Back To School Or Still In School

It is the season that school is starting up again all over the country. Within the next couple of weeks most children will be back in school. Along with the children many adults are starting up in college again or for the first time.

Some of those starting up with school are excited about it. Children, and adults, look forward to seeing their friends at school again. They miss the fun times they had with other friends in school. Children look forward to playing on the playground, or just hanging out with their best friends. Adults in college look forward to hanging out with each other and the parties that they have.

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With school starting, there are also many sports starting up again. Many will play in the sports, while many others will go to watch and support their favorite teams. The excitement is high for many.

Along with the public school or college students going back to school, there are many that are homeschooled. Some of those homeschooled never fully stopped during the summer, while others took the break. The fear of the subject matter is often right there with the homeschooled child.

As much as the excitement is high for many, there are also many who are afraid of school. The reasons are many. Some it is the fear of the teachers, or fear of the bullies, or the subjects, or the crowds, or being away from home.

Love Hate School

Very few people in America get away without having to do some type of education. Outside of America, there are nations where getting a public education is a very high privilege that many do not receive.

Many people feel that education is only for the child or the person getting a college degree. They do not feel as though they need to keep learning. Despite whether one gets a public, private or homeschooled education or is not in a formal school program of any sort, every person gets an education every day, year round. This earth is a very large classroom. The process of living on this earth is a process of lessons and tests. There will be a final exam.

Learning begins when a person is born and does not stop, or should not stop, until he dies.

A child is born and begins to learn how to do things. Going through schooling children learn to read, write, do math, and other subjects. In college people learn a skill to work. After college, people learn how to work at a new job.

If a person does not go to college, there is learning going on all the time. Learning a new job skill, learning to be married, learning to pay bills, learning to be a parent, and the list goes on. Education never stops.

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As a believer, this is even more true. Once a person becomes a believer, the education of what it means to follow Jesus and what it means to be like Jesus has begun.

James 1:3 New International Version (NIV)

because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

God is going to test your faith in Him. He wants to know what you learned about Him. In order for that to happen, you must have been taught something. Think about how it would be if you were in a classroom and the teacher chose to give you a test on something you have never even heard of. How would you do on it? Most likely you would fail. God will not test you in something you have never been taught in.

The training of a believer happens in various different ways and methods. Each time you go to a church service, you will receive some training in some area of life as a believer. Each time you open the Bible and read a portion of it, you will get some more training. You will learn who God is, what He expects, and how to be like Jesus.

As you learn things about God, you are expected to apply them to your life. This is where the testing comes in. You may read or hear about how God provides all of your needs. Suddenly you find yourself in a position of needing something and do not see a way to get it. Faith in God must step in and trust that God sees your need and will meet it in His way and time. Doing all of this is a test to see how much you trust God.

Outside of the testing that God will put you through, there is just learning about God and what it means to live for Him. It is probably easy to tell a person everything you know about God. The hard question is what do you not know about God? You can probably list a few things that you do not know about God, but there are probably many things that you do not even realize that  you do not know that you do not know about Him.

Think about it, if you were asked what do you know about algebra, what would you answer? You could probably say a few things, depending upon your experience with it. However, if you are like most people, that list of what you know is probably very short. You do not even know the question to ask, because you have never dealt with it. You do not know the extreme high levels of algebra, because you have never even seen it or heard of it.

God is greater than anyone or anything that you can imagine. There is more to Him to be learned than you could possibly learn in a life of one hundred and ten years on this earth. This life is the classroom to learn about Him.

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As you are going through life today, whether you are in a formal school or not, allow your learning to continue. Get into the Bible, read and study it. Learn who God is. Learn what God wants. Learn what God expects. Learn how to apply all of that to your life.

Be ready to take the test God has in store for you and pass it with a perfect score.

Genesis 28:15New International Version (NIV)

15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

God is with you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 New International Version (NIV)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Do not be afraid.

When you pass the test in the end and you graduate, you will hear God say:

Matthew 25:21 New International Version (NIV)

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Get out into your classroom today and see what you can learn. Be excited, there is more to learn!

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Danger Of Past Hurt

People get hurt by other people on a regular basis. This is more true with the more friends and family that you have. If you only have a few friends or very little to no family, the chance of getting hurt drops dramatically, but you also have a lot less chance of being loved and loving someone.

In today’s society, many people are blaming their actions on someone else. They look back to a time when they were a child and got hurt by a parent, a sibling, a relative or some other friend. Usually this hurt was something that occurred over and over again, over a longer period of time.

Being hurt by someone is something that will happen. If it has not happened recently, just wait it is coming. The difference is how much that hurt really hurts.

