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Jul 26, 2012

How Many Glasses of Water Have You Drunk Today?

Strength For The Day

This has been a hot summer in most places across the country. Glasses of water have been in great demand lately.  In recent days the heat has contributed to the ripe conditions for forest fires in the West, drought conditions and scorched crops in the Midwest, along with power outages and deaths due to extreme heat in the east with air conditioning on the blitz. In most places except the Pacific Northwest water was scarce.  And to top it all off the annual Paul Anderson Cycling Challenge begins Saturday with a 600 mile version this year in contrast to last year’s  50th Anniversary 1500 mile trek to Omaha. (Follow the bike ride starting Saturday at: Last year the conditions were also extremely hot with some of the young men’s bike tires melting on the pavement as they crossed Southern Illinois. Talk about frying an egg on the sidewalk. In such heat, water is even more essential and treasured to avoid disaster. It not only hydrates the body, but cools and refreshes. The bikers from the Youth Home carry several bottles at all times to both drink and douse their heads, and the accompanying van transports many cases of bottled spring water. Can’t live or bike without it!
When our country spends billions to research outer space and distant planets like Mars you never hear of a search for gold or precious metals. They are always looking for signs of water etched in the surface; for water indicates the possibility of life in outer space. Water has transformed the earth into the only known habitable planet in this galaxy. For those who have lived in a desert or partial desert environment, they have seen firsthand how water causes the dry ground to blossom and come to life in glorious manifestation. Such are the contrasts drawn in Scripture between a scorched and parched landscape brought to life when the Creator and Lord of the Universe sends rain and streams of water to refresh the earth. It is this dramatic contrast which the Spirit of God uses to contrast the dry wilderness of a soul with a soul that is like a tree planted by streams of water whose leaf does not wither and whose fruit is always producing in season.
Jeremiah says, God’s people strangely prefer the brackish water in stagnant cisterns which they have carved for themselves, to the living water from inextinguishable springs. The cisterns eventually crack and what water is left seeps away, while the springs provide cool water from the deep that keeps bubbling forth day after day. You can picture from many experiences the image the Spirit paints of the physical reality of parched conditions versus cool spring water and its miraculous effects; but the spiritual contrast is oblivious to far too many who languish in the parched wilderness when the fountain of living water is close at hand. The eyes of faith must pursue exposing the personal cisterns each one has carved out for himself to substitute for the spring of living water. Jeremiah, speaking for God says, “My people have committed [these] two errors…… Does the shoe fit? Judgment needs to begin at home. What cisterns have you carved? What have you preferred for your resources to the springs of living water God offers in Christ, the fountain of life? This is best answered in the recesses of your own soul. That we have forsaken the spring and dug our own cisterns is undeniable. What you do about it is a matter of your faith.
After a long hike on a hot day this week my wife and I stopped at the top of a big red sandstone rock and surveyed the scene far below and all around us. We drank cool water we had brought with us in a bottle. Nothing could have been more refreshing in the moment. You drink water many times a day without thinking. Obviously, the moment on this hot hike was more dramatic and memorable. But just as you pray a prayer of thanksgiving before eating your daily bread, should you not think of the Fountain of Living Water every time you drink a glass or bottle of water? Consistency in this may well help you answer the question of the cisterns you have carved for yourself. Far better and more powerful to come from the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit as to what they are, than coming from anyone else. This is what it means to follow the Apostle Paul’s encouragement, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) Now, go grab some glasses of water!

