Remembering My Creator: Volume 2, Number 1, June 4, 2012

Remembering My Creator

Volume 2, Number 1

Theme: Evidences for my Faith –

Bible Claims & Christian Evidences

 

In This Issue:

  • “Letter From The Editor” by Randy Sexton
  • “What the Bible Claims to Be” by David Deuster
  • “What is Christian Evidences?” by Randy Sexton

 

 

“Letter From The Editor”

 

By Randy Sexton

 

 

Dear Readers,

 

After an extended absence from writing, I am planning to breathe life back into my website. During the absence, I relocated my family from Raymore, MO to Fort Smith, AR. My sons completed their first year of school in Fort Smith. Tyler played fall soccer and Ryan continued his advancement as a percussionist in the Ramsey Junior High band and is playing in the Boys & Girls Club Prep baseball league. We are slowly getting our new residence in shape thanks to Linda’s hard work. We placed membership with Park Hill church of Christ, where we had previously been a member and where Linda grew up. I was asked by the elders to serve as a deacon and treasurer at Park Hill and am happy to do so.

.

I plan to continue publishing the Remembering My Creator (RMC) page and to begin a monthly page, refocusing a previous page, calling it A Christian’s Voice From Fort Smith.

 

I did publish a short issue of RMC in November using an article that Jordan had submitted quite some time ago. (Sorry for the delay, Jordan). I also published a December issue focused on the theme of “How I Look.”

 

I have chosen themes during 2012 related to Internal Evidences of Christianity and How To Study The Bible. I have been teaching the High School Class at Park Hill the past two quarters from David Banning’s Bible 101 and Bible 102 workbooks and will choose topics covered there. If you would like to write an article for this series, please contact me at achristiansvoice@sbcglobal.net. The Schedule of Topics with scheduled publication dates are listed below.

 

2nd & 3rd Quarter 2012 Theme: Evidences For My Faith

Publication Date

Topic

June 4, 2012 Bible Claims & Christian Evidences
July 1, 2012 Unity of the Bible
July 1, 2012 Fulfilled Prophecy
July 1, 2012 The Testimony of Jesus
July 1, 2012 Historical Accuracy of the Bible
August 1, 2012 Scientific Accuracy of the Bible
August 1, 2012 Alleged Contradictions of the Bible
August 1, 2012 Archaeology and the Bible
August 1, 2012 Evolution and the Bible
September 1, 2012 Biblical Ethics vs Situation Ethics
September 1, 2012 The Resurrection of Christ
September 1, 2012 Relevance of the Bible to the Needs of Man

4th Quarter 2012 Theme: How To Study The Bible

Publication Date

Topic

October 1, 2012 Bible Study Habits: Are You Satisfied?
October 1, 2012 Tools That Help Us Study
October 1, 2012 Developing a Daily Routine
October 1, 2012 Defining Bible Words
November 1, 2012 Answering a False Doctrine
November 1, 2012 Studying Passages That Help With My Own Spiritual Growth
November 1, 2012 Determining the Message of a Book
November 1, 2012 Brainstorming
December 1, 2012 Researching the Background
December 1, 2012 Identifying the Main Sections of the Book
December 1, 2012 Figuring Out the Confusing Passages
December 1, 2012 Putting It All Together

 

 

What the Bible Claims to Be

By David Deuster

The validity of the Bible as the inspired word of God is one of the most important questions we could answer. If the bible is not from God, then it is not authoritative and man does not need to use it as his guide. However, if you believe that the Bible is from God, are you willing to accept it in its entirety as the complete, infallible, and inspired word of God? Either the Bible is a complete and perfect guide in religion or it is lacking in the ability to guide man in his efforts to please God.

 

Let’s first begin by looking at the claims that the bible makes for itself. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Paul tells Timothy that all Scripture is “breathed out” of the mouth of God and is profitable to mankind.

 

Over 51 times in the New Testament, the word “scripture” is used in reference to the written statements of God. Because these statements are inspired, we can have confidence in knowing that they are ultimately God’s own words and convey His thoughts. Paul says the Scriptures make it possible for man to be spiritually complete (cf 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, if the Bible makes us “complete,” then the Bible, in itself, must also be complete.

 

Second, we notice that the writers of Scripture spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 1 Peter 1:20-21 states, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The writers of the Bible were inspired men who were enabled to speak and record the mind of God through revelation of the Holy Spirit. The words written were not just the prophets own personal product or thought.

 

These inspired men wrote under direction and will of the Holy Spirit, so that what they wrote is not what the prophets willed but the revealed mind of God unchanged in interpretation.

 

Paul taught the Corinthians that the very words by which he and the other apostles spoke were given by God. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 Paul says, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

 

God exposed His thinking to man by sending His Holy Spirit to communicate with the apostles and prophets. If the prophets and apostles had not been under the direction of the Holy Spirit, there would have been the possibility of failing to understand the thoughts that were given or they may have failed in expressing those thoughts in a way that could be understood.

 

For this reason, Paul makes sure to tell the Corinthians that the words they spoke were given by God and not by man’s wisdom. Therefore, the words they taught with were the teachings of the Holy Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things.

 

Furthermore, the Scriptures are infallible and are reliable in every way. Consider the fact that the Bible was written by about 40 writers over several different periods of history. Yet all of the writers harmonize and proclaim the same central theme of the Bible. Throughout the pages of the compiled writings, there are no contradictions or false statements. Prophecies that were to take place hundreds of years in the future, even when very specific in time and names, were all fulfilled and can be confirmed by history.

 

The Bible makes the claim for itself that it is the infallible, complete, and inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, we must accept it and submit to its authority in our lives.

 

What is Christian Evidences?

By Randy Sexton

The field of study known as “Christian Evidences” is devoted to presenting evidence, both internal and external, to support the claims of Christ to be the Son of God, the reasonableness that God created the world and that the Bible is His inspired message to man. This field of study is also known as Apologetics and is a legitimate field of study in schools of religion.

The study of Christian Evidences may be approached in a number of different ways, but in general, can be broken down into several key components. The key components are listed in my letter above.

The plan is to present articles, written be different authors, covering each of these components in the monthly issues of Remembering My Creator. Thanks for reading with us, dear friends….

Remembering My Creator: Volume 1, Number 11, December 2011

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 11

Theme: How I Look

In This Issue:

  • “Using the World’s Standard to Evaluate Beauty (Proverbs 31:30; 1st Samuel 16:7)” by Randy Sexton
  • “The Hidden Beauty of the Heart (1st Peter 3:1-6)” by David Deuster
  • “Spiritual Adornment (1st Timothy 2:8-10)” by David Bushnaq
  • “Bodybuilding and Other Attempts to Draw Attention to the Physical Body” by Randy Sexton

Using the World’s Standard to Evaluate Beauty

By Randy Sexton

 

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the lord, she shall be praised,” says Solomon as he concludes his description of the worthy woman (Proverbs 31:30). Jess MacCullum in his book, I Married Wonder Woman … Now What, subtitled A Superhero’s guide for Leading and Loving the Proverbs 31 Wife, adds a little humor to the analysis. He says in the introduction, “What on earth would that kind of woman see in a man like me? And what kind of a superman would I have to become to keep ahead of a wife like this? … I scramble to lead and encourage the ‘little (wonder) woman.’ Far from being intimidated by her, I am eager to give my wonder woman a man she can call a hero.”

Mr. MacCallum proceeds to describe 12 principles “for loving and leading the Proverbs 31 Wonder Woman for a lifetime.” These principles include:

  1. Value you wife above everything (v. 10)
  2. Trust your wife and reap the benefits (vv. 11-12)
  3. Provide for the family with more than money (vv. 13-15)
  4. Don’t be afraid of her independence or intimidated by her success (vv. 16, 24)
  5. Appreciate her intelligence, ambition and drive (vv. 17-19)
  6. Be unselfish like her and with her (v. 20)
  7. Respect your wife’s household management without meddling (vv. 21-22, 27)
  8. Take pride in being known by her reputation (v. 23)
  9. Actually listen when she speaks (vv. 25-26)
  10. Praise her and teach your children to praise her (v. 30)
  11. Focus on what God finds attractive and praiseworthy (v. 30)
  12. Brag about her in public

In his comments on the 10th principle he says, “Feminine beauty is a particularly wobbly concept when you think about it. It changes from year to year, culture to culture, and magazine cover to magazine cover… the list of absurd things that people will do to get, or keep, beauty is truly endless. From ancient Japenese women grinding iron filings into their teeth to create a gorgeous black smile, to Victorian ladies in corsets that literally squeezed their internal organs into an hourglass figure, to Hollywood has-beens with more face-lifts than ex-husbands – beauty has ruled the senseless. And men have prized it above reason and valued it entirely out of proportion” (pp. 102 – 103).

Mr. MacCallum’s book is directed to husbands and many of his comments hit the male part of the species hard because of our propensity to be distracted by attractive women. As he says, “beautiful girls make us stupid, frequently robbing us of the power of speech, eye control and financial judgement …” (p. 101)

Though Proverbs 31:10ff is labeled by its author as characteristics of an “excellent wife” (NASB), the attributes are worthy of us all. They “set the bar,” according to the divine standard, far above what the world sets! The world says charm and beauty is what is important. God says this is not the true standard. God, through His servant Peter says, “let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1st Peter 3:4). God reminded his servant Samuel, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

As you progress through your teenage years and into your twenties, you my be faced with challenging situations, as you evaluate your dating options. You may be tempted to lose your perspective on the value of inner versus outer beauty. You may have to guard yourself against the approach described in Proverbs 7:21, “So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery” (NLT). When you face those times, may you remember “the fear of the Lord” is the true basis for praise.

 

The Hidden Beauty of the Heart

By David Deuster

Peter writes to Christians living in a hostile society. His words are directed toward encouraging them on how to live in the midst of a hostile society and how to conduct themselves in a world set against them. The main directive he offers throughout the letter is to focus on those things that are spiritual and to keep their minds focused on things eternal, not getting caught up in the pleasures that the world has to offer. In chapter 1, he calls upon his readers to remember their great salvation. Secondly, he admonishes them to remember their example before men. Finally, he encourages them by a call to look to the coming of Christ. It is within the second of these points that the apostle addresses how to maintain our example in society, in our place of employment and also within our family relationships. His reasoning for this is stated in 1 Peter 2:12 where he writes, “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” His desire is that these brethren would display the gospel through their lives so that others might be led to salvation.

It is within this context that we approach 1 Peter 3, where the apostle addresses the marriage relationship of a believer and non-believer. The encouragement is that through godly conduct on the part of the believer that the non-believer could be won to Christ and themselves “glorify God in the day of visitation.” While not everyone will be able to make specific application to this situation, there are several principles that are present that are to govern the lives of Christians of all ages.

CONDUCT MUST BE ANSWERABLE TO OUR PROFESSION OF FAITH

If we are to have an impact in our culture, we must submit to the social order, structure and the social patterns that God has designed. This requires having an attitude of submission that follows the example of our high priest, Jesus Christ (cf 2:21-25). This type of submissiveness involves at least four things: First, it begins with an attitude of entrusting oneself to God (cf. 2:23-25). The focus of our life must be on Jesus Christ. Second, submission requires respectful behavior (3:1-2). Nagging is not respectful behavior. Third, submission involves the development of a godly character (3:3-5). Fourth, submission includes doing what is right (3:6).

What is the result of this type of humble disposition? The unbeliever may be won to Christ. Note that he is not saying they will be saved without the word (1:23; Rom 1:16). The term “observe” was used of eyewitnesses (also in 1 Pt 2:12). Peter says that the unbeliever will be won by chaste behavior coupled with fear. One’s walk of life, in accordance with the teaching of Christ, becomes and example and will be the persuasive argument. In essence, it is more important what you are than what you say. The apostle further admonishes them to regard outward ornamentation as worthless in comparison with the adornment of the Christian’s character, which alone determine one’s worth in God’s sight. In comparison, we are called upon to clothe ourselves in “chaste conversation.” Kittle comments that this “originally purely externally religious concept now acquires a more ethical and inward significance; It signifies “moral purity and sincerity,” as in relation to Christ; According to 1 Pt. 1:17; 3:2, the “walk” of Christians is shaped by fear of God; according to 3:1, this can have an effect without words simply through good deeds, cf. 2:12; Jm. 3:13.”[1] This is the effect of being salt and light. Our lives are to be a reflection of God’s glory.

THE PART: “THE HIDDEN MAN OF THE HEART”

The contrast Peter makes in the text is between the inward person of the heart and the external ornamentation. Our adorning is focused inward. The term “adorning” is kosmos in the Greek, English words “cosmos” (the ordered universe) and “cosmetic.” It is the opposite of chaos. There is an implied contrast between the changing styles of the world (cf. v. 3) and the settled character of a redeemed life that adorns the spirit of a Christian. In Romans 12:2 Paul exhorts the saints, “Stop assuming an outward expression which is patterned after this world, an expression which does not come from, nor is it representative of what you are in your inner being as a regenerated child of God”.[2] We are to present ourselves a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God, no longer fashioned according to the world, its mannerisms, speech expressions, styles or habits. Being “conformed to this world” is the action of an individual assuming an outward expression that does not come from within him, and it is not representative of his inner heart life.[3] Instead of using the guidelines of the world, we must learn to use the guidelines of the Word.

Your inner person is reflected on the outside (cf 1 Tim 2:8-10). Often times when we consider the subject of modesty, the focus usually centers on the visible characteristics of clothing. However, modesty is not first an issue of clothing. Just as Peter and Paul agree, submissiveness and modest living is first and issue of the heart. Anyone can wear modest clothing, however until the heart is transformed, one cannot truly be classified as a modest person.

Prior to Paul’s discussion of submission and modesty in 1 Timothy 2:8-10, the apostle reminds his readers of the sacrifice of life they offer unto God. Here we learn an important connection with our adornment of the heart to the death of Christ. Modesty is a reflection of our own death and resurrection. We died to the world and its values, and as a result, pride and arrogance are replaced with humility and joy. When Christians cultivate their spiritual lives and properly restrain their thoughts, passions, affections, etc., they portray an inner modesty and shame fastness that is reflective of their relationship to God. There will not be the vanity of life shown purely in outward adornment.

THE ORNAMENT: “NOT CORRUPTIBLE… A MEEK AND QUIET SPIRIT”

Our spirit is imperishable whereas the hair, jewelry and clothing that adorn the body are perishable. Glamour is artificial and external; true beauty is real and internal. Glamour is something a person can put on and take off, but true beauty is always present. Glamour is corruptible; it decays and fades. True beauty from the heart grows more wonderful as the years pass.

The hidden beauty of the heart is described as an “imperishable quality.” It is the same description Peter uses to speak of God’s imperishable inheritance, which He guards for believers in Heaven (i.e. 1:4) and of believers being born again of imperishable seed (i.e. 1:23). Paul uses this same term of our new resurrection bodies in 1 Corinthians 15 and of believers’ incorruptible crown in 1 Corinthians 9:25.

The hidden beauty of the heart is a “Meek and Quiet spirit.” Vine defines that spirit as “the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all.” It is a life that has fully denied self, taken up the cross and chosen to follow after Christ in humility and submission to the will of the Father.

THE VALUE: “IN THE SIGHT OF GOD OF GREAT PRICE”

The chief adornment of the Christian should be the Lord Jesus, manifested in and through the life of the believer. There is no greater gift that we can offer unto God than our life. The value of servitude in the Lord’s kingdom far exceeds the value of any clothing or jewelry the world can provide. In the sight of God such a life is of great price, “being of great value or worth, ordinarily of relatively high degree on a monetary scale, (very) expensive, costly.”[4] The Lord Jesus will be seen in our life, and our physical adornment will reflect Him. This is the ideal God-glorifying procedure upon the basis of which a Christian should act in the manner of personal adornment.

