotional connection can be.
  • Physical: Come together physically. Hebrews 13:4 speaks pretty clearly on the correct timing of this.  If you're already married, Song of Solomon is the book for you.
What's happening in America today is a complete flip of this pyramid.  Physical attraction is the first and most important, and then we move backwards from their.  I'll let our current society stand as condemnation of how flipping the pyramid works.  (Hint: not well!)

Keep in mind, the last two blocks on the pyramid are not bad (they are actually awesome!) but they cannot be the foundation in a Christ-centered relationship.

One last note: Most Christians don't totally flip the pyramid.  What we have tendency to do (and what I did more than once in high school and college) is jumble the layers.  I'm not so shallow to put the physical first, but I'm not so spiritual to keep the emotional from being one of the first layers.

Building pyramids the wrong way doesn't usually work (real ones and relational ones).

So how's your relationship pyramid?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Planning to be Bold

As I said here, I wanted to share some additional thoughts on boldly sharing God's word.

I realize you can have a tendency to overplan these things, but generally for me, no plan means no action.  On multiple occasions I've found myself in a conversation that's going well when I think: "I should talk with this person about Jesus."

But then I don't.  It might just be timidity, and I've been praying and reading Scripture on that.  But in the event that it's also a lack of preparation, here's one plan to be bold.

Step 1: Be around people who need Jesus.  For me this means hanging out with kids and meeting parents while at camp.  Another example is if you're going to a coffee shop, sit in the comfy relaxing chairs instead of at a table.  (There is a much better chance you strike up a conversation with a stranger.)

Step 2: Be a friendly conversation starter.  Talk to people!

Step 3: Attempt to point the conversation somewhere spiritual.  Questions like: Is there anything I can pray about for you?  Is there more to life?  Do you believe in God?  What happens after you die?  What do you believe when it comes to spiritual things?  With camper parents one specific question I'd like to ask is: What do you think about the Bible stories we teach the kids?   (Note: These all might be better prefaced with a: "Can I ask you something?")

Step 4: At that point, really seek to listen to them and find out what they believe.  If the conversation has gone well to that point, most likely you'll have the opportunity to speak specific Gospel truth into their life.

Step 5: Depending on how the conversation ends, have a tract available to give them.

Any additions, subtractions or advice for this plan?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

WITH God: Don't Forget It!

Joshua 4:20-24 Now Joshua set up in Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan. He told the Israelites, “When your children someday ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones represent?’ explain to your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you while you crossed over. It was just like when the Lord your God dried up the Red Sea before us while we crossed it. He has done this so all the nations of the earth might recognize the Lord’s power and so you might always obey the Lord your God.”

Sometimes this biggest obstacle we face in walking with God is memory loss.  In the picture above, each block represents a specific way a COCUSA staff member "recognized the Lord's power."

What about you?  Can you write down some specific ways you've seen God work?  It's probably worth doing.  I can pretty much guarantee that at some point you'll go through a season of trials or doubt or both. 

Leave yourself a way to remember that God is WITH you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Something to do if you're bored...

May this Fourth of July find you surrounded by friends and family with plenty to do and plenty to eat.

But if you feel like you've had enough Americana... you could always download my sermon from last week.  It was on the topic of Walking WITH God.  The recording comes courtesy of Pekin Bible Church.

I can't promise anything when it comes to quality, but maybe the booming fireworks will mask out any mistakes I made.