Month: June 2013

Money, Money, Money

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(The Message)

Acts 8:20
20 Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable – trying to buy God’s gift!



Do I trust in God or in my own skills to supply my needs? In 1923, several of the most powerful money magnets in the world gathered for a meeting at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. The combined resources and assets of these men tallied more than the U.S. Treasury that year. In the group were Charles Schwab, president of a steel company; Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange; and Arthur Cutton, a wheat speculator.

Albert Fall was a presidential cabinet member, a personally wealthy man. Jesse Livermore was the greatest Wall Street “bear” in his generation. Leon Fraser was the president of the International Bank of Settlements, and Ivan Kruger headed the largest monopoly in the nation. It was an impressive gathering of financial eagles!

What happened to these men in later years? Schwab died penniless. Whitney served a life sentence in Sing-Sing Prison. Cutton became insolvent. Fall was pardoned from a Federal prison so he could die at home. Fraser, Livermore, and Krueger committed suicide. These extremely rich men ended their lives with nothing.

Money is certainly not the answer to life’s ills! Only God can give us peace, happiness, and joy. When we focus on God and His goodness in our lives, whether we have money or not, we can live in contentment, knowing that God will meet all our needs.

In my vocabulary, there is no such word as “can’t,” because I recognize that my abilities are given to me by God to do what needs to be done.

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Because

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trials
Job 2

The Message (MSG)
The Second Test: Health

2 1-3 One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan also showed up. God singled out Satan, saying, “And what have you been up to?” Satan answered God, “Oh, going here and there, checking things out.” Then God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him, is there—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil? He still has a firm grip on his integrity! You tried to trick me into destroying him, but it didn’t work.”

4-5 Satan answered, “A human would do anything to save his life. But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away his health? He’d curse you to your face, that’s what.”

6 God said, “All right. Go ahead—you can do what you like with him. But mind you, don’t kill him.”

7-8 Satan left God and struck Job with terrible sores. Job was ulcers and scabs from head to foot. They itched and oozed so badly that he took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself, then went and sat on a trash heap, among the ashes.

9 His wife said, “Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you? Curse God and be done with it!”

10 He told her, “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?”

Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God.
Job’s Three Friends

11-13 Three of Job’s friends heard of all the trouble that had fallen on him. Each traveled from his own country—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuhah, Zophar from Naamath—and went together to Job to keep him company and comfort him. When they first caught sight of him, they couldn’t believe what they saw—they hardly recognized him! They cried out in lament, ripped their robes, and dumped dirt on their heads as a sign of their grief. Then they sat with him on the ground. Seven days and nights they sat there without saying a word. They could see how rotten he felt, how deeply he was suffering.

I am so glad that I spent devotional time with Jesus this day. He revealed to me that eternity is for those who confess and believe in their heart that he died and rose in three days for the remission of their sins. My life is a mess in the natural. A violator of life’s contract- “Felon” living in a unforgiving society coupled with a recession designed to purge society due to the governments lack of stewardship. Living under oppression concealed by bills and legislative tactics I find myself perplexed beyond measure today, but the storm is almost gone because I can see the “Son” peaking through the clouds due to time spent in this word that became “The Son” of Man.

One day in my past, my toddler who has taken the great sleep exclaimed, “I love you dad!” I was curious about what makes a three-year-old tick, so I asked him why he loved me. He answered, “Because you play cars with me.” When I asked if there was any other reason, he said, “Nope. That’s it.” My toddler’s response made me smile. But it also made me think about the way I relate to God. Do I love and trust Him just because of what He does for me? What about when the blessings disappear?

Job had to answer these questions when catastrophes claimed his children and demolished his entire estate. His wife advised him: “Curse God and die!(Job2:9). Instead, Job asked, “shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? (v.10). Yes, Job struggled after his tragedy; he became angry with his friends and questioned the Almighty. Still, he vowed, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.

Jobs affection for his heavenly Father didn’t depend on a tidy solution to his problems. Rather, he loved and trusted God because of all that He is. Job said, “God is wise in heart and mighty in strength”. Our love for God must not be based solely on His blessings but because of who He is.

Shall we accept the good from God
But fuss when trials are in sight?
Not if our love is focused on
The One who always does what’s right.

Focusing on the character of God helps us to take our eyes off our circumstances. I am of “Anointed Pedigree” how about you?

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Warning Signs That We Should Prepare For The Worst

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I am seriously looking at the affairs of state and even my life in retrospect of the legal system and our government. Major pieces of the story are unfolding before my eyes. Even while on my bed of meditation “My God” is
still on the throne performing His will in the lives of those consecrated to Him. Position yourself first in The Living God and then prepare accordingly.

The warning signs are all around us. All we have to do is open up our eyes and look at them. Almost every single day there are more prominent voices in the financial world telling us that a massive economic crisis is coming and that we need to prepare for the worst. On Wednesday, it was the World Bank itself that issued a very chilling warning. In an absolutely startling report, the World Bank revised GDP growth estimates for 2012 downward very sharply, warned that Europe could be on the verge of a devastating financial crisis, and declared that the rest of the world better “prepare for the worst.” You would expect to hear this kind of thing on The Economic Collapse Blog, but this is not the kind of language that you would normally expect to hear from the stuffed suits at the World Bank. Obviously things have gotten bad enough that nobody is even really trying to deny it anymore. Andrew Burns, the lead author of the report, said that if the sovereign debt crisis gets even worse we could be looking at an economic crisis that could be even worse than the last one: “An escalation of the crisis would spare no-one. Developed- and developing-country growth rates could fall by as much or more than in 2008/09.” Burns also stated that the “importance of contingency planning cannot be stressed enough.” In other words, Burns is saying that it is time to prepare for the worst. So are you ready?

NationalDebt1-1024x765
Our Prosperity Is An Illusion

That being said, I do believe America is in for some tough times ahead. I still believe America is the greatest country on earth, but we’ve had it too good for too long and, as a result, our nation has become sadly complacent with its finances. So much so that I believe we’ve crossed the Rubicon.

Our government is now so massive, and its obligations — both present and future — are so large that, barring a remarkable and sudden change of attitude by our politicians, a systemic economic collapse is inevitable.

The US National Debt is currently more than $16 trillion. Unfortunately, the US currently owes, depending on who you believe, somewhere between $50 and $100 trillion more in unfunded liabilities for things like Social Security, Medicare and public employee pensions.

America has been able to run up these huge debts because it broke away from the gold standard in 1971. The gold standard imposed at least a modicum of fiscal responsibility and faith in the US dollar because the world’s central banks were allowed to exchange their greenbacks for the gold sitting in Fort Knox.

But once the gold standard was abandoned, our politicians were freed from the constraints that had previously forced them to be fiscally accountable. Pandora’s box was opened.

Since then, lawmakers have been borrowing an unlimited quantity of freshly-printed money to fund their spending sprees — courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank — thereby eliminating the need to worry about tax hikes.

As you can see by the chart below, government spending — and the inherent money printing that is ultimately required to finance it — is now completely out of control; the National Debt is expected to reach $20 trillion by the end of this decade.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Every new dollar that is printed by the Fed increases the money supply, which in turn reduces the value of the dollars already existence — including the ones in your wallet and retirement account.

As you can see from the chart below, soon after the United States abandoned the gold standard in 1971 — and our politicians began to greatly expand the size and scope of the government — cumulative price increases embarked upon an exponential trajectory. Those price increases are the result of the declining purchasing power of the US dollar. In fact, the buck’s purchasing power has been decimated since 1971; so much so that today you would need $559 to buy something that cost $100 back then.

Inflation-in-the-United-States-Since-18001
Clearly, abandoning the gold standard was a fiscally reckless decision, akin to giving a teenager a credit card without a credit limit. To illustrate, let’s first look at the current impacts of America’s spending addiction:

2012 Federal revenue: $2,468,000,000,000
2012 Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
2012 New debt: $1,352,000,000,000
National debt: $16,350,000,000,000
Interest paid on National Debt in 2012: $220,000,000,000
Proposed 2013 sequestration spending cuts: $ 85,000,000,000
Next, let’s drop a whole bunch of zeros from those figures to make the federal government’s ledger look at least little more like a typical household’s finances:

2012 Household income: $24,680
2012 Household expenditures: $38,200
2012 Credit card debt: $13,520
Outstanding balance on the credit card: $163,500
Annual interest on credit card debt: $2,200
Proposed 2013 spending cuts: $850
The figures reveal a dire situation. A financially responsible individual who found himself in a similar situation would drastically cut his spending while looking for ways to increase revenue.

Our politicians insist that’s exactly what they’re doing but, as you can see from the proposed spending cuts, they’re really just going through the motions, financing the nation’s obligations in the same way any financially irresponsible individual would — by taking on even more debt through the selling of US Treasury bonds.

It’s a practice that’s essentially no different than using a VISA card to pay the MasterCard bill.

The Illusion Is Unraveling

The problem is, using one credit card to pay another credit card bill only works for so long. As long as a debt addict can continue to find lenders who are willing to extend additional credit, the game can continue. But once the pool of lenders dries up, the game is over.

No, I can’t say exactly when this will happen. But it’s coming, folks — and when it does, middle-class America’s way of life will undergo a catastrophic change that will dramatically drop their standard of living forever more.

Until recently, the United States’ profligate spending wasn’t much of an issue. For years, plenty of investors — both foreign and domestic — have willingly parked a portion of their money into the perceived safety of America’s bonds. But over the long march of time, the dollar’s standing has seriously deteriorated and, as a result, foreign nations are becoming increasingly reluctant to buy US Treasury bonds because, thanks to the Fed’s near-zero interest rate policy, the risks are no longer worth the reward.

Normally, depressed demand for bonds results in higher interest rates, but so far the Fed has managed to keep bond demand artificially inflated via their quantitative easing campaigns. And the Fed is keeping US Treasury bond rates as low as possible now because interest payments on the National Debt already consume roughly 10% of annual revenue. If US Treasury bond rates increased to merely 5%, America would be forking over one-third of its annual revenue just to satisfy the interest on its $16.5 trillion National Debt; it would also be increasing its annual deficit by more than $800 billion.

The Beginning of “the End”

Although they won’t admit it, the Fed backed itself into a corner with its reckless easy-money policy. They know that once the money-printing party stops, interest rates will have to rise — and then the bond market will almost certainly crash. If that happens, things are going to get very interesting. For example:

As bond rates rise, mortgage interest rates will naturally follow them upwards. And since higher mortgage rates ultimately result in higher house payments for a given size loan, it follows that home prices will have to drop in order to keep them affordable — and the decline could be devastating.
The cost of borrowing will also go up for everyone else including small businesses, corporations, and state and local governments.
The stock market should fall as higher interest rates hurt economic growth and hurt stocks’ value.
Once interest rates start rising, a vicious cycle can ensue as higher interest rates beget larger deficits, which in turn lead to still higher interest rates. As the debt piles up, and the faith in the US dollar continues to diminish, the US will eventually reach its day of reckoning. The US will then be faced with two very unpleasant choices for solving the crisis: print away the debt or default.

Default would lead to the loss of the US dollar’s standing as the world’s reserve currency which would, among other things, cause the price of imports to skyrocket. Consumers’ purchasing power would plummet, and the government would be forced to severely cut back on its spending since it would no longer be able to finance its deficits. However, this is politically untenable.

So the more-likely alternative is that the Fed will simply print away the debt. That would result in hyperinflation as the last vestiges of the dollar’s utility as a reliable store-of-wealth all but disappeared.

What Will Economic Collapse Look Like?

While I don’t expect a Zombie Apocalypse resulting from either scenario, temporary supply disruptions caused by market uncertainties will be inevitable — and that will lead to empty supermarket shelves, fuel shortages and, possibly, utility failures that will almost certainly result in civil unrest and increased crime in more densely populated areas.

The good news is a new (hopefully gold-backed) currency will be issued and society will slowly recover. Eventually. I’m hoping it will take no more than six months before the supply chain recovers enough to eliminate most shortages.

Thankfully, tangible assets won’t go up in smoke after the economy resets; your home, automobile, and other possessions will be unaffected.

More good news: Any long-term debt you hold in old US dollars will essentially be wiped out because you should be able to retire it with worthless currency. It’s why I no longer bother trying to pay down my mortgage early.

Even so, things will never be the same for most people.

Although it’s anybody’s guess, I believe Americans will be lucky if their post-collapse standard-of-living will be equivalent to half of what it is now; worst case, one-third. That isn’t so bad if you earn $1 million per year but, if my assumption is correct, and you earn $60,000 annually, then your post-collapse standard-of-living will be between $20,000 and $30,000 today.

The ensuing economic collapse won’t be the end of the world, but it’s going to be a wild ride. Next, I’ll share some tips on how to survive an economic collapse, and get out relatively unharmed.

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Recession Obsession

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The Canadian dollar has reached parity with the U.S. dollar for the first time since 1976. They are now equal in value. The euro also soared to its highest-ever level against the dollar, trading above $1.40 for the first time since the currency was introduced in 1999.

So why is the dollar plunging, and what impact does that plunge have on U.S. and world markets? Here’s a look at some of the reasons for the dollar’s fall, and the consequences

Why the Weak Dollar?

There are several reasons. First, there’s the difference between the interest rate in the United States — the one the Federal Reserve just dropped by half a percentage point to 4.75 percent — and the interest rates of other central banks around the world.

When the United States dropped its rate, other banks did not follow. Now the spread between the interest rate at the European Central Bank (home of the euro) and the Federal Reserve (home of the dollar) is smaller than it has traditionally been, and that has weakened the value of the dollar against the euro. Put another way, you would get a better interest rate return holding a euro than a dollar.

Second, central banks around the world have been diversifying their holdings away from dollars to euros, British pounds and so on. That means there are more dollars out there in currency markets available to purchase. More dollars floating around means diminished value.

What Effect Does This Have?

Look at the record-high price of oil. Even if the same amount of oil is being pumped out of the ground, since it is traded in dollars and the dollar has weakened, the price of oil has increased to make up for the lost value of the dollar, creating a sort of vicious cycle.

Oil-producing countries don’t want to keep all the dollars they are getting for their oil, since it’s worth less, so they are diversifying and converting their dollars into euros or other currencies. That pushes more dollars back out into currency markets, which in turn pushes down the dollar’s value.

One analyst told ABC News that Russia used to have 90 percent of its financial reserves in dollars. It now has 45 percent in dollars, 45 percent in euros and 10 percent in British pounds.

What Does This Mean in the U.S.?

The news is mixed. It’s good, because it makes what we produce here cheaper to sell in foreign markets, and that in turn spurs exports of our products around the world. That translates into more manufacturing and more jobs. For example, BMW and Mercedes Benz want to build cars in the United States, because they can do it cheaper in nonunion states than in Germany, where they’d pay labor and parts in euros, and then bring the cars to the United States, where they would be too expensive to sell at a profit.

For years now, the collapse of the dollar has been in the cards. Recent developments show mounting pressure on the dollar’s reserve currency status. With a major international deflation going on, the threat of inflation through money printing is unreal. However, should the dollar’s reserve currency status end, the repatriation of trillions of petro- and Eurodollars could lead to a strongly inflationary scenario.

The roles of a reserve currency are to finance international trade and to function as a store of value for Governments. Until the second world war it used to be the British pound, but with the demise of the British Empire, the pound lost its international relevance and was overtaken by the dollar. This was formalized in the 1944 Bretton Woods system. All other currencies were fiat currencies, but pegged to the dollar, which in turn was pegged to Gold at 40 dollars an ounce and redeemable for international trading partners.

We are seeing the advent of the new currency order. There will be a number of more or less equal blocks: a dollar zone, a Yuan/BRICS zone and the euro, with the Yen and the Pound as lesser entities. These will later be able to converge to even more ‘cooperation’, in the Money Power’s relentless march towards World Currency.

These units will be at least partially Gold backed, implying long term deflationary pressures. Central Banks are buying Gold in major quantities, creating the interesting question why Gold prices have not risen in the last 18 months.

Well it looks like we’re heading into some really tough economic times. You’ve already heard much about these high profile banks that have failed and a few others have merged just to survive. Perhaps you haven’t heard just how many other business mergers have been proposed in these tough times. For example:
1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. are set to merge. The new name will be: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.
2.) PolyGram Records, Warner Bros., and Zest Crackers will join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.
3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMM Good.
4.) Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Doofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa
5.) FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.
6.) Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.
7.) Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!
And finally:
8.) Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.

Well OK, that’s not happening. But I thought it might be good medicine to laugh a bit because these days, when it comes to the economy, we’re all a little panicked and afraid. And I don’t blame you. One friend of mine last month was trying to enjoy a wonderful vacation in Europe with her grown children when the news came of the stock market tumble. She said to me, “I just couldn’t enjoy the moment Aaron, because I was thinking about what percentage of my nest egg was blowing away like smoke.”

She’s not the only one in that situation. Small business owners in my church are concerned about laying people off. Some of you have been laid off. Milgard, laid everyone off. Bayliner is done in 60 days kicking over 600 unemployed workers into the job market. A person I spoke with this week, losing their dream home because they’re upside down on their mortgage.

WE FORGOT GOD’S PRINCIPLES
So now we have Republicans and Democrats jockeying for political position to look better than the other in the aftermath of this mess. I’m a bit weary of them all, frankly. Tons of fears and angry thots run through our minds in the context of a hot presidential race.
– Who allowed this to happen?
– What will the candidates do to fix it?
– What’s going to happen next?
– And in a pessimistic moment, we might even ask:
o Are we the generation that will be able to say that we were there when America ended?

So now, I want to weigh in on this, not as an economist but as a student of the Bible and a follower of Jesus Christ. You’ve had an anxious few weeks. You’re mad at the pride of our leaders. You’re mad at the short sighted selfishness in all of us that lead to this subprime mortgage mess. So there’s two parts to God’s wisdom to heed in our fear and anger. The first relates to the world of your finances and the second relates to the world of your heart.

1. FINANCIAL
A. BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES
I want to read some bible verses to you and I want you to imagine these were hung on the offices of every bank, every mortgage office and every home in the country.
– Prov 22:7: the rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
– Prov 17:18: It is poor judgment to co-sign a friend’s note, to become responsible for a neighbor’s
debts.
– Prov 30:25 Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer
– Ps 37:21: The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.
– 1 Tim 6:10: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

Have we lived by these principles? No. Not personally and not nationally. And now the piper must be paid. We cannot escape these principles, friends. God is not mocked, a man reaps what he sows. With God’s laws, you don’t break them. If you disobey them, they break you. And now, they may break our economy. If we keep going down the path we’re on, one Christian financial consulting firm put it like this:
Failure to heed the principles God has plainly established for our own good will destroy the good faith and credit of the United States government. Should that day come, the consequences will be dire. Our entire economy will collapse with sudden speed, bringing mind-numbing consequences to world order. To avoid the pain, we can print more money, bringing on devastating hyperinflation.

That’s the doomsday scenario, friends.

B. GET OUT OF DEBT
So what can you do? One, save.

Two, the time is now to get out of debt. The Bible does not forbid debt, as it gives rules for how to repay it. But if ever there was a good time to be in debt, now is not that time. And the Bible gives us so many good reasons to want to avoid it:

First, the simple truth, Crown of Life, Kansas Ave and communities abroad is that whenever you sign up for a debt of any kind, you’ve just surrendered a slice of your freedom. The Bible says, Proverbs 22:7: The borrower becomes the lenders slave.

A friend of mine was complaining about how they attempted to garnish his wages for a debt he owed that he had fallen behind on. So he closed his bank account to stop them. He didn’t like them just taking it. He wanted to be back in control.

Well this guy just didn’t get it. Debt takes control over you. It puts you OUT of control. The lender is not obligated to be nice to you. It’s a voluntary legal contract you enter into. And it’s a type of slavery. You don’t get free, until the debt is gone. So if you choose debt, don’t get mad when your freedoms are diminished.

Second, debt enslaves you to excessive earning pressures. Hag 1:6 says, “You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Debt is simply more holes in your money purse. The more holes, the faster and more frantically you have to pour in.

Third, debt enslaves us to Joylessness. PROVERBS 12:25 says, an anxious heart weighs a man down. There’s nothing like debt pressure to rob you of sleep.

Fourth, debt ties your hands when opportunities to do good come along.

So what I’m driving at is that there are many things about the gov’t’s spending habits that might make you mad, but today is a good day to look in the mirror. Many things you can’t control, but this you can. You can seek to get out of debt as fast as possible and start to save.

Whatever the economy is going to do, this is what YOU can do.

So, friends this is a good time to take some radical steps:
– One, make a RADICAL DECISION TO END YOUR SLAVERY. No one “drifts upstream.”

– Second, analyze your current situation to see where the holes are in your purse:
o House is too big, car is too new?
o Hobbies, vacations? clothes?
o Credit cards?
Simplify.

– Third, get on a repayment plan. Good Sense is available. Sign up.

– Fourth, be generous with God. God invites you to invite him into your financial picture. The Bible says this over and over. Prov 3:9-10: “Honor the LORD with your wealth…; then your barns will be filled to overflowing.” Now, with the economy bad? Especially now! Tithing is an act of faith that invites God to bring supernatural power to reverse your situation.

– Fifth, please consider God’s financial laws as you decide who to vote for in this upcoming election. Anyone, at any level, running for office who isn’t talking about REAL and considerable cuts in government programs – and by that I mean, from the welfare state to the warfare state – is either a fool or lying about what’s coming.

So that’s very practical. But some of you are mired in this thing spiritually and emotionally and I have some even MORE practical news from you, from the Christian gospel. It’s good news! It will cheer you up and give you tremendous hope, if you receive it.

1. SPIRITUAL
A. ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
First, this time of financial insecurity is a chance to get focused on forever things, and not temporal things. The American dream isn’t ultimate goal the Christian is shooting for. Neither is seeing America survive as a national, financial and military power. In fact, when some of those temporal things are taken away, we may get closer to our REAL goals.

Jesus said,
“what will it prosper a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? What would a man give in exchange for his soul? …For where your treasure is, there will heart be also.”

It’s not an all-together bad thing to get a hard reminder that if we gained all that this world tells us we should gain, wealth, security, comfort… that that still isn’t what REALLY matters. I’m not saying you shouldn’t save money for retirement. You should. No one wants to be a drain on their kids or the system.

But what is the true point of life? The writer of Ecclesiastes says,
Eccl 12:13-14 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

What is the bible saying, friend? It’s saying, this life is not the end. This life is not all there is to live for. The purpose of this life, is to live and prepare for the next life. And ironically that makes for an even richer life here and now.

