5 Love Languages for Kids

March 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Family

Sometimes, something as small as a very short email can start something very big. I received such an email from a friend at Northfield Publishers.

Most of you are probably familiar with the New York Times Best Seller, The 5 Love Languages. It has sold over 7 million copies and is still going strong. It’s been on the NY Times best sellers list for 240 weeks and as of right now is #1 on the appropriate list.

A profile of its author, Dr. Gary Chapman, aired on NBC’s Today show on February 25th. Shortly after the piece–guided by Janet Shamilian–wrapped up, the book skyrocketed to the top of book charts again as viewers scrambled to get their own copies.

It’s a simple but profound book that has changed people’s lives. Elisabeth Hasselbeck of the television show the View held the book up on the show last year and said that it had forever changed her marriage.

Briefly, the idea behind the book is that we all give and receive love differently or we all speak different Love Languages. When we know someone’s Love Language we can more easily and effectively show them our love. The languages are; Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical Touch and Quality Time.

One of the examples that Dr. Chapman uses in his book is of a couple that came to him for counseling when they both felt completely unloved by each other. The husband felt he was doing as he should; he helped with the chores, remodeled the house constantly to match his wife’s vision, kept up the yard and garden and did anything else he could think of to make his wife happy, yet she wasn’t.

Her complaint was that he didn’t spend time with her. Dr. Chapman showed them that the husband’s love language was Acts of Service and the wife’s was Quality Time. The husband was screaming “I love you” in a love language his wife didn’t understand. With the doctor’s help the husband learned to stop doing so much and put aside Quality Time to spend with his wife. She in turn learned to do more things for him and to appreciate the things he was doing for her. Their marriage was not only saved, but a few months later they reported that they were both feeling loved and their marriage was better than it had ever been.

As Gary Chapman traveled the country teaching tens of thousands of couples just like that one about the 5 Love Languages, one question was consistently asked him by parents who’s marriages had been strengthened; “How can we teach our kids about the 5 Love Languages?”

Gary knew that the emotionally healthiest and happiest adults are those who are not only loved as kids, but also taught how to give and receive love. I didn’t know it, but Dr. Chapman was walking around with a passion to develop a book that he could hand to parents that would help them sit down and teach their children how to give and receive love. The problem was–and in his words–“I didn’t know how to do it and I knew I needed someone to work with, who did.”

Dr. Chapman talked about this vision of his with his publisher who is also a friend of mine. The short email I talked about earlier was sent to me from that mutual friend soon afterwards.

The result is a wonderful children’s picture book written by Dr. Gary Chapman and myself called ‘A Perfect Pet for Peyton’.

All those parents who talked to Gary can celebrate; the 5 Love Languages for Kids is here. A book specifically designed to help parents raise kids who know how to give and receive love. Kids will love the engaging story and the amazing illustrations done by Wilson Williams Jr. Parents will love the content and the introduction their kids will get to the 5 Love Languages. There’s even a 5 Love Languages quiz for kids in the back of the book that will help the whole family identify their own love language.

I greatly enjoyed working on this book with Dr. Chapman and we both know that a little email has turned into a big thing for kids and families everywhere. Thank you to everyone involved!

Buy this book at AMAZON

Christians and The Oscars

March 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Rick's Rants

My son writes and plays his own music. He’s also an illustrator and cartoonist. He shows great potential as a writer, and also won the ‘Best Actor’ award in a local inter high school drama festival. I asked him recently if he had prayed about and considered attending film school. I was thinking that a set of gifts like that would lend itself well to film where these gifts all often come together. His response was negative. Not because he didn’t have the desire, but because he has a negative view of what Hollywood represents.

What does Hollywood represent? I have often thought it ironic that some in Hollywood attack the Christian right for being so conservative, and yet are sympathetic to Islamic extremists. Those in Hollywood seem to think that the extremists dislike us (legitimately) because of our bad politics. What I believe is ironic is that the actual reason extremists hate America is because they see us as Hollywood often represents us: as completely secular, atheistic, immoral and as promoters of immorality. The battle between ‘terror’ and ‘the war on terror’ as seen by a suicide bomber is not a political battle, but a battle between the godly and the godless.

I don’t believe that the majority of us in North America are as secular, as atheistic, and as immoral as we are perceived to be, or as Hollywood sometimes paints us to be. Unfortunately, there are many in Hollywood who are this way, and they often use the stage they’re given to try and make the rest of us fall in line.

Last year (2009), the controversy between the right and the left at the Oscars was huge. People protested the Oscars because of the movies that were nominated and what they saw as the movie’s messages. Controversy was stirred up when during the awards broadcast, Shawn Penn—who won Best Actor for his portrayal of a murdered homosexual activist in the movie MILK—belittled California voters for supporting the real definition of marriage. Then controversy was stirred up again when an Oscar was given to Kate Winslet for playing an illiterate escaped Nazi war criminal and pedophile that seduces a 15-year-old boy. And once again when actress Marisa Tomei, who plays a stripper in THE WRESTLER, was applauded for showing that “a stripper doesn’t have to lose her dignity when taking off her clothes”. Later in the show, it didn’t help matters when Bill Maher railed against religion saying, “Someday we’ll have to confront the notion that our silly gods cost the world too greatly.”

Christian and Muslim fundamentalists would have agreed together to turn the show off at this point.

So what do we do? Protest the Oscars? Boycott it and watch a rerun of ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ instead? Perhaps we should stop going to their movies and start ‘Christianwood’? Actually, I think the solution is quite simple and as a group we’ve already been silently implementing it for years.

The bottom line in Hollywood is the bottom line. In 2009 there were big fears that the movie industry would be affected by the economy and the credit crunch. Everyone started to tighten their belts. Whenever the black “money-loss-monster” rears its head, the studios are gripped with a sudden desire to only make movies that they know will make money. Our strategy has been a simple one. Since the love of money is the root of all evil, we need to starve that root and only buy tickets to movies we can—or somewhat can—support morally.

When you compare the money made from four movies released in the same year, it appears that our message is in the money and Hollywood is getting our message. The worldwide take for Maher’s ‘Religulous’ stands at only $13.6 million and Milk’s is at $54.4 million. Whereas ‘Prince Caspian’ has grossed  $419.6 million and even the low-budget ($500,000) ‘Fireproof’ has taken in $33.4 million to date.

I don’t know if it’s a money-coincidence or not, but there’s far fewer extremely controversial films lined up for this years Oscars then there were for last year. Movies in production with Christian and/or family values are apparently on the increase.

Even the Oscars respond to the bottom line. In 2008, the viewership for the award show fell to a record low. It was concluded by many in Hollywood that the reason for this was simple. There seemed to be no correlation between movies that we the people saw and loved, and the ones that were nominated for best picture. Who wants to watch an award show about a bunch of movies you have no interest in and/or you can’t agree with because of its message or content? Many have speculated that this is the reason why the Academy expanded the best picture category to include ten nominees.

Here are the top ten:

Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, Up, Precious, A Serious Man and Up in the Air.

I remember past years when I hadn’t seen and/or wouldn’t see any of the films nominated for best picture. This year I’ve seen Up and Avatar and I’m planning on seeing the Blind Side… three out of ten. Here’s a link to a blog on a Christian movie review site that gives you a synopsis of each of the ten nominees from a Christian perspective.

