Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It’s Time to Make Your Move!

What holds you back from moving forward in faith?

If an answer to that question immediately pops to mind, you’re not alone. Many people in the Bible struggled to step forward in response to God’s call. Moses responded to God’s clear call with questions and excuses about why he couldn’t do what God was asking him to do, before becoming the great leader of Israel.

After Moses’ death, Joshua finds himself in the position of following in the footsteps of his mentor, now charged with completing the task of leading God’s people to enter the Promised Land. Imagine what it would be like to step into Moses’ shoes!

Joshua 1:1-5
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you."

It might be easy to dismiss Moses and Joshua as potential role models for our lives. Few of us find ourselves in the position of leading millions of people out of slavery and into a new land. Few of us find ourselves called to lead the charge in massive change efforts. Even those of us who find ourselves in leadership positions are not often the topic of news headlines.

But each of us has the same choice in front of us: Will I follow God today?

Success comes from following God faithfully in the small things of life, by responding faithfully to what God places in front of us in this moment.

What are you facing today? What is the situation in which God is calling you to display your faith in Him today?

Today. Today is the only time we have in which we can obey God. We can’t go back and relive yesterday. We can’t live tomorrow until the sun rises. Today is the moment in which we decide to trust Him with our yesterdays and to follow Him into our tomorrows.

Out of the 203 verses where we read the word “today” in Scripture, the very first time it appears is revealing—

Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."—Genesis 4:13, 14

Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, tries to avoid responsibility for his behavior and accuses God of being unfair toward him. Cain portrays an all too human tendency to blame God for our circumstances instead of taking responsibility for our lives.

Some of us may struggle with a sense of injustice and suffering over our past, either over injuries inflicted on us by others or from guilt over personal choices. Others of us may be mourning the loss of past success or loved ones. God is able to take our pain-filled yesterdays and redeem them if we will trust Him with them today.

Where are you tempted to live in light of yesterday instead of today?

What encouragement do you find in these passages as you reflect on the past in light of God’s presence today?

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once again.
—Psalm 71:20, 21

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.—Psalm 147:3

Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise.
—Jeremiah 17:14

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”
—Isaiah 43:18, 19

Have you come to the point where you can look at the injustices that have been done to you and say, like Joseph—

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."—Exodus 50:20

If you carry burdens from your past—sins that need to be confessed and forgiven, hurts that need cleansed and healed, grief that needs to be mourned and comforted—today is the day to leave your past with God and move into the future He has planned for you. God’s truth will set you on the path toward healing, if you will allow His Spirit and truth to penetrate your soul.

As you bring your past to God, you are increasingly free to focus on what God has for you today—

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.—Philippians 4:8, 9

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
when it is in your power to act.
Do not say to your neighbor,
"Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow"—
when you now have it with you.
—Proverbs 3:27, 28

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.—Matthew 6:33, 34

As you move into the future, you can be confident that the God who redeems your yesterdays, the “God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13), this same God holds your future and walks with you into the future He has planned for you. His promises are true and His promises await you in the future.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."—Joshua 1:7-9

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.—Hebrews 13:8

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.—2 Corinthians 1:20

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.—2 Timothy 1:7

It’s time to make your move into the future God has planned for you since the beginning of time. The world is full of broken and hurting people who need the promises and touch of God as desperately as you do. You are part of His plan to touch and change the world today.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to make your move!

Life’s Too Short…To be Negative!

Based on Numbers 13-14

In last week’s Next Step, we talked about combating an attitude of entitlement that, at its most basic level, believes that God owes us.

This week’s Next Step deals with another common attitude, excusing our negative attitudes and behavior by claiming “that’s just the way I am,” which translates to elevating ourselves beyond the realm of God’s ability to shape us to be like Christ, in essence, blaming God for our sinful attitudes and behavior.

Are we powerless to change our attitudes and behavior?

Thinking that we are powerless to change might hold up if Jesus simply died on the cross to forgive our sin, and then stayed dead. Then we would have forgiveness, but no hope of ever breaking free of sinful patterns that bind us.

That isn’t how the story ends in my Bible. How about yours?

In my Bible, Jesus refuses to stay in the tomb. Three days later, He actually rises from the dead to new life. Then He offers His life to us in exchange for our sin. Just as death could not hold Him in its power, sinful patterns of death have no power over us.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.—Paul, writing in 2 Corinthians 5:21

Paul says that we are not simply forgiven; we are given the righteousness of God in exchange for our sin. Christ took on our sin, accepting God’s punishment for sin on our behalf. At the same time, Jesus made His righteousness available to those who received His sacrifice on their behalf, and clothes them in God’s perfect righteousness.

