Guest Post – What Can I Do?

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Please note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

“What can I do?”  It’s a question that’s often raised, either in sincere inquiry or more as a statement of inability. It’s not a lack of ability that usually keeps one from being involved as much as it is a lack of desire. There is no one specific ability or talent that God wants in service to Him, as the talents He has blessed us all with, whatever they may be, all have a place of service in His kingdom. To the congregation in Corinth that exalted certain gifts above others, Paul reminded them of everyone’s importance when he wrote, “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (1 Cor.12:18). Whether those abilities need maturing, have changed, or diminished with the passing of time, they still are valuable to God and His kingdom and they still can be used to His honor and glory.

So what can we do? Well, for starters, we all can PRAY! Can you think of anything more relevant, more powerful, than approaching the throne of God to seek His help and presence? There is no one greater than our Creator and Sustainer, nothing more significant than petitioning the Father through the Son for our needs, for guidance and direction, for His will to be done.  Paul knew what a source of strength prayer was, as he asked of the Ephesian Christians to be “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

We all can SPEAK WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT! There are times when all of us need to hear a friendly voice, when we need a sympathetic ear.  What help it is to hear from someone who can understand what we’re going through, who can offer support and love, to help whatever we are dealing with be a little easier to bear. With as many people having cell phones in use in so many different ways, surely we can use them for the glory of God and to build up the body of Christ! And while there’s no substitute for the sound of the human voice, text messages, emails, cards, and other communications to let people know we care and are there for them can be greatly appreciated and helpful, too. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).

We all can SPEND TIME IN THE WORD OF GOD! We might find fewer problems in life and more solutions to problems if the spiritual was front and center in our existence. God’s Word goes with us, from being a babe in Christ to maturing in the faith. It addresses our needs from youth through old age. It deals with being single and married, having children and grandchildren, being employed or employing others. It covers every area of life and how to let Christ mold our conduct so we are always in His will. We will find a better quality of life if the Word is in us, and better advice to help others as well. “I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways. I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word” (Psa. 119:15-16).

What can I, you, we all do? Much in every way, according to all God has blessed each one of us to have. It’s not that we can’t, it’s whether we will. And if we will, then what a difference we can make for others, for ourselves, for the world in which we live.  What will you do today for the glory of God, for the work of His kingdom, for the sake of others? “Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please Godas you are doingdo so even more” (1 Thess. 4:1).

rjohnson colorRobert Johnson is a minister in Longview, Texas, where he has been a preacher for over 40 years. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible and Biblical Languages, and a Masters is in Liberal Studies from the University of Oklahoma. He loves sharing the gospel with others and ministering to people’s needs.

Guest Post – Did You Know that Selfie Is in the Bible?

2 timothy

Source: pinterest

Please note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Pictures and portraits of people have been around throughout history. In time, famous artists started focusing on themselves, painting self-portraits. Rembrant, Van Gogh, de Goya, Renoir and Rockwell – all created selfies long before “selfie” was a trendy word.

What is a selfie? A selfie is a picture of a person, taken by that person. Whether it be the portraits of long ago or the selfies of today, there is, and has been, a narcissistic obsession and love affair with self that can not be denied due to the sheer volume of examples that exist today.

In 2 Timothy 3:2-5 (HCSB), part of the text warns about “self-loving.”

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power.

“Lovers of self” is a translation of the Greek word φίλαυτος philautos. Some of the different bible versions translate φίλαυτος philautos as the following:

2 Timothy 3:2 (CJB) Complete Jewish Bible
self-loving,

2 Timothy 3:2 (NIV) New International Version
lovers of themselves,

2 Timothy 3:2 (AMP) Amplified Bible
lovers of self

2 Timothy 3:2 (KJV) King James Version
lovers of their own selves,

2 Timothy 3:2 (ESV) English Standard Version
be lovers of self,

2 Timothy 3:2 (ISV) International Standard Version
lovers of themselves,

As you can see, the above translations are in agreement as to how the word φίλαυτος philautos should be translated in the text.

In WORDsearch, the Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary states:

5204. φίλαυτος philautos adj

Self-centered, selfish.

Philautos is a compound of the Greek words phileō (5205), “to love” or “to have affection for,” and autos (840), “self.”
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “5204. φίλαυτος.”