When an enemy does something against a person, most people just accept it, because they half expected it to happen. Very few people expect to be treated nicely by someone who is an enemy. In fact, with most of the world, if they are being treated nicely, chances are they are friends and not enemies.

Treating the enemy nicely is something that God talks about and even commands.

Luke 6:27-36 New International Version (NIV)
Love for Enemies
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

However, what I want to look at is past hurts and the dangers of those hurts. As I stated above, the cases where someone gets hurt the worst is with a loved one, usually a family member. The one you love is the one that can and usually will hurt you the most. When they do something that hurts, it goes deep into the heart and soul of a person, because they lost trust and love that should have been there.

Many people grow up mad at their parents because of something that they had done wrong to them when they were a young child. Some of those things are very wrong, in both the eyes of the law and the eyes of God. Some of those things were done on purpose, with the purpose to hurt or take advantage of.

Other things were done by mistake and not knowing the best way to do things. Every person has things that they need to learn. In the process of learning those things, often there are many mistakes made. Many parents discipline in a way that was too harsh, causing pain and anger for many years to come. This is part of the learning process. Some parents learn over time how to do things better, while some never seem to learn to do it the best way.

The danger of being hurt comes in how that hurt is held on to. Thousands of family members are fighting with each other their entire lives, because they refuse to forgive each other. I have seen parents go to their death-bed refusing to forgive a child of some wrong done to them many years before. I have also seen children watch their parent die and refusing to forgive that parent of a wrong done when they were young.

Bitterness sets into the heart of a person that has been done wrong to, and he refuses to forgive and move on. Children refuse to talk to parents. Parents refuse to talk to children. Siblings refuse to talk to other siblings. All these things because of a past hurt and the bitterness that has set in.

With bitterness, there is no real joy in life. People look to things or other people to try to bring that joy. Always looking for the next thrill or person to love. All the while refusing to look to God.

Ephesians 4:31 New International Version (NIV)

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

God wants a person to get rid of all bitterness. Many, however, will say that they are not bitter. They say that they just cannot forgive the person and will not deal with them anymore. That is a sign of bitterness and not love.

We are told to forgive:

Ephesians 4:32 New International Version (NIV)

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

God had forgiven you of all the wrongs you have done to Him. Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for your sins, so that you could be forgiven. Think about how many times you have hurt God with a sin, both small and large. Yet, God loved you enough to forgive, rather than holding a grudge against you and being bitter.

Hebrews 12:15-17 New International Version (NIV)

15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Do not allow the root of bitterness to grow and manifest itself in your life. Just like a little cancer cell in the body grows to the point of killing a person, so a little bitterness can grow and kill you. It can kill you and others around you. It sets a pattern in your life and the lives you touch, to where others catch that bitter root.

God does not want to see you ate up by bitterness and anger, because of a past hurt. He wants you to work at forgiving and showing His love to the person who has hurt you in the past.

If you have been hurt in the past by someone, give it to God. Ask Him to show you His love for you and His great love for the other person who hurt you.

Ask God to show you how much He has forgiven you, so that you can work at forgiving the other person. Ask God for strength to forgive and move on, getting rid of all bitterness.

The hurt and pain may always be there, but love can override those things. Relationships can be rebuilt in God. As long as you and the other person are alive it is still possible to mend that relationship. There is always a chance to forgive. God will make a way for it to happen if you allow Him to do so.

In Over The Head

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go on a cruise with one of my sons to the Bahamas. The views of the beaches and the water was astounding! I had never seen water so blue in my life, unless you count Kool-Aid in a glass. Living in Central Texas, there are no long, nice sandy beaches anywhere to be seen and the water is definitely not blue.

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While in the Bahamas, I was able to go swimming in the ocean on one of their many beaches. It was my first time to ever swim in the ocean. It was amazing to swim in the water. The water was warm and crystal clear. Occasionally I could see a small tropical fish swimming in the water nearby.

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I grew up in Northern Wisconsin and swam in Lake Superior all the time. One of the things about swimming in that lake when you went out into the deeper water, you had to know how to swim or at least be able to float on the water. If you did not know how to do either, you would sink and go under.

The amazing thing on the water in the Bahamas, was that I could float without trying. The salt in the water was enough to keep me floating without work. I could actually stand up straight, with my arms at my sides, in over my head and float there in place. I had never floated without having to work at it and stay concentrated.

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As I was floating around noticing how this worked it God impressed upon me something. I was out in over my head in the water. In order for me to touch the floor of the ocean, I would have to dive down at least two feet below the water. And the interesting thing was, that because of the buoyancy of the water, that was  not exactly easy to do.

