Daniel 5:23 “…you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.”

If I were to offer you something intoxicating, addictive, and dangerous, would you be interested? Sounds pretty sketchy, right? I’m betting you’d likely be quick to break off the conversation and make a hasty exit.

Though the answer to the question seems like a no-brainer, I have never met the first man who is fleeing from success…which is what I described.

Yet indeed, God wants success for each of us.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

To back this up, scripture is filled with successful men. However, few of them were able to maintain a right few of themselves and continue to honor God once they received it.

The challenge, men, lies in holding a right view of success and it’s source. By the world’s standards, it almost always leads to some form of self worship and kingdom building. Even modern christianity can twist it into something it’s not.

We need God’s perspective to stay humble.

This is a lesson Babylonian King Belshazzar never learned. Inheriting the throne from his father Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his royal mouth. Rarely tasting humility, his eleven year reign built his ego to mythical proportions.On his fateful last night, he did what any self-made man would do to celebrate: he threw a party.

Though he didn’t know our God, he had certainly heard of Him. His father had undoubtedly told stories of Daniel, the exile who’s God was the “God of gods and Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47) and of the three men who survived the fires of the furnace unscathed because “…no other god…is able to rescue” in the way their God rescued them. (Daniel 3:29)

None of this stopped Belshazzar from mocking God. He used the vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem to serve booze at his drunk-fest. God had seen enough.

A disembodied hand crashed the party, writing a prophetic message on the wall that only the prophet Daniel was able to interpret: “Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin”. Daniel’s interpretation was “Numbered, Numbered, Weighed and Divided”. In other words, the days of Belshazzar’s reign were numbered. They had been evaluated (weighed) by the God of the Universe, found “wanting”, and his empire would now be divided.

That very night, the Medes and Persians invaded, killed Belshazzar, and overthrew the Babylonian empire.

Do you have a right view of success or do you have a kingdom that needs to be overthrown? God seeks our welfare, but never our glory. If we take self-glorification out of the equation, gratitude is the natural response to any measure of success that God has provided us.

What now?

1. Read the Word: Look for stories of successful men in the Bible. How did they handle it? Did the recognize their success for what it was or did the squander it foolishly? What application is there in your life?
2. Count your Blessings: It sounds cliché but, your likely even more successful than you think. An introspective look at all you’ve been blessed with will go a long way toward fostering humility and gratitude.
3. Pray: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify any self-glorifying thoughts, words or actions in your life. Stay close to Him in prayer as these are shown to you so that you have the spirit of power and self control to eliminate them.
4. Look Around: Who do you know or interact with that you could bless by serving sacrificially? Love is the true measuring sticks Jesus uses to gauge true success.

The Fear of Isaac

Genesis 31:42 “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty handed.”

We need real faith, men. I’m not talking about the generic, soft spoken profession of faith so common in modern religion. We need bold faith that is rooted in the promises of God. Absolute conviction that He is who He says He is and stands good to follow through on His Word.

That kind of faith is less profession and more proclamation. And it cannot be ignored.

We’re not without example. Isaac took God’s promise to bless him in Genesis 26 to the bank…literally. Despite an oppressive famine, Isaac obediently put the brakes on a planned trip to Egypt, planting his crops in Gerar. This must have looked a lot like insanity to king Abimelech and his draught weary Philistines. Who plants a crop in the middle of a draught?! Bold faith probably looks and feels like madness more often than not.

Tweet: @freec_ Bold faith probably looks and feels like madness more often than not. #freeforthetaking

Months later when Isaac was reaping a high yielding “hundredfold” harvest (vs. 12), no one was laughing. The food starved marketplace was no doubt willing to pay a premium…and Isaac was the only game in town.

God promised a blessing, Isaac planted in faith, and God came through.

The people of Gerar took notice. Despite their skepticism, they couldn’t deny the outcome of the sold out, against all odds faith clinic that Isaac put on.

It may not have spurned belief, but another emotion was elicited among the Philistines: Fear. They ran Isaac out of town. A God who could grow a crop in those conditions was capable of anything.

There were no agnostics in Gerar that day.

A generation later, Isaac’s son Jacob would still refer to our God as “The Fear of Isaac” (Chapter 31).

Stay in the word, men. Take note of each promise God gives to His people and follow each story to it’s conclusion. I challenge you to find an occasion that God doesn’t reward faith or fulfill a promise. That story doesn’t exist.

