Think Differently

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Saw the above quote this week and just had to share.

Are some people born to be more creative than others?

I don’t know, but maybe if we slow down and put more thought into what we see, hear, and feel, we might be surprised at the new ideas that materialize.

In the end, isn’t creativity about seeing connections that others don’t take the time to look for?

How about you? How do you think what others haven’t thought?

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The Fork in the Road

Last week I shared with you Psalm 104, how God is taking care of our world. No doubt He is active and concerned for his creation. And He’s concern for and active in His children’s lives.

This week I listened to a sermon by Jim Cymbala called The Fork In the Road. I felt led to share some ideas from that sermon, and I encourage you to listen to the whole sermon here.

Cymbala shared some verses from Acts 16 where Paul, by the Holy Spirit, was redirected to minister in Macedonia instead of Asia or Bithynia. Paul recognized a legitimate need in Asia, and yet the Holy Spirit was saying to Paul, “it’s not your time, and you’re not the man I’m sending to Asia.”

Cutting to the chase, Cymbala’s sermon emphasizes how we need to maintain a closeness and intimacy with God’s Spirit so He can direct us and guide us. It’s not like God is pointing the way and saying, “go that way and be careful. Take care, okay.” No, He’s taking us by the hand, and saying, “let’s go this way together.”

The Bible gives us several guidelines on making decisions, on choosing which fork in the road. Take choosing a spouse as an example. As a young twenty-five year old, I knew the Bible. I knew that I wanted to marry a christian who loved God. I wanted someone without baggage in their life. I wanted someone who took their walk with God seriously. Someone who wanted to start a godly family with me.

The problem though—there were many young ladies out there who fit the bill. How do I know which one to pick? There wasn’t a verse telling me to go marry Jane Doe, her sister, Mary Doe or my eventual wife, Laura Smith.

The point here is that the Bible can only take us so far. It places us in a great position to make some of life’s biggest decisions. But what gets us to the final and best decision. The answer—God’s Spirt, His guidance.

This goes for all kinds of decisions: what job to take, where to minister, where to give our money, community volunteer work, etc.

How do we know we have God’s Spirit and His guidance? Look at the following verse:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … Colossians 3:15

That’s it. If you’re walking closely with God, He’s ultimately going to give you peace in the decisions you make. That doesn’t mean your life is going to be easy and you’re going to get rich and become prosperous. Peace is worth a lot more than all that. Peace means you know it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the right time to do it.

Bottomline, we need God’s guidance everyday–that business deal, that financial decsion, new relationships and friendships, choices regarding our health.

Anyway, thanks for reading this post. Again, I encourage you to take some time and watch Jim Cymbala’s sermon, The Fork in the Road.

God bless!

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God is Taking Care of the World

During a recent quiet time, I came across Psalm 104. Oh, such a spectacular Psalm.

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This Psalm just reminds me of how dependent I am on God for everything. The fact that I’m breathing right now and pecking on a keyboard is ultimately God’s doing. He makes everything possible. Not only does He care for us humans, He is taking care of the whole planet.

I marvel at the balance we see in nature, the interdependence of everything. All the material things I possess come from God’s creation. The computer I’m typing on is a wonderful invention of man, but every single fragment came from what God originally provided.

God is active in His creation. I tend to sometimes forget that.

Thank you God for taking care of us. Thank you for the resources and abilities you grant us. Help us to use those resources and abilities wisely.

1 Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
2 The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
4 He makes winds his messengers,[a]
flames of fire his servants.
5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
6 You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
24 How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Praise the Lord.[b]

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Sixthday Sportsmen Magazine

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For my sportsmen (and women) friends who read this blog, I want to make you aware of a fairly new magazine—Sixthday Sportsmen.

Recently I’ve become acquainted with the publisher, Dave Iverson. We’ve been exchanging emails, and I hope the magazine will carry one of my articles in the future.

Sixthday Sportsmen covers many topics:

Hunting and fishing
Inspirational writing
Christian sportsmen interviews
Family matters
Wildlife conservation and stewardship
Wild game recipes
Shooting sports
Other outdoor pursuits

The articles are well written and contain tons of practical how-to’s and inspiration. They are also looking for article submissions from writers and potential writers.

You can visit the website and download a sample of the magazine for free.

Here is the link: Sixthday Sportsmen

Hope you enjoy this magazine. Now step out your backdoor and bask in God’s great outdoors!

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Before and After

A few years ago my wife introduced me to Bill Phillip’s book, Body for Life. I wish I could tell you I followed all the wisdom in that book, but I did read it and attempted to apply some of the principles. Had some results too.