Through the gospel we become attractive in the right way. First, through being adorned with “proper clothing.” Second, through the “hidden person of the heart.” Have you clothed yourself in such fashion? If you have, then you are being transformed from the inside out. You are no longer of this world, its values, fashions, etc. Your citizenship is in Heaven, and it will be manifest in your appearance.


[1] Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.)

[2] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Ro 12:2). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[3] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Ro 12:2). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[4] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (850). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Spiritual Adornment

By David Bushnaq

As requested, this is an article on 1 Timothy 2: 8-10. In these verses the Apostle Paul is telling the young preacher, Timothy how one should behave in the assembly. The verses in this case refer to adorning oneself in modesty and in self control, not with costly attire, but with what is proper for good works. Of course, what’s true for women is also true for men.

Now we know what Paul means when he’s bringing this to Timothy, but while we consider this physical adornment, what about our spiritual adornment?

Clothes are one of the first things people notice about us. Our clothes tell a lot about who we are as a person. We know that we, as Christians, are to dress with modesty and with self control, but what about our spiritual clothing?

While we are at church, we are naturally dressed in our best. We know we’re doing this to encourage ourselves, our brethren, but more than that, we are doing this to please God. But how are we dressed at work? At home? Our spirituality could slack in those more relaxed environments.

Our clothes show who we are. Many times we look at ourselves in the mirror to make sure what we’re wearing is appropriate for where we are about to go. We wear different outfits devoted to work, play, or relaxing at home. Our aim is to look our best to others, but how do we look spiritually?

Our example is one of the tools we can use as Christians to lead others to Christ. It could also be one of the biggest pitfalls we could have against us if we aren’t careful. As such we are to always make sure we take our spiritual outfits into consideration just as much as our physical.

Paul mentions not to wear “costly array,” which of course is referring to expensive jewelry or accessories to make us look more luxurious [or just more appealing] than we really are. Many people today wear t-shirts, crosses, wrist bands, and other accessories to show how “godly” they are, but are they really? Our example can tell people a lot more about us, and our Christianity, than some trinkets that bear religious themes on them.

So then, how is one to dress spiritually? Verse 10 gives us the answer. We are to do good works, which are proper for those who profess God. Actions speak louder than words and as such, we are to always make sure our Christianity is one of the first things people notice about us. It’s just as flattering as a well-chosen outfit.

While we may not realize it, people do notice how we dress, so much more so with our spiritual adornment as well. You never know who could come up to you and ask you a question about Jesus because they know you are a devout Christian and that could be the doorway you needed to teach them of His love!

Imagine yourself looking into a spiritual mirror now. How would you look? Would you be wearing Godly clothes, or spiritual? How much skin would you be showing? [By skin, I mean traces of worldliness]. How is your spiritual adornment at work? Hanging out with friends?

Please continue to keep this in mind [as I do] and remember that, while clothes don’t make the man, they often do make people’s first impression of you. If someone you’ve never met before came up to you and saw your spiritual adornment manifested as your physical clothing, what would they think? Would you be ashamed to be seen outside wearing it, or would you proudly display your Christianity for others to see?

Bodybuilding and Other Attempts to Draw Attention to the Physical Body

By Randy Sexton

Have you ever thought about whether a Christian should be a bodybuilder? Is there a conflict between wanting to get in shape – to have “ripped abs” and “bulging biceps” – and in having a proper perspective of inner versus outer beauty?

I must admit that I have no personal experience from which to speak about being a “body builder.” I have over the years tried to maintain some type of fitness routine but the focus of those attempts was to stay healthy, rather than to “create a body I could be proud of.”

In preparing to write this article, I did try to research the subject by searching the Internet for “body building.” My search returned links to a number of sites. www.bodybuilding.com claimed the largest selection of bodybuilding articles, exercises, workouts, supplements and community links. When I searched for “bodybuilding and the Christian” I found that there is an organization called the International Christian Bodybuilding Association (www.christianbodybuilder.com). Their website says, “The ICBBA was founded as a place for Christian athletes to meet up for support and encouragement in the sport of bodybuilding, fitness and figure. As members we strive to use our success in sports to inspire and motivate others, instilling hope which can change lives.”

What do the Scriptures teach about health and fitness? Using a good concordance, you can look up “body,” “exercise,” “food,” “drink,” etc. As you look up the references, the following may have application to the topic under discussion: 1 Tim. 4:8; 2Cor. 10:10; Rom. 12:1; Rom. 1:24; Mt. 6:25; Mt. 10:28; Rom. 6:12; 1Cor. 6:18-19; 1Cor 9:27; Phil. 1:20 and Js. 3:6. Read those and then send me your comments and let me know what you think.

A resource that I have recommended before in this column is David Banning’s workbook, Tough Choices: How to Make Wise Decisions. This is one study in a great series of studies in his Get Them Talking High School Workbook series! In a lesson titled, “Tough Choices About How I Look,” he recommends an exercise in which the student works through a series of statements marking them either as true or as false. One of those statements is, “It’s okay to wear clothes that cause people to notice your body and that make you look sexy.” Perhaps this is the issue that would be more pertinent to the young women in our reading audience and the bodybuilding issue is more pertinent to the young men.

I am interested in hearing your comments, not only about this article but also about this column and this website. Do you regularly visit the website? Do you find the articles informative and uplifting? Are there topics that you would like to see discussed? Would you like to write articles for publication here or do you know of others who would like to do so. We are looking particularly for young teenage and “twenty-something” Christians

Thanks for reading with me young friends. I hope that you had a blessed 2011! We wish you a spiritually rewarding 2012 and hope that we can play a small part of that.

Remembering My Creator: Volume 1, Number 10, November 2011

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 10

Theme: Music

In This Issue:

  • “Thoughts to Consider” By Jordan Shouse
  • “The Power That Your Choice of Music Has Over Your Life” by Randy Sexton

Thoughts to Consider

By Jordan Shouse

I ask you to consider the thoughts I present in this article. While on the subject of music we may encourage each other not to listen to vulgar, profane, and negative music, realizing the impact they hold on one another, I’d like to look at the other extreme.

There are many who listen to Christian music. Perhaps you do. When I use the term “Christian music” in this article, I am and will be referring to hymns and songs about God used with instruments. Some label such music as Christian rock, or Gospel. Such music is gaining popularity. Just take a trip to a religious book store and you’ll see all sorts of genres within the Christian music field. There’s country and rap, rock and alternative; many different artists and albums to listen to. You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” I did once. In fact, I use to listen to only listen to Christian music. The argument I made, which others have made, is that it is such positive music which is focused on God. When listening to the music it helps me think more about God and think positive thoughts. That sounds like wholesome and harmless, right?

Consider with me some thoughts. In the New Testament there is silence about the command, example or even logical conclusion that the Christians used instruments in their worship. Historian’s support that mechanical instruments were not added until centuries after the church began. In the New Testament, the command we find for music within the Church is singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). This is the pattern we follow.

When it comes to listening to music on our own, and choosing to listen to Christian music, there are some questions we should ask. “When can God’s name be used in a song and it not either be praise or blasphemous?” We know God’s name is holy (Ps. 105:1-3). Can we use His name in a song without using it casually, and it not be praise? I don’t believe so. It’s either one or the other. “Does it matter where I am or who I am with to worship God?” We know this answer is no. Jesus told the woman by the well in John 4 that there will come a time (and it has) when worship will not be confined to a place such as Jerusalem. David worshipped God alone. Abraham and Isaac worshipped God by themselves on the mountain. We can worship God in a car, by ourselves, in our homes, with a few friends, this can be done. Now there is a pattern to follow. We are to come together with our brothers and sisters on the first day of the week to worship, for the collection, for the Lord’s Supper. But it doesn’t mean that me singing in the car along with a Christian music CD is not worship or praise to God.

If then, we are not to worship God with instruments when we are all together, why is it ok when we are alone? Does God’s pattern for worship change for how many are worshipping, or where one worships? No. If it is wrong to worship with instruments in the assembly, it is equally wrong to worship with instruments alone, whether if I’m playing them, or singing along with a CD.

Some may say, “But its praise to the Lord. How could He not like this? It’s not for us, it is all for Him. Surely He enjoys and accepts this praise?” King Saul made a similar argument in 1 Samuel 15 about some livestock they saved instead of killed. Saul was commanded to utterly destroy everything. Saul saved some animals and said it was to sacrifice to the Lord, it was for worship. Samuel responded with a phrase worth repeating: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” 1 Sam. 15:22. It is better to obey God, to follow, obey, and worship God the way He commands, than to do as we wish and label it as worship. Just because we call something worship doesn’t mean God will accept it. Notice Matthew 7:21-23.

Though this music may be positive and help others reflect upon the Lord, the ends don’t justify the means. There are other ways of reaching this goal. There’s positive music out there which is not praising the Lord, there is also a-cappella hymns and songs, which are not only worshipping God, but following the NT pattern.

One more thought to think about: you may think, “I just listen to the music. It is not worship to me. I know the difference between right and wrong.” How are we to be consistent in our teaching to others when we are listening to this music? If we try and teach our family and friends about the NT and worship, they will notice we are being inconsistent. “You say it is wrong to worship with instruments in the assembly, but you listen to that very music all the time? What’s the difference” If we wish to be successful in our teaching, we must be consistent.

I encourage you to consider these words. They are brief and not well elaborated. I am open to discussing this further if you have any questions. I hope these words help in your studying and understanding of the Word and God’s will for you.

 

The Power That Your Choice of Music Has Over Your Life

By Randy Sexton

In an October 2010 article, titled “Reeling In the Years,” author Adam R. Holz described some of the chages that have taken place in pop music over the last several years. One thing, however, that has NOT changed, according to Holz, is the significant influence it has in the lives of young people. He says, “For all those changes, however, much remains the same when it comes to pop music’s focus … and its influence. The perennial themes of love and sex, pleasure and hedonism, as well as insecurity, broken hearts and alienation still dominate. More importantly, music is an increasingly significant influence in young people’s media-saturated lives.”

He goes on to site the findings of a Kaiser Family Foundation study, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-year-olds,

that young people today are consuming more music than ever: 2 hours, 31 minutes daily as of 2009, compared to 1 hour, 48 minutes in 1999. And the messages they internalize shape their lives in two significant areas: identity and behavior….. Perhaps more than any other entertainment medium, music invites young listeners to identify with artists whose lyrics provide an outlet for all that stuff roiling about inside. As they listen to and identify with the messages and values proffered by their favorite artists, it invariably affects the decisions they make and how they see the world…. researchers are documenting a link between what teens listen to and how they behave. In other words, lyrics matter. For example, a 2006 RAND Corporation study found that 12- to 17-year-olds who frequently listened to music with sexually degrading lyrics were almost twice as likely to engage in sexual activity within the ensuing two years as peers who rarely listened or completely refrained.

“Young people—and perhaps some of us who are older—may be tempted to buy the lie that music doesn’t influence our choices or how we see the world. But the evidence, be it scientific or anecdotal (including 20 years of letters to Plugged In ), suggests that music’s influence is indeed profound. That’s why we’ll keep putting popular lyrics under the microscope to help you and your family think carefully and critically about what musicians are saying to our children.”

(http://www.pluggedin.com/familyroom/articles/2010/pi20music.aspx)

One author suggests an exercise to teach young people how to listen discriminately to select appropriate songs. He says, “Once every few weeks, try playing a few top ten songs and put the lyrics on an overhead. Then discuss them. One good way to pick appropriate songs would be to take a survey of their favorite groups and select songs from the most popular ones. Use questions like:

  • What is the writer’s perspective on life?
  • What does this song say about the value of human existence?
  • What does it say about love?
  • Is the song appealing to you? Why?
  • Is the song consistent with a life with God or outside of God?
  • Do they mean what they sing about, or are they just trying to make money or be popular?
  • Is the author searching for something?
  • Is the song good or bad? True or False? Is it mixed? If so, where does it go wrong? How far can you agree with it?”

(“Using Secular Music in Youth Ministry” by John Fischer, on page 468 of Reaching a Generation for Christ by Richard R. Dunn and Mark H. Senter III)

Young people, I commend the words of both of these individuals for your prayerful consideration. Think about the influence that your selection of music has in your life. As you strive to be an example to others in your speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (1st Timothy 4:12), think critically about your culture. As Mr. Fischer says, “Our role in society is not to reject culture or run away from it or judge it without compassion, but to be transformed by God’s Word in the way we think and act toward it.”

Thanks for reading with me young friends. Have a blessed day!

— Randy Sexton

Remembering My Creator: Volume 1, Number 9, March 2011

 

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 9

Theme: Tough Choices About Friends

In This Issue:

  • “The Qualities I Want in a Friend” By Ryan Sexton
  • “Coming to a Brother in Sin” by David Bushnaq
  • “How The Need For Approval Influences Your Selection of Friends” by Randy Sexton

The Qualities I Want in a Friend

By Ryan Sexton

The exercise that Mr. Banning uses in his book Tough Choices, challenges you to spend $10 to buy the qualities you want in a friend. He lists several qualities as $4 qualities, and others as $3, $2 and $1. The challenge is for you to select a combination of these qualities that do not add up to more than $10. He mingles such solid qualities as being a Christian, having high moral standards, being faithful and loyal with more superficial qualities like being good looking, having money, having a nice house and being a good dresser. The point of the exercise, of course is to reinforce what is taught in the Bible.

What does the Bible teach about choosing your friends? Notice the following passages:

Proverbs 1:8-19 says don’t be with sinners who steal, murder, plunder, lie in wait

for blood, only to ambush and those who run to evil.

 

John 12:42-43 says to stay away from those who believe in Him but will not follow Him for

fear of what others will think.

 

1 Corinthians 15:33 says “bad company ruins good morals”

What all these verses are saying is

1) Don’t be with sinners.

2) Don’t be with people who lie

3) Being with people who are bad will turn your heart bad.

 

Coming to a Brother in Sin

By David Bushnaq

This is one of the most difficult articles that I’ve had to write. Coming to a brother in Christ is a very difficult thing that one has to do. If you come on too strong, they may lose heart, if you take it too lightly, they may feel it’s not that big of a deal. So how should one go about doing so?

First it’s important to remember that they are a Christian, same as we are, and as such we must do so with humility, as we could very well be in need of someone coming to us as well. If the Christian is newer to the church, we must take a special care for fear of them becoming discouraged.

However, it must be done. Someone comes to you and brings something to your attention, that someone you are close to has done something to wrong another, it must be dealt with before it gets worse.

So how does one go about doing so? Well, first we are to come to the brother “man to man” so to speak. Matthew 18: 5 says ““If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” A lot of the time the person may very well not know they have done this, and the issue is dealt with just like that. The brother is forgiven and you have indeed gained your brother.

However, in more difficult cases it may be that your words aren’t enough. As such we have recorded in verse 16 “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” In this case, maybe older, wiser people may be able to verify what was said and may give the approach you need to gain back your brother.

My friends, discipline is only half of the battle. If I have sinned and need to be corrected of this sin, and I truly repent of it, the church will welcome me back with open arms as one would a brother who was lost [as in the Prodigal son {Luke 15:11-32} We are to be joyous when our brother returns and show that we really care for the person. It is because of Jesus and his death that we have the blessing to pray to the Lord asking for the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of a life with him in Heaven. We are truly blessed in this manner!

But if the brother is unwilling, regardless of the pleas that you have made so far, or if the issue is a public manner, the issue must be brought to the church in the hopes that someone will say or do whatever needs to be said/done to touch their heart and have them repent, for if they even neglect the Church, they must be put off from the church, a situation that is painful and very hard to do.

So what do you say? Each case is different and I can not give a catch-all circumstance that will touch everyone’s heart and cause them to repent. All we can do is look to the bible for examples. When David sinned with Beth-Sheba, Jonathan came to rebuke him. He did not do so in anger or malice, but with subtlety and in such a way that David himself admitted to his own fault. This is found in 2 Samuel 12.

Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 24-25 that we must not be quarrelsome, but be kind, able to teach, and patient when wronged. Being an angry, spiteful person when wronged may be an easy thing for me to do, but that just makes the situation worse because instead of helping, we might say something to hurt them and drive them further from the church! We must NEVER do this! The passage goes on to say we are to correct those in opposition with gentleness. Being a Christian is a labor of love, my friends, we must always remember this!

In Galatians 6:1 We read “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” We can ask for the aid of our brothers and sisters in Christ in times of difficulty or temptation. We are blessed to have older, wiser people who can offer aid in our trials because they have been in our position. They grew up in a sinful world as we did, and maybe they can say what we’re unable to.

There is a beautiful passage in James I’d like to touch on quickly before I end this article. James 5:19-20 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” So powerful it can be for us to restore our brother to the Lord! This is a very encouraging passage knowing that when we sin [as we all do] when we do repent of it, ALL of our sins are forgiven! And when we repent, we will be restored to the Lamb’s book of life, and not us only, but everyone who repents!

I hope this article has helped in some way and I truly appreciate your time and attention in reading this.

 

 

How the Need for Approval Influences Your Selection of Friends

By Randy Sexton

This week I began re-reading a book that I had read a few years ago, and came upon a statement that fits well into this month’s topic. As a young person, you face a great deal of peer pressure that can weigh heavily upon your choice of friends.

As you consider living a life with God as its center and with Jesus as your king, think about the following statements:

“Many people are driven by the need for approval. They allow the expectations … of friends to control their lives…. Others are driven by peer pressure, always worried by what others might think. Unfortunately, those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it…. Being controlled by the opinions of others is a guaranteed way to miss God’s purposes for your life” (The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, pp. 29-30).

May I suggest to you that, if you use the wrong standard, it will unduly influence you in your selection of friends. Consider with me three mistakes that the need for approval may cause you to make in your selection of friends.

First, you may hang out with the wrong crowd and find yourself developing bad habits. Many a person has taken up smoking or drugs or alcohol or pre-marital sex because they have associated with those to whom these things were important. Do not fall into that trap. Understand the temptations that are there and make plans ahead of time to avoid them.

Second, you may become too close to the wrong person and find yourself marrying someone that will bring you down. It is easy to fall prey to the allure of a person’s good looks and not look for the “adornment … of a gentle and quiet spirit,” (1st Peter 3:4) as you reach your dating years. But be wise and understand what is really important and choose someone who will help you on your journey to heaven.

Third, you may find that, after you have lived a number of years, you have wasted your potential and now have little to show for the time that you been given to prepare for eternity. As Mr. Warren points out in his excellent book, we were put here by God to prepare for eternity. Our earthly body is just a temporary residence. Having the right perspective of this life as only a preparation for the life to come, will influence our choices about how we spend our time, our money, and our talents and on the value that we place on relationships.

Is this an area that you struggle with? Is it tough for you to stand for things that you know will make you unpopular? Do you seek out those who are the most popular, who are the most athletic, and who are the best looking to be your friends? Do you shun those who are not popular, who are not considered “cool,” and who don’t quite measure up in terms of their “outward appearance”? Please consider the exercise that Ryan mentions above from David Banning’s book. What are the qualities that really matter to God? Make it those qualities that you value in a friend. Look at the hearts of people rather than at their outward appearance. Use the same selection criteria that God does, as he looks for those to serve Him (see 1st Samuel 16:7).

Remembering My Creator: Volume 1, Number 8, Jan/Feb 2011

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 8

Themes: Drinking & Dealing With Your Parents

In This Issue:

  • Editorial: January and February Issues Combined
  • “Drink – Why Would You? by Shannon Harden
  • “Wise Up” by Jordan Shouse
  • “Teenage Drinking and Its Consequences ” by Randy Sexton
  • “Honoring Mom and Dad” by Jordan Shouse
  • “Be Thankful for Parents That Are Involved in Your Life” by Randy Sexton

Editorial: January and February Issues Combined

By Randy Sexton

This Issue of Remembering My Creator combines January and February themes, drinking and dealing with parents. Writing for a journal such as this requires a commitment of time and energy. Both of these have been in short supply for both your editor and the contributors to this electronic journal. Life sometimes gets in the way of things that we would like to do. Personally I enjoy writing and I appreciate the opportunity that today’s technology provides to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is my hope and prayer that some benefit is being derived by the small audience of readers that we have. My website counter tells me that visits to our website generally averages only around 10 hits a day, with a good day jumping to 30 or so. I also provide an RSS feed to my Facebook page, so we may have a few readers accessing this material through that path. I am definitely not an internet technology guru, so I take much of this on faith.

If you benefit from the pieces that have been written by these young Christians, who are dedicating time and energy to this effort, drop them an e-mail and tell them so. I would be happy to relay those messages, if you would like to send them to achristiansvoice@sbcglobal.net

Drink – Why Would You?

By Shannon Harden

Currently we have many examples and role models on MTV and other reality shows to show us how drinking can affect your life. From celebrities showing how cool it is getting jail time for public intoxication or getting your own 15 minutes of fame acting like a fool or being on a reality show for addiction. Some may say, “But, I would never do that.” Often we are influenced by our culture and our friends. I’m no longer in high school, but I recently read an article that discussed how binge drinking and alcohol related illnesses were on the rise for boys and girls age 11 – 15. That means kids are now starting to drink in middle school, something that boggles my mind. Instead of lecturing how bad alcohol can be for you, and how much it can damage your life and your body, let’s talk about the purpose of drinking.

I know that when I was in school the main reason most of my fellow students said they drank was because they were bored. God tells us that allowing ourselves to get “bored” can be a dangerous thing. God tells us, “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good (2 Thess.3:11-13 ESV).” If we don’t keep ourselves busy doing God’s will – serving him and others, then we open ourselves up to Satan’s deception.

In reality, whether they acknowledged it or truly realized it themselves, most of my fellow students drank because they wanted to be in the “in” crowd. But do you really want to be friends with people who are partaking in drinking parties, and all the things that go along with the drinking anyway? We’re told that a friend loves at all times (Prov. 17:17) and would a real friend want to put you in harm’s way? God also tells us who we should want to have fellowship and friendships with. We are supposed to stay away from friends who will corrupt us (1 Cor 15:11, 13, 33). A perfect example of what can happen when you become friends with ungodly people is shown with Solomon. God repeatedly told Solomon to be careful because people, who you allow to be in a very close relationship, can turn your heart away from God (1 Kings 11:2). Not only did Solomon ignore God’s warning, but he ended up marrying some ungodly women. For those of you dating, this is one of the closest relationships and one of the best ways to lead your heart away from God. Don’t be deceived, those who you allow to be close to you can influence you for good or evil. It’s your choice which you allow into your life, and who you allow to influence you.

Even if you think you are far stronger than Solomon (the wisest man) to be fooled into turning from God, alcohol has been proven to give you a lapse in judgment. I can’t even express through this typed medium how many people were affected by alcohol. There were drunken girls who got pregnant while at a party, who then aborted those babies later. There was more than one funeral that was attended after a fellow student chose to drink at the party and then drive or ride home with someone who was drunk. God tells us the type of people we are to be, those who renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives (Titus 2:11-14).

Thankfully alcohol has never been a temptation for me; I have never understood the fun in acting like a fool and getting yourself into precarious situations – then puking your guts out the next day. For those of you who struggle with this, remember – don’t be deceived. It really isn’t fun, Satan is deceiving you (Prov. 20:1; Hosea 4:11; Isa. 5:11, 22). It may look good, but in the end it is not worth it. “Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it is bites like a serpent and stings like an adder (Prov 23:31-32 ESV).”

Wise Up

By Jordan Shouse

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:15-18)

With the subject of drinking, an approach often made is to show that it is sinful to become drunk (v.18), thus do not get drunk. But, if you have noticed as others have, the Scriptures do not place a ban on drinking alcoholic drinks, just the intoxication which comes from them. The logical conclusion that some have drawn is that I can drink as long as I don’t get drunk.

Have you ever seen a rattlesnake? I was hiking with a friend once and came inches away from one. The bite of a rattlesnake is quite poisonous and can be fatal. This I knew as I in horror saw this thing rattling within striking distance of my legs. My friend with me at the time wanted to stomp on it, just to see what would happen. I knew what would happen, he’d stop, the snake would chomp and I’d be carrying my friend to the hospital. I’m thankful he listened to me and left it alone. I could have been without a good friend today.

This is exactly how some treat alcohol. I can have some; I can drink up to a certain point, just as long as I don’t get drunk. Is that the attitude a Christian should have towards something which can potentially lead to sin? The attitude today is “how close can I get without actually being bitten?” Temptation and sin is nothing to take lightly. The eternal destination of my soul is at stake. Alcohol may seem like a cool thing to do. Your peers may be involved with it, wanting you to as well. It may seem like a stress reliever or nothing more than a cool refreshment. Think again! You may think there’s no harm in one drink, but for some that’s all it takes before you’re bitten.

It is an honorable thing to flee from temptation. Solomon said, “A wise man fears, and departs from evil; but the fool rages and is confident. (Proverbs 14:16) Paul would say, “Act wise.” Jesus calls you down the narrow way. It’s a path of sacrifice and discipline, but it’s also the path which leads to Heaven. On the path you’ll hear the rattle of the rattlesnake. Before you consider taking one step closer, think again. Be wise, consider the will of God in your decisions. Is this something which would honor my God, or something which would take me further away from Him? And don’t be afraid to flee, it may save your life!

Teenage Drinking and Its Consequences

By Randy Sexton

One of the temptations that you face as a young person is to engage in the drinking of beer and other alcoholic beverages. Much of what you see and hear in the media and from your peers is designed to entice you to participate. What you are presented is the allure and the glitz and the fun associated with drinking. What is hid from you are the disastrous consequences and the heartbreak brought into the lives of young people who are victims.

Consider the statistics from this quote at learn-about-alcoholism.com:

“The teenage drinking statistics are staggering. More than half of all high school seniors report being drunk at least once. But many teens are drinking more than just once. Teenage alcoholism is a serious problem in the U.S. and in other countries.

It’s one thing to talk about the teenage drinking statistics, but it’s another to look at the real-life problems caused by teenage alcoholism. Teen alcoholics often suffer from a number of problems related to their drinking. They often suffer from a number of problems that led up to their excessive drinking, as well.

Often the first sign that a teen has a drinking problem is poor performance at school. Grades drop, a student begins to have unexcused absences, and may get in fights with other students. Teen alcoholics often have difficulty getting along with authority figures such as teachers and principals, as well.

Teenage alcoholism also causes problems at home. Teens often become withdrawn from their family, and the problem getting along with authority figures leads to frequent arguments with parents.

Alcoholic teens may also have problems with the law. Underage drinking itself is illegal. Teens may also drive while under the influence. They may also engage in risky behaviors, such as driving too fast. They may become threatening or violent during arguments at home or school.

Teen alcoholics may also begin using other substances, such as marijuana or other drugs. While alcohol is the most abused substance among teens, it can often serve as a “gateway drug,” leading into more serious substances. For instance, teens who use alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than teens who don’t drink alcohol.”

(Source: http://www.learn-about-alcoholism.com/teenage-drinking-statistics.html)

Also, consider this from http://teenage-drinking.net:

“Teenage drinking is a widespread epidemic in the United States Today; in fact, teenage drinking is so common that over fifty percent of high school seniors reported drinking heavily within 1 month period prior to an annual study… Teenage drinking is more than just a nuisance or an adolescent phase. Of a large study of high school seniors, 80 percent reported binge drinking, getting drunk, or drinking and driving, and of those students, over 50 percent admitted that drinking had made them feel ill, get arrested, have a car accident, and miss school or work. Studies also indicate that teenage drinking causes adolescents to have a lesser chance of being successful at normal adult achievements and goals, such as achieving higher education, getting married, attaining employment, and being financially successful.

There are many additional risk factors for teenage drinking and alcoholism. These include:

· Family history

· Childhood hyperactivity and/or aggression

· Mental disorders such as anxiety or depression

· Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

· Family’s view on alcohol consumption

· Lack of parental ties and/or monitoring

· Peer’s attitudes towards and consumption of alcohol

· Childhood abuse or exposure to violence and trauma

· Awareness of alcohol (usually due to advertising)

There are several negative results of teenage drinking that are quite severe and cannot be ignored. Of all car accidents involving teens, one out of five show alcohol present in his or her system. Teenage drinking is also associated with sexual promiscuity and early sexual encounters. Adolescents who drink are more often to have risky sexual behavior, have unprotected sex (which leads to a high risk of all sexually transmitted diseases), be coerced to have sex, and be forced to participate in sexual activities. Regardless of what behaviors may be acted out while drinking, one consequence of teenage drinking cannot be avoided. Growth and development of the bones is impaired, based on findings of a recent study on laboratory animals. Finally, one of the biggest issues with teenage drinking is that alcohol is often just the beginning of substance abuse problems. Alcohol has been referred to as the “gateway” drug, because it is often the first step in abusing any substance.

Many teens that start abusing alcohol find it difficult to stop for many reasons, and some will need intervention to prevent future alcoholism and potential drug addiction.“

Dear young friend, I would echo Shannon’s advise in her good article, “…don’t be deceived. It really isn’t fun, Satan is deceiving you (Prov. 20:1; Hosea 4:11; Isa. 5:11, 22). It may look good, but in the end it is not worth it. ‘Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it is bites like a serpent and stings like an adder (Prov 23:31-32 ESV).’”

Honoring Mom and Dad

By Jordan Shouse

A familiar passage in the New Testament on the subject of parents and children is Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Paul lists the command given to children from the 10 commandments, honor your parents. To honor means to show respect or esteem. You’ll notice that when reading the Lord’s command to children there aren’t many exceptions. The passage doesn’t read: “Honor your father and mother if they are good parents,” or “when it is convenient for you,” or even “if they never make a mistake.” The only exception given is the short three word phrase, “in the Lord” meaning that if a parent asks their child to do something God would not want us to do, it is only then that one may not obey their parents.

How do we honor our parents? Firstly is by obedience. You show respect to your parents when you do what they ask of you to do. Some may think they have it rough, that mom and dad really pile on the work load. From homework to chores, to helping others, it may seem like a lot. Trust me when I say that good parents who truly love their children have their best interest always in mind. Do as they say. Not only do as they say, but do it efficiently and excellently. When mom and dad ask you to clean your room, instead of waiting and procrastinating which will usually anger them, do it right away which will leave you much more time to do the things you want to do. Also do it excellently. If they ask for the clothes to be put away, cramming them under the bed is not what they had in mind. When we do things right the first time, giving our best, it makes a world of difference and truly shows our parents that we love and respect them.

We also honor our parents by listening. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Proverbs 1:8) Parents have a lot to say. From the habits you form to the friends you hang out with, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the people you date, and especially your relationship with the Lord; parents will want to know. It may seem like their advice is outdated and irrelevant to your life. It may seem that moms and dads don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes. To some respect you’re correct. There are some things specific to being a youth in 2011 that some parents may not understand very well. However, they have been 12, 13, 16, 20, etc. before and know what it is like to be a youth trying to serve the Lord. Again, remember that they love you and want more than anything for you to be in Heaven. Listen to them. You’ll be amazed one day of how wise you’re parents actually are!

May I encourage you to let your parents know how special you think they are? There are many today who don’t have their parents anymore and I know they would give anything just to have one more day to be with them. Don’t forget to tell your parents you love them and you’re thankful for them. Trust me, if it weren’t for your parents there wouldn’t be you!

Be Thankful For Parents That Are Involved in Your Life!

By Randy Sexton

As the father of ten-year-old and twelve-year-old boys, I can attest to the fact that there is often disagreement between what child and parent think is the best for the child. As you read these words, where do you stand in your relationship with Mom and Dad? Would you say” things are terrible” or would you say “things are great” or would you say you are somewhere in between?

