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On Solid Ground

Originally posted on The Whatever Girls.Whatever-Girls-Button

 

In November, while in New Zealand, I toured a place of geothermal activity known as Hells Gate. There were warning signs everywhere telling people to stay on the trails. To step off them, you would be stepping onto unstable ground; it’s a molten substance that could burn you to death.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 1.15.42 PMTwo of the features that stood out to me were called Devil’s Cauldron and Sodom and Gomorrah. Stepping off the path and dangling a toe into Sodom and Gomorrah or Devil’s Cauldron would cause excruciating pain and leave your toe badly burned. The hazards were very clear to anyone who was in the park.

While in the park, it got me to thinking about what happens when we step off the path God has laid out for us. Sometimes we choose to dangle our foot, here and there, in the world which is a huge gamble. The world offers some very dark things.

Pornography is a multimillon-dollar industry that feeds prostitution and sex trafficking. Personal ads asking for explicit sexual things are a huge part of Craigslist. Sexting is not just an adult activity, it’s ugly and sinks its dangerous claws into our children. Social media sites have taken bullying to a whole new level of evil. Cyber bullying continues to rise and with it comes the deaths of those who cannot take the pain of what is done to them.

As parents, we need to talk to our kids about the risks of what is out there. We need to give them the tools to stay on the path. Prayer for our children is huge but it can’t be all we do. We need to talk openly with them about the dangers of the internet. We need to talk with them about sex. It may be embarrassing but if we don’t talk to them, someone else is going to.

When we don’t keep communication open and give our children the important tools of prayer and scripture along with a relationship with Jesus, we are like a parent who sets their toddler on the path at Hells Gate and lets them run wherever they want with no guidance. Your toddler could be burned alive right in front of you if they fell into Devil’s Cauldron, Sodom and Gomorrah, or one of the other pools along the path.

As parents we should also be horrified by what our teens can fall into if we let them run through their teen years without guidance. Press into God and give your children what they need to stay on solid ground. Keep communication open no matter how awkward the conversations may feel.

The world is beckoning our children to step off the path into Devil’s Cauldron or Sodom and Gomorrah. We need to be guiding our children to do what it says in Philippians 4:8-9.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (NLT)

IMG_3653Teach your children to fix their thoughts on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.” When they are faced with peer pressure, we need to teach them to take it to God. If it is not something that is excellent or worthy of praise, step away from it. It is our job to teach our children to put into practice everything they have learned and received from God and from us. Our children learn from what they hear and see us doing. Be sure you are a godly example. When you teach your children to walk with God, He will be with them and help them stay on solid ground.

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Fear Is Not From God

LB50ContributorSQOriginally posted on Living Better 50 magazine

Fear is not from God, but there should be a reverent fear of the Lord. There is also the fear that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. That kind of fear is a warning telling us we should not be where we are.

The kind of fear I am talking about is fear the enemy sends our way. Once we let that kind of fear take root, it can become the mode in which we operate from. My fear from a childhood trauma caused me to parent out of a “mode of fear” more often than once. With God, I have been able to overcome it and you can overcome your fears, too.

The enemy wants to see God’s plan for our lives fail. He loads up a big flaming arrow of fear and fires itScreen Shot 2015-02-04 at 8.40.29 PM into our camp. All it takes is one little spark to start a raging fire of fear in our hearts. If you have a hurt from your childhood, shame from a past mistake, or fear of rejection, the enemy is going to look for a crack in your armor and he is going to fire right at it. God, however, has given us the ability to extinguish all those flaming arrows. He has given us the most powerful weapon, “faith”. Ephesians 6:16 says, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.(NIV)

Fear is one of the most powerful weapons he tries to use against us, but with faith, we can overcome fear. If you are operating out of a mode of fear, you don’t have to any more. Go to the Lord, tell Him your fears and ask Him to take them away. Claim the truth of God’s word over your life. Fear that cripples us, that takes us away from living life victoriously, is not from God. “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)

You can claim scripture for yourself in a prayer. Not sure what I mean? Deuteronomy 31:6 can be put into a prayer like this:

Lord, Your word tells us to be strong and of good courage. I need You to give me that strength and courage. I no longer want to be afraid, and Lord, I believe You are the one who goes with me. I believe You will not leave me or forsake me. I give You my fear, Lord, because with You, I do not need to fear. Thank you, God, for being here for me always. Amen.