Could you imagine Paul just after receiving 40 lashes minus 1 using a mirror to show his back so he could take a selfie of lash marks to show people what he had done for the Kingdom?

Jesus taught just the opposite of these things. He taught us not to promote ourselves. He taught us that our right hand should not even know what our left hand is doing when we were giving. He did not teach us to take a selfie while putting money in the collection plate. He taught us that when we pray, to go into our room, close the door, and pray to our Father in secret.

When one honestly considers the other words used in this warning in 2 Timothy, and when one considers the context of the other verses surrounding this warning, then we can conclude that self-loving is not a good thing. We were bought for a price, and all that we say and do as followers of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Christ) reflects on Him and His Name. Let’s remember that as we go through life, pushing away selfish thoughts and focusing on Jesus.

Bill Bannister writes for Even If…Ministries. You can read more here.

Don’t Labor in Vain Day

Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain (Ps. 127:1, HCSB).

Most of us have worked hard to get where we are today. If you’re like my wife and me, you periodically reflect back over your years of laboring. In our case, we can hardly believe it’s been 43 years. I was in my second year of seminary in Scotland.

We had just enough savings between us to squeak through the year. By the time we got back to the States, I had decided not to pursue ministry as a profession but was unclear about what I would do as an alternative. We borrowed money from my mother for the first month’s rent and security deposit on an apartment. No furniture, no job, no prospects, and practically no money — our future was uncertain, but that didn’t seem to matter.

We sat on the floor of the apartment the day we took possession, looked around, and couldn’t have been happier. We were fueled by love, hope, and faith. We knew we’d be fine.

I wonder, if we were faced with the same circumstances today, would we be as confident and hopeful? What might we be thinking, feeling, and saying to each other? Maybe I’d be ashamed that I’d put us in such a position. Perhaps I’d be fearful about how to navigate out of that rut at the age of 67. We wouldn’t want to impose on our children for help. Would the tenderness and partnership between us still be there — enough to see us through? Or would we turn on each other, cast blame, and make matters worse? I’d like to think that enough love, hope, and faith are still there so that we’d be able to face those circumstances together and find our way through it with the Lord.

Thankfully, that’s not our situation. However, this forces some questions: Who has been building the “house” of our lives over the years? Were we? Was the Lord? Did we build it and invite Him in, or did He build it and invite us in? These are tough questions. It’s easy to rationalize that we were trusting Him for direction and outcomes — diligently doing our part to bang the nails with the hammer He gave us. The honest answer for me (my wife was and is better at this) is that there were times, even long stretches, where I “hammered” first and consulted later. There were other times, usually when I hit rough patches, that I asked my Builder-Foreman for assistance. He was always quick to respond, performing for or with me what I couldn’t accomplish on my own.

I suspect that, if you were to take a spiritual photo of the “house” of your life, it would be apparent who was building what at various points in the construction process. The better, more finished looking parts were the Lord’s craftsmanship.

The obvious do-it-yourself parts were your handiwork. Is it perfect? No. Could it have been better? Of course. If we all could retrace our steps and do it over again, knowing what we now know about His faithfulness and effectiveness, would we give Him more control over the building? You bet we would … hindsight. But here’s the thing — the house of our lives is still being built. What about the sagging ceiling in our marriages? The leaking basement in some of our family relationships? The cracked wall in certain friendships? The weakening support beams of health and finances? The broken seals in the windows of our earlier hopes and dreams? None of those are beyond repair or remodeling.

Labor Day commemorates the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. We take a day off from our labors to give tribute to those who have labored before us. I’d like to propose a new holiday. We can celebrate it on the same first Monday in September. We’ll call it “Don’t Labor in Vain Day.” This is when we bring in the Inspector, take that spiritual photo, get the report, and call in the Contractor of Contractors to come in and take care of business. There’s no telling what He’ll be able to do that day. He works wonders.

You may be in a season of life where what you’re facing has required you to recalibrate your game plan, make adjustments, change your expectations, and realign your priorities. Whatever your circumstances, He who numbers every hair of your head is able to do exceedingly more with the rest of your life than what you’ve been able to do under your own labor up to this point. That’s not an idle pipe dream. It’s a promise – His promise. Let’s remember that on this Don’t Labor in Vain Day.

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Steve Silver is a retired business executive, the author of New Man Journey (newmanjourney.com) and the founder of Men’s Golf Fellowship.

