BY JAMES DAMAN
It's getting hot in Arizona (It was over 120 today), people are putting cookie dough in baking sheets, leaving them in their cars to make cookies and cooking eggs and ham on the sidewalk. This is the time when I reflect back on when things were cooler (all the way back to a month ago). (Cue the Montage music) I see myself spending time outside and enjoying lots of hiking.
I had never even hiked before I moved here and I made the mistake of joining a pastor friend of mine on one of the most difficult hikes in Arizona for my first hike ever. We got halfway and realized that we were off the path, he had me in the front and I was inadvertently knocking rocks back towards him. In my mind, I immediately pictured myself kicking a rock on him, killing him. My immediate thought was about how I would explain this to his congregation tomorrow.
We eventually stopped and prayed, got back on the trail, and made it to the top of the mountain. This hike was so tough that now when I face difficult circumstances, I say, "Well, I made it up that mountain!" Even though I have since hiked from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other, I still consider this hike the toughest. The reason is because it was my first time stepping out and it was scary to me!
BY ROBERT STEVENSON
Believe. Know. Do not faint.
Be sure. Stay confident.
Do not lose heart.
You will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
I was all set to write a short, yet humorous piece on a recent Proverbs 27:17 experience (my iron being sharpened by the iron of a very good friend). Before I typed a single letter on the page, my wife piped up from the other room:
“They found that little boy’s body in the lake in Orlando.”
My heart sank. Every ounce of funny drained away and fled. Christina Grimmie. The Pulse. A dead two-year-old.
I tried to comfortably shift into my fleshly default mode: “BURY YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND.”
I couldn’t. I can’t. My spirit wouldn’t let me. The HOLY Spirit wouldn’t let me. The Sunday School lesson I taught a few weeks ago was on giving people HOPE. Laughter is the best medicine, yes, but people don’t need medicine right now. They need something better. They need the word of the Lord. That word is this:
BY ELLEN MARTIN
Do you have that person (or people) in your life that are just hard to get along with? I am guilty of ending things badly or making a bad situation worse. It may be easier to just write people off that frustrate and aggravate you and never speak to them again. Is this what God wants for us, though?
Romans 12:17-18 says “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Verse 19 goes on to say “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’”.
God commands us to live at peace with everyone. I would be the first to admit that this is very difficult to do. I have a tendency to not back down and to have the last word. We need to allow God to be in control. As Romans 12:19 says, we do not need to avenge ourselves. We need to trust God with our hurts, offenses, and other wrongs people have done to us.
BY KEVIN WELBORN
I have now officially been without my full voice for two weeks. At this point I can communicate clearly, but depending on the time I either sound like Whoopi Goldberg or a pubescent Peter Brady. It is irritating, infuriating, and irksome. With the heat of the Saharan sun do I scorn my current deficient vocal aptitude!!!
Being able to speak as a pastor is fairly, you know, important.
As a general rule, I do not think that I talk that much. When a subject in which I am interested is broached, I will surely jump into that conversation. Or, there are times when it is nice just to say your piece to a willing listener and let go of some thoughts be they consequential or not.
Whether you are reserved or a chatterbox, let me encourage you to remember there is a large difference in having something to say, and in having to say something.
I can think of two specific examples of men that I know or have known that rarely spoke a word.
BY JOSEPH BRAZIL
After all, who could blame us? Everything we need to live can be easily found at a grocery store. For generations now, Americans have gotten used to having the life’s provisions delivered to our homes or found within easy grasp. Our civilization has advanced to a stage where we’re no longer required to hunt or gather tonight’s dinner, or to leave a guard on watch while our family sleeps. Presently, the vast majority of Americans live in what we could probably agree upon as a privileged society.
But with privilege comes complacency. And complacency turns priorities inward.
Here’s a light-hearted example. Take a look at these household items and see if you can identify the common bond:
iPhone. iPad. (the now defunct) MySpace. YouTube. And—heaven help me--selfies.
BY KRISSY FIELD
“Some of the meanest people I have ever known are Christians.”
How sad. Isn’t that sad? I have heard that statement many, many, times. Actually it probably rivals “I don’t go to church because it is full of hypocrites.” (Also a sad statement, but not the topic this time.) I’m going to be honest. I too have encountered some pretty mean Christians.
Right now, our country is in a state of upheaval, turmoil, disorder, etc. At least it seems to be. And, oh my goodness, we are getting mad about EVERYTHING. This includes Christians. All you have to do is scroll through social media for two minutes and the evidence is very clear.
BY JEFF WEDDLE
There is a hidden danger lurking out there. You never know when it will strike. Few are even aware of it. Its strike may even go unnoticed at first. Then, when it’s too late, you’ll realize it got you. But by then your faith may be destroyed, sin may have multiplied, and you may be snared in an inescapable trap.
What is this unnoticed, lurking danger that can ruin faith?
It’s the danger of success.
Now, if you‘re like me, and Lord help you if you are, success is a pretty rare thing. But even losers get lucky sometimes. I have had a couple moments of success. Inevitably I will take a fall shortly thereafter.