In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. NIV Listen [Link]
Malachi 3:3 says: ‘He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.’
This verse puzzled some men in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.
One of the men offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.
That week, the man called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for his interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining Silver.
As he watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then he thought again about the verse that says: ‘ He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’
He asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time.
The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The man was silent for a moment. Then he asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’
He smiled at her and answered, ‘ Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.
- Think not only of your own interests, but also the interests of others.
- Find satisfaction in service.
- Determine life’s true priorities and fanatically pursue those things.
- Be a mentor and let someone mentor you.
- Do what you know is right even when you don’t feel like it.
- Ask people about their lives and be prepared to listen.
- Clean up the mess. Do what others think is beneath them.
- Apologize when you make a mistake.
- Be a principle-based person who does what is right, not just what is expedient or lucrative.
- Honor those who are older.
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” ~Confucius
How can a mountain better prepare us for life? At over 14,000 feet, there’s more to learn than I would have thought.
Last week I sat on top of Mt. Shasta, a 14,179 foot mountain in Northern California. It was my first real summit and I was proud. Getting there took me through two days of snow, ice and below-freezing camping conditions, using crampons, an ice axe, and more layers than I thought I owned.
As I climbed, and especially on my way down, I began to realize the lessons required to reach the top and make it back down safely. As it turns out, the most important rules are just as relevant in the snow as they are in conquering our everyday challenges.
When was the last time you reached a mountain summit, whether outdoors or in life?
We face our own mountains everyday. Some small. Some big. There’s always a summit we want to reach. Maybe it’s running those few miles before work, making that intimidating sales call, or running your business. Goals, no matter the size, require a strategy for success.
A cold tall mountain reinforced an approach that can convert life’s everyday challenges into gratifying accomplishments.
A Guide to Reaching Life’s Summits
Pack light. I wish I took this more seriously. Every unnecessary piece of gear complicates things and detracts from the experience. Aside from the bare necessities, things do not make life better. They often cause more stress and keep you from what’s most important. The lighter your pack the better. Life is too short to be burdened with excessive possessions, emotional baggage or regrets. Positive thoughts, relationships and experiences weigh nothing at all. Pile them on and leave the rest behind. They’ll lift you to the top.
Take one step at a time. Any major accomplishment can be broken down into a series of single steps. My pattern for the mountain was 15 steps up, 15 breaths of rest. I did that for 7 hours. If I would have only focused on the very top, frustration would have overcome me. If your summit is too intimidating, break it into smaller steps. Focus on those one by one. Eventually one step will be the one that puts you on top.
Don’t go at it alone. When climbing, a partner is a must. For safety, support, camaraderie, motivation and simply to share the journey. You’d be silly (and putting yourself in great danger) to go up alone. Life is meant to be experienced with others. It makes the valleys shallower and the peaks higher. Relationships magnify experiences and help you do things that prove impossible alone. Don’t leave home without your support team.
Listen to the experts. Halfway up, a passing guide told us if we couldn’t get to the top by 12:30 at the latest, then to turn back. Chances of late day thunderstorms were too great. As amateurs we would have had no idea. While we all ought to experience our own paths, it’s foolish not to learn from and observe the guidance of experts. Choose your life models wisely and keep them close by on your journey.
Slow down. As Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia says, “It’s about how you got there. Not what you’ve accomplished.” Despite what colleagues and competitors may tell you, there is no rush. Rushing on the mountain risks slipping, not acclimating to thinning air, exhaustion and possibly death. In life the biggest risk is that you miss the wonders of everyday experiences in your pursuit to the top. The top is secondary to the process.
Look back and take in the view. There’s never any guarantee that you’ll get to the top, but you always have the ability to stop, take in a deep breath, smile and enjoy the view-whether it’s miles of wilderness or two feet of fog. It’s all wonderful. Every moment of life is a new view to appreciate.
Save some energy for the trip down. We thought the summit was “just over that peak” half a dozen times before it actually was. Conserve energy. Things will inevitably take longer than expected. Don’t be discouraged. Budget your capital, energy and drive appropriately. Rarely is anything in life an all out sprint. Treat it like a marathon. You may need your reserves when you least expect it.
Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory. These are Ed Viesturs’ famous words; the first U.S. man to summit all 14 peaks above 8,000 meters with no bottled oxygen. The summit will be there tomorrow and likely so will yours. If more planning, a stronger team or more support is required, then save the summit for a time when the payout is safer and more probable. If you are outmatched, know when to turn back, only to return stronger and more savvy tomorrow. Stay objective and don’t let short-term excitement get in the way of long-term fulfillment.
Failure is a part of the process. If we would have started our climb the week before, conditions would have been too grave to make it. Be ok with not reaching the summit every time. Falling short is inevitable. You will never learn more than from your failures…at anything. Embrace them.
A daunting summit is nothing more than a challenge. A challenge is simply an opportunity in disguise. You won’t summit every one you come across, but you will become a better person with each attempt.
There will always be another mountain. You are not meant to conquer them all. Past summits are simply preparing you for the next. With the right strategy, you’ll put the top within reach. When your summit arrives, you will be ready.
“It is not the mountains we conquer but ourselves.” ~Sir Edmund Hillary
God tells Moses in Exodus 3:14, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. ” YHWH is the promised name of God. This name of God which (by Jewish tradition) is too holy to voice, is actually spelled “YHWH” without vowels. YHWH is referred to as the Tetragrammaton (which simply means “the four letters”). YHWH comes from the Hebrew letters: Yud, Hay, Vav, Hay. While YHWH is first used in Genesis 2, God did not reveal Himself as YHWH until Exodus 3. The modern spelling as “Yahweh” includes vowels to assist in pronunciation. Many pronounce YHWH as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” We no longer know for certain the exact pronunciation. During the third century A.D., the Jewish people stopped saying this name in fear of contravening the commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” (Exd 20:7). As a result of this, Adonai is occasionally a substitute for YHWH.
As we investigate further into the nature of God, we see His omnipotence in this name He gives Himself. ”I AM THAT I AM” reflects God’s eternalness. He has always been and will always be. As we spend time in prayer this week, let’s think about God’s eternalness and how we share this as adopted children.
In Steve’s class on the names of God, Steve points out that God gives Himself over 80 different names in the Bible. Yet, here in America we generally only use three: God, Lord, and Father. By studying the various names He uses, we are able to gain a better understanding of the differing aspects of God.
This week we studied Elohim. ELOHIM: God (a plural noun, more than two, used with singular verbs); God as Creator, Preserver, Transcendent, Mighty and Strong. Eccl., Dan. Jonah use Elohim almost exclusively. See Gen. 17:7, 6:18, 9:15, 50:24; I Kings 8:23; Jer. 31:33; Isa. 40:1. All in all, Elohim occurs 2,570 times in the OT, 32 times in Gen. 1 alone.
This week when you pray think about Elohim and all that He has created. Give thanks to the Creator for we are His creations.
At the Thursday morning bible study we were discussing the recent activity regarding an “extreme bathroom makeover” for one of our members. It seemed for years, repairs and maintenace were left undone because of cost and neglect. After a while, the tasks became so daunting that a overwhelming feelings of helplessness and embarrassment had set in. With no money, poor health, and little skill, where were they to turn?
One day one of our members visited with them in their house and saw the catastrophe that was occuring. Soon after he contacted another member with some contracting skill, whom in turned contacted some others. Shortly thereafter, a plan was in place, cleaning was done, and now the remodeling is in the final touch-ups. All this because one man saw an opportunity, took initiative, and made a phone call.
How many other of our members are in the same shape? How many have we (I) visited? Do we (I) even have a relationship with them to know what is going on in their lives?
I believe there are two lessons here: First, there is a hugh spirit of service that exists here at Tusculum. We should not become so overwhelmed with embarrassment, pride, stress, etc., that we become too ashamed to ask for help from our church family. Second, we need to seek for opportunities to serve by viewing life through God’s eyes. Too many times we (I) get so wrapped up in our (my) own life that we miss opportunities for service. God gives us these opportunites so that we can grow in Him.
“Thank you” to all of the men and women who helped with this project. Please pray that God will open our eyes so that we won’t miss these opportunities as they briefly appear.
FROM THE BOOK GRACE FOR THE MOMENT by Max Lucado
Each Day . . .
In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met.
For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now that I must make a choice. Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose. And so I choose.
I CHOOSE LOVE . . .
