Thursday, July 10, 2008

Battling the Buzzing Nemesis

Battling the Buzzing Nemesis
by Fred Alberti, Senior Manager of Social Media

In an effort to improve my health I have added trail running to my morning regimen. So five days a week I strap on my New Balance All-Terrain running shoes, throw on a cap, grab my big stick, and set off through the field for the woods.

As much as I struggle with getting up early for this activity I find that I have it better than the many woodland creatures that are constantly awakened by this weird guy crashing through the brush. Most of them quickly get up and take off. However, some, like the buck that lives on the property, will make their displeasure known before bounding away. These don't bother me, and no, the big stick is not for them.

I reserve the big stick for the many spider webs I encounter on my journey. I'd much rather the stick bear the brunt of the webs and the spiders that guard them than my face.

Even so equipped there is one more thing I must fend off. I don't know what it is exactly. What I do know is that it is big, buzzes loudly, and loves to swoop at my face. No matter how fast I run or how much I swat or flail my arms this buzzing bug will not be deterred from its mission to strike my heart with terror and my mind with distraction.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8 that Satan, "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

For the child of God, the Devil is much like my buzzing nemesis. His goal is to strike fear, discouragement, and divisiveness into the heart of the believer while distracting him from completing the task God has designed for His purposes.

I've found that bug repellent is an excellent solution for my dilemma. I spray it on and I am, for the most part, left alone.

Have you been struggling with a buzzing nemesis?

God too, gives us the equipment we need to "extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one" and to stay focused on Him. It's called the Shield of Faith and you can learn about that as well as the rest of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Take the family camping or go hiking and remind them as you spray on the bug repellent that just as it protects them from the effects of biting insects so the blood of Jesus Christ protects us from the "wages" of sin.

Further Reading
The Shield of Faith
Ephesians 6:10-18
The Power of Prayer


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Friday, May 30, 2008

Trapped in the Darkness

Trapped in the Darkness
by Fred "Fritz" Alberti, Senior Manager of Communities and Social Media

"…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."

As I was walking through my nature trail this week I, as I normally do, asked the Lord what I should write this week. As I passed through the chapel area of the trail the sun flashed through the leaves and caught my attention. Light. I had entered the darkness of the woods but that light caught my attention. I "filed" it away and continued my travels through the trail.

Later, I was reading through various news stories of earthquake survivors in China when one particular story jumped out at me and brought back to my mind my earlier encounter with the rising sun. The story was of a middle-aged man named Mr. Shen whose quick thinking to take cover in a doorway saved him from the fate experienced by many of his co-workers.

When interviewed, Mr. Shen recalled shouting to a co-worker to join him in the doorway when the room suddenly collapsed. The next thing he remembered was the sudden darkness that enveloped him.

What struck me in his interview was his statement, "Oh, the darkness, oh, the darkness all over. I didn't know when it was going to end."

There are people that we walk past every day that, without knowing it, are spiritually in the same condition as Mr. Shen; trapped in darkness under the weight of sin.

For Mr. Shen, the darkness crumpled under the hands of the rescuers. After 146 hours his encounter with complete and utter darkness came to an end. That darkness, however, will always leave a mark on his being.

Will you forget the darkness that seeks to crush the hope of those around you?

Intersecting Faith & Life: Find a place of complete and utter darkness and spend at least 15 minutes praying for people you know who have not accepted God's free gift of salvation.

Further Reading
Ephesians 5:8
John 12:46
1 Peter 2:9


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Friday, May 16, 2008

Engraved in His Hand

Engraved in His Hand
by Fred "Fritz" Alberti, Manager of Communities

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…"Isaiah 49:15-16

Sometimes we find ourselves in harsh circumstances. We feel isolated from the Lord and begin to ask ourselves, "Is He really there? Has He forgotten me?" Today's passage is a stark reminder that there is no way our Lord will forget us or forsake us.

Being the father of five children I have been blessed to witness the blessed scene of a mother feeding her baby. I've seen both mother and child relax and share that bond that comes through breastfeeding. It is that beautiful analogy that is drawn in Isaiah. A mother does not forget the child she is nursing, she and the baby are in a deep bond that is difficult to be ignored. Likewise, our Father in heaven is in no way going to forget His love for us. But even if a mother were to forget, the Lord proclaims that even if a mother were to forget, He never will.

Dear child of God, you will never be forgotten!

In the midst of losing your house to foreclosure, you will not be forgotten.

When worrying how you are going to deal with the high gas prices, you will not be forgotten.

