Hidden in plain sight

Philby
Below is a paraphrase of a famous scripture passage. Can you identify it?

Your freedom is uppermost in my mind; I don’t let slave traders hold hands with you. Keep in mind: There are bullies who would abuse you. That’s why I won’t entrust your protection to anything you can create. Understand that I love you, passionately, and I don’t want anybody stealing you away from Me. I treat you with care; I expect you to treat Me with reverence.

I guard your dignity. It is a treat to stop and survey a job well done, to work hard and then take a break to celebrate life. It’s more than a treat; it’s a gift I have built into the rhythm of creation. Dignity belongs to all: the young and old, the rich and poor, the powerful and the misunderstood, the minorities and the oppressed.

I guard your life. I guard your marriage. I guard your property. I uphold justice and truth. I strengthen families, and give parents wisdom to pass on to their children. Stick with me and you will live a life rich in satisfaction and free from discontent.

Okay, that’s the passage. Can you guess what is it is?

?

If you guessed the Ten Commandments, you’re right! It’s a paraphrase of Exodus 20:2-17.

Hidden inside these familiar verses are wonderful truths about the character and love of God. God cares about and protects our freedom, our dignity, our relationship with Him, our lives, our marriage, our property, justice, satisfaction and contentment.

From the Bible
[A good man] delights in God’s law and ponders it day and night. Psalm 1:2 The Easy Bible

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

PS. Are you getting my daily email?

finding your God story2

Photo credits: Mountain photo meme adapted from a photo by Philby, Flickr, Creative Commons License, girl photo meme adapted from a photo by Hans Clough

The antidote for anti-Christianity

conorwithonen
Some people are non-Christian. And some are anti-Christian.

Non-Christians don’t embrace the faith that many of us have in Christ. It doesn’t seem relevant to them. It doesn’t seem credible to them. They’ve chosen a different path. Whatever.

But others are actively anti-Christian. They not only don’t believe, but they use their influence to hurt or hamper Christianity whenever they can. Anti-Christianity comes in many forms, but the type I see most often is is the person who ridicules Christians online for their beliefs, calls people who follow Jesus names, and actively tries to dissuade believers from their beliefs. Some—certainly not all—but some of these anti-Christians, when pressed, admit that they would happily see Christians purged from the earth in a new holocaust. Others would simply like Christians to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to education, politics, media or any other role of influence.

Why are some people anti-Christian?

I’m going to suggest that people are NOT anti-Christian for any of the “reasons” they throw out there: “Jesus never existed,” “The Bible is full of contradictions,” “Christianity is a delusion,” “religion is responsible for all the problems in the world,” yada yada. I’ve heard it all; so have you. It’s a smokescreen, and we all know it.

No, there are more personal reasons why people are anti-Christian. Let me suggest three of them:

1. They’ve been hurt by Christians. Let’s admit it folks: Some people are abusive in the name of Jesus. Some people cover up their poor leadership and poor human relations skills with Bible verses. If someone has been hurt by a Christian, particularly if that Christian was an authority figure such as a parent or teacher, it’s human nature to lump all Christians into the same category as the abuser. They all become monsters. And it’s usually too painful to talk about how that hatred got started, but it’s easy to spout the same tired arguments against Christianity that people have been using for decades.

2. Something tragic happened, and God got the blame. Maybe a parent died. Maybe this anti-Christian was raped or homeless or lost everything. The cry, “Where was God?” turned into “I hate God.” In his or her mind, God became a monster, and who wants to worship a monster? This anti-Christian may classify himself as an atheist, but he doesn’t deny God existence so much because he tallied up the intellectual arguments on both sides of the ledger and found the Bible side wanting. He’s an atheist because it’s too painful to give God room to exist.

3. Some are anti-Christian because they “need” to do something God prohibits, and they can’t stand the thought of being accountable to Him. Jesus said, “People loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) If sin is the best thing you have, then it seems unreasonable that God would try to take it away from you. (Keep in mind that sin is usually an attempt to medicate or soothe inner pain.) Someone like this who needs to avoid Judgment Day at all costs can see Christians only as people who are bringing God’s judgment down upon them. Naturally, someone like this fights back.

There are other reasons why people are anti-Christian, particularly in cultures outside the one I’m accustomed to here in the USA. But people are not anti-Christian because they objectively did the research and decided that Christianity was a bad thing. The intellectual arguments are almost always a smokescreen to cover up the real reasons which are usually too painful to discuss.

How do we respond?

Most significantly, we listen to God’s Spirit and do what He says. God promises to speak through you. (See Luke 12:11-12 as well as Matthew 10:19-20, Mark 13:11.)

But there are some principles that I think are helpful.

Do you respond to the intellectual arguments? Sometimes. See Proverbs 26:4-5. Sometimes I respond because I’m aware that younger believers whose faith is more fragile might be following the discussion, and I want them to know that there are answers to these objections to Christianity. In reality, when you start to pick these so-called arguments apart you discover a few things: Most of the time the so called “arguments” aren’t arguments at all—they’re assertions based on the presupposition that God doesn’t exist and the Bible isn’t trustworthy. And very often the “arguments” are nothing more than name calling and personal attacks thinly veiled with vocabulary. If you know your Bible and a little bit of history, logic and science, refuting 99.9% of these arguments is a walk in the park.

