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  • When the Cowboys Beat the Saints

    The Dallas Cowboys beat the New Orleans Saints last night here in our fair city, and it brings up an unpleasant topic: it’s become very fashionable and acceptable in our culture to “beat the saints” verbally. Criticism of Christians’ bad behavior seldom takes a holiday. Whether it’s the latest moral failure of a pastor, past centuries’ bloody persecutions perpetrated in the name of Christ, or just the garden-variety failures of believers who say one thing and live another, pundits within and without the church engage in this spectator sport with gusto.

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  • The (Partial) Truth Behind our Idols

    Idols are lies. Concerning idol-worshipers, Isaiah says, “A deceived heart has turned him aside; And he cannot deliver his soul, Nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’” An idol is a lie of such powerful deceptive power that it actually blinds us to its existence. We don’t realize the idol’s existence or power over our thoughts, actions, and destiny. It’s in the palm of our hand, but we don’t see it. And idols intoxicate millions.

    Take one of our culture’s favorites, naturalism—the set of beliefs that deny God’s existence, trust human reason and the scientific method as the only means of discovering truth, and make this present world the only reality. In this worldview, human reason and nature itself have the highest value. One wing of this movement expresses its bumper-sticker theology this way: “Trees are the answer”—a snarky retort to Christians’ view that “Jesus is the Answer.”

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  • Adrift Without a Paddle

    "And He said to them, 'Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?'"
    (Luke 24:38)

    Indonesian teenager Aldi Adilang knows what hopelessness feels like. While aboard his floating fish trap this summer, strong winds snapped his anchor lines and he drifted out to sea without so much as a paddle.

    In the days ahead, Adilang watched helplessly as more than 10 ships passed in the distance. Tragically, none of them stopped to help. As days turned into weeks, he survived by filtering saltwater through his clothing and catching fish.
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  • Soul Coffee: Why You Cannot Afford to Miss Another Quiet Time

    "O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You..." (Psalm 63:1)

    We’re all creatures of habit. Whether you’re making breakfast, hanging laundry, or driving to work, certain parts of your day are so routine they require little thought or attention. That’s why you sometimes can’t remember whether you locked the door or turned off the lights on your way out; it’s so habitual, it’s almost mindless.

    Some habits, like brewing coffee, are easy to maintain. Nobody reminds me to stumble towards the Keurig each morning and push that flashing button. The taste of coffee isn’t quite my favorite, but as I face 16 hours of busyness, I know I need the energy contained in that little cup.
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  • Talent vs. Commitment

    "And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things..." (1 Corinthians 9:25)

    In 2008, the world watched in amazement as Michael Phelps made Olympic history. One of the most talented swimmers of all time, Phelps won 8 medals just like he'd done 4 years earlier. But this time, they were all gold.

    Michael Phelps wasn't just talented; he was unbelievably committed to his sport. His weekly routine consisted of 6 hours of training, 6 days a week -- swimming a grand total of nearly 50 miles during that time. He also followed a specialized 12,000 calorie diet, slept 8 hours each day, and took a 2-3 hour afternoon nap. All those gold medals weren't the inevitable result of natural talent; they were the fruit of unwavering discipline and relentless effort.

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  • The Chimney

    Every person you meet fights a hard battle. The smiling friend with whom you just had lunch faces fiery trials that would break your heart if you knew them all.

    But God’s Word enables us to come through the fire. A heart nourished on words of truth acquires an asbestos-like quality, which fire may purify but not destroy.

    Not too far from Big Cove, Alabama stands a solitary reminder that some things outlast fire and storm. The house is gone without a trace, but its hearth and chimney stand tall, straight as the day they were made. They show us that building materials may be combustible or non-combustible, flammable or fireproof, perishable or imperishable. When fire comes, all is consumed but the permanent things, the things made of lasting stuff. This durable chimney reminds us to build our lives of materials which remain certain and solid despite the flames.