My parents are volunteers at a college that trains foreign nationals for Christian ministry – in Hawaii. And these people come from the down and out places on planet earth. Malawi, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Pakistan, Peru. And my parents wondered how these people from destitute countries would react to the extravagant lifestyles that we live here, the meals, the cars, the homes.

They were worried that they would be so jealous and envious. They were worried that our wealth would be a stumbling block to them spiritually. They would surely say,
‘why o God did you put me in my horrible country where there’s no MTV? Where I can’t get a Twinkie when I want to, like my American friends? Where I can’t see news of the Brittany Spears saga. Ah, the injustice!”

Well, guess what? They didn’t say that. Friend, this will come a shock to some of you, but those church leaders from around the world look at us and they are overwhelmed with one emotion and it’s not envy. You want to know what it is? It’s Pity.

The pity us. Because they see so clearly that our preoccupation with this life is killing our chance at dying well. They think about dying all the time. In Malawi, the average person dies at my age. They find truth that totally escapes us in what Jesus said,
– Blessed [happy, lucky, favored by God!] are you who mourn
– Blessed are you who are poor
– Blessed are you who are persecuted.

Look, I understand that it’s a rotten thing that some of you might have had your net worth cut in half last month. I feel for you and I wouldn’t be happy about that either. But you and I can have a hope in Jesus Christ that draws us into the Life of God. It’s a forgiven life, a life full of joy and peace and hope for resurrection.

Can I just remind you of how many rich people have gone into depression, dove into drugs or self destruction or even committed suicide because they don’t have what the simplest, poorest Christian has in spades? Peace of mind. Peace with God. A heart full of joy and a family who loves them; Hope for tomorrow and no fear of death. Curt Cobain, Howard Hughes to name two.

Some people would give their fortune for the simple gifts that Christians take for granted.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

B. NO HOPE IN MONEY
I believe Christ might also use the market downturn as an opportunity to remind us that putting our hope in money is a bad idea. Today, I want to challenge you directly. If we are depressed or mad or fearful, then we have likely put too much trust in money and not enough in God. Perhaps this is a chance to ask yourself how you can move beyond.

IN the Bible it says:
1 Tim 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.

Maybe you never heard that before, but do you think God knows what’s talking about now? Does your money seem uncertain to you now? Money isn’t bad, but the Bible treats it like sex and power. Nice gifts that make terrible gods. And God would spare you the trauma of putty all your security into something that could vanish with one decision by the Fed.

So if your heart has been too wrapped up in your financial security, if your computer is following the Markets a little too closely and your heart is going up and down the roller coaster ride, friend, here’s a simple message: get off! You can try and control what cannot be controlled and go insane trying. Or you can trust God more than you trust money.

The Bible asks for us to store for a rainy day. And we should. But when did God ask us to bend our lives and our hearts out of shape to gain perfect security for tomorrow? It’s impossible. You don’t even know if you’ll be here tomorrow. So beyond reasonable measures to save, you will have to trust God for daily bread. And guess, what? That’s just the way God wants it.

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Sectarianism and Schism

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“Divide and rule, the politician cries;
Unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Gedichte

The Danger of Schism Sectarianism and Schism

We’ve been noticing and remarking on the ever-increasing number of denominations, church splits, and intramural sectarianism in the wider Protestant world. This not an issue Protestants can or should easily sweep aside. It is quite true that schism is a fruit of sin and unfaithfulness, and it hurts our testimony.

The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for having a sectarian spirit: “Each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:12-13). Later in the epistle he added, “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one” (3:4-5).

Deliberately causing schisms in the body of Christ is a demonic sin—so much so that divisive people are not to be tolerated in the church. In Matthew 18, Christ outlined a series of four steps churches should go through in calling a sinning brothers to repentance. But when someone is schismatic, Paul says, that discipline process may be accelerated. He wrote in Titus 3:10-11: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

It’s fair to ask, then, if schism is such a serious sin, why are there so many different denominations? The Protestant Reformation gave rise to Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, Congregationalism, Methodism, Episcopalianism, the Plymouth Brethren, the Open Brethren, the Closed Brethren, the Church of Christ, the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of God, the Assemblies of God, Holiness churches, Pentecostal churches, Dutch Reformed churches, Christian Reformed churches, Protestant Reformed churches, Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Sovereign Grace Baptists, Landmark Baptists, Independent Baptists, American Baptists, Southern Baptists, Freewill Baptists, General Baptists, Regular Baptists, Particular Baptists, and Strict and Particular Baptists.

Let’s be honest: one can hardly blame non-Christians for being nonplussed by the variety. The pagan from a non-Christian society is not likely to look at Christendom and say, “Behold, how they love one another.”

The Necessity of Separation

The Necessity of Separation On the other hand, we who are Christians must understand that Christendom is not “the church.” All who call themselves Christians are not true followers of Christ—and there’s no reason we should try to make Moslems or Hindus think all varieties of so-called Christianity are truly Christian.

Just because a church or denomination calls itself “Christian” does not mean it is part of the body of Christ. That has been true even from biblical times. Consider, for example, the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. At least one was totally apostate and three or four others were already apostatizing. We know from Jesus’ warning to the church at Laodicea that it is possible for a church to abandon the truth so completely that Christ Himself will reject that church and spew it out of His mouth.

True Christians must not fellowship with such apostate groups (2 Cor. 6:15-17; Eph. 5:11).

In other words, some degree of doctrinal purity is a valid prerequisite for organizational unity. It’s simply wrong to set aside all our doctrinal differences for the sake of an artificial organizational “unity.” This is particularly true of those doctrinal issues that are immediately germane to the gospel. In fact, the apostle Paul taught that so-called “Christians” who corrupt or compromise the utter freeness of justification are not to be regarded as brethren at all! He pronounced a curse on them (Gal. 1:8-9). The apostle John taught the same thing (2 John 7-11).

Since the major point at issue between Protestants and Catholic or Orthodox traditions is the gospel (particularly the doctrine of justification by faith—which is the very point Paul wrote to defend in his epistle to the Galatians), it is utterly fatuous to suggest that a show of external unity should take precedence over our doctrinal differences. It is tantamount to saying Christians are not supposed to be concerned with truth at all.

It is my prayer that we all grow mature in the spirit and keep our focus on Jesus, He and He alone is the only thing that can save us and has saved us. It is finished, now we have to man up and do our part despite whatever the enemy spits out through our friends, our church leaders, our lay people, our visitors, our messengers, whatever mature and quite yourself to resolve in prayer and being a positive model as our savior to defeat these divisions. Love is our commandment remember.

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Faceing Our Fears

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Judges 6:11-23

The Message (MSG)

11-12 One day the angel of God came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!”

13 Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, ‘Didn’t God deliver us from Egypt?’ The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.”

14 But God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven’t I just sent you?”

15 Gideon said to him, “Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.”

16 God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”

17-18 Gideon said, “If you’re serious about this, do me a favor: Give me a sign to back up what you’re telling me. Don’t leave until I come back and bring you my gift.”

He said, “I’ll wait till you get back.”

19 Gideon went and prepared a young goat and a huge amount of unraised bread (he used over half a bushel of flour!). He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot and took them back under the shade of the oak tree for a sacred meal.

20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unraised bread, place them on that rock, and pour the broth on them.” Gideon did it.

21-22 The angel of God stretched out the tip of the stick he was holding and touched the meat and the bread. Fire broke out of the rock and burned up the meat and bread while the angel of God slipped away out of sight. And Gideon knew it was the angel of God!

Gideon said, “Oh no! Master, God! I have seen the angel of God face-to-face!”

23 But God reassured him, “Easy now. Don’t panic. You won’t die.”

A mother asked her five-year-old son to go to the pantry to get her a can of tomato soup. But he refused and protested, “Its dark in there.” Mom assured Johnny, “It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is in there.” So Johnny opened the door slowly and seeing that it was dark, shouted, “Jesus, can you hand me a can of tomato soup?”

This humorous story of Johnny’s fear reminds me of Gideon. The Lord appeared to Gideon, calling him a “mighty man of valor” and then telling him to deliver Israel out of Midian’s hand. But Gideon’s fearful reply was, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house”. Even after the Lord told Gideon that with His help he would defeat the Midianites, he still afraid.

Then Gideon asked the Lord for signs to confirm God’s will and empowerment. So, why did the Lord address fearful Gideon as a “mighty man of valor”? Because of who Gideon would one day become with the Lord’s help. We too may doubt our own abilities and potential. But let us never doubt what God can do with us when we trust and obey Him. Gideon’s God is the same God who will help us accomplish all that He asks us to do.

The Lord provides the strength we need to Follow and obey His will; So we don’t need to be afraid that what He asks we can’t fulfill. We can face any fear when we know the Lord is with us…

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The Black Family Is Worse Off Today Than In the 1960′s, Report Shows

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The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) is a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of
15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans is committed to bringing African American men
back to church. NBCI, in partnership with major black religious leaders and denominations nationwide,
believe that African American men have nowhere to go but back to church. Given the serious issues
facing African American men, including rising levels of incarceration, drug use and unwed fatherhood –
we can no longer stand by while our men openly defy God’s word.
This program is a part of NBCI’s Healing Family Initiative, programming which seeks to bolster African
American families against the tide of violence, poverty, moral depravity, and failure. It is time for the
majority of African Americans to follow the examples set by successful African American families; the
Obama’s being a shining beacon of accomplishment, and reverse trajectory of the African American
family.

NBCI’s Education Initiative is a holistic approach – a whole family
program wherein we also account for all of the adverse socio-economic factors impacting student
achievement and family structure.

African Americans represent the strongest church attendance and affiliation amongst all ethnicities in
the United States. According to the Pew Forum 2007 survey, people of black ethnicity were most likely
to be part of a formal religion, with 85% being Christians. However, according to the Barna Research
Group, a Christian research firm based in Ventura, Calif., more than 90% of American men believe in
God, and 5 out of 6 call themselves Christian. But only 2 out of 6 attend church on any given Sunday.
This means that in America, 60% of church attendees are women.

Black women overwhelming outnumber black men in regular church attendance. While black men may
believe in God, in most cases it ends with belief. If single black women are attending church regularly
and following the guidelines that the church has put in place and the black men are not, what does this
say about the future of the black family?

Our focus is to open our doors, arms and hearts to understand the complex sociological and
psychological factors that prohibit African American men from being consistent churchgoers, better
fathers, less abusive spouses and better members of society.

As a religious leader in the African American community for the past twenty years, we take our position as a moral authority very seriously.

NBCI believes that the first step for our African American brothers is to return to church – atoning for
their sins and reestablishing their relationship with God through Christ. Over the next ten years we will
develop comprehensive ministries to sustain this initiative and commit African American men to the
path of righteousness.

According to a report released by the Urban Institute, the state of the African-American family is worse today than it was in the 1960′s. Before you become offended and charge, “What about the White family?!” The report also discloses that families of all ethnicities are showing a decline; however, the African-American household has suffered the worst decline.

In 1950, 17 percent of African-American children lived in a home with their mother but not their father. By 2010 that had increased to 50 percent. In 1965, only eight percent of childbirths in the Black community occurred out-of-wedlock. In 2010 that figure was 41 percent; and today, the out-of-wedlock childbirth in the Black community sits at an astonishing 72 percent. The number of African-American women married and living with their spouse was recorded as 53 percent in 1950. By 2010, it had dropped to 25 percent.

The original report titled ”The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” was released in 1965 by the late New York Sen. Daniel Moynihan. Moynihan, who was the assistant labor secretary at the time of the report’s release, laid out a series of statistics on the African-American family. Moynihan, in his report’s conclusion declared, “at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family. It is the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community at the present time.” Sadly, the outlook of the African-American family is more bleak than when Moynihan wrote his conclusion.

“An analysis of national data indicates that little progress has been made on the key issues Moynihan identified,” wrote Gregory Acs, of the Urban Institute, in a statement released with the report. “Further, many of the issues he identified for Black families are now prevalent among other families.” The Urban Institute’s report also added to the original scope of the Moynihan report to include the rate of incarceration, employment, and educational attainment in the African-American community. “Since the Moynihan report was released, another major social trend has put further strains on Black families — the mass incarceration of Black men,” Acs said. “By 2010, about one out of every six Black men had spent some time in prison, compared with about 1 out of 33 white men.”

A demographic breakdown by race was not available for the 1965 report, but numbers beginning in 1974 showed disproportionate numbers of African-American men being sent to prison. In 1974, it was nine percent of Black men compared to one percent of white men. By 2010, that had risen to 16 percent of Black men and three percent of white men. The report did note that number has started to decline slightly among Black men.

Unemployment for African-American men remains more than twice as high as among white men. For white men in 1954, unemployment was zero. For African-American men in 1954, it was about 4 percent. By 2010 it was 16.7 percent for African-American men and 7.7 percent for white men. In 1954, 79 percent of African-American men were employed. By 2011 that had decreased to 57 percent. For Black women the numbers rose. In 1954, 43 percent of African-American women had jobs. By 2011 that had risen to 54 percent. The trend among African Americans was mirrored among whites, but in both cases white men and women fared better in terms of employment. Although the earnings gap between African-Americans and their white peers has narrowed, it still persists with Black men earning about 70 percent what white men do. In 1960, Black men earned about 60 percent what white men did.

There is one area of improvement: High school graduation. In 1964, fewer than half of African-American students finished high school. That compared to roughly 70 percent of white students. That has since risen to about 85 percent for both Blacks and whites. But, the number of Black students that repeat grades or were suspended was higher than for whites. Half of Black male students have been suspended, compared to 21 percent of whites.

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God’s Provisions Are Not Dependent Upon A Prosperous Economy!

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provisions

Phil. 4:14-19

There once was a man who very adamantly believed in living by faith. He believed that, so long as he prayed in Jesus’ name, believing in faith that God would provide his need, he would receive whatever he asked for. One day he stood up in church and declared that from that day forward, he was trusting God to supply all his needs. He quit his job as a high-ranking official in a fairly large company and moved into a dingy little house on the rougher side of town. The first night he prayed very fervently for God to send him some food, because he was beginning to get hungry. The next morning he walked outside, expecting to find food, but nothing was there.

Figuring that he didn’t pray fervently enough, he dedicated the whole day to praying for God to provide food for the next day. The next morning came, and still no food. That day he prayed even more fervently for God to provide nourishment, for by now he was growing ravenously hungry. “God, you must provide me with food, or I will die out here,” he prayed over and over again. The next morning he walked outside, and still no food. By this time he was beginning to get angry with God for not providing He promised in His Word. That afternoon and evening he redoubled his efforts, wailing and rocking back and forth and beating his breast as he prayed. “Dear God, I’m going to starve to death unless you feed me. I haven’t eaten or had anything to drink in 4 days!” When he had prayed all he could pray, and was exhausted he fell back on the bed and stared at the wall. In the silence, he heard a small voice calling out his name. “Bill! Bill!”

“I’m here Lord,” he cried. “Are you finally answering my prayer?”
“I’ve been answering your prayers,” the voice replied. “You’ve just been looking in the wrong direction.”
“What do you mean Lord? I don’t understand,” he exclaimed, exasperated.

“Walk outside,” said the voice.

Bill walked outside, looked all around on the dirty porch, but still found no food. “There’s nothing here, Lord. I don’t see any food.”

“You’re looking in the wrong direction. Look up.”
Bill looked up, and there right above his head, pasted onto the building next to him, was a huge billboard with big black print that said, “DAY LABORERS WANTED! LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED.”…

Phil. 4:19 ….according to His riches.

God’s Provision For our Needs Is Not Dependent Upon A Prosperous Economy!

This principle is illustrated throughout Scripture:

For example, God doesn’t need a healthy, normal womb for a woman to conceive and bear a child.
Judges 13:2-3 (conception and birth of Samson) “2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.
3 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.”

Psalm 113.9 “ He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.”
Luke 1:5-37 Elizabeth, old age & barren ; Mary, young and know not a man God can bring a child out of a barren womb.

So God doesn’t need a healthy economy, to be able to supply our needs!

God can multiply the resources that we have. John 6:1-13
Many of you know by experience how
God can do more with 90% of our income than we can do with 100% !

God can sustain us through extended periods of need in our lives. I Kings 17:1-16

God frequently provides just enough at just the right time. Exodus 16:1-35
*Stop expecting God to supply ahead of time
God can make bitter water sweet. Exodus 15:22-27

God can bring water out of a rock. Numbers 20:1-13

God wants daily trust in Him, not trust in our reserve funds.

* The Model prayer…”Give us this day our daily bread” (not weekly, monthly, or yearly)
* Yes, plan for the future,…but trust God with the future!
* In fact, it’s unwise not to invest for the future,….not to save for the unexpected.

Prov. 21:20 “20 There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.”

God can supply our needs in a bad economy just as easily as He can in a prosperous economy!
*Since the days of the “great depression” we Americans have lived in a relatively prosperous country. It is possible, those days could return again. If they do, perhaps our lives will be a little less comfortable than they presently are, but our needs will be provided for.
* In the future, Social Security may be there and it may not be….But God will always have enough for our needs.
*God’s resources are inexhaustible and limitless!
* Stop worrying about your future needs,…let God take care of it!
* God can still do the miraculous. He specializes in miracles.
* God’s provisions are not governed by American economics!

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Unexpected Blessing

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Ruth 2:11-23

New International Version (NIV)
11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”

When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”

17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah.[a] 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.

19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”

Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.

20 “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.[b]”

21 Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”

22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”

23 So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Ruth 4:15

The Message (MSG)
14-15 The town women said to Naomi, “Blessed be God! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life. May this baby grow up to be famous in Israel! He’ll make you young again! He’ll take care of you in old age. And this daughter-in-law who has brought him into the world and loves you so much, why, she’s worth more to you than seven sons!”

Naomi and Ruth came together in less-than-ideal circumstances. To escape a famine in Israel, Naomi’s family moved to Moab. While living there, her two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Then Naomi’s husband and sons died. In that culture, women were dependent on men, which left the three widows in a predicament.

Word came to Naomi that the famine in Israel had ended, so she decided to make the long trek home. Orpah and Ruth started to go with her, but Naomi urged them to return home, saying, “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”(Ruth 1:13). Orpah went home, but Ruth continued on with Naomi, affirming her belief in Naomi’s God despite Naomi’s own fragile faith.

The story started in desperately unpleasant circumstances: famine, death, and despair. It changed direction due to undeserved kindnesses: Ruth to Naomi and Boaz to Ruth. It involved unlikely people: two widows (an aging Jew and a young Gentile) and Boaz, the son of a prostitute(Joshua2:1;Matthew 1:5). It depended on unexplainable intervention: Ruth just “happened” to glean in the field of Boaz. And it ended in unimaginable blessings: a baby who would be in the lineage of the messiah.

God makes miracles out of what seems insignificant: fragile faith, a little kindness, and ordinary people. In all the setbacks of your life as a believer, God is plotting for your joy.

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Breath Of Life

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quotes-on-life
Psalm 139:13-22

The Message (MSG)
13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
17-22 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!
And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!
And you murderers—out of here!—
all the men and women who belittle you, God,
infatuated with cheap god-imitations.
See how I hate those who hate you, God,
see how I loathe all this godless arrogance;
I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.
Your enemies are my enemies!

Job 33:4 (The Message)
The Spirit of God made me what I am, the breath of God Almighty gave me life! God Always Answers, One Way or Another.

In his book Life After Heart Surgery, David Burke recalls his brush with death. Lying in his hospital bed after a second open-heart surgery, he found himself in incredible pain, unable to draw a full breath. Feeling that he was slipping towards eternity, he prayed one last time, trusting God and thanking Him for forgiveness of his sin.

David was thinking about seeing his dad, who had died several years earlier, when his nurse asked how he was feeling. He replied, “I’m okay now,” explaining he was ready to go to heaven and meet God. “Not on my shift, buddy!” she said. Soon the doctors were opening his chest again and removing two liters of fluid. That done, David began to recover.

It’s not unusual for any of us to ponder what it will be like when we face our final moments on earth. But those who “die in the Lord” have the certainty that they are “blessed”(Revelation 14:13) and that their death is “precious in the sight of the Lord”(Psalms 116:15).

God fashioned our days even before we existed (Psalms 139:16), and we exist now only because “the breath of the Almighty gives [us] life”. Though we don’t know how many breaths we have left, we can rest in the knowledge that He does.

God holds our future in His hands
And gives us every breath;
Just knowing that He’s by our side
Allays our fear of death.

From our first breath to our last, we are in God’s care….

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A Black Man is Coming

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StandWithIsrael1

 

God’s Love for Israel

11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.

2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.[a]
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.

3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.

4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.

5 “Will they not return to Egypt
and will not Assyria rule over them
because they refuse to repent?

6 A sword will flash in their cities;
it will devour their false prophets
and put an end to their plans.

7 My people are determined to turn from me.
Even though they call me God Most High,
I will by no means exalt them.

8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?

How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.

9 I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities.
10 They will follow the Lord;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
11 They will come from Egypt,
trembling like sparrows,
from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
I will settle them in their homes,”
declares the Lord.

Have you ever sat on the doorstep of expectancy waiting for a hope of a better tomorrow?

It may have been as a child unable to sleep because your imagination is running wild as a holiday approaches with dreams of sugar pops dancing in your head.

Have you ever sat on the doorstep of expectancy waiting for a hope of a better tomorrow?

It may have been on the night before your wedding as final preparations seemed unfilled and the anxiousness of what could possibly go wrong, as well as all that can go right disrupts your sleep such that counting sheep does you no good.

Have you ever sat on the doorstep of expectancy waiting for a hope of a better tomorrow?
It may have been on the Eve of a long awaited graduation when after many nights of burning the midnight oil the elusive prize is within your grasp, and tomorrow all your family will display their pride as you walk across the stage into a new future.

Have you ever sat of the doorstep of expectancy waiting for a hope of a better tomorrow?
I believe that our ancestors sat on the doorstep of expectancy as they waited for the hope of freedom.

When the Proclamation of Emancipation was read and the dark clouds of slavery and its brutality were being blown away, still the freedom message was delayed for our ancestors in the west, but they met and waited in church basements watching the dawn of a new day as they rang out the past, because for them their legal freedom was finally becoming a reality.

Have you ever sat on the doorstep of expectancy waiting for a hope of a better tomorrow?
In 1968 African Americans sat on the edge of their seats as a preacher from Atlanta stood in the pulpit of Mason Memorial Church of God in Christ in Memphis, Tenn., and painted in their mind’s eye what it meant to stand on a mountaintop and to look over the horizon of time and see the Promised Land.
Oh what a beautiful picture – freedom!