When you raise your shield of faith, you can extinguish the flaming arrows. There may be times when you feel you need help to hold up your shield of faith. If you find yourself in a place where you feel too worn out to fight, you can ask others to pray, too. Don’t ever think you are weak because you ask for prayer. To call in reinforcements that can raise their shields of faith around you is a strategic move. A good soldier never goes into battle alone and you don’t have to either. When the arrows come flying at you, raise your shield and call in reinforcements. Stand strong with your feet planted on the word of God and you will extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy.

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Stop Trying To Prove It

5By Travis Niles

I have been asked to share with my fellow Christian men something that God has taught me. As a man speaking to other men, the most important thing I can offer is this:

God made you a man. Accept it and get over yourself.

That is, don’t spend time trying to prove it to yourself or to others. “Trying to prove it” means that you haven’t yet figured out a good enough answer to the question, “How do I know that I’m (really) a man?”

You’ve probably never confronted the question head-on, but much of what you say and do might be (subconsciously) directed at answering it. At some point, someone gave you the idea that “real men do X” or “real men have/own Y,” and it can’t be otherwise. And that has real consequences. In order to prove that he belongs to the club, a guy becomes obsessed with doing X, and he just needs to have Y, even if he’s not interested in those things.

But what if he didn’t need to prove it? What if the question of his manhood had already been settled? Could that bring more freedom into his life?

What I want to tell you, is this: Nothing other than the simple fact of your creation as a man will give you assurance that you are, indeed, a man.

Looking to the triune God who made us is the only appropriate starting point to form a Christian viewpoint of what it means to be a man. A creature can’t be known apart from its Creator, so we can’t start by looking at ourselves, our inclinations, and our desires. Whatever a culture defines as truly masculine (whether that culture is reactionary, conservative, progressive, or liberal) cannot be a sure foundation for knowing oneself to be a man. A social scientist might tell us that each culture has generally accepted standards of male/female activity and behavior, but for our purposes here, those judgments are irrelevant.

God created you as a man, so you’re a man. Period. The only thing that has the right to decide your manhood is something your Creator has already done. “Proving it” is not a right that you’ve been granted. God’s sovereign choice nixed that from the get-go.

This means that being a man is something categorical, not a matter of degrees. You are either a man, or you’re not. There is no “more” or “less.”

Let’s take a look at this from the first angle: Being a man is not decided by your “extracurricular activities.” As I mentioned earlier, some men think that in order to be a man, one must do X, or must have Y. But is that true?

On our culture’s terms, I’ve done enough to “earn my man card.” For a long time, I had a nice 2beard. I had a big truck. I have multiple tattoos. I played football in high school and college. In both settings, I was voted in as co-captain, voted as Most Inspirational, and also earned All-Academic Team honors. I was a valedictorian at my high school and a top student at my university. During the summers of my college years, I ran a stump and tree removal company and also worked as a strength coach for a local high school football team. After college, I moved overseas, alone, to a place where I didn’t know the language, fought to learn it, and then had a great year and a half of preaching and teaching in multiple congregations in the region. Then I came home to spend a summer working on a commercial fishing boat in1 Alaska, which I’ll do again this year. (And yes, commercial fishing is America’s deadliest occupation, second only to the logging industry!) Now, I’m in graduate school, back in the academic game.

Does all of that truly prove that I belong in the club?