An interesting feature of the book are all the before and after pictures. You know what I’m talking about, because just about any diet commercial uses before and after pictures to show what happens when you follow their diet plan. Although Body for Life uses this approach also, Phillips honestly wants to make you a disciple of the fitness-oriented lifestyle. And most of us know that if we feed our body the right things and exercise, the body will naturally respond by becoming leaner and fitter. If you incorporate the right disciplines then you really can have a great body for most of your natural life.

So I wondered if there might be a spiritual parallel here. Could we just as easily attain a spirit for life? And I say—of course! If we obey God and truly seek Him, then we grow leaner and fitter spiritually. Haven’t most of us experienced that in our own life? It’s hard work too, isn’t it?

To me this kind of answers the age old question—how much does God change me versus how much do I change myself? Yes, my discipline changes me in both cases—body and spirit—but I can’t ever boast. You see, God created the body to respond to exercise, and He recreated our spirits to respond to obedience. As children of God we are new creations. We all start out flabby or chunky in the beginning, but we have the capability to grow and change into something spectacular.

So according to Philippians 2:13,14, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but it’s only because God is doing (and has done) His work.

To God be all the glory!

Play along with me in the comments field. I know we can’t take before and after pictures of our spirits, but please share at least one thing that God has changed in your life. How have you become a little leaner and fitter in your spiritual life?

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Giving Away A Handmade American Patriot Pen

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If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that one of my passions is crafts, more specifically woodworking and turning handmade pens.

In January, I launched another website/blog called Four Oaks Crafts. I created this new site to showcase some of my works, sell some handmade pens, and help others discover the joys of crafting. I don’t plan to quit my day job anytime soon, but who knows where this could lead me in the future.

How did I arrive at the name? The “four” represents my four immediate family members. And the mighty oak tree represents strength. God has bless me with a godly and loving wife and two wonderful kids. Together, and with God’s help, they have strengthened me, helping me grow emotionally and spiritually.

To thank you the reader and to give something back, I am holding a giveaway over at my new website:  Four Oaks Crafts .

I am giving away one of my handmade American Patriot Pens, pictured above. The winner gets to pick one of the three pens.

So go over to Four Oaks Crafts to learn how to enter the giveaway.

Thanks again for reading and supporting this blog.  God bless you, and God bless America.

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Animal Tracks ID Infographic

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I found this great animal tracks ID infographic over at Hiking Michigan. For those who love nature and enjoy getting outdoors, I thought you might be able to use this guide.

On the spiritual side, this infographic reminded me about my walk with God. As I look to my past, to my present, and to my future I continue to see the signs of God working in my life and the lives of others.

I see the signs of forgiveness, signs of love, signs of relationships, signs of growth, and signs of the miraculous.

How about you? Are you looking for God’s signs? What does that look like in your life?

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The Lord is My Guide

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Psalm 23 continues to be one of my favorite Psalms. I’m impressed by how David relates so personally to God. David could easily identify with shepherding, and he saw God as his great Shepherd. Of course, David was a shepherd once in his past life.

Years ago someone introduced me to the idea of changing up the 23rd Psalm by substituting into it a different metaphor, one that I knew very well. I think back then I used “Engineer” in place of “Shepherd.”

The point here is not to suggest that we can improve upon God’s divinely inspired word. I mean no disrespect toward God’s holy scriptures, and I don’t want to alter its original meaning. The intention of this exercise is to show that God’s word applies to each of us on a personal level. If we can’t see our own situations, our own struggles, or our relationship to God through scriptures, then we’re surely missing the mark. The Bible is more than a great history book or book on theology. It’s a love letter to each person, signed by God with His blood.

This time I have substituted the metaphor of a Guide. Perhaps many of my outdoor brothers and sisters can identify with this. I hope you enjoy this, and drop me a line if you decide to join in with this fun exercise. Would love to hear your version.

The Lord is my Guide, my all in all.

He makes me lie down to listen and be still.

He leads me across secrets of the deep. Through lush, evergreen forests.

He refreshes my soul;

He guides me along right trails for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the long shadows,

Or escape the treachery of claw and fang,

I will move boldly and bravely;

You behind me. Beside me. In front of me.

Your wisdom and strength, they comfort me;

I enjoy the savory meal you have prepared. Your campfire pushes back the dark and envious forces.

Thy comforts delight my spirit. My coffee mug overflows

Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me

All the days of my glorious journey,

And I will dwell in the Lord’s happy hunting grounds forever.