Their spirits were lifted but quickly dashed because the next day a sniper bullet ended the melodious voice who had captured the imagination of the world and ignited the fires of freedom in the spirits of people.

To have to wait 40 years is nothing compared to the reality our people have had to wait over 400 years for the singular truth of our Constitution to ring that all men and women are created equal, and that they are endowed with inalienable rights.

Have you ever sat on the doorstep of expectancy waiting for a hope of a better tomorrow?
I know what Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008 means to people who for so long have experienced the brutal task of having to make bricks without straw, of having to compete in life’s race from an unfair start, of having to fight every battle for rights that should have been guaranteed, of having to experience the weight of segregation, Jim Crowism, separate but definitely unequal.

I know the symbolism. I know what the accomplishment will mean. I know that people all over the world will perceive that something is happening in America that will send seismic shock waves all over the world. I too feel the source of pride. As a decedent of slaves and free persons that worked long and hard to ensure that their children and grandchildren would one day be able to stand on their own two feet as full citizens of this country.
Is it possible? Is it true that a Black man is coming?

Have you ever sat on the doorstep of expectancy waiting for a hope of a better tomorrow?

If you can sense that feeling,
if your nervous system can experience the tingling,
if your imagination can soar,
if your pride can heighten,
if your mind can grasp the meaning,
the significance,
the awesomeness,
the boldness,
the realization that no longer do we have to have a dream deferred;
then you can sense, then you can understand.
What the ancient Hebrew people felt each time they heard this proclamation: “out of Egypt I will send my son.”
For centuries, they sat on the doorstep waiting for their Moses, waiting for their King David, waiting for their King Solomon, waiting for the liberator, the messiah – the one who would unify Israel and Judah.
Is he the one? Is that the one? Who is the one?

The one who would bring the people back together again and restore to them the prominence that God had promised!
When is a Black man coming to fulfill the prophecy that “out of Egypt, I will send my son”?
When you look closely at the text, not only is there prophesy; but there is also a problem.
Why did the people have to wait so long for deliverance?

1. Admah and Zeboim where cities where the people acted just like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. In other words, the moral fiber of the people was so detestable to God that God was willing to allow generations to be lost in the hope that a new generation would emerge who would worship him in holiness and truth.
Why did they have to wait so long for deliverance?

2. The people violated the commandment that thou should have no other gods before me. We serve a jealous God that only asks for one thing that he is given first place in your heart. However, people create images. People create idols. People place things before God: wealth, prominence, status, position, ethnicity, racial differences, – their houses, their cars, and their stuff. If you honor your 401(k) more than God, if you honor your stocks and bonds more than God, if you honor the things of this world more than God; God, just like in Sodom and Gorrorah, just like in Admah and Zeboim can destroy that which you honor and reduce it to nothing.
Why did they have to wait so long for deliverance?

3. We have gotten drunk with the wine of the world and forgot God. A God who has loved us, a God, who has cared for us, a God, who has taken us into his bosom and held us with the tenderness of mother who holds her child: this is the God we have forsaken, this is the God, who we have backslid from, this is the God, who we have despised and disdained. And God looks at our waywardness, looks at our unfaithfulness, looks at our fallen state and withdraws his presence from us. When God withdraws his presence, he leaves you to your own devices. So people burn incense to graven images, seek their own counsel instead of praying to God, turn to earthly, political and economic power, instead of acknowledging the Most High God.
Why have we had to wait so long for deliverance?

4. Do you not fear God’s power? Do you not hear his roar? Do you wish to kindle his anger?
I’m so glad that God speaks a word.
I’m so glad that integral to God’s nature is his grace and mercy.
I’m so glad that God is not through with us yet.
I’m so glad that in spite of our problem, God’s still speaks his prophesy.
Out of Egypt, I will send my son. “A Black Man is coming!”

5. He comes because there is still a remnant. He comes because there are still some saints who call on his name. He comes because there are still some people who honor God’s name. In the text, he calls it Judah, in the text he speaks of those who are still faithful. In our lives God’s word is still true: If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, turn from their wicked, seek my face; then I will hear from heaven and will heal their land.

6. I know there is political anticipation in the air. I pray that the aspirations of so many come true. However, I’m here to say without a shadow of a doubt that it really doesn’t matter who is in the White House. It really doesn’t matter who is in the State House. It doesn’t even matter who is in the jail house. For as long as God is in the Light House, we are going to make it home.
That’s why my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’s name, on Christ the solid rock, I stand all other ground is sinking sand.

7. To fulfill the prophesy of Hosea, the New Testament text of Matthew’s records that to avoid the edict of King Herod all children under two must be killed, Joseph and Mary escape with Jesus to Egypt and do not return until an angel informs them King Herod is dead. They return to Nazareth to fulfill the prophesy of Hosea, that out of Egypt, I have called my son.

Some may say I thought you were going to preach about the Democratic candidate.
No, I preach Jesus the only one who can save your soul. He is the only one who can make you whole.
I preach Jesus, who John the Revelator says has hair like wool and feet like fine brass.
I preach Jesus the one who was sent into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.

I preach Jesus for those who are weak and weary. He will give you rest.
I preach Jesus because under his feet every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord.

Let me close by saying: we are on a dawn of a new day. However, I here to say that we can’t approach life the same old way. We will need people who are faithful. We will need people who are righteous. We will need people who love the Lord. We will need people who follow Jesus Christ. We will need people willing to sacrifice, willing to suffer, willing to share, willing to save, and willing to take up their cross, take up their bed, and follow the savior.

Are you ready? Are you willing to go the last mile of the way?
Are you ready? Are you willing to see the dawn of a new way?
Are you ready? Are you willing to follow Christ all the way?
Then God’s prophesy will overcome our problem, and we will step into the promise of God.
“A Black Man is coming to cause us to revive our faith in God
and to restore us into a right relationship with God.”
That’s the promise the prophets spoke of:

Micah said “what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

Amos said, “Let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
Jesus said, “I am the truth and the light, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
Out of Egypt, I will call my son, who will revive our faith in God and will restore us into a right relationship with God.

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Implementing Change While Being Within The Struggle

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ban the box
From: Magana, Marisela
Date: Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 9:22 AM
Subject: Ban The Box
To: May Chandler

Greetings,

In case you have not heard, there is a meeting addressing Ban the Box which you might find instructive. Our office has pushed your concern to the Congressman’s DC office.

Best,

Marisela Magaña

Office of Congressman Mark Takano

3403 10th Street, Suite 610

Riverside, CA 92501

Phone No: (951) 204-6315
I sincerely solicit your prayer abroad in behalf of this movement to set order and opportunity in place of a broken system. Thank you for your faithfulness and support of “Fresh Oil” and this cause. We are prepared to take this wherever struggles of this type are being practiced.

Through the mid-nineteenth century, the vast majority of blacks in America were slaves, human chattel imported from Africa beginning before the United States existed. Ironically, at the time the Declaration of Independence was written–which, of course, declared all men to be created equal and inspired the American colonies to separate themselves from their oppressive English rulers–African slaves in the territory were bought and sold like property.

More than eighty years later, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s infamous 1857 opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford gave judicial endorsement to what had long been practical reality: black people possessed no rights which the white man was bound to respect. They were not, and could not be, national citizens entitled to the rights and recognition accorded the title.

The Reconstruction period that followed President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War in 1865 seemed to mark a new era. Congressional advocates of emancipation and further reform of the South expressed a sense of legislative duty; to these representatives, the North that had freed the slaves and preserved the Union had a responsibility to ensure blacks’ legal protection through permanent, federally enforced constitutional action. Within five years of the war’s end, and less than fifteen years after Taney’s pronouncement in Dred Scott, constitutional amendments were ratified to abolish slavery, extend citizenship to all native-born blacks and voting rights to black men over the age of twenty-one, and explicitly outlaw racially discriminatory voting laws.

However, this grant of freedom and rights was not without qualification. The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. . .. Similarly, the Fourteenth Amendment declared that no state could abridge the voting rights of male citizens over age twenty-one, except [as punishment] for participation in rebellion, or other crime . . . . Later hailed as proud historical achievements that finally blanketed all the nation’s citizens in freedom and democracy, these constitutional amendments actually left–and still leave–an entire category of citizens unprotected and vulnerable.

The consequences of this incomplete grant of rights became apparent soon after the end of Reconstruction. Southern state governments fully regained control of their courts and legislatures when federal troops pulled out of the South less than fifteen years after the war’s end. The Constitution’s new promise of black political and legal equality was an obstacle to the reinstitution of the region’s traditional power structure: white supremacy. No longer able to rely on the institution of slavery to maintain the racial hierarchy, and faced with federal laws limiting preferred alternatives, creative laws were devised to ensure whites’ social, political, and economic dominance.

In this context, the constitutionally codified civil rights exception for the criminally convicted became an instruction on how to legally deprive blacks of their freedom and political rights for centuries to come. Modern prison slavery and felon disenfranchisement are lingering remnants of post-Civil War laws that deliberately manipulated the criminal law for the purpose of relegating blacks to a constitutionally permissible state of second-class citizenship.

Born of Southern efforts to reestablish white supremacy by depriving black Americans of their civil rights under the guise of criminal justice, these laws, and the criminal justice system as a whole, continue to disproportionately impact black people and other minority groups. These consequences illustrate the danger inherent in exempting–as the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments do–whole categories of individuals from the constitutional protections most needed by marginalized minorities. The resulting policies expose the ease with which these exceptions have been, and continue to be, manipulated to undermine the purported national goals of freedom, equality, and democracy.

freedomfree
On May 4, 1961, a group of 13 African-American and white civil rights activists launched the Freedom Rides, a series of bus trips through the American South to protest segregation in interstate bus terminals. The Freedom Riders, who were recruited by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a U.S. civil rights group, departed from Washington, D.C., and attempted to integrate facilities at bus terminals along the way into the Deep South. African-American Freedom Riders tried to use “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters, and vice versa. The group encountered tremendous violence from white protestors along the route, but also drew international attention to their cause. Over the next few months, several hundred Freedom Riders engaged in similar actions. In September 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued regulations prohibiting segregation in bus and train stations nationwide.

As these events took time to materialize Imagine how intense their waiting must have been. Uncertainty plagued peoples minds as it does ours today. My wife and I are on the move of pursuing reformation for 12 million felon’s around the world. God has blessed us with hope in that we have met with another willing vessel to help us carry our passion to the powers that be. This struggle to the disadvantaged group is no different than those aforementioned. Here is a bill constructed by my wife an “Argosy Psychology Major”.

Advocates against Felon Employment Discrimination Act
****************************************************************************** SENATE OR HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES) OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2013 Session

Introduced by: Advocates against Felon Employment Discrimination
Primary Sponsor: Maymie Chandler-Pratt
Secondary Sponsor: Aaron D. Pratt

*****************************************************************************************
1. The purpose of this bill is to stop the employment discrimination of felons throughout the United States.

2. The (Senate or House of Representatives) of the United States of America hereby enacts as follows:

3. SECTION 1:

4. This act shall be known as the Advocates against Felon Employment Discrimination Act

5. SECTION 2:

6. Reinstate people with felonies their right to work, and modify the hiring requirements in
7. companies from the unrealistic term of 7 to 10 years to 2 to 5 years for felons who are willing 8. and able to earn an honest living wage and are skilled in those areas of work.

9. SECTION 3:

10. Require companies to hire people with felonies after a period of 2 to 5 years after said
11. person(s) have finished parole, have successfully complied with terms of release as presented 12. by the parole board; (Drug Rehabilitation, boarding house residency, random drug testing)
13. and have demonstrated a desire to work by enrolling in classes to improve their work skills 14. and moral turpitude.
15. SECTION 4:
16. Require companies to at least have bonding agents and resources within the HR department 17. which will allow companies to be compensated with tax write offs as an incentive to hire felons.

18. SECTION 5: Funding

19. The cost of the implications of this proposal should not exceed the amount of $1,000,000.00 20. dollars. Funding for this bill will come partly from the Advocates against Felon Employment
21. Discrimination Act fundraising committee and participating government programs.

22. SECTION 6: Regulations

23. The EEOC has historically taken the position that an employer’s policy or practice of
24. excluding individuals from employment because they have criminal conviction record is
25. unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 unless the policy or practice is
26. justified by a business necessity. If the information was
27. erroneous or the conviction was not job-related, employees and applicants have a right to file 28. a discrimination claim with their state equal employment opportunity agency.
29. The government will impose sanctions on companies which are offering employment that
30. have no direct correlation with the crime that was committed by person’s applying for a job if 31. they don’t hire a person with a felony on their background that is older than 2 to 5 years
32. All offenders:
33. For most offenders it is difficult to prove that a possible employer illegally discriminated 34.against them even with an expungement. In California an individual’s criminal history is never 35. erased, but rather erases the word “Conviction” and replaces it with “Dismissed in Furtherance 36. of Justice” in the disposition.
37. Constitutional issues:
38. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution explicitly permits felon 39.disenfranchisement, but it has been pointed out that constitutional approval of felons’ political 40. powerlessness is not the same as constitutional approval of government prejudice toward the 41. politically powerless. Such prejudice may violate the Equal Protection Clause, which contains 42. no provision authorizing discrimination against felons. A “discrete and insular” minority 42. 43. subject to prejudice, in particular, may be considered particularly vulnerable to oppression by 44. the majority, and thus a suspect class worthy of protection by the judiciary.
45. SECTION 7: Penalties
46. The penalties for not hiring a person with felonies older than 2 to 5 years on their background 47. and who are willing to work and are skilled in that field or position will be a fine of $5000.00 48. dollars and or if the information was erroneous or the conviction was not job-related, 49.employees and applicants information was erroneous or the conviction was not job-related, 50.employees and applicants have a right to file a discrimination claim with their state equal

51. employment opportunity agency. If a felon is bonded by a company and hired on, and is later found to not be in compliance with the bonding agreement he/she shall be terminated.

52. SECTION 8: Definitions
53. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

54. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal law
55. enforcement agency that enforces laws against job discrimination. The EEOC investigates 56.discrimination complaints based on an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, 57. age, disability, genetic information and retaliation for reporting, participating in and/or 58.opposing a discriminatory practice. The EEOC also mediates and settles thousands of 59.discrimination complaints each year prior to their investigation. The EEOC is also 60.empowered to file discrimination suits against employers on behalf of alleged victims and to 61.adjudicate 58.claims of discrimination brought against federal agencies.
62. Moral turpitude: A legal concept in the United States that refers to “conduct that is 63.considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals.” As of 1998, 64. seven states absolutely barred felons from public employment. Other states had more narrow 65. restrictions for instance, only covering infamous crimes or felonies involving moral turpitude.
66. Over inclusive: Relating to legislation that burdens more people than necessary to accomplish 67. the legislation’s goal. Some laws have been criticized for being over inclusive; for instance, a 68. law banning all ex-offenders from working in health care jobs could prevent a person 69.convicted of bribery or shoplifting from sweeping the halls of a hospital. The law in Texas 70. requires that employers consider things like the nature and seriousness of the crime, the 71.amount of time since the person’s committed the crime, and letters of recommendation all be 72. taken into account even when the applicant has a felony.
73. SECTION 9: Effective Date

74. This bill shall take effect approximately and at a minimum of 1 year after passage before the 75. law is implemented.

ban the box</a

From: Magana, Marisela
Date: Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 9:22 AM
Subject: Ban The Box
To: May Chandler

Greetings,

In case you have not heard, there is a meeting addressing Ban the Box which you might find instructive. Our office has pushed your concern to the Congressman’s DC office.

Best,

Marisela Magaña

Office of Congressman Mark Takano

3403 10th Street, Suite 610

Riverside, CA 92501

Phone No: (951) 204-6315
I sincerely solicit your prayer abroad in behalf of this movement to set order and opportunity in place of a broken system. Thank you for your faithfulness and support of “Fresh Oil” and this cause. We are prepared to take this wherever struggles of this type are being practiced.

Through the mid-nineteenth century, the vast majority of blacks in America were slaves, human chattel imported from Africa beginning before the United States existed. Ironically, at the time the Declaration of Independence was written–which, of course, declared all men to be created equal and inspired the American colonies to separate themselves from their oppressive English rulers–African slaves in the territory were bought and sold like property.

More than eighty years later, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s infamous 1857 opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford gave judicial endorsement to what had long been practical reality: black people possessed no rights which the white man was bound to respect. They were not, and could not be, national citizens entitled to the rights and recognition accorded the title.

The Reconstruction period that followed President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War in 1865 seemed to mark a new era. Congressional advocates of emancipation and further reform of the South expressed a sense of legislative duty; to these representatives, the North that had freed the slaves and preserved the Union had a responsibility to ensure blacks’ legal protection through permanent, federally enforced constitutional action. Within five years of the war’s end, and less than fifteen years after Taney’s pronouncement in Dred Scott, constitutional amendments were ratified to abolish slavery, extend citizenship to all native-born blacks and voting rights to black men over the age of twenty-one, and explicitly outlaw racially discriminatory voting laws.

However, this grant of freedom and rights was not without qualification. The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. . .. Similarly, the Fourteenth Amendment declared that no state could abridge the voting rights of male citizens over age twenty-one, except [as punishment] for participation in rebellion, or other crime . . . . Later hailed as proud historical achievements that finally blanketed all the nation’s citizens in freedom and democracy, these constitutional amendments actually left–and still leave–an entire category of citizens unprotected and vulnerable.

The consequences of this incomplete grant of rights became apparent soon after the end of Reconstruction. Southern state governments fully regained control of their courts and legislatures when federal troops pulled out of the South less than fifteen years after the war’s end. The Constitution’s new promise of black political and legal equality was an obstacle to the reinstitution of the region’s traditional power structure: white supremacy. No longer able to rely on the institution of slavery to maintain the racial hierarchy, and faced with federal laws limiting preferred alternatives, creative laws were devised to ensure whites’ social, political, and economic dominance.

In this context, the constitutionally codified civil rights exception for the criminally convicted became an instruction on how to legally deprive blacks of their freedom and political rights for centuries to come. Modern prison slavery and felon disenfranchisement are lingering remnants of post-Civil War laws that deliberately manipulated the criminal law for the purpose of relegating blacks to a constitutionally permissible state of second-class citizenship.

Born of Southern efforts to reestablish white supremacy by depriving black Americans of their civil rights under the guise of criminal justice, these laws, and the criminal justice system as a whole, continue to disproportionately impact black people and other minority groups. These consequences illustrate the danger inherent in exempting–as the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments do–whole categories of individuals from the constitutional protections most needed by marginalized minorities. The resulting policies expose the ease with which these exceptions have been, and continue to be, manipulated to undermine the purported national goals of freedom, equality, and democracy.

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Bowed But Not Beaten

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Worship Bannerworship

A minister was making a wooden trellis to support a climbing vine. As he was pounding away, he noticed that a little boy was watching him. The youngster didn’t say a word, so the preacher kept on working, thinking the lad would leave. But he didn’t. Pleased at the thought that his work was being admired, the pastor finally said, “Well, son, trying to pick up some pointers on gardening?” “No,” he replied. “I’m just waiting to hear what a preacher says when he hits his thumb with a hammer.”

That boy was watching to see how the preacher would respond to pain. How he would deal with pain. How he would handle hurt. The World is a lot like that little boy. It watches how we (as children of God) act when faced with suffering, injustice, and unfairness. The world expects to see anger, resentment, bitterness, and rage. But that’s not what the world WANTS to see. The world wants to see people who can face difficulties in life with grace and inner strength and thus give them hope for their own struggles.
Too often we fail – I fail – to live up to the potential that God has placed within us to meet those challenges. And yet God understands.

I. That’s why He’s given us the example of David.

Psalm 56 is a portrait of David as a victim: he’s been attacked, slandered, conspired against, and yet this Psalm is a psalm of praise and glorification. It’s a reaffirmation of God’s faithfulness.

Where was David? Verse one of this Psalm says he’d been seized by Philistines. This refers back to the incident that’s recorded in I Samuel 21. David’s life has been one of continuous change up to this point. He started his life as shepherd guarding his family’s sheep, then was anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel, then faced and killed the Giant Goliath and ended up being the hero of the people because of his successes at war. They begin singing a song of how Saul has killed his 1000’s but David has killed his 10,000’s. But his popularity with his nation created a jealousy within King Saul that resulted in several attempts being made on his life. Finally, on the run from Saul, young David has sought food and weapons (the sword of Goliath) at the Tabernacle and has run for shelter to the Philistine city of Gath… the one place he doubts Saul could follow.

NOW READ I Samuel 21:10-22:1

II. What happened when David reached Gath?

Two things he hadn’t counted on.
1. Being recognized (vs 11). Goliath had been from Gath, and David now had that Giant’s sword in his possession.
2. And that his reputation would precede him. The Philistines knew the song that had once praised his prowess.

David has jumped out of the frying pan (of Saul’s wrath) into the fire (of the revenge of Goliath’s people). The place of refuge was now his prison. Now he sits alone, imprisoned within his circumstances… without hope… and facing a real danger of execution.

I can sense the seeds of anger in Psalm 56. Revue verses 1,2,5,6. David recites his peril and within his words you can hear an echo of what we might say: “It’s not fair. It’s not right. I don’t deserve this!”

Randy Becton was a man who had arrived. But his world became shattered in 1970 when he learned that his mother had breast cancer. “My mother was only 50 years old. She was a beautiful, extremely active, healthy woman. She was the hub of our family.

My father, my older brother, my 2 younger brothers, and I depended on her intellectual, emotional, and spiritual strength. She was the organizing spirit behind every aspect of our family. We thought of her as indispensable and indestructible. We were wrong.

Mother was to have immediate surgery followed by extensive radiation treatments over the next few months. I flew to Washington D.C. to be with her for the surgery. As she lay in the recovery room, I sat in the hospital’s medical library reading detailed articles about this ugly new reality called breast cancer.

That period of study and though is seared in my memory. I felt personally violated, assaulted, invaded by this strange thing called cancer. I resented it. I became incredibly angry. ’She doesn’t deserve this,’ I thought. ’It just isn’t fair!’ I thought about the events of her life. ’She’s had so many discouragements, God. It’s wrong for you to let this happen to her.’”

Confronted by individuals or illness, circumstances can bring us to our knees.

III. As Christians, what we need to see: though we may be imprisoned we don’t have to be beaten

The key is to be found in how David responds to his situation. What does he do? He sings. He creates a new song. He worships. Just like Paul and Silas in prison in the book of Acts.