What is God asking for that you’ve been holding back from in fear? Step out publicly and fearlessly. Look like a mad man this week. The world may say you’re crazy. I say you’re crazy not to.

Those around us may never come to our God as a result of our faith…but I pray we live in a manner that they have no choice but to believe he’s there.

What now?

1. Read the Word: Seek out specific places in scripture where God makes bold promises and follow the stories to completion. What is God telling you about His faithfulness?
2. Pray: What is God calling you to action on? Don’t be afraid to ask for His blessing as you step out in faith.
3. Act Quickly: The first step is often the hardest. Get things going before satan has an opportunity to cast doubt.
4. Work: Obedience isn’t without effort and God is not an ATM. Work hard toward the calling. God will multiply the effort.
Repeat Steps 1-4: Discouragement will come. Seek God continually and view obstacles as opportunities to honor God with even more “insane” faith than you started with.

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How to “Go Deep” in the Bible and Why You’re Doing It Wrong

Imagine you just learned that there’s treasure buried somewhere in your backyard. While the treasure is in a very small container, its so valuable that getting your hands on it would change your life forever. How would you go about finding it?

CC Image Courtesy of Dee West on Flickr

CC Image Courtesy of Dee West on Flickr

For those of you about to scroll to the comments and tell me all about your fancy metal detector or ground sonar, I should tell you that I buried it in a container that makes it invisible to all such technology.

I can do that because I’m the blogger….and he who blogeth, also maketh the rules.

Now that we’ve eliminated the shortcuts; what’s your strategy? With shovel in hand, would you pick a random spot in a corner of your yard and dig a tiny hole straight down in hopes that you picked the precise location?

My childhood tells me that approach may have some challenges.

Growing up on a farm in the hills of Northern Arkansas, I helped dig plenty of rock-laden post holes. If Dad hadn’t been there, I would have stopped after the first one. The reward simply stopped being worth the work required. (In case you’re wondering, there’s little reward for a teenager in a well dug post hole.)

Even if you do make it through the tough layers, the chances of finding the treasure at the bottom of the hole are pretty slim. Sure you might find a few trinkets worth holding onto like an arrowhead or maybe a silver dollar lost years ago. But likely not the big prize you’re after.

I approached the Bible that way for most of my life. I dug narrow holes. I’d look for the first verse that I felt spoke to my situation and make it my mantra for the day. If the digging got difficult, I’d quit.

To be perfectly honest, it was a lazy approach to seeking God. I didn’t want to spend time reading God’s story. I just wanted a quote that made me feel good.

No wonder I wasn’t growing in my faith.

That approach sounds absurd when considered for finding the buried treasure too. If you know that kind of gold is waiting in your backyard, I’m betting you’re bringing in the heavy equipment and digging up the whole thing one layer at a time.

This strategy has a couple of obvious advantages but the bigger, less apparent advantage is gaining familiarity.

As you peel back the layers of your yard, you begin to see things anew. You get a broader understanding of your property that you could have never gained with that small hole you were trying to dig.

In reference to scripture, we’d call this “context.” Understanding the who, what, when and where of the entirety of scripture helps us know how to go deeper and where to look, so we be sure to find the riches we’re really looking for.

It takes work to be sure. But the return for the effort is exponential!

You’ll also probably find other valuable insights you weren’t expecting. Sure they aren’t the treasure but, they’re worth hanging on to. Most of these bonus prizes would have remained undiscovered with the narrow-and-deep approach.

Most of us probably need to approach our bible differently. Maybe it’s less about quick answers and more about the dig.

What if we take the time to start broad and shallow, peeling back layers over time in order to get deep meaning from scripture?

The treasure we find may be even better than what we’re looking for.

Questions: How often do you find time to read broadly in scripture? What tips can you share to help find more time for our Bible study? Please leave a comment below!

Four Sure-Fire Tips to Help Your Family Make It to the Church on Time (From a Family Who Doesn’t Always)

Most families I know view Sunday mornings as somewhat of an Olympic event. As we slumber each Saturday night, someone undoubtedly sneaks into our homes to hide Sunday dresses, wrinkle our “wrinkle free” slacks, and switch our cell phone alarms to “silent” mode. Maybe this is Santa’s off-season gig.

Our church home...probably a little earlier than than we're likely to make it there.

Our church home…probably a little earlier than than we’re likely to make it there.

Believe it or not, I can maintain employment. Granted I’m not early to the office most days but I’m rarely late. If my record of church tardiness spilled over into my work week, I’d be homeless right now.

