Thursday, October 30, 2014

Would you like to make fewer mistakes? Try these tips ...

The idea that a picture is worth a thousand words struck me when I first saw the photo above. I thought to myself, "I can identify with that dog!"

I think we all can.

We've all had times in our lives when something appeared to be a good idea, when our curiosity got the better of us, and we wound up making a decision we would quickly regret.

We made a mistake.

I'm not talking about sin. There's a difference between a sin and a mistake, though we'll all commit too many of both. But like the dog above, we've all made choices that put us in a difficult dilemma and took extra work, resources, and probably some help to get out of. Kind of like these mistakes ...

... when a drum major tossed his baton in Ventura, California, and it hit two 4,000-volt power lines, blacking out a ten-block area and knocking a radio station off the air. The baton melted ...

... a bank robber in Los Angeles told the clerk not to give him cash, but to deposit the money into his checking account ...

... on his first assignment for a Chicago newspaper, a rookie reporter drove a company car to a car-crushing plant, parked in the wrong spot, and returned from interviewing the manager just in time to see the vehicle being compacted into scrap metal.

Life is just plain more enjoyable when we make fewer mistakes and more good decisions. So let's look briefly at just a few things we can do to reduce the number of mistakes we make (these suggestions also help us to avoid sin as well) ...

1. Make time to think. That's an odd sounding sentence, but if you think about it (no pun intended), we rarely make time in our day just to think. When we don't, we leave ourselves to making split-second decisions, and the more we do that the more mistakes we make. We've become very habitualized to reacting to daily circumstances rather than thoughtfully responding to them. Just setting aside a few minutes over coffee in the morning to think through our day can help us be better mentally prepared for the things we can anticipate facing. By anticipating what lies ahead, you can think through the decisions you may need to make that day, and be prepared to choose your responses instead of just reacting.

2. Be grounded in the truth. Psalm 119:11 states, "I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Memorizing, knowing, and planting deep into our minds and hearts the truth of God's Word not only helps us guard against sin, but it also helps us prevent against mistakes as well. The Bible provides us with the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom we need to make good moral, ethical, God-honoring decisions; it provides a deep well of truth from which to draw from when we need to know what's right, and what isn't.

3. Be led by the Holy Spirit. It's easy with the hectic pace of our world to awake and rush into our day, just reacting to our circumstances as we confront them. We actually forget that, as Christians, the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us to guide us through this life. Jesus said, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth ..." (John 16:13a). If we would make time each day to consciously yield ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can trust that He will help us exercise better judgment than we would demonstrate by stifling the Spirit and making our own way through our days.

4. Pray without ceasing. The New Living Translation states 1 Thessalonians 5:17 this way, "Never stop praying." By constantly talking to God as we make our way through our days, we stay connected with the One who made us and wants the very best for us. An ongoing communion with God helps us to stay tapped into His peace, power, and purpose as we engage people and activities.

5. Get some rest. The studies are multiple and decisive that a lack of adequate rest reduces our capacity to make good, rational decisions. Get the rest you need to keep your thinking fresh and you'll make fewer mistakes.

Yes, it takes focus and discipline to apply these tips to your life. But it might be a mistake not to earnestly try.


BOOK REVIEW: This is one hefty study Bible!

I'm always hesitant to recommend study Bibles because they are so full of materials that are not scripture which readers sometimes take as important --- or even more important --- than scripture itself.

With that concern noted, Thomas Nelson has published the second edition of its "New King James Version Bible - Full Color Edition" that I think some readers might like.

This is one hefty study Bible! Where to start ...

Okay, I'm not one to pick the New King James Version (NKJV) for myself or others, but it's an improvement over the King James Version and is a reliable Bible. And among all the items stuffed in this study Bible, the scripture is also in there!

Along with the scripture, you'll find the following as described by the publisher:
  • Fresh new full-color page design.
  • Nelson's complete cross reference system including the NKJV translator's notes.
  • Over 15,000 clear, readable, verse-by-verse study notes.
  • Bible times and culture notes.
  • Redesigned, full-color in-text maps and charts.
  • Articles on key doctrines of the Bible.
  • Word studies with Strong's numbers.
  • Book introductions, outlines, and timelines.
  • Harmony of the Gospels, index, concordance, and redesigned color maps.
Believe me when I say stuffing all of the above into a single Bible means that the pages are overflowing with study resources. So much so many pages contain more study resources than scripture. To conduct my review, I worked through a few books of the Bible and generally found all of the various resources can be helpful, but again, they can also be a distraction to the reader.

It can be easy to get bogged down in the study resources in this Bible, but if used with focus and discipline, the study resources in this Bible can be insightful and helpful to many students of the Word.

If you just must have a study Bible, and you're okay with the New King James version, this might be the Bible for you.


I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

BOOK REVIEW: A book I wanted to recommend but can't ...