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Jul 19, 2012

Practicing The Presence Of The Devil

Strength For The Day

A Carmelite monk of the seventeenth century known as Brother Lawrence wrote a Christian Classic titled Practicing the Presence of God. It’s still in print after 300 years. Practicing the presence of the devil could be taken as the opposite of practicing God’s presence, but that is not what is intended here.  C.S. Lewis in his witty and wise book The Screwtape Letters tells Christian believers that there are two errors into which you can fall regarding the devil and his demons or fallen angels: you can be obsessed with them to too great a degree or you can ignore, fail to believe in, or acknowledge their existence. It is the latter error that is here our concern. Peter says it is to our peril that we ignore the presence, purposes, and methods of the father of lies, the ever present prowler: the devil.
The Scriptures are quite clear concerning the actions and purposes of our Sovereign God. Isaiah 45:7, Lamentations 3:38 and Matthew 5:45 are just a few of the verses revealing that God sends both good and evil (trouble, testing, calamity) into the lives of unbelievers and believers. He causes rain to fall and sunshine to glow on both unrepentant sinners and those who confess their sin and turn from it. The devil is like an “ambulance chaser;  he is “Johnny on the spot to turn to his own ends whatever God does so he may ruin your response in a crisis or even as you bask in His blessing; seeking to decrease your faith and eviscerate your obedience to your God and Savior. And what is perilous to you is that you are often simply oblivious to what he is doing and that is he doing it, even as you are so well warned in the Word. You lash out at others with whom you are in relationship; you slide into depression; you absent yourself from the people of God; you fail to grab hold of God’s promises; you are dominated by real or perceived circumstances in your life; you behave arrogantly in your self-interest; you forget who you are and whose you are! This is the work of the deceiver and you are complicit in his designs. You fall right into his trap without acknowledging that he is and his location is right at your door (see Genesis 4:7), doing his thing with and to you!
Luther was so aware of the devil’s presence he famously threw his inkwell at him hitting the wall instead. Such awareness not only reveals a willingness to hear God and take seriously the warnings of the Lord, but it enables you to heed His instruction in preparing to do battle with a cunning adversary and then taking the field of battle in full armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). The warnings of Scripture are there so you will not go into each day unprepared. In fact the words of the King James Bible version of our text can hardly be improved; be sober—take it seriously; be vigilant—never let your guard down! When Jesus rebuked the devil he left Him, for a time. The seventy two disciples whom Jesus sent out returned with the triumphant joy that the demons even submitted to them in Christ’s name. Satan can be rebuked, deflected, and defeated; but not if you do not even realize he is there and how he works. Vigilance requires practicing awareness of the presence of the devil, even as you practice the presence of God in your faith. Your arch-enemy likes nothing more than you not recognizing he is in the room and speaking to you. He doesn’t want the spotlight as Jesus turned it on him in the desert. He loves masks. He delights in the masquerade.
Don’t give him the satisfaction of remaining incognito while you succumb to his innuendos and subtle poison arrows. Your behavior is always a mark that he is having his way when that behavior conforms to faithlessness rather than faith. Your faith only grows in the crucible of repeatedly snuffing out his burning arrows. They never stop coming in this life, but your discernment skills in identifying them for what they are grows by leaps and bounds as you exercise faith in what God has said.

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Jul 17, 2012

Mobile Pornography


Pornography has been around for awhile.  The ancient Greeks and Romans created public sculptures that depicted sex acts you cannot see in R-rated movies still today.  Shortly after photography was invented in 1826, photos of nude women surfaced.  From magazines to DVD’S to the the Internet, pornography is available everywhere.
As youth are increasingly exposed at earlier and earlier ages, (the national average for boys is 11), the obvious implication is that access is easier.  When there is a demand, supply will always meet that demand.  Technological devices merely facilitate the reality that we are sexual beings.
While the mobile pornography market surfaced in the last decade, most do not know that mobile consumption is largely credited in 2009  for saving much of the pornography industry.  With youth today accessing the Internet from their phones, PlayStation’s or X-Boxes, tablets, or even a handheld PSP,  entry into the world of porn is certainly easier than in the days of my youth where access to pornography was largely restricted to magazines or movie theaters.
One of the trends we have been tracking here amongst youth at the Paul Anderson Youth Home is where they first access pornography.  66% of our current young men have first viewed pornography via the Internet at ages as early as 8.  While the earliness of the age is staggering, it however is largely a foregone conclusion that their first point of access will be the Internet.  But the next level that we are seeking to discover now is what is the first device they use.  Is it a computer, a phone, tablet, or a gaming device like an X-Box.  Two recent articles certainly support what we expect to see; that it will become far more prevalent for youth to first see porn over their phone via an application, the Internet, or even an image that they have received via a text message.
Here are some links to articles from the news which illustrate this point.  Use the links below to read the full article:

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Jul 17, 2012

Parenting Tips for Computer Usage


We all need some advice from time to time.  Here are some simple parenting tips for computer usage with your children at home.

  1. Turn off the computer at night for at least one hour
  2. Recognize that people are often using technology to fill a relational void
  3. Anticipate that as new sites are created that they will gravitate towards the risqué and lewd
  4. Be aware that computer habits that form early often become behaviors that challenge parents as your children grow older
  5. Limit computer, iPad and tablet usage to a central location and the amount of time they are spending on those devices
  6. Install web filtering/tracking services on each computer
  7. Learn how to interact online and use technology as another way to communicate with your child
  8. Set boundaries and enforce those standards by monitoring what they are doing
  9. Do not allow your children to share their passwords with friends and make sure you know all of your children’s passwords
  10. Check up on their online history and communication.  If history and/or cookies are deleted, then discover why
  11. Inform your children about the real life examples of predators on the web

Be wise about what they may think constitutes “their privacy” and your responsibility as a parent to protect, nurture, admonish, and guide them.  You don’t protect them by not checking up on them. Every parent believes that their child won’t do these things yet the vast percentage of teenagers are interacting socially and virtually in ways that their parents are unaware.