When struggling to budget the grocery bill, you will not be forgotten.

God will never forget you.

Why not?

This brings us to the second half of our passage.

"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…"

As we were reading this in church one Sunday my wife was quick to point out an interesting observation. She felt, and I agree, that this was a messianic prophecy.

Our names were written into the palms that would bear the nails that hung our Lord on the cross at Calvary.

Your name, my name, and that of every other believer in Christ Jesus has had our names engraved by the nails that bore our Lord to a cruel tree.

You will not be forgotten because He loves you so much that He was willing to die for you. 1 Cor. 6:20 says, "…you were bought at a price."

That price was paid on a cross between two thieves.

That price was endured until the last breath when Jesus said, "It is finished."

With that proclamation, let's turn to 1 Cor. 1:7-11 which says this:

"… We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we
despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But
this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the
dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On
him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by
your prayers."
Friend, it is our hardships which cause us to turn and rely on God. Set your hope on Him and pray for those who are in distress.

He has engraved you on His hand and He will deliver.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Do a study of the different names of the Lord and write each name on the palm of your hand. As you go throughout the day take time to pray for those who are in distress. See someone in a grocery store with a stern look? Pray for that person. See another person standing at the pumps with a furrowed brow? Pray for that person. Pray for them as the recipients in Paul's letter prayed for him.

Further Reading
On the Bottom Looking Up
He Is Our Joy!
Never Unloved


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Friday, May 9, 2008

Remembering Mother's Unspoken Lessons

Remembering Mother's Unspoken Lessons
by Fred "Fritz" Alberti, Manager of Communities

Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.

I'll never forget waking in the morning to get ready for school and finding my mother outside on the deck reading her Bible and praying. That scene has been burned into my mind so strongly that I now find myself also abiding with the Lord surrounded by His creation in the great outdoors.

Did my mother tell me that I must do this? No. Rather, she taught me this through example.
One thing I have learned through my career is that an online community tends to be the reflection of those who lead it. I think the same can be true for parenting. Our children are a reflection of us.

Do we habitually break the law by speeding? We can expect to see our children show the same respect to the law.

Do we habitually overeat? (By the way, this is called gluttony and is a sin). If so, we can expect to see our children also become plump when they adopt our own lifestyle.

Do we reject the notion of loving others? Yes, here too, our children will exhibit that same lack of compassion.

Do we contribute to the disintegration of the family by breaking our marriage vows? Yes, if we do not take seriously, "until death do us part" then we can expect our children to likewise adopt the false teaching that marriage vows are expendable and only good for as long as we are pleased with the relationship.

While children are charged with not forsaking their parents' teachings we have the higher responsibility. We are to train and raise a generation of people who are being ingrained with the concept that loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, body, and soul is of utmost importance.

How are we doing that today?

What teaching and instruction are our children learning through observing our Christian walk?

Intersecting Faith & Life: Work on consistently setting time aside to be with the Lord in a quiet setting. This can be outside under a tree or even a place in the house with a door that can lock (I've known many a mom that is forced to use the bathroom for such an endeavor). The important thing is that you make it a priority to be with the Lord and seek His guidance in your life.

Further Reading

My Mother Taught Me...

There's More to Mother's Day Than Flowers


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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Are You in the Belly of a Big Fish?

Are You in the Belly of a Big Fish?
by Fred "Fritz" Alberti, Manager of Communities

But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.

Being a homeschool family we sometimes have some rather interesting experiments that we get to enjoy as a family. George is one such experiment. George is a goldfish whose bowl-mate sadly perished. My son's task was to teach the goldfish to come to the top of the bowl when he tapped on the glass. After several weeks of tapping and feeding and tapping and feeding the fish finally learned to come to the top of the bowl.

Big deal right? Right, that is until the fish started to do more. Anytime someone would walk by the bowl he would get all excited and start moving his mouth like he was yelling at whoever it was that was walking by the bowl. This became rather normal and we would just ignore him or comment that he was yelling at us in Spanish.

Then one day my kids were listening to an FFH song titled "Big Fish." It was then that George decided to really show off what he could do. When the song played George would begin to swim around like he was dancing in the water and would seemingly move his mouth to the words. (Move over Ashlee Simpson).

I particularly like the first verse of the song which goes like this:

Are you in the big fish
Are you sitting in the belly of a world gone mad
Have you turned your back in His wish
On His will for your life, have you made Him sad
Do you want to get out of the big fish
Listen to God and follow His plan
And you won't be part of the main dish
He'll spit you out on to dry land
I've sometimes felt like I was in the belly of a big fish. I had decided to do something my way instead of first seeking the Lord's guidance and leading.