"Their Name Is Today" is a book by Johann Christoph Arnold (published by Plough Publishing House) I wanted to be able to recommend. After all, the topic of "Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World" is an important and overlooked one.

Arnold is a very good writer.

Surely, this would be a book I would be ready to recommend before even finishing reading it!

But, alas, I just cannot recommend this book to you.

The topic is aptly described on the back cover of the book: "Despite a perfect storm of hostile forces that threaten to deny children a healthy, happy childhood, courageous parents and teachers can turn the tide."

The chapter topics, and the issues raised in the chapters, are all significant --- from the world being "against" children, taking a swipe at poor education standards, the issue of pushing academics too much, the role of fathers, and even railing against technology and advertising aimed at children, along with other subjects --- all content that matters, and, I think, Arnold is mostly right about.

But it's how Arnold makes his arguments that keeps me from being able to recommend this book to you.

To state it concisely, the tone of this book is one of a person complaining. It sounds like posts you would read on Facebook griping about all these issues. What it doesn't include is surprising. Since Arnold is a pastor, I had hoped perhaps he would bring the truth of the Bible to some of the issues he raises, but this book is remarkably absent scriptural support. Okay, so how about some significant data from studies that could really make his arguments for him? Those are largely missing as well.

There are some quotes from some people, and some of those people are in positions to speak somewhat authoritatively on the issues raised, but even those are often opinions. Some sources quoted are along the lines of a teacher he knows. Quoting one teacher who believes what he does, even if it is from experience, hardly makes for a source from which to make a solid argument.

Instead, it's mostly a book from a man railing against things that affect childhood.

Some of these railings you might agree with, others you might not. Arnold seems to be against corporal punishment, not fond of technology, and generally takes an "old school" approach to raising children in 2014.

He has some good ideas, but again, the book reads like a man complaining.

I don't know about you, but I hear enough general complaining on a daily basis. Give me something that makes a substantive argument along with some substantive answers and then you've given me something I can do something with.

In this case, Arnold hasn't, and so I suggest you pass on this book.


I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You haven't forgotten these heroes have you?

They conduct your weddings and officate at the funerals of your family members and friends.

They're the one you call at 2 a.m. when life falls apart and you need advice you can stake your life on.

They're one of the first to show up at your bedside in the hospital.

They're one of the helping hands when you move to a bigger place.

They pray over you as you bring your newborn child forward to dedicate yourselves as parents.

When you're in serious trouble, again they are there, but to help instead of shame you.

They're also the one who comes alongside you and is honest enough to tell you you're headed in the wrong direction and need to change your life. Then they offer to show you how you can do that.

This is one of the people you call on when your kids are going astray and you feel like you're losing them.

They may have been the one who introduced you to Jesus and buried you in Christ in baptism.

They are one of the most consistent and faithful at setting an example for you of what it means to be a faithful and obedient disciple of Christ.

And this is the person who spends hours and hours every week studying and praying so he can effectively teach you every week.

This list can go on and on about how your pastor serves and loves you and your family. This "hero" has the serious task of watching over your soul, and October is the month designated to show appreciation to your pastor for his life of service.

"Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit," Hebrews 13:17.

Sometimes --- maybe even often? --- we don't make the work of our pastors a joyful experience for them. But we can correct that, and there's still time left in this month to add our appreciation for all they have done.

I've heard far less about Pastor Appreciation this month than I have in previous years. I hope that's not because it's being overlooked. Let me encourage you, before the month is out, to do something special for your pastor. I won't bother to list ways you can do that, I'll encourage you to use your own creativity, but let me also encourage you to do as much as you can to honor your pastor. Pastors pour out their lives watching over your souls, so don't hesitate to "go all out" in doing something for your pastor to show genuine appreciation for all they do.

Give them a cause to be joyful that they get to serve you!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

An old strategy that is still destroying lives ...

As I was approaching the Las Vegas metro area from the northeast, I could barely make out the city skyline because of the thick brown haze that hugged the valley like a heavy wet blanket. I didn't know if it was dust or pollution that was obscuring my view, but neither made it desirable to drive into something so uninviting.

My perception changed radically once I drove deeper into the city limits.

Even though whatever it was that had originally shrouded the city was still in the air, I could no longer see it. The sky appeared to be clear with hardly a cloud to be seen. All that was visible was a beautifully bright blue sky on a warm day in the desert.

That's the problem with perception, it's often deceiving.

What appeared to be beautiful weather extending into the throes of Fall was still an atmosphere full of contaminates; it hadn't become healthier to breathe the air, but the perception that it had would have been convincing had I not first seen what I was really driving into.

That's how Satan operates.

From a proper vantage point perched upon the Gospel, we can see clearly that the world is contaminated with sin. In truth, it's ugly, it' not something healthy to drive our lives into. But it surrounds us, and it's all too easy to adjust our perception so that we take the vile as being something beautiful and welcoming. Close up, it doesn't seem so bad until you breathe it in, sucking the pollution into your life.