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Bible Fluency — The Challenges

Being a believer now for many years, my respect for the Bible has grown and grown. But I can also understand why unbelievers, seekers, and those new to the faith often struggle with what the Bible has to say. So much of it is still a mystery, and we, as believers, place an unnecessary burden on ourselves to try an understand every aspect of it, and to interpret answers or create responses for every question society or culture delivers us.

This morning I was reading from the BibleGateway Blog, and thought I would share an article called Ten Obstacles That Get In The Way Of Bible Fluency. This article spotlights Diane Jacobson who is professor of Old Testament and director of ELCA’s Book of Faith initiative.

Jacobson offers the following ten obstacles that interfere with our Bible fluency. You might want to step back and read this because people you are ministering to in groups or individually are probably going through these struggles. I encourage you to go back and read this at the original source for a fuller explanation.

  • Shame
  • Busy-ness
  • Reading the Bible can be scary
  • The violence
  • Inconsistencies in the Bible
  • Bad history with the Bible
  • Perceived irrelavance
  • The assumption of literalism
  • Our secular culture of individualism and entertainment
  • The Bible is for the experts
  • Continue reading

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    How To Do An Inductive Bible Study

    Last weekend at our men’s group meeting, one of the guys led an inductive Bible study on the first chapter of Colossians. It’s been a while since I’ve done an inductive Bible study, but this proved to be a simple and effective way to study the Bible.

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    Perhaps this is another method you can use in your small group meetings.  While there may be many variations on how to lead an inductive Bible study, I’m going to outline how our short study was conducted.

    • First, the leader should choose what area of the Bible to explore.  This could be a chapter, a whole book, a character sketch or maybe a word study.  Decide how you will manage it for the time period allotted.  My friend chose to focus on the first chapter of Colossians, and our meeting lasts about 1.5 hours.
    • Go to a site on the internet where you can pull up scripture passages to print out. My friend Jeff used Biblegateway.com and he printed out copies for each group member.
    • Before the study begins, the leader asks the group to pause and seek God in prayer.  Ask Him to guide your thoughts and learning.  Ask Him to show you His wisdom through what you are studying.
    • Though the leader should refrain from the lecture teaching style, it’s good for the leader / facilitator to give an overview or introduction on the subject being studied.  In our group, Jeff gave us some of the backstory on Colossians before we started reading.
    • Next step—ask the group to take about 10 minutes and silently read the scriptures being studied.  Refrain from doing any marking or underlining.  Just read and reflect.
    • Now the leader will hand out highlighters and different colored pens to the group.  Ask them to take another 10 minutes and circle, underline, or highlight words, passages or ideas that stood out the most.
    • Then the leader asks each person to take a couple of minutes and share a few things that really spoke to them within the passages. Here is where the group leader can help spur on the conversation, by asking great, relevant followup questions.
    • Finally, the leader concludes with some summarizing remarks and leads the group in a closing prayer.

    I really enjoyed this way of studying the Bible.  Not only did it help me focus on God’s word, but it allowed all of us group members to contribute to the lesson. A true model of “iron sharpening iron.” This method also helps encourage the element of discovery in Bible study. I’m convinced that people actively learn God’s word when they discover truths rather than just being told truths. I think they are more likely to take that newly discovered truth and incorporate it in their life.

    How about you?  Have you ever been involved in an inductive Bible study?  If so, what other tips would you be willing to share?

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    You Are Wanted

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    Wanted by Dara Maclean is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs. It touches my heart every time I hear it.

    Our God is truly amazing—that He would love us and want us. He knows us. He doesn’t make mistakes. Oh, wonderful God!

    I hope you enjoy these inspiring lyrics. God bless!

    YouTube Link if you’d like to watch the music video.

    Wanted

    From the day you were born
    And took your first breath
    You opened your eyes and in came the light
    He was watching you
    But all of your life you couldn’t shake the lies in your head
    Saying you’re a mistake
    Oh but you were made
    By a God who knows your name
    He doesn’t make mistakes

    [CHORUS:]
    You are wanted
    To every broken heart, He stands with open arms
    You are wanted
    To every searching soul, look to the rising sun
    If you’re lonely, hurting, gone too far
    To the outcast you come as you are
    For you, you are wanted, you, you are wanted
    You, you are wanted, you, you are wanted

    Let this be the day that joy takes the place
    Of all of the years that shame tried to steal away
    He is calling you
    Lift your eyes to see His face
    Come run into the arms of grace

    [CHORUS]

    You, you have been marked
    You’re set apart
    And He calls you His
    So you don’t have to search
    Don’t have to look for where you belong

    You are wanted

    [CHORUS]

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    The Great Divorce On Stage

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    My wife took me to a play on Father’s Day. Many of you are familiar with The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Well, the Fellowship for Performing Arts has taken the story to the stage.