Our power to live lives that reflect God’s righteousness flows from His Spirit. Writing to the Galatian believers, Paul reveals the secret to breaking sin’s hold in our lives—

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.—Galatians 5:16

To the Ephesian believers, Paul put it this way—

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.—Ephesians 4:22-24

It is possible, Paul says, to break free from the power of sin and to live changed lives that reflect new life in Christ. When we do sin, John shows us the way to move forward, reminding us that God’s response when we own up to our sin goes beyond forgiveness to include cleansing and renewal:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.—1 John 1:9

“Wait a minute,” you might say, “that’s all fine and good, but my negativity isn’t a sin. It is simply part of who I am. I see the world as it really is. I see the obstacles that other people choose to overlook. It’s my God-given nature and responsibility to point out the problems I see. My negative attitude is simply part of the discernment God gave me.”

Do you see negativity as sin? If not, what evidence can you point to in the life of Christ that negativity honors God?

As you consider the attitude you bring to life, reflect on Philippians 2:1-5 and ask yourself how your daily attitude reflects the presence of Christ in your life.

How do we overcome negativity?

The first step in overcoming negativity is to recognize it in our lives. Let’s take a look at the dictionary to help us get a clear picture of what negative attitudes and behavior looks like.

“Characterized by habitual skepticism and a disagreeable tendency to deny or oppose or resist suggestions or commands”
—"negativity." WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University. 22 Oct. 2008. .

“Lacking positive or constructive features: unpleasant, disagreeable; gloomy, pessimistic; hostile or disparaging; malicious”
—"negativity." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 22 Oct. 2008. .

Where do you tend to resist God’s power to remake you, claiming that it’s impossible for you to change?

Which of the words from the dictionary definitions of negativity could be used to describe you?

How does this negativity manifest itself in your life? Has it become habitual? In what specific situations or toward which specific people do you tend to become negative?

How is your negative attitude getting in the way of God’s ability to you us to touch and change the world for Christ?

Where does your negative attitude reveal a need for you to humble yourself before God, confess your sins, and allow Him to purify your thoughts, attitudes, and actions? Are you ready to do that?

Who do you need to confess your negativity to and ask for their forgiveness?

God will forgive our negativity, and He stands ready to remake us in the image of Jesus. However, we don’t combat a negative attitude by simply focusing on removing it from your life.

The next step in overcoming negativity is to refocus on living by His Spirit, to be made new in the attitude of our minds, allowing God’s thoughts to reshape our thoughts and the patterns of our lives. This positive focus will fill the void left by asking God to remove our negative tendencies.

Romans 12:2 echoes Paul’s thoughts in Ephesians 4:23-24, telling us that it is possible to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that our lives reveal God’s design for how life is to be lived.

Which of the following character qualities will you begin to develop in place of the negative qualities that have taken hold in you? Pick one to start with.
Trust in God

You can use www.biblegateway.com to find verses in the Bible that focus on the quality that you want to develop, and meditate on those verses. Pick one and memorize it over the next week to help you focus your mind on a God-shaped positive attitude.

Finally, personal change is either enhanced or undermined by relationships.

Who encourages your tendency toward negativity? Who encourages your desire to live a life that reflects God?

How can you build more time into your life to be with people who encourage you to focus on God’s life-changing power?

Who will you encourage by your positive, God-focused attitude this week?

Life's Too Short...To Be Envious! - Mean, Green, Soul-Rotting Machine

Envy: “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc.”
--"envy." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 07 Oct. 2008. .

Envy is an ugly word. Short. Abrupt. Say it aloud. “Envy.” It doesn’t flow smoothly off the tongue; it sort of hangs there, suspended in midair, exposing an inner ugliness that we can’t hide. It almost sounds like a curse word. Come to think of it, envy ends up as a curse for those who indulge in it, short-circuiting the ability to live a life of gratitude and fulfillment.

What does Scripture say about envy?

As you read through these passages, ask God to show you which one you need to take to heart today.