Originally, Satan used a false perception to lure Eve into sin. Today, there are "false apostles" who continue this strategy of destruction ...

"These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve," 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

John warns us about these devious men who pollute leadership positions in the church ...

"Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world," 1 John 4:1.

Such an ominous warning! So how can we tell if our perception about such leaders is correct or not? John provides an answer ...

"But if anyone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here," 1 John 4:3.

While this ages old strategy of deception for destruction continues, John encourages us with this ...

"But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world's viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception," 1 John 4:4-6.

How are you viewing life and what the world offers? Is it through the clear, accurate, and healthy view of biblical truth? Or have you sucked in the dangerous deception of modern-day deceivers?


Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to shortcircuit your faith and God's blessing ...

This has resulted in countless ministries never being launched ...

This has caused untold numbers of people, churches, and organizations to not take a risk ...

This has sapped the peace and joy out of innumerable days in the lives of believers ...

What is this terrible thing that deteriorates our faith into something other than truly trusting God?

It's when we attempt to turn God into a process of blessing that we try to manage.

Let me better explain that statement by sharing a powerful one-line tweet shared by Daniel Cooper: "I spend waaay too much time trying to figure out HOW God is going to provide and not nearly enough time just asking for His provision."

We may come to God and ask for our needs, or even the desires of our heart, but the problem is that we so often do not trust God with the "how" of our requests.

A couple decades ago, Charles F. Kettering wrote the following: "When I was research head of General Motors and wanted a problem solved, I'd place a table outside the meeting room with a sign: 'Leave slide rules here.' If I didn't do that, I'd find someone reaching for his slide rule. Then he'd be on his feet saying, 'Boss, you can't do it'."

We do the same with God. Using our finite, little human minds, we reduce God to our size and question HOW will God be able to come through on what we've asked for in our prayers. We need the provision and blessing of God, yet we try to manage that process by determining HOW God will provide. When we can't figure that out, we allow that human limitation to cause us to doubt God instead of trust Him.

But that's missing the point entirely, as faith is about trusting God for what we can't see and understand. It is especially trusting God with the "how."

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see," Hebrews 11:1.

The New Testament is full of exhortations for us to bring our requests before God, and Jesus taught us to be persistent --- to even pester God --- with our requests. But key to our asking God for what we need and what we want is trusting Him to provide. We make the requests, and we leave the "how" up to Him.

That's living by faith.

Are you living by faith? Do you make your requests known to God, and then trust Him to work out how He will provide for you? Or do you spend your time trying to figure out how God could possibly answer your prayers?


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A desperate appeal ... for Tupperware?!

The lady driving the big Suburban SUV I saw this afternoon must have exhausted all measures known to her. Finally, she had taken shoe polish and scrawled along the back window of her vehicle the following message:

"LOOKING FOR TUPPERWARE, CALL ME ..." and then she had written her phone number.

I don't know what the problem was. Did she find her cabinets full of Tupperware lids but not nearly enough Tupperware dishes to match?

Had she contributed to so many potlucks that the dishes had not been returned and now she was in lack?

Whatever the issue was, she seemed to be in desperate need of Tupperware, and so determined to find her cherished storage containers of choice that she was going public.

We human beings respond differently when we're frantically searching for something specific, and that includes when we're desperately searching for God.

What do you do when you're desperately looking for God?

A lot of people call their pastor. Others talk to a Christian friend. Still others boot up their computers and start googling. We tend to search for God every place except where He is directly.

First, God is omnipresent, He's everywhere, so He's really easy to find!

Second, the best place to "see" God is where He reveals Himself, and that's in the Bible. The Bible is the primary way God has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity. He wants us to see Him, to know Him, to understand Him --- and to be able to find Him! --- so He provided us with the Bible so that we really can know Him, learn about Him, and have a growing understanding of Him.

Third, since He is everywhere, just talk to Him ... find Him in prayer. Talk, but then listen.

And finally, if you're a Christian, then God's Holy Spirit is living inside you! Our relationship with the Holy Spirit is probably the least developed relationship in most of our lives, but why is that? Why would we not want to make knowing the Holy Spirit one of our greatest relationships, so that we have a remarkably intimate communion with the Spirit of God who has taken up residence in us?

Pastors and Christian friends and others can help point us to God, but He's not hard to find if we really want to find Him ... and if we look where we know He is.

But even when we know where to find God, we often still miss Him, because sometimes He's not who or what we're looking for.

"His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him --- though he is not far from any one of us," Acts 17:27.

God is not far from you. If you're looking for Him, look where you know you can see and hear Him, and then draw close.

"Come close to God, and God will come close to you ..." James 4:8a.