There were obviously no movies in Bible times, but there was theater and Jesus made reference to it when he used the word ‘hypocrite’. The greek word for hypocrite denotes someone acting out the part of a character in a play. In Greek theater, the actors held masks, painted to be the character they were playing the part of, over their faces. When Jesus used the word hypocrite he was comparing wicked people, who pretend  to be religious, with actors.

When we as Christians watch movies that our consciences tell us we shouldn’t watch, we join Hollywood not only by supporting them with our dollars and helping them misrepresent us to the world, but also by joining the ranks of the actors, professing our Faith but not living it.

I’ll be watching the Oscars this Sunday with my son when he gets back from the play he’s performing in. He may, or may not, join the many talented people in helping to change what Hollywood represents. But for now, we are both looking forward to seeing Sunday night’s results. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Hollywood will look like if we keep voting with our ticket and movie purchases. Perhaps the world, who is watching us through the eyes of Hollywood’s offerings, will one day get a better idea of who most of us are.

If you want to see all the nominations for the major categories of this years Oscars, click through to this video.

How To Twitter The Bible

July 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Rick's Rants

Here’s a piece of trivia that I discovered while writing this post which every Christian Tweep will enjoy. The average Bible verse is 25 words in length and the average number of characters needed to Tweet a Bible verse properly is 140.

There is a huge and growing Christian presence on Twitter and it has become a great place to publish God’s truth. It’s an awesome platform for Christians around the world to speak God’s Word to each other, building each other up and encouraging one other. However, the 140 character limit means that there are many verses in the Bible that cannot be tweeted easily. If we want to leave room for retweeting and a small amount of personal commentary, we are left with even fewer verses that can be tweeted. Therefore, certain shortcuts are being taken to reduce the number of characters needed to tweet a verse.

Which brings me to the primary reason for writing this article. As more and more Christians get on Twitter and join the wonderful and unprecedented global Christian conversation, it would be valuable for us to have some guidelines for tweeting Bible verses. As most of you know, the Bible wasn’t written with chapters and verses, they were added later to help facilitate the reading, studying, referencing and sharing of God’s Word. In other words, they facilitate our conversation over the Bible. Social networking is enhancing that conversation, but with its preference to brevity, it is also changing the conversation’s format and structure. With these changes come the need for new shared guidelines.

For that we need to talk about several things; shortening the text of Bible verses without compromising them, shortening the Bible references (and the importance of tweeting the reference), dealing with Bible versions and their copyright requirements and also how to add helpful commentary while making it clear which words have been added.

1. Using Twitter Shorthand To Tweet The Bible

The acronym-style abbreviations used in texting are obviously not very useful for condensing Bible verses. The words that 143, lol, rofl, btw, etc shorten, do not occur very often in the Bible’s text.

What we can use is the language of Twitter. Twitter language incorporates simple devices that reduce the number of characters needed without compromising readability. Here are the basics:

  • When possible replace words with a single number. (one = 1, to, two and too = 2, four and for = 4 etc.)
  • When possible replace words with a single letter. (be = B, see = c, are and our = r, you = u, why = y)
  • Of course there are combinations of the above. (before = B4 etc.)
  • Hybrid words using the above work as well. (4tune, 4got, 4get, gr8)
  • Don’t forget to use the symbols when you can. (and = &, at = @ etc.
  • As long as it’s still immediately obvious what the word is, feel free to leave out letters. (the = th, that = tht, work = wrk etc.)
  • Spell phonetically when it allows you to save characters. (luv, giv, sry, thx, thru) We need to use this sparingly on only the obvious and secondary words or the reading becomes laborious.

The great thing about Twitter language is that you don’t have to learn or memorize it. Once you understand the concepts, they’re easy to apply; use numbers, symbols and single letters when you can and shorten words by eliminating letters and/or spelling phonetically when possible.

These rules don’t compromise the scriptures integrity or readability and since just the words to, for and be occur in the Bible a total of more than 35,000 times, these shortcuts really help.

2. Twittering Bible Verse References in a Compact Way

Including the reference for the Bible verses that you tweet is important. If a person is encouraged by the verse, they may want to look it up and benefit from the context and a deeper reading. If the person reading it is not familiar with the verse and you’ve left off the reference, then the tweet no longer carries the authority of scripture because the reader doesn’t know where it came from.

Traditionally, if you wanted to quote the first verse from Ecclesiastes 3, you’d need to follow the verse with (Ecclesiastes 3:1) That’s 18 characters. Fortunately you can use the abbreviation (Eccles. 3:1) or the even shorter one (Eccl 3:1). We have these shortened versions because in the past an ever increasing need for brevity has called for their creation. Now a new need calls for even shorter abbreviations.

If we remove the parenthesis, which aren’t necessary, and eliminate the spaces, we save characters without losing clarity. Further, most Bible book abbreviations can be reduced down to two or three letters. That would reduce our example reference to Ec3:1, down from 18 characters to five.

Here’s my table of Twitterized Bible book abbreviations:

 

Genesis Gn Job Jb Habakkuk Hb Colossians Cl
Exodus Ex Psalms Ps Zephaniah Zp 1 Thessalonians 1Th
Leviticus Lv Proverbs Pr Haggai Hg 2 Thessalonians 2Th
Numbers Nm Ecclesiastes Ec Zachariah Zc 1 Timothy 1Tm
Deuteronomy Dt Song of Songs Sg Malachi Ml 2 Timothy 2Tm
Joshua Jo Isaiah Is (New Testament)   Titus Ti
Judges Jg Jeremiah Jr Matthew Mt Philemon Pm
Ruth Ru Lamentations Lm Mark Mk Hebrews He
1 Samuel 1S Ezekiel Ez Luke Lk James Ja
2 Samuel 2S Daniel Dn John Jn 1 Peter 1P
1 Kings 1K Hosea Hs Acts Ac 2 Peter 2P
2 Kings 2K Joel Jl Romans Ro 1 John 1J
1 Chronicles 1Ch Amos Am 1 Corinthians 1Co 2 John 2J
2 Chronicles 2Ch Obadiah Ob 2 Corinthians 2Co 3 John 3J
Ezra Ez Jonah Jon Galatians Gl Jude Ju
Nehemiah Ne Micah Mi Ephesians Ep Revelation Rv

 

If you’d like to see a table that shows all of the Bible books and all of their abbreviations (as they’ve got progressively shorter over the years) you can find it here.

Another very obvious way to Twitter Bible verses and keep the character count down is to only tweet part of the verse. Many verses contain more than one sentence and it’s alright to just tweet the one that you’d like to share. (Remember the verse divisions were added later.) Galatians 5:6 has two sentences and the second one is short and can stand alone as an inspirational tweet, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” When we chop up a verse some feel it’s necessary to add a letter to the reference to let people know that you are not quoting the whole verse. To do this (if you feel so inclined) identify the first sentence with the letter ‘a’ the second with a ‘b’ etc. So the above verse would be referenced Gl5:6b.

If we chop a verse up in the middle of a sentence we shouldn’t add an arbitrary period. Some use three periods (…) to show that the sentence continues but since that uses 3 characters, I suggest an underscore (_).

3. Bible Versions & Copyrights

The copyright holders of all modern Bible translations allow us to quote from their version without using a full copyright notice as long as we publish their logo acronym with the verse (NIV, NLT etc). However, Tweeps are not including the required copyright notation merely because it uses up an additional 3 or 4 characters. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest a compromise. The key word, the one that makes the version’s name unique is often represented by the middle initial(s). If we use only these one or two letters, it is still clear which version we are quoting from and I’m thinking that the copyright holders would rather have that than nothing.