Is there something else I ought to do to convince someone of my manliness? Should I grow my beard back? Should I go get another big truck and give up the tiny ’89 Cadillac that I inherited from my grandma? (Really, my current car is an old-lady car!) Should I only wear Wrangler jeans and dink around on cars in my free time? Start building up my gun collection? Build my own house? Go hunting and fishing?

I could definitely do all those things, if I wanted. But the truth is that those things don’t excite me. I enjoy good literature, German poetry, artistic films, and going to art museums. Sure, I enjoyed my time living in a little village in the German countryside, but I also enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city and the cultural opportunities it has to offer. I’d much rather watch a good political satire than watch Bear Grylls. And I love hearing my friends play concerts with their indie-rock bands or read slam poetry. I feel comfortable doing those things because none of them change the fact that I’m a man. In the same way, none of the things I mentioned three paragraphs ago made me more of a man at the end than I was at the start. They have no meaning when it comes to answering the question, “How do I know that I’m a man?”

Let’s see it from a second angle: What you have and your proficiency at what you do (e.g., how legit your beard is, or how athletic you are) doesn’t decide whether you are more or less of a man. Let’s be honest, guys. If someone gives us activities that “define us” as men, it doesn’t take long for us to start sizing each other up. Whoever is better at an activity, or whoever possesses a “manly trait” in stronger fashion becomes “more” of a man, and the others become “less” than truly masculine. What you end up with is a never-ending competition and men who constantly despair of their manhood if they’re not “winning.” This mentality is a house of cards.

What’s ironic is that the thing which unsettles men in their masculinity and seems to “rob them” of it is not something like the radical feminist movement (as some might suppose), but the very mindset I’ve described. It’s when men try to establish themselves as men in the sight of other men that things go south. Those who lose at this game either get depressed and give up or they become neurotic in their drive to win. And those who win enjoy their success and devote their passions and energies to staying on top. Or, some men just change the terms of the argument. Perhaps a man doesn’t have an athletic bone in his body, so he takes refuge in the fact that he’s a “Field & Stream” kind of guy, and “everyone knows” that those guys are the “real men.” So, instead of death by outside forces, this system eats itself alive, from the inside.

Here’s a concrete example: I knew some football players in college who had been studs in high school. At the college level, though, they were second and third-stringers. Somehow, some of them began to doubt their manhood. I watched confident men deteriorate as their self-image crumbled. To these few players, only the first-stringers were real men. The reason why this way of thinking is neither realistic nor practical is that your vantage point continually changes your conclusion as to who the “real men” are. Among the first-stringers, the “true studs” were the all-conference players. We were a D-3 school, by the way. How would D-1 players look at our “studs”? They would probably dismiss them, and in this way of thinking, rightfully so. But now tell me, how many D-1 players make it into the NFL? Who are the “true men” at the end of the day? This whole way of analyzing manhood is simply nonsense. It broke my heart to see these otherwise fine gentlemen subject themselves to low self-esteem and to be denigrated by the higher-ups on our squad.

To take it a step further: A significant number of the best men I knew in college were not athletes, yet were looked down upon by some of the athletes as being something other than “real men.” It didn’t take me long to figure out that something didn’t add up.

Manhood can’t be defined by our activities, hobbies, and material traits or possessions.

How many grown men worry incessantly and waste their time in their pursuit to prove that they are truly manly men? Pursuing the purchase of a bigger truck? A faster motorcycle? Showing off your beer, wine, and cocktail acumen at parties? Chasing better proficiency in hunting or gaining more athletic prowess? Bagging a trophy wife? Getting a bigger house?

When does it stop?

My hope for Christian men is that they set aside their silly games which reveal them to be boys rather than sensible adults. What if you could just accept the fact that you’re a man and stop trying to prove it to yourself and others?

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Building site in Romania. Travis is in the blue shirt

The more time you invest in your personal advancement, the less time you have for what’s truly important. My hope is that Christian men set their sights on their task as Christians to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and to do what they can to bring the Gospel to a world who is desperately in need of it, instead of focusing on themselves. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Don’t be a Martha!