Audrey my middle daughter later developed cancer and wrote her process of dealing with pain:
“I seemed to be dying physically day by day and I wasn’t doing much better in the emotional and spiritual battle. I struggled to live and at the same time struggled to keep my faith. My friend, Glenn Owen, observed about this conflict: ’Faith does not always come from quiet contemplation or meditation. It is sometimes born among the raging of questions with no answers.’

Pat Harrell, himself a cancer patient, referred to this period of faith-searching as ’religion born in a cry.’ That’s exactly what it was for me. I was sick. I was scared. I was worried.

Time has mercifully erased the terror of those days, but perhaps you’ll understand the intensity of my thoughts through the following prayers written during those times: (and here he shares his song like prayers)
The pain now goes beyond what is bearable… without you
The weariness and fear are more than I can conquer… without you
My eyesight is like a flickering candle, and it’s dark… without you
I confess: I’m scared to death… without you
I have no more resources of faith… without you
So help me, God to take one step at a time… with you.
You are my only hope! God, I’m frightened about
the uncertainty of my life. It seems to be burning out.
The statistics are against me. The advance of the disease is to far. All
I know to do is confess that you are not limited by statistics. You take
the hopeless and renew their hope. You are the living God. How I
yearn to be one of your healed children.

When Life is darkest, we NEED to WORSHIP. We need to seek God out.

IV. What can be the results of David’s kind of worship?

1. David experienced no fear. Psalm 56:10-13
“In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise— in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”

Helen Keller, who is a classic example of handling life’s problems, said, “I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I found myself, my work, and my God.”

2. David received the encouragement.

When Christians are discouraged, what book of the Bible do they turn to? Psalms. Why, because God placed that book in our Bible to be the source of encouragement it often is to His people.

3. We can lead others to salvation (I Cor. 14:24 and 25) “But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

In other words, when we worship in the way we ought to, unbelievers are struck by the power of our God and the weakness of their own lives. They begin to want the type of God we have. Worship, when it’s done right, brings others to the Christ that has helped us.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey was a black jazz musician from Atlanta. In the 20’s he gained a certain amount of notoriety as the composer of jazz tunes with suggestive lyrics, but he gave all that up in 1926 to concentrate exclusively on spiritual music. “Peace in the Valley” is one of his best known songs, but there is a story behind his most famous song that deserves to be told.

In 1932, the times were hard for Dorsey. Just trying to survive the depression years as a working musician meant tough sledding. On top of that, this music was not accepted by many people. Some said it was too worldly – the devil’s music, they called it. Many years later could laugh about it. He said, “I got kicked out of some of the best churches in the land.” But the real kick in the teeth came one night in St. Louis when he received a telegram informing him that his pregnant wife had died suddenly.

Dorsey was so filled with grief that his faith was shaken to the roots, but instead of wallowing in self pity, he turned to the discipline he knew best – music. In the midst of agony he wrote the following lyrics:
Precious Lord, Take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn,
Thru the storm, thru the night, Lead me on to the Light;
Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me home.

If you live long enough, you will experience heartache, disappointment, and sheer helplessness. The Lord is our most precious resource in these hours of trauma. “The Lord, is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:9). Tom Dorsey understood that. His song was originally written as a way of coping with his personal pain, but even today it continues to bless thousands of others when they pass thru times of hardship.

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“The Power of a Changed Life”

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nowlife changedPeople have a right to look at our lives. We can’t go around saying “listen to what we say, but don’t look at how we live.” It doesn’t work that way. Part of our witness is the witness of a changed life. A real Christ will make real difference in real lives.

We live in a media saturated culture don’t we? Not only saturated with media, but saturated with advertising. Everywhere we look people are trying to sell us something. Every website in the world that’s free seems to have some kind of advertisement on it; banner ads, spam, TV commercials. It’s amazing how many thousands of times we hear somebody trying to sell us something. And one of the main ways that people try to convince us, one of the most effective ways is a personal testimony. You know what I am talking about where somebody uses the product and there they are the real person on TV and they are saying, “Yes Bob, this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I took it and three weeks later I was a different person.” It’s particularly true for diet ads isn’t it? You know you’ve got the before and after picture; there’s the guy or woman in the picture, 65 lbs different and you have got to admit that 65 lbs in this case makes a real difference. You look at that before and you look at that after and you go “Wow, what a powerful product” but then you notice in tiny letters underneath that famous phrase that we always have to remember, results not typical. Sure, two people took the product and had that result and they have taken pictures of both of them.

And so we struggle with that you know as a Christian community, do we hold up one or two saints and say, “Look at the change that Jesus can make in your life, but results not typical.” If we are presenting a message like that, we are talking about sharing our faith; if we are presenting a message like that how are we different than a diet company? Or Bowflex or any of the others? Character is important. A changed life is part of what we present to the world as Christians. We are in a world where people are jaded. People are fed up with empty claims and so we as the church have to present a different kind of life; an effective different kind of life so that people aren’t thinking in the backs of their minds, sure. It doesn’t really work. Well, we see a major change happening in someone’s life in today’s text. So I would like us to go to Acts 9, and we are going to being at the end of Verse 19 in Acts 9 and read to Verse 31. Acts, Chapter 9 and we are talking about Paul the Apostle.
Acts 9:20-31

The Message (MSG)

Plots Against Saul

19-21 Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God. They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying, “Isn’t this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers? And didn’t he come here to do the same thing—arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?”

22 But their suspicions didn’t slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he plowed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah.

23-25 After this had gone on quite a long time, some Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul got wind of it. They were watching the city gates around the clock so they could kill him. Then one night the disciples engineered his escape by lowering him over the wall in a basket.

26-27 Back in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn’t trust him one bit. Then Barnabas took him under his wing. He introduced him to the apostles and stood up for him, told them how Saul had seen and spoken to the Master on the Damascus Road and how in Damascus itself he had laid his life on the line with his bold preaching in Jesus’ name.

28-30 After that he was accepted as one of them, going in and out of Jerusalem with no questions asked, uninhibited as he preached in the Master’s name. But then he ran afoul of a group called Hellenists—he had been engaged in a running argument with them—who plotted his murder. When his friends learned of the plot, they got him out of town, took him to Caesarea, and then shipped him off to Tarsus.

31 Things calmed down after that and the church had smooth sailing for a while. All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—the church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully.

Let’s pray. God we believe that this is your word to us and so each one of us is in a different place of life right now. Help us to hear whatever we need to hear, to respond to the grace and truth we find in Jesus Christ, for we ask this in his name. Amen.

We are going to take a look at a number of things that happened in this passage; to understand this whole process of how change affects our witness to the world. Take a look first at Verse 20. It says, the first two words in the NIV are “at once”. “At once he began to preach in the synagogue that Jesus is the Son of God.” The first thing we see happen in Paul’s life after he meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, after he has this encounter with Jesus, there is a massive change in Paul’s life. So, that’s the first thing we see; immediate major changes in life. Now, in Paul’s case it’s not a moral change. Paul was already a moral man. Paul was a leader in the community. He understood what morality was. He understood what it meant to be upright in his relationships with other people. He had the Ten Commandments fully memorized and understood, and he was trying to practice them. So the immediate change isn’t that Paul turned from someone we would expect to be panhandling in the gutter to a leading member of the community. It wasn’t that sort of change. It was a change where he was fighting against Christianity at one point and then astonishingly in just a very short period of time he comes out with power proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ. A deep change has happened in his life and that deep sort of change is what we should expect to happen as people encounter Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ changes lives.

Now we talk about witnessing being one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. That is absolutely true. But in the long run that Christian beggar, spiritual beggar, should change, should strengthen in their faith, because we don’t just proclaim forgiveness in Jesus Christ, we proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he deserves our obedience, and so obedience, a change of life is part of what happens in our lives and sometimes it happens very quickly. Now I mention in Paul’s case that it was not moral, it wasn’t obvious on that level, but for many of us it is moral. That’s the change that people first notice. I can think about when people see pastors, they think that they have always been Christian. People see missionaries; oh you assume that from the cradle they followed Christ. In fact, whenever somebody sees a mature Christian they think the same thing, but the fact is for many of us we became Christians later in life and I am one of those people; so I wasn’t always a Christian. So there is a day that I can point to that I turned my life over to Jesus Christ and immediately following that a number of changes happened, just like in Paul’s life, at once. One of them was my language. I constantly used obscenity before I became a Christian. Not only did I have an extremely caustic sense of humor where I would always be making jokes at other people’s expense and immediately those two things turned around. I was able to curb, in fact totally eliminate that in my life and then in terms of the humor part, I started to make more of those jokes at my own expense. Another change was I had a number of illustrations from a men’s magazine on my wall and immediately I threw all of those in the dumpster. Talk about making an impression on my friends. You can look into your own life, if you have become a Christian as an adult or if you have seen people become Christians as adults, we can often see some major area of shifting in their lives. We should expect this. This is what we preach. This is what we share. We share forgiveness and new life and so one of the critical witnesses is this power of a changed life. So there is that immediate major change that normally happens in some area of the life for an adult who becomes a Christian.

Let’s go on and see what else happens. Take a look at Verse 21 now. “All those who heard were astonished and asked, isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on his name?” A little bit later it talks about how people react and things like that, but let me just focus again on that issue. All those who heard him were astonished. Others were afraid. So the second thing we see happening here is that the friends of Paul are baffled by the change. There is at once a change in Paul’s life and then the people that surrounded him, the people who were his allies, the people who understood Paul before, now find that they don’t understand him at all and so they start asking all kinds of questions, is this the same guy? Didn’t he actually come up here to take these people prisoners that he is now preaching with? This is another result of the change of life, the change that happens around people when they come to Christ.

Research has shown that the number one opportunity for connecting in a powerful way with our friends, statistically, now this isn’t true for every life, but overall statistically, the number one time to connect with friends about Jesus Christ is in the first two years after you become a Christian, because that’s the period of time when people have the before and after picture in their minds. That’s when you still have a live relationship with all of these friends that you used to party with. And so that’s a critical time and these baffled people have a wonderful opportunity of grappling with the power of Jesus Christ to turn somebody around. It’s a great opportunity and we need to be encouraging our younger Christians, not only younger in age, but I mean newer Christians to be aware of this incredible opportunity to have as people around them start to grapple with the changes that Jesus Christ has worked out in their lives. Now it’s important in a time like that that they see the right image. I can think of on the one hand the good side of what I presented in changes in my moral life and all, but I can also think of times that I went home and I acted in a very judgmental fashion against my family and went on a several month crusade to talk about how my family didn’t do me any spiritual good for the first part of my life. Now that’s the bad side of baffling your friends and family. What did I do to get this? But that early time is a critical time and it’s a wonderful time of outreach for the baffled friends.

But then something else happens in Verse 23. “After many days had gone by the Jews conspired to kill him.” The next thing that happens is that you don’t just have baffled friends, but you start to get reactions from the people that surround you and we have seen this perhaps happen in our own lives. In Paul’s life the very people who were on his side, who went with him place to place seeking out the Christian church, to persecute people, these very people then make the decision to kill him, because not all the reactions are going to be good reactions. Not everyone around us responds well to the gospel and so there are strong reactions that happen in life to people who decide to follow Jesus Christ, and it happens particularly acutely in those early years.

In my life, I lost a roommate. My roommate got sick of hearing me listen to religious radio at eight o’clock at night in our room. He didn’t like the changes. He didn’t like my new morality and didn’t like that fact that I occasionally mentioned those things to him and so he left. He left without ever telling me he was leaving. He just wasn’t there one day. But, that’s minor stuff. There are people right now, Christians in Japan, when they become Christians sometimes their in-laws and parents put incredible pressures on them to turn back. We knew a person whose mother-in-law and father-in-law told her husband to divorce her because she was a Christian. The (Name-deleted) who work with Islamic peoples know people who have died because they are Christian; they had been face to face with these people, in conferences, in conversations and they are now dead. There are families that feel a responsibility to kill Christian members because of their religious convictions. These things happen in the world today. There are strong reactions when people turn their lives over to Jesus Christ. This is a reality and this is also part of our witness.

The story does not end there though; there is a major reaction, but God does not leave us alone in this. Verses 24 and 25, “Saul learned of their plan. They were watching the gates.” In Verse 25, “But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.” God provides a new community for believes and provides protection over believers. Now this does not always happen because people die, but very often God provides a miraculous sort of protection and very often the Christian community is part of that support and protection. And so in our culture where persecution is less apparent, much of the support we provide in the community is upholding people as they start to sort through all of the changes that are happening in their relationships, as people are baffled at first, and then rejected and pushed them away because they don’t feel comfortable with these Christian friends anymore. And so we as a community of Christians are a part of God’s answer to protect them emotionally, protect them physically, to be part of a new community that God builds around them and we need to be aware of this because if God prospers our outreach then this will be a continual part of our lives as a congregation. How do we as a community become part of God’s answer for the crisis that are happening in the life of somebody that’s changing? This community was ready. They looked out for Paul. This brand new guy; this guy they couldn’t trust just a short time before, they are ready to lay themselves on the line to get him safely out of the city. We need to be willing to lay ourselves on the line.

Then there is a description at the end of this passage. Verse 31, “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.” This dynamic thing that we see going on in Paul’s life, this new outreach that happens through Paul, with all the craziness of what happens in the community around them, of people being confused and then people reacting and hostility starting and in all of this mess there comes a place where the church is prospering and growing. Because the church prospers and grows not when we can control everything so that nothing is messy inside and nothing is messy outside, it’s when we are messy with the right things. When these changes are happening and things are turning over and dynamics are changing with the community; it’s in this context that the church prospers because it’s achieving the mission that God gave us.

So let’s just focus for a few minutes about what this means for us. This process of massive change happening in the life. Let’s first look at the issue of new Christians. What does this mean for new Christians? It means first of all that you should expect a change in your life. We are not talking about just an insurance policy in Christianity, where you can act the same way you did before, but now with no repercussions. We are talking about a new way of life. Following a new master; letting God change us in new ways. This is all part of what you should be expecting and seeking in your life and you should be desiring and hoping that your friends actually get to see some of these changes in your life, but let’s make sure that it’s the right change. The change they should see is that they should see now that a person that wasn’t concerned about God at all, now is concerned that God is central in life, that we are humble, that we have taken the place of being a learner. When they look at us they should be able to see love, not in huge and perfect measures, but they should be able to see an increasing measure love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Those are the things that make up a changed life and not judgementalness, a sense of superiority, a desire to always keep people distant because they might be messed up and dirty. It’s very natural at times, but that’s not the witness of a changed life.

What does it mean for the community? It means for us, Central Presbyterian Church, a Christian community, that we have to be a community that’s always ready for those new people. We can’t get satisfied with just having great fellowship with other mature Christians, because God might need us, our particular gifts, our particular place in life, our age, whatever God wants to use, God might need that in order to support a new Christian, in order to form that new community of protection around them as this new person goes through these massive changes in life and has all of these relationships around them in turmoil. We are often called to be that new community and we have to ask ourselves, in our small group, in our ministry group are we ready for those new people? Or have we decided that no we are sufficient as we were, let somebody else take care of them. We’ve got to be willing to get our hands messy sometimes, because you know if you are dealing with a newer Christian, you are going to be talking about things that you have already got settled in your life. There are times that it is going to feel like spiritual kindergarten, but that’s what we are called to and you know just a few moments in that sort of relationship and your own life blossoms because there is some kinds of growth that aren’t going to happen unless you are connecting with someone whose less mature.

The third area; older Christians. What’s the word here for older Christians? Whenever I look at those diet ads, one of the questions that I always ask myself is what do those people look like 3-5 years later? You know, we’ve got the picture at 11 months. They have been on the diet program and they have dropped the weight, what about 3 or 5 years later? Are they still different? Because if they are still not different it hasn’t really worked and you know, that’s true for Christianity. If people can’t look at our lives after we walked with Christ for a while, and see a change, a profound change in some way, and we are not talking about perfection, but if they can’t see a substantial and deep change, then that’s a problem. People have a right to look at our lives. We can’t go around as if we can say listen to what we say, but don’t look at how we live. It doesn’t work that way. Part of our witness is the witness of a changed life and so those of us who have been walking with Christ longer have to ask ourselves, what do people see when they get close to our families? What do people see when they get into our workplace? What do people see when we are on the golf course or playing tennis? A real Christ will make real difference in real lives.

And so we need to be seeking that change, repenting if it’s not there and rejoicing when it is and pressing on. We always press on. So what kind of church are we going to be at Central Presbyterian Church? We are talking about reaching out. We are talking about sharing Christ, well what kind of church are we going to be as we share Christ? Are we going to be the kind of church that points to a few things; oh take a look at so and so, now that person really walks with God. Oh, take a look at this person; they really walk with God, but underneath it all, results not typical. Or are we going to be a community that although we are not perfect we are filled with changed lives? We are a community that is able to take a closer look, because we have found that Christ really does work in us and change us. So let’s ask God now to make a real difference in our lives. We need to ask God to make a real difference in our lives, whether we are brand new at walking with Christ or whether we have been walking with Christ our whole lives, we’ve got to continue to ask God for that because it brings glory to Christ. What brings glory to him is changing sinful people in to his own image. So we pray for it because it brings glory to Christ and we pray for it because there is a needy world around it that will never believe what we say unless they see it revved up.

So let’s pray. God we thank you for all the changed lives that we have seen in our own lives, that have been part of us coming to Christ and growing in Christ. Lord, you know what our particular struggles are. We pray now that you give us clean hands and give us pure hearts. Help us not pursue the old way of life, but to pursue the new way of life in Jesus Christ, and may our character that changes in our own lives and in the lives of the people around us, may that be one part of the witness that we bring to this world, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

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Conflict In The Church-Is It Growth Or Destruction?

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How do you deal with conflict? People handle it all sorts of different ways. Some seek to just avoid it by either running away from it or by appeasing their enemies. Some go to the opposite extreme and almost seem to welcome it if not instigate it themselves. Then there are those who will not back down from their core issues of belief, yet will also seek to find common ground in which compromise can be made and the issues resolved. While that introduction could be a good introduction to a political speech since the major political parties and candidates differ so much on the issues related to dealing with those that hate America and seek our harm, our interest this morning is dealing with conflict in the church.

I wish conflict among Christians were a relatively insignificant problem. I wish we who believe in Jesus could experience the unity he commended to us (John 17:20-24). I wish there wasn’t animosity within churches and denominations. But all of this is, I admit, wishful thinking. The fact is that Christians often have a hard time getting along with each other. This has been true from the earliest days of the church. The Apostle Paul, who planted the church in Corinth, wrote what we call 1 Corinthians to the believers there principally because of internal conflict in the church. By the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, the tension was largely between Paul and his church. Even in a healthy church, such as the one in Philippi, conflict was a problem. Thus Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil 4:2-3). Two prominent women in the Philippian congregation, people who had been Paul’s co-workers in ministry, were stuck in some sort of conflict such that they needed help from Paul and others to try and get along. When I was a young Christian, I used to think that the solution to the ills of the contemporary church was to “get back to the early church.” If we could only believe and do as the first believers believed and did, we’d be on the right track. But the more I have studied the early church, the more I have come to recognize the manifold problems that plagued the first Christians. Among these, conflict played a central role. Perhaps one of the most discouraging things about studying church history, from the first century onward, is to see just how often Christians have been mired in disputes and strife. Sometimes, in our worst moments, we have actually put to death fellow Christians whose theological convictions didn’t measure up to our personal standards. Not a happy story, not at all. This was not what Jesus intended, to be sure. In his so-called “High Priestly Prayer” recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

Do you enjoy conflict? I can’t say that I do. When disagreement surfaces, especially in the church, my instinctive response is usually “uh-oh.”

“Relational conflict is what the Bible calls sin,” reads a discipling manual I came across recently. That says it pretty straight, doesn’t it? But there’s a basic problem with this take on things: It’s not true. While, of course, sin does breed some conflicts, others grow out of nothing more sinister than differences in experience or personality or even spiritual gifts.

Not all conflict is bad. Much tension is life-giving–inviting us to grow, learn, or develop intimacy. Churches that habitually run from conflict (and there are lots of them) don’t just miss out on these growth opportunities; they end up sick.

Chances are, in your church you’ve witnessed some of the crippling consequences of conflict avoidance firsthand.
Making lowest-common-denominator decisions

As one church launched a comprehensive planning process, a member rose and addressed the planning consultant: “One thing you need to know about this church is that we are very careful to not offend anyone.” Translation: “Don’t you dare rock the boat! We don’t want to make any decision that anyone doesn’t like.”

Down this path lies paralysis. Doing nothing until everyone likes it gives the most negative members of the congregation veto power. It insures that new and exciting changes will be rare, and it practically guarantees that many of the most passionate, outreach-oriented members of your congregation will leave. Why? Because by empowering those slowest to embrace change, you are disempowering your most creative leaders. Many of them will find another church that supports them in pursuing the vision for ministry God has given them.

images

No church can keep everybody happy. Some people are going to leave. But you can choose which group you will lose–your most entrepreneurial, visionary leaders, or those most fearful of change.

One Detroit pastor got this right. During a time of vision work that released great energy in the congregation, one member–a major giver–announced that if the church installed theater lighting in the sanctuary for a proposed ministry, he would leave. The pastor’s answer: “We’ll hate to see you go, but we can’t hold up the rest of the congregation for one person.” That church is well on its way to getting unstuck.
Settling for shallow relationships

Conflict is essential to developing intimacy. Until people have gone through conflict together and come out on the other side, the relationship is untested. Working through differences constructively forges deep bonds of trust.

In the life cycle of a small group, for example, the first stage of group life is the honeymoon. This is followed by a conflict stage through which the group must pass to reach the third stage–community. If a group spends too long at the honeymoon stage–staying at the level of pleasant, superficial acquaintance–a wise group leader will intentionally surface conflict so the group can move ahead on the path toward mature community.

In the same way, the strongest marriages are those where the partners have fought their way through many tough issues to achieve a hard-won mutual trust. These husbands and wives know that more challenges will come, but that doesn’t scare them. They know they can work through them together and be the stronger for it because they’ve done it before.
Sinking into irrelevance

The pace of change in our culture is faster than ever and getting faster. This means that although the gospel never changes, our ministry forms must constantly change to connect with a rapidly changing society. The only alternative is cultural irrelevance.

When a congregation’s leaders commit to cultural relevance, this pushes many of us beyond our comfort zones. Christians passionate about reaching the unchurched will often clash with those more concerned with their own comfort. Between “what I feel most comfortable with” and “the most effective way to fulfill our mission” often stretches a wide chasm.