Here are my suggested new logo abbreviations for some of the most popular Bible versions:

 

New International Version NIV I
New King James Version NKJV NK
New Living Translation NLT L
The Message MSG M
New American Standard NAS NA
New Century Version NCV NC
Today’s New International Version TNIV TI
Amplified Translation AT A
New Revised Standard Version NRSV NR
(Copyright © 2009 Lightwave Publishing Inc.)  

 

4. Bible Commentary (Twittertary)

I find that adding personal Bible commentary helps make your Bible tweets more relevant to Twitter. They don’t get scan-read as quickly, they can be made relevant to the current trending topics and they start conversations more readily. For us to ensure that the readers know which words are ours, we should use this order; verse, reference, twittertary. This order clearly separates the Bible’s words from yours. Here are a few examples:

What is important is faith expressing itself in love. Gl5:6bL When R love is showing so is R Faith. : )

As iron sharpens iron as a friend sharpens a friend. Pr27:17L _or as a follower sharpens a follower. : )

If Bible Twittertary is all we are tweeting, we should still include the reference that supports the comment. In this case we can simply use the letter ‘C’ for ‘see.’

When we R not acting in love we R not expressing & living R Faith. : ) C Ga5:6

Just for fun I did an online search of over 25 versions of the Bible and found the word ‘twitter’ twice; once in the NASB and once in The Message. In both verses the authors (David and Hezekiah) were praying and they compared the noises they made while praying to God for help to the twitter of a bird.

Like a swallow, {like} a crane, so I twitter; I moan like a dove; My eyes look wistfully to the heights; O Lord, I am oppressed, be my security. Isa 38:14 NASB

Insomniac, I twitter away, mournful as a sparrow in the gutter. Ps 102:7 The Message

David and Hezekiah twittered before the Lord and now we all benefit from reading about it. Likewise, our tweets should benefit and minister God’s truth to our readers. This new system for brevity can help us all do that well in 140 characters.

Two last tweets:

Let everything U say B good & helpful, so tht your wrds will B an encouragement 2 those who hear them. Ep4:29b Words & tweets. : )

Insomniac, I twitter away, mournful as a sparrow in the gutter. Ps102:7M Apparently twittering kept David up as well. : )

Heaven’s Tears

May 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Encouragement, Rick's Rants

A popular song called, ‘I Can Only Imagine’ invites us to imagine what it will be like when we meet up with Jesus after our death. Although I absolutely love the song, there’s one thing I wonder about when I hear it. The song doesn’t contemplate or mention the possibility of tears. Probably because of a certain verse in the book of Revelation.

He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world, and it’s evils are gone forever. (Revelation 21:4 NLT)

There will be no sorrow or crying or pain because the old world will have passed away. In other words, there will be nothing to cause sorrow, pain and tears. No sin, no selfish hurtful people, no fallen planet with it’s disasters, no sickness or disease, etc.

That will be wonderful! However, again I wonder about the tears. Doesn’t it seem to you like there’s a place in Heaven for the good kind of tears? This morning during my prayer time, I felt a wonderful connection with God that brought me to tears. Sometimes when I hold my wife or hug my children, attend a wedding or even think of how much I love my granddaughter, I’m moved to tears.

Yes, I’m a sentimental guy, but I’m in good company. The Bible records David crying a lot and once he’s mentioned as weeping until he had no strength left to cry. Then there’s Jeremiah the weeping prophet who wept over God’s people, their refusal to listen to God and their coming destruction.

Out of all the weeping Bible characters though, my personal favorite is Joseph. When his brothers (who had sold him as a slave and thought he was dead) came to Egypt, he secretly overheard them lamenting what they had done to him and he wept. Joseph wept again when he was reunited with his younger brother Benjamin. When he finally told his brothers who he was, forgiveness and love flowed. The Bible said he wept so loudly that he was heard throughout the palace. When he was reunited with his dad, the Bible says that Joseph hugged him and wept on his shoulder for a long time. When his dad died, Joseph threw himself on his body and wept over him and kissed him.

David and Jeremiah cried mostly as a result of sin – and the sorrow that it left in it’s wake. Joseph’s weeping came mostly when relationship was restored, needed to be restored or because it was (in the case of his dad’s death) temporarily suspended.

Let’s not forget the Bible’s most famous verse about tears, ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35). A verse recorded when Jesus arrived on the scene to raise His good friend Lazarus from the dead and saw everyone else weeping. The Bible records that twice during this event, Jesus was deeply moved. So was that just something Jesus did as a man? Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” Jesus represented God in everything he did, even in his tears. The ability to be deeply moved and show emotions are something God gave us from Himself.

I love what happened when Mary Magdalene and Jesus were reunited after Jesus’ resurrection.

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:10 – 16)

In a moment Mary went from tears of grief, confusion and pain, to tears of joy, amazement and thankfulness. Notice the angels and our Lord didn’t object to Mary’s tears. They only questioned her reason, “Why are you crying?”

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would comfort those who mourn by replacing beauty for ashes, joy for mourning and praise for despair. (Isaiah 61:3) It’s true that ashes (devastation), mourning (loss) and despair (hopelessness) all cause sorrowful tears. However, beauty (restoration), joy (hope) and praise (thankfulness) also cause tears, but the kind we love to shed.

Before the fall, God created Adam and Eve with tear ducts and the ability to cry, weep and shed tears. Although I look forward to the day that there will be no sorrowful reasons to weep, I believe that tears of beauty, joy and praise should flow now and I’m hoping for all eternity. I believe that the book of Revelation is talking about tears of sorrow and not the tears our tear ducts were created to shed.

For those of you who think that heaven will be relatively emotionless and therefore practicing stoic frigidity now, my advice to you is to stop balling it all up inside and let it loose! God is love and he invented it’s emotion, it’s expression, and it’s tears. When you’re connecting with God and those you love, don’t be afraid to wear your love on your sleeve. Those tears bring God glory!

For those of you who are shedding tears of sorrow, don’t give way to despair. God has promised you restoration and has given you reason to hope and be thankful. He understands your tears and what you’ve been through and he’s there to comfort you. He’s also gently asking you, “Why are you crying?” because he wants you to look to him with hope, faith and expectation, trusting that he will turn your tears of sorrow into tears of restoration and joy.

The fact that the song (I Can Only Imagine) leaves out the possibility of tears becomes ironic when you realize how many of us have cried listening to it. If the very thought of seeing our Lord on that day brings us to tears, what will hold them back when it really happens? I don’t know about you, but I can imagine what I’ll be doing, I’ll be pulling a Joseph and breaking down and weeping tears of joy in His loving arms. And you better hope you’re not in the lineup behind me because I’ll be there for a long time.

For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out The Singing Bible.

-

-

-

-

-

(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)

Be Still

March 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Encouragement

To say that I had a lot of stuff on the go would have been a massive understatement. I was doing a major renovation on the home that I had just bought, I was trying to sub-divide part of the property and resell it, I was building my ministry/business for which I had several large publishing projects underway, I was the associate pastor of a new church that was growing like a weed and I had just become a new dad. You could say that I was starting to feel like I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew. Over and above those pressures, I was also getting to know my banker quite well since I was dealing with a mortgage, a second mortgage for renovations and a small business loan and in order for everything to work out financially, I needed to meet my business and renovation deadlines and sell part of my property.

