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  • When Life Doesn't Seem Wonderful

    In the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey gives up his dream of traveling the world. He instead stays in the small town of Bedford Falls where he manages a small building and loan company. After years of selfless service to his friends and neighbors, George finds himself depressed and in great financial straits. As he ponders whether his life is worth living, news of George’s predicament spreads throughout the community. In a touching display of generosity, the entire community rallies around their friend and helps the one who has so often helped them. Ultimately, George Bailey enjoys a happy, musical ending surrounded by his family and friends.

    In some ways, George Bailey’s life looks a lot like the apostle Paul’s. Paul gave up what promised to be a successful career in Judaism, counting it “loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8). His life was spent serving others “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). And like George Bailey, Paul eventually encountered his own time of great need.

    As he sat in a Roman prison writing what would be his last epistle, Paul sensed that the time of his departure was at hand (2 Tim. 4:6). If Paul’s life was a movie, this is when you might expect an entourage of close friends to suddenly appear and break into song. Instead, Paul writes that “all those in Asia have turned away from me” (1:15). Demas, a former partner in ministry, “loved this present world” and went his own way (4:10). Meanwhile, Crescens headed “for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia” (4:10). Alone and needing to be “filled with joy,” Paul urged young Timothy to come quickly and visit him (1:4; 4:21).

    The Christian life rarely resembles a Hollywood movie. Believers are not called to ease and relaxation, but to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2:3). Just like a “hardworking farmer” (2:6), our lives are not lived for today’s pleasures, but for tomorrow’s harvest. The work may at times be difficult and unglamorous, but in the end, we’ll be able to say with confidence, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (4:7-8).

  • Crossroads: Preparing Your Children for Adulthood With Bible Memory

    Over the last four years, I’ve traveled to Christian conferences across the country. As I meet dozens of parents at these events, I often turn to their young children and ask if they can quote any Bible verses. As you might expect, John 3:16 and “Jesus wept” are among the most common responses — and for obvious reason. But when I ask if they can say any other verses, the response is nearly always the same: blank stares, sheepish grins, and a somewhat embarrassed parent.

    An unfortunate and unintended side effect of the digital age is that even classic memory verses like John 3:16 are hardly common knowledge among Christian young people. Sure, they understand biblical concepts like Creation, the worldwide flood, and salvation through Christ. But ask them to recite a verse to support any one of these beliefs, and you’ll likely encounter the same awkward silence I've come to expect.

    This might seem like a minor omission at first. After all, can’t we teach our children biblical principles without the hassle of memory work? Isn’t it enough that they believe the right things about God, even if they can’t trace those beliefs back to a chapter and verse? Continue reading

  • 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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  • 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
  • Sundays & School Zones

    “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
    Six days you shall labor and do all your work."
    -Exodus 20:8-9
    Article by Dakota Dakota Lynch

    Nobody likes driving through school zones. Well, at least I don’t. Watching my speedometer fall from 40 to 20 MPH each morning during my commute is a painful experience — especially when there are no children around to justify the slowdown! I keep a close eye on my speedometer as I drive through, not so much because I’m concerned about going over the speed limit, but because I want to go as fast as I legally can. Once I’m finally past the “end school zone” sign, I quickly accelerate back to normal speed and continue on my way to work.

    The problem with this mentality is that I miss the whole point of the law. School zones don’t exist just to annoy impatient drivers like me, but to protect the lives and safety of children. I might obey the letter of the law by driving the speed limit, but I ignore its intent every time I pay more attention to the speedometer than my surroundings. Continue reading

  • The Failure of Forgetting

    “I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
    out of the house of bondage.”
    (Exodus 20:2)
    Article by Dakota Dakota Lynch

    When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, He began with a reminder of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The Lord’s promise to “deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians” had been fulfilled (Exod. 3:8), and now they found themselves on the other side of a sea that once represented hopelessness and defeat. Pharaoh’s abusive taskmasters and harsh work orders were in the past. Their future, by contrast, held promises of blessing, rest, and provision.

    This reminder of deliverance is significant because forgetfulness proved to be one of Israel’s greatest struggles throughout the coming years — just as it is for us. As the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 106:21, they soon “forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt.” Even before Moses made it down from Mount Sinai they had created a golden calf to worship!

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  • After the Ballot Box

    “If My people who are called by My name
    will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face,
    and turn from their wicked ways,
    then I will hear from heaven,
    and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
    (2 Chronicles 7:14)
    Article by Dakota Dakota Lynch

    As election season ends, our country’s need for healing and unity is undeniably obvious. Months of campaigning has left us emotionally raw as many find themselves angry, confused, and worried about what the future holds. Whoever you are and whatever your political affiliation is, the last 48 hours must have awakened you to the fact that our country is changing in a drastic, and perhaps permanent way.

    The question for Christians is this: amidst all the chaos, what should we be doing as believers? What role can we play in bringing peace to a troubled and torn country? Continue reading

  • The Man Who Took a Bullet for Reagan, And the One Who Took the Cross for Me

    "For there is one God
    and one Mediator between God and men,
    the Man Christ Jesus."
    (1 Timothy 2:5)
    Article by Dakota Dakota Lynch

    Everywhere the President goes, he is surrounded by members of the Secret Service. These highly-trained guards protect current and former presidents, vice presidents, nominees of major political parties, and even foreign diplomats. Their job is simple: protect those under their care at all costs, even at the expense of their own safety. On March 30, 1981, agent Tim McCarthy was called on to do just that as he willingly took a bullet for President Reagan in the line of duty. As shots rang out in Washington, D.C., McCarthy stood between the President and his would-be assassin, likely saving Reagan’s life while risking his own.

    Similarly, our salvation was accomplished by Christ, the one and only “Mediator between God and men” (emphasis added). Continue reading

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