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Jul 17, 2012

Parenting Tips for Cell Phones


We all need some advice from time to time.  Here are some simple parenting tips for cell phones:

  1. Turn their phones off at the dinner table or during a conversation
  2. Check their activity, texting, and the pictures they are taking or storing on their phones
  3. Limit their minutes and number of texts…this is a good opportunity to teach them budgeting
  4. Set boundaries by controlling the apps they can download or the explicit music they can listen to or the type of movies they can download
  5. Recognize that video to video talking can be used for other purposes than just seeing ones face
  6. Expect that cell phones will continue to support the same functions as computers in their access to the Internet so apply some of the same tips for computers as you would a phone
  7. If your child has violated your trust with the phone take the phone away
  8. Pew Research indicated that most people say that the cell phone would be the most difficult piece of technology to give up so pay attention to the habits your child is forming.

We certainly have come a long way from having to use the phone in the kitchen and stretching the cord as far away from our parents as possible.  Remember to be wise about what they may think constitutes “their privacy” and your responsibility as a parent to protect, nurture, admonish, and guide them.  You don’t protect them by not checking up on them. Every parent believes that their child won’t do these things.  So whose child is it?  Are the issues youth facing always someone else’s child?  Is that reasonable to even say?  Be engaged!  The vast percentage of adolescents are interacting socially and virtually in ways that their parents are unaware.

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Jul 17, 2012

Parenting Tips for Gaming Devices


We all need some advice from time to time.  Here are some simple parenting tips for gaming devices like an X-Box or PlayStation within your home:

  1. Be aware of the fact that gaming can easily form addictive behaviors
  2. Limit the amount of time spent playing
  3. Know that gaming devices offer access to movies, pictures and video files
  4. Set your game consoles to restrict activity.  The only way unsuitable material can be accessed is if the code is known
  5. Console settings also allow you to block the types of movies that can be seen
  6. Use websites like Common Sense Media to know what language games use
  7. Console settings also allow you to choose the type of game ratings you will allow on your gaming device
  8. Movies can be watched on via Netflix, Amazon, etc.  You can control the type of movie ratings that their X-Box or PlayStation will allow
  9. If you allow your child to play online, recognize that you have no idea who they are really playing with, what is being said over the headset, and what files and videos are being shared
  10. Your children can also use the Internet to Google how to get around parental settings so pay attention to what they are doing

Be wise about what they may think constitutes “their privacy” and your responsibility as a parent to protect, nurture, admonish, and guide them.  You don’t protect them by not checking up on them. Every parent believes that their child won’t do these things yet the vast percentage of teenagers are interacting virtually in ways that their parents are unaware.  Do not be merely content to say it is over your head.  Be engaged!  If you get your child or teen a gaming device, then learn how to use it yourself.

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Jul 12, 2012

When The Time Was Right


“There just isn’t enough time in the day; so goes our common excuse. “Where did the time go, we ask. You and I are creatures of time. Even those who think they are not bound by it are; they can’t escape it. Using our time well is a constant battle. And the most important part of the battle is determining the meaning of “well. God determined our 24 hour day, but even if he gave us 36 hour days the same problem would still be there. How do we use our gift of time?
Ecclesiastes tells us that there is time for everything. I am not sure we believe that, since we feel so often that there are always things left undone. The young men who come to the Paul Anderson Youth Home do better with time than they did before because their time is managed for them by the staff, with the hope that when they are their own time managers again they will have learned time management skills. But it still comes down for all of us to the question and how we answer, “What will I do with the time which God gives me? God’s providence in your life, where he has placed you, and the responsibilities which accrue to you in your “borders, determine a lot of the time requirements to accomplish what is yours to do. You still have more time than you realize to assess its valued use so that you genuinely rest in peace of mind before God.
Though God is timeless, he still acted and acts within time. I recently read concerning God and time: “When the time was right, the sea parted, the walls fell down, the lions went hungry, the sun stood still, the star appeared, the waves were calmed, the stone was rolled away, the Lord ascended…And when the time is right, the King of Kings will return. God is never early and He’s never late—He’s always right on time and His plans for you are good. (Jeremiah 29:11) (Dayspring) God knows something about time management!
David wrote that “God is a refuge, a stronghold, in times of trouble; and he said to God, “My times are in your hands. It is true that in the management of our time our troubles lie heavy upon us. All the more reason to seek the Lord constantly; I believe it is altogether too difficult and complex to sort out what to do and what to leave undone in much of what we are faced with in circumstances and situations throughout our life. Everyone needs a time manager, and there is none better than the Lord.
What we know of Jesus’ use of time in his brief in-the-flesh life on earth from the Gospels is revealed in glimpses within the three years of his public ministry. We tend to forget that he spent almost three decades as a carpenter’s son, and a carpenter. But seeing He was without sin, how he used His time then was always well pleasing to God the Father. He did many, what we call, mundane things; He was faced with many decisions of what He would do when. The study of His life in what we do know reveal habits and priorities. In addition to His example He has sent us the Comforter, to live in us even as our troubles lie heavy on us. Why do you think the Lord calls Him the Comforter, if that is not what He is? If you are ever going to be pleased with your use of time, and be at peace before your Holy Father at the end of the day, you must inculcate calling upon Him to manage your time throughout your days; and nurturing the same habits and mind set you observe in your study of the Savior. He was incarnate among us that we might put on like a garment His way of life and His use of time. In the full scope of your existence, time is a breath of air in comparison to timeless eternity. All the more reason to make it count.