You, whoever you are, God has a plan for your life. Maybe you feel like you are wasting your time at a dead-end job. Or perhaps you have no job but would desperately like one. Maybe you think you have the dream job but the Lord has been speaking to you in a still small voice to give it up for something else. Like Jonah, you may not particularly like the mission God has for you but He has the intention of making you ideally suited to carry that plan out.

Will you follow His plan or will your turn your back?

Maybe you've already chosen to turn your back and feel that there is no way out now. If that is the case I've got good news for you. The Bible has this to say about Jonah, "From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God." (Jonah 2:1) God is the God of second, third, and fourth chances.

Commit your way to the Lord today.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Buy a goldfish if you don't have one already. As you feed it remember that the Lord has a purpose and a plan for your life. Ask Him to reveal it to you daily.

Further Reading

Jonah Runs From God
Jonah and Me
Hebrews 13:20 - 21


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Striving for the 'Atta-Boy'?

Striving for the 'Atta-Boy'?
by Fred Albert, Manager of Communities
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

I had an interesting start to my week. While I was going about my work, I ended up assisting in the capture of a purse snatcher. He was young and afraid.

I am grateful to report that the episode ended without anyone getting hurt. I am also thankful for those who gave me assistance in apprehending this young misguided juvenile.

I spent a good part of the rest of the day analyzing everything. How could I have reacted differently? What would I do if it ever happened again?

Several of my colleagues expressed their appreciation, some even hailing me as a hero.

I do not consider myself a hero, nor do I consider this a particularly heroic act. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time and reacted in a way that brought the situation to a safe close.

Do I deserve special praise or recognition? No, I don’t think so.

I did what was right.

I did what was honorable.

I think sometimes our society is excessively stuck on rewarding doing the right thing when, in truth, we ought to be doing the right thing because it is right; because it is honorable. Our children want to know "what is in it for me?" This is wrong! We shouldn't need to bribe them to do the right thing. They ought to be raised to do the right thing because it honorable and right not because of what they will gain financially or otherwise. Instead our society offers bribes for good things and honors those who do wrong.

I'm not saying that we should not praise, reward, or honor those who have done right, but rather that the motivations of such people should be honorable.

John put it this way: "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother."

That's a pretty harsh statement. I can delight in doing right not for the sake of recognition but because it helps identify me as a child of God.

Our verse from James puts it even more plainly. If you fail to do what you know is good then it is to you, sin.

Have you wrestled with doing the right thing in a particular circumstance recently? Don't resist any longer. By doing the right thing you may influence someone else to also do the right thing.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Secretly do something good for someone and don't tell anyone you've done it. Let it be an act of good between you and your Creator.

Further Reading

What do you think?
Laboring for God
Creative Compassion: Loving Heartily in a Hurting World


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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Recipe for Destruction

Recipe for Destruction
by Fred Alberti, Manager of Communities

…They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion.

I've been thinking of this passage lately from Jude. Jude is warning the people about the false teachers in their midst. What does he mean by these three examples?

In each case the person was rebelling against God in some way or another.

When man sinned, God covered his nakedness with the skins of animals. Thus began the shedding of blood. Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God because of the attitude of his heart, but Cain's was not. Instead of offering the sacrifice on God's terms he offered it on his terms. Cain's rebellion was against God's prescribed method of salvation through faith in the offering of shed blood.

Balaam was a prophet of the Lord who prostituted himself for the sake of financial gain. Sadly, we see many popular evangelists engaging in this same sort of error. They attempt to fleece God's flock for the sake of their own posh lifestyle. Balaam's sin, as well as those popular ministers today, is the sin of greed and misleading the children of God. Trading the Gospel message for the sake of high living was never the intent of Jesus who had "no place to lay his head."

Lastly, we have the sin of Korah. He and those who rebelled with him were in opposition to those whom God had placed in authority over them; namely, Moses and Aaron. I see this same sin a lot throughout the week in Christians who feel that they are not beholden to those in authority over them. Somehow they have managed to tear out entire portions of God's Word, which instructs us to obey those in authority and to give honor to those who honor is due. To them the rules do not apply.

If we were to wrap this verse up into a package it would look like this:
There are people who reject God's way of salvation for a lie; who exercise their spiritual gifts for the sake of greedy gain while leading others down the same trail. Additionally, these people reject the authority God has placed over them. This combination is a recipe for destruction and it is something we all must be wary of both in ourselves and in our churches.