First, notice how envy show up in Paul’s description of love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.—1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Look at the effect of envy on the person who indulges in it:

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.—Proverbs 14:30

Envy motivated the religious leaders to turn against Jesus:

So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, "Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.—Matthew 27:17, 18

Envy is listed among the acts of the sinful nature against which we are cautioned, in contrast to the characteristics of a Spirit-led life:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
—Galatians 5:19-26

James warns about denying or harboring the presence of envy in our lives, and points us to the characteristics of wisdom that come from heaven:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
—James 3:13-18

Peter directs believers to rid themselves of envy and to grow up in their salvation:

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart…Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.—1 Peter 1:22, 2:1-3

Entitlement is a close friend of envy, and is a prevalent mindset today. Unlike envy, entitlement has a sense of intellectualism, justice, and righteousness about it. It doesn’t seem to bother us as much to admit to feeling entitled.

What do you feel entitled to have or entitled to do, regardless of the impact it has on others?

Remember the line from Disney’s The Kid, when the psychologist tells Russ Duritz that he is “entitled to a 50 minute hour, just like everyone else”? Always makes me laugh! Yet, having an attitude of entitlement isn’t a laughing matter.

Entitlement: “qualified for by right according to law; ‘we are all entitled to equal protection under the law’."
--"entitled." WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University. 07 Oct. 2008. .

Governments define the rights that their citizens are qualified to receive. But many of us have taken entitlement to a new level. Forget what the government says we’re entitled to, we think we’re entitled to have it all!

We think the world owes us…something, whatever we need, whatever we want, whatever others have—in short, everything the world has to offer.

In Philippians 3:20, Paul tells us that we are citizens of heaven. This is good news, yet we may be tempted to live a lifestyle of entitlement when it comes to spiritual matters, too. While most of us wouldn’t be so bold as to blurt it out in front of others, the basic attitude that drives both envy and entitlement is pretty straightforward:

“God owes me!”

Have you ever uttered those words, or thought them? Maybe it’s more subtle for you, maybe you’re not even aware that a tendency to envy or entitlement lurks in your unconscious, until things go wrong and you find yourself wondering how this, whatever “this” is, could happen to you!

Have you ever found yourself acting like you deserve more than what you have, thinking that life is unfair? What do you think you deserve?

What does Scripture say that we are entitled to?

All that we have as believers is through Christ, because of His sacrifice on our behalf. The New Testament is filled with the benefits that we reap through coming to God through Jesus. Try looking up Romans 5 and highlight the things we have received through Christ. Here are a few things to get you started:

1 peace with God
3-5 hope in suffering
10-11 reconciliation to God...

Moving on to other books in the New Testament, we find that we are free to:

“approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”—Hebrews 4:16

We can be confident that God will finish what He started in us:

“that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 1:6

We can be confident that God hears and answers our prayers:

“…if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”—1 John 5:14, 15

We can be confident that God is for us and that nothing that happens to us, as bad as it might be, can separate us from His love:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose….If God is for us, who can be against us?...Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."—Romans 8:28, 31, 35, 37-39

These blessings through Christ, the things we are entitled to spiritually, are just the tip of the iceberg! Yet envy and a sense of entitlement trip up many who claim to know Christ.

Envy and entitlement destroy our ability to enjoy the life that God has given us, to receive His blessings, to appreciate His grace, and to experience the encouragement and support of Christian community.

Envy causes us to grasp after things that belong only to God—judgment, control, position, power, authority—and to blame Him and others instead of taking responsibility for our own lives and choices. It turns us from worship and gratitude to complaining, bitterness, resentment and grasping. It separates us from God and others, destroying the very relationships that God designed to sustain us.

Where is envy destroying your relationship with God? With others?

What blessings sustain you as a Christ-follower?

What changes do you need to make to destroy envy’s power and receive the blessings Christ has for you?

Life's Too Short...Not to Fish! - REEL Fisheristic

"Come, follow me..."

Are you a dabbler? You know, flitting from one thing to another, trying something until you’re bored or it gets too hard or the next most interesting thing comes along?

I’ve been a dabbler in my life—couldn’t decide on a major in college, had a variety of unfinished projects laying around from hobbies that I didn’t stick with, and let’s not even discuss the number of half-read or just-started-but-never-finished books on my shelf. Focusing on one thing only worked for a little while, then I was on to something new.

I was the same way spiritually. After Jesus invited me to follow Him, I started out okay, but then I got distracted. I bounced back and forth for several decades, actually. What sounded fairly simple, “Follow me,” wasn’t that simple in my life. It seemed like I could follow everything else but Jesus, going first one way, then another, chasing every spiritual teacher or path that I stumbled upon. After wandering for a while, I would realize I was at a dead end (or on a path that I really didn’t want to be on) and find my way back to Jesus.

If you do a word search on www.biblegateway.com, you’ll find the word follow used in various ways in the New Testament. Matthew 4:19 is the first time we hear Jesus’ invitation to specific people to follow Him—

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."