Please ponder the following question: What does God require of your parents in regard to you? Does He expect them to give you all the freedom of choice that you think you deserve? Does He expect them to give you everything (i.e. video games, gadgets, latest style clothes, etc.) that you want? Does He expect them to stay out of your business and only get involved if you ask for their help?

You should not need to ponder these questions very long until you realize that what I have described is what many parents, who are more concerned with their own lives than that of their children, demonstrate by the way that they act.

Be thankful if you have parents that are involved in your life. Be thankful if you have parents who take seriously the charge given them by God to explain to you the basis of faith in Him. Be thankful if you have parents who want to know your friends and the home environments from which they come. David Banning, in his workbook for teenagers called Tough Choices tells young people, “Read these two passages that talk about your relationship with your parents (Ephesians 6:1-3 and Proverbs 6:20-23). Then choose one and write a brief essay explaining what it means” (p. 13).

If you have a father who recognizes his God-assigned role to be the spiritual leader of your family, express your thanks to him for his guidance. In urging men to be “point men” in their families, Steve Farrar says, “God is looking for men between twenty-five and forty-five who will commit to be “rocks” for their families. These kind of rocks are characterized by an unwavering commitment to their wives, a willingness to get involved in the lives of their children, and a gut-level desire to follow hard after Jesus Christ” (Point Man, pp. 227-228).

Remembering My Creator – Volume 1, Number 7, December 2010

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 7

Theme: TV and Movies

In This Issue:

  • “Television: The Good, Bad and Ugly” by Randy Sexton
  • “Volume and Variety” by Jordan Shouse
  • “Celebrity Worship” by David Bushnaq

Television and Movies: The Good, Bad and Ugly

By Randy Sexton

This month we turn our attention to another societal influence that you face as a young person. Both are relative late-comers in the history of man. “The beginnings of mechanical television can be traced back to the discovery of the photoconductivity of the element selenium by Willoughby Smith in 1873, the invention of a scanning disk by Paul Gottlieb Nipkow in 1884 and John Logie Baird’s demonstration of televised moving images in 1926…. The first regularly scheduled television service in the United States began on July 2, 1928. The Federal Radio Commission authorized C.F. Jenkins to broadcast from experimental station W3XK in Wheaton Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. For at least the first eighteen months, 48-line silhouette images from motion picture film were broadcast, although beginning in the summer of 1929 he occasionally broadcast in halftones.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_television)

As with other choices that you face, how you spend your time in regard to movies and TV can be either an encouragement to your intellectual development and your spiritual edification or a detriment to them.

In a recent article that appeared on the Focus on The Family Website, Rhonda Handlon asks, “How much TV does your family watch? She then proceeds to give advice for balancing TV time and its influence in our homes. In that article she says, “Television viewing has grown steadily since the first sets were introduced in the late 1920s. American kids aged 2-18 now spend an average of 5:29 hours using media each day, with the lion’s share of that attributed to TV. Studies show extensive viewing may be to blame for aggressive or violent behavior, poor academic performance, precocious sexuality, obesity and substance abuse.”

Realizing that many parents are not comfortable with their family viewing habits, she recommends several steps be taken to address this issue. My suggestion for you as a young person is to discuss these suggestions with your parents:

  • Schedule viewing. Together with your parents, plan a weekly program schedule.
  • Set physical limits on TV viewing. Turn the TV off during meals. If you have a TV in your bedroom, consider removing it.
  • Watch TV together. Talk with your parents about positive behaviors and point out unacceptable words and behaviors, and talk about the better way.
  • Talk back to the TV. When a character says or does something you don’t agree with, say so out loud.
  • Plan weekly family nights. Turn off the TV and take out board games, go on a nature hike, play Frisbee, read books together, go out for ice cream.
  • Use your VCR liberally. Preview new programs, edit out risqué or violent commercials, and choose optimum viewing times instead of being at the mercy of the broadcaster’s schedule.
  • Encourage your parents to be good examples. Ask them to take an honest look at their own viewing habits, reminding them that what they do speaks so much louder than what they say.

(http://www.focusonthefamily.com/entertainment/mediawise/the-family-media-guardian/tv.aspx)

Volume and Variety

By Jordan Shouse

The assignment for this month is an important subject to address. Most of us have our favorite TV shows and movies. Both are entertaining and enjoyable. It’s fun to go to the movies with your friends, or to relax at home watching a show. As innocent as both may seem, a Christian must be truly cautious and of sound judgment in all things, especially our entertainment. Let me bring some thoughts to consider. You may not agree with me, and I understand that. I’d love to discuss these things further if perhaps you may have a differing view or opinion.

Firstly, there is the myth of detachment. It is the belief that what goes on within the show or movie stays in that show or movie, unaffecting reality. This really couldn’t be further from the truth. What occurs in the entertainment we watch leaves an impression. The words said, the images seen, the thoughts suggested, they are all now in your mind. That’s a potentially dangerous thing, because the mind is where our words, actions, motives, even being originate (Matt. 12:33-37; Matt. 5:21-22; Prov. 23:7). The words you shouldn’t say, the images you shouldn’t think, the attitudes you shouldn’t dwell upon can all be lastingly formed in your mind by watching bad media. Have you ever heard someone say, “It won’t affect me?” “The cursing doesn’t affect me.” “Those sensual scenes don’t get to me.” What are we saying? Sin doesn’t bother me. I can sit and willingly watch people commit horrendous sins, hear people abuse the name of the Lord and use other profanities, and it doesn’t bother me? Perhaps this is where you are. I remember in my youth using this excuse. I was a fan of action and would tell my parents that the blood the gore didn’t bother me.

Let me offer two thoughts of advice on this idea: 1. NEVER watch anything which will lead you to sin. It doesn’t matter how cool or popular, how many are going to see it. Watching a movie with words that will stick in your mind, scenes of promiscuity, sexual immorality, we could go on and on. It truly is not worth it. No movie is ever worth ruining your relationship with God. Keep pure. This can all be avoided by being as informed as you can about what you’re going to watch. Look up the movie before going to see what it involves. Pluggedin.com is a good site to try. 2. Protect your light. A great danger to shining our lights into the world is affiliation with things contrary to the message we proclaim. It will be incredibly difficult to teach friends and family the importance of holy and righteous living when we claim to be addicted to shows which focus on sinful behavior and lifestyles. You are a soldier, a planter in God’s vineyard, and most importantly God’s child. There is a certain lifestyle which must follow making that decision, but one which will truly reap grand rewards.

This is where variety comes into play. Instead of watching things we ought not watch, why not watch something profitable, wholesome, and clean. There is so much of it out there. Great shows and movies to enjoy with everyone you watch them with. When picking out the shows, take a moment to ask yourself, “Will this show help or hinder my walk with the Lord.” A great passage to keep in mind is Psalm 101:3 – “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.” Be in control. You choose what you watch. Pick good things, shows which will remind you of God and Biblical truths.

The other subject to touch briefly upon is volume. It is easy and quite tempting to rush, in our free moments, to the TV or put on a movie. Most are designed to be addicting, leaving out so much that you just have to watch the next one. The truth is life’s short. Just ask your parents. Life flies by. Watching good shows for leisure is good, but don’t let it take control. Reading is a wonderful thing to do. I loved reading John, and in High School I really jumped into spiritual books and writers, all which made you think and question and study. There are so many great books and magazines to read and look into. Don’t shy away from getting active, play sports, go on adventures, try new things, have fun. Don’t let the TV waste away your life. Again, you are in control. You get to determine how much, how often, and what kind. For some of you, your parents may have that control. They know what’s best.

I ask you to keep these thoughts in mind, take them to heart and if you have any questions or thoughts, I’d love to talk about them more.

Celebrity Worship

By David Bushnaq

Hello, everyone! The article for this month is TV and Movies. Are they just something to watch when you’re bored, or are there some dangers that Christians need to beware of?

Of course, we all know that some TV is good and some is bad, and that moderation is key. So what, then, can be said that hasn’t been said before? We know that watching evil TV gives them ratings and as such money, so we know not to watch those. We know that having someone see you watch those shows could be a bad influence. You’ve gone over all that before, David. And the same is true for movies. That will not be the focus of this article. Instead, we will discuss the actors and TV stars themselves?

Society has made these people who they are. Celebrities, living wild and lavish lifestyles, seem devoid of responsibility and reason. They are consumed with doing what feels good because it feels good. In fact, in some instances, they parody their own lifestyles [a certain Brad Paisley song springs to mind].

My friends, emulating the actions of these people could be anything from dressing like them, to acting like them, or even allowing their product [be it movie, book, show, or whatever] to come between you and your life. Surely that doesn’t happen on purpose, now, does it?

And these actors’ lives are so important to our society that they are put up all over shopping center shelves, television shows, and even the internet! It’s hard to escape it all– almost impossible. And who brought this evil up to the level it has reached? We have.

By going to great lengths to find out every little thing about a celebrity, we begin to worship them. Yes, in a figurative sense, but if something that they provide ever comes between you and your family [or worse, you and God!] then the trap is set, and you fell unawares.

No, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good, wholesome movie made by a certain actor, but if I begin to care so much about his/her life that I begin neglecting my own, my priorities have been skewed tragically in the wrong direction.

I suppose it’s hero worship. Instead of looking for real heroes; ones who do the right thing and behave as gentlemen, we look for rich people. Then we weave the fabrication, that if we act just as they do, we may somehow become rich as well! I have difficulty grasping that with anything other than extreme doubt and question.

People like Lindsey Lohan and the new teenage girl on Disney who dresses and acts provocatively, while being obscenely rich, set a poor example for young girls. In their easily impressionable state, they see that and begin to be hardwired into that lifestyle and see that as being worthy of emulation. If they are fortunate their parents will step in and tell them right from wrong.

Same is true for men, as well. Being a bad boy and rebelling against authority is cool. So is racing and living a dangerous lifestyle. Why? Because it’s glorified on TV. Getting into a small cage and engaging in blood sport, sometimes to the point of serious damage is popular, and using language that would make a sailor blush, committing acts of violence just because you can, and preaching a message of hate is par for the course.

I honestly feel these things have corrupted our culture, now as I say that, I’m glancing up at the sky to see if any pets are falling, or if the sky itself is. I know not all of anything is evil. In fact, I grew up watching Sesame Street, Power Rangers, and Legends of the Hidden Temple, so I can’t flat-out say that television is some evil device that corrupts minds. That’d make me a hypocrite.

What I’m saying is that while some television is innocent and wholesome, a lot of it isn’t. And allowing children unfettered access, may do more harm than good. No, I don’t think watching a movie about racing is going to make you want to do exactly what was depicted in the movie right off, but if you, at an early age, do not realize the line between fantasy and reality… you may very well believe what you are seeing is real and in doing the same acts, you are seen as cool.

We brought ourselves to this level but we can stop it. It begins by raising our kids in the nurture and admonition in the Lord, as found in Ephesians 6:4, which refers to fathers, true, but mothers need to assist in that endeavor as well. A home where a father and mother do not work together in raising their kids is a disastrous one.

Morality and responsibility are taught in the home. You know the media won’t teach it to you. At least not in a way that would be beneficial to your kids. They’ll tell you that everyone is ok regardless of whom they are, that emulating others is ok, and any sense of individuality is uncool. You have to fit in, conform even, to the status quo or you are an outsider…and those are weird.

I suppose what I’m getting at [and taking way too long to do so] is that while television, movies, or anything else for that matter, is a time sink, same as any other, the responsibility to separate fact from fiction, reality from fantasy, and our life from the fake lives of others, rests solely on our shoulders, and ours alone. They don’t care. You’re giving them money via ratings and/or buying their products, so why should they care of what it does to you. They’ll never know you. We are in charge of us. The person who keeps us from becoming just another brick in the wall [ha!] is us.

Remembering My Creator – Volume 1, Number 6: November 2010

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 6

Theme: The Internet and Video Games

In This Issue:

  • “Cyber Bullying” by David Bushnaq
  • “Family Time” by Chip Foster
  • “The Snare That Binds” by Randy Sexton
  • “Should I Insert Another Quarter, Or Is It Game Over?” by David Bushnaq

Cyber Bullying

By David Bushnaq

The internet. Something we’re all very familiar with, I’m sure. Since it’s invention by Al Gore, it’s come a long way. But what I’d like to write about are some of the dangers we could face. Should we copy that floppy, or should we Alt-F4 it from our lives?

It has truly spread over America like wildfire; after all, you’re using it to read these articles. The internet has made our lives easier in many ways. For instance, without it, my board game collection wouldn’t be near as impressive as it is, and several other items I wouldn’t have in my possession. Another benefit [and curse] is it allows you to meet others who have similar interests.

I’ve met several great people who also enjoy video games as much as I do. That and a great community that’s helped me in my growth as an Ocarina player. Also if it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t be writing these. I truly am blessed to have a loving and supportive family who aids me in my growth, Randy for his project and allowing me the opportunity to use this as a medium to people around my age, and for the congregation I worship with. All of which working together have supported me and my growth as a Christian [and hopefully eventually as a preacher.]

With that said, the internet isn’t exactly the kind of place we should play around with carelessly. While the internet certainly can be used for good, it can also be used for evil. Of course the first example that comes to mind with this is pornography, but I’m going to focus on the pressures we could face on the internet.

Cyber bullying. A very rampant problem we face today. People take on the guise of screen names and fake handles for them to “troll” [or harass others for their own amusement] without fear of them being found. They could do anything from just saying ugly things about someone to even going as far as harassing people during a funeral.

The internet makes this very easy as you can find a group of like minded individuals [unfortunately] and they could support someone in their slanderous and defiling dealing with others. What’s worse is when they band together to attack someone as a group. We as Christians must always make sure we never fall into that crowd. They may claim that there’s no harm in a few ugly words to someone, but you likely have read news articles and stories about people who have killed themselves just because one person, or a group of people doing this to them. And the worst part of it is, the most prominent people doing this are our age!

On the same subject of pressure, there are also a group of people who get together in chat rooms looking for young women to ask them to undress for them, and if their parents aren’t around… some times that pressure leads to them doing as their unknown predators ask, which leads to all kinds of trouble.

With the internet not only readily available, but also in our own rooms, it’s difficult [if not impossible] for our parents and older, wiser people to keep watch and tell us whether or not we should do something. That’s what these predators look for. Younger, naive women who don’t quite know what they’re doing is wrong, and eventually blackmailing them [by telling their parents] into doing things that are evil.

That’s why we must ask our parents about this and to make sure we aren’t doing anything that could lead to these things happening to us.

But what about falling into the wrong crowd? We could very easily do a search for something and find a website that seems innocent at first, and maybe their justification may seem valid… at first. I join the message board, and at first everything’s fine. I share similar beliefs, and a strong sense of right and wrong, and then they do something terrible [or worse! Doing so in the name of good!] When they get caught for doing something illegal, I’m just as guilty as them due to guilt by association.

Or worse! They don’t do anything chaotic, but by reading more and more of their more extreme viewpoints, my mind could become poisoned to the point where I share the same viewpoints. This is even more dangerous, friends! 1 Thessalonians 5:6 tells us to be watchful and sober. Sober here means clear-minded. They want me to think like they do, so I can join them, because “misery loves company” but I have to remember to compare my life with the bible, and if there is error, it’s on me.

One of the easiest ways Satan can trap us is by showing that you don’t get in trouble for doing something wrong… at all! For instance, go ahead and download that Nintendo game, it’s 20 years old, and Nintendo no longer gains any money from it, just price hiking collectors. No harm done, right? Wrong.

If I was to download a game that I don’t have the legal right to download, it is stealing, plainly and simply put. Regardless of its age, regardless of its quality “I’m just downloading titles I’ll never buy anyway, so I’m not hurting anyone!” Is a very flawed justification. But people believe this and as such never seek forgiveness for doing so. Ephesians 4:28. Not only do you get more of a sense of accomplishment when you obtain something you’ve worked for, you also don’t have to worry that what you’re doing is wrong.