Pat Kiefert, president of Church Innovations Institute, describes a congregational study done at Emory University by Nancy Ammerman:

It concluded that every congregation that successfully adapted and flourished in a changing community had a substantial church fight. Those that chose to avoid conflict at all costs failed to flourish. No exceptions. (Net Results, January 1996).
Pretending differences don’t exist

A committee member complained to her pastor about a long-standing committee policy that was causing problems. But when the committee discussed the policy at its next meeting, she kept quiet, insecure about expressing disagreement. So, the other committee members still don’t know about the problem and ministry suffers.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, as one person sharpens the wits of another” (NRSV). When people sidestep working through differences, the iron never gets very sharp, working relationships remain strained, and the group tends to make poor decisions. In a healthy church, people know how to disagree without being disagreeable.
Being complacent about complacency

I was having breakfast with several members of a church council who were considering launching a strategic planning initiative in their church. At the end of the meal, one man asked, “How can we convince our people we need this when they are so content with the way things are?” I knew this was a church that prized keeping the peace above almost everything else, so I suspect my answer shocked them. “One of the most important responsibilities of church leadership,” I said, “is to create tension. And you do that by making your people highly conscious of the gap between the way the church is and how God wants it to be. Make your people so aware of the something more that God is calling them to be that they can no longer be content with the way things are.”
In a complacent church, it is the job of the leaders to increase frustration, to introduce conflict.
Avoiding the hard work of correcting sin

Conflict-avoiding churches often empower the most divisive members to wreak havoc. Other members may quietly complain about the bullies, but rarely do they acknowledge that such people are committing a grievous sin and that the church is morally responsible to discipline them.

Why are we so slow to confront people who are damaging the church? Well, we know it’s going to hurt, and most of us don’t enjoy inflicting pain. And we may not relish the prospect of arousing the offender’s anger. But perhaps a deeper reason is that the New Testament instructions for correcting one another are designed to be lived out in the context of intimate community, and most of our churches today have much more the flavor of institution than of community. Spiritual correction doesn’t work all that well outside of intimate relationship, no matter how well-intended.

But, in spite of the challenges, for the church to be healthy, we must find ways to give and receive accountability.
Life-giving conflict

To be healthy, your church needs conflict.

* Every church has defining moments when it must choose between being true to its mission and pleasing people. Obeying God must always trump trying to keep everybody happy.

* The church cannot fulfill its destiny apart from becoming an intimate community, and successfully working through conflict, again and again, is essential to community-building.

* All progress requires change, and all change brings some level of conflict. Working through the conflicts that come with constantly updating ministry will always be part of the ongoing cost of making your church’s ministries culturally relevant.

* No ministry team can thrive while sweeping important differences under the rug. To draw out the best in people, the church must offer safe places where all know that differing perspectives are not only tolerated, but truly valued.

* When a church is complacent, the leaders are responsible to “disturb the peace” by spotlighting the gap between what is and what needs to be until the members become so uncomfortable that they feel compelled to change.

* Finally, when conflict is fueled by sin, the church must respond graciously and firmly, speaking the truth in love, to restore the one who is sinning and to protect and heal the church from the sin’s destructive impact.

One translation of Acts 4:32 says that all the believers in the Jerusalem church “all felt the same way about everything” (CEV). Really? I wonder if that translation team bothered to read the next chapter of Acts, or the one after that. The New Testament church consisted not of a bunch of ditto-heads, but of diverse people who cared–and disagreed–passionately. No, what Acts 4:32 really says is that the believers were “of one heart and soul” (NRSV). Their love for each other and their shared purpose inspired them to work through potentially explosive disagreements while respecting each others’ differences, coming up with creative win-win solutions that embodied kingdom values. (See, for example, Acts 6 and 15.)

Such conflict is not the enemy. In fact, it is an absolutely essential element in the day-to-day rhythm of life in every healthy church.

May your church be blessed with many life-giving conflicts–and the grace to grow through every one of them.

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The Real Meaning of Love

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Paul in chapter 12 laid the foundation – that we are all part of a system and that to do God’s work we need to let the Holy Spirit work through us collectively in whatever way or with whatever gifts He chooses. There are no Lone Ranger and there are no Superstars. Each part of the body and each gift is just as important – even if it is not as “flashy” as others.

Paul ends chapter 12 by saying: And now I will show you the most excellent way.

No matter how gifted you are – no matter how successful in ministry – no matter how close to God – there is one overarching principal that should guide everything we do. Otherwise anything you do for the Lord is a waste of time.

That, of course is love. 1st Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. It’s quoted as weddings routinely. So much so that it begins to sound like the trite phrases of a Hallmark card. “What the world needs now is love sweet love” as if just saying the word “love” is all that’s needed.

This chapter is far more than that – it is far more challenging than you may have imagined.

The Need for Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

No matter how much I know – or how much great wisdom I speak, no matter if I utter incredible mysteries that wow the masses – I might as well be just honking my horn in bumper to bumper traffic unless I do it with love.

No matter what I can do – healing, miracles – without love it is meaningless.

This one really kills me – no matter how much I give of myself – I can be the humblest most giving person on earth – even give up my life for my faith – but if I am not flowing in God’s love I might as well not do it.

What kind of love is this? Every time the word “love” appears in this chapter it is the word “agape.” This is different from the other forms of the word “love” in Greek. Phileo is the idea of brotherly love or friendship. The city of Philadelphia gets its name from this word. Eros is the idea of sexual love – we get the word erotic from this word. Agape as a word didn’t really appear until the New Testament. It is selfless love – the love of God towards Jesus and towards us. It’s not a love of word but a love of action without regard to self interest.

It is the character of God. 1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Everything you strive for, who you want to be, what you want to do, how you want people to think of you, what you want to accomplish – everything should go through this filter – “am I doing this with agape love?”

And before we go on – remember that it is from the Holy Spirit that we get the power to live this kind of life. Don’t think you can find it in worldly philosophy or philanthropy or religious piety. Only a person who says “Jesus is Lord” can exhibit this kind of love.

So now let’s look at the character of this love.

The Character of Love

Paul defines for us what agape means. He does it in terms of what it is and what it is not. There are 8 things it does, 8 things it does not do.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

The 8 things love is: Patient, Kind, Rejoices in truth, Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Perseveres, Never fails.

The 8 things love is not: Envy, Boasting, Pride, Rudeness, Self seeking, Anger, holding grudges, delighting in evil.

You could form these around four basic concepts:

How you deal with others (patient, kind, protects, vs. rude, angry, grudges)
How you deal with life (patient, hopes, trusts, perseveres, never fails)
Your relationship to yourself (never fails, patient, kind, vs. envy, pride, self seeking, boasting)
Your relationship to God (hopes, perseveres, rejoices in truth, vs. pride, self seeking, delight in evil)

Let’s look at these one at a time:

Patient
This comes from two Greek words: “long” and “tempered”. Vine’s expository dictionary says patience is “self restraint in the face of provocation … the opposite of anger.”

Do you have a short fuse? Do you get easily frustrated when things don’t go your way or don’t happen fast enough? Do you retaliate easily and quickly against those that hurt you? That’s the opposite of patient.

Patience means you wait out trouble and you don’t strike out against adversity. I like how Peter describes it in his letter:

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

You wait under God’s hand – you don’t from trouble or run from God. Certainly God is patient with us, isn’t He? That’s love.

Kind
The Greek word for “kind” means “to show oneself useful.” Taking patience one step further – not only are you long tempered against trouble, but you actually reach out with a benefit to someone else. It comes from a root word that means “employed.”

It reminds me of something Paul emphasizes over and over in this letter:
1 Corinthians 10:33 For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Most of the time we think “what’s in it for me.” But kindness thinks, what can I do to benefit you? That’s love.

Paul next strings 8 negatives together. Often we learn by contrast – we see what love is by carving away what it is not – and when we find ourselves acting in these ways we know we are not acting in love.

Envy
It comes from the word “to boil.” It’s kind of the bolstered idea of “what’s in it for me,” in the sense of “it’s all about me.” When we become so self focused that anything anyone else has that we don’t have makes our blood boil and is the opposite of wanting to benefit another. Envy is when we only want to benefit ourselves at the expense of others.

Boasting
Boasting is really a corollary of envy – “if you’ve got it flaunt it – even if you don’t have it, pretend like you do.” The Greek word has the connotation of “play the braggart.” Often times boasting is playing a part – something we are not but want to be or think we are.

Proud
This is the same word Paul uses in chapter 8 – “knowledge puffs up.” It means to inflate – like a bag of hot air – no substance but a lot of fluff. It’s increasing your sense of self importance well beyond your hat size.

Rude
The word here is “unshapely.” You could say “not pretty to look at.” Do people have a hard time being around you because you do things that are unpredictable or embarrassing or unbecoming? That’s rudeness.

Self Seeking
This could be rendered “worship yourself.”

Not Easily Angered
It means to “exasperate.” The Greek word can translate “to sharpen alongside.” This is really the opposite of patience.

Keeps no record of wrongs
The suggestion from the original here is thinking poorly of someone else – or really pondering and dwelling on someone else as evil. The old story goes that Santa Claus keeps a list of whose naughty and whose nice. Sometimes we keep those lists too. How quick are you to forgive?

Does not delight in evil
It means to be happy when an injustice or wrong occurs. In a sense this is the ultimate form of “anti-love.” We want, we get, we hurt others to get it – and we’re happy that we stomped over them to get what we really deserve in the first place.

The thing that all these negatives have in common is that they all focus on us – what we want, who we are, who bad everyone is in comparison to us, what bad things people are always trying to do us – me me me! This is the opposite of love.

Rejoices in the truth
This is interesting because the word “rejoice” is a compound word – part of it is the same word used in “delight in evil.” When put together with the other word it means “to sympathize with gladness.” When you delight in evil you are holding yourself apart from the other person – glad they are suffering and you aren’t. Rejoicing in the truth means you are drawing close to someone as they come to know the truth of God and about sin, come to know the love of God, or have something good happen to them.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
This is really neat – these four words form a related pattern. “protects” means to “roof over,” “trusts” means to “put your faith in” something, “hopes” means “to confide in” and “preserves” means “to stay under.” These are all things God does for us – and things we should do for others – throwing a protective blanket, physically, emotionally – over someone else; being willing to put our faith in someone else – be real, confide in them – know that God will work good in their lives – then stick it out with them to see the love of God change their lives.

You see all this business of love isn’t some magical, rose-colored-glasses kind of “feeling.” It’s actually very specific: love and trust God no matter what, seek the best for and the best in those around you – then help benefit their lives as they draw closer to God. That’s love!

So this begs the question – why does Paul put this in here – smack dab in the middle of a section on spiritual gifts? It has application far beyond a discussion of spiritual gifts but it speaks directly to an attitude that believers can have, especially when they start talking about how God has gifted them – that they speak God’s words and bring about miracles.

Hey, if you reached out your hand and someone was healed it might happen to you too – you start to feel pretty special about yourself. Instantly the focus moves off of the real purpose of the gifts – to see others benefited and drawn close to God, even if it means you get hurt or get less in the process.

We as humans are basically selfish. Paul is telling us that God is basically unselfish and will bring about good in others lives even if it hurts Him in the process – and we should be like Him!

So to further illustrate this – Paul says “look – all this neat stuff you are experiencing is going to go away, but the need to love unselfishly will never go away.

The Supremacy of Love

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

We seek to know the deep mysteries of God and think by our knowledge we are better. We seek to do mighty miracles, thinking that we must be more favored. But in reality – when you really being to mature as a Christian, what you find is that love is the ultimate expression of who God is – selfless, other-focused, always giving, love.

Paul says – when you start to see who God really is, what maturity really is about, you see that it isn’t about you after all – its about what God does through for others.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

These three ideas were favorites of Paul – the “essentials” to life. Faith in Jesus as God and Savior, hope of the good things He is doing in our lives and is going to do – but love is the greatest – it is the driving force for everything.

Remember? God so “loved” the world that …

Conclusion

• Love doesn’t happen overnight

After reading this you might be thinking – “man, how can I ever live up to this stuff – I might as well give up.”

Remember what Paul says – “when I became a man I put away childish things.” Growing up in love is a process as we mature. It takes time and experience – don’t beat yourself up, just know that this is the direction your should be heading if you have a vibrant relationship with the Lord.

• Love is an action – but it’s not fireworks display

Let’s not make the mistake that the Corinthians and, for that matter, the Pharisees, made. Showing love means an attitude and actions – but love is more often a very quiet, unobtrusive affair. We don’t need to broadcast the depth of our love and the amount of our selflessness to the whole world.

Don’t expect fireworks to go off as you show and grow in love. But do expect lives to begin to grow and heal and change – that’s the pay off.

• Needing & Asking for things isn’t bad

Acting in love doesn’t mean you take a vow of poverty. James said “you have not because you ask not.” Jesus said (Matthew 7:7)
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The problem isn’t with the asking – it’s with the motivation.

James goes on to say: (James 4:3) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

We err when we seek to fulfill our desires from the wrong source – or we ask God for things for the wrong reasons.

So search your heart – then ask – then wait for God to respond to what you really need.

God Chose a Father for His Son

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A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.

Frank A. Clark

READ: Matthew 1:18-25; 2:13-15; 2:19-23.

Today is FATHERS’ DAY. I want to speak to you about a man – a FATHER – who is very often overlooked, I think. In some quarters he is overshadowed by the prominence given to his wife. I’m talking about JOSEPH, the husband of Mary and the adopted father of Jesus.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else preach a sermon on Joseph. (Have you?) But I believe it’s a significant thing that even as God chose Mary to be the one who would give birth to the Son of God, so in His mighty providence He chose Joseph to be a FATHER to Jesus and to raise Him into manhood. Mary and Joseph were chosen together to be parents.

[ILLUSTRATION]: I remember a film that was on television several years ago. One of those depressingly sad movies that your wife forces you to sit down and watch with her as she systematically cries her way through an entire box of Kleenex, and then at the end says: “That was so sad – wasn’t it just wonderful?!” But this particular film I remember was entitled something like “WHO WILL LOVE MY CHILDREN?” The story tells of a poor family – hard-working parents with a large number of children – where the woman discovers that she has an incurable illness and will die within a year. Her husband is a good man, but obviously incapable of looking after the large number of children alone – particularly in those days when there was no government assistance or social security. And so the heartbreaking tale is of this mother who goes out searching for loving parents who will care for all of her children; she wants to have them all placed before she is taken. (If you ever intend to watch this movie, be warned – it’s definitely a king-size Kleenex movie!)

But as I recall this film, it leads me to thinking about the birth of Jesus. Just like that woman who loved her children so much that she wanted to personally choose parents for them, and not leave it to chance, Father God in the same way went looking for parents to raise His beloved, only-begotten Son. He searched the earth, and He found a young girl – a teenager engaged to be married – of whom the Bible says: she “found favor with God”. She was a choice young lady. A God-fearing young lady.

But NOTE: God also went looking for a father. He called Mary AND JOSEPH as a couple. And here is the point of it – GOD CLEARLY DEMONSTRATES FOR US THAT THE ROLE OF THE FATHER IS A MOST IMPORTANT ONE. Fathers are not only needed for the physical act of CONCEIVING a child; they are also needed for the spiritual act of RAISING a child. The child was conceived in the womb of Mary “by the Holy Ghost” – a miracle took place so there was no need for a man to be involved in the conception. But a man WAS still needed to fill the role of father in Jesus’ childhood.

(HAVING SAID THAT – let me say a word to single parents here today. Please don’t despair that your children are beyond hope because their father is gone, or their mother is gone – that is NOT the case. God is SO gracious. “Though my father and mother forsake me, yet the Lord will take me up.”)

Nevertheless, the normal pattern is for children to be raised with father and mother. And those single parents, I know, will testify tot he multiplied difficulties when one parent is gone. (Single parents, today, we salute you. We honour you. God bless you for your diligence with those children!)

So, Joseph was chosen. And just as God had looked for a godly young woman to bring forth the child, so He looked for a godly man to be the father. And what an inspiring model of fatherhood Joseph was. God made a good choice! (He is a WISE God.) Let’s look together, for a few minutes, at some things the Bible tells us about this man Joseph.

Firstly, would you note with me that he was:

1. A LOVING MAN.

The Scriptures draw the picture for us of a wonderfully caring and affectionate man. And we can see this, firstly, in his relationship toward Mary.

a.) TOWARD MARY.

Look at MATTHEW 1:19 for example. [READ.] Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant. He hasn’t had any great revelation yet. What is he to think? What would YOU think guys> You’ve fallen in love with this pretty young girl. You do all the right things. You pursue her in the proper customary way. In stolen moments you’ve talked with her about dreams for a future together. A cottage with a white picket fence. A family. A business. And then out of the blue you learn that this sweet girl (you thought you knew so well) is pregnant. NEWLY pregnant. And you don’t know who the father is – but there is one person you know you can rule out! How does it make you feel? Angry? Betrayed?

The penalty for adultery in the Old Testament was death by stoning. And this penalty applied to infidelity during betrothal as well as marriage. Now by New Testament times things had changed somewhat, but the matter was still treated as a grave offence. Upon discovery that Mary was pregnant, Joseph would have been obliged to divorce her (DIVORCE WAS REQUIRED TO BREAK OFF A BETROTHAL ENGAGEMENT), and this would expose Mary to public shame and humiliation.

BUT, even before God spoke to Joseph – Joseph didn’t have any vengeance or bitterness in his heart. The Bible says: he “was minded to put her away secretly”. (There were ways in which a divorce could be enacted very quietly, without the involvement of a judge, and Joseph was already considering the best way to do this.

Joseph was kind. He LOVED Mary. Forget the MILLS AND BOON” romance novels – this here is a fair-dinkum love story. It’s based on a real commitment. And husbands, the Bible says to US today that WE must love our wives with all that we have. [READ: Ephesians 5:25.] NB – the example is that we must love our wives sacrificially, even as Christ loved the church and lay down His life for it.

Joseph was a loving man toward Mary.

But we also see that Joseph was a loving man in his relationship toward Jesus.

b.) TOWARD JESUS.

When the child came along – the child he had not conceived – there was no attitude in Joseph that “THIS BOY ISN’T MY FLESH AND BLOOD”. There was no resentment or indifference toward Him; no lack of love at all. JOSEPH ADOPTED JESUS AS HIS OWN. He protected Him from the hatred of Herod. He nurtured Him and cared for Him. Evidently he taught Jesus his own trade of carpentry. HE ADOPTED THE ONE THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD WOULD REJECT.

TODAY, by contrast, we see men who are prepared to abdicate their role even toward their own children. Men are opting out of the father role because of it’s costs. Do you know what the Bible says? [1 TIMOTHY 5:8]: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever!”

Joseph was a LOVING man. That’s the first thing that is clear. SECONDLY: Joseph was . . .

2. A DEVOUT MAN.

a.) He was a man who OBEYED God.

He explicitly followed the Lord’s leading and direction. He didn’t follow his own marked-out plan for life – he wanted God’s plan for his life. So when God spoke to him in a dream and told him to marry Mary (even though she was pregnant) HE OBEYED.

Then when God spoke and said: “Take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt for safety” – he immediately obeyed. He closed up his business and left.

Then when God said: “It’s O.K. now, head back to Israel”. again he did as he was directed. He was a man of obedience.

For another thing:

b.) He was a man of FAITH.

It takes FAITH to pack your bags and head off to a foreign country with no prospects and no planning; simply on the basis that God said so. He had faith and obeyed the dream. He could have made excuses to stay where the prospects looked good, but NO – he was a man of faith.

FATHERS here this morning, your faith will speak to your children! Raise them in an environment of faith toward God.

[ILLUSTRATION]: I read the story of a farmer who had toiled over a bumper crop of grain – a badly needed crop of grain – a badly needed crop that was going to pay off many creditors and secure the family for another year. But just a few days before it was due to be harvested a freak wind and hail storm ravaged the property, and the harvest was lost. The man stood with his little boy looking over the fields of destroyed grain. The boy expected to hear his father cursing in despair. But instead his Dad began to softly sing: “Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” Years later that boy, grown into manhood, said: “That was the greatest sermon I ever heard!” His father had shown him FAITH where the rubber meets the road!

Joseph was leaning on God. He was a man of FAITH. And one more thing:

c.) He was a man who was FAITHFUL IN SPIRITUAL DUTY.

He set an example for his family – going to the Temple; attending the feasts. (We read about it in LUKE 2:41) He was regular in going to God’s house.
[ILLUSTRATION]: Did you hear about the little boy who was playing on a Sunday morning while his Dad was in a lounge chair reading the paper. And the father said: “Son, get yourself ready for Sunday School”. The little boy asked: “Are you coming with me today Dad?” The man replied: “No, I’m not coming. But I want you to hurry up and get ready”. The little boy then said: “Did you used to go to Sunday School when you were a boy, Dad?” He said: “I most certainly did!” As he walked away the boy mumbled: “Yeah, and I bet it won’t do me any good either!”

Our kids are watching our faithfulness.

So, let’s just re-cap for a moment. Joseph was a LOVING man. (Toward his wife. Toward his son. Toward his whole family.) Secondly, he was a DEVOUT man. ( A man of obedience and faith, and being faithful in spiritual duty.)

Finally, he was also:

3. A WISE MAN.

Now listen to me carefully here. Joseph was wise because he lived as one who REDEEMED THE TIME.

By all accounts it seems that Joseph had a SHORTENED LIFE. We don’t read of him after Jesus’ childhood, and at the Cross Jesus charged John with the care of His mother – so it seems that Joseph was taken from them prematurely. But JOSEPH HAD USED WHAT TIME HE HAD BEEN GIVEN HONOURABLE – WISELY! He had provided for his family. He has set an example for them that they would remember. He had raised them in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.

Jesus was not the only child he had; he raised other boys for the Lord also, and possibly daughters as well. He had other sons – TWO OF THEM (at least) WERE GREATLY USED BY GOD. They wrote books of the Bible (James and Jude). James was leader of the church in Jerusalem.

Joseph raised his children in the ways of the Lord, and He left behind him a legacy after his lifetime.

CONCLUSION:

Fathers! None of us know just how much time we have left with our children; with our families. You may only have a year. Two years. Five years. Who knows? Only God!

ARE WE REDEEMING THE TIME AS JOSEPH DID? Encouraging our families at every opportunity; setting an example; providing for their needs.