Now I had sincerely and thoroughly prayed about each item on the above list before moving forward and I thought I was trusting God to get me to the other side of my mini Red Sea adventure before the walls of water came crashing back down. However, without really noticing it, I had slipped into worry mode.

I was walking from one thing to the next and my mind was racing, worrying, and trying to figure out how all this could possibly work out when something happened that I had never experienced before or since. I heard God call my name, loudly. I can’t tell you if I heard it outside of me or inside or both, but I do know the voice was stern but loving and I somehow knew beyond any doubt that it was God.

The call was so sudden and loud that all of my thoughts and my legs stopped abruptly at the same time. I was still and God had my complete attention. Here’s what flashed through my mind in the next few seconds. “Did you give your whole life to God and entrust Him with it?” Of course the answer was, “Yes Lord”. Then these words followed, “So are you saying (by my worrying and fretting) that God is not a good steward over the things He’s been given charge of?”

Standing there stone still on the sidewalk of a semi busy street I did not literally go to my knees but I did in my heart. I instantly realized how much worrying and doubting that I was doing and I asked God to please forgive me and to help me keep my mind focused on Him, His promises, His love for me and His amazing ability. When I could get my feet moving again, I carried on calmly and from that moment on whenever I started to slip back into worry mode, I stopped in my tracks and reconnected with God.

Remember the Sunday morning chorus, “Be Still and Know That I Am God?” I loved the song and the verse (Psalms 46:10) but for years I (sadly) looked at in in a very poetic way; you know, as a beautiful thought without much practical application except for in a worship service. I was so wrong. When we start to worry and fret, our minds are anything but still and our trust in God is anything but active. When God stopped me, He made me still and He got me thinking about who He was, what he’d promised and what He was capable of doing. In other words, “Stop, still your mind, stop worrying and know that He is GOD, with all that, that means; He is capable, powerful, faithful, loving, all knowing, trustworthy, with you, for you, willing to help, your Father in Heaven.”

In a nutshell, stop worrying about what could go wrong and start focusing on what God will do.

In preparation for this blog, I looked up the words ‘be still’ in the Bible and found it there seven times and each one shows us something wonderful about the practice of being still.

The first time the two word phrase is mentioned in the Bible Moses and the Israelites were caught between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea.

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.
(Exodus 14:10 – 16)

The Israelites were freaking out and Moses told them to be still and showed them who God was and what He was capable of. Are you between a rock and a hard place right now? Stop and be still, focus on God and His ability to help you instead of the problem’s ability to harm you. God is greater than the problem.

The second time the phrase occurs was when Nehemiah and Ezra were reacquainting God’s people with His law.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.” (Nehemiah 8:9 – 11)

Why were they weeping and mourning? Because they and their ancestors had not measured up to God’s law and they were probably not sure that they could. Are you fretting because you feel like you haven’t measured up to God’s expectations and/or you feel like you can’t. Be still and rejoice because the joy of the Lord is your strength. In other words, don’t focus on your inability, focus on the fact that Jesus died for you because you couldn’t do it on your own. He’s promised to work His righteousness in you. It’s the joy of knowing that the Lord died for you and will work in you and help you that is your strength.

The third mention is as wonderful.

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
(Psalms 37:3 – 7)

When we are faithfully following and trusting God, He takes care of us, keeps us safe, gives us things to enjoy, gives us our heart’s desires, guides us and works His righteousness in us. However, sometimes we lose hope because we don’t see it happening the way we expected it to and we see others who don’t do things God’s way doing well and we see wickedness succeeding. The Word says be still, get your eyes on God and what He can do and wants to do in your life, and then wait patiently. His timing is perfect.

The fourth time ‘be still’ appears it carries a timely message.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. “Selah”
Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
“Selah”
(Psalms 46:6 – 11)

It’s easy to get unsettled when looking at what’s going on in the world, war, genocide, famine, natural disasters and global recession. However, God reminds us here that we should be still and know that He’s in control. His plan for the nations is on track and He is Almighty and well able to care for us His children during tough times. Are you fretting because of what you’re seeing in the news or because of the economy? Be still and know He is The Lord Almighty.

The next Biblical appearance reminds us of why we can be still.

For the day has come to destroy all the Philistines and to cut off all survivors who could help Tyre and Sidon. The LORD is about to destroy the Philistines, the remnant from the coasts of Caphtor.
Gaza will shave her head in mourning; Ashkelon will be silenced. O remnant on the plain, how long will you cut yourselves?
” ‘Ah, sword of the Lord,’ [ you cry,] ‘how long till you rest? Return to your scabbard; cease and be still.’
But how can it rest when the LORD has commanded it,
when he has ordered it to attack Ashkelon and the coast?”
(Jeremiah 47:4 – 7)

We can be still because the sword of the Lord (His Word, His promise) is not. The Philistines in our lives (whatever plagues us and comes against us) are being pursued and taken care of by our Father in Heaven who cares for us. We can be still and know that He is God and He’s at work!

Are you fretting because the world seems to be going to hell (literally) in a hand basket.

“Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord.
“Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.
The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem.
Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”
(Zechariah 2:10 – 12)

God’s salvation plan is on track. HE IS GOD! Instead of worrying and complaining about the direction we see the world around us going in, we can be still and know that He’s in control and with that confidence, get up and start doing our part to further His Kingdom.

Jesus knew the Old Testament back to front when he was here on earth. So although he doesn’t say so, when he used the words ‘be still’ he knew the context. Here’s the seventh and final Biblical use of these two wonderful words:

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:38 – 41)

The disciples found themselves in the middle of a storm and they were freaking out because they thought that they were going to die. They woke Jesus up and He told the wind and the waves to be still. Then he basically asked them why they had not been still. I find it interesting that the disciples were left asking, “Who is this?” Was Jesus saying to his disciples, “Be still and know that I am God”?

When we’re not calm, the storm can overwhelm us. But when we’re still and know that He is God, He overcomes the storm.

We can BE STILL (stop worrying and fretting) in the midst of the storm when personal troubles abound, when a global recession hits, when we don’t think we can measure up or make it through, when we see the world around us taking the wrong course, because HE IS GOD! He is able, He is in control, His plan is on track and He loves us. As we trust Him, His promises and His efforts on our behalf, are never still.

The story I opened with happened long ago but I learned a valuable lesson that I’ve never forgotten. The basement suite was finished on time and the renters moved in and the publishing projects were all completed on time. Through a wonderful set of God arranged circumstances, the property was sub-divided and sold faster than I had imagined possible, the church kept growing and I was able to spend valuable time each day with my wonderful new daughter. Everything worked out perfectly and after my sidewalk encounter, I started to enjoy the process because I wasn’t frantic with fretting.

As an added bonus, years later when I sold that house, I did the math and was amazed at Gods goodness. I added up every expense including mortgage payments, property taxes, renovation costs, maintenance etc. Then I added up the money in rent, the money from selling part of the property, the net proceeds of the sale etc. and it turned out that I not only lived in that home for free for six years, but I also made a large profit beyond that.