Indeed, justification is something we have to be VERY careful of. If we have the justification for something [flawed or otherwise] we no longer think it is sin, and if we don’t think it is sin, we don’t ask for forgiveness for doing so. It could be anything from a music file, to an old game, to a movie. If we don’t have legal access to it, we can’t download it. Simply put.

So in conclusion, while the internet is an invention that can be used for good, it, too, can be used for all kinds of evil. We have to make sure we are always alert and not to just allow the thinking of others to enter our minds as our own without first testing them to see if they are congruent with the bible. It allows us access to people all over the world who have wildly differing thoughts and beliefs concerning God and the bible. Some even go so far as to slander God and defame everything he has done for us, for the sake of their own twisted sense of humor.

Be ever vigilant, friends.

Family Time

By Chip Foster

When a husband and wife decide to have a child they must consider all things that go in to being a parent. There are duties and a responsibilities that go into parenting that all should consider.

In Ephesians 6:4 Paul writes, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” The instruction for fathers is clear; they should bring up their children by the precepts of the Lord. In Titus 2:3-5 Paul writes, “the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” These verses are most often used for older women in the church as they teach the younger women, but these can also be used for the instruction that a mother gives to her daughters. In the book of Proverbs we can see many instances where parents are to provide instruction to their children, Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15. These are not advocating beating a child, but the correction that comes naturally from warranted spanking. These also advocate teaching and instruction from parents before the spanking would become necessary. In the Old Law the commandment stated, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” Paul says this is the first commandment with promise, Ephesians 6:2, and this is true because parents should teach their children those things that will lead to long life on this earth and especially those things that lead to eternal life with God in heaven.

And this is where family time comes into play. The secular world rightly states that family time is important to the family. It encourages dinner time around the table. This can be that time where the floor is open for all manner of discussions. Each member can tell of their day and talk about the problems that may have occurred. Parents must remember to keep their comments as light as possible because the children do not want to know the troubles of the office in detail. This is not to say that parents should lie to their children but they don’t need to go into the details like they would with their spouse. This is the time for parents to encourage their children to talk about their day. Parents should listen and give their insight as necessary.

Family time can be a movie night where the family enjoys a movie together. It can be game night where one or more games are scheduled and played. The rules of game night might include no pouting when you lose and no over-the-top bragging when you win.

Family time could be riding bikes around the neighborhood or a walk to the park. When was the last time that your family had a picnic? That is about as old fashioned as one could get but there is little better family time than a picnic.

Family time is a time to be silly and goofy. It is a time for the family to forget the world and its ideas and just be a family. It is a time to strengthen the bonds that exist within the family. These bonds exist not only from parents to children and reverse, but also between siblings of varying ages. These bonds can be strengthened even during the adolescent and teenage years when the bonds can be put to test. This family time strengthens the family. Families will go through times of hardship and trial and stronger bonds in the family will aid in getting through these hard times.

It is important for families to spend time together. The TV and cell phones are turned off. The internet connection is disabled. The family comes together as one and increases the physical and emotional bonds.

As with all things we must remember to put God first. In all of our family time activities we must be an example of godliness. Parents must remember their obligations in training and teaching their children, as noted above, and that all activities must be done with respect for God’s law. In all of these activities we can teach our children the importance of God and strength of family in our lives.

(Copied by permission from http://www.truthfortodaysyouth.com)

The Snare That Binds

By Randy Sexton

There is an evil that I have seen and it is young people entrapped by the undue influence of video games that control their minds and overtake their lives in pursuit of the “next level.” As David Bushnaq points out in his excellent article, there is an addictive nature that can lure young people. Like a black widow leading her victims and then entrapping them into her web where she entraps them and shoots her paralyzing venom in them, so the video game can have a very destructive influence on young lives.

As Chip Foster points out, video games can steal time away from family time and from the time that parents are to instruct their children in the precepts of the Lord. There are a limited number of hours in a day and if left to their own direction many a young boy will spend every available minute on his Playstation, Xbox 360 or Wii. Parents must exercise discipline and young people must understand the addictive nature of the games. They must take deliberate, proactive steps to bring balance and control into their lives, especially in the area of the internet and video games.

“Should I insert another quarter, or is it Game Over?”

By David Bushnaq

Hello, everyone! I’ve been put in an interesting position this month…Video games are something I’m VERY familiar with. I’ve been playing them for 22 years now, nevertheless, the question for this month is “Should I insert another quarter, or is it Game Over?”

GTA. What are the first thoughts that pop into your head when you see those letters? The violence? Profanity? Lewdness? I think it goes without saying for any of us, that GTA will not exactly help in our lives as Christians, but that’s just a one-off example. Are ALL video games bad?

Video games, themselves, have developed quite impressively since their lowly beginnings in the 70s. We’ve gone from single screen tennis to somewhat realistic war simulators in the matter of 30 years. From a few pixels on a screen to almost lifelike realism. However, is it for the better?

The game designers go for what’s popular at the time [of course- it’s all a money game] so if what’s popular are the juvenile games where you have to shoot things, swear 100 times, or be overcome with near nudity, that’s what is made. Gaming is holding itself back. It is much like in television. A unique game is made and sure enough, dozens of clones [or hundreds if you’re talking about multiplayer war simulators] are made and the market is saturated, until another unique title appears that’s a sleeper hit and that’s copied. That’s not the fault of the designers [well… not completely] but the price of making a video game has increased to the several million dollar mark. There simply is no room for error in that kind of environment so they have to do what they know will sell.

What does that mean for us? Well, we have people buying those war simulators and other games that are an extreme temptation for us Christians, and that means when we go into the local game store, that’s what we see. The phrase “sex sells” is just as prevalent today as it ever was.

Well, so what? I’m a mature enough adult that I can play those games without them causing me to sin, so what’s the harm? Philippians 4:8. While you’re playing those games, you are thinking about them and the visuals you are experiencing are not honorable, pure, or lovely. Let’s take it a step further. Let’s say I’ve been speaking to a co-worker about the gospel for some time, he/she decides to start going to church with me. This person is moved by God’s love for them and becomes a Christian.

That is all well and good, but after going to church one week, they come over to my house for some video games. I, of course, accept, not considering the kinds of games on my shelf. Sure enough, while going through my game library, he/she stumbles upon those kinds of games…GTA, Call of Duty, and others. Sure I can handle them, but can he/she? They see those games on my shelf and they believe that those kinds of games are not only allowed, but worth buying and now I got a problem on my hands. A problem that the 9th chapter of the gospel of Mark and verse 42 warns us of. We could cause someone to stumble!

We’re given another warning of this in Ephesians 4:19. Callousness is a very grave danger to Christians of ANY age, but especially dangerous for us, as we haven’t the experience and maturity an older, wiser person would. If we allow those things near us us and aren’t careful, it could snowball into worse and worse dangers until we don’t even realize that we’ve committed a grave error.

Actually it gets worse. By buying that game, we tell the designers of that game that we support them with our money. That’s right, we are saying “I support the makers of the game by giving them my money.” We are using money that the Lord has given us on things that will not assist us in being a Christian, in fact, quite the opposite can easily happen! Of course, pirating is another problem, but I have a feeling we’ll be going over that at a later time.

“So what you’re telling us is that we should only play the Mario and Pac-Man games, right?” Well, what’s so wrong with Mario, Pac-Man, or Tetris? The gameplay is timeless, you don’t have to worry about getting a headshot from 50 yards away on a goomba, and how many news stories have you read about someone killing someone else for not getting the I block that they needed to complete the Tetris they worked so hard for?

My friends, WE decide what we put on our screens, in our homes, and into our minds, and if we do as David describes in Psalm 101: 3, the thought of those games will not enter into our minds. We should set before our eyes things that are glorifying to the Lord and those things should cling to us.

“Hey! Have you played that new Call of Duty game? You gain experience by killing other people that gives you bonuses that make it easier for you to kill people!” Ever hear a similar question asked in school? I know I have. We have recorded in the book of Jude 1:18 a very similar concept. Peer pressure is one of the easiest ways those kinds of games sell. They’re everywhere on tv and on the radio [they have to be. Or else their multi million dollar project will not sell enough to make a profit!] and if people in my school are told that those kinds of games are cool, sure enough those in my class will buy into it and soon that game will become cool in my environment as well. And if you don’t buy the game, you become unpopular. “After all, you play Chessmaster. What’s the fun of moving pieces around?”

Does that mean we shouldn’t bother buying the new consoles and playing the cool new games? Not necessarily. There are plenty of good, honest, wholesome games out there on every system [some more than others] but you have to look harder for them. And don’t get me wrong, just because it isn’t Super Death Fighter 9,001, or World War 2 the 17th [seriously, how many times are we going to be retold the same story? The war only happened once!] doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of depth and strategy to it.

So in closing, please consider these words when you go to your local game store and have a choice between Nintendogs and Call of Duty. What game would you feel more comfortable allowing a new convert to see? I know those are very large exaggerations, but you get the idea.

And besides, those kinds of games weren’t designed to be the super hardcore kind of game that grows in replay value as you grow in skill. They’re actually quite condescending to us. They dangle a carrot in front of our eyes until we eventually reach it. We’re given that carrot and another one is placed a bit further away from us. It’s known as a Skinner Box and gaming is very quickly reaching that point.

MMORPGs [Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games] are one of the worst offenders of this. You’re given carrot after carrot after performing work [not fun, not skill… WORK] and eventually you come to expect this kind of thing [worse is when you KNOW you’ll get the next carrot so you’ll sacrifice something in your life to get that carrot] so you start looking forward to that next carrot and before you know it… one of them had a hook on it. You are theirs. Your work suffers, friendships suffer, relationships suffer, all so you could reach another arbitrary level on a game where none of that will matter when the next one comes out.

“Yes, we know MMORPGs are dangerous and addictive, but so what? We aren’t talking about MMORPGs.” No we aren’t. Call of Duty does that as well. Most games with leveling systems do. [something tacked on to games in the early days to artificially inflate the time it takes to complete a game. Bad idea then, bad idea now.] And gamers today want that. They like the grinding aspect [for…some reason] if it’s hidden even slightly in something they believe is fun, they’ll perform the same repetitive task over and over again happily. Makes you wonder why gaming will likely never become completely mainstream and seen as a legitimate art form, doesn’t it? Gaming will never mature until the player base does.

Thank you for reading and I hope that the article has been of some benefit to you.

Remembering My Creator – Volume 1, Number 5: October 2010

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 5

Theme: Dancing

In This Issue:

  • “Purer in Heart O God Help Me to Be” by Jordan Shouse
  • ““Walking in the Light” by David Bushnaq
  • Editorial: Applications of “Walking in the light to Our Theme” by Randy Sexton
  • “To Dance or Not To Dance” by David Bushnaq

Purer in Heart O God Help Me to Be

By Jordan Shouse

 

What comes to mind when you think of something pure? Use your imagination with me for a moment. Think of a beautiful brook. The water is so clear, you can see every rock, and pebble on the bottom. It makes you so thirsty just to watch it gently bubble, calmly stream. When you reach down to fill your cup, it’s ice cold! Oh, but when you drink, it is the best tasting water you have ever tasted (yes, water can taste!). It’s such an amazing sight. The sun cutting through the trees creating lines of brilliance as it highlights the bright colors of the changing leaves as they fall from the trees. The cool, crisp air, the smells from this bubbling brook, don’t you want to be there!

Now imagine this beautiful brook. Your cup is empty, and you are wanting more! Before you are able to dip your cup into this pure stream, a truck loses control and slides down the bank on the other side, spilling its contents into the stream. What was it containing? Sewage. Into this beautiful, crystal clear brook is now the foul, disgusting waste. The horrible smell just fills your nostrils. You would not even think twice about dipping that cup in again. This scene now, despite how perfect the weather may be, is ruined by the polluted water.

This poor attempt at an illustration is often times what we see in our own lives. Our God wants us to be pure in heart. Jesus instructed that those who are “pure in heart” will be the ones who see God (Matt. 5:8). It was David who wrote that one who has a “pure heart” will stand in the holy place of God (Ps. 24:4). A pure heart is a beautiful thing. A heart that belongs to the Lord and keeps from doing sinful things is one that pleases the Lord, one which will be rewarded.

You may wonder what this has to do with this month’s assignment on dancing. Just as the beautiful brook was polluted with waste, our pure hearts are easily contaminated by the ways of the world. One of the strong contaminants is lust. Lust is simply a “strong desire.” It is a craving. Something as a young person you must guard against is the craving, or the lust of the flesh. When you allow the urgings and desires for someone of the opposite gender to fill your hearts, to crave for them, lusting for them, your pure heart has been defiled by the waste of sin. Now it is fine to like someone. You go on dates with someone you like. Eventually you marry that person you’ve been dating for some time that you’ve learned to love. However, liking and lusting are two different things. Liking is admiring the positive traits about a person. Lusting is thinking about that person in inappropriate ways. It doesn’t matter if it is just in my thoughts, and that I don’t tell anyone about it. Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28. Keep your hearts pure! Lusting will lead to doing things I would never have done before, of thinking thoughts I never would have thought of, of saying things I never would have said, looking at people in ways I never would have looked at them, and then engaging in things I would NEVER have done. The Bible is very clear that we need to avoid sinful lust. Check out 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 John 2:16.

How does lust come about? I will tell you that it doesn’t just poof into our minds. It is provoked. Seeing things I shouldn’t have seen, hearing things I shouldn’t have heard, engaging in actions I shouldn’t have engaged in; these produce lust. And these dangers are prevalent with dancing. At the pep assembly, you’ll have to overt your eyes when the dance team or cheerleaders come and dance on the floor. Keep pure. The dances today are apt to provoke lust, so my advice is to avoid dancing with others. This is not a broad ban on all dancing. Hanging out with your friends and dancing to the YMCA is completely different from the animalistic or lustful forms of dancing and slow dancing done today.

My plea is to keep your hearts pure. This is truly not just for the youth, but a plea for all of God’s children. Help each other to keep pure. It doesn’t help to involve these kinds of dancing in social events like weddings or parties. Help us keep pure. Grab a hold of a good friend who holds to the same beliefs and convictions, and lean upon them when these temptations grow strong. Don’t bother flipping on those TV shows focused on couples dancing. It is a trap just waiting for you. Keep your hearts pure.

Keep your hearts pure for the sake of the Church. Wherever you attend, they need bright shining lights in the community. Your peers around you need to see you making a stand for what you believe in despite how strange it may seem. Keep your hearts pure for the sake of your future spouse. One day, Lord willing, you may find someone you truly love and want to spend the rest of your life with. Save your passion, your desires, your heart for that person. They are the treasure worth waiting and working for. Keep your hearts pure for the sake of the Lord. God knows our hearts, and what He wants is someone who is doing his or her best to do what is right. God doesn’t want a muck infested pit, but a beautiful brook, a heart that’s pure.

Walking in the Light

By David Bushnaq

Walking in the light. Something we feel safe doing, something we may take for granted. It gives safety, security, and comfort to us in our day to day lives, but what about those without it? The main text for my talk will be 1 John 1: 5-8.

1 John 1: 5. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. As such, those who follow him strive to be in the light as well. We must strive to emulate God’s character in everything we do.

Those in darkness do not fit into God’s character and as such can not be one of his. In fact, those of darkness are in direct contrast to God’s purity.

“Walking in darkness” is very difficult. Even if you are familiar with your surroundings, the darkness adds difficulty to what would normally be menial. There could be objects nearby to hamper you, and could easily cause you to stumble. The light allows us to see those dangers clearly and makes it easier for us to avoid them.