I could not see the salt, or anything else in the water that would hold me up. I had to trust what was unseen to keep my floating and I did not have to work at it. It was not my effort that kept me floating, but the salt level in the water.

In the very same way in life, there are times I must be in over my head in situations in life. God has called me to be His witness to this world. In order to be His witness I have to get out in this ocean of a world and be that witness. I have to step out into deeper waters where the fish (men and women) are to tell them about Jesus.

It is so easy to think that I cannot be the one to witness to someone. Maybe that person is too important, or maybe he is such a bad person, or maybe that person does not like me. Fears that the person may be angry or retaliate. Or maybe I am in a hurry and cannot take the time to witness. The reasons to not witness are numerous.

Yet, God has called us to step out into the deeper waters and trust Him. He is like the salt in the ocean, you cannot see Him, but He is there holding you up. As you step out into the ocean of this world, among the people you can float and be His witness.

Just as a person must let go of his fears of going under the water and drowning when in the ocean near the Bahamas and be willing to float, so you must let go of your fears to go out and be His witness.

God will be there with you and take care of you. He will not let you fail, if you are doing His will, in His way, and in His time.

Today, I want to encourage you to step out into the deeper waters, in over your head and trust God. Trust God to take care of you as you do His will and be His witness. Just as it was exciting for me to be floating, while standing straight up, so it will be exciting when God touches lives through you.

God can and will do amazing things in and through you, if you will allow Him to do it. Trust Him today in the deep waters of this world.

Jesus Freaks

Last week I was blessed to be able to go on a cruise with one of my boys. This cruise was the Jesus Freak 2017 cruise. The Christian band, DC Talk, had reunited after a 16 year hiatus for a one week cruise tour. They set up the cruise with several other bands, Newsboys, Hollyn, Capital Kings, Ryan Stevenson, and Finding Favor.

For anyone not familiar with the band, DC Talk, they had started out in 1987 and performed until 2000. During that time they became one of the most popular Christian bands of all time. Their music was one of a mix of rap and rock in each song. The band was known for being bold in talking about Jesus and pointing people to Jesus. They wanted their message to be one about the gospel message.

One of the songs that they came out with was, “Jesus Freak.” It was their most popular song and portrayed their hearts.

One of the lines in that song is: “What if people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus freak? What will people do when they find that its true?

The term “freak”, to be used to describe a person is not a popular term to be used in today’s society. It would probably be listed as a politically incorrect term.

Freak has the meaning of a very unusual and unexpected event or situation. It can also mean a person, plant or animal with an unusual physical abnormality.

Adding the term freak with Jesus, makes an interesting combination. What exactly is a “Jesus Freak”?

It is the idea that one is very unusual in following Jesus. They are abnormal from all the other people. It is a very unusual and unexpected situation in life.

Take a look at the life of Jesus. He was a different type of person when He walked on this earth. Another line in this song is: “People say I’m a strange, does that make me a stranger? My best friend was born in a manger.

Think about this: Jesus came to this world to save the world and  be king of this world. Yet, the method of coming in this world was not normal. He was not born in the palace, or even in the hospital as most people were. He was royalty and yet, was born in a manger, a place for animals, not kings.

Jesus talked about loving your enemies, instead of fighting them. He tells you to bless those who curse you. These statements go against the thoughts and ways of most of the world. The world says that you have a right to fight against your enemies and that it is acceptable to curse those who do you wrong.

Along with some of the strange teachings that Jesus taught, He also died on a cross. Why would a person die who wanted to save everyone else? How can He save everyone by dying? By the world’s methods of doing things, Jesus was a freak, which is part of the reason why they chose to crucify Him.

Jesus was one who followed God with all of His heart, soul, mind and strength. He was sold-out to God. This made Him a freak, an unusual and strange person in this world.

Those who follow Him are also strange. Why would someone want to follow someone who died nearly 2,000 years ago? Why would someone want to follow someone who was strange and said to love and bless his enemies?

The whole reason Jesus was a freak was because of love. The reason a person is willing to follow Jesus is because of love. God’s love is the best thing that there is in all of this great universe. God has the best in mind for every person.

Now going back to the song about the line saying that he is a Jesus freak. What makes a person a Jesus freak?

Take a look around you and you will probably see a lot of people who claim to be Christian. Some churches have a lot of people in them. Yet, at the same time, take a look around you and watch how many of these same people act in this world. How do they treat each other? How do they treat their enemies?

The sad part is that most do not treat others with the same love that Jesus shows them. Christians are often known for acting and looking just like everyone else in this world. They do not stand out as different.

The few people who do stand out as extremists for Jesus are rare. They are seen as radicals and crazies–Jesus Freaks.