    In a nutshell, the story is about a man who dreams that he’s in Hell/Purgatory and is allowed to take a trip to the outskirts of Heaven. He realizes that he is more of a ghost while the people of Heaven are much more solid. Even the grass in Heaven won’t bend under his weight. And the people who go with him decide they’d rather go back to Hell.

    You can read more about the story here. And if you’d like to attend a play, click here.

    Below I’ve listed some memorable quotes from the book, but I’d highly recommend getting the book. And it’s a short read.

    “No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

    “Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”

    “Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him”

    There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

    There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.”

    “You cannot love a fellow creature fully till you love God”

    “There have been men before … who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself… as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist. There have been some who were so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.”

    “If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.”

    “Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it, or else, for ever and ever, the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves.”

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    Building Mountains – A Truth Story

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    My name is Emily Harris, and I want to thank Scott for allowing me to say a few words about my truth story. I will say, he did a great job capturing the essence of my past struggles in only 13 pages. No need to stretch things out into a long novel. There’s nothing special or unique about me or my past experiences. You could say that my story just represents what many young women have faced or are facing: whether or not to go through with an unexpected–or unwanted–pregnancy.

    Even now, as I watch my daughter Haley playing on the playscape, I think back on a special meeting with my Great Aunt Elizabeth who we called Aunt Lizzy. She’s gone now. We buried her many years ago. Scott describes our encounter in the story, but I won’t forget the things Aunt Lizzy said to me that hot Georgia morning.

    And if you can read this, Aunt Lizzy, please know that your words had their lasting effect on me. I can’t wait until one day you meet Haley. Maybe we can find that old bus-stop bench and all three of us will watch the ants change their world.

    Building Mountains – A Truth Story

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    Ask It

    My last post dealt with the search for better questions—what questions to ask and how to ask them. Recently, I found a teaching series from Andy Stanley called Ask It.

    Just Ask It

    In the series, Stanley poses a question that he believes to be life changing:

    In light of my past experiences, my current circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

    Andy cites numerous scriptures, but the question seems most grounded in Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV

    Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

    Stanley argues that asking what is wise trumps questions about what is right or wrong or what can we get by with. Even nonreligious people benefit from the guidance of this question, but I think it’s even better when we can ask this question from the perspective of a changed heart.

    The question works best with areas the Bible may not specifically address. It would be silly to use it with areas the Bible speaks clearly about. For example, I would never use this question on something like theft or cold-blooded murder.

    Whether you are religious or nonreligious I encourage you to watch this series. If you’re short on time, at least take a look at the first video.

    Feel free to share your thoughts on the video in the comments field.

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    Can Too Much Bible Study Be Hazardous to Your Spiritual Health?

    Is there a point when too much Bible study can be hazardous to our spiritual health? The first time I heard this question, my initial thought was heresy or this is an outright attack on God’s word. Also, I recently read an author who made a statement (and I paraphrase): There are times when we should stop growing in Bible knowledge.

    At first glance, these thoughts might sound ludicrous or dangerous, but as I read on, I soon got the wisdom they were trying to convey.

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    No, they weren’t saying the Bible was dangerous or that knowledge was a bad thing. Obviously, we need a minimum amount of knowledge to understand or believe God’s work, his intentions, and his wishes. If you observe the Apostle Paul’s writing style, you will notice that he starts his epistles with doctrine or principles, and then he progresses into practice. Naturally, application always jumps from the diving board of knowledge and wisdom.

    The problem comes in though when believers begin to measure their spiritual growth by how much they know. I’ll admit that I’m the chief sinner here. I’m guilty of this in many areas, including my writing and blogging. I love to share new ideas with others–and sometimes, that is for selfish reasons. Sorry, but that’s just the truth. And how many times have I thought I was sharing a new piece of information, when often it’s just a rehashing of ideas that have visited generation upon generation. Will knowing a new piece of information really make a difference in your growth? Maybe. Or maybe it will falsely lead you to believe so.

    Here are a couple of Bible versus that I believe support these thoughts.

    You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

    John 5:39-40 (NIV)

    Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.