I mentioned that verse earlier (1 TIMOTHY 5:8) – “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those f his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Some say, “Oh YES. I provide for my family” – when what they mean is that they put a pay cheque on the table every week. But what about the OTHER provisions they need from you?

Affection?
Example?
Godly counsel?
Laughter and warmth?
Loving concern?

We must provide for our own, men. Let’s be challenged together.

This man, Joseph, inspires me. I’m sure that he wasn’t perfect – BUT HE WAS DEVOTED, and he was doing his very best – redeeming the time.

HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY.

THE REASONING OF FALLEN MAN

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http://www.hark.com/clips/gwnvpndlqx-the-falling-man
[1 Corinthians 1: 18-31]

Our text continues to expose the dark side of human nature as the reasoning for God’s settled wrath against fallen man continues to build. Mankind’s suppression of the truth is seen in their rejecting the clear imprint of God within their being (v. 19). Their suppression of truth continues in their rejecting the clear evidence of God which is explicit His creation (v. 20).

Refusing to act on the clear knowledge of God leads man away from the truth. Man was designed and created to worship God. Once God is belittled, man then perverts the worship of God into idolatry. The willful rejection of God from His due place in life leads persons who were created to worship their Creator into worshiping the creation.

I. MAN’S REJECTION, 21.
II. MAN’S RATIONALIZATION, 22.
III. MAN’S RELIGION, 23.

The answer as to why mankind is without excuse for rejecting God (v.20) continues to be answered in verse 21. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish (undiscerning) heart was darkened.”

Man knows of God through God’s general revelation (1:19-20) of Himself. Each and every person born possesses some knowledge of God but they rebel against this knowledge. God therefore is justified in His wrath and judgment because of man’s willful rejection of Him. Although man is innately or inherently conscious of God’s existence and power, he willfully chooses to reject that knowledge. Man has knowledge of God but does not act in accordance with that knowledge. Had men acknowledged God they would glorify Him as the only true God and become thankful for all the blessings they daily received from His provision.

Paul mentions four ways, in verse 21, in which men exhibit their rejection of God and suppression of the truth. First, man fails to honor God “as God.” This refusal is at the core of man’s pride and fallenness. It has been stated that the worst sin in the universe is failure to give God “honor” or glory (doxaz ). Above all else God is to be glorified. To glorify or honor God is to exalt Him, to recognize Him as supremely worthy of honor, and to acknowledge His character and attributes. The Westminister shorter catechism declares “the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Man was created to glorify God (Lev. 10:3; 1 Chron. 16: 24-29; Ps. 148; Rom.15: 5-6) and to fail to do so is the ultimate affront to his Creator.

The normal recognizing and honoring God for His character and deeds is what fallen man refuses to do. Millions upon millions of people have lived in the midst of God’s wonderful world and yet proudly refused to recognize Him as its creator and praise His majesty and glory.
The second way man rejects God is that they refuse to “give” Him “thanks” for His gracious provision. Although God is the source of every good thing men possesses, life, air, rain, sun, water, and other natural blessings fall on the just and unjust alike but natural man fails to thank Him.

A small boy visited his friend’s home for DINNER. When the youngster sat down at the table, he bowed his head and waited for someone to give thanks for the meal. The others at the table, however, began passing the food. The boy looked up and said, “You guys are just like my dog. You just dig right in!”

The apostle Paul told Timothy that all food is to be received with appreciation to God (1 Tim. 4: 4-5). Food has been given to us for our nourishment and enjoyment. Our expression of thanks sanctifies our food by acknowledging that what we eat is a gift from God. For what does it say about our society when people sit down to a full table, while pictures of starving masses flicker on their TV screens, and never bow their heads to express appreciation for their food?

A word of thanks is always appropriate for those of us who know that our daily bread comes not only from the grocery store but ultimately from God. Gratitude is a mark of godliness.

The third consequence of failing to honor God and give Him thanks is men have become “futile in their speculations.” The word “futile” indicates a loss of touch with reality. They disconnected with God and as a result disconnected with the greatest reality in the universe and thus with the meaning and purpose of life. Only the reality of “God” gives true meaning, purpose, and understanding to everything else. By refusing to honor God and let His truth guide their life, men are dooming themselves to a futile quest for wisdom through human speculations which can only end in false conclusions.

When truth is rejected in time the ability to recognize and to receive truth is impaired (Jn. 3:19f). The fourth result thus is a “foolish heart” that becomes “darkened” or further enslaved to sin. [Foolish – – a verbal adjective from µ “to put together” – thus not willing to understand, undiscerning.] In their unwillingness to pull together, or understand, the clear evidence about God they possess, darkness settles in their hearts.
II. MAN’S RATIONALIZATION, (22).

Rather than treat God like He was God, rather than glorifying God as the great God He is, people have elevated everything but God to His place. This demotion of God and the exaltation of man and man’s speculations or reasoning give birth to the tragic irony revealed in verse 22. “Professing to be wise, they became fools, ”

What a contrast between the claim and the reality. When they said I know, I figured it out, they became fools because they turned away from the true knowledge of God. When the true source of wisdom is rejected (Ps. 111:10) people’s claim to be wise is an idle boast. Professing to be wise about God, about the universe, and about themselves, they became progressively greater “fools” [µ from µ , where our word moron is derived].

David declared that a fool has said in his heart that there is no God (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). This very foolishness deludes them into thinking they are wise. “The natural man cannot think perfectly about anything. But his thinking is perverted most severely in the spiritual and divine realm, because that is where his sinful rebellion is centered. These things are also beyond his human perception and since he rejects revelation [the Bible], he has no hope of coming to truth in himself. [His foolish speculations therefore go the furthest astray when he philosophizes about his origin, purpose, and destiny and about the origin and meaning of the universe in which he lives.]

The mind devoid of God’s truth has no way to discriminate between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong, between the significant and the trivial, between the truly beautiful and the monstrous, or between the ephemeral (short-lived) and the eternal.” (MacArthur, NT Com. Moody. 88). The mind and heart are now wide open to deception.

In 1636, a group of Puritans founded HARVARD UNIVERSITY. Its motto was Christo et Ecclesiae, which means “For Christ and the Church.” One of the school’s guiding principles was this: “Everyone shall consider the main end of his life and studies, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life. John 17:3.”

That prestigious center of learning and culture has long since abandoned its original spiritual intent. Even many Harvard Divinity School faculty members now regard its Christ-centered goal as narrow-minded and outdated. In fact, a group of Harvard students staged a mock funeral procession through the Divinity School. They carried a coffin and proclaimed, “Our God, the Father, is dead.”

Those students were as far from the truth as east is from west. The everlasting Father, who has created all life (including those who mock Him), is as immune to death as He is to sin.
Three hundred seventy-five years after the establishment of Harvard, the chief purpose of life is still and always will be, in the words of those colonial Puritans, “to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life.” Let us make that the main goal of our lives. Proverbs 3: 5-7.

III. MAN’S RELIGION (23).

Despite the knowledge of God created in man and communicated to man, they refused to act on it. Man’s refusal to let God have His rightful place in their lives caused man to search out substitutes for the worship God as verse 23 states. “And exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

God created man as a worshiping being. Having held down God’s truth and refusing to acknowledge God’s glory, man was left without a god, and man is so constituted that he must worship something. If he will not worship the true God, he will worship a false god, even if he has to manufacture it himself! This fact about man accounts for his propensity to idolatry. Man “exchanged the glory” of the true God for substitute gods that he himself made. He exchanged glory for shame, incorruption for corruption, truth for lies.

Note that the first creature man substitutes for God is himself, “an image in the form of corruptible man.” Instead of glorifying and worshiping God, he attempts to deify himself. Every false god appeals to man’s fallen nature and entices him to glorify and indulge himself. A.W. Tozer wisely observed that idolatry begins in the mind when we pervert or exchange the idea of God for something other than what He really is. People opt for shadow over substance, likeness over reality.

Instead of man accepting God’s image imprinted upon himself, man made gods in his own image – and then descended so low as to worship birds, beasts, and bugs. When we worship the creation instead of the Creator, we lose sight of our own identity as those who are higher than the animals, so that we may behave worse than the animals we worship.

Lest we think that contemporary, sophisticated man has risen above such crude foolishness, we have only to consider the monumental increase in astrology and other occult practices during the last few decades in the United States and western Europe. Many leading world figures, including noted scientists, are said to consult their horoscopes or occult advisers for information from star movement or tea leaves before making major decisions or taking extended trips.

There have always been people who worship the idols of wealth, health, pleasure, prestige, sex, sports, education, entertainment, celebrities, success, and power. And at no time in history have those forms of idolatry been more pervasive and corrupting than in our own day.

A wine company advertisement in Newsweek magazine read, “The earth gives us wonderful grapes. The grapes give us wonderful wine. The wine wins us lots of new friends. Thank you, earth.”
How easy it is to give credit and thanks to everything or everyone but the real source of all our blessings.

The illusion of self-determination exhilarates man. But man’s refusal to acknowledge and glorify God leads to a downward path. When man refuses to have God as God he dooms himself to have less than God as his god. Man himself is the number one candidate as he prefers to be his own god. Just as Satan first told Eve “Ye shall be as God!” in Gen. 3 :5, so still today Satan continues to council rebellion.

God has made Himself known to every person, but man has willfully closed his heart, mind, will, and feeling off to God. When one closes off the light of God by determining to set his own path, he loses the way and falls deeper into sin. Man is determined to put himself in God’s place which is the essence of sin.

The first commandment is “Thou shall have no other God’s before me.” Most people place themselves before god and become their own God. Do your priorities demonstrate that God is first in your life? Is the purpose of your life to glorify God? Do you truly worship Him? Do you abound in thanksgiving to Him? Is what you accept about God that which comes directly from His Word? Where do you find spiritual truth?

Conceived in Anguish; Consummated in Glory

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Today we are invited by the Church to witness the climactic scene of human history–the moment on Calvary when Jesus, center of a triple trinity, gives over His Spirit and dies for us. The Holy Father recognizes that this is the central event of the cosmos: “God’s word is . . . spoken throughout the history of salvation, and most fully in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son of God.” Further, “Christ’s victory over death took place through the creative power of the word of God. This divine power brings hope and joy: this, in a word, is the liberating content of the paschal revelation. At Easter, God reveals himself and the power of the trinitarian love which shatters the baneful powers of evil and death.”

There is a triple trinity on Calvary: Standing by the cross were three women, three Mary’s. On the three crosses were three condemned men, Jesus, the repentant bandit we know as Dismas, and the unrepentant bandit whose name is lost to history. And, of course, Jesus, the God-man, was the second person of the divine trinity always present to us, but especially at this moment, when our redemption was being accomplished out of divine love.
To this scene Jesus summons John out of the crowd of onlookers. We think of John taking Mary to Calvary, but it appears that he was near, but not next to her. Mary’s support were the other two women, Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus had driven several demons. That was the harbinger of the victory he was about to snatch from the jaws of defeat. But first, Jesus was to create a Church, a new body for Himself on earth, and, like the Creator in Eden, breathe new life into her.

As if to make this even clearer, He addresses His mother as the new Eve: “Woman, behold your son.” Mary probably looked first to Jesus, her natural son. But she saw Jesus nodding to the young man who was coming near to her, and knew that Jesus had a double meaning. The natural son was being taken from her by the will of the Father; in His place there was to be this younger one, and a host of others, men and women, boys and girls, whom she was to mother. As Eve was ironically called “mother of the living,” when what she had bequeathed to them was death, so Mary, the new Eve, was the true mother of the living, because through this great sacrifice her Son was to earn for us true life, and everlasting union with God. Eve had torn us away from the Father; Mary’s “fiat” would bring us back to the Father.
So Jesus then told John, and all of us, “Son, here is your mother.” From that hour, John, and we, have taken her into our home. But, rather, she has taken us into her home, the Church.

Having done everything the Father willed, Jesus fulfilled a last prophecy. He had said at the Last Supper that He would no more take the fruit of the vine until all was fulfilled in the kingdom of God. The irony is that the fruit of the vine–our vine–had soured. So He took vinegar to slake His thirst for the fruit of our work. What we do without Him is corrupt. Even our best intentions, without the will of God, turn to ashes and vinegar. But He takes even that to redeem. He says “it is consummated–fulfilled and sends forth His Spirit. It is this Spirit that brings us together and makes us part of His Body. What was born in anguish will be raised in glory.

Moral Turpitude Against God-Who Will It Be?

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1st Peter 1:13-25
Preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God; for

‘All flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

and the flower falls,

but the Word of the Lord remains forever.’

And this Word is the Good News that was preached to you.” [1]

As he was leaving his office, the well-known Governor of a western state was exposed as having sired a child with a housekeeper ten years previously. The exposure would ultimately lead to divorce from his wife of many years and a court battle over custody of their minor children. A Senator from another western state was exposed for having an affair with a staffer; then he was accused of using campaign funds in a futile attempt to keep the matter from coming to light. A man who ran as a Vice Presidential candidate and then vied for the nomination of his party to run for President of the United States was accused of using campaign funds to cover up an affair with a videographer. He conducted the affair even while his wife was battling terminal cancer. Ultimately, his actions would lead to an indictment by a grand jury and a sensational trial. A powerful Congressman was exposed for sending lewd photos to multiple young women who admired his aggressive opposition to more conservative politicians and their policies. Yet another Congressman was forced to resign because he sexually assaulted the teenage daughter of a campaign worker. All these events were being reported simultaneously within a very short period of only a matter of weeks. By no means do these particular stories exhaust the news accounts of moral or ethical failure by politicians. Nor should Canadians feel smug about moral turpitude within the political class as we have our own sordid stories.

Among the churches of North America, the incidence of moral and ethical failure appears to be as bad—if not worse—than the incidence of such ruinous actions among the powerful and the elite of the nation. Throughout the past several decades, there have been so many accounts of pastoral fraud and moral declension in the pulpit that we are no longer shocked at the announcement of a new scandal among the churches.

While there have always been accounts of individuals who lived as though they need not give an accounting for their actions, one must wonder if this generation is capable of making wise moral or ethical choices. The paragons of morality cluck their tongues at the failure of their opponents and do nothing to clean-up their own lives. What has happened?

I suggest two major contributors to this insidious problem. First, Society as a whole has embraced relativism, abandoning truth and moral certitude. Modern culture has bought into the myth that life is all about us—about fulfilling our desires. Encouraged by educators and the political elite, we have placed “self” at the center of our existence, dulling conscience and dethroning God. We have abandoned the understanding of right and wrong that once served as the foundation of Western ethics. This situation didn’t just happen; it was the inevitable consequences of a failure of the pulpit in these contemporary times. Let me explain.

Whereas there was a time when preachers would point to the Word of God, holding to the accuracy and the authority of what is written therein, it seems as if many have exchanged the truth of God for the futile imaginations of mortal minds. Contemporary preachers appear more concerned about having a job than they are about pleasing God. I remember an old preacher declaring that the preacher whose little message was “Repent,” had better pledge his head toward heaven. Whereas brashness is evident in the modern pulpit, boldness is a rare commodity. Adherence to the Word of God as truth is witnessed infrequently today. When it is discovered, we know that the brave preacher stands almost alone against the temper of the times.

WE CHRISTIANS ARE RESPONSIBLE TO PREPARE MENTALLY FOR ACTION. We are responsible to prepare for war. It is certain that we will be engaged in combat! This is not war as the world wages war; it is spiritual warfare fought with spiritual weapons as outlined by the Apostle. “Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience” [2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-6].

We recall also the words the Apostle has written in the encyclical we know as the Letter to the Ephesians. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” [EPHESIANS 6:10-19].

The Christian is engaged in protracted, vicious war. Initiated by a surprise attack on our first mother, the war began soon after the creation and has continued unabated to this day. The enemy is cunning and powerful; many fine citizens of Heaven have fallen on the fields of battle. The moment you become a Christian, you are thrust into the conflict. There is an ongoing assault against the child of God as the enemy endeavors to best the follower of Christ, taking him captive and rendering him ineffective. The great tragedy is that many of those individuals who assault the position of the faithful are not conscious of their own motivation. In fact, many would argue that they are doing what they believe is best for humanity. Though they witness the grief that arises out of opposition to righteousness, and though they are genuinely concerned at the instability marking unregenerate society, they are unwilling to insist on a return to godliness.

Let me address this matter more pointedly so that no one can suggest that my speech is somehow obscure. Teens and young adults face a daunting situation. This is not to say that older adults do not face similar challenges, but it is to acknowledge that the challenges commence early in life. Listen to the experts! Ninety percent of children—underscore this number in your mind—ninety percent of children will have viewed online pornography by age sixteen! Now get this! The typical teenage boy spends nearly two hours a week intentionally looking for pornography! I won’t embarrass anyone by asking if such pornographic materials have been cached on your hard drive. I can assure you that without seeking it out, we will encounter such evil on a regular basis.

However, don’t imagine that the Internet is the only danger zone for those endeavoring to be godly. A sex scene appears on television every nine minutes! Stop to think of the network and cable shows that you have watched in the past week, asking how frequently suggestive scenes have been presented for your entertainment. Does it surprise you if I tell you that one in three teenage boys admits to having nude pictures sent to them on their phones!

The consequences are about what any sane person might predict. The majority of high school students have sexual intercourse by graduation, and almost eighty percent of male high school students say they feel pressured by society to find a girl who is willing to have sex. Thus, one in four young people will have contracted a sexually-transmitted infection before turning twenty, and one-third of girls will become pregnant in that same time frame. Forty-one percent of all births are outside of marriage; and in some communities, the percentage of pregnancies out of wedlock exceeds seventy percent! Christian youth are not immune to this assault on purity; they are ill-equipped to engage the enemy in this battle for purity and righteousness.

I haven’t even addressed such issues as the saturation of our culture with violence. Though the high priests of contemporary culture—psychologists, sociologists and community organizers—assure us that viewing violent acts have no impact on us as individuals, we are witnessing several generations that treat violence as though it were a video game. Children seem unable to understand that stomping on the head can result in death, and apologists for the cult of youth hesitate to hold anyone under the age of eighteen accountable for his or her actions. Nevertheless, we are assured that when these youth turn eighteen, they will magically mature and realize the gravity of their actions. How many violent acts do we witness on a daily basis just entertaining ourselves? Whether we are watching a television drama, attending a movie or playing an online game, violence seems mandatory. By the time a child is six or seven, she will have witnessed multiple murders, countless assaults and numerous sexual assaults just through what is called entertainment! And this is supposed to have no effect on their maturation!

Early believers were distinguished for their opposition to the violence of the games! It is well documented that “Christians were tortured during the violence of the Ludi Circenses (circus games) by gladiators or wild animals. Tacitus wrote that ‘the Christians … were dressed in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to be torn to pieces by dogs in the public games … they were crucified, or condemned to be burnt; and at nightfall served in place of lamps to lighten the darkness, Nero’s own gardens being used for the spectacle.’ Augustine wrote against its lure, speaking of how he lost his friend Alypius, who was drawn to the blood lust of the games of the gladiators. Christians had seen their friends martyred for the pleasure of the public shows while other people were lost to its lusts. Paul wrote in 1 CORINTHIANS 4:9 that ‘God has exhibited us Apostles at the very end of the procession [Godspeed] … like doomed gladiators in the arena! [Moffatt] … to be gazed at in a theater by the whole world, both men and angels” [Conybeare].’”

Language is degenerating at a breath-taking clip. Our culture admires the cutting retort, the quick put-down; even if we don’t resort to cursing and swearing, we delight in ridiculing one another as though such retorts demonstrate prowess or virility. Modern comedy is dependent upon either the use of bodily functions normally performed out of sight of others or through mindless debasement of an individual through ridicule and slander. Consequently, our inability to express ourselves adequately is witnessed even within the congregation of the righteous.

Our spiritual forebears were distinguished by their speech, which was holy and pure in contradistinction to the culture about them. The influence of Christians on speech persisted for centuries among English speaking nations, ensuring decency in speech long after Christendom was influential in morals and ethics. There was a time when we who name the Name of Christ took seriously the admonition of the Apostle given in EPHESIANS 5:4-21. “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Christian speech should be marked by expressions of gratitude, joyful singing and respect for each other; Christian speech should not be characterized by the dark associations of this fallen world. I admit that earlier generations may have been extreme in some of their language prohibitions; nevertheless, I must believe that their caution was more praiseworthy than is the excesses that mark contemporary language. When people working as professionals, supposedly trained to communicate, are incapable of doing so without resorting to language that would have been eschewed by even drill instructors at Quantico, there is a serious problem.

I’m about to quit preaching and go to meddling. Much of modern Christianity is influenced negatively by Hollywood. We assume a worldview that is dictated by Hollywood. It isn’t just the violence and the ubiquitous sexuality, but the underlying dissolution of speech that is foisted upon an incautious society. Regardless of real life, Hollywood is determined to introduce degraded language into the mix. Lifeway Stores recently removed DVDs of the movie, “The Blindside” from its shelves. The reason was the incorporation of “street language” (profanity) and degrading racial references.

We really need to check our motives and practices before its to late. The “Truth” is speaking load and clear and man is and will be without excuse when our time is up.

Believe In Yourself “Don’t Quit”

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While being skeptical can be a healthy way to avoid getting taken advantage of, being pessimistic – that is, always assuming the worst – can have major negative consequences on your life. Seeing only the negative aspects of any situation can cause you to miss opportunities, neglect problems that need to be solved, and fail to take action that would otherwise improve your relationships and quality of life. In fact, studies show that pessimists are more likely to develop chronic illnesses later on in life than optimists.[1] Optimists look for the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve always had a pessimistic worldview, it can be difficult to shift your focus, but it is possible to start seeing the glass as half full, not half empty. In fact you may come to realize that glasses are generally full – it’s just that gravity attracts the more dense liquid material towards the bottom.

This world is always devising ways to sift people, whether by talent or caste status, belief system, color, race, ethnicity or origins the world and complex people in the world will try to make you quit. My wife and I are faced with a insurmountable obstacle, we are no longer the “It” of society, but the “Felon” and as such we are not expected to live nor continue to exist among the regulars in this world. If you are in this plight of life I want to encourage you to continue to believe in Jesus and what He has said, because we’re moving forward by His grace and so can you. Refuse to be redeemed by California or any state prison systems for 40,000 dollars and another extended stay in confinement. A plastic or glass bottle is given better chances than a human life. I solicit anyone that is challenged by life whether by past mistakes or any addictions or broken family and disappointed dreams to press onward with a plan and stand with the Word in your mouth and heart.