Having said all of this, it is tempting to go after the argument and forget about the person. But we’re called to win people, not arguments. That’s why it’s so important to listen to God (John 10:27), and do what He’s telling you to do. Remember also that we don’t “wrestle with flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12).

There’s a great verse in Revelation 12:11: “They overcame the devil by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus), and the word of their testimony; when they were asked to give up their lives for Jesus, they said yes.”

Anti-Christians need to know that Christians are, by and large, decent, caring, loving people. They need to know that the God we serve is a good God who truly cares about them. And they need to know that what we have in Christ is far better than the scraps they’re digging out of life’s dumpster.

How are they going to know that? We need to tell our stories. That’s an important part of “the word of our testimony” (Revelation 12:11).

This is part of the reason why I created a Google+ community “Our God Stories” and a Facebook group with the same name.

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by conorwithonen, Flickr, Creative Commons License

I’d like to be indestructible

50 03 10 Indestructible
Personally, I’d like to be indestructible. You know, like superman, only more so.

There’s a good reason:

I don’t like pain in any of its many varieties. I don’t like being hurt. I don’t like being vulnerable. I don’t like being fragile.

I try to explain all this to God. “Just think of the advantages,” I tell Him. “If I were indestructible, I wouldn’t be afraid of anything. You could ask me to do anything, and I’d do it.”

God must laugh. The angels, if they listen to prayers, they must laugh too.

“But, wait a second, God,” I tell Him. “You’re indestructible. Nobody can back you into a corner. Nobody can make you squirm. If I pointed a revolver at You and commanded You to hand over all Your money, You’d send Your servants, the police, to me; they’d come and lock me up.”

(More laughter.)

But I’m on a roll, so I go on. I come to this verse in the Bible:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11 NIV

“While You’re at it, God, couldn’t you take this verse about ‘the fellowship of His sufferings’ out of the Bible? It bothers me. I don’t like suffering.”

I sit there, knowing full well that God isn’t going to do any of these things I’m praying for, but feeling good for having gotten these feelings out on the table.

But, slowly, an uneasy feeling starts to come over me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. The fellowship of His sufferings. The phrase rings over and over again in my mind. The fellowship of His sufferings.

Then it occurs to me that the path to resurrection indestructibility—at least for Jesus—was paved with thorns, with nails, with drops of blood, with contempt and injustice and humiliation.

It hurt.

It seems like every time Jesus surrendered to one level of pain and humiliation, another deeper level was waiting for him, until, finally, life itself was given away.

He was crucified in weakness.

Why?

Oh, I know the theology. I know that He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

But there’s something more here. Otherwise, why would He reach through the centuries and ask me—ask you—to fellowship with Him in His suffering?

Why is He so lonely?

I don’t know why I started crying. Except that I started feeling the hurt of Jesus. I started to uncover a fragile and vulnerable side to God I never knew existed.

And, in stumbling into this, I begin to feel that all the hurts and fears I’ve worked so hard to protect are okay with Him. I don’t have to hide them any more.

What is my path to resurrection? I don’t know. I just know that sometimes it will hurt. And I know, in the end, I will have to give away everything—all my strength, all my defenses, my very life.

But, suddenly, that feels okay.

Easter Sunday. The Day of Resurrection. A resurrected Lord comes to visit his flock of weak, vulnerable and frightened disciples. His greeting? “Peace to you.” The same word He used to calm the convulsing Sea of Galilee: “Peace.”

Once again, Jesus reaches through the centuries. He speaks to you and He speaks to me. “Peace.”

How is it that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us? How is it that we can stand up to the storms in our lives? The resurrected Lord is here. He speaks through us: “Peace.”

All around us storms rage. People hurt. People cry out in pain. But we, the light of this world, carry a great healing gift to our generation.

Peace.

It’s okay. Jesus is here.

Dwight

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Tatrattery, Flickr, Creative Commons License

Are you embarrassed when people ask you to pray out loud?

embarrassed2prayaloud

Are you embarrassed when people ask you to pray out loud?

If you are, you’re not alone. Many people—even those who have no trouble praying in private—freeze when asked to pray aloud in public. It can be scary at first, but if you have a plan, it will become easy, and you may find that you actually enjoy praying in front of a group.

Praying out loud in public is a form of leadership. You are giving a group of people a voice in prayer. You don’t need fancy words—in fact, they just get in the way. You don’t need to pray for a long time; short prayers are usually better. You don’t need—nor do you want—to preach a sermon while you’re praying. As a rule, avoid saying negative things about yourself or someone else. Instead, focus on God and His goodness.

To pray aloud in public, you need a plan because it helps you lead well by knowing what to say, how to start and how to finish. I’m going to give you a simple formula you can use when you are called upon to pray in front of a group. When you get more practice, you can enhance this and deviate from it. But this will help you in the beginning.