When a person comes out in this way in this world, the world will rise up against them, just as the world rose up against Jesus when He walked on this earth. Today the term used is usually politically incorrect, or extremists. This will even occur within the church. Very few people live as an extremist for Jesus. It is highly unusual to see someone live wholeheartedly for God, abandoning their own life and ways to follow God–thus a Jesus Freak.

Take a look at your own life and see how you are living. Are you living for yourself? Or are you living for God?

Are you concerned with what people think or what they will do if you live sold-out to God?

Allow yourself to be sold-out to God. See what God can do in and through you when you live in the same way that Jesus did. As a believer in Jesus, you are to live, talk and act just as He did. Everything that Jesus said and did was what God wanted Him to say and do.

Just as Jesus was a stranger in this world, so are you. This world is not your final home, you are just a stranger passing through.

Are you a Jesus Freak?

May the final words of that song be yours: “I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak, there ain’t no disguising the truth.”

As for the cruise, it was an awesome cruise! It was amazing to see 4,000 people all being excited about serving and loving God. They were not ashamed of the gospel message. It was awesome to hear the various Christian bands proclaiming God loud and clear for five days.

I was able to talk with many people from all over the world and hear many great testimonies of what God is doing or has done in their life. It was encouraging to hear. God is alive and being served in this world by many, though not the majority.

How To Read The Bible

Reading the bible is something all believers know they should do and all new believers are told to do. When it comes to reading the bible, very few people actually do read it. When they pick it up and begin to look at it to read it, many thoughts start to enter their mind as to how to read it.

The most common way to read the bible is to think of it like any other book. How does one read a book? He starts at the beginning and reads through until he gets to the end.

One of the great benefits of reading the bible this way is that you can see how God’s plan for mankind unfolds, little by little. It starts with the creation of the world, and ends with the destruction of the world and the creation of a new heaven and earth.

The hardest part in reading the bible this way is when a person gets past Genesis and Exodus. The next two books, Leviticus and Numbers, come up presenting a great challenge for a new believer or one beginning to really read the bible. These books are very long on lists. One lists the genealogy of all the people, while the other lists all of the sacrifices required.

For most people these kinds of lists are very boring and many wonder why God put them in there. Many people stop reading the bible once they get to that point out of boredom. Only once a  person has been a believer for a while, does he begin to understand the value in those lists and reasons why God may have put them in His word.

Other people begin reading the bible by reading the New Testament. It is common to hear of a person who has read the New Testament several times, but has never read the Old Testament.

The New Testament is where God’s love, grace and mercy is really shown for what they fully are. Life is offered in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Open talk about heaven and the future is presented. Practical ways on how to live for God is shown in the letters of Paul to the various churches.

While reading the New Testament is great, one must not forget to read or ignore the Old Testament. The Old Testament gives the background as to why Jesus had to come and die on the cross. It shows what His death on the cross means and why it was so important.

Another benefit of reading the Old Testament, is that it shows many people who followed God, but also made mistakes in their lives and, yet, God used them in mighty ways. It shows how many times Israel walked away from God, but as soon as they turned to God, God took them back. One can see the love, mercy and grace of God through many different stories.

You can also see how God had a plan to bring about salvation to all people from the beginning. One can watch as God unfolds His plan of salvation, as the entire Bible is read.

The first important thing about reading the Bible is to actually read it. Get into in and read it and see what God has to say.

As you begin reading the Bible, do not read it just as another novel, full of good stories. Each chapter you read, think about what it is saying and what it can say to you today. What message does God have for you in the passage being read?

The Bible is written in simple, plain everyday language that anyone can understand, if they want to. Some may try to say that you need to be able to study it in the original Greek or Hebrew, but that is not true. When Jesus walked on the earth, He spoke in the language of the people He was with, not some strange foreign language. In the same way, God speaks to you through His word, the Bible, in a language you can understand.

There will be passages that may not always make sense right away. Do not let that stop you from reading. Pray and ask God for wisdom each time you read His word. Trust that He will open your eyes to what He is saying in His word.

As you apply these few principles that I have given here, God’s word will come alive to you. The Bible is alive and active today. No matter how many times you read it, there will be more to learn.

Each time you read a certain passage, God may show you something different in it. You will begin to see new things about God and how He works as you dive into His word.

The best way to read the Bible is to actually get into it and read it. Do not keep putting off reading it. If all you do is read a few verses each day, that is more than nothing and God can do something with it.

Take time each day to read the Bible and learn from it.

Going On Vacation

Today I am leaving for a few days on a trip of a lifetime. One of my sons and I are going on a Jesus Freak cruise with the Christian band DC Talk.