Why is that?

A Tired Old Excuse

I too have propagated the tired old excuse that satan is simply more active on Sunday mornings. Maybe this is true. Or maybe it’s simply a function of a lack of positive habits that’ll get my brood in the pew before the worship team straps on their guitars.

Here’s Four Things That I’ve Found Helps Our Success Rate:

1. Find the Right Church.

No-brainer right? Not for us. When we first moved to Northwest Arkansas, we spent a few years at a church that wasn’t the right fit for our family. They were doctrinally sound, gospel focused, and all that other good stuff…just obviously not where God wanted us.

We finally recognized this and found our church home. When you know where you belong, your attendance will reflect it.

2. Find the Right Service Time.

This one isn’t an option for everyone.

Our church offers multiple service times each Sunday that share the exact same worship and sermon. Prone to miss the alarm when you shoot for early service? Call it how it is. Shoot for a later service that your more likely to wake up for.

This changes seasonally for us. We usually make early service in the fall and winter and are more successful with a later service in the spring and summer.

3. Plan the Prep

Attire choices are less of an issue for men. Women may elect to miss service entirely if the right outfit can be assembled. Know this and plan for it.

Spend that time on Saturday and have your “Sunday best” clean, ironed and ready before bed.

Men aren’t excused from this ritual just because they see no issue wearing cargo shorts and a tee shirt to service (Jesus loves us just the way we are, right?). As I write this, I’m washing a load of laundry…before church…because all of my slacks are dirty. This could have been avoided had I written this post last night and taken my own advice.

4. Back Up the Back Up.

I use an alarm app on my cell phone as my alarm clock. I know what you’re thinking. “This guy is on the cutting edge of technology!” That decade old tool isn’t exactly my tip here…but, you’re welcome anyway.

I like redundancy. My first backup plan is a second alarm I set 15 minutes after the first. My first alarm is intended to gently rouse. My second alarm is designed to rudely invade. The alert notification on that second alarm sounds like a bomb raid siren.

I consider it my backup plan.

But what if I accidentally leave my phone on silent? My wife has an alarm set on her phone too.

If we oversleep, we made a conscious decision to do so.

This list certainly isn’t the only tools to help us get up-and-out on the Sabbath, but it should provide a good foundation to those who struggle like we do.

If you’ve found success in using one of the above techniques to improve your odds on Sunday mornings, or if you have a tip of your own, let us know in the comments.

Question: How have you used these ideas – or others – to be more successful in getting to service on time? You can comment by clicking the “Comment” button below.

In-Dependence Day: Why Independence Got Us Where We Are and What Dependence Means for Revival in America.

One glance at the news in Anytown, USA will reveal a host of ongoing, festering debates on topics ranging the spectrum. None ever seem to reach resolution. It’s as if the conflict itself is more important than the outcome.


Each voice in the crowd has their own position. Most seek only a resolution of their own independent design. A minority seeks the consensus of community…even if the consensus is mis-guided.

Though many profess in, precious few actively seek God’s Design for our country.

Why is that? Why have Christians chosen to be the silent spectator as so many others rush to the rope to passionately tug in favor of their own beliefs?

I believe we’ve mis-interpreted our role as peace champions to mean conflict avoidance. In a sea of vehemently “independent” aggressors, we’ve chosen to be victim to the ebbing and flowing of public preference for the sake of not making waves.

Tweet: It’s time for American believers to turn passive “Independence” into active “In-Dependence” on God.

Jesus didn’t seek conflict but he certainly didn’t shy away from it, either. Remember the overturned money tables in the temple?

Nothing in scripture indicates we are called to passivity or political correct-ness. We’re called to be bold bearers of the truth…just with a proper heart, with love and in a peaceful way.

This battle will be long and exhausting. Our position is not popular today and won’t be met with the same peaceful disposition that we share it with. None of this changes our mission. If we want our nation back, we must take it back.

If done in the right way, in dependence on Him and in faith that He is for us, He’ll honor or efforts. Victory is certain.

Pray for revival in America. Pray for a re-energized body of believers recruiting with evangelism, training with discipleship, and fighting with faith.

Happy In-Dependence Day!

What IS the Big Deal With the Bible?

When I began getting intentional with Bible study, I struggled to connect the dots with how the big picture of scripture fits together. I could definitely see God’s hand in each of the stories but struggled to find a common link between most of them. The big revelation came from an unlikely source: my daughter’s children’s bible!