Something seemingly small and inconspicuous could cause us to stumble and fall. Sin could be that object, friends. Something so obvious in the light, could become a dangerous trap for us if we do not see it. That is sin. For those who live their lives based on the bible can measure it against the Word of God and see it for the sin it is, but for those who do not, would be unable to see it as a threat until it causes us harm.

The same is true for us as Christians. If we are blinded by the world around us, we may not see things as the sin that they are. Things that may appear to be innocent and harmless may very well cause us to stumble. These can be very dangerous as we do not realize the extent of the danger until it is too late.

Verse 6 says we can’t have fellowship with God and walk in darkness, so how do we walk in darkness?

If we are blinded by the world around us, we may not see sin for what it is. Walking in darkness means living with sin either by not repenting and turning away, or by just not comparing ourselves with the bible.

Things that may appear to be innocent and harmless may very well cause us to stumble. And we may not notice it until it is too late that is why we must read our bibles every day so we make our best effort to prevent this from happening.

Verse 7. Walking in the light is living by God’s word, a godly lifestyle and striving to lead others to him. Why is light so important?

The light brilliantly eradicates the darkness and as such allows us to see things for their true nature. God is the light we are to walk in, and the bible is the blueprint we are to use to access it. For those in the darkness, even a little bit of light could be all they need to go to their destinations safely. We could be that light, my friends!

Turning on a light switch makes everything look different when in the dark, and what may seem to be insurmountable may very well be menial when looked at from a different perspective. We could be that light switch for others. Even something that seems small to us like a good deed may reflect enough light through us to help others reach their destinations safely. Something as simple as a bible study with someone could be all they need to trigger further study from them and a change to a life of God’s.

Unlike God, we humans do sin from time to time [read verse 8] we are no better than anyone else, or difference is we asked God for repentance. How can we keep this from anyone else? By not telling them about God’s word, we could condemn them to continue living in darkness

How do we regain our light? Chapter 2 verses 1 and 2. John is writing so we DO NOT sin, but if we do, we have Jesus Christ as our propitiation for our sins, and the sins of the whole world. It is through his sacrifice, we have the ability to wash the darkness from our lives and return them to a shimmering beauty that emulates the Lord.

For those yet to gain this light, Romans 6: 3-4. Not Christ’s death, but resurrection. He was raised, we too can have eternal life. Die to our old sins and be reborn in a newness of life, walking in the light.

If you would like to begin this walk of light, or would like the prayers of the congregation to help you in your walk of light, please step forward as we stand and sing.

Editorial: Applications of Walking in the light to Our Theme

By Randy Sexton

I heard David Bushnaq deliver the “Walking in the Light” message above, at the Wednesday evening services of the Park Hill church of Christ in Fort Smith Arkansas, on October 27, 2010. I was impressed with David’s message and afterwards asked him for his permission to publish it on this website. There are several young men at Park Hill that the preacher, David Deuster, is working with to help them deliver talks and to develop their abilities to serve. Look for more articles from David on this site.

David’s message is applicable to a number of different issues, of course, but I would like for you to consider its application to our theme for this month. Dancing is an activity that many people are fond of for a number of different reasons. Some tout its health benefits, some like its social nature, and some are swept up by its lustful nature.

I think this observation by David is particularly applicable:

“If we are blinded by the world around us, we may not see things as the sin that they are. Things that may appear to be innocent and harmless may very well cause us to stumble. These can be very dangerous as we do not realize the extent of the danger until it is too late.”

 

That is right on the mark, David. We certainly can be blinded to the evil around us. The allure, as presented in movies and by advertisers, can get in your eyes and cause to “trip over” things like drinking, dancing, partying, and the like. It can be particularly troublesome for you young people. You are at a stage of your life where popularity is very important to you. The peer pressure is great to do things of questionable value and virtue. If you get in with the wrong crowd that pressure becomes even greater and the evil becomes even more evident.

Schools begin having dances to get kids acquainted and to encourage esprit de corps. Those who do not go along with the crowd stand out and at times are ridiculed. I pray that is not the case for you young reader, but if it is I would encourage you to take solace in the words of your peers words above. Place your confidence in God and take refuge in His Word. Read the words of Solomon in the various Proverbs that speak to you about the trials and temptations that you face. Passages like these will help you thrive in this most important time of your life. And you can be an influence on your friends when they see the passion that you have for living the godly life!

Proverbs 1:10-11, 15-16 – “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us…’, My Son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.”

Proverbs 4:14-15 – “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.”

Proverbs 13:20 – “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

Proverbs 28:7 – “Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.”

Thanks for reading with me young friend. Have a blessed day!

To Dance or Not To Dance

By David Bushnaq

Hello everyone. David Bushnaq here! Randy asked me to write an article on dancing from a young person’s perspective, so here goes:

Dancing itself is fairly common in this day and age, isn’t it? We see it everywhere. I’m told the most popular show on Television right now is “Dancing With The Stars”! But I’m sure we all know that it’s nothing new; it’s been around since the days of the bible. Of course we know why it’s done – to release stress, work out, or even to send messages to the person you’re dancing with, but what does our Bible have to say about it?

Is all dancing wrong? Granted, we’ve probably seen those dancing video games where both sides are several inches apart and never draw near. And what about the kind of dancing similar to River Dance, that is both a great workout and a great way to show off in front of your friends? While that kind of dance may be seemingly innocent, the videos provided while you’re playing, and the lyrics in the songs are very dangerous.

Surely dancing in itself isn’t wrong, right? I mean David, himself, in the Old Testament, danced as the Ark of the Covenant was returned to its rightful place, as found in 2 Samuel 6: 14-15. David, again uses dance to praise the Lord as found in Psalm 149.

So, my friends, does that mean the Bible condemns dancing? Well… Sort of. While the act of dancing in itself isn’t inherently evil, we have to watch for the content of the dance in order for us to know whether or not it’s something we should or should not do. Especially since we are young and have to deal with peer pressure every day of our lives.

I mean, just take a look at the kind of dances done today. Whether we think so or not, they are lewd, sultry, and sensual. Do you think the Lord is pleased with that kind of dance? It’d be a safe bet (“Betting” is another topic for another day.) to say “no.” But what’s so terrible about it? Well, those dances done in clubs or on most TV shows, where the partners get real close, isn’t the lust obvious? (Matthew 5:28) Participating in those kinds of dances and feeling lust towards your partner isn’t just sinful, it’s considered adultery! Be careful, my friends!

Also, it doesn’t take long for you to realize that what is simulated is not something someone [especially younger Christians like we are] should watch. What is seen should not only be kept in private, but only between 2 people. I’m sure you’ve seen the “if it feels good, do it” mentality that our generation lives by, so I fear this kind of thing isn’t going away.

What it shows for us, is that the media wants us to think that these kinds of actions are ok to be done, not only ok, but glorified! They know we may not be at our peak in maturity yet, so getting people our age to not only accept those behaviors, but to continue them, allows them to get to people our age, and it increases their ratings…the only thing that matters to them.

“But wait a second!” You may ask, “What about those kinds of dances that only involve one person? Are those sinful?” Let’s look at one of the more commonly recognized examples of this and then look at a Bible example showing the danger of it.

Belly dancing is the first example that came to my mind. A young female dancer wearing clothes they should not and doing motions that try to get the watcher to focus on that part of their body with a lustful eye. The lust and lewdness are still there, friends! Now please consider the 6th chapter of Mark’s gospel.

John told Herod that keeping his brother’s wife was a sin, so Herod hated John for it, having told him he was a sinner, but he also feared John, knowing he was holy, so he didn’t kill John. BUT– He had a birthday and his daughter danced. The Bible mentions that she pleased Herod and his guests. So much so, that Herod offered her even half of his kingdom! She went to her mother and her mother told her to ask for the head of John, so she did so.

While the kind of dance mentioned here isn’t known, it was most assuredly a sensual dance and many of the guests at the party were drunk, so the implication of this is very clear. We aren’t to participate in those kinds of dances, either by performing them, viewing them, or even going to places where they are performed. “That’s harsh!” you may say, and while it may seem so, we are to flee youthful lusts as is found in 2 Timothy 2:22.

It’s tough, being a young Christian, growing up in a world filled with lust, immorality, and an “if it feels good, do it!” mentality. In fact, one of the biggest events in school is “The Prom”, a night celebrating the end of high school and the beginning of the journey into adulthood. A night I avoided. Why would the Prom be a temptation for us? The Prom by itself may not be sinful, but what the Prom has become, and what the kids do during it… is. We know that drinking, fornication, and sultry dancing is sinful, and going to the Prom puts us in a situation where we will be tempted with these kinds of behaviors.

I remember James 1 verses 12-15. It is we, ourselves who allow temptation in our lives, and when it is fully grown it leads to death…spiritual death. There may be some instances where temptation may occur without us knowing in advance that it awaits us, but please be careful to keep yourself from willingly entering into such situations as much as possible.

So what are we to do? We, as Christians, are not to conform to those kinds of behaviors [Romans 12:2], but are to show that we are transformed. We cannot partake in these kinds of activities, we cannot show that we support them financially or personally by being there, and we cannot support them by trying to get others to go, themselves. This may be one of the instances where you can lead others to Christ by your example. Some may ridicule you, but others will respect you for your decision and that could be just what you need to start a biblical discussion.

I conclude with Matthew 5: 14-16. We are to use our light [influence] on others to lead them to God. Part of our light is reputation. If people know we are Christians and yet see us participating in these vulgar acts, it not only says to them that “if he does it, it must be ok,” but it also hurts our reputation with them as well. Peer pressure may be tough to overcome, but we must do so in order to live our lives right with God.

Friends, I went through all of it myself. I’m 25 now, and I am familiar with the kinds of pressures and temptations you are going through. Pressure by kids my own age, being asked to go to places and do things I knew were wrong [even to the point of mockery {and lots of it}] but I realized that my reputation with God is far more important than my reputation with others. And that’s only half of the story! Yes, I was ridiculed, slandered, and had all sorts of ugly things said about me, but the others saw me for who I was, respected me for it, and those are the ones I stayed in close contact with. Those who come to me and tell me that I was pretty cool and that they remembered me [even these many years after graduation] and how they saw me as someone who was different. They may not have known so at the time, but they do now.

You may not be the “coolest” kid in school [as I can openly admit that I wasn’t.] but once people mature and realize that there is life outside of high school… well, maybe those they teased actually were pretty cool after all! Maybe as they see you in the day to day walk afterwards, they may bring up how you were different and they may wonder how it was you live[d] as you do[did], and there’s your open door to a Bible study with them.

Remembering My Creator – September 2010 – Theme: Dating

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 4

Theme: Dating

In This Issue:

  • “Dating – What is the Goal?” by Randy Sexton
  • “Taking Inventory” by Randy Sexton
  • “Rules For Dating” by Kurt G. Jones

Dating – What is the Goal?

By Randy Sexton

Young people, sometimes dating can be like interviewing for a job. As a “candidate” you try so hard to make an impression that you may appear to be something that you are not. You want to “put your best foot forward” so as to influence your dating partner to continue to go out with you, right? But sometimes this forces you into behavior that is deceitful. James Dobson says in his book, Love For a Lifetime, “Finding the right person to love for a lifetime can be one of the greatest challenges in living. By the time you locate a sane, loyal, mature, disciplined, intelligent, motivated, chaste, kind, unselfish, attractive and godly partner, you’re too worn out to care. Furthermore, merely locating Mr. or Miss Marvelous is only half of the assignment, getting that person interested in you is another matter (p. 19).”

Would you agree with me that the goal of dating is marriage? If this is the goal of dating, shouldn’t it dictate how you select those whom you are going to date? Author Ronald VanOverloop says this:

“Dating is really of recent origin. It is a development of the past few hundred years in Western culture. That is why the Bible says nothing specifically about dating. But this should not keep us from using the Bible when discussing dating, for the principles which must govern our dating are found in the Bible.

I would define dating as the middle stage in the process of finding a suitable mate. Dating comes between being friends and getting engaged.

Young people often send out conflicting signals about the seriousness of their dating. To their parents they often insist that dating is just “for fun.” With their closest of friends, on the other hand, they are more likely to treat dating as pretty serious business. Generally these conflicting signals reflect some of the confusion which they experience within themselves as they deal with and try to understand their own emotions. (And sometimes they may even purposely send out the signal which is most likely to confuse their parents.)

Parents want to respond to both signals. Sometimes they must say that dating is serious business, and other times they may advise that dating should be for fun. Both are true. When young people “fall” quickly head over heels in “love,” then their parents counsel, “Take it easy”; “Don’t get so involved with just one, look around”; “Date in groups”; “Don’t be alone a lot.” But when young people say that dating is just for fun and that they may date whomever they want, then parents must say, “Be careful, because dating does lead to marriage.” In fact, dating is the only thing that leads to marriage.

Because marriage is the goal of dating, you may not date just anyone. You may not date a person who may not be a lifelong mate. Why would you want to go out with an unbeliever? Why go with someone whom you know you should and could never marry? On the other hand, you may date anyone who is one with you “in the Lord” (I Cor. 7:39b).” (Source: Sex and Dating in The Christian Life at http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_16.html).

In his workbook for teenagers, Tough Choices, author and teacher David Banning suggests listing the top three qualities that are most important to you when deciding who you will date. He also recommends thinking about and completing these statements…

  • I would never go on a date to …
  • I would insist on going home if my date …
  • When it comes to sex, you know things have gone too far when …

Young friend, I realize that the challenge for you is great. As Jeff Himmel observes, “In our culture, most adults view sex as a natural and inevitable part of dating. Marriage is increasingly regarded as a needless burden. Worse still, many adults not only expect but encourage teenagers to engage in sexual activity. The realities surrounding us make it all the more important that Christians commit themselves to God’s plan for sexual fulfillment — even if that makes us a little odd by the world’s standards.” (“You Shall Not Commit Adultery” in Life Lines at http://www.bibleweb.com/lifelines/2006_05_01_LL_archive.htm). But I encourage you, as Paul encouraged the young man Timothy, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. … Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (2nd Timothy 2:22 and 1st Timothy 4:12).

Rules For Dating

By Kurt G. Jones

Dating is a common concern amongst many teenagers, and young people. It can be a sad, sorrowful, blemish on the course of our lives, or it can be a joyous time of fun, and growth both as a person and as a child of God. The decision ultimately is yours. Will you follow the outlined precepts of a loving, caring, and just God? Or, will you allow yourself to give in to temptation and sinfulness? The Bible assures us that we shall be judged according to our works (Revelation 12:20). As we consider this, the application ought to be made as it pertains to relationships we have as we are dating.

The wise man of God, Solomon, said, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of you youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of you eyes; but know that for all theses God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh…” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10). In youth, we have the ability to do things we may not be able to do as we get older, yet that is no excuse to reject God’s commands. “For childhood and youth are vanity;” We are going to give an accounting to God for our decisions, thus it is ours to make decisions based on godly principals while we are dating. Let us consider some of God’s precepts.

Adorn Yourself in modest apparel (I Timothy 2:9-10). Children of God must realize that the clothes they wear give signals. Women should adorn themselves with “shamefacedness” and “sobriety” (KJV), in the manner “…which is proper for women professing godliness.” While this passage is addressed to women, it does not give men the right to dress in a sinful manner either.

Stay away from questionable places and situations (2 Thessalonians 5:22). It might be a common thought among some that “I can go to a questionable place and not sin.” While it may be true that you can go to a dance, and remain seated, or go to a bar and not drink, or be alone with the one you are dating and not engage in licentiousness, it still violates God’s principal, to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (KJV). We must be aware of what can be assumed by people based on appearance. If they see our car at the home of our boyfriend/girlfriend, and they know that there are no parents, people may assume the worst. While it may be true that all you did was talk or watch a movie, etc., it is much wiser to follow God’s precepts and not give place for wrong appearances.

Abstain from uncleanness and lewdness (Galatians 5:19). It should be clear that Christians shouldn’t dance, or engage in other activities that incite lust. It is a great temptation for one to follow after their temptations, especially when they engage in lewd behavior. Many have pierced themselves through with many sorrows because they have given in to the temptation to engage in lustful behavior.

Flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). In all actuality, if you have followed the other guidelines mentioned, you have gone along way here at fleeing fornication. By dressing modestly, staying away from questionable places, and from abstaining for lewd behavior, you have greatly lessened your opportunity for temptation to engage in fornication. Paul points out in this passage “…every sin that man commits is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” Great steps ought to be taken to flee sexual immorality. Also, fleeing something, is not flirting with it. Some try to justify their sin by saying, “We didn’t commit fornication, but we got as close as we could.” No, this is not a godly attitude, and in general is speaking of engaging in lewdness.

Yes, dating can be a fun, growing experience. But it also can be a hurtful, mournful experience. The decision is purely up to you. If you choose to follow God’s precepts, there can be in store for you a wealth of friendships, a potential life-long mate, and a time of following after your heart; letting it cheer you in the days of your youth. (Copied by permission from http://www.truthfortodaysyouth.com/dailyissues/dailyissues_rulesfordating.html)

Taking Inventory

by Randy Sexton

The process of dating will allow you, over a period of time, to narrow the field of “candidates.” Finally, when you have that “short list” narrowed to one, and you are pretty certain that this is THE ONE with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, you need to take a pre-marriage inventory with that person. There are two good books, that I am familiar with, that will walk you through this process with the aid of a good marriage counselor. That counselor will probably be the one whom you have chosen to perform your wedding ceremony. It could be your local preacher or one of the elders of the local congregation. You should meet with your counselor and determine which of the following resources you will use:

Before You Say I Do by H. Norman Wright & Wes Roberts or How Can I Be Sure? By Bob Phillips.

Mr Phillips says in the introduction to his book, “This inventory is not an answer book for marriage problems. Many of those type books have already been written and are available. This inventory is a discussion guide to help couples open up important channels of communication; express their thoughts, desires and feelings to each other; and enhance their growing relationship together.”

My wife and I took a similar inventory prior to our marriage and I can personally testify to the effectiveness of it, as a vehicle to stimulate the needed discussions of important issues. When you get to that point in your dating relationship, please prayerfully consider it.

Thanks for reading with me, Beloved. I pray that you have a Blessed Day!

Remembering My Creator: Volume 1, Number 3, Theme: Prayer

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 3

Theme: Prayer

In This Issue:

  • Prayer – Your Direct Line to God by Randy Sexton
  • Keeping Company With God by Phillip Yancey
  • Unraveling the Mysteries by Phillip Yancey
  • The Language of Prayer by Phillip Yancey
  • Prayer Dilemmas by Phillip Yancey
  • The Practice of Prayer by Phillip Yancey

Prayer – Your Direct Line to God

By Randy Sexton

It is easy to lose sight of how available our God is to us. Because we don’t physically see Him every day, we sometimes forget that he is always there! As I read through the Old Testament and read about such great heroes of faith as Moses and David, I am impressed that they “inquired of the Lord” to know His will before they acted.

Notice how David did that before he went to battle against the Philistines (1st Samuel 23: 1-5). Notice again when he did that before allowing them to annoint him king over the house of Judah (2nd Samuel 2:1-4). And this was at a time when it appeared that every action of David was blessed with success and favor of God. But yet David did not presume to have God’s blanket approval to act without consulting him. I am afraid that we sometimes act like my sons do. They presume that because I do not expressly oppose a suggested action that they have presented to me, that I have given my approval.

Have you ever noticed how Moses appeared to have a “direct line” to God. Every step of the way, as recorded in Moses’ journal that we call Exodus, the Lord spoke to Moses and Moses spoke to the Lord. Notice from the time that… “God called to him out of the bush” and said to him “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:4, 10), Moses was able to call freely upon God. Because Moses felt that he was not qualified for this great task, he begged the Lord to send someone else (Exodus 4:13). When the Lord reaffirmed Moses as his choice, Moses went to Him frequently to seek guidance.

One of the best books that I have read on the subject of prayer is Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Phillip Yancey. Yancey suggests, in the four sections of his book, that prayer involves: keeping company with God, unraveling the mysteries associated with how prayer works, understanding the language of prayer, certain prayer dilemmas in which we find ourselves and the practice of prayer. The balance of this month’s Remembering My Creator will be different in that it will be a review of this book with hopes that it will help you in your prayer life as much as it has helped me. The comments that I have included here were made as part of a book discussion group during February through March 2007. Unless other-wise attributed, the comments are my own. I have also included some comments from Roger Shouse, Jordan Shouse, J.J. Woolf and Trent Ropp.

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

By Phillip Yancey

This excellent book is broken into the following four parts:

  • Keeping Company With God
  • Unraveling the Mysteries
  • The Language of Prayer
  • Prayer Dilemmas
  • The Practice of Prayer

Part One – Keeping Company With God

This first part of the book explores the idea that prayer is universal because it speaks to a basic human need to fill a gap of emptiness within all of us. It also presents God as a loving Father who desires a relationship with us. Prayer then is …

Chapter 1 – Our Deepest Longing

The analogy made by Mr. Yancey as he opens this book was very effective. My own prayers often seem like “sending signals from a visible world to an invisible one, in hope that someone receives them.” without really knowing for sure.

I am not always as “connected” with God as I ought to be. I also had to admit that I often approach prayer as a burden rather than as a pleasure. My prayer-life definitely can be improved. I also have had many of the same questions about the nature of prayer.

I have never consciously tracked the amount of time that I spend in prayer but I know that it is not what it should be. So I look forward to improving through the thoughts discovered in this book and the opportunity to share the thoughts of others as they read.

Chapter 2 – View From Above

Life can truly be a struggle at times. I find myself getting so engrossed in the details of daily living that, if I am not careful, I have squeezed out time for God. The principle outlined by the author in this chapter is very relevant to this situation. If I can, through prayer, see things from God’s perspective (what Yancey calls “the corrective vision of prayer,” I will be more apt to “allow God to nourish my inner life.”

It is humbling to “look down at the speck that is myself” but it is reassuring to be reminded that “God already cares about my concerns” and does not need to be reminded of them.

Chapter 3 – Just As We Are

I fully accept the premise of the author that my approach to God must be heartfelt and not a performance, and that I must manifest a “heart attitude” of helplessness and humility. I would be interested to hear some discussion of the application of Mr. Yancey’s statement, “Prayer allows a place for me to bring my doubts and complaints-in sum, my ignorance-and subject them to the blinding light of a reality I cannot comprehend but can haltingly learn to trust.”

I found interesting the concept of the three levels of “the divided self.” It seems to me that the challenge to Christians is to transform our spiritual relationships from the more “shallow level” to a level where we are willing to share our vulnerabilities with one another. Fully understanding that God wants us, in our relationship with Him, to be willing to open “the secret places” of our lives will definitely impact our prayer-life.

Chapter 4- The God Who Is

“Prayer as a transaction rather than a relationship” (p. 46) is another appropriate description used by Yancey to describe that which can hinder my prayers. And the examples from the Nepal, Japan and Taiwan cultures drive this home! I constantly counsel my boys, when they pray, “think about what you are saying and don’t just rattle off some words.” When they are conscious of that, the thought behind their words is evident to both Linda and I. When I lead public prayer, I try to avoid “clichés” that have lost their meaning. I try to say the same thing in a more meaningful way.

I like the theme, mentioned in the last chapter and returned to here, that we should want to pursue a more intimate relationship with God so we will “push past the externals to the real person underneath” (p. 47).

I found the following reference interesting: “Etty Hillesum, the young Jewish girl who kept a journal during her stay at Auswitz, wrote of an ‘uninterrupted dialogue’ with God (p. 51).” Over the years I have used “journaling” to help me channel my thoughts. I have never been consistent in keeping a DAILY journal but have found it helpful on occasions to write and then to return later to what I have written as a tool for reflective meditation. While reading The Purpose-Driven Life in conjunction with one of Roger’s classes a couple of years ago, I purchased the Purpose-Driven Journal along with the book but was not consistent in recording daily thoughts. Charles Swindoll in his book on Moses also recommends the practice. The use of a Prayer Journal intrigues me. I agree with those who promote the value of such a practice.

Thanks to all of you who are sharing your thoughts as you read this book! I am finding this to be a very rewarding experience. Not only do I benefit from the mind of an excellent author but I get to share in conversation that builds relationships, and idea which Yancey will develop in Chapter 5.

Chapter 5 – Coming Together

“The main purpose of prayer is… to know God,” says Yancey as he begins this chapter. I think that viewing prayer in this way drives a whole new set of behaviors. If I think of prayer in this way, I will not spend precious time enumerating a “To Do List” for God but rather I will “converse” with him in the most intimate way seeking to assimilate our thought patterns as much as possible.

Yancey also quotes Clement of Alexandria’s definition of prayer as “keeping company with God (p. 62).” I like that thought as well. As I read Yancey’s analogy to talking to his wife, at the end of the day about the events of the day, I get a glimpse of what our time in prayer with God should be. If we can use this example to teach us how to “meditate on the day with each other, in the process bringing its details into a new light,” it should help us to improve our prayer-life.

Charles Swindoll puts it this way in his book, Moses, A Man of Selfless Dedication, (page 280), “Last year you may have entertained some of the most powerful, profound thoughts in your times with the Lord that you have experienced in a lifetime of walking with Him, buy they’re all gone if you never took time to record them.” He also quotes from Elizabeth Elliot’s book, Through Gates of Splendor, about her missionary husband Jim’s reflections as he talked with God, “I walked out to the hill just now. It is exalting and delicious to stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the heavens hailing your heart and the wind tugging at your coattail. To gaze and glory and give oneself to God, what more could a man ask? Oh, the fullness, the sheer excitement of knowing God on earth, I cannot, if I never raise my voice again for Him. If only I may love Him and please Him, perhaps in mercy He shall give me a host of children, that I may lead them through the vast star fields to explore His delicacies. But if not, if only I may see Him, touch his garments, and smile into His eyes, ah, then, not stars nor children matter, only Himself.”

Part Two – Unraveling The Mysteries

Chapter 6 – Why Pray?

Brother Jordan Shouse, when he read this book as part of a book discussion club that we were both a part of at Hickman Mills in Kansas City said this about this chapter, “ Chapter 6 was very insightful. Why pray? Well because Jesus did! What an awesome answer. It is hard to make such bold and heavy requests and not have immediate answers. Patience, faith and trust are all major keys of this whole process; all of which Jesus obviously possessed. I’m glad he addressed that question. I think that many still struggle overcoming this uncertainty of prayer.”

Chapter 7 – Wrestling Match

Notice again Brother Jordan’s comments on this chapter, “I’m not even sure where to begin. I became very confused with this chapter. Hopefully someone can help me make some sense of it. There are obviously example of ‘fighting with God’ in the Bible, but are we to actually argue, fight and debate our desires over the will of God. Is it even our right to try and bargain? It seems totally wrong to me. Yes, God is our father and as my dad can agree, fathers and sons disagree at times, but God is also our King and Lord while we are nothing but lowly servants. Who are we to argue our desires over the Lord’s will when we hold no power or authority over God. I may just be seeing this from a weird angle but I just can’t see having reverence and a humble attitude in prayer when I’m trying to fight and argue my own wants over the Lords. HELP!!!”

Roger Shouse, in commenting on Jordan’s words, said this, “I think some of the Psalms seem as if the writer is arguing with God and even demanding a response from God. It is a common thought today among many writers that it is ok to cry, complain and argue with God as you are expressing your emotions to God and that is good. I too, am not comfortable with some of that. In human relationships, we often damage friendships and strain marriages when we argue, complain and fuss with each other. Job was challenged by God for the very fact that he questioned God. Grasping that God has the best in mind will keep someone from losing the reverence with God.”

Chapter 8 – Partnership

Yancey says on page 104, ‘all prayers are heard, though not all prayers are granted.’ In his example of prayer types, and the concept of partnership in prayer, he uses Jesus as the example. How great Jesus was and still is to us today! It is very encouraging and refreshing to think of our savior as having defeated all enemies for us. This knowledge should aid us tremendously in living the Christian life today!

In commenting upon chapters 6-8. Brother Roger Shouse says this, “These three chapters were harder to grasp than the earlier ones. Yancey is driving at the motive of prayer and the purpose of prayer which is not always easy to understand. In the opening paragraph of chapter 6, he seems to connect the care of God with the intervention of God. Those are not necessarily connected. Does God care when we suffer? Yes, does He always intervene and stop it? NO. There are reasons for that. Yancey makes a good observation on page 79, “He (Jesus) prayed as if it made a difference, as if the time he devoted to prayer mattered every bit as much as the time de devoted to caring for people.” You see the same thought in Acts 6 when the apostles would not take away from their prayers to feed the neglected widows. Praying was as valuable as feeding the widow. Another good statement: “I learn as much from the prayers Jesus did not pray as from those he did.” Interesting concept. On page 129 Yancey says, “In the end, I learn that God has ordained prayer as a means of getting God’s will done on earth, not ours.” That is the key to understanding prayer. It changes my attitude and motive. God doesn’t serve me, I serve Him.”

Chapter 9 – What Difference Does It Make?

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “I liked the Title to chapter 9: “What difference does it make?” I think that reflects the feelings of the Psalmist on many occasions and it will lead to Yancey’s discourse on “unanswered prayers.” But a song we sing answers that title question: In the song, “Does Jesus care?” the chorus reads, “O yes he cares, I know he cares” That is the difference prayer makes.

Yancey’s section on pg 118-119 “Free at Last” by Sergeey, especially the last two paragraphs (the section in grey) is very gripping. It is also very telling when he speaks of growing complacent. This chapter refers to some very political figures. Yancey seems to be impressed by that. I think the prayers of an unknown pheasant are as powerful as that of a world leader. The statement on pg 127: “Sometimes, like the boy who asks his parents to solve a math problem while he plays video games, we ask God for things we should be doing ourselves.” Great statement. We could include here growth, teaching the lost, connecting with each other.

Chapter 10 – Does Prayer Change God?

Trent Ropp comments on this chapter, “I enjoyed this chapter, as this has been a question of mine for some time. I have read CS Lewis so I appreciate Yancey’s quoting him in his book. I have always enjoyed CS Lewis analogies and comparisons. I like Lewis’s thought on prayer on pg 137. ‘Prayer is a designated instrument of God’s power, as real and as “natural” as any other power God may use.’

This chapter made me appreciate that God wants a relationship with me. He wants the intimacy with me. He is aware of everything and knows the outcome of everything, but God wants us to bring our cares and our concerns to him. God created us with a void in

our heart, and as humans we look to fill that void with carnality and materialism. We even go so far as to put our hope in these things. The void was put there by GOD and only he can fill it, that is where he wants our hope. God knows prayer will bring us closer to him, and the closer we get to God the void will disappear. Once that has happened God has our WHOLE heart, we are in line with God and his will, and then

I feel God is willing to change.”

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “This is a natural follow up to the last chapter. If prayer doesn’t move God, then ‘What difference does it make?’ As important as wanting to know if God changes because of my prayer, it is equally important to consider, ‘Do I change because of my prayer?’

A good thought is on pg 133: ‘We do not have to work to gain God’s attention, we don’t have to convince God of our sincerity or our needs. We already have the Father’s ear as it were.’ It makes you wonder about the statement we sometimes use, ‘Lord we come to you with humble hearts’ That doesn’t sound very humble if we have to tell God we are humble!

I like how Yancey pulls together examples from the Bible: the number of times God repented or changed his mind. That’s good to see.”

Chapter 11 – Ask, Seek, Knock

Trent Ropp says of this chapter, “This chapter just motivates me further to keep praying more and more not matter how redundant I (emphasis on I) feel I am being (i.e. Canaanite women).