    1 Corinthians 8:1 (NASB)

    In the first passage, Jesus was chastising the Jewish leaders because they were reading way too much into the scriptures. They thought they perfectly understood things, while the God of the Universe stared into their faces and they rejected him. And, obviously, the Jewish leaders entertained the idea that having a vast or superior knowledge of scripture somehow placed them in a higher standing with God, therefore securing their eternal destiny. They were dead wrong.

    In the second passage, Paul discusses a gray area in the early church: Is it okay to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols? Paul rehashes his ideas in Romans 14. Today, especially in the Baptist Church setting, it might be a question of whether or not we can have a glass of wine with our meal? Or what’s the right kind of music a believer should listen to?

    The gray areas are where we need to have the most patience and exercise the most love. Here is where our maturity will be tested the most. On the one hand, we don’t want to cause our weak brothers to stumble, and on the other we shouldn’t call something law, when it’s really just a recommended practice.

    I could go on. There are other scriptures like James 1:22 or James 2:14-24, which suggest that knowing stuff can be deceiving. Here, James is trying to stress the value of doing (or being) as opposed to just knowing. I have known people who were masters of the scripture, and yet, they still struggle with pornography. Or believers who faithfully attend church, Sunday after Sunday, but have broken ties with a friend, a family member, or a neighbor. Or a community group leader who doesn’t practice what he teaches. A deacon who is trying to cause a split. A ministry leader who judges the ones he’s ministering to. You get my point.

    Trying to measure our spiritual growth by how much we know can disable us with pride and lead us down the path of self-deception. On the other hand, if we measure growth by how much we love others or emulate Christ, then I think we’re making a much healthier choice.

    In the end, what am I saying? Maybe we should stop being Bible bookworms. Maybe stop buying self-help book after self-help book. Maybe attend fewer sermons. Instead, wouldn’t it make more sense to begin practicing all that knowledge we keep storing away? Would it really hurt us to love a little more as opposed to learning more?

    Please share your thoughts. Do you have any ideas on how we can become better practitioners of God’s word, as opposed to just being scholars?

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    Khan Academy

    “Dad, would you show me how to take the derivative of this formula?” This was a question I recently got from my son while in his second semester at Georgia Southern. I’m proud to say my son is studying engineering and taking on the new college life experience.

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    My answer to his question: “You know, it’s been 25 years since I took the derivative of anything. I’m going to need to brush up myself.”

    I have a feeling that many of us parents are probably in the same boat here. Fortunately, someone at work had earlier pointed me to a great online resource: Khan Academy.

    Khan Academy was developed by a guy who initially was trying to help tutor his nieces and nephews. It’s become a huge success and international phenomenon. Founded by Salman Khan, Khan Academy has become an ever-expanding educational website. The site has thousands of exercises and video tutorials. The tutorials are short and the cool thing is you can play them over and over until you’ve mastered the topic. All types of topics are covered: math, science, physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, finance, economics, history.

    I pointed my kids to Khan Academy a couple of years ago, and they’ve added this to their arsenal of learning recourses. I’ve gone back myself to relearn particular subjects. And at my workplace we’ve recommended Khan to employees who might need a refresher or two.

    So if you need to go back and brush up on a topic or your kids need a little extra help, check out Khan Academy.

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    Seven Questions to Grow By

    Have you learned something new lately? It’s amazing how learning a new skill or habit rejuvenates our lives and empowers us for greater things. I believe that God has created us each uniquely and for a greater purpose. To me the joy of living is discovering what God is doing through me, through my perspectives, through my talents, and through what I’m learning.

    So, how do we learn more effectively? It begins with asking good questions. Here are seven guiding questions that will help you down the trail of discovery and learning.

    Why do I need to grow in this area or topic? Have you developed a personal mission statement, along with some supporting goals? Before you take on learning something new, decide upfront if this is taking you closer to where you want to go—toward who you want to be. Hopefully you’ve discovered some higher purpose in your life, something that’s greater than you. To quote Stephen Covey: “Begin with the end in mind.”

    What’s holding me back? Maybe it’s a person, an old habit, a repressive memory, a time constraint, lack of goals, discouragement, whatever. Or it may be a combination of these. Discover what they are and address them one by one. I’ve found that some things that have held me back were only imagined, barriers or wrong beliefs I created in my mind.

    Who can help me? Once you’ve decided on an area of growth and realized the constraints, then decide who can come along side you and show you how to grow. You might ask this person to be a formal mentor or you may simply develop a relationship to gain their wisdom. Understand how they overcame constraints in their life. Hang out with wise people and chances are you will become wise.

