The Smile of One Thinking About Jesus

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Hey TD!

Some of you have met and know our dear friend, Celestine.  We’ve known her for nearly 20 years.  When you see these pics, you are saying, “Yep, that’s how I remember her,” for that’s how she’s been all these years whenever we fellowshipped together with her, rejoicing together in the goodness of our God.  She was as steady and as faithful in the Lord as could be, always in His Word, listening to sermons, reading devotionals, and asking lots of questions wrought out of her study of Scripture; she brought inspiration and conviction, not with her mouth, but with her life and focus.

So, you can imagine our concern a couple of months ago when we discovered she was no longer reading the Word, was down in spirits, not as sharp or vibrant, and watching lots of TV (something she rarely did before).  It was due to the enormous changes that were taking place in her care facility, leaving her with hardly any social interaction or with much to do.  I told the nurse that she wasn’t as sharp mentally as she used to be.  She agreed and said all this change was having its effects on her.

Well, that shook us. We knew that more regular engagement with God’s Word was going to be necessary for her to begin really living again.  We would need to help dust off  the cob webs and retrain her to feed off of and drink once again from the Living Water.  So, during TD, I presented the need and opportunity to give Celestine a visit a few times a week, do Bible study, sing hymns, pray, and enjoy her company.  A few of you responded to take the baton and visit her during my family’s visit to China.  And those who went were very blessed and charged up.

Well, the pictures above were taken yesterday, during our Bible study in John.  These smiles came spontaneously when we were discussing what heaven was going to be like and what we’d be doing there.  As you can see, her face lit up with the thought of it.  I was only able to catch the end of her lighting up with my camera.  You should have seen her just before I took these pics!  She was smiling so big, it looked like her face was going to break!  That’s the power of God’s Word under the Spirit’s unction and lead.

May I ask you a question that I asked you last Friday?  When was the last time your heart burned within you (or your face lit up so much that it almost broke) when you read the Word of God?  How long has it been?  When was it?  Where was it?  Why isn’t that happening more often in your life?

Friends, hear these indicting words of our Lord,

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the [d]deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place—unless you repent.” – Revelations 2

To repent means to turn around, change direction, and walk in that new direction, leaving the old behind.  Are you in need of that in your life today?  As you start the new school year, this would be a really great time to make that move of repentance, to turn away from your manufactured life, to turn towards the Lord through His Word, and to truly follow Him.  It’s not even really a choice He gives, as much as it is a command He demands.  Follow Him.

We counselors would love to be of help to you, if you are ready to make your move.  Just reach out to us and we will aim to help you! – Arthur

Boycott Target? Sexuality? Sexual Ethics? Things to Pray About and Act On

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Hey TD,

When I read the email heading, “Boycott Target,” asking me to sign a petition to boycott Target, my very first response was, “I’m not boycotting Target! I like Target!” thinking that some “conservatives” might be over-reacting to something.  After reading the email, I wondered if it was overstated or slightly slanted.  After researching it, reading Target’s own statements on its own web site (the picture above is from their web site), reading the CEO’s commitment and declarations, I was saddened, first at the stand they’re taking, second, at the rate of our country’s moral revolution, and in a distant third, I like shopping at Target! After researching the issue, I did sign the petition and am planning to no longer shop at Target for the time being (though I have gift cards!).

As I shared in TD last week, sexual ethics do matter.  Sexual morality has always been something Christians have struggled with, but for the most part, even Christians who have struggled with living out their convictions have at least agreed on what the appropriate sexual ethics are.  They’ve affirmed the ethics, but just have not lived it out morally (ethics are what people believe to be right and wrong – they are the standards/beliefs; morals are the way people live their lives – they are the practice/the action).

Tired of living under the guilt of this, Christian culture has joined secular culture in attacking and undermining the ethical base itself.  If the ethical standards can be re-written, then we will no longer be guilty in the way we act out our sexuality, “as long as it’s not hurting anyone.”  And this movement has touched every area of sexual ethics, including what’s “acceptable” heterosexually, and even what we do with ourselves (with our own eyes, in our own minds, and with our own bodies).

Unfortunately, in the modern western “Christian” culture, sexual propriety (standards, practices, ethics) is at an all-time low and is hardly distinguishable in practice from secular culture.  But now, the issue is not only in terms of practice, but in terms of ethics themselves.

When prayerfully and biblically considering the “Target issue,” please go beyond Target and apply the same prayerful and biblical consideration and evaluation to culture at-large, Christian culture, church culture, your friend culture, your culture at home, and your own personal culture and government.

Here is Target’s official statement: Click Here

Here is American Family Association’s response and call to boycott (including links to news articles and TV news stories of what they are concerned will happen in greater frequency and degree): Click Here

So, please do your homework, TD, and under the Spirit’s tutelage, in accordance with His Word, decide what your course of action will be, not just with Target, but in this whole cultural swirl.

Here are some passages from Scripture to get you started:

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1Thess. 5:21-22)

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1John 4:1)

“seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2Peter 1:3-4)

– Arthur

TD Fri. – “Holding What We Believe”

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Hey TD!

This Friday will be a special time of sharing Christ together as we learn to view and appreciate our Lord more holistically, in some ways that are clearly biblical, yet have been largely lost on us modern Christians.