 

I enjoyed a benefit (one of many) that Yancey says he gets from praying. ’What I learn from spending time with God then better equips me to discern what God wants to

do on earth, as well as my role in that plan.’ I think this statement goes along with my last comment above on chapter 10. This relationship you are building with God and the discerning of God’s will and your role in that on earth is what leads to God making

changes.”

Roger Shouse says of this chapter, “A powerful thought that could trouble us: ‘Generations may pass before persistent prayer receives it’s answer’ (pg 150). Prayers for our children or grandchildren may be answered after we have passed away. Remember, it’s not our seeing the prayers answered that is important; it is the hearts that have reached out for God.

On page 152 Yancey gives several benefits of persistent prayer. Those are worthy to consider. “

Part Three – The Language of Prayer

 

Chapter 12 – Yearning For Fluency

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “Yancey’s description of recounting answered prayers (157-158) or “Testimonials” has the potential for one to out due the other as he said and can lead to sensationalism. Do we need to hear what God has done for us to believe that he is active? Do we walk by faith or by sight? The stories of others can be encouraging, but connecting to the last chapter, what about those whose prayers may not be answered for another generation or two. What are they to think when they have no story to tell?

 

Chapter 13 – Prayer Grammar

I am a “book marker.” That is I like to highlight main points as I read. My wife finds it amusing that, sometimes when I read, I have more of a page highlighted than un-highlighted. I am having that problem with this book. There are so many insightful comments and quotes, that I find myself wanting to soak it all up. I have found, since I began reading this book and participating in this forum, that my prayer-life has improved and that I am less self-centered. I spend a great deal of my time (traveling in my car, running, sitting in the steam room at the fitness center, etc.) in prayers of intercession for the special needs of my brethren and of my family.

I have put into practice a few of the ideas presented in this chapter. Rewriting the psalms in my own words and substituting my name and particulars of thanks or anguish or petition for the original words (p. 176) is a very uplifting exercise for me. Using the Psalms as a practicum in prayer has added a new dimension to my prayers. I have also used the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) (p. 182) as a skeleton outline to help me organize my thoughts in prayer

I plan to memorize Bible prayers (pp. 178-179) for future recall at appropriate times. I love this concept of stocking up on the words of the Bible. I have also begun meditating on the prayers of the Apostle Paul with the view to stirring passion for the spiritual welfare of my friends and family (p. 178).

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “I like the reference on pg 171: ‘The Bible includes around 650 prayers.’ There are more prayers in the Bible than sermons. On pg 177 he says, ‘Of Paul’s letters, all but Titus contain at least one prayer.’ Later, ‘I get the sense, reading Paul’s prayers, that he cares more for others’ well-being than for his own.’ This conclusion is obvious because Paul’s prayers are about other people more than himself. Again, that is worthy for us to consider. Who do we pray the most about? Ourselves or others?

On pg 178 Yancey gives a list of 14 prayers found throughout the Bible. Some we may not think of as prayers, like Abraham’s pleading for Sodom, but He was talking with the Lord. I thought this would be good to read one of these prayers before I prayed.”

Chapter 14 – Tongue-Tied

Yancey’s description of distractions that have hindered his prayer and study time sounded very familiar and I appreciated his suggestions on how to minimize these distractions. But he really got to the heart of the matter with the statement, PEOPLE ON SINKING SHIPS DO NOT COMPLAIN OF DISTRACTIONS DURING THEIR PRAYER.

One thing I appreciate about Yancey’s writing is his reference to and quotation of other excellent works. This chapter is no exception, as he quotes from Plass, Green, Kempis, Donne, St. John Damascene, McCabe, St. Mary’s Press series on written prayers, Bondi and many others. I have added several of these works to my reading list for this year. I also find his insertion of applications in the lives of individuals such as Ron (p.188) and Lynn (p. 204).

Roger Shouse comments on this chapter, “This chapter begins with the problem of prayer “ staying focused. Who doesn’t have that problem? He lists several scattering thoughts that his mind drifts to. It may be helpful to try to capture those thoughts and incorporate them in prayer. Those things are our life ‘good, and bad. They concern us’ they cause us to worry. Let your thoughts that drift, be led back into prayer.

In saying, ‘the main requirement in prayer is honesty, approaching God ‘Just as we are’ (pg 185) should also include faith.

Yancey is so honest and revealing in this chapter. This is one reason he appeals to me. He doesn’t sugar coat things nor appear what he is not. How true the statement, ‘People on sinking ships do not complain of distractions during their prayer.’ (Pg 188)

He also shows the contrast to scheduled regular prayers and a person who is more spontaneous with their prayers. The summation on pg 191 is awesome: KEEP IT HONEST, KEEP IT SIMPLE, KEEP IT UP.”

Chapter 15 – The Sound of Silence

As one who has experienced more than normal mood swings in his life, I appreciated the reference in this chapter and the previous one to the use of the Psalms as a good model for combating spiritual depression (p. 197) and the suggestion of survival strategies (pp. 202-207) in dealing with the silence of God. Using seasons of spiritual dryness as a time of preparing for future growth is an encouraging thought, as is the notion that PRAYER INVITES US TO REST IN THE FACT THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL, AND THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS ARE ULTIMATELY GOD’S, NOT OURS.

There is much more that I could say about these three chapters. They are chocked full of rich thoughts and encouraging illustrations and admonitions. Thank God for His love and for allowing us to approach Him with our petitions!

JJ Woolf comments on this chapter, “I really have enjoyed this online book study. It has really helped me keep accountable and push me to read more, and I have really enjoyed this book
Great point, prayer IS our strongest weapon against invisible forces. God can and will give us the strength to overcome out adversary! That is part of the promise of the New Covenant.
How do those who believe in predestination tackle the question of why bad things happen? I know I personally take for granted our freedom to worship at times (similar to those in Eastern Europe who finally gained their freedom), and I pray God renews me with a thankfulness and a desire to give Him my best every time.
We live in such a fast paced society, we need to be careful not to leave out time for God (alone time with Him). I know when I do, it does bring things back into perspective.
Question for the group – (with thinking about the thought on p. 130 ‘what would happen if we followed literally Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us?’) – what things can we do through our jobs and everyday life to truly do this?
As I read I learned more about the goodness of God, the greatness of God, and my place on earth, than I think I did about prayer per se. We are His vessels, we are here for Him, not for ourselves. I get this backwards at times. My prayer is that I can do more for the Lord, not to earn anything, but because He is The Potter and I am a cracked pot.

‘We pray in order to see the world with God’s eyes.’ If I do this, I won’t be as hard on my wife, I will think the best of others, I will reach out to help those in need. ‘What else can we do??’ (p.125) I will resolve this week to try to look for opportunities God puts in my path, and let His light shine, through my cracked pot.”

Roger Shouse comments, “Silence is hard to deal with. We at first blame ourselves. When the Syro-Phoencian woman came to Jesus she asked him to have mercy on her daughter. The Gospels say that Jesus did not answer her. Even “no” could be received better than nothing! This begins a great section of study by Yancey.

Pg 210 ‘Prayer invites us to rest in the fact that God is in control, and that the world’s problems are ultimately God’s, not ours.’ Couldn’t we even say that about our problems as well?

There will be much more to say about this in coming chapters.

Part Four – Prayer Dilemmas

Chapter 16 – Unanswered Prayer: Whose Fault?

I believe what scripture tells me about God being concerned about me even to the point of numbering the hairs on my head. So I struggle to understand this fact and to harmonize it with the feeling that it trivializes prayer to ask for things that are important to me but that are not very important in the BIG PICTURE. I see the real problem for one who has the power to grant requests, when He receives requests from His children that conflict with one another. Yancey has done a great job of defining the dilemma but after all the human words have been written, I am not certain we still understand the mystery!

 

Chapter 17 – Unanswered Prayer: Living with the Mystery

Again, Yancey does a great job of describing the human struggle with the “sweeping promises” made in scripture about prayer in light of unanswered prayer. But the answer is not satisfying to the human yearning for understanding.

My father used to say about himself, “I am a pretty simple fella.” I feel the same way about myself and perhaps that helps explain the myriad of things in life that I don’t understand. There will be a whole host of things that I will want to ask about “when in the better land before the bar we stand…” One of these is the dilemma presented in this chapter. When I contemplate this and many other “conundrums” I am consoled by these words, “Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why; Cheer up, my brother live in the sunshine, We’ll understand it all by and by.” Yancey has done a great job of stating the dilemma in these two chapters, but in the end “the only final solution” is that faith gets us through, faith causes us to “wait and trust.”

Chapter 18 – Prayer and Physical Healing

Yancey’s reference in this chapter to the work of Dr. Harold G. Koenig so peaked my interest that I have begun reading The Healing Power of Faith along side his book. I find the implications so overwhelming that they cannot be ignored. The best thing that we can do to treat any type of malady in our lives is to get our faith life and our prayer life in order! Koenig closes his book with the following statement, “I firmly believe that we are on the brink of a great new era in medicine: a time when health professionals will begin to help people regain control over their lives by providing them with spiritual tools to maintain health and wellness, and thus enable them to take maximum advantage of the healing power that faith can give us all.”

Many references have been made in this book to depression. In this chapter, Vince is quoted on page 252 as saying that the events of his life could get him stuck in a “mud-pit of depression” if he would let them. My experience with depression has taught me that happiness is a choice. WE determine whether we will be happy or depressed. It is not the EVENTS of our life that determine but how we react to those events. There are definitely some physical factors (in the form of imbalances to some of the brain’s chemicals) that can contribute and these must be corrected. But in conjunction, one must learn not to the malady as a crutch and to understand the part that a strong, healthy faith can play in recovery.

I identified strongly with the statement on page 254, “People who take quiet times during the day and force themselves to relax learn to control stress in a way that fosters health.” I have used “songs, hymns and spiritual songs” for this purpose for years. If I am having a stressed filled day at work, I will play one of these CDs followed by time spent in prayer and Bible reading over lunch. That quiet time is usually successful in settling the nerves and putting me in a mind-set to tackle the rest of the day.

Chapter 19 – What to Pray For

In this chapter Yancey provides a “template of how to pray.” I found his suggestions to be very helpful. Heart Desire, Lament, Confession, Peace, God’s Presence, Compassion, Gratitude, Faith, and Grace offer for me a useful way of forming the content of prayer.

I liked Bud’s suggestion of prayer as “the process of becoming available for what God wants to do on earth through us” (p. 276). I find myself hard pressed to approach God as aggressively as indicated by Yancey’s words, “I have learned to tell God exactly what I want regardless of how impossible it may sound” (p. 267) and “Not only does God tolerate complaint in our prayers, the Scriptures fill in the words for us” (p. 269). Yes, I have read Psalm 13, 22, 42 and 143. And I struggle with how to complement this attitude with the idea expressed by Stephen Schmidt that he “had to be healed of the need to be healed” (p. 278)

What Yancey wrote under the heading of “Preparations” touched my heart. I have always appreciated the faith and confidence expressed in Paul’s statements in 2 Cor. 4:16-18, Phil. 1:20-26 and 2 Tim. 4:6-8. In the brief time that my father was in hospice care and the days leading up to it, when he knew his time was short, those sentiments expressed in my Dad’s own words came home to me. My father told many of the doctors and nurses, in his last hours, “I am going home to get my dessert and I want you to come there too!”

I communed with my dad’s spirit in those final hours as we listened together to the words of songs, I Am a Poor Wayfaring Pilgrim, We Shall Behold Him, Enter In, Son of Man, There Stood a Lamb and Sheltered in the Arms of God. Dad let go of a body riddled with cancer in anticipation of a new beginning in the presence of God.

 

Part Five – The Practice of Prayer

 

Chapter 20 – Prayer and Me

The idea of “wasting time with God,” presented by Yancey from the writings of Klaus Issler, is an oxymoron and as such is similar to the Apostle Paul’s use of the term “foolishness of preaching.” The terms are really mutually exclusive and do not belong on the same continent, much less in the same phrase! God forbid that I become so wrapped up in my own little world that I think that being with God is a waste of time or that time spent in preaching is a foolish pursuit! I am really sending that message when I fail to be active in both prayer and preaching!

I appreciate Yancey’s suggestion, from Dr. Alex Carrel (page 288), that “Prayer helps us resolve emotional conflicts, purge guilt, and overcome negativism. And by verbalizing what goes on inside, the pray-er practices a kind of self-induced therapy.” I can personally testify to receiving this benefit to intensified prayer, in just the time that I have been reading this book. If I have ill feelings toward another person, one of the surest ways to resolve those feelings, is to make that person the object of my heart-felt prayers. I would also concur heartily with his suggestion that “Whom we pray to matters more than how or what we pray.”

The statement made by Ben that “90% of prayer is showing up” (page 289) is so true. And the “whirling spirit” referred to by one writer as Spiritus vertiginis can also be a hindrance to prayer. If we never “show up,” or if when we do, we are so overwhelmed by anxiety to be doing something else, we will not receive the benefit that should accrue to being in God’s presence! I like the way Yancey identifies the peace that can come from time spent in prayer. On page 295 he says, “Prayer offers a time to set aside that list of concerns – or rather to present them to God – to relax, to let the mind roam freely, to drink deeply, to insert a pause in the day, to trust.”

Yancey’s statement on page 296 that begins, “I tend to bring a tangled mess of problems to God…” leads me to commend this book to those who are hurting and don’t quite know how to express that hurt to
God. Yancey’s references throughout this book to prayers of complaint and prayers of lament have helped me to better understand the value of prayer in finding resolution to the struggles and battles we sometimes face in life on this planet.

Yancey refers extensively to Anthony Bloom’s book, Beginning to Pray, commending his discipline and then concludes on page 300, “When I sense that my activity means something and has worth, and so move faster and faster trying to accomplish more and more, at that moment I give in to pride and a feeling that all depends on me. What a foolish thought. My heart could stop beating within the hour, my brain could fail from an aneurysm. This present moment itself is a gift from God – I would live more realistically, and at the same time accomplish far more, if I allowed that fundamental truth to pervade my day.”

Chapter 21 – Prayer and Others

Again Yancey nails a dilemma that has puzzled me as well; “How does God deal with a host of prayers that conflict with one another?” He deals with the question. His view of sickness, pain, suffering and death as “something … interfering with God’s ideal for this planet …” is helpful to me. Thinking about intercessory prayer as, “praying for God to open my eyes so that I can see that person as God does, and then enter into the stream of love that God already directs toward that person” (page 303) sheds new light upon my attempts to help those who are hurting! It also opens up for me objects of prayer whom I did not think readily of before. He describes workplace prayer and how praying for those with whom you work transforms how you relate to them (page 304). This gives me ideas that might work in my situation. I have six direct reports that I view differently when they and their families become the objects of my prayers.

One thing that has characterized my prayers in the past is the lack of specificity. As a result of focusing, these last several weeks on prayer, I NOW pray for the specific needs and circumstances of those that I lift up to God. I also pray for sensitivity to be open to other needs.

Chapter 22 – Prayer and God

Yancey has again stimulated my thinking in an area that I wish to do more reading and study. His mention of Teresa of Avila’s “interior castle model” of prayer and the idea of starting with “what really energizes you and touches your heart…” are concepts that I will dig more deeply into.

I like his statement on page 315, “I am learning the difference between “saying prayers,” which is an activity and “praying” which is a soul attitude, a “lifting up of the mind to God.” The section on Inappropriate Prayers contain much food for thought that can be of benefit to us when we are hurting and do not know where else to turn. What a great way to end the book! The prayer titled, “O Gracious and Holy Father,” will become a part of my speakers’ sourcebook material.

As with most of the chapters in this book, I could say much more but will close here. I will repeat again how much I have appreciated the book, of sharing thoughts with all of you and for Roger facilitating such an effort. I commend the exercise to all who have not yet been engaged. I believe my prayers have deepened in their intensity, in their frequency and in the effects that they have on me and on my outlook of life. God bless you all!