Guest Post – Suspicious Kindness

colossians, bible, wordsearch bible, devotional

Please note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

In the summer of 1983, between semesters of my seminary days, I was standing behind the counter of my father’s fast food restaurant when a small boy reached his arm up and released a fist full of coins onto the counter.

The smile on his face could melt any Dairy Queen blizzard. Raising his eyes to mine, he simply stated “A vanilla cone please.” Looking at the coins still rolling on the counter, I knew he didn’t have enough. Taking my index finger, I began to count the silver and copper. When there was none left to be counted, the boy’s face grew very solemn. He too knew it wasn’t enough. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a couple more coins and placed them alongside his own.

His response shocked me. With a suspicious look, he again reached forward and began to pull his coins away. I told him it was okay. He now had enough. I tried to match the tone in my voice with that of the kind gesture. With a slight pause as if struggling against his better judgment, his smile returned, and I quickly scooped the coins away and proceeded to make him the LARGEST “small” cone I have ever made, complete with a curly-Q top. That moment impacted me and has never been forgotten.

Suspicious kindness is sad, isn’t it? We often are not used to receiving kindness and our first reaction is to pause, question the motive, refuse, worry that there has to be something wrong and wonder what they want in return. Our society has become so “me” oriented that to think then act on behalf of another with goodness takes great concentration, not to mention risk. For some, to be kind is a sign of weakness.

St. Paul speaks directly to the qualities that do not come naturally to us. “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…” (Col. 3:12). We are not born with them, they are a choice. A day-to-day, moment by moment choice. We slip our arms into the garment and wear it, we wear Him – Jesus.

Kindness is the softer side of creation, God in us speaking through with love and mercy. I see it in the word picture of one walking by a blind man holding a charitable cup for money. The heart sees the man, the heart feels the man, the heart responds with God to the man, filling his cup. Love, kindness, and goodness all go together. Love sees, kindness feels, goodness does. (See also: 1 Cor. 13, Eph. 4:29-31.)

I might also add that in Gal. 5:22-23, Paul shares the fruit of the Spirit, and he admonishes us to walk in the “package deal” of Jesus. Picture if you will, that someone has just delivered a most fabulous fruit basket and sets in in front of you, individual delicious items, but all in the basket as one gift. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” ALL evidence of Jesus.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a leading Jewish Theologian said about kindness, “When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people, as I grow old, I admire kind people.” True godly kindness does not require a return on your investment. It is self-less-ness. We see, we feel, we do.

May we all be challenged to be kind beyond ourselves. Spreading some “Sonshine”, with wonderful bouquets of gentleness. Remembering that we have been bathed in God’s kindness and goodness. Taking an extra moment to listen. Finding more coins in our pockets, opening more doors, whatever is needed at the moment. Like the little boy with ice cream at the counter, he now has enough. God uses US in the “enough” equation.

Pic of DeDe MoravikDeDe Southwick, is the mother of two wonderful sons and lives outside of Portland, Oregon. She has a degree in Theology, leads women’s bible studies, and has served on the leadership team of her local church. She loves studying God’s Word, gardening, and making her sons laugh. You can read her blog here.

Guest Post – Forgiveness, Repentance & Reconciliation

colossians 3:13, bible, colossians

Please note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

What do you do when you have done something to violate your own values? How do you forgive yourself and reconcile what you have done with who you are?

Forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation are like cousins; they are related, but function independently of each other. You can have any one, two or all three.

The first cousin is forgiveness. It is entirely up to you if you forgive or not. The offender’s repentance can make forgiveness easier, but is not necessary. Forgiveness happens inside of you.

The second cousin is repentance. This is the job of the offender. Repent comes from ‘metanoeo’ which means ‘to think differently or reconsider’. There is also an emotional component (2 Corinthians 7:10). Focusing on repentance should be primary. Forgiveness will be much easier if you acknowledge your own guilt, shame and remorse. Knowing and accepting your vulnerability will enable you to protect against re-occurrence.

The third cousin is reconciliation (Matthew 5:23-24). Here reconciled comes form ‘diallasso’ which means ‘to change thoroughly’. It is also translated from ‘katallage’ (Romans 5:11), which means ‘restoration’, and ‘katallaso’ (2 Cor. 5:18) which means ‘to change mutually’. Reconciliation requires BOTH parties. Both have to want to continue the relationship, and do their parts. This is healthy reconciliation; it has both forgiveness AND repentance. The relationship has been mutually changed and restored.