This will be largely derived from a session taught by the editor of Slice of Infinity, Jill Carattini, at RZIM’s 2016 Summer Institute.  It was a very meaningful session for me, and one that really helped enhance my perspective of the Lord’s Supper.

It will be a very meaningful time.  Make your plans to be there!

– Arthur

TD Fri. – Marriage & Divorce LG Study

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Hey TD!

This week, we will explore “Marriage and Divorce” – both very common (too common) amongst Christians, our church included.  We will need to come open-handed and open-hearted, truthful yet sensitive, desiring to really see what the Lord’s intentions and directives are, willing to call a spade a spade, and resolving to live His way.  Once again, we will study in an open architecture, group study format.

See you Friday! – Arthur

Arguing is Good

Hey TD!

As Christians, we need to be very clear about what they stand for and stand against, and why.  One thing is for sure … we need to stand.  The Christian faith is a faith of standing; and how we stand is often just as important as what we stand for.  They go hand in hand. However, what I find is that some Christians are so concerned with how they come across, that they really aren’t standing for much.  At the same time, some Christians are so into “the truth” or “the gospel,” that they seem to lack graciousness in communicating their message effectively and appropriately.

Well, if we are going to be effective ambassadors for Christ, we are going to have to acknowledge that arguing is good and essential – but the right kind of arguing; the arguing that is done in spirit and in truth. So, here’s a reminder from our friend, Greg Koukl, of Stand to Reason (www.str.org), of the necessity of arguing well.  Enjoy! I look forward to arguing with you at TD this Friday! – Arthur

Arguing is Good by Greg Koukl

Some Christians shy away from apologetics because they think arguing is contentious.  Actually, properly done, arguing is the way we arrive at the truth. And has nothing to do with being argumentative.

A lot of people shy away from apologetics because they think it entails arguing, and arguing is a problem. But I want to make a distinction between arguing and quarreling. I think quarreling is a problem but not arguing. Think of what Jesus said. We are to love our Lord with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength; our whole heart, MIND, soul, and strength. We are to use our minds well in learning about God and loving Him. God has given us some tools that allow us to do that.

I’m here in my workshop, and I have lots of tools that I use for very specific things. What is the tool that God has given us to find out what is true so that we can love Him well with our minds? Well, that tool is reason and reason is employed in a very particular way. It is used to help us to find out and assess, in our environments and in our world, what is true and what is false and, consequently, live better as a result—especially as followers of Christ.

Using reason, though, is not a solitary venture. We use other people in the process. We depend on others to reflect on things with us, bounce things off of, engage—maybe even with those with different opinions about things. And this is where arguing comes in. Arguing is the ability to take opposing sides in a principled way, to knock things around, to figure out which side is true or more closely approximates the truth, and that is a God-given tool. It’s important that we employ it and, if we employ it well, we’ll be able to love God better with our minds—but only if we are willing to engage.

That’s why arguing is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing, if done properly. Not quarreling but disputing with others on issues of truth—bringing evidence into play—so that we can discover what our world is really like—now that honors God.

TD Fri. – LG Study & Orphans Update

Hey TD,

Continuing our “Are You Serious?” Summer studies, we will continue to dialogically explore passages of Scripture that give us serious truth that we often don’t take too seriously; truth that we acknowledge with our heads, but when push comes to shove, we don’t stand by with our lives.  Either Scripture doesn’t really mean it or we don’t; but someone isn’t really serious.

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This week, we will explore “Marriage and Divorce” – both very common (too common) amongst Christians, our church included.  We will need to come open-handed and open-hearted, truthful yet sensitive, desiring to really see what the Lord’s intentions and directives are, willing to call a spade a spade, and resolving to live His way.  Once again, we will study in an open architecture, group study format.

Prior to our study, we will also hear and see the latest from all the orphaned children we are sponsoring in Africa and China.  We will also show some video footage taken last week of the girls with special needs we are sponsoring in China!  It’ll be a great time to get to know them better and pray for them!

See you Friday! – Arthur

“Thank You!” from the Orphaned

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Hey TD!

A big thank you for tangibly giving and tangibly showing hope to children who have special needs and who have been orphaned on the other side of the world!  As you can see, your gifts were received!  They will be used to further serve and care for children like these.  After spending time with them at four care centers in China, we experienced first-hand that not only are these children with special needs, but they are just plain special! Incredibly special!

I spent part of our long flight home looking up every verse I could find in the Bible relating to orphans or the fatherless.  What’s clear is that they have a very special place in God’s heart and mind.  To serve children who have been orphaned is to get close to God’s heart:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Jam. 1:27 (please notice the final clause also, a clause many of us are not taking seriously)

So, while we’ve done a good thing in sponsoring 7 children who have been orphaned (please pay your sg leader!), and we’ve done a good thing in buying supplies for them, is there opportunity for us to go from good to great?  You bet. To live excellently and greatly for the Lord is our call:

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” Col. 3:23

“Whether then you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31

As I told you during our last TD meeting, we have some potentially impactful days ahead of us at TD, as we make more of a conscious move towards God’s heart; but it won’t happen without buy-in … and sacrifice.

We’ll get into more later, but begin with thinking through this question during the week. Take it seriously (God does) and work through it:

Why does God have such a strong heart for the orphaned and widowed?  What is it about them that drives His heart so? 

– Arthur