It’s followed immediately in verse 20 by the disciples’ response—

At once they left their nets and followed him.

What is your response to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him?

What does following Jesus look like today? Here are a few suggestions:

Following Jesus is a personal matter—

Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."-- John 21:22

It really isn’t about anyone else in your family or circle of friends, it is up to you to accept the invitation to follow. Jesus was aware that some people would chose to follow and some would refuse the invitation. Other people’s decisions are not an excuse to keep us from following Jesus.

What have you used as an excuse not to follow Jesus?

Get to know Jesus while you are following Him

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”—John 14:5-7

Walking together is a great way to get to know another person. As you travel together, there is time to talk, to speak of everyday things and things that really matter, to laugh and even to cry, to make new discoveries and to create memories.

What are you learning about Jesus as you follow Him?

How is your understanding of Jesus deeper today than it was a day, a week, a month, or a year ago?

To follow Jesus, you have to move

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."—Matthew 8:18-20

Following is a verb. As a verb, it implies motion, action, and movement. Following Jesus isn’t a static concept. Following Jesus involves participation and personal effort. You can’t follow someone who is standing still and you can’t follow someone if you remain standing still. Jesus is always on the move, and following Him means that you can’t stay in the same place where He first called you. He is moving on and you’ll have to keep moving to keep up with Him.

Where are you in your journey of faith compared to where you started?

Where is Jesus taking you now?

To follow Jesus, you have to keep pace with Him and let Him lead the way

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished…—Mark 10:32

I walk with some friends each week. The funny thing about that is that my friends have longer legs than me, so I’m always moving to keep up with them. I think of Jesus like that, actually. In Mark 10, Jesus is traveling on a mission, traveling to Jerusalem, where He will go to the cross. His followers are hurrying behind Him on the road, because He is walking with purpose. On the way, He ends up stopping in Jericho before heading out again.

Where is Jesus leading you, perhaps to a place you don’t understand? Are you letting Him lead the way or are you trying to get Him to follow you instead?

To follow Jesus, you have to stay close enough to see or hear Him

I sometimes think it must have been easier to follow God in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God made Himself visible to the Israelites by a cloud by day and fire by night. Pretty simple stuff, move when the cloud moves, stop with it stops. You can always see God visibly, regardless of the time of day or night.

In the New Testament, Jesus was physically present, able to be spoken to, seen, and heard. You knew if He was in town or on the road. Well, except for the times He would leave town without the crowds, and they went looking for Him. Still and all, He was physically visible.

As Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross and then to return to heaven, He prepared His followers for what the next stage of following Him was going to look like: the presence of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding them.

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”
—John 16:7-15

Here are some practical tips for staying close to Jesus and letting His Spirit guide you:

1. Listen for His voice —

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.—John 10:4

2. Get to know what truth sounds like—

Read truth in the Bible. Listen to truth from Bible teachers—Bible studies, sermons, podcasts, CDs. Let God’s truth reshape your mind and heart, and renew your thinking.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.—Colossians 3:1

3. Keep an open relationship with the Spirit—

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God—Ephesians 4:30

You keep an open relationship with someone by being honest about who you are, asking forgiveness when you hurt them, and staying in relationship with them. Confess your failures to God, receive His forgiveness, and don’t let your failures be an excuse to quit following Him!

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.—1 John 1:5-10

How is your relationship with the Holy Spirit?

Following Jesus sometimes means you head into storms

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"—Matthew 8:23-27

The thing about following Jesus into storms is that you’re following JESUS into those storms. He is with you. He is in control, even if you don’t realize it. He will bring you through it, and you will know Him more truly, and be amazed at the One you follow!

What are you learning about Jesus because of the storms He is taking you through?

Following Jesus will shape your purpose, passion, persistence, and partnership with Him. It will infuse your life with His purpose, passion, and persistence, and it will result in an increasingly deep partnership with Him.

What about you? Are you a spiritual dabbler? On again, off again, when it comes to following Jesus? Choosing to follow Him, alone if necessary? Out of shape? Hard of hearing? Or are you learning to hear His voice; learning to follow Him in your life, learning to follow Him to those who need His touch?

Who are you encouraging to follow Jesus? What lessons can you share with them about how to keep following when you’re tempted to dabble?

Count on It!

Based on Hebrews 11

What are you counting on in life? What do you think, hope, and believe will get you through? What is your firm foundation in life? What is most important to you, the thing you hold on to above all else?