More importantly I learned that “be still and know that I am God” isn’t just a wonderful poetic line from Psalms, but a life changing habit and constant reminder that Jesus is in my boat. Whenever I start to slip back into worry, I return to that still moment on the sidewalk, reconnect with God and move forward in peace knowing that He is God.

What are you fretting about right now? Use this moment to start develop the Bible’s diagnosed habit for arresting worry, be still and know that He is God.

For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out The Singing Bible.

-

-

-

-

-

(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)

Five Dollar Fridays

February 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Economy

On the morning of February 9th while running stationary on my treadmill, I watched President Obama speak live from Elkhart Indiana where the unemployment rate is now over 15%. That evening I again saw the President live. This time he was addressing the nation about the need for his stimulus package. Later, propped up in my bed, this news junkie watched a show that compared the Great Depression to what is happening in our economy today.

The one thing that struck me, the one continually trumpeted common thread running through it all, was the urgent need to restore consumer confidence. In the great depression, people lost confidence in the banks and began to stuff their mattresses with any remaining cash and hoard it. With everyone hanging on to their money, businesses began to suffer and had to lay people off. As the unemployment rate increased more and more, people sat more firmly on their cash-stuffed mattresses and the vicious cycle continued. In the end, thirteen million people ended up unemployed. According to Wikipedia, that meant that 34 million people were members of families with no wage earner. Even though today’s unemployment figures do not compare with the greater than 25% unemployment rate of the Great Depression, where will we end up if consumer confidence is not restored?

President Obama said that a further erosion of confidence could lead us into deeper economic trouble and the stats testify to this truth. With every passing month, the number of people spending decreases and the amount of layoffs announced increases. Everyone knows that this stimulus package must restore consumer confidence because there just isn’t enough money to turn the economy around without it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt became President of the United States in the midst of the Great Depression and expressed the same thoughts in his famous inaugural speech, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear… is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

I fell asleep with my mind awash with news flashes and facts but three hours later I was staring at the ceiling with my mind more focused on what was bothering me; the math! There’s almost 400 million people living in the United States and Canada. If 700 billion is injected into the US economy, that represents about $1,750.00 per person. If the government wrote checks to every man, woman and child for that amount, would it turn the economy around? More than likely not. Why? Because we’d put it in our proverbial mattresses until our confidence returned.

As I lay wide awake thinking, in the wee hours of the morning, another famous line from an inaugural speech pulled my thoughts in another direction. Nearing the end of his short, but legendary inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”

President Obama said that the only organization with enough resources to avert financial disaster is the government of the United States and that brought to my mind even more weighty and historic words, “We the people…” Less than $2,000.00 a person will not guarantee recovery but we the people can if we’re willing to pull together and ask what we can do for our economy and our children’s future.

Laying there, restless and wishing I could sleep, the words ‘Five Dollar Fridays’ repeated themselves over and over until they were etched in my brain and I quietly got up to write this post. What I’m about to propose is simple logic and even simpler math. However, I’m convinced that if enough people catch the vision, we the people, truly the only organization with enough resources, can avert disaster.

Why $5 bills? Because of several amazing coincidences that tie the $5 dollar bill to what we’re talking about.

In 1933, as an emergency response to the Great Depression, tons of money was printed and pumped into the American economy. A special $5 bill was introduced for the task.

The most recent version of the $5 bill began circulating on March 13, 2008 right around the time that this current recession reportedly started.

The President who appears stoic and unmoved on both of these versions of the $5 bill is Abraham Lincoln. A president who some would say led the people of the United States through the greatest internal struggle of it’s history, and most would say played a huge part in preparing the way for Barak Obama to be able to become President of the United States.

February 12th 2009, is the commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

For all of the reasons stated above, I believe that we the people should step up, not relying on what the government can do for us, but what we can do for the country and flood the economy ourselves with this new $5 bill in celebration of President Lincoln’s birthday and use his bill to again fight the internal crisis we face.

If on this Friday and every successive Friday, every individual and family (in the US and Canada) heads out to the market place and spends just $5 (a symbol of the movement) per person, more than what they would have otherwise spent, 2 billion dollars will be injected into the economy in one day. We must not go into debt to do this, that’s a big part of how we got into this mess. Some won’t be able to afford even this, but in the spirit of community, those of us who can afford to spend more, could give more and also give to those around us who can’t so they can get involved.

If those who can afford to spend many $5 bills do spend more, we’ll easily quadruple our one day goal and 8 billion dollars will be injected directly into the blood stream of our economy.

What if businesses small and large were to get involved and help motivate everyone with $5 specials on ‘Five Dollar Fridays?’ We could inject even more cash and more consumer confidence. As an added bonus, Fridays would become a community day-out with everyone having fun while we’re all solving our crisis together.

No one knows how long it will take the economy to turn around and many doubt that trickling down $2,000 per person will help speed recovery in a huge way. However, everyone agrees that restored consumer confidence is what we need. If we celebrate a year of ‘Five Dollar Fridays’, as the excitement and ripple effect spreads, over 500 billion dollars will have been shot right into our local and national economies with probably a far greater economic impact than the 700 billion provided from the government, and all without incurring any further debt.

In President Barak Obama’s inaugural address he said, “For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.”

In Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address he said this, “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.”

This Friday, after a good night’s sleep, I’m going out with my family and a bunch of $5 bills and I’m going to do my part. Will you join me for the recovery party?

Yes WE can do this!

For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out Teaching Your Child to Pray.


-

-

-

-

(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)

Super Bowl or Gospel Bowl?

January 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Sports

There are many sports writers who write about Faith when a top athlete is both a contender and a Christian. So I thought that I, a Faith writer, should return the favor and write about sports for the same reason. Especially since I’m an avid football fan and I’ll be watching the Super Bowl.

The outspoken Christian athlete that’s getting all of the sports writers attention is the Arizona Cardinal’s QB Kurt Warner who will be leading his team against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 43. When the Cardinals won the NFC playoff game, pretty much the first thing Kurt said in his interview was, “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Kurt Warner is quite vocal about his Faith. Once, when he appeared on Oprah, he was told that he had about three sentences. So he decided to use the second sentence to talk about Jesus, figuring that it would be harder for them to cut it out. They cut it out, anyway.

However, before talking about Mr. Warner any further, I would like to look at some other ways that we, the Body of Christ, have tried and are trying to use the Super Bowl (and other sporting events) to spread the Word. More specifically, I’d like to start a discussion about their effectiveness and what the Bible says about our efforts. Let me say in advance, I’m filing this post under ‘Rick’s rants’ so be ready for it, and if you disagree, jump on in, your comments are welcome. : )

First let me address something that frankly doesn’t make any sense to me at all, the John 3:16 signs. I’ve supplied a link to a video explaining how these signs became part of our pop culture. Briefly, a man named Rollen Stewart, aka ‘The Rainbow Man’ (because he wore a large multicolored wig) was the one who made the now famous sporting event sign famous. Rollen started out trying to make a name for himself by appearing on camera at sporting events dancing with his wig on. He preplanned his position and watch the game on a small portable TV so he’d know when to dance. He got a lot of press.

One night in a hotel room, he watched a televangelist and gave his life to Christ. Shortly after that, he started showing up with the John 3:16 sign with the same wig and strategy, but this time, his motivation was to promote the gospel with his few seconds of camera time. He appeared everywhere and again got a ton of exposure and the John 3:16 sign became an expected sight at sporting events.

Unfortunately, Rollen got banned from sporting events for his antics, and his gospel publicity stunt ideas started to get weird. His last one involved a gun and a kidnapping. He’s currently serving three life sentences behind bars. Something that seemed like a good thing did not end well.

Something is happening at this year’s Super Bowl that reminds me of Rollen’s sign. This year’s festivities are in Florida and one group of Christians have hired an aerial ad company to fly over the Super Bowl towing this message, ‘The Super Bowl champion is Jesus’.

The Bible says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” and, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14, 17)

There was a time in our culture when there was prayer and Bible reading in schools and tent meetings on every corner. Maybe then, a scripture reference or short sign, might have reminded people of what they already knew and caused them to respond. However, we now live in a society where very few of the people who need the Gospel, know this scripture reference. Those who do, have no idea what it means and more specifically, what it should mean to them.

The gospel isn’t a Bible verse or a slogan. It’s the most incredible story ever told, and the message of God’s grace and salvation. God meant for us to ‘go’ explain it and share it with our neighbors, not flash them a sign. I’m not saying that God can’t use these signs in some way. However, expecting someone who needs to hear the Gospel to get saved, by seeing one of these signs, is kind of like trusting that you can get your teenager to pass his grade ten math exam, just by showing him the cover of the text book.

If you must flash a sign, then how about one that communicates part of God’s message to everyone like ‘Jesus loves you.’ Also, what does ‘The Super Bowl champion is Jesus’ mean? If you must use a football metaphor in the message, how about ‘You are Jesus’ #1 draft choice’. Corny, but at least it communicates a small part of the Gospel message.

I probably have a few of you ready to comment already, but stick with me for a bit. Let’s talk about players who feel that ‘giving God the glory’, for a win or a great play, is their responsibility and somehow makes a difference. Players will either use their words or their index fingers to point to heaven in order to fulfill this obligation.

There are many Bible verses in the New Testament that talk about giving God the glory. I’ll list some of the key ones below so that you can do a study on your own. For now though, let me give you a brief summary of the concept. In John 9:24, the Pharisees confront a man who was born blind, yet healed by Jesus, and they tell him to ‘Give God the Glory’. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, at the time this phrase was an idiom that meant ‘Confess your sins’. Or in other words, credit should be given to God for whatever is accomplished in you or through you because you’re nothing but a sinner.

Essentially that sums up the New Testaments position on giving God the glory. We are saved by faith in His grace and we cannot boast because nothing we do or have done puts us in God’s good books. It’s what Jesus did and is doing through the Holy Spirit in us. So as we trust God to not only initially save us, but also to work in us and change us into the image of Christ, we give God the glory (credit) for initiating and completing the work. When we bear fruit as Christians, God gets the glory because others see what kind of people we have become and marvel at the change, and we point towards heaven to assign credit. (John 15:8, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:15, Philippians 1:11, Hebrews 13:21) Also, when we go through trouble and let God help us and guide us through it, that also brings glory to God. When we trust him to use the gifts he’s given us to administer his grace, (which is ministering to others), then again he gets the credit for what is accomplished through us. (1 Peter 1:7, 4:10, 11) All of which, I’m sorry to say, have nothing to do with playing football.

Many years ago, I went to watch my younger brother play hockey. He was always good at sports. As he headed for the ice, I told him that I’d pray for him to do well. He turned on me and sternly said. “Don’t! I want to do it, I want to try hard, work hard and get good.” Wow! He set me on my heels. What he had understood was that if I prayed, God would do it for him, or through him. The Bible tells us “The glory of young men is their strength”. ( Prov 20:29 ) God allows us the dignity and reward that comes from working hard at something and doing well at it. What I wanted to pray was that God would help my brother do his best, give him wisdom to learn more about hockey, that sort of thing. Christian NFL players don’t make a great play because God did it. If that was the case, every play they executed would be great and only the Christian players would get the great plays. Also, God doing it for a player would be cheating, and God doesn’t cheat.

These players are good, and even great, at what they do because they’ve worked hard, practiced hard and studied hard. They deserve credit for that. Do we tell our kids when they use their manners well, get an ‘A’ on an exam, or do well at a recital, “Give the Glory to God Junior”? I wonder what message our kids are getting when they see and hear players do that; perhaps ‘You don’t need to work hard, just believe’, or ‘You’ll always be successful if you’re a Christian.’

Now I know when some players point to the sky, it could just be a brief call out to say that God is good, but that’s not what comes across to those who don’t believe. It’s alright to just say, “I had a good game, I’m on a good team and God is good!”

It seems to me that much of what we’ve already talked about doesn’t help promote the Gospel. Often it hurts us because outsiders get the idea that we’re religious nuts who don’t know how to just be normal and enjoy a football game.

Having said that, here are some things I think do help. When players get seriously injured and you see other players go to one knee and sincerely start to pray for their fellow player, that sends a message of God’s love. Have you noticed that the camera operators and production teams don’t avoid these shots like they do the signs? Why? Because even the unbelievers see it as an act of caring and compassion, and not as a sound bite or camera shot meant to steel attention and promote a cause.

How about events like this year’s 10th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration? I’ve never been to one, but I think it would be great. The event clearly states what it’s about and it’s not only a chance for the Christian players to fellowship together, but a chance for them to say (by attending) what they believe.

Finally, I want to talk about what I believe is the most Biblical and powerful way that the Gospel is spread at the Super Bowl, and for that I come back to Kurt Warner as promised. If Kurt was like so many other professional sports players who just point at the sky or thank God after a win, his Faith would not be getting so much press.

It’s who Kurt Warner is, and how he lives out his Faith, that is getting attention. Remember what the Bible says about God getting the glory. Here’s a Christian man who puts family first, loves his wife and kids, attends church faithfully, has his own charity that helps disabled children (see video), he gives back and volunteers, uses his money to further the gospel and help others. When he struggles, he looks to Jesus for strength and help, and credits him for that strength. He isn’t getting attention by what he says, he’s getting attention because he’s trusting God to make him into Christ’s image, and people are marveling at who he is. So when he says his life is about Jesus, glory really does go to God.

How you play on the field (or how you do in any profession) may get you a podium, but it’s how you behave and live your life in Christ that will give you the right to speak from that podium.

No matter what you think of the above methods, it seems to me that the most effective way to spread the Gospel in sports events such as the Super Bowl, is the same way it’s done in every other area of life: by having Christians get involved and let their light shine through their work ethic, character, humility and generosity.

Enjoy, the Super Bowl, I know I’m going to. Go Kurt! Win or lose, you’ve already won!

For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out The Singing Bible.

-

-

-

-

-

(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)

Praying for Obama

January 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Politics

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1 – 4, NIV)

Some may not be familiar with the actual verses above, but we’ve all been introduced to the idea that every Christian’s prayer list should include the need for praying for our leaders. We even teach our children to pray for us, their teachers, our church leaders, and our political leaders around election time. On special political occasions, such as during an inauguration, we include these prayers in our family prayer times.

Nothing new, however, here’s my challenge. Does the Bible tell us how we should pray or what we should pray and/or teach our children to pray? The standard prayer seems to be one of asking God to guide our leaders and give them wisdom to make the right decisions. Is that what Paul meant when he wrote the verse? Is there more to it? I taught the standard leader wisdom prayers to my own children. However, somewhere down inside I always thought that there must be more to it then that and it turns out that there is.

The point of this blog is to help you understand Biblically what to pray, and how to pray for our leaders so that you can not only do it, but also teach your children to do it. Whether you voted for President Barak Obama or not, we are all called to pray for him and as you’ll see from reading this post, with good reason. At the end of the blog, I’ve included a sample prayer for the new president that you and your family can use as a guide. (Whether you live in the USA or not, Barak Obama’s decisions will probably effect you. So pray for him and also the leaders of your country.)

Let’s start with a basic rule for Bible study; Studying the Bible is like investing in real estate. The most important three things are location, location and location (context, context and context). For clarity of understanding, we must read each passage in its context which includes the intent of the author. In order to discover intent, we must know something about the person writing. One way that we do that is to familiarize ourselves with everything else that author wrote in the Bible. Another way is to know something about when and where the author lived and who he or she was.

Of course the most basic rule (the first ‘location’) is to read each verse in the context of its surrounding verses so lets do that first. In this case, Paul sums up why he tells us to pray for everyone everywhere and to pray for leaders in verse four;for he (God) wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. (NLT)

In other words, the reason God wants us to pray for everyone everywhere, is so they’ll be saved. He also wants us to pray for our leaders so that we have the peace and quiet we need to go about doing what he’s called us to do, which is to grow his Kingdom and spread the gospel without opposition from (and perhaps even with support from) our leaders and government. Again, so everyone can be saved.

Ever notice that in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus did not pray for leaders? Jesus wasn’t giving us a prayer to pray, he was teaching us how to pray. When we pray for our leaders, our prayers must follow our Lord’s example or template, so our prayer would fall under “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that our leaders work in agreement and not opposition to His Kingdom and His will.

Moving on to the second ‘location’ or context consideration, Paul wrote these verses when Nero was ruling Rome right around the time he started persecuting the church and doing everything he could to capture and kill Christians. Church history has it that not long after Paul wrote these verses, Nero falsely blamed the Christians and specifically Paul for burning Rome and had Paul put to death. Paul had a dream, he envisioned a time when the government would stop standing in God’s way and Paul called the church to pray to that end.

Let’s look at the verses in Timothy in the New Living Translation; I urge you, first of all to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority..

When I read these verses in the New Living Translation, something jumped out at me. Something that requires the next level of ‘location’ or context to understand.

Before Paul’s conversion, he was a Pharisee and he had been thoroughly trained in the law under a well known teacher, Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3, Philippians 3:5) In other words, he knew God’s Word and most everything he wrote in the New Testament was built on what he knew from the Old.

So was Paul thinking of any Old Testament passages and/or stories when he wrote these verses?” The words that jumped out at me were, “…plead for God’s mercy on them…”.

Take a look at these verses from Daniel’s very well known prayer for Israel found in Daniel chapter nine.

So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame–the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; (Daniel 9:4 – 9)

Daniel pleaded with God, Paul asks us to do the same. Daniel prayed for all Israelites everywhere, Paul placed the prayer in a New Testament context and instructed us to pray for everyone, everywhere. Daniel included Israel’s Kings and leaders, Paul tells us to pray for our leaders. Daniel prayed for God’s mercy, Paul said that we should plead for God’s mercy.

It was natural for Paul to think of the time of the Babylonian captivity because although the Israelite’s were at home in Israel when he wrote these verses, they were being occupied and ruled by a foreign king. The main thing that Paul changes is that he puts it all into a New Testament context. It’s no longer about the Israelites and their leaders, but about all people everywhere and the leaders of all nations.

I believe that Daniel’s powerful prayer was what Paul was jumping off of, but in order to discover more about what Paul was asking us to pray and why, we need to look a little further into what happened with the Babylonian and Persian kings when God’s people prayed. Remember, in the new context that Paul put Daniel’s prayer into, the leaders who need our prayer are no longer only Israel’s leaders, but the leaders of the nations as they were in Daniel’s time.

During the time of the exile, Daniel prayed and God moved on the heart of King Cyrus to agree to let the Israelites go home and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1). The King even paid for the materials. (Ezra 6:1 – 5) Then when the project was being opposed, King Darius (the same king who was involved in Daniel’s lion den experience) ordered those in opposition to not only stop interfering, but also that all expenses were to be paid for by the royal treasury.

Years later when Nehemiah heard that the walls of Jerusalem were still not rebuilt, he prayed and asked God to grant him favor with King Artaxerxes. He got it. The king gave him permission to go and rebuild the walls. He also sent a small army with Nehemiah and agreed to supply the lumber for the project. (Nehemiah 1, 2)

Again, when the Jewish people faced complete destruction, God used Esther and her Uncle Mordecai with the fasting prayers of his people to turn the King’s heart and God’s people were rescued.

One comment by one of these kings paints a wonderful picture of what God does for leaders who cooperate with his plans. When Darius (lions den king) wrote a letter instructing everyone to support and not oppose the rebuilding of the temple, he wrote “so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king (himself) and his sons.” (Ezra 6:10) He knew Daniel and he knew that if he and his sons were to be blessed as kings, they needed to support the God of heaven’s agenda.

Paul knew that in the New Testament era we’re also building a temple and a spiritual Jerusalem, the Body of Christ, and our mandate is to love and reach everyone everywhere. For that to happen, we need to pray that our leaders understand what King Darius understood.

Praying that President Obama has the wisdom to make the country and economy run well is fine, but it’s not what Paul was talking about. God wants us to come before his throne, focused on heaven with his Kingdom firmly placed as our number one priority and pray that God would have mercy on us and on President Obama, and cause him to make decisions in cooperation with God’s plans, not man’s.

Paul tells us to pray for mercy, because none of us deserve his grace, favor, salvation and/or an understanding of the truth. We receive it when we humble ourselves because he loves us. When we pray for God’s mercy on President Obama, it isn’t a reflection on the man, his Faith or his character. Paul didn’t say to pray for God’s mercy for only wicked Kings or leaders, he said to pray that way for all of them. It’s by his mercy that he intervines and moves in a leader’s life in a way that can change the course of history.

Also, you may think the world of who President Obama is as a leader and a man, or you might not think much of him at all, but whether he is or isn’t great isn’t what matters. The biggest changes for God’s people and his plans came when his people prayed, sought his mercy, and trusted him for the outcome.

Below is a prayer that you and your family can use as a guide in your prayers for President Obama. The prayer is inspired by all that I believe Paul was referencing and thinking about when he wrote his instructions about praying for our leaders. May God have mercy on President Obama.

A Prayer For Obama

(Taken from Paul’s words and inspired by the prayers and stories of Daniel, Nehemiah and Esther)

Father in heaven, we pray that your kingdom is strengthened and grows. That your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. We thank you for your great love and wonderful plans for us all.

We ask that you would have mercy on the people of this country and around the world that don’t know you, that you would forgive them, cause them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

We pray also for our leaders and specifically today for President Barak Obama. Thank you for every wonderful thing that Barak Obama becoming president represents in the US. Please pour out your loving mercy on him and his family. Forgive them for any trespasses against you, draw them closer to yourself and help them to understand and walk in the full knowledge of the truth.

Please Father, have mercy on President Obama as a leader and cause him, for the sake of the US and the world, to cooperate with your agenda in everything he does as president. Let your Church and your Kingdom flourish under his leadership and help many to come to know you because of the mercy you pour out on his presidency.

Help us, your children, to live quiet and peaceful lives in all godliness and holiness under President Obama so that we can do your will freely in your vineyard; spreading your Word, reaching the unreached and demonstrating your love. Have mercy on us and forgive us for our slackness in this area. Help us to be more mindful of you and your eternal plans than we are on our needs for today.

Please send wise people from among your children, like you sent Daniel, Nehemiah, Mordecai and Esther, to help President Obama and counsel him in the things that you’d have him do. Guide and direct him and give the Church, your people, and your agenda, favor in his eyes.

Father, as President Obama obeys you and cooperates with your plans, bless him, his family and his presidency. If he sins against you in anyway, we plead for your mercy, forgive him and cause him to turn and support your Word and your work

We ask this sincerely in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We thank you for all that you’ve done for us and for hearing our prayers. You are a great God and a wonderful merciful Father and we love you!

Amen

Pray sincerely and trust confidently. God hears and moves on the prayers he asks us to ask.

For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out Teaching Your Child How to Pray.


-

-

-

-

(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)

A Time for Miracles

January 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Economy

I love reading about Elijah and Elisha, two prophets whom God used to accomplish some marvelous miracles: calling fire down from heaven, conquering enemy armies with the assistance of angelic armies, proclaiming the start and end of famines, outrunning chariots, and much more. In the midst of these mind-boggling acts of God that altered kingdoms, these two prophets also dealt with and talked to God about three mothers.

While that land writhed in a severe drought (which Elijah had announced ahead of time), God told the prophet to visit a widow whom God had commanded to feed him. He found her and asked for food. She replied that she was about to use the last of her oil and flour to make one final meal for her and her son. Elijah had the audacity to ask her to feed him first, but promised that when she did, a miracle would happen. And it did: the flour and oil never ran out – no matter how much she used – until the drought ended. Later, when this same widow’s son died, she took the boy to Elijah, and the prophet prayed and delivered the son alive back to his mother (1 Kings 17).

Fast-forward to Elisha’s time and another widow; she came to Elisha, explaining that she had no way to meet her commitments and that creditors were coming to take her two boys as slaves. Elisha told her to borrow as many big, empty jars as she could and to pour into them the oil she kept in a little jar. When she did this, the oil didn’t stop flowing until she and her sons ran out of borrowed jars. Then she sold the oil and had enough money to pay her creditors, plus extra to live off of (2 Kings 4).

The third woman was neither a widow nor in need of provision. This married woman of means prepared a private room in her home for Elisha so that he had a place to stay when he traveled. Elisha wanted to reward her kindness and tried to find out what she wanted or needed. Elisha’s servant reminded him that she was childless, so Elisha told her that she’d have a son in about a year from that time. She got pregnant, had a son, and one day while he was still young, he died. The distraught woman put her boy on the prophet’s bed without telling anyone what had happened and traveled to see the prophet. He came to her home and raised him back to life (2 Kings 4).

While Jesus ministered in his own hometown, he mentioned one of these widows to help explain why he didn’t perform any great miracle there, where everyone knew him as Joseph’s son.

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.” (Luke 4:23-26)

Many things get in the way of our faith. Neither the widow whom Jesus mentioned here nor the man he spoke of in his next example was an Israelite. This made the crowd so angry that they drove Jesus out of town and tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-30). Sometimes we get so comfortable in our Christian faith and in the way we live, that we forget God is a supernatural God who can provide for us and answer our prayers in a way far beyond our wildest expectation.

The first widow made food for Elijah before she served herself and her son, even though a few minutes earlier she had enough food only for one last meal for her own starving family. God rewarded her demonstration of faith and provided for her during the drought. She continued to feed and house Elijah, and when her son got sick and died – even though she couldn’t conceive of such a thing – her son was returned to her from the dead.

The second widow came to the prophet Elisha seeking God’s intervention. When she heard his instructions, she followed them to the letter; demonstrating her faith; and her sons not only escaped the clutches of her creditors, but she found her family abundantly provided for.

The third woman approached Elisha without need, but with a desire to help him in doing God’s work. Her service demonstrated her faith in God, and the Lord rewarded her with a son. When the son died, she lay his body on the prophet’s bed and left to tell the prophet, showing that she knew God could and would take care of her dire situation.

Did you notice that, in each of these cases, the children involved were provided for, cared for, and kept safe? In fact, each instance dealt with the concerns of a mother and her children. The children would have seen their mother’s faith and obedience at work, bringing God’s grace, power, and help into their homes.

God sent his power through these mighty men of God to change the political map, steer nations, and bring his people back to himself; but he also sent them to establish faith in and help needy families.

So where do we find a mighty prophet of God? Jesus is God’s Son, and he lives in us by his Spirit. God is our Father, and as Christians we no longer need a prophet to stand in the gap; we can go directly to him and “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Many years ago, when things got quite tight financially for our family, we opened our home to another family going through an even tighter time. The few groceries we had got divided carefully before each meal. One day we had enough hot dogs for each child to have one apiece. We prayed together and asked God to make the food we had to be enough. At the end of the meal, two hot dogs remained on the plate. One child asked for another. Her face fell when we carefully explained that we had enough for only one each. Of course, we thought her look showed disappointment, until she explained that she already had eaten two. In order to find out who went without, we rounded up all the kids and took a count. They had eaten more hot dogs than we started with – and yet two still remained on the plate!

This was no earth-shattering, life-changing kind of miracle, but my children have never forgotten it. The incident inspired both their faith and their prayer life.

The author of Hebrews wrote:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and he rewards those who earnesty seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

I love that verse. God not only insists that we believe in him, but he also requires us to believe that he rewards us when we seek him! It’s impossible to please God without faith; it’s therefore impossible for us to raise children who please God without demonstrating to them faith in action.

There are some tough times ahead with the way the economy is going but if you look to God for help and trust him, one way or another, he’ll come through and your families Faith will be strengthened. It’s a time for miracles.

Oh, and don’t worry about having enough faith to make all this work – taking the first step, just like the three mothers in the previous stories, demonstrates your faith; God will take you from there. A simple prayer over some hot dogs can get the ball rolling.

For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out Teaching Your Child to Pray.


-

-

-

-

(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)

Salvation Has Come To Your House

December 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Family

Every Christmas, most of us get together with family and celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. Therefore, it’s at this time of year when we’re thinking of both family and Jesus at the same time. We can’t help but think and pray about those in our families who do not know Jesus. Do you have members of your immediate or extended family that need to know Jesus? I was eighteen when I became a Christian. I celebrated Christmas for the first time shortly after that at nineteen. I was raised in a church that did not allow Christmas. My mother was led to the truth and accepted Jesus as her savior shortly after I had left home at eighteen.

When she started attending a Christian church every Sunday, her husband (my step dad), her six children (ranging from toddler to adult), many of her extended family, and the majority of her social circle were still attending the church she just left. A church that not only didn’t celebrate Christmas but also didn’t believe in the doctrine of salvation. A church that would tell its members to not have anything to do with anyone who left the church. She was understandably worried about how her new Faith would be viewed and if everyone would reject it and her.

One evening, not too long after her decision to live her life for Christ, no matter what the cost, she attended a Gospel banquet. The speaker prayed for her and while he was praying (even though he did not know her or her situation) said, “Don’t worry, today salvation has come to your house.”

Read more

Next Page »