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Romania…Be the kind of man who is more concerned with serving God than what the world thinks of you.

The practical payoff is that this truth sets you free. Because you know God created you as a man, you can freely, confidently, and joyfully pursue the things you want to pursue without having to worry about what other men might think. Perhaps it’s just that kind of free, joyous person that God can use for his purposes.

Come on, man. Accept the fact that you were created as a man, and be yourself

 

I hope you liked the latest post in my “Dirt, Trucks and Faith” series.  I am looking forward to more posts from some awesome men of God. If you missed the first two posts, here are the links. Issac and Steve

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Foggles

Originally posted on Living Better 50 magazine.

My husband recently got his private pilot’s license. During his training, he had to fly wearing something called foggles. Foggles are glasses that have been made to simulate foggy conditions, low ceiling clouds, and night to the pilot who is wearing them. They are frosted on the top half to limit the pilot’s field of vision and force them to use only the flight instruments. While wearing foggles, pilots must fly IFR, Instrument Flight Rules, rather than visually, which is known as VFR, Visual Flight Rules.

IMG_3297

My first flight with my husband. We are flying over Priest Lake Idaho.

This training equips the pilot to be ready for real-life situations when there is little to no visibility. In a situation of low to no visibility, the pilot must rely on two things, his/her instruments to navigate and the air traffic controller. This takes many hours of practice to be ready for unexpected weather. A pilot who isn’t knowledgeable in instrument reading can find himself/herself in a very dangerous situation.

Many times life can be hard for us to navigate. It can leave us standing in what feels like a fog. Like a pilot, we too, need to train. Setting aside time to study God’s word prepares us for those times we find ourselves in turbulence. Pilots rely on their instruments and we can rely on God’s instrument, His word, the Bible.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

God’s word can guide us step by step. Take a look at what Psalm 119:105 says,

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (NIV)

The word of God can guide you step-by-step when you feel like you are not sure what’s in front of you.

Just as a pilot counts on the air traffic controller, we can count on God. Prayer gives us a direct line to God. No need to find the correct frequency for prayer, we just need to speak and God is waiting to hear us.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30 (ESV)

In a time of distress they called upon the Lord in Psalm 107. God wants to be more than the “Mayday, Mayday” call that you make in your time of need. He wants us to be in prayer to Him daily, about everything, so that when the turbulences of life come at us we can ride them out in the security of His presence. God wants us to pray always and do it with thanksgiving.

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Life is going to get bumpy. At times, you are going to feel like you are wearing foggles but when you study the Bible regularly and have a strong prayer life you can navigate your way safely through whatever lies ahead of you. If you have never done any study of the Bible and you are not sure where to start here are a few ideas.

  1. Some basic steps in studying the Bible: http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestudyresources/ss/biblestudy.htm
  2. Reading the Bible in a year: http://www.ewordtoday.com/year/
  3. There are many studies you can purchase. These are a few I have enjoyed.
  • The Purple Book by Rice Broocks and Steve Murrell
  • Breaking Free by Beth Moore
  • Freedom in Christ by Neil T. Anderson
  • Altar’d by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

No matter what you choose to study it is important to pray before you start your study. Ask God to give you a deeper understanding of His word. Also, don’t forget to pray daily about all things. Pray with boldness and don’t forget to give thanks. Remember, God wants to hear from you daily not just when you have a “Mayday, Mayday” prayer.

I believe that you wouldn’t want to be in a plane with a pilot that doesn’t know how to read his/her instruments. How scary it would be to have the pilot frantically looking through the pages of the flight-training book to get you through the fog. Please don’t wait until you are in the middle of the fog to grab your Bible.

Blessings,

Kim

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I was ready for my first flight with my husband. Sometimes I just can’t help myself 🙂

To see other articles from Christian writers, find health tips, and great articles about decorating cooking and more….go to Living Better 50

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