Many of us quit, half way through with what we have started and we have enough reasons why we do it. Years ago I owed a Engineering firm in California. Inflation and economics gave me a reason to compromise on how I did business and it cost me 5 years of my life and my company and 300 people their jobs . I had to quit. The reason seems genuine. Had I admitted to my dual addictions and faced them I would not have suffered those loses. I still face the consequences of quitting today due to the stigma’s placed on me by a unforgiving society. I failed as a minister of a large body of believers due to my compromising spirit of conduct. My dual addiction to money and cocaine and pride took me to an all time low. I lost material goods and very close family and friends. Recently I recalled the incident and this blog is a result of such introspection. What does the Bible talk about in terms of giving up? Does the Bible recommend us to quit or does it urge us not to give up.

Galatians 6:9 “…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

What does it mean? The scripture tells us that if we do not give up on we will surely see the reward of it. For example the farmer sows his seed and takes the little grown stuff and plants it in the properly ploughed field. He does not see the grains immediately, he waits for the rain and the shine at the proper times and then a harvest, during harvest it is not what he sowed but several measures more than what he had sown. If this is true for a farmer I am sure the same principle applies for us too. The only thing is to wait patiently until we see results.

Before getting into the principles of how not to quit, let us examine a few reasons why we quit.
The reasons can be so many; I have tried listing a few of them…

1. Fear of failure.
2. Skepticism I am not the one.
3. I am not trained enough.
4. Someone can do it better than me.
5. I don’t want to be the first, let someone do it and then I will follow.
6. I have a bitter past experience.
7. This is not my cup of tea.
8. I don’t want to be embarrassed.
9. I am too sensitive to handle failures.
10. My support system is poor.
11. I don’t prefer to risk when all is fine.
12. Why get into a mess?

Some of the reasons are overlapping but still this is how we feel and reason out to quit and remain a bit satisfied though we know we can do it more than we have tried.

I want to drive home just two aspects for not giving up but before that I want to quote a few people and their views on never giving up…

Marilyn von Savant – being defeated is often temporary, giving up makes it permanent.

Thomas Edison – many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

King Solomon – for an upright man, after falling seven times, will get up again. (Proverbs 24:16)

The first aspect to consider if we decide not to give up is:
I. Making the most of every opportunity. (Ephesians 5: 15,16)
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

The wise person makes the most of the opportunity but the foolish ones miss out on every opportunity and grumble about their failures. Grab every chance that you get, never mind whether you fail or win – the result is secondary what is primary is the attempt. There is nothing wrong in giving it a try, it might click and we can become experts so I urge you not to miss a chance. Peter toiled all night at the sea but was willing to give it a try when Jesus told him to do so. He made the second time more than what if would have done the first time. He knew he had God on his side. That was blessed assurance. If we have such confidence we too can try and we will surely make it by not letting a chance go by. Therefore make the most of every opportunity and be wise. The second aspect is…

II. Marching Forward. (Philippians 3:13)
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.

If you have to march forward, you have to forget about what happened in the past, if we brood over the past more either success or failure it can ruin us. If we brag about the past success it will makes us complacent and would never make new attempts at the same time if we brood over our failures it will diminish the morale and the potential we possess. Therefore it is important to be moving and not stagnating.

Paul understood this and that is why he is going ahead with the goal and not worried over the past. If Paul had to think of his past as wretched man he will have be ashamed for the rest of his life not doing anything. He overcame the shame and guilt of destroying so many good Christians and began to be a blessing. He never gave up but carried on.

Dear friends, how about you? Better wise up, make the most of every opportunity. Never leave room for compromise, March forward don’t retreat. I think of Henry ford, his first car was not able to even go faster than the horse chariot, he never gave up and today these cars do well. The Wright brothers first flying machine fell and broke after it took off to a few feet but they never gave up and today we see planes that fly at a phenomenal speed at great altitudes. We have Jesus on our side we will surely be conquerors, not just conquerors but more than conquerors. God bless you.

Inside Out!!

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John 15:1-8

New International Version (NIV)

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

During an international publishing conference, a young Frenchman described his experience at a book-signing event. A woman picked up one of his books, browsed through it, and exclaimed, “At last, a story that’s clean!” He replied gently, “I write clean because I think clean. It’s not an effort.” What he expressed in print came from within, where Christ had altered the very core of his life.

John 15 records Jesus’ lesson to His disciples about abiding in Him as The only means to a fruitful life. In the midst of His imagery of the vine and branches, Jesus said: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you”. Bible scholar W.E. Vines says that the Greek word for clean means ” free from impure admixture, without blemish, spotless.”

A pure heart is the work of Christ, and only in His power can we remain clean. We often fail, but “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to…cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Renewal is an inside job. Jesus has made us clean through his sacrifice and Word. Our speech and actions that strike others as being fresh and pure flow from inside out as we abide in Christ.

Admitting that we’re guilty,
Acknowledging our sin,
Then trusting in Christ’s sacrifice
Will make us clean within..
Confession to God brings cleansing from God…

Symbolism And Sterotypes Shake Yourself Loose

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Black youth are “out in an ocean surrounded
by the sharks of drugs (and) alcohol, …and
we’ve been sitting on the beach sipping
from our fountains of ‘just say no’,… It’s
easier for children to find drugs than it is for
them to find hugs.”

–Jocelyn Elders, Former
United States Surgeon
General (Associated Press

Addictions are often both physical and psychological compulsions to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences to one’s individual health, spirituality, mental state or social life. The disorder of drug addiction is a historical and present reality, and one’s individual level of emotional, social, mental and/or physical addiction varies with the substance, the frequency of drug usage, the means of consumption, the intensity of pleasure or euphoria, and the individual’s genetic and psychological susceptibility.

The devastation drug addiction spawns has left no culture exempt, and among racial and ethnic minority population substance abuse has often been an escape and/or coping mechanism for confronting the demands of social pressure, stress, trauma, and oppression. For example, “a person who is abused or traumatized may develop dysfunctional defensive strategies or behaviors designed to ward off emotional and psychological pain.”1

Anti-addiction is a journey of evolution and self-empowerment that eliminates pain in the brain through confessions. An anti-addiction way of life is a personal choice to recognize an awesome power and divine intelligence within that is accessible and available wherever you are, and to use this power and intelligence to stand up for yourself, use your life experiences to help others, give up bad habits, negative thinking and people. It is a path that requires that you walk away from everything you now know to get to a place in your life where you should be as a child of God.

Drug recovery requires a disciplined mind and body, confession, tearing away from addictive appetites, belittling burdens and frivolous fears, and that one shakes him or herself loose from making excuses for the things you have and have not done. Being free from addiction can be a victorious battle over powers and principalities of self-hatred, trauma, and fear, and put one on the road towards healthiness, abundant joy, and being at total peace with yourself and your life. God gives everyone the spiritual power to reclaim their L.I.F.E (Love, Inspiration, Faith, Empowerment) from the sin of addiction.

A Historical Lesson

The structural and systemic inequalities experienced by African Americans in American society present a fearsome challenge and create a complexity of social and personal issues. The individual qualities and social skills to cope with these challenges and issues cannot be taught in a classroom or the industrial prison complex. In neighborhoods all over America lives are being made wretched by involvement in and exposure to the use of illegal drugs. Since the 1970s, by many reports there has been an absence of a sense of community in African American communities and an alienation of residents regarding issues of poverty and mutual responsibility. After the departure of the middle-class to the suburbs, many African Americans within inner-cities were left poor, isolated and disfranchised. During the 1980s, family structures weakened more, and the number of African American children living in households headed by a single female parent increased, and the drug culture became a dominant way of life in urban neighborhoods. Crack cocaine became the drug of choice, and the underground subculture and economy it spawned destroyed almost all the remnants of social order within African American communities.

As a result, the nature of the violence in these communities became more lethal. The consequences of drug addiction provided media never-ending stories about killings among drug dealers, murders of innocent children and adults via gang violence, babies addicted to crack, and grandmothers left to rear children because their fathers were incarcerated and their mothers were crack addicts.

As a society, we have failed to listen to the narrative of the most needy and vulnerable in our communities, ignored the power and spirit evoked by testimonies by the “other,” and silenced the drug-related testimonies of the transcendent possibilities of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

In my generation, experimenting with drugs was seen as natural by many and served as an ideal escape from the thick reality of being Black in America. As a member of generation “X,” it was hard to get a clear picture of what defines acceptable public discussion of illicit drugs, so drugs were often mystified. The mystification of drugs minimized the imminent threat of drug usage, restricted the differing conditions of threat and opportunity, and silenced straight talk and open debate about the prevalence of addiction and use of drugs in our homes, churches, and society. The lack of communication about illegal drugs made them intriguing to youth, a symbol of status and wealth within the inner-city, and a glorified self-induced cure for all your problems. Concomitantly, drugs were viewed as a social commodity for “hip and cool” people, forged alliances between blacks and whites, poor and rich, and opened channels of mutual support for people to share and communicate the pain they perceived and felt about their life. Hence, becoming addicted to drugs wasn’t the aspiration, it was just a way of having fun, a temporary escape, and a means of self-help to correct and adjust to changing realities and shifting urgencies. In order to comprehend the phenomenon of drug use and addiction, we must get a clear understanding of what makes bad choices look good, what keeps a drug mentality operative once established, as well as obtain open testimonies concerning the spirit and committed will of people who desire to be liberated from their drug addiction. Thus, we must ask those confronting their issues of dependence, “What advantage did you get from that of which you are now ashamed?”

Stories and Illustrations
When crack cocaine gained national media attention around 1985, it created a reporting frenzy. Very few stories reported the degrading and dangerous sexual activities and violence that many women experience being addicted to crack cocaine. Their voices have often been silenced because most of their testimonies are depressing, unsettling, and shameful to admit. These are some confessions of women who are addicted to drugs that you may hear on an Anti-Addiction Sunday:
•“Hustling is how I get by. What that means is that I get up at noon, boost (shoplift) something at the OMNI (shopping mall) on my way to cop some drugs. I’ll sell half the drugs for profit, and sell the watch or perfume that I boosted to someone on the street. Then some car date will wave me down an’ I’ll give him a quick blow and if he’s careless I’ll empty his pockets. Later in the day I might help in a breakin’-in, deliver some coke for a Montana (a Cuban drug dealer)… and at night I’ll be back on the stroll.”2

•“I once killed a man over crack. He was a dealer, he wanted too much for it, and he made me mad.”3

•“One time I saw a girl raped beside me but I couldn’t do nothing because I was all high and tripping you know, they tied her down to a bed and one got in front of her and the other got in back of her, and she was hollering and screaming you know, and while he was doing it to her he was beating her you know, because she was trying to steal one of the guy’s drugs.”4

•“I been in the streets so long that when a guy talks to me I can get a feeling from the way that he talks to me whether he is gonna cause me a problem or not and with this feeling I won’t go.”5
You may also hear testimonies from women who have entered treatment and want to share their stories to make a difference. One woman who entered a residential treatment facility stated that she got into freebasing coke and using crack. She got to a point to where she was prostituting and stealing all night. She stated that she earning up to $150 a day and sometimes a $1000 dollars a weekend working the streets after work. Then, she stated she would come to work late, fight with her co-workers, and got mad at her boss because he interfered with her cocaine use. So, she quit showing up to work. She eventually got arrested for carrying a half a gram of cocaine. While in jail, she stated that she made “so many deals with God about how I’d change and do better if I could just walk away this one time.”6 She stated God must have known she was lying because she ended up doing sixty days in jail. She ended up losing everything she had and started doing crack cocaine instead of freebasing cocaine. So, she began to steal—“I was stealing from the johns, I was stealing from the shopping malls, from the supermarkets, I was breaking into cars, I was carrying crack for this guy I knew, I was doing cons (confidence games) on tourists, I was picking pockets and stealing luggage at the airport.”7 She finally ended up selling her body and performing sexual acts for $5 and $10 dollars. She stated at that time in her life you would think that she would do something about it, but she didn’t. She then tells a story of an incident that made her enter drug treatment:

I tried to gets this guys wallet…we were in this room on 55th street.
He caught me, and we got into a fight. He started to beat me, and I
pulled a knife, but he got it from me. He hit me so hard that he broke
my jaw and practically knocked me out. Then he takes this bottle off
the floor and breaks the top off it. I still had no clothes on, and he breaks
off the end and rams it into my vagina, he starts cursing me—“filthy
whore” —and he (was) twisting it around, tearing me up.8

These testimonies and confessions are too common among women who are addicted to drugs. Both society and churches must be willing to listen and learn from individuals battling addiction in their midst, provide a “safe place” for discourse; and possess empathy, compassion, as well as encourage an ethical responsibility to help the most needy and vulnerable people in our communities that are suffering because they cannot cope with the complexity of issues in their lives and the shame that being at the bottom of the social order creates.

In the words of a male crack dealer:

The crack house is a carnival of vice. It is one hell of a nasty place…
it is…where anything goes–any drug, any kick, any perversion, any trip,
even to heaven or hell—if you have the “hard white” or hard dollars to
buy. It is that mystic place beyond the edge of the world where dreams
are really nightmares and where nightmares are always real. And more, it
is home—home to the wretched, the depraved, and the perverted.9

One Solution to Lessen Addiction – Afrocentric Socialization
According to social psychologists, those who learn from others that drug addiction is pleasurable are often the most likely to use drugs.10 So, it stands to reason that many drug users come out of homes and environments of drug use and abuse.11 Along with coming out of bad environments, we can also readily name the other lists of likely precursors to drug addiction by African Americans. Even though there may be disagreement about some of the precursors on the named list, we all can produce lists. However, for too long, that has been the extent of the action by too large a sector of the African American faith community—just naming what’s on the list of things that lead to addiction. We keep preaching that no father at home greatly leads to boys becoming addicts. We keep preaching that education is the key to a non-drug addicted life while in the same breath lamenting that high schools have become gun and drug battle grounds. We keep preaching that the white man is still arresting black men in numbers that are unjust. However, what addicts need are not just sermons, they need processes that lead to sobriety. They need churches that are committed to being Anti-Addiction churches through their church ministries and their budgets. Ask almost any pastor in the inner-city or a rural town, if there is a major addiction problem in their community? “Yes,” they will say without hesitation. But then ask, how many ministries in your church are purposely designed to stop addictive behaviors? Likely, the answer by most pastors will be almost none or none.

But how can that be in 2010? If a black man is in the White House then surely churches can become Anti-Addiction houses. But how? There is no one panacea that will work in every city or every church, but there is one process that offers hope and is doable if pastors and the church will commit to it. William Oliver of the University of Delaware calls it Afrocentric Socialization. Oliver writes about how “Euroamerican ideology” through schools, religion and mass media has glorified whiteness and demonized or belittled blackness. He asserts that blacks need an Afrocentric ideology that will combat this. He says:

The failure of blacks to develop an Afrocentric cultural ideology is a
major source of psychological, social, political, and economic dysfunction
among black Americans. Afrocentricity as defined by Asante is the
centering of one’s analysis and perceptions from the groundedness of the
African person. Black self-hatred has been a major factor that has
historically contributed to the lack of unity among blacks as well as a
pervasive low evaluation of blacks by blacks. Hence, the failure of blacks
to develop an Afrocentric cultural ideology has prevented blacks from
developing the sort of collective philosophy, definitions, cultural traditions,
and institutions that other American racial and ethnic groups have
established in order to facilitate their survival and progress in American
society.12 An Afrocentric cultural ideology would encourage black
Americans to transcend cultural crisis and confusion by reclaiming
traditional African values that emphasize “mankind’s oneness with
nature,” “spirituality,” and “collectivism.”13

Oliver further offers that an Afrocentric ideology would acknowledge how pervasive racism still is and suggest that African Americans define themselves via their historic homeland as do people of all other races.14 He then calls for what some churches have begun, which is a rite of passage program. He suggests especially targeting young boys for the program. Their socialization would include the church working with families to help them instill Afrocentric values such as spirituality and collective concern for one’s community. Next he suggests that the curriculum for the program use the principles of the Nguzo Saba. The principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.15

While such a program is keenly needed for youth before they are buried for life by addiction, such a rite of passage program for adults who are working to overcome addiction is also gravely needed. In many respects, working with African American adult addicts may in fact require unteaching Euroamerican socialization and replacing it with Afrocentric socialization more than it would socializing youth who have not yet been swallowed by addiction.

Using a slightly revised version of the Nguzo Saba values, a church program for African American adults seeking to overcome addiction would include the following elements at a minimum, aided by the help of trained counselors and social welfare professionals:

Creativity Training – All people need to create to exercise their God-likeness; in the beginning God “created.” Such creativity training would include helping addicts determine their creative assets and what they are passionate about doing. Some may be moved by viewing African American paintings, photography, poetry, architecture, or sculptures. Many adults may never have viewed the creative artistry that is so plentiful in their own community. How wonderful would it be to host an open house where artists of all types display their creations and discuss the creative process with those who are working to overcome addictions. The aim is not to suggest to persons that they are to work to become painters, sculptors, architects, etc. Instead, the aim is to affirm that all people are creative and to help all addicts and those in recovery begin to become creative not destructive. Such an open house may birth a chef, a graphic designer, a baker, a wood carver, a bead maker or one of a million other creative possibilities.

Community Building Training – None of us are our best selves disconnected from a community. We do not stand as tall; we are more selfish; we are less compassionate of the concerns and needs of others. The aim of community building training is ending thinking that makes people believe that they exist as individuals who simply live, eat and sleep somewhere. Such thinking deadens the understanding of the communally toxic nature of using and selling drugs, over-indulging in alcohol, being a sex addict, being a power addict or behaving in ways that destroy one’s body and mind. Helping to build and sustain a community brings full circle all that the addict (perhaps assisted by a professional counselor or social worker) needs to reach sobriety and/or new ways of living in the world. Community building will require daily faith, the participation in and encouragement of a family, determination, taking responsibility and certainly creativity.

God’s Blessing To His Kids “Laughter”

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Two good old boys bought a couple of horses during the summer. But when winter came, they found it cost too much to board them. So they turned the horses loose in a pasture where there was plenty to eat.
One said to the other: “How will we tell yours from mine when we pick them up?”
“Oh that’s easy,” replied the second. “We’ll cut the mane off my horse and the tail off yours.”
By spring tho’, the mane and tail had grown back to normal length.
“Now what are we going to do?” asked the first.

“Why don’t you just take the black horse?” said the second man, “and I’ll take the white one.”

Now that’s silly. Nobody would overlook anything THAT obvious. But there are Christians that do it all the time. And, one of the most unfortunate topics some Christians tend to overlook is the importance and value of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Jesus taught that He was going to send us a powerful force – His Holy Spirit.
We were promised this Spirit if we repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins(Acts 2:38).
According to Ephesians 1:13-14 the Holy Spirit is the mark of our salvation.
And Rom 8:9 tells us that without that Holy Spirit within us, we wouldn’t belong to Jesus.

If the Holy Spirit is that critical to our lives – why would we overlook it?

I. One of the reasons is that some Christians just take the Spirit for granted. These Christians are a little like the woman who told her friend that she had gotten in her car one day, started it up and saw the “Check engine” light blinking on and off on the dash. She told her friend, that she looked under the hood, but she didn’t know what the problem was – the engine was still there.

In Galatians, Paul tells us that you can’t take your connection with God’s Spirit for granted. Paul gave a warning to the Galatians: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:16-17)

In other words, it is critical for us to know if walking with the Spirit and if He is within us, filling us with His strength to help us contend against the power of the sinful nature. This is a serious matter. How do we know if we have the fullness of the Holy Spirit within us?

It would be SO much easier if we had a simple way to gauge the Spirit’s presence. Kind of like a gas gauge in our cars. A gauge that would helps us to know how much of God’s Spirit we had within us.

Now, in the Early Church, people had all kinds of “showy gifts” – like prophecy, speaking in tongues, healings and so on – that would have helped in assuring them that the Spirit was there. That’s why Charismatic churches have such wide appeal to so many today. With all their emphasis on “prayer languages” and “ecstatic” experiences of the Holy Spirit – they (at least) think they have the Holy Spirit. It serves as a “gauge.” It meets a very critical psychological need. And it can be a very deceptive and very appealing experience.

Just as an example of how appealing this type of experience can be – back in 1995, Newsweek (Feb. 20, 1995) reported something called the “Toronto Blessing,” so named because it started out in a charismatic congregation called the Vineyard Christian Church in Toronto, Canada. As Newsweek reported it: “It began when a dozen pilgrims from Oregon got up to introduce themselves and then began to fall to the floor, laughing uncontrollably. An hour later, the huge new church looked like a field hospital. Dozens of men and women of all ages were lying on the floor: some were jerking spasmodically; others closed their eyes in silent ecstasy. A middle aged woman kicked off her pumps and began whooping and trilling in a delicate dance. Scores of others proclaimed deliverance from emotional and physical pains. ’I’ve been living in my spirit,’ said a woman from Long Island, N.Y., still giggling after 20 minutes on the floor.

“In all, more than 100,000 people have experienced the ’Toronto Blessing,’ which believers interpret as an experience of the Holy Spirit much like the ’speaking in tongues’ mentioned in the New Testament…. ’It’s a gusher of the Holy Spirit,’ says pastor John Arnott of the Toronto Vineyard, who now travels around the world spreading the hilarity of the Lord.”
Newsweek finished its report by noting that some worshippers had developed a “beastly” twist on this phenomena: some in their congregations were now “roaring” like animals.

Now why would they do this? Why would they behave like this? NOT BECAUSE OF GOD. No this isn’t of God. They who did this did it BECAUSE (in an emotionally charged atmosphere like the one in Toronto) there was a powerful motivation to be able to “show off” what they thought was the Spirit’s presence.

For various reasons I reject the Charismatic teachings on tongues & prayer languages. BUT in the early church it would have been easy for every Christian to have such outward manifestations. ALL you would have needed (in those days)was for an Apostle to come and lay hands on you and you could have had any of the miraculous gifts listed in Scripture.

You can find Apostles laying hands on believers several times in Book of Acts, resulting in miraculous outpourings of God’s Spirit.

In Romans 1, Paul wrote saying that he wished to come to them so that he might impart spiritual gift (1:11).
In 2Tim 1:6 Paul wrote to Timothy saying: “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

So Paul, or any of the other early Apostles, could have laid hands on any Christian and that believer would have a legitimate sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

II. But now, wait a minute! If that’s true (that any Christian of that day could have had miraculous gifts as a result of an Apostle’s hands) then, some of Galatians should have had those kinds of gifts as well. Paul founded the Galatian congregations, and no doubt would have laid hands on them, just as he did on others in the other churches he began. There would have been “obvious” gifts in the churches of Galatia, just like there were in Corinth.