Intersecting Faith & Life: Have your kids or some neighborhood kids help you make a special pie. Start with a bowl full of some mud. Add old vegetables to the mix representing Cain's sacrifice, mix in some dirty coins representing Balaam's greed. Stir the concoction and then set in the sun to "bake." Lastly, dig a hole and crush the mud pie into the hole and bury it representing Korah's destruction.

Further Reading

Genesis 4

Numbers 22

Numbers 16

Unity of the Spirit


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Monday, April 14, 2008

Payin' Taxes... Gone Fishin'
by Fred Alberti, Manager of Communities

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"

This is another of my all-time favorite stories. Jesus and his disciples are newly arrived in town and right away Peter is asked by the tax collectors, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"

Not wanting any trouble, Peter responds, "Yes, he does."

I imagine Peter made a bee-line for Jesus thinking along the way, "Crud, I need to find out how Jesus intends to pay the temple tax."

Perhaps you are of the sort that has put off your yearly tax to Uncle Sam and are now scrambling to get things done. Don't you wish it was as easy for you as it was for Peter?

What was Jesus' solution?

"…go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." (Matthew 17:27)

"Peter, I want you to go fishing."

Are you sometimes approached by circumstances that seem impossible to resolve?

Peter may have been concerned over how he was going to pay his own tax. In either case he knew where he had to go - the Master to get the answer.

Peter's solution required him to work in obedience to Christ's instructions. He couldn't just sit there and expect the solution to fall into his lap. Rather, he had to go out there and start throwing the line.

Don't expect the solution to your problem to just fall out of the air. Look for the uncommon solution and expect there to be some work. The solution that the world would say is impossible just may be the solution that Jesus had planned all along.

Listen for the Lord's leading… he may be instructing you to do some of your own fishing.

Intersecting Faith & Life: After paying your taxes go fishing. While waiting for a bite consider all the ways that the Lord has provided for your needs.

Further Reading

The Christian Tax-Payer

Tax Poem

Duty Calls

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Level the Trail

Level the Trail
by Fred Alberti, Manager of Communities

"Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless…

My kids and I have been developing a nature path in the back woods of our property. I just love to take them back there and enjoy the sounds and smell of nature.

In the back woods trail there is an area that has holes in the ground that are mostly filled with leaves. This can be a rather treacherous area for ankles and we call it the booby trap zone. One of these days I'll have them help me bring back some buckets filled with dirt to fill in these hazardous little traps.

Today's passage brought this little area to mind. What does it mean to "make level paths for your feet?"

I think the verse is intertwined with the one that follows, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and be holy."

I think as we journey down our trail of faith there are people with whom we will come into contact. Good or bad, lengthy or brief, our journey with them will leave a mark on their lives. Will they experience healing from their interaction with us or will we sow bitterness? Our charge is to, as much as it depends on us, bring peace to them through our holy living and to make sure they are exposed to the opportunity of experiencing God's grace and salvation.

How level is your path?

Are you leaving pitfalls of bitterness, sexual immorality and activities that promote godlessness?

Start making your path level today.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Take a prayer walk in a park or on a local nature trail. Pray that God will help you to be an agent of peace to someone you have recently had a conflict with.

Further Reading

Mark 9:50

Prayer for Peace


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Friday, March 28, 2008

Is Fishing Your First Love?

Is Fishing Your First Love?
by Fred Alberti, Manager of Communities
"I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

The chill is beginning to come off the air and with it I've seen the sudden increase in the number of fishermen on the docks. It seems the fish must be biting rather nicely.
But that wasn't the case in today's story…

The disciples had recently been through some rather traumatic events in the death of their Master. They were excited, and probably a little confused, by the revelation that He was no longer dead. How did they deal with this?

They returned to their first love… fishing.

They got on a boat and set off for a night of fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. But, unlike the fishermen I've been seeing lately, they caught nothing.

Early in the morning a man from shore called to them asking if they had caught anything. When they responded that they hadn't, He instructed them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat.

I wonder if Peter was thinking back to another fruitless night. Did he think back to that day when they had taken Jesus out on the boat so He could preach to the gathering crowd? The night before had proven to be a waste of time when Jesus told them to put out in deeper water. Peter had lightly objected then saying, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets" (Luke 5:1-11).

I think John must have been thinking back, for when they cast their net on the other side as the stranger had instructed the results were much like that first account: "When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea (John 21:6-7).

