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Jul 24, 2008

We Love to Boast, Don't We?

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Scriptural Basis:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10
Anderson’s Applications:
We are all boasters. It is in our nature. Some are more blatant, others more discreet. Nevertheless, various situations and circumstances entice us to boast in one way or another. We do not always boast just of ourselves; sometimes we boast of our children, the organization to which we belong, the church we attend, or our country. When it is put that way you may think, “Is there really anything wrong with that? Isn’t there some value or good in boasting …in the right things?
Boasting is defined as “giving oral expression to one’s pride in oneself or in something produced by, belonging to, or related to oneself, as one’s family, connections, race, or accomplishments. Given Webster’s definition I would say very few if any of us escape the accusation of being in one form or another, and at one time or another, a boaster. But then we come once more to the question of whether or not this is ever a praiseworthy or redeeming activity. In Jeremiah the Lord declares: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
In the history of Israel from the Book of Judges, Gideon is called upon by God to free Israel from seven years of severe oppression. Named first by God “a mighty warrior, Gideon is empowered to rally 32,000 fighting men from among his neighboring tribes. God tells him it is too many, even though the oppressing armies number far greater than these 32,000. So Gideon sends all but 10,000 home. Still too many, God says. The 10,000 is culled down to 300. Why? Well, there are some brilliant tactics involved, but victory still would have been an impossible feat apart from God. The predominant reason God gives Gideon is: “In order that Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her. (Judges 7:2) You most likely know the rest of the story; Gideon’s “band of 300 routes the invading armies, leaving the mop-up to the other 32,000.
The lesson for us is this: we ought never to boast in anything without giving glory to God; first, foremost, and always. Why? Because apart from Him you can do nothing! This is simply the truth of life. And it is a fact not at all dependent on whether you believe it or not. God is involved in every aspect of our life, and it is our nature to constantly forget it in the same way Israel throughout her history in the Old Testament forgot God over and over and over again. When we read her history we think “how could they be so stupid? Yet it is so true of us. It is not only our precious salvation from sin and eternal death which is a gift of God; it is the necessary wisdom, strength, riches, et cetera, to do anything in life. All are His gifts.
So whenever you feel yourself bursting with pride, and compelled to give oral expression to it, think first of Him who made it happen; think of Him who brought your children into the world and calls them; think of Him who caused you to be born in your family and this country; think of Him who keeps you breathing, seeing, doing, and speaking. Why? Simply so that you might do good works to His glory. After all…YOU…are…His…workmanship!
Encouragement:
“Heavenly Father, you didn’t make junk! I am your workmanship created to do good works. May I do them, joyfully boasting in You. And whoever or whatever I praise in life, may I first remember and give thought and voice to this: You are in it all.
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Jul 17, 2008

Tony's Spirit

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Scriptural Basis:
“Do everything without complaining and grumbling, so that you might become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander…Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Philippians 2:14-15, Ephesians 4:29, 31-32.
Anderson’s Applications:
I know, I know…the Scriptural Basis is longer than usual. But hey, it only takes a few seconds to read, and nothing else will impact your day so positively if you do it! I think you’ll agree, while simultaneously thinking it isn’t very realistic. Given what most of our lives are like; the pressures we live under, our aches and pains, the problems we wrestle, the challenges we face, et cetera, et cetera; it is not a common behavior. So much is it NOT, it jumps out at us when we encounter it.
Do you actually know very many, or anyone, whose life consistently models these verses? It’s rare, isn’t it? In fact, when you do encounter such a person it gets your attention and you tell others about it. It may even trigger a change in your behavior. If only we could keep it up through the next bad day, and the next, and on and on. Indeed, you begin to wonder if that person’s life just isn’t quite as bad as yours. We look for excuses as to why we do not maintain such a spirit of attitude, character, and words. We compare ourselves and our circumstances with them and others. Nevertheless, how revealing and surprising it is to us to find their life is as fraught with challenges as ours, maybe even doubly so. How in the midst of severe difficulties can they speak so kindly, smile so frequently, deflect criticism or meanness so gently, and bring such delight and zest for living to the surface in every contact? In all of this they lovingly, but firmly maintain what they believe and effectively communicate it to others. With frustration, weariness, pain or sickness, failure or injustice, typical provocations to anger, how do they do it? Are they superhuman, we wonder? Or is it just that they are more cognizant of the One who inspires them and makes it possible?
Last week we lost such a person for a time. He will not suffer the aches and pains of old age. He died at the age of 53. But if he had lived longer and experienced all that accompanies those latter years, I dare say he would have done so with the same grace, noticeable joy and sweet spirit that characterized his years before his painful sickness and death from cancer. You might think I am speaking about a seasoned and mature Christian. But I am not. Tony Snow was from accounts I have heard a young Christian. Yet he took his introduction to Jesus Christ seriously, and displayed it publicly as well as privately. He was in love with life and work and with the Lord of life. He loved his family and he loved the family of man. He anticipated heaven with the joy he anticipated life. He experienced the gauntlet of mean spiritedness in a sinful world; like being a press secretary for a President hated and maligned, or living and working in the public eye in a tough and critical profession. He drew respect from enemies and deflected vicious arrows with aplomb and grace. He did not complain or grumble about his terminal cancer, uncomfortable treatments, or the “race laid out for him. He set an example for those of us who have been Christians much longer.
Possibly Tony’s spirit will encourage your personal application of the above Scripture as it does mine. Your situation, whatever it is, is never a valid excuse to ignore keeping your eyes on Jesus, while in turn reflecting His character and demeanor in your own face, attitude, words, and spirit.
Encouragement:
“Heavenly Father, since You have identified with me, may my words, my face, my heart, and the joy of my spirit, make it unmistakable Whose I am.