For those of you who may not know who that band is, they were a very big Christian band in the 80s-90s. They quit singing as a band in the mid-90s. Each of the three members of the band went on to sing on their own or with another band. Toby Mac sings on his own, and Michael Tate is now lead singer for the band Newsboys.

They are getting together for the first time since they separated as a band for a one week series of concerts. The exciting thing about this series of concerts is that it is on a cruise from Miami to the Bahamas. There will be many other singers and bands on the cruise.

I have always dreamed of going on a cruise and I love to visit other countries. I have never been to the Bahamas, so it will be a new country to add to the list. And as for a cruise, this will be great because it is a Christian based cruise. There should be very little to no alcohol, and definitely no drunk partying on this cruise. Most cruises I have looked at in the past include both those things, which I do not personally agree with or want to be around.

The reason I am telling you what I am doing is that I will not have internet available while I am gone. I have already set up posts to show up each day, so there will be no break in the devotions or other things that I like to post. During this time, however, if you make any comments I will not be able to moderate them until I get back.

Please feel free to make comments. I enjoy knowing what your thoughts are on the different posts that God leads me to write. When I get back I will be sure to read, moderate them, and respond to every post.

I trust God is blessing you with these posts and you are drawing closer to Him each time you read one. I trust that you are reading the Bible more as you follow my posts.

Thank you for reading my posts and being faithful to God. I will be online next Sunday.

Independence Versus Dependence

Fourth of July is a time in America in which people celebrate the independence of America. It celebrates when the young nation had broken away from England to become its own country. They did not want to be controlled by or depend upon any other nation in the world. This new country wanted to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining–independent.

Parents push their children for independence. Once a child gets past the initial baby stage, they strive to work with their child to gain independence. The child learns to hold the bottle himself. Later the child is taught how to walk without holding a hand. Learning to eat with a spoon and fork is taught.

Learning to be independent does not end as a person grows up. It continues as an adult. People have to learn how to work a job and manage their money so that they can live on their own. Most do not want to be dependent upon others to supply their needs and desires.

While it is good to be able to work on your own and provide for your own needs, it is not totally correct.

Just working a job for money, means you are dependent upon someone else. You are dependent upon the boss providing the job with a paycheck. You are dependent upon people purchasing the services of  your boss, so that he can provide the job and the paycheck. You are dependent upon the job that the people have that purchase the services that of your boss so that he can provide you a job and a paycheck. And the connection goes on indefinitely.

No one can really survive completely independent of anyone else. The person who lives alone deep in a forest is still dependent upon others to some degree. Most likely he has a gun or a frying pan that he did not make himself. He relied on someone else to make. He was dependent upon that other person.

Most people will not try to live alone in the forest and may say that this illustration does not apply to them. How many people drive a vehicle to work? Each person that does, is dependent upon those who made the vehicle. They are dependent upon those who made and maintain the roads.

The ultimate dependence a person can have is on God. While people can provide some things and can meet some of the needs of a person, only God can provide absolutely everything. He is the One who gives each person the ability to provide something for someone else. He is the One who provides the materials for anyone to make anything.

Think about it, without God there would be no earth or air. Without the earth or air, you could not exist. God provides the very air you breath and the ground you walk on.

God gave you life when you were born. He breathed life into the body you are now using on this earth.

While independence sounds good, it is not a reality. Everyone is dependent upon someone else. No person is truly independent of anyone else, whether they allow God into the picture of their life or not.

Believers know that they are supposed to be dependent upon God for everything. However, many do not live in that dependence. Many try to do things on their own, and only when it gets really ugly do they cry out to God for help and guidance.

How many times do you try to do something on your own, and then after you fail, you pray to God for His help and favor?

It is easy to think that you can do it. That is the way the world has trained you to think. And there is actually an element of truth in saying that you can do it. You can do all things. However, do not forget the reason why you can do all things. It is because God is with you.

In Christ Jesus you can do all things, because it is He who gave you the ability and power to do them. Again, you are dependent upon Jesus, it is not your own doing or power.

Rely on God to give you the strength, wisdom, and power to do what needs to be done. Do this for everything you do. Live this way each day.

Without God you really cannot do anything. As you rely upon Jesus for your forgiveness of sin and your salvation, so also rely on Him to provide you for your daily needs and guidance.

God is there for you and is not kicking you out to have you be independent. He is not raising you up to be independent. He wants you to be dependent upon Him.

As you celebrate, if you live in America, the independence day of America, remember that you, and America, are still dependent upon others. Keep your dependence upon God, the only One who has absolute power in this world.