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.
I CHOOSE JOY . . .
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical … the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I CHOOSE PEACE . . .
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.
I CHOOSE PATIENCE . . .
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at a new assignment, I will face them with joy and courage.
I CHOOSE KINDNESS . . .
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.
I CHOOSE GOODNESS . . .
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.
I CHOOSE FAITHFULNESS . . .
Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.
I CHOOSE GENTLENESS . . .
Nothing is son by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I CHOOSE SELF-CONTROL . . .
I am a spiritual being . . .
After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.
by Dr. James Emery White
When it comes to porn, the question facing many men is simple: is it really wrong? Is it really that big of a deal? I mean, it’s just an image on a screen. It’s not someone I know (so it’s not lust, right?), or someone I’m having an actual affair with, so I’m still faithful to my wife. It’s just sexual release, like masturbation, and we all know that masturbation is not condemned in the Bible. It’s not even mentioned. And isn’t sex a good thing, so what’s wrong in watching it happen? I’m just admiring beauty. And besides, I’m single, so what do you expect me to do with all this pent-up sexual energy? It seems like a safe release until I am married.
I’ve heard all of this, and more, from men.
So is it really that big of a deal?
Yes, and here’s why:
It is sexual sin. Jesus made it clear that when we give in to lust, it is akin the act itself. It makes no difference whether you know the person or not; lust is not tied to relationship.
It is addictive. The ubiquitous nature of porn is new to our culture, and to human sexuality, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it is highly addictive in nature. As a result, it can not only begin to dominate a life, but can demand ever-increasing levels of exposure and ever-increasing degrees of experience to continue to stimulate.
It is degrading to women. In pornography, women are treated as objects. They are not fulfilling God’s dream for their life as His precious daughter, nor are they fulfilling His design for sexual expression and fulfillment. You are watching a woman who is being sinned against, treated in a way that is contemptible to her heavenly father (whether she sees it or not – and the fact that many may not only adds to its tragic nature).
It leads to other sins. Studies are beginning to show that the effects of porn on men is more than temporary sexual stimulation: as they see women treated as objects, they begin to treat women that way. They become more sexually aggressive, leading to date rapes and expected “hook-ups.”
It harms your relationship with your current, or future, spouse. It is absolutely bogus to say that watching porn enhances a sexual life. Instead, it cheapens it. Porn quickly becomes a substitute for sexual intimacy with your spouse.
It desensitizes your soul. Sin of any kind desensitizes your spiritual life. Continued exposure to a sin such as pornography is like shooting novocaine into your soul. It deadens you and grieves the Holy Spirit in your life, forcing Him to withdraw His utmost filling in a way that diminishes His power and presence in your life. (Eph 4:17-19)
It distorts sex. “You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act,” wrote C.S. Lewis, “that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was some equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?”
I’m a pastor. I talk with men who are dealing with the spiritual torment and guilt of engaging in a sin while trying to rationalize it away; I talk with men who are having to fight it as an addiction; I talk with men who are finding it is leading them to a warped view of women; I talk with men who are experiencing it’s direct path to other sins; I talk with men who are seeing its assault on their marriage; I talk with men who are trying to awaken their souls from its deadening grip; I talk with men who have distorted views of what sex is about.
I have a front-row seat to how it’s impacting their lives. I don’t need to wait for a host of studies. I’m in a living laboratory. So don’t tell me it’s no big deal.
I know the men who can prove you wrong.
This article was posted in conjuntion with Steve’s email on Purity. Hope it helps.
Lord, so often times, as any other day
When we sit down to our meal and pray
We hurry along and make fast the blessing
Thanks, amen. Now please pass the dressing
We’re slaves to the olfactory overload
We must rush our prayer before the food gets cold
But Lord, I’d like to take a few minute more
To really give thanks to what I’m thankful for
For my family, my health, a nice soft bed
My friends, my freedom, a roof over my head
I’m thankful right now to be surrounded by those
Whose lives touch me more than they’ll ever possibly know
Thankful Lord, that You’ve blessed me beyond measure
Thankful that in my heart lives life’s greatest treasure
That You, dear Jesus, reside in that place
And I’m ever so grateful for Your unending grace
So please, heavenly Father, bless this food You’ve provided
And bless each and every person invited