But there’s still the other side. Unhealthy reconciliation is maintaining the relationship without forgiveness or repentance (Acts 7:26). Here reconcile comes from ‘synelavno’ which means to ‘drive together’. We do that sometimes – drive a relationship together when there is no repentance.

The other possible response to repeat offenders is to end the relationship, to not have reconciliation (Matthew 18; Romans 12:18)When you have followed the prescribed course, and the other person refuses to make any changes, it might be time to end the relationship. God is able to bring good from the hurt of a broken relationship (Acts 15: 36-41; Romans 8:28). No one else can decide for you to continue or end the relationship, and no one else has the right to judge your decision. This is between you and God.

It is also possible to have forgiveness and repentance without reconciliation. Each does their part; forgiving and repenting. However, one or both decide to not continue the relationship. If ending is the decision, forgiveness and repentance are important to have healthy relationships with others. If you don’t forgive or repent, you’ll carry that hurt into other relationships, and recreate the same destructive dynamics.

So how do you respond in a healthy way to the lack or repentance? Forgive and set strong boundaries (Luke 17:3-4). If you can forgive, and the other person is earnestly trying to repent, you can choose to continue the relationship. To do this, you must be very clear and consistent in identifying and not accepting the hurtful behavior. If you cannot set that boundary, you would be fostering the sin you both have.

Confession IS good for the soul (James 5:16). Confessing to another is essential when you need to repent and forgive yourself. Avoidance comes with secrecy, perpetuating the shame and guilt. Confession illuminates reality, and establishes accountability. It does not have to be a public confession. Do be careful in selecting the hearer of your confession. The goal is healing, not condemnation. Choose someone whom you trust and respect, can keep your confidence, is humble and is full of God’s grace. The hearer of your confession does have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to proclaim God’s forgiveness to you (John 20:23).

How are you working to reconcile your relationships? Share with us!

bill syrcle, guest blog, counselingWilliam L. Syrcle is a therapist and coach at Synago, in MacombIllinois. He has a Master degree in clinical psychology, is a certified Professional Christian Counselor, is licensed by the State of Illinois, and been in private practice since 2002. He also specializes in business, executive and leadership coaching. Learn more about Synago here.

Guest Post – Walk It Out

romans 12:12, prayer, bible

Source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/480759328944977375/

Please note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

God our Heavenly Father is truly the everlasting God, King above all, Lord forever. We can completely trust Him because He always stays true to His Word and never changes (James 1:17). We change. Sometimes we get tired of waiting for God and we start trying to work things out ourselves, only to end up getting in the way. We realize it when we see the struggles we cause for ourselves. Then we start wondering why God allowed us to fall into the hole we were so anxious to dig.

I remember times in my life when I felt as if God left me to figure things out on my own, or He wasn’t listening when I prayed. Nothing I would try was the answer, and it seemed as if God was watching me run aimlessly in circles. Then after I had exhausted all my options, I was finally ready to pay attention. That’s when I realized that God actually has everything under control.

Before this realization, I would usually try to determine when and how I believed my situations should be resolved. Yet, all I was actually doing was getting stressed over my plans instead of walking out God’s plan in faith (Jeremiah 29:11). My plans were merely distractions that kept me occupied until I was ready to move forward with God leading the way. It took a while, but I finally learned that God really knows what He is doing. He doesn’t need my input, advice, or permission.

God wants us to successfully complete the journey that He has set before us. That’s why He so graciously provides everything that we need and even some of the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). If ever we feel discouraged and wonder why God seems so distant, all we have to do is trust Him enough to walk out His plan with confidence in knowing that He is with us every step of the way.

Let’s be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).

Revised blogs from Blessings in Blogs: Living Effectively by Genia M. Owens, originally published by Trafford Publishing. © Copyright 2012, www.trafford.com

Genia Owens, author, blog

Genia Owens is an e-book Developer at WORDsearch who loves to inspire others through writing. She also enjoys watching a good movie with popcorn, spending time with family and friends, and going on outings with her husband to take photos for their online photography art business – GREO Galleries Unlimited (http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/greo-galleries-unlimited.html).