One way to discover what is important to a person is to listen to how they talk. This same principle applies to reading and studying the Bible, so take some time to read Hebrews 11 in your Bible or at www.biblegateway.com (the link is found in the Web Steps list to the right). Look for repeated words or phrases as you read.

What did you discover as you read through the passage in Hebrews 11 for yourself?

Were you, like me, struck by the number of times you read the word faith and the phrase by faith?

I counted 23 uses of the phrase "by faith," plus another four uses of the word "faith" (v.1-Now faith is…, v.6-And without faith it is…, v.33-who through faith…, v.39-…commended for their faith…).

One thing I noticed was that each time the phrase "by faith" is used, it is followed (in every case but one) by a person’s name or a personal pronoun. It does not typically say “by faith problems disappeared” or “by faith circumstances changed” or “by faith life was easy and carefree.” Instead, the writer told the stories of people who lived by faith in the face of great challenges—people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and his parents, Rahab, and countless others, many unnamed—which leads me to wonder:

What would it look like if my name—or your name—followed the words “by faith”?
Would your story look like any of the people whose stories we read in Hebrews 11?

Each of these people had challenging situations that required them to exercise faith in God, to live their lives based on who they knew God to be, regardless of the difficulty before them. Many of their stories are found in Genesis and Exodus, if you want to look them up and get the details. The thread that ties them all together is found in the first few verses of Hebrews 11—

1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for….

What do you think they hoped for?

What do you hope for when times are rough?

What kind of hope do these Scripture passages offer? What hope do they offer you in overcoming the challenges you face today?

No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.—Psalm 25:3

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.—Psalm 31:24

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.—Psalm 33:20

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.—Psalm 33:22

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.—Psalm 42:11

What is the source of the writer’s hope in Psalm 119:43, 74, 81, 119, and 147?

What do you do to find hope from this source?

What difference does it make in your life for you to find hope in this way? How does finding hope in this way increase your ability to live by faith?

Living by faith, being sure of what we hope for and confident of what we do not see, is not a one-time event; it is a way of life, a lifelong journey.

All these people were still living by faith when they died.—Hebrews 11:13

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."—Romans 1:17

How does faith relate to the lives of those who follow Christ? Faith gives us courage to live like who we are, people loved by God, able to draw upon His Spirit and reflect His transforming work in our lives, in the way we treat others, in the way we rise to challenges, in the way we walk through difficulties.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.—Galatians 2:20

What does it mean for you to live by faith in the Son of God?

How is your relationship with Jesus changing you, transforming you, giving you power to live a life of selfless love and sacrifice? A life of integrity and obedience? A life of humility and courage?

The writer of Hebrews speaks of many others who lived by faith, who counted on God, who counted on His character and His word, who counted on Him to see them through. Are you one of those?

Are you on the journey? Is it time to begin? What words would you like to be written about you? Do you trust Him enough to take the journey of faith? What will it look like for you to live by faith today, this week?

By faith (insert your name and write your story here)…

Believing Better? You Better Believe It!

Based on Romans 10:17
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

There are two repeated words in this short sentence from Paul’s letter to the Roman believers. Read it again. Did you catch them? Hear (hearing/heard) and message. As I’ve been thinking through this week’s Bible study on Believing Better, I keep coming back to the concept of listening.

Listening relates closely to both of these words. Hearing is a familiar concept. Most of us hear things all the time. We relegate a lot of the noise in our lives to background noise, picking and choosing to give our attention to things that we deem important, while ignoring the rest. Some noise, of course, is so insistent that whether we want to or not, we are forced to pay attention: fire engines, police sirens, or a person screaming.

What makes these things stand out? Let me suggest that it’s because we believe there is a message that cannot be ignored in them. We know that there is an emergency, something is wrong, someone is in pain or in danger, and so we pay attention.

Among all of the noise that surrounds us, there are certain noises or voices that we choose to give attention to, even without them screaming out or calling for our attention. The voice of a loved one, someone or something that we have decided is important because it is a priority for us, like a boss, or a teacher, or a close friend. While their message may not be as urgent as the emergency signals, when we choose to listen to someone, it’s because we sense that they have something worth saying. They have a message we need to hear, and we want to hear it.

I’ve been thinking about all this because as believers, we hear a lot about the Bible being God’s Word, and the importance of reading it. Do you remember Jeff’s first point about how to develop our faith?

1. Reading the Bible. Yet, many of us don’t read the Bible. And I’ve been thinking about that. Why is it that we don’t read the Bible?
• Have we allowed the noise around us to drown out its voice?
• Have we decided that God doesn’t really speak through the Bible?
• Have we decided that the Bible’s message isn’t relevant to our lives?
• Have we decided that we’ve read enough of the Bible and decided to settle for living based on what God has said to us in the past, forgetting that we have a relationship with a living God?
• Does reading the Bible not seem urgent enough—given daily news reports, iPods, self-help books, video games, business deadlines, family time, hanging out with friends, and school projects that are due—so we keep letting it fall off our radar?

What might be different about your life if you read the Bible more? Try listing at least three things—

See, the big deal about reading the Bible isn’t about reading the Bible. The big deal about reading the Bible is that by reading it, we get to know the God of the Bible, so deeply that our lives become defined by His presence and power, by our growing knowledge of, love for, and relationship with Him. We are transformed!
Reading the Bible is about listening for and hearing the message that God has for you in the Bible.

In Psalm 81, the writer records God pleading and lamenting—

Listen to me, O my people… O Israel, if you would only listen… But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around… But oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh, that Israel would follow me…--verses 8, 11, 13

The writer of Proverbs exhorts us to listen. (Exhort is a stronger word than suggest or encourage. It includes a passionate appeal to do what is in our best interest.) Listen to his words—

Let those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. And let those who understand receive guidance by exploring the depth of meaning in these proverbs, parables, wise sayings, and riddles…. Wisdom shouts in the streets. “Come here and listen to me! I’ll pour out the spirit of wisdom upon you and make you wise... I called you so often, but you didn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered.”—Proverbs 1:5, 6, 20, 23-25

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all quote Jesus urging His listeners to listen to His words, saying, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 15, 16, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 8:18; Luke 8:8, 14:35). Jesus longs for you to hear His message and receive it into your life so that it can transform you.

Paul prays for the Philippians—

9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.—Philippians 1:9-11

What is your love for Jesus abounding in? Are you seeking Him in His Word? Is your love abounding in knowledge and depth of insight?

Paul tells the Corinthian believers that they “have the mind of Christ” by virtue of the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance, teaching them about spiritual truth. See 1 Corinthians 2:12-16.

In what area of your life do you want to have the mind of Christ?

To the Romans, Paul writes—

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.—Romans 12:2

Where do you want to experience transformation in your life as you read and listen to the message of God’s Word?

In his final letter to his disciple Timothy, Paul points Timothy back to the power of God’s Word—

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17

What do you need most in your life—teaching, rebuking, correcting, or training? How is God’s Word shaping and equipping you to touch and change the world?

Do you want to “believe better”? (By the way, want is another key word. Wanting isn’t wishing. Wanting implies making an effort in line with your desire.) Here are just a few questions to think it through.

Where are you reading in the Bible?

What is God saying to you as you listen for His message in His Word?

What questions do you have about what you are reading in the Bible?

What steps are you taking to get your questions answered?

If you would like help in developing a personal Bible reading or study plan, contact us at cccreach@aol.com.

I Believe that Believe is a Verb

Based on James 2:14-19
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Do you believe that believe is a verb?

It’s more than just an intellectual question—and not just because of James’ comment about demons believing that there is one God, although that reminder stops me cold almost every time I read it! It’s an important question because it’s the kind of question that rattles around in our souls, refusing to find an answer that allows us to put it to rest once and for all.

Do you believe that believe is a verb?

It’s a really big deal, because it really is all about us—you, me, every person who claims to believe in Jesus Christ. Our individual and personal response to this question matters, because we are the body of Christ, we are His visible representation in the world, His face, His arms, His hands, His feet.

As Paul writes to groups of first century believers, he calls them to live in light of what they believe, to move beyond intellectual assent to living lives characterized by the reality of what God has done for them in Christ.

In Paul’s letter to the believers at Ephesus, he is direct and to the point—

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.—Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 1

Then he spends the rest of his letter explaining in detail what that looks like in their individual lives and in their relationships with other people.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul equates how we live our lives with worship, and tells us how important it is to allow God’s truth to reshape our perspective on life—

Therefore, I urge you, brothers [and sisters], in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.—Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 13, verse 1

As Paul writes to the Galatian believers, he points to the role of God’s Spirit in shaping us—

You, my brothers [and sisters], were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love….The acts of the sinful nature are obvious…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law….So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature….Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.—Paul’s letter to the Galatians, chapter 5, verses 13, 16, 19, 22, 23, 25

In writing to the believers in Philippi, Paul calls them back to the realization of all that Christ has done for them and points to Christ’s example as the basis for living lives that place others above our own self-interest—

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose….Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus…—Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 1, 2, 5

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul urges believers to live in light of their identity in Christ—

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.—Paul’s letter to the Colossians, chapter 3, verse 12

Peter points believers to God’s power, encouraging and challenging believers with these words—

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness….For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.—Peter’s second letter to believers, chapter 1, verses 3, 5-9

So what about you?