    How will this help me serve and bless others? It’s not just about me. I’ve learned that most successful people are outward looking. They’re not improving and growing just to satisfy their own needs. This kind of thinking spurs us on when we get discouraged. Motivation seems to work best when we’re ultimately doing something for others.

    What will it cost me? It’s good to count the cost before you take on learning a new task or skill. Learning takes time and sometimes sacrifice. It will take patience and sometimes you’ll need to fork over some dough to get proper training—or to deal with your constraints. When it comes to learning and reaching your goals, don’t skimp. How bad do you want this? Think about the return it will bring you.

    What resources should I use? Some may think this question the least important, but I believe the answer will determine how quickly you learn and reach your goals. Many learn from reading books, taking courses, listening to podcasts, attending webinars. Generally, most people learn best by doing. So however you like to learn, always incorporate some way to practice those newfound skills. Look for quality learning experiences. Ask other successful people about the training they invested in and did it bring them the results they wanted.

    Am I seeing results? This last question is the feedback loop. Are you losing those pounds, progressing in your career, making more sales, becoming a nicer person, leading others to success? Yes, it’s nice to know stuff. Some get rewarded well for what they know, but knowledge for knowledge’s sake often fosters pride or conceit, in the end—stagnation. If you aren’t seeing results, then revisit the previous six questions. Be honest with yourself, but also be patient. Some goals may take a while to reach. Have faith that your learning will one day pay off.

    I pray that God blesses you as you seek to answer these questions. Are there other questions you would add to the list?

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    Family Fiction Short Story Contest

    You may have noticed that the frequency of my posting has gone down the past few months. But that doesn’t mean I have stopped writing.

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    On the contrary. I’m working on several new stories, and I’ve been submitting some to literary magazines and contests. Plus, I have another project I’ve been working on that I will share in a later post.

    I recently passed a hurdle in the Family Fiction Contest and now they have listed my two stories on their website for the public to read and vote.

    Please take a minute to read one or both stories at the links below, and if you like them, please cast your vote.

    Story 1 — But It Worked For King Solomon

    Story 2 —- You Are Here

    Blessings,
    Scott

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    Seeing By God’s Light

    A couple of weeks ago my wife took the picture below, a spring-break view from St. George Island. And later she read to me from C.S. Lewis’ work, Is Theology Poetry? This is where the Lewis quote comes from.

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    During my teenage years, I attended a popular Christian seminar held in downtown Atlanta. The leader of that seminar had a simple definition for the word wisdom which I like to this day.

    Wisdom: Seeing things from God’s perspective.

    Lewis splits the arrow with his quote. I’ve experienced it in my own spiritual journey. Not only has God filled my life with His light, but He is also shining it on everything around me.

    I’m finally beginning to see.

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    Who I Am In Christ

    For the past two weeks, I’ve been reading the materials of Dr. Neil Anderson, namely his book, Victory Over The Darkness. You might know of his more popular work, The Bondage Breaker. Neil’s main premise concerns spiritual maturity and how a Christian’s growth really takes off when he/she realizes who they are in Christ.

    According to Neil, spiritual growth is not something we work towards, an exasperating, self-improvement approach. Rather, spiritual growth springs from a knowledge of Christ in us, and the transformation He has made, and is making, in every believer.

    You and I are children of the living God, the Creator of the Universe.

    We are saints.

    Knowing who we are in Christ keeps us from asking questions like “can I do this?” or “should I not do that?” Instead, we shift to questions like, “why in the world would I do this?” or “why in the world am I not doing that?” See the difference?

    We have to understand and then remember who we are in Christ.

    To help us grow into maturity in Christ, Dr. Anderson created the following list, that helps remind us of who we are:

    I am God’s child (John 1:12)
    I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
    I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
    I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
    I am a saint (Ephesians 1:1)
    I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
    I have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20)
    I have been adopted as God’s child (Ephesians 1:5)
    I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18)
    I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)
    I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)
    I cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39)
    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
    I am a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20)
    I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
    I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
    I am salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14)
    I am a personal witness of Christ (Acts 1:8)
    I am God’s temple (1 Corinthians 5:17-21)
    I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
    I am enslaved to God (Romans 6:18)
    I am a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
    I am righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24)
    I am an enemy of the Devil (1 Peter 5:8)
    I am what I am—by grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10)

    I encourage you to read the list above out loud to yourself, to your spouse, and to your kids. Drink deeply of these truths.

    God bless!

    Posted in Spiritual Growth Tips, Spiritual Journey | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments