The ‘Original’ Singing Bible

May 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Resources for Kids

THE ‘ORIGINAL’ SINGING BIBLE

The demand for this product has been huge and therefore I’m pleased to announce that this best-selling children’s classic, The  Original Singing Bible, has been digitally remastered and is now available on CD and for digital downloads!

Over 50 songs and narration make for an exciting 160-minute ride through the Bible.

The Singing Bible has been called a, “Christian classic,” “A must have for every Christian family” and “The best Bible song series for kids ever made.

This indispensable resource was designed to help kids learn God’s Big Story from creation to Jesus second coming, to learn about their Bibles, the books of the Bible, the Good News, the key memory verses of the Bible and on and on the list goes. Children learn while they sing along and enjoy.

Here is a reoccurring comment we hear from parents, “Our Kids love it and want it played over and over again, which for once, is okay. Unlike some kids cds, it doesn’t drive you crazy because the songs and music are so well done. We like it too.”

Ideal for every member of any family with kids 2 – 10 years old.

This product in only available at www.christianparentingdaily.com. Click here to purchase this product.

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.

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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.


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(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.


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(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

The Ten Commandments for Christians on FaceBook and Twitter

December 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Just for fun

In a very short period of time, social media websites like MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter have begun to change the way the world connects and socializes, and for Christians, the way we fellowship and even minister to others.

Tens of millions of users log into these networks daily. According to Wikipedia, FaceBook has over 132 million users and MySpace over 117 million. Twitter, one of my favorites, is only about two years old and already has well over three million users and it’s growing exponentially.

So how are Christians responding? In FaceBook, many groups have been created to reach and help Christians network. There are way too many to mention, but a few examples are;

  • 100,000,000 Christians Worship God (over 700,000 members)
  • Christian Bloggers Network
  • 1,000,000 Christian Parents Raising Disciples For Christ
  • FaceBook For Pastors
  • Pastors and Ministry Leaders
  • Culture Shapers on Digg

The number of Pastors who are now connecting with their congregations and communities through FaceBook and Twitter is growing rapidly. Whole congregations and groups within them are using these sites to increase communication, extend ministry efforts and even to plan events. Social networking has become a valuable social tool that is being used by ministries, churches, Christian authors and bloggers and individual Christians around the globe.

The purpose of this blog isn’t to challenge the validity of Christians using social networking sites. I believe that anyone who’s used them can instantly see how these tools can be tremendously beneficial. Nor am I here to decry the abuses of these tools. No matter how beneficial something is, some people will misuse it. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. What I’d like to do is sound a different alarm.

This is a blog to all Christians everywhere who are using social networking or who are looking into it and my message is simple; please look at your social networking strategies and methods through the lens of scripture and Christian character before you implement them.

Let me explain, when you approach a stranger on the street or a newcomer at your church, there are certain things that you do to make sure that you are perceived as a polite, considerate, nonthreatening individual. Most of us know how to do this because we’ve practiced face to face conversation in our homes and in public for years. Unfortunately, many Christians who dive into social networking don’t know how to do that same thing online. Why? Because although common sense, kindness and good manners are always necessary, the rules for approach and interaction are different in the online world and also different on each social networking site. Without this understanding, we can end up unknowingly offending others and making some or all of our efforts ineffectual.

I have observed and learned a few things through trial and error and by watching others more experienced than myself, and I would like to pass them on. Hopefully, my efforts will help more Christians be more effective and less abrasive while using social networking sites to reach and connect with others. Once you’ve read my tips and ideas, feel free to comment and add things that you’ve learned. When we’re Kingdom building, we can all work together and help each other.

The Ten Commandments For Social Networking Christians

1. Thou shalt not worship and/or social network on too many sites.

When I first started social networking (SN) I went and joined every SN site I heard of and/or read about, Amazon Connect, Xing, Linkedin, FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon and others. I would have joined even more but I ran out of room in my life.

Here’s what I learned, in order to do well on a SN site, you need to actually jump in, learn about the site, play by their rules and become part of the community. If you don’t, then to the people who are regulars on these sites, you’re like a complete stranger who’s walking through their neighborhood expecting attention without investing anything of yourself. At first you’ll be watched, as everyone politely waits for you to learn and get involved, but if you keep it up, you will be ignored and perhaps even resented. That does not reflect well on you as a Christian.

Here’s a suggestion. Google information about the different SN sites. There are a ton of blogs out there that will tell you what each site does, who uses it, how it’s good for networking, and what the best ways are to get involved and see results. Once you’ve done your homework, pick two or three that will work for you and start getting involved, learning and investing yourself in them.

I decided to focus on FaceBook and Twitter. I find them enjoyable and a great way to network with other Christians and to get exposure to my blogs. I’m also still involved in StumbleUpon, Amazon and Linkedin but only as supports for my FaceBook and Twitter efforts. Your plan and choices will probably be different than mine because what you do, what you want to accomplish, and what you will enjoy may all be different.

2. Thou shalt not make your mission an idol.

God has called us to make disciples and that’s about people. For God so loved the world that he gave… so that… Ever notice that John 3:16 puts ‘people’ first, ‘giving’ second, and ‘purpose’ third?

I’ve caught myself running into my social networks with one thing on my mind, get traffic to my blog, find parents to minister to etc etc, running headlong, ignoring people to supposedly accomplish God’s purpose. When I find myself doing that, I stop and get off my computer and pray. Not only should our hearts be right, but social networking is not nearly as effective if you don’t stop to connect with others, listen to them, talk to them, check out what they’re doing and show genuine interest in them. If you don’t demonstrate that you care, you will be seen by many as just another spammer and/or narcissist and your witness and efforts will be ineffective.

Here’s a suggestion, on a sticky note write, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’ and stick it where you can see it while you’re on your computer. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, that’s impossible, but it doesn’t take much to stop, care and be interested. People first, giving second and purpose last.

3. Thou shalt not misuse the social networking sites (it gives God a bad rap).

This one is simple, play nice and play by the rules. Each SN site has rules about what you can and cannot do. Read the rules and stay within them. Others who follow the rules will think less of you for trying to bend them. Each site also has many unwritten rules or courtesies that have been developed over a period of time by it’s regular users. For example on Digg, you can Digg your own content but the regulars of Digg frown on it and may work to bury your content if you keep it up. Take it slowly at first and learn the rules. If you’re not sure about something ask, and when you’re told, do your best to fit in.

Having said that, SN sites are changing all the time because people change how they use them. Once you’ve been on a site for awhile and understand how it works, you may get creative ideas that work within the system and maximize your results. There’s nothing wrong with that, just be careful that others see it as a clever idea and not a way around the rules.

4. Thou shalt remember to relax and enjoy.

Remember, and this is important, social networking online is much the same as it is face to face and many of the same rules apply. For example, ‘All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy!’ When someone looks at your contributions, status updates, tweets, posts, notes etc and see that they are all (or mostly all) about business or ministry or whatever your purpose is, you become dull and uninteresting. You’re also unwittingly telling everyone that you’re only here for self promotion. Not good. Relax, let your hair down and have fun on these sites as well. I have so much fun on Twitter, sometimes my wife has to remind me that I should be writing. Be real, relax, have fun, be social, when people get to know you a little better they’ll be more likely to be interested in what you do.

A word of caution. One of my twitter friends (@jplosier) wondered if I was going to talk about being vulnerable and sharing personal things on SN sites, so I will. You should never pretend to be someone that you’re not and you should always be honest and transparent. There’s nothing wrong with saying you’re having a grumpy day and asking others to pray. However, as a minister of the Gospel, if you are having serious struggles, you should have mentors or peers who you go to for help. Turn your computer off and go and talk with someone face to face.

5. Honor your Father & Mother by remembering that they taught you to be humble.

My friend and Marketing teacher, David G. Johnson once told me that the most powerful word in marketing is the word ‘YOU.’ The Bible teaches that we should not be boastful and that we should not be focused on ourselves. So the most important word in ministry is also ‘YOU.’

There is nothing that will turn others away quicker (in real life and online) than someone who is, or appears to be, stuck on themselves. I don’t believe that I’m stuck on me, but I believe I’ve come across that way online at times and it’s somewhat understandable. When you’re networking, you want people to know who you are and what you’ve accomplished. So you put it out there thinking that it’s innocent enough because your motivation is to build trust and therefore be able to help more people. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work and you come off as a braggart. (I know, I learned the hard way.)

Here’s a suggestion, put your bio on your website and/or on linkedin and let others find out what mighty things you’ve done when they’re interested and go looking. The quickest way to get people interested in you, is to be interested and focused on them, do that and eventually they’ll wonder who you are.

Also, if you just signed a book deal or a million dollar business contract and you simply must share the news, craft your announcement humbly. There’s a difference between these two tweets or updates: “My agent just signed a HUGE deal with Harper Collins for my new book!” or “Wow, I’m blown away by God’s grace, he’s letting me write another book.’ Take the humble road and if other’s are interested, they’ll press you for more details.

Oh, also remember that it’s not just your words that show others your humility. Any action you take online that gives people the impression that you think that you’re more important then they are may result in them thinking that you are stuck on yourself. For example, if you use Twitter and someone follows you, follow them back. Having a lot of people following you while you’re only following a few doesn’t make you look important, it makes you look stuck on yourself. Jesus was the greatest person who ever lived. God in the flesh, and our example. He never once turned anyone away who honestly sought him out.

Unless someone is obviously a spammer, or is trying to peddle pornography or something like that, follow them, befriend them, connect with them, return their messages, say hi. It doesn’t take much but it tells everyone that you care and that you believe that we’re all equal in God’s eyes. (And yes, I know that Jesus kept twelve close, seventy not as close and then the larger group of disciples a little less connected. However for the most part, SN is not about your closest group of friends, they’re the ones you see off-line.)

An exception to this is if you’re setting up a network for the purpose of communicating with your church or ministry group only. If this is the case and if the SN site allows it, ‘close’ the group (or spell it out in the bio line if you’re on Twitter) so others understand that it’s for a limited group and don’t think that you have an ego problem.

6. Thou shalt not try to murder trolls.

According to my son (who has to catch me up with the lingo from time to time) the word ‘troll’ used in an online context refers to someone who enters websites, forums or SN conversations with the sole intent of stirring up trouble, being belligerent and turning polite conversations into arguments.

Many times Christians get drawn into conversations with these people thinking that they can reach out to them and change their minds. Unfortunately, the more you enter into the conversation, the ruder and more opinionated the person gets. Finally, the Christian gets so agitated that they often become rude and/or condescending themselves. I’ve witnessed this many times and the testimony of it is not good.

Thus the saying, ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ was popularized. Which means don’t let them draw you in to the argument because they feed off controversy and their goal is to start a fight. Peter said that we are to be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us, but I think Peter was talking about sincere questions, not the rhetorical and adversarial ones that are posed by trolls.

If someone is sincere and interested, and even argues with an openness, and you have a Bible based answer, then engage. However, if you detect a belligerent person seeking a fight, be polite but disengage. One more point here, if you’re not ready and prepared (studied) to answer a question, just say so. Too many online Christians engage the trolls and they don’t even know how to answer the question or defend their Faith. The troll scores another point.

7. Thou shalt not commit social guffaws.

This one is simple, remember you’re an online representative for Jesus. Be mannerly, be polite, be thoughtful and be appropriate. Do not engage in any conversation with anyone that your Pastor couldn’t listen to and approve of. If a conversation with someone from the opposite sex starts to go the wrong way, politely end it.

8. Thou shalt not steal the ideas and/or content of others.

Another simple one, we who preach ‘though shalt not steal’ should not be stealing online. If you use someone else’s content, do it with permission and if necessary, with payment and always with proper credit. Let me push it a little further. An online friend of mine, Deb Burton (@debburton on twitter), did an awesome blog where she turned the 10 commandments on their head and wrote them in a positive way, ‘Thou shalt…’ instead of ‘Thou shalt not…’ So I’ll borrow her inspiration (with proper credit) and say, ‘Thou shalt respect the property, ideas and content of others and treat them in a way that you would like your stuff to be treated and also give honor where honor’s due.

9. Thou shalt not attempt to mislead others, even by omission.

Honesty is the best policy. Please, please be upfront about your mission and purpose with everyone. Whatever you’re doing, for whatever purpose, admit it right up front. If your purpose is to sell something, say so. If you’re looking for clients, say so. If you want people to read your blog, ask them to. You can still have fun and connect with people, but if you’ve been upfront about your purpose from the beginning, then when people get to know you and they need the service you supply, they’ll consider using you. So relax and have fun, truly care and be social but be completely upfront about your purpose.

10. Thou shalt not covet the sites, talents and traffic of others.

If when you read someone else’s material, or you look at their website idea, you start to feel like you wish you had come up with it yourself, stop. Or if look at their success and wish…, again stop yourself. Be glad for what God has given them.

If you want people to share your material with others, spend the time doing the same for them. If you have a share button on your site, I hope that you know how to use it on the sites of others. When someone else posts or Twitters a link to their post, go take a look and if you like it, comment and share it and Stumble it. If you’re not on StumbleUpon, I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to share content and drive traffic to your site and the sites of others. Unlike Digg, they have Christian categories.

Promoting someone else’s material can be hard if that ‘someone else’ is doing the same thing that you’re doing. The competition factor in our market driven society leads us all to hope that we’re the only ones doing our particular thing online for God, or that we’re somehow doing it better than everyone else. Ask yourself though, do you really want that pressure? I believe God has called me to help Christian parents pass their Faith on to their kids. If I was the only one God called to do that in my generation then I should expect God to hold me, and me alone, accountable for whether it gets done or not, worldwide. Ouch!

God has called many people to the same task and I want to work with them, help them, and promote their work and ideas. We aren’t supposed to be building our little kingdoms. We’re called to work together to build His.

Thank you for reading and considering my musings. If you’d like to connect with me on any of the following networks, I’d count it a privilege.

Also, if you’d like to join the FaceBook groups I’m involved with, I’d love to see you there.

If you’d like to network with other Christians, please leave a comment on this blog and add your urls (please cut and paste from your address bar so that the link is live) for each of the SN sites that you’re on and I’ll post them for others who want to network as well.

Please follow these four simple steps:

Step 1 If you’d like to Network with me, add me to the networks we have in common.

Step 2 Look at the previous comments to this post and add the others (who have requested to network) to your social networking sites (that way everyone will end up following everyone else).

Step 3 Cut and paste the urls from the address bars of your SN bios or home pages and list them in a comment to this blog for others to follow.

Step 4 Follow the 10 Commandments for SN Christian.

The Economy and the Harvest

November 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Economy

How many times have you heard a sermon framed around Jesus’ comments about the harvest? The ones I’ve heard usually come around to making the point that we should be involved in the harvest, tell everybody around us, all the time, about Jesus.

I’d like to ask you to read on as I look at this section of scripture more closely because I believe that it not only generally applies to all times, but it specifically applies to today as our world goes through a difficult financial time.

Matthew, Luke and John all record Jesus’ words about the Lord of the Harvest, but they all put them in a slightly different context. It’s likely that Jesus talked to his disciples about this more than once. I’d like to start with Matthew’s account.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35 – 38)

Notice that before Jesus said that the harvest (of people) was plentiful, the scripture gives us a glimpse of what he was thinking and why he said what he did. He saw the crowds and their situation, that they were harassed and helpless, and he had compassion on them. Jesus said the harvest was plentiful because of the state that the people of his time were in.

Let’s take a look at what the people who Jesus was looking at were going through. I’m not a historian but it doesn’t take much research to come up with a general picture. Not only were the people of Palestine under the heel of the Roman Empire, they were also suffering financially for it. First of all, the reason why tax collectors were hated was because the Roman empire was taxing the people beyond their means to pay. Add on top of that the taxes that Herod was inflicting on the people and the burden was unbearable.

Next, let’s look at loans and interest. The Jewish law limited interest by outlining when it could and could not be charged and how much could be charged. However, the Romans had no such laws and many of the Jewish people had left God’s laws behind in favor of greater profits. Some accounts say that interest rates were as high as 50%.

Here’s what was happening. The Romans demanded that their taxes be paid with money. Many of those who lived in this agrarian society didn’t have money, so they had to borrow it. The only way they could borrow money was to take out a mortgage on their property. Between rising taxes and rising interest rates, the property owners would end up in foreclosure and lose their land. As the rich got more and more land through economies of scale and the use of slaves to work their vast farms, they prospered and sent more and more families off their lands. Because those foreclosed on had no trade and slave labor was so cheap, many became destitute.

The system made the rich, richer – and the poor, poorer. The poorer you got, the more you needed loans and the higher the rate of interest you were charged. So financial devastation started due to ill-advised loans at high interest rates resulting in foreclosures in a system that favored the rich. Sound familiar?

Jesus saw that many of the people who flocked to him were sick, oppressed, financially devastated and in bad need of God’s love and intervention. That’s when he concluded that the fields were ready for harvest. Remember, it’s God’s goodness that leads us to repentance. Jesus knew (as he outlined in the story of the prodigal son) that many people don’t look up until they come to the end of their rope. When they do, God is there ready to show them his love (Jesus had compassion on them) and meet them where they are.

I believe that we are now in a time where again, the fields are getting white and ready for harvest. Although financial difficulties aren’t pleasant, we as Christians know that if we trust God, he’ll meet our needs. So should we be spending our time complaining about the times, or should we be praying that the Lord of the harvest send workers into the harvest?

In John 4, we find Jesus also talking about the harvest. He’s just finished talking to the woman at the well and is waiting for her return. He probably knows that she’s about to lead the whole village out to see him. The disciples offer him something to eat and he refuses saying, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.” Then he went on to talk about the harvest.

Was Jesus saying that when we’re doing God’s will, we don’t need to eat? No, I believe that he was contrasting a physical harvest to a spiritual one and telling us that the spiritual one is of far greater importance. If we have to tighten our belts and learn to rely on God a little more for the sake of a spiritual harvest, it’s well worth it.

I know I’ve blogged on for a bit, but stick with me a little further. If we are in, or going into a time of harvest as I believe, what do we need to do besides pray? Let me return to those sermons we hear so often on Jesus’ words about the harvest.

It’s pointed out to us that Jesus said ‘pray for more workers’, then he immediately sent the ones he was talking to out to work. The sermon’s conclusion, when you pray, be willing to be sent. However, let’s go a little deeper. Why would Jesus tell them to pray and then instruct them to go? Why not just send them? They probably didn’t even have time to pray before he sent them.

I think Jesus did this as a reminder to them and to us that we are not in charge of the harvest. He is the Lord of the harvest and he is in charge of the times. He is the one who prepares the harvest and directs the workers. We are to pray that THE LORD SENDS workers into HIS harvest. That’s the emphasis.

We of course can gear up to help the poor and reach out to the hurting. We’ve been given those basic tasks. But more importantly, we need to pray and ask the Lord to send the workers that he needs to send, to do what he knows needs to be done, to reach those he knows are ready, in this time. Then like the disciples, we need to wait on our instructions and see what he wants us to do. Don’t worry about how you’ll get by, he’ll meet your needs. Don’t worry about how you’ll get it done, he empowered his disciples and sent them out with nothing, and don’t worry about how he’ll direct you. If you’re open to his direction and praying about the harvest, he’ll find a way to show you what to do. You may even already know.

And remember, as you go, the Gospel isn’t about populating our churches. It’s about God reaching out in love, wanting to adopt the lost and care for those who are hurting. We bring them to church so that they’re close enough to receive God’s love and help through us.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

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


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(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)

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