Which of these passages from the first century do you need to hear today? It really is all about you. What you believe. Do you believe believe is a verb? Are you believing?

Believing flows from the inside out.

Live life based on what you say you believe—

1. Take actions that are consistent with what you believe
2. Take actions even when you aren’t sure of the end result
3. Take actions even when you don’t feel like it

Can You BELIEVE He Asked That?

Can You BELIEVE He Asked That?

Matthew 9:27-29
27As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"
28When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"
"Yes, Lord," they replied.
29Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you";

Matthew 9 gives us a glimpse into the life-changing nature of a simple conversation. What started out as a conversation between Jesus and two men with an undeniable need resulted in restored sight and a new future for the men talking with Jesus. Because Matthew captured this conversation in his biography of Jesus, its impact echoes through the millennia and impacts us today. A conversation that brought physical sight for the initial hearers can bring us spiritual insight today.

It’s a short conversation. The men ask Jesus a question; Jesus asks them a question. They respond to His question; He responds to their question. Sometimes we think that it takes a lot of words—fancy, multi-syllabic words woven into eloquent speeches—to make a difference in someone’s life. Jesus had those kinds of words for people when the situation called for it. For these two men, though, the conversation was short, specific and straight-forward.

Although these men couldn’t see Jesus, they had heard about Him. They had heard of His compassion, His miracles, His healing. At last Jesus was nearby, actually within their range. Now was the time to act.

Their limitation does not keep them from following Jesus. Did they follow the sound of the crowd? Did they follow the sound of Jesus’ voice?

Their unmet need caused them to follow Jesus, to chase after Him, to call out for His attention. What compels you to call out to Jesus? What unmet need drives you to follow Him?

Notice that the men did not come to Jesus with their own plan, they came with their problem. Jesus didn’t have to talk them out of their own ideas about how to fix their blindness. They had figured out that the biggest problem they faced in life couldn’t be fixed with their own ingenuity or hard work. Plain and simple, they faced the fact that without Jesus intervening, they were stuck in their blindness.

They were way past asking “Why?” and way past playing the victim. They had moved past complaining and blaming, past anger at God for allowing this in their lives, past resignation to their lot in life. They didn’t have any solutions of their own; they just wanted God to intervene, and they were willing to humble themselves and ask for His help. They wanted to be better, to be whole, and to live life with all of its responsibilities and privileges.

They didn’t tell Jesus what to do, they simply asked for mercy. Mercy, receiving compassion and blessing that they desperately longed for but knew they couldn’t demand or control or manipulate God into giving them. Asking for mercy comes from remembering that God is God and that we are His people, His creation, that He doesn’t owe us anything, but maybe—just maybe—His character is such that He might have compassion on us at the point of our need.

What is the point of need in your life?

What characterizes your conversations with God about this part of your life? Anger? Bitterness? Resentment? Scheming? Resignation? Advice-giving? Or a realization that God, the God of all compassion, actually cares for you and listens to your cry for mercy?

Funny, isn’t it, that Jesus didn’t turn around immediately and answer them? Was He testing their hearts as He continued on, wondering if they would give up, if they really meant it that they wanted His help? The two men persevered, in spite of Jesus’ seeming lack of response. They knew that Jesus was the only one who could help them, so they kept following Him, all the way into a house. They didn’t give up.

What difficulties do you have to overcome in order to pursue Jesus? Doubts? Barriers? Questions? Resentment? Friends? Family? Poor lifestyle choices? Disappointment?

Just a few chapters earlier in Matthew 7, Jesus encouraged His listeners to persist in asking God to respond to their needs: 7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

James’ advice is: 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
How do these verses renew your desire and determination to pursue God and God’s intervention in your situation?

God longs to reveal Himself to us and to answer our prayers. Yet here we see Jesus probing, testing to see if these men were ready for His answer.

Jesus tests their belief by responding to their question with a question, questioning the depth of their belief in His ability to help them. As God, didn’t Jesus know what was in their hearts? Why did He ask “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

Jesus’ question requires them to stop and examine what they believe, recognize who they are asking, and reflect on the moment and their expectations. I wonder if they paused, if they thought deeply, if there was a hush in the room.