I imagine that Peter's heart skipped a step as he threw on his garment and jumped in the water to swim the 300 feet back to shore. Did he remember Jesus' words from that first time when He said, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men"?

This was the third time that Jesus appeared to them and I think it was probably the first time after His resurrection that Jesus had the chance to have a real heart to heart talk with Peter. He began to question Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Each time that He asked Peter the question Peter would respond in the affirmative. And each time Jesus would replied back, "Feed my lambs," "Take care of my sheep," "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-19).

I've often wondered about the significance of this repeated questioning and have always concluded that it was just Jesus' response to Peter's denying Him three times. I think I've missed something over the years. I think Jesus was also addressing Peter's first love. Jesus had called him to catch men but on this 3rd appearance what did He find Peter doing? Fishing, not for men, rather for something else… sport, hunger, money? I don't know, but it certainly wasn't fishing for men. I wonder if this was serving as a gentle reminder of what He really wanted Peter to be doing.

What sort of fish are we hoping to catch?

Intersecting Faith & Life: Take some Bible tracts and hand them out to the fishermen you find at the local fishing hole.

Further Reading

John 21

Lessons from a Fishing Boat

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Waiting at the Cross

Waiting at the Cross
by Fred Alberti, Manager of Communities

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16

During this time of remembrance of Christ's sacrifice I am prone to wonder about the angels.
I see them standing at attention internally grieving over the suffering of their creator. Jesus was not merely the creator of just mankind. The Bible says that it was by Him that all things were created. This was their creator in the flesh suffering a brutal death.

I imagine more than a few wishing to dispense with the humans who were causing this atrocity. Matthew records Jesus stating, "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Read Matthew 26:53). What incredible self-control! What awesome love to bear the punishment of the cross when it could have all ended so easily.

In talking about the prophets, Peter reveals that the angels long to look into this whole business about redemption and the good news of the Gospel (Read 1 Peter 1:12).

They didn't understand why all this was happening. All they knew was their King was being murdered.

Then I hear amongst the mass chaos of the darkness and the rumbling of the earthquake as the Roman Centurion and the witnesses to Jesus death beat their chests proclaiming, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Read Luke 23:47-48 and Matthew 27:54).

It was over. Jesus was dead. Now it was time to bury Him in a borrowed tomb.

Three days later I imagine the angels clamoring to be on the special detail that was posted. Who would get to roll back the stone? Who would get to wait in the empty tomb to deliver the wonderful news?

"He is not here, He has risen" (Read Matthew 28:6).

Oh, what a glorious pronouncement. I wonder just how the angels rejoiced. Were they slapping each other on the back? Were they shouting in victory? Were they beaming with joy over the news that their King was no longer in the grave?

How will we celebrate that day?

How will we honor the death and resurrection of the creator of the universe?

Intersecting Faith & Life: When you make your Easter eggs this year do one with angel wings on it to remember the angel's words, "He is not here, He has risen."

Further Reading

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

God's Secret Agents


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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stain on the Brain

Stain on the Brain
by Fred Alberti, Manager of Communities

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

I watched Caleb as he sat there in deep concentration just staring at the book. Finally, I asked him what he was doing. His response was one I had never heard before. He said, "I'm staining it into my brain."

He was memorizing Scripture verses for AWANA Club.

The thing is he knew what he was doing. He knew that he was trying to burn the words into his memory so he could pass on to the next challenge.

I like how today's verse applies to Caleb's staining power. The psalmist gives the reason why he is hiding God's Word. What is it? So that he will not sin against God.

The reason for Bible memorization is to help us to abstain from sinning.

Oftentimes we resist Bible memorization. Instead we choose to stain our brain with TV shows depicting adultery, murder, and obscenity. Then we get ourselves into a moral bind and we wonder how we got into that place. We shouldn't wonder. We should realize that what we choose to watch and/or memorize is what is going to stain into our brain.

"Oh, that sex scene isn't so bad, at least they muted the sounds."

"Why yes, the whole point of the show was that the husband didn't get along with his wife and had an affair. But at least he was able to get a divorce and the mom was able to keep the kids."

"Well, sure there was a lot of swearing but the story was great and the murder scenes were so realistic. Cinematography has really advanced these last few years."

Folks, these are stains. They will stain your conscious and your heart and those of your family.
What are you staining your brain with these days?

Intersecting Faith & Life:
Spend some time this week with your family memorizing key scriptures about salvation, like Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Acts 16:31, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.


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