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Jul 09, 2012

Real Teens Talk: Is There Hope?


How many times have you wondered whether or not there was hope for the next generation?  We see it every day.  A young man who has made some poor decisions finds himself sliding down a slippery slope that will ultimately lead him to destruction.  No matter how bad the situation, no matter how far they’ve gone, there is always room for God to intervene.

Hear what a real teen has to say about hope…

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Jul 06, 2012

A Critical Time


The first five years are a critical time in a child’s overall development.  Within this time frame, a child can embrace one of two realities:  he/she grows up experiencing love and security and trust in his parents or he/she is not held and nurtured… he/she is placed in the arms of strangers who are not connected to him/her… his/her family is torn apart by rancor, insecurity, turmoil, abuse, alcoholism, divorce… he/she lives with step-parents in whom he/she feels no bond and step-siblings whose presence threaten his/her place with his natural parent.
If seeds of love, security, and trust are planted early, the child’s inner spirit is literally welcomed into life, which can be seen in his/her face.  He/she is a child who knows within the depth of his/her being that he/she is cherished and wanted.   The other type of child; however, like many of those who come to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, grows up with an emotional vacuum or hole in his/her heart, and by the time he is a teenager, that vacuum is filled with rage.
While the most critical time in your child’s overall development is the first five years, if you have already passed that window, do not fret.  Today is the most critical time in your child’s life.  It is never too late to love and nurture your child.  What will you do today to reach your child?
Proverbs 15:13   “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken

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Jul 05, 2012

Hope: Longing For A Better Country

Strength For The Day

Happy Birthday to arguably the greatest country in the history of the world! America has been far more blessed, far more powerful, and used by God for far more good in the world than any nation before her. Yet if the present trend continues America will soon pass from the world stage like so many other nations and empires in history. No matter the current state of our being, there is still hope.  Alexis de Tocqueville said many years ago, “America is great because America is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. His prophecy and his wisdom are becoming ever more evident in these days; we will soon cease to be great, as we cease to be good. He also said, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress [and its President] discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money. That day is upon us.
Being a citizen of America is one of the greatest God given blessings that has been bestowed on we who are Americans. And there is no doubt in my mind that America is great because of her greatest freedom, freedom of religion. She has been a religious nation for most of her history as the gospel has proliferated within her borders; and her greatest export beyond her shores has been the flood of missionaries and benevolent resources sent to the spiritually, physically and liberty impoverished peoples of the world. There is no need to list all the blessings given to the rest of the world with American resources, sacrificing hearts, and life blood. Those Americans with grateful hearts and observant eyes know it; those who do not or attempt to rewrite history are neither grateful for what they have been given or honest with the truth. These latter ingrates dominate the instruction in our schools and universities so that a whole generation is growing up without any appreciation of the truth. The trend is ominous and the future grim. Or is it?
The answer depends on your current perspective. If your hope is bound to an earthly home, and your promise of peace and rest is chained to the continuing greatness of a prosperous America, then for you the trend is ominous and the future is indeed grim. But for those with the faith of Abraham, the implosion of America from within will not deter their hope and longing for a better country: “For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Of great necessity the believer must keep his eyes on the promises of his road map, the Scripture, and upon the author and finisher of his salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In so doing the believer in America is still a citizen of the country whose birthday we just celebrated, though as Paul tells us, “our (true) citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20) As a citizen here we still have responsibilities to pray and to obey. The believer must vote for those people and those policies that most align with the instruction of God’s Word and commandments. I believe you will answer to God for your vote or your non-vote. This is neither a trivial matter or ungodly because it is earthly. We are in the world, but not aligned with the world. Citizenship in heaven never absolves us from our responsibility as a Christian citizen of the United States of America. America’s goodness has arisen from you and  your fellow American believers living today on earth or waiting for you in heaven; believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit, leavening the country in which we live and they lived.
I have been reading Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer, a good book to read as America passes its 236th birthday. It impresses me with the character of the leaders America was blessed with at its beginning, like George Washington. As you read about him you once more are impressed that Washington’s character was formed out of his devotion to Jesus Christ and the knowledge of His Word. He applied it in his actions, policies and life, unlike most leaders at the forefront in America today.
Continue to pray earnestly for America, yet, with faith and hope, longing for a better country.  “God has planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40)

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