Here’s a very simple formula for public prayer that you can use in almost any situation:
You go to “bat” for someone in prayer. Here’s the formula you use:
B – A – T

  • B – Believe
  • A – Ask
  • T – Thank

It’s easy. Let me explain.

Start with B – Believe. What do you believe to be true about God in this situation? This isn’t the time for an entire theology lesson, but rather one or two simple statements about what we believe to be true about God:

We believe You are good.
We believe You care.
We believe You are here.
We believe You heal.

Starting with what we believe to be true about God focuses everyone’s attention on God’s goodness and His greatness. I try to pick out one thing I know about God that seems relevant to the subject of the prayer.

Now move on to A – Ask. What do you want God to do? Ask Him!

Please remove this cancer from John’s body and restore him to health.
Please show us what to do. We want to honor You in this situation.
Please provide a way for us to help these children.

If the situation is particularly difficult—a death or impending death, seemingly insurmountable trials or difficulties, or whatever—you can always ask for things like these:

Please bring Your presence near in a way that we can experience.
Please grant us clarity in this difficult time.
Please show us a way forward and guide us with Your love.

If you’re not sure what to ask, you can ask for God’s guidance, His presence, His wisdom.
Finally, end with T – Thank You. What has God done or what can we expect God to do that gives us reason to give thanks?

Thank You that You have always provided for us in the past.
Thank You that You are here, You are listening, and You care.
Thank You for loving us.

“Thank You” is a way of expressing faith and gratitude. We believe God hears our prayers and will do something good in response to them. We are grateful for all the good He has already brought into our lives.
Here are some sample prayers. Read them carefully and notice how each one follows the B – A – T plan. Then read them aloud. Pause a moment after each line. Get a feel for the rhythm of praying aloud so when your turn comes you can say, “Sure, I’d be happy to pray.”

A mealtime prayer:
Our Father in heaven
We believe that every good gift comes from You.
We welcome You to our table. Please be honored here in our conversation.
Thank You for this food.
In Jesus’ name
Amen

A prayer for healing:
Our Father in heaven
We believe You are the God who heals us.
We ask you to bring complete healing and recovery to Mary.
Thank You for hearing us. Thank You for caring. And thank You for what You will do.
In Jesus’ name
Amen

A prayer in a very difficult situation:
Our Father in heaven
We believe that You are higher, smarter, better than we are.
We are in a situation that’s way bigger than we are. We ask for clarity. We ask for guidance. We ask for strength. We ask for the comfort of your presence to be with Mike.
Thank You for listening, for caring, for doing what only You can do.
In Jesus’ name
Amen

Top ten life lessons #2

#02 top ten
#2 We really only have one power: to say yes (or no) to God

Find the door where Jesus is knocking, and let Him in. I’ll give you a hint. Usually the door is where the pain is. Invite Him in, and watch everything change. This is how you start the Christian life, and this is how you continue it. You fling every door open, and invite Jesus all the way in to be whoever He wants to be.

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Top ten life lessons #3

#03 top ten
#3 Know who you are

You are a royal son or daughter of God—loved by God, designed to make a difference, created to live forever, indestructible, undefeatable. That’s the real you. That’s the you that lives forever. The Bible tells you how the real you operates. What does a rock star do? He acts like a rock star. How does a Navy Seal operate? He operates according to his identity. You also are invited to act according to your identity. When you can’t, when you feel drawn to some other experience or behavior, it’s time to go back to God and say, “Something inside is broken. Could You please fix it for me?”

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Top ten life lessons #4

#04 top ten
#4 You are at war whether you know it or not

Your enemy’s main line of attack is deception. He will tell you lies about who you are, who God is, what your world is really like. He doesn’t lie to you because he is your friend; but he will do everything in his power to make you believe that your friends are your enemies, and your enemies are your friends. Your enemy will try to corrupt all of your God-given desires and use them as a weapon against you, but God satisfies your desires with good things. (Psalm 103) Your best line of defense is to take every doubt, every temptation to Jesus and get from Him the truth that sets you free. (See John 8:32.)

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Top ten life lessons #5

#05 top ten
#5 Dream big, and every day take a small step toward your dreams

You have a great big God inside you, and He has no small plans for you. You were designed to make a difference. You have the power to make an eternal difference for good in many lives; use your influence wisely. But don’t just daydream; take action. You don’t get from here to there without moving. It may be a small step, but after you take it, you’ll be closer to where you want to be. We crawl before we walk; we walk before we run. So take the small step today; take it now.

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Top ten life lessons #6

#06 top ten
#6 In times of trouble, turn to God

Every challenge, every trial, every tragedy can be an opportunity for God, if you allow it to be. Yes, it hurts. Feel the pain, and hold it up to God. Keep doing that until He brings you through. Something good is waiting for you on the other side.

I don’t like pain, but I know it comes into our lives. For years I prayed, “God, give me maximum mileage out of my misery.” I don’t want to suffer any more than I have to. Trials can turn you sweet or bitter, and it all hinges on one thing: which direction you run.

Run to God.

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

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