Their answer to Jesus question is recorded; it needn’t have been. What would have been missing if Matthew had skipped their response, and gone straight to “Then he touched their eyes…” It’s not just about Jesus, it’s about relationship, about communication and connection. Their simple response is “Yes, Lord.”

What about you? Are you persistently seeking Jesus about the need in your life? Are you continuing to look to Him? Are you ready for Him to make a difference in your life? Are you ready for His answer, whatever form it takes?

In some cases Jesus healed with a word, in another case He healed blindness using a mud paste. Just before this incident, a woman was healed simply by touching the hem of Jesus’ clothing. In this case, His touch on their eyes brought sight to the blind. Can you imagine what it must have been like to open your eyes and have Jesus’ face be the first thing you ever see?

In what part of your life do you need Jesus’ touch? What difference would it make if you could see Jesus’ face clearly in the midst of your situation? How much do you long for His answer? Are you willing to put your faith in Him, not in yourself or others, for the answer to your problem?

Jesus’ response—to them and to us—is, “According to your faith will it be done to you.”

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Finishing What You Started

Based on Hebrews 12:1-3
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)

Essential Information about FINISHING (verse 1)

Jeff mentioned that the race is marked out to keep us on track, not to trip us up. Each turn, each obstacle, each new challenge, all are designed to point us to Jesus, to cause us to look for Him even more than we already do.

What do the following verses say about God’s involvement in designing your race?

Psalm 139:13-16
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Acts 17:26-27
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

What does your race look like? What are the circumstances of your life that cause you to turn to Jesus?

We’re encouraged to run with perseverance. Perseverance is “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”

What difficulties (large or small) are threatening to throw you off track right now? Where do you want to quit? What would it look like for you to choose to persevere?

Will you choose to accept these circumstances as part of God’s plan to cause you to turn to Him? Will you make the commitment to persevere?

Essential Information about THE RACE ITSELF (verse 3)

The race is tough. No question. Racing isn’t strolling. It takes determination, training, and effort. Take a look back just one chapter in Hebrews 11 if you want to read some stories of people who had to overcome difficulties in their race. They all kept their eyes focused on what was ahead of them.

Running the race can sometimes be so hard that we lose sight of the goal. Jeff spoke of a runner’s “kick,” that burst of untapped energy and resources that a runner taps into to make it through to the finish line. God’s purpose in our lives are for us to touch and change our world as we become more like Jesus. It’s in the midst of the challenges in our lives that others can see something different about us. But how do you keep going when the race gets tough?

One way is to draw strength from Scripture. Romans 15:4 tells us that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” How familiar are you with the Bible? Where do you turn to in Scripture to find encouragement?

How do the following verses encourage you?

Philippians 1:6 – Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

A suggestion: Memorize one of the verses in this study to strengthen you and to find the encouragement that Romans 15:4 promises.

Essential Information about HOW TO RUN (verse 2)

Hebrews 12:3 is very clear about how we can keep going, how to run the race. We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus.”

Acts 17:27 says that when we seek God, when we reach out for Him, we will find Him because He is not far from us. Jesus is our running partner. How does the thought of Jesus running with you encourage you and strengthen you to run the race? What difference does that make in your ability to keep going?

Notice that fixing our eyes on Jesus is a choice we have to make, just as we have to choose to run the race. What are your eyes fixed on— yourself, the other runners, the crowd and how you look to them, your circumstances? Or are your eyes fixed on Jesus? What do you see when you look at Him, just some guy—or do you see your Savior, your Friend, your God, the Expert on running the race?

How much time do you spend talking with Him as you go about your day? Are you talking with Him about the difficulties in your life, asking for (and taking) His advice? Are you trying to run like He does? When you’re knocked down, are you reaching out for His hand to pull you back up? Are you letting Him set the pace?

Runners train to run, especially if they want to finish and finish well. They discipline themselves, they exercise. Hebrews 12:7 tells us to “endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons [and daughters]” and Hebrews 12:12-13 sums it all up—“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet…’” What are you doing to train yourself to run the race? What do you need to do to run better?

In this race, age isn’t an issue. In the Scriptures, children are held up as examples of faith; teenagers are encouraged to be an example to adults; all believers are called to be examples to a watching world; adults are told that even in old age they will still produce spiritual fruit and remain vital and vibrant. No matter what your age, your circumstances, your condition, you can be in the race.

So, how’s the race going? You’re being cheered on by a watching crowd. Run! Run hard! Run well!

—"perseverance." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 19 Aug. 2008. .