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Jul 10, 2008

The Excellent Value of Memorizing Scripture

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Scriptural Basis:
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your Word…I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against God. Psalm 119:9 & 11
Anderson’s Applications:
These verses are two of the many carved into wooden signs along the trail through the woods on the PAYH 50 acre campus. It is much more than a “decoration on the beautiful campus God has provided, it is at the very heart of our program; a program carefully and lovingly honed over the years to turn out young men of moral character with a committed love for Jesus. In most cases young men graduate from the PAYH far different than when they entered. Few go back to crime, but our real goal far exceeds that outcome. It is our greatest desire that they leave here to serve the Lord and walk in His commands. We are quick to admit that it does not always happen, and that deeply saddens all of us. Yet we do not give up. The Lord encourages and facilitates perseverance in us all. As long as God keeps the PAYH open we will be committed to do what God wants us to do in the heart transformation of all the young men He sends our way.
This past week we were all thrilled over what God is doing in the life of one of our recent graduates (Frank). Our school headmaster took three of our current resident young men to attend Frank’s graduation from Basic Training in the Army. The three earned this trip by having perfect scores on their Scripture memory work over three months; no easy challenge. As they traveled to Ft. Jackson they discussed how they would be able to pick Frank out from 1092 graduates on the parade field. However, their concerns were quickly dispelled when they received the printed program and saw Frank was one of the five outstanding graduates. And then near the end of the program the MC announced that Private Frank Yates would lead the entire class of 1092 basic trainees in the memorized recitation of the Soldier’s Creed. Frank’s memory work discipline at the PAYH obviously was at work in the excelling performance of Frank among his fellow soldiers. Reading this report my eyes were as wet as my wife Glenda’s.
It is our premise, based on God’s Word itself, that if the knowledge of Scripture gets into the head of these young men, it may eventually reach their hearts. Therefore, Psalm 119:9 & 11! One of our other express missions is that our graduates might share Christ with others and be able to disciple them. God’s Word tells us that we should “always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. Memorizing Scripture puts the answer on the tip of one’s tongue, that you might be “ready in season and out. I encourage you to make this one of your own personal goals, and as a parent to instill the discipline in your children while they are young, continuing it until they leave your home. There really is no more excellent exercise for their preparation to go out into the world. Just yesterday I conducted the Memorial Service of a dear friend who passed into glory this week at the age of 94. In his late 80s he memorized the first 16 chapters of Revelation. You cannot be too old to hide God’s Word in your heart, and you can begin very early in life. Happy the boy or girl who begins that mind and heart deposit while they are still young.
Encouragement:
“Heavenly Father, Your Word illumines my pathway through life. May I treasure it enough to firmly root it in my memory and heart.


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Jul 07, 2008

Real Freedom or Just Bobby McGee?

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Scriptural Basis:
“Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-32 & 36
Anderso
July 4th is America’s holiday; a perpetual declaration of her independence. We celebrate our nation’s birthday in a very BIG way: fireworks, picnics, parades and patriotic performances. As Americans we have much for which to be proud and thankful; blessed abundantly with liberty and the many freedoms associated with it. And rather than hoard our liberty we have shared it with many people around the globe; inspiring the initiation of one democracy after another on every continent. Despite the cynicism of numerous naysayers: university professors, “intellectual elites, bombastic journalists, the historically ignorant; apart from God’s raising up and using American liberty and strength, the world would be a sorry pit of petty tyrants, cruel dictators, and evil, self-serving Mugabes, Saddam Husseins, Hitlers, and the like. So despite our many flaws, once again on another July 4th we can still celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in America. No one is fighting to leave her; rather people from everywhere are doing everything to get in! Sort of flies in the face of most everything the naysayers write today of our country.
I deeply appreciate, as I am sure you do, the independence of our nation, and the precious privilege of being born, living, and being a citizen in this great democracy. Yet it is worth thinking about when we speak of liberty and freedom either as an individual or as a nation, it is seldom if ever you will hear someone say in such a context, “Yes, but I am thankful most of all for my REAL freedom; freedom from my sin and my guilt. For when the Bible speaks of freedom and liberty THIS IS ITS PRECISE FOCUS! When Jesus speaks of freedom, it is NOT freedom from political tyrants and dictators; it is freedom from sin and guilt and condemnation for our sin. And through the centuries of world history most Christians have lived not under democracy, but under dictatorships, tyrants, and monarchies, not infrequently run by evil kings. All the more reason to give thanks for our blessings; OR, maybe not. Would we more deeply appreciate and treasure our freedom in Christ, if we suffered as our Christian brothers and sisters have historically under the rule of despots and tyrants? I doubt any of us desire that, but what will it take to raise in our consciousness the love of sins forgiven, the appreciation of redemption from sin’s disgrace, and the passionate affection to be a slave to righteousness? Paul says to true believers, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:18) Is that how you would describe your freedom: a slave to righteousness?
It is not a bad thing for us to celebrate national independence as American citizens. But it is a far better thing as a citizen of heaven to love and live freedom from sin and its ugly stains by being covered, redeemed, and washed in the blood of Christ. It does you no good if you do not know and remember what that means and appropriate its truth in your life. There is no freedom like it. You can live in a grand democracy like America and be miserable. You can live anywhere with the knowledge of being set free by the Son, no matter your physical circumstances. No one really knows freedom until they experience it in Christ! Janis Joplin wrote in her famous song, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose… This only makes sense if what you lose is your sinful self, not Bobby McGee. If we die to ourselves, and the sins we cling to, and live unto Christ and His righteousness, we will only and really know freedom!
Encouragement: (more…)


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