    For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor. 3:11-15)

    Jesus says the wise man hears His words and does them. Such a person builds his house on the rock (Matt. 7:24), and that house proves to be stormproof! In the same way, we make choices every day that are filling our lives, building our lives out of materials from one category or the other. What are you importing into your heart to prepare for the storms sure to come? The time is now—let God’s Word find its intended home in your heart. It is permanent. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35). It is the anvil that wears out the hammers, and its promises will come true when the skeptics and critics and all their vaunted theories lie quiet.

    “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
    Psalm 119:160
  • The Measure of True Success

    “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:12
    Article by Dakota Dakota Lynch

    What is the measure of a life well lived? If you browse your local library for books on professional success, financial success, marital success, or academic success, you’ll find no shortage of resources and advice. But the Apostle John, writing some 50 years after witnessing the death and resurrection of Christ, summarizes true success in only a few words: “He who has the Son has life.” By contrast, our earthly achievements notwithstanding, “He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

    The pathway to life is clearly marked in Scripture. Only through God’s Word do we understand that “… we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ … ” (1 John 5:20). But all too often, this life-changing truth is forgotten as distractions of every sort beg our time and consume our energy. When unexpected busyness floods our schedule, Scripture memory and other spiritual disciplines are often the first to be sidelined. The result? We forget who we are in Christ because we’re too busy remembering who we are to everyone else!

    As we consider what it means to follow Christ, John’s closing appeal to keep ourselves from idols (1 John 5:21) is particularly relevant. In response, let us deal swiftly and ruthlessly with any idols that keep us from fully knowing and abiding in Christ. Indeed, “… This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

  • The Difference Between Memorizing Scripture & Raising Chickens

    "I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts." (Psalm 119:94)

    Years ago, a hobbyist chicken farmer in Missouri was asked, "If I start raising chickens, when can I expect to start making some money?” The chicken farmer simply smiled and said, "You don't raise chickens to make money. You raise chickens for the joy that they bring."

    Having owned chickens myself some years ago, I’m personally familiar with just how true this is. My family had a modest flock of just six chickens, two of which were roosters that apparently missed the memo about crowing at dawn. Oftentimes, the peaceful silence of nighttime was pierced with the voices of our insomniac roosters. Continue reading

  • Lessons from a Water Bottle

    Article by Jim Woychuk

    “Eternal.” “Pure.” “Good life.” “Redemption.” “Pure Life.” “A future full of possibilities.”

    These theological-sounding phrases came to my attention, not from the Bible or a devotional book, but from water bottles in our office! Nestlé “Pure Life” water invites us to drink it with the pledge, “Pure life begins now,” and the suggestion that their water grants a “nutritional compass.” Yet another brand, “Eternal Water” carries the slogan “eternally pure.” Nestlé promises that, by drinking their water, “Pure life begins now.”

    Mere advertising hyperbole? Maybe. But beyond ordinary marketing, worldview statements underlie these slogans, including implicit claims about what really matters. According to this view, it actually is what goes into a man that purifies (or defiles) him (Matt. 15:11). And this goes along with the belief that our physical being is all there is to us. If you drink pure water, presto! You’re pure! If you’re drink “Eternal Water,” voilà, you’re eternally pure! Continue reading

  • Should I memorize individual verses or whole chapters?

    “Should I memorize individual verses or whole chapters?” This is a question we frequently encounter at SMF, and our short answer is simply “yes.” Whether you’re memorizing a collection of verses on the topic of prayer or all 111 verses of the Sermon on the Mount, you’ll reap the vast benefits of having God’s word stored in your heart.

    As someone who has enjoyed both topical and passage-based memorization, neither approach seems clearly superior to me. As a new Christian learning to share my faith with others, I greatly benefited from memorizing select verses on salvation from across the New Testament. Years later, God used my memorization of Jonah to reveal just how much grace my sinful, Jonah-like heart needs each day. Continue reading

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