On most nights, I handle the bed-time routine with our five year old little girl. Early on I would make up stories but there was one problem: I’m terrible with fiction. You can imagine our (my daughter’s) gratitude when our friends gave her a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones for Christmas one year. As I began using this resource at bed time, I quickly learned it offered more than just bible stories…it pointed us to the BIG deal of God’s Word.

There’s an old joke that, if you don’t know the answer to a question asked in Sunday School, just answer “Jesus” and you can’t lose. In reality, Jesus IS the big deal of the Bible. Every story told there is anticipating, describing or reflecting on His perfect work here on Earth or His second coming. This is even true of the Old Testament!

Examples of Christ Foreshadowed in the Old Testament

  • In Exodus, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the promised land; Jesus sojourned in the desert for 40 days just before beginning his ministry.
  • The story of The Passover in Exodus details how each household who placed the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorpost of their home would be “passed over” by the wrath of God that would otherwise allow the life of the firstborn sons to be taken. Thousands of years later, the blood of Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God would be spilled for the salvation of all of God’s children.
  • In 1 Samuel and 2nd Samuel, you see God anoint a King (David) for His people who, in Chapter 7 of 2 Samuel receives God’s promise of an eternal dynasty for for his family. Jesus would ultimately be born of David’s lineage and be anointed by God as the eternal King of His people.

    See! When I learned to read the Word in light of Christ, it stopped being a collection of stories and became one beautiful work woven together by the incredible and sacrificial work of Jesus. A work that saved His people (us!) and established His Kingdom for eternity!

    Where To Start

    It’ll be difficult to see Christ in the scripture until you first become familiar with who He is and what He did. If you’re new to this whole Bible thing, no worries! I recommend these first steps:

    1. Read the Gospels

    Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are called “the gospels” and are the beginning of the New Testament (I like to start with John which is actually the last of the four…but that’s just me). Understand that these four books tell the same story from four different perspectives. Some include things that others don’t. All four are valuable in understanding who Jesus is. I plan to blog soon about how these four books fit together.

    2. Read the Book of Romans

    If there were a “cliff notes” version of the story of Salvation, this would be it. Don’t use that last sentence as an excuse to skip the gospels and jump straight to Romans. Seriously…the gospels are critical but, Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is AH-MAZ-ING!

    3. Begin to Branch Out

    If you want to dip your toe into the waters of the Old Testament, Psalms is popular (and beautiful…and long…). If you want to continue on in the New Testament, the book of Acts will tell you all about the beginnings of what we now know as the church.

    The evidence of Christ throughout scripture is there. Now it’s up to you to read it! Read and pray through each chapter with holy anticipation that Christ will be revealed to you. You’ll be amazed at the result!

    Question: What passages of the Bible are you reading through now? Where have you discovered Christ in your reading where you least expected Him? You can leave a comment below.

  • How NOT to Bless Your Friends

    good-friendsI have a “How are you?” habit.

    I can’t help it.  It comes out before I can catch it.

    The problem with greeting people with this question is that you must be willing to actually listen to how they are doing.

    Sure ninety percent of folks also have an “I’m fine” habit which gives me an easy out.  The other ten percent scare me.

    That not-so-merry band of brothers and sisters are the honest ones.  They’re the people who realize the benefit of community and find no use in disguising themselves as “having it together” when they are falling apart.

    Want to know how to really kick them while they’re down?

    Tell them you’ll pray for them.  Then DON’T.

    As believers, we keep certain phrases on standby.  These are the phrases that carry sincerity but are empty if we don’t follow up on the commitment they imply.

    Multiple variations of “I’ll pray for you” clutter my top ten most used.

    From my own actions, I’ve learned that most people who use this phrase on me will likely never follow up on that promise unless they stop on the spot to make note of the circumstances.

    It is the same as saying “I know a guy who is an expert a fixing what you’re dealing with.  In fact, he has a 100% success rate.  And the best part?  He works for FREE!  I’m going to call him and tell him about your issue.  I’m going to KEEP calling him until he provides you resolution and relief”

    But then you never call the guy.

    Prayer is a commitment.

    The next time you catch yourself saying “I’ll be praying for you”, stop and make note.  Immediately.  If you have a smart phone, set a reminder.  Right there in the moment.  Besides reminding you to follow up on your promise, it also sends an encouraging message to your friend that you’ll be intentional about remembering them in prayer.

    Better yet, offer to pray over them at that moment. Then they KNOW your a prayer warrior that follows through!