BUT Paul doesn’t tell the Galatians that they can tell whether or not they have the Spirit by their ability to speak in tongues or to prophecy, or anything else like that. Oh no.

Reread Galatians 5:22-26. It says: “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.

Paul didn’t want early Christians to measure their spirituality by how well they could “show the Spirit off.” Paul wanted the Galatians to measure their spirituality based on how well they treated each other.

Bear in mind, the letter to the Galatians was not a theological dissertation for a Bible Seminary to study. This was a real letter written to a real church, struggling with some real problems. AND the church in Galatia had a serious problem (a problem even churches today have) Look again at vs. 15 “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

I see gang-banging in churches all over today that I get to preach at and even my own church- for which I am very sadden. I’ve seen churches embroiled in just that type of self destructiveness. But Paul is telling them (AND any church that will listen)- you can tell if you are a Spirit led church. You can tell if you are a group of Christians under the Spirit’s control. You can tell if YOU are filled with God’s Spirit by what kind of fruit you bear.

Jesus said: “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. Matthew 12:33

In other words, you can tell whether or not you are really in touch with the Spirit by your fruit. In order to contrast good fruit to bad, Paul explains what the “sinful nature” is like: 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. (Galatians 5:19-23).

What Paul is saying is that there is a contrast behind how we’d naturally like to do things vs. how God’s Spirit would have us do things.
For example: in the Galatian churches there were apparently a lot of people mad at each other. They were biting each other, devouring each other. They were bearing fruit God was going to condemn – acting according to flesh.

I ran into that once. The church I was serving was boiling with anger – some of it towards me and some of it towards other members. Now I’m not going to go into great detail on the specifics, but suffice it to say I was convinced that the congregation was on the edge of splitting wide open. I believe God led me to preach this specific passage (Galatians 5) to them. After spanking them from the pulpit for some very bad behavior, I proceeded to read Galatian 5:19-26. Then I said “I know there are people in this congregation that don’t like me very much. Some people are on ’my side’ and some are not. I want you to know I don’t really care about that right now. I don’t care if you like me or not. BUT I do care about the condition of your hearts and HOW you behave as children of God in this situation.

“I want to ask you to evaluate how you have behaved in this matter, in light of this passage of Scripture. Have you behaved with love towards each other? Have you sought to create an atmosphere of joy in this congregation? Have you worked to create peace? Have you been patient with one another? Have you been kind towards one another? Good? Gentle? (and so I went through each of the 9 fruit of the Spirit).
“Or, have you been behaving in accordance with the works of the flesh? (laying special stress on “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions – Gal. 5:20). I want you to notice that Paul considered it necessary to repeat a warning that he’d apparently given these Christians at an earlier time: ’”I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God’ (Galatians 5:21b).
“Now, I don’t care whose side your on. I don’t care if you like me or if you don’t. BUT, if you continue to behave according the acts of the flesh – you’re going to hell. And I don’t want you to end up there. You need to repent.”
Then I gave the invitation. Three women came forward to repent – and they were some of the ones who liked me. But the evil in that situation had spread so far that it contaminated these 3 very gentle women and caused them to be entrapped in the hatred that was consuming others. And they knew it.

The best gauge – that the Spirit is in control of your life – is discovered when you’re upset, angry, and frustrated… when you have to deal with people that cause your blood to boil. IF, in those situations, you can react with an attitude of love, a desire to create an atmosphere of joy, a longing to promote a peaceful solution, an attitude of patience, etc. THEN, you are controlled by the Spirit. If not – you’re in trouble.

Dysfunctional Black America

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Over the weekend, President Obama took time out of addressing graduates at the celebrated, historically-black, all-male, private college, Morehouse, to remind about black men who make bad choices, chalking up failures to The Man and myriad other excuses.

“We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: ‘excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.’ We’ve got no time for excuses – not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured – and overcame.”

True.

But why do a roomful of young, black male college graduates, in particular, need this admonishment against excuse-making and expecting goodies they have not earned? Surely our Commander-In-chief would argue against conservative charges that real racism is dead and that his America is rife with lazy, irresponsible and demanding (black and brown) “takers” Why, then, do his speeches to black Americans so often warn against creeping pathology? (For instance, the 2008 Father’s Day speech that centered on shiftless and absent black sperm donors, instead of men who take the role of fatherhood seriously and are present and active in their children’s lives, whether or not they are part of a married couple.)

Of course, our President isn’t the only person seemingly subconsciously invested in the idea of inherent black dysfunction. In Michelle Obama’s speech to graduates at historically-black Bowie State University, the First Lady complained about young, black students with dreams of hip hop celebrity and urged parents not to accept failing schools. Ta-Nehisi Coates brilliantly addressed hand-wringing over hip hop aspirations in his piece, “How the Obama Administration Talks to Black America.” But it is also worth noting how offensive it is to suggest that the average black parent needs to be told to seek the best education for their children. And why lecture black college graduates, who have clearly demonstrated a belief in the power of education?

Hyperfocus on alleged black faults and how “we need to do better” is an outgrowth of the way black people have absorbed the race biases and stereotypes of the majority culture over centuries, combined with our desire to prove our own decency.

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This isn’t just about the President and First Lady. I’ve sat in many a pew and auditorium seat, wedged between other black folk, wondering why a speech meant to inspire me instead sounds like an unspoken accusation or a caution against some sin I never dreamed of committing. There is something about a chance to speak to a room full of fellow African Americans that seems to make the siren song of respectability politics nigh irresistible. And amidst the “show ‘em you’re one of the good ones” boot-strapping oratory is always a clutch of disturbing implied messages: Mainly that WE are the ultimate problem; not centuries of systemic racism or classism or educational and prison systems rife with inequality. And that, deep down, we are who they say we are. That even the best and brightest of us are one good, finger-wagging speech away from every affront to mainstream Judeo-Christian, middle-class, patriarchal American values. (Of course, the only values that matter.)

This sort of thinking reveals itself in many ways. For example, the entire let’s-teach-black-women-how-to-be-marriageable industrial complex hinges on the idea of inherent black, female dysfunction. But this scolding of black America is even more problematic and damaging when conducted by our country’s leader–the person ultimately in charge of education, healthcare, housing and countless other systems. Black people don’t need Barack Obama to lecture us about why education is important for our children; we need to know what steps his administration is taking to ensure that our children have an equal shot at good, accessible education. And we don’t need a black president tacitly confirming the worst ideas of the African American community by using nearly every engagement with us to urge us to fix ourselves.

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The inability to cope with life in a white supremacist society, the shock of witnessing extreme acts of violence, or the loss a loved one to a preventable illness (causes) can all lead to anger, depression, suicide, violence, and substance, physical, and mental abuse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a Black man or woman in America commits suicide every 4 hours (suicide is now the third leading cause of death among black men between the ages of 15 and 24.)

Psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, M.D. of the Harvard Medical School and author of the book, Lay My Burden Down, writes ”You can’t prevent illness or suicide if you don’t talk about it and gain some knowledge about it.”
◾Irritability
◾Changes in appetite
◾Changes in sleep habits
◾Headaches, stomach aches, pain all over
◾Chronic fatigue – not wanting to get up in the morning
◾Sadness that continues for up to a month – spontaneous crying
◾Social withdrawal – a loss of interest in activities and things once considered enjoyable

Another example of physical self-destruction: According to a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011 there were 279,384 black murder victims, which means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks, resulting in the 94 percent figure. Even though blacks make-up only 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims.

Cancer, lung disease, AIDS, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are all very preventable illnesses. And yet, Black men and women continue to destroy themselves with poisoned foods and lack of exercise. While access to nutrition indeed plays a factor, ones eating habits are particularly influenced by ones mental condition. Indeed, many Black men and women eat because they are unhappy, and they are unhappy because they eat.

We smoke, we get high, we get drunk, we fight, and we kill ourselves and each other. This behavior is just a symptom of the root illness: being Black and vulnerable in a society that devalues Black life, denies Blacks justice, and pollutes Black communities with cancer causing foods, poisonous air and water – all while feeding them mental images of the good life that lies just across the racial divide.

Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder is both complicated, pervasive, and prominent in the African American community. Books have been written on the subject that I suggest you read. Understanding the subconscious psychological effects of this disorder is the key to the mental (and ultimately the physical, cultural, and political) liberation of Black people the world over.
Financial Self-Destruction

Experiencing the shame and frustration of being locked in poverty (cause) can lead to an unhealthy material obsession (money, clothes, shoes, cars) . Typically, these victims are not equipped with the knowledge to successfully manage what little money they have, and so they quickly find themselves trapped in a perpetual cycle of spend-broke-hustle-spend. Due to the psychological effects of poverty on the victim, the result is financial self-destruction.

Source: The percentage of people in deep poverty was 13.5 percent of all Blacks and 10.9 percent of all Hispanics, compared to 5.8 percent of Asians and 4.3 percent of Whites. While non-Hispanic Whites still constitute the largest single group of Americans living in poverty, ethnic minority groups are overrepresented (27.4 percent African American; 28.4 percent American Indian and Alaskan Native; 26.6 percent Hispanic, and 12.1 percent Asian and Pacific Islander compared with 9.9 percent non-Hispanic White).

These disparities are associated with the historical marginalization of ethnic minority groups and entrenched barriers to good education and jobs. – American Psychological Association and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 Study

Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder is the sum total of the emotional and psychological impact of our abduction and separation from Africa, slavery, Jim Crow, the crushing of the Black American Revolution (starting with the deportation of Marcus Garvey and ending with the destruction of the Black Panther Party), the Black indoctrination in a system of white values, beliefs and supremacy, and the establishment of an economic caste system.

These experiences have all created deep, intense feelings of fear, anger, and self-hatred amongst African-Americans, resulting in self destructive psychosis.

The suicidal, self-destructive nature that many Africans and African-Americans suffer from can be impossible to diagnose. Resistance and denial create within us powerful psychological barriers that block our ability to honestly assess our thinking errors. As you read this, ask yourself if you indeed are resisting truths that lay at your core. It is perfectly normal to resist looking within the dark shadows of your subconscious, but this must be done if we are to heal our collective self esteem and break the psychological chains that have been forged for us, and that keel us in bondage today.

Until we do so, all the gun programs, AIDS walks, Black conscious lectures, mass movements, and Stop The Violence concerts in the world will have a minimal effect.

Until we truly examine the causes and effects of PTSD, we as a community – and you as an individual – may be subconsciously programmed for racial, financial, physical, cultural, and psycho-sexual forms of self destruction.
the-dance

“The Pearl”

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The blessings of redeeming love our Savior compared to a precious pearl. He illustrated His lesson by the parable of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Christ Himself is the pearl of great price. In Him is gathered all the glory of the Father, the fullness of the Godhead. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. The glory of the attributes of God is expressed in His character. Every page of the Holy Scriptures shines with His light. The righteousness of Christ, as a pure, white pearl, has no defect, no stain. No work of man can improve the great and precious gift of God. It is without a flaw. In Christ are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2:3. He is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Cor. 1:30. All that can satisfy the needs and longings of the human soul, for this world and for the world to come, is found in Christ. Our Redeemer is the pearl so precious that in comparison all things else may be accounted loss.

Christ “came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” John 1:11. The light of God shone into the darkness of the world, and “the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:5. But not all were found indifferent to the gift of heaven. The merchantman in the parable represents a class who were sincerely desiring truth. In different nations there were earnest and thoughtful men who had sought in literature and science and the religions of the heathen world for that which they could receive as the soul’s treasure. Among the Jews there were those who were seeking for that which they had not. Dissatisfied with a formal religion, they longed for that which was spiritual and uplifting. Christ’s chosen disciples belonged to the latter class, Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch to the former. They had been longing and praying for light from heaven; and when Christ was revealed to them, they received Him with gladness.


In the parable the pearl is not represented as a gift. The merchantman bought it at the price of all that he had. Many question the meaning of this, since Christ is represented in the Scriptures as a gift. He is a gift, but only to those who give themselves, soul, body, and spirit, to Him without reserve. We are to give ourselves to Christ, to live a life of willing obedience to all His requirements. All that we are, all the talents and capabilities we possess, are the Lord’s, to be consecrated to His service. When we thus give ourselves wholly to Him, Christ, with all the treasures of heaven, gives Himself to us. We obtain the pearl of great price.

Salvation is a free gift, and yet it is to be bought and sold. In the market of which divine mercy has the management, the precious pearl is represented as being bought without money and without price. In this market all may

obtain the goods of heaven. The treasury of the jewels of truth is open to all. “Behold, I have set before thee an open door,” the Lord declares, “and no man can shut it.” No sword guards the way through this door. Voices from within and at the door say, Come. The Saviour’s voice earnestly and lovingly invites us: “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” Rev. 3:8, 18.

I Thank God For Freeing Me From Depression – Climbing Out of the Valley of Gloom

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Christ was continually receiving from the Father that He might communicate to us. “The word which ye hear,” He said, “is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me.” John 14:24. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” Matt. 20:28. Not for Himself, but for others, He lived and thought and prayed. From hours spent with God He came forth morning by morning, to bring the light of heaven to men. Daily He received a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit. In the early hours of the new day the Lord awakened Him from His slumbers, and His soul and His lips were anointed with grace, that He might impart to others. His words were given Him fresh from the heavenly courts, words that He might speak in season to the weary and oppressed. “The Lord God hath given Me,” He said, “the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned.” Isa. 50:4.

Matthew 26:36-46

The Message (MSG)
36-38 Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”
39 Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”
40-41 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”
42 He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.”
43-44 When he came back, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn’t keep their eyes open. This time he let them sleep on, and went back a third time to pray, going over the same ground one last time.
45-46 When he came back the next time, he said, “Are you going to sleep on and make a night of it? My time is up, the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s get going! My betrayer is here.”

Being confronted with life challenges in regards to an unforgiving nation and mistakes that try to plague my peace I suffer depression some days beyond measure. It is amazing how after God blesses us with a new day of new mercies and plenty of grace for the blessed day how we still get caught up in ourselves. I am at this moment thankful for His grace getting me to this portion of the closing hours of this day. I am dedicated to speak and write this post in hopes to sprinkle some hope and knowledge into someone else’s life. Be magnified my Lord through my hands tonight I pray In Jesus name.

I hope this doesn’t depress you but here are some interesting facts about depression:
o Nearly 19 million Americans or about 10 percent of the US populations age 18 or over will suffer some form of depression each year.
o Everyone will at some time in their life be affected by depression—either their own or someone else’s.
o PRESCHOOLERS are the fastest market for antidepressants! Over 1 million preschoolers are clinically depressed. The annual rate of increase for depression among children is 23%
o Depression results in more absenteeism than almost any other physical disorder and costs employers more than US$51 billion per year in absenteeism and lost productivity, not including high medical and pharmaceutical bills.
o Antidepressants work for 35 to 45% of the depressed population, while more recent figures suggest as low as 30%.
o Standard antidepressants, such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, have recently been revealed to have serious risks, and are linked to suicide, violence, psychosis, abnormal bleeding and brain tumors.
o Antidepressants medications work only as well (or less) than placebos.
Depression Facts and Stats By Bob Murray, PhD and Alicia Fortinberry, MS http://www.upliftprogram.com/depression_stats.html

ILLUSTRATION: The story is told how the great preacher and reformer Martin Luther once spent three days in a black depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day his wife brought him mourning clothes to put on.
“Who’s dead?” Luther asked her.
“God,” she replied.

Luther rebuked her, saying, “What do you mean, God is dead? God cannot die.”
“Well,” she replied, “the way you’ve been acting I was sure He had!”
How can we find freedom from depression? What does it take to climb out of the valley of gloom? This morning we are going to discover six practical steps we can take to find freedom from depression, and we are going to find these steps out of the valley of gloom in an unlikely place—the life of Jesus.
But first before we look at the six steps to finding freedom from depression, let’s start by looking at six general causes of depression-
I. Causes of Depression
1. PHYSICAL Many times our depression is the result of physical causes.
a) Sometimes we just get caught up in the maddening pace of life. Things that are supposed to make our lives easier sometimes only add to our ‘to do’ list, and when the computer or other gadgets don’t work like they are supposed to it just adds to our stress.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATION: Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 18-19 is an example of depression brought on by physical exhaustion. Elijah had won the battle with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Then when he was threatened by Jezebel, Elijah ran for his life over 100 miles from Jezreel to Beersheba. There Elijah sat down and just wanted to die; his prayer was simple; “Lord I’ve had enough, just kill me because I’m no better than my ancestors. What did Elijah need? Food and rest, God sent an angel to minister to Elijah and, then God took Elijah on a 40 day journey to Mount Sinai. When Elijah got there he again sat down depressed and full of self-pity, “Lord I’m the only one left who is faithful to you.” A major part of Elijah’s depression was brought on by physical causes. If you are familiar with Elijah’s story then you may recognize some other causes of his depression as we continue.

b) Illness can be another physical cause of depression. How often when we are sick do we find ourselves feeling depressed and wanting to isolate ourselves from others?
• Psalm 88:15, 18 (NIV)
From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair . . . You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.

c) Sometimes we make the mistake of searching for an emotional or spiritual cause for our depression. What we may need to do is first look for a physical cause. Are we just exhausted? Are we eating right? Are we getting some exercise? If we take the necessary steps needed to keep our bodies physically healthy we may also alleviate our depression as well.

2. SENSE OF LOSS Depression can also be cause by a sense of loss.
a) The aging process can bring both physical pains and a sense of loss for the missed opportunities and regrets that can flood your mind. By just about anyone’s standards Solomon had it made; he had everything. Yet as he closes the book of Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 we find venting some of his depression caused by his sense of loss as he reflected upon his life. “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

ILLUSTRATION: As I stopped to think about this message and my life I realized that I have been depressed off and on for the last year and it all started with my sense of loss as a dad with Audrey passing on and taking the great sleep; daddy missed his little girl. But my loss was magnified because as a aspiring pastor I also lost her giftedness and ability as a pianist and worship leader—does anyone remember those first months worshiping with CD’s as the new worship team was being developed?

I also lost a great secretary. This loss brought on a lingering depression that caused me to have days that I was lethargic and unmotivated to do anything; like Elijah I just wanted to quit. Now there were other causes for my depression; some of it was physical. I had times when I was doing too much and was not getting enough rest. Some of my depression was a result of a spiritual battle. Pastors are sometimes like the kid in grade school with the kick me sign on his/her back, and the devil loves to kick at us in lots of different ways.

b) Loss comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes and happens in lots of different ways. My loss seems rather small compared to those experienced by others.
o a mother and father who lost a child to cancer, as I did
o the husband who stands at the grave of his wife having been killed by a unknown sickness as I was
o the employee who is let go due to downsizing just months before his retirement
o the husband or wife who just found out their spouse has been having an affair
o the individual looking at a pile of bills with an empty checkbook
o the empty nest when the last child leaves home.

c) The list of losses goes on and on. Whether big or small in comparison to what others may have lost your loss is personal and causes you pain. What loss have you experienced that may be causing you to be depressed? Maybe your loss isn’t even tangible; maybe it’s just the loss of a dream.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATION: Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, is grieved by the loss of Israel’s homeland through their captivity and exile into the nation of Babylon. Jeremiah’s overwhelming depression, sadness and tears are poured out in the book of Lamentations. The book has 5 chapters; the first two and the last two all have 22 verses. The Hebrew alphabet also has 22 letters and each verse of these opening and closing chapters of Lamentations begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 3 of Lamentations is 66 verses long and Jeremiah repeats his alphabetical pattern 3 times in this middle chapter. So all together Jeremiah goes through the Hebrew alphabet seven times! It is Jeremiah’s way of mourning his loss—from A to Z—over and over again.

3. ENVIRONMENT AND CIRCUMSTANCES Your environment and circumstances can be another cause of depression.
a) Some people have a hard time living with clutter; they would sometimes find themselves being depressed living at our house. My wife says the whole house feels different if the bed gets made! At those times when the clutter is piling up we will sometimes have a 10 minute clean up (it’s really amazing how much you can get done when 7 people go to work for 10 minutes putting things away). When we are all done the house looks and feels better.

b) Job is an example of how depression can overwhelm us because of our environment and circumstances. In a single day his 10 children are killed in a terrible accident and all of his wealth is taken away from him. Then the next day Job gets sick; he develops boils on his skin that he scrapes with broken pottery. His wife tells him to curse God and die, and his three friends and a smart-mouthed youngster have nothing but bad things to say about him. It’s no wonder that Job says, “Why did I not perish at birth and die as I cam from the womb?” (Job 3:11 EMTV)

4. POOR SELF CONCEPT Another common cause of depression is having a poor self concept.
a) Some people suffer from stink’n think’n! They are unhappy about everything, but if you can get them to be honest for just a minute they are probably most unhappy with themselves; they have a poor self concept or self esteem.
b) A healthy self concept is made up of three things:

o Your sense of IDENTITY. We are satisfied with who we are as a person.
o Your sense of WORTH. Without being boastful or proud we know that we are valuable to God and other people.
o Your sense of COMPETENCE. We have the self confidence to know we can succeed and do what is asked of us.

c) Many people struggle with one or more of these aspects of self esteem. They may be somewhat satisfied with their identity as an individual, but lack any sense of worth or confidence. Some people have competence but lack worth or identity because they have associated this with their job and the things they can do, but are not happy with that.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATION: Naomi is a perfect example of how a poor self concept breeds depression. In the opening chapter of Ruth, Naomi gives up on life and on God. Her identity was stripped from her through the loss of her husbands and sons. She feels utterly worthless and feels helpless to do anything to make things better. When Naomi returns home to Bethlehem she asks her relatives and friends to start calling her MARA (bitter) instead of Naomi (pleasant, lovely, delightful). (Ruth 1:20)
d) Maybe you would like to change your name too. Perhaps you would like to be known as Brother (or Sister) Bitter. Life has thrown you a curve ball and you no longer feel that you are worth anything. Such a perspective is a breeding ground for depression.
5. SPIRITUAL FAILURE Sin or spiritual failure can make us depressed.
a) Another name for this kind of depression is guilt. As we saw last week the depression associated with guilt can be good when it is caused by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I failed to mention last week that some people never sense a freedom from sin because they have never let themselves grieve over their sin with a godly sorrow. Such godly sorrow or depression leads to repentance that brings God’s forgivingness and a renewal of joy. Unfortunately, too may of us run from anything that feels bad and we never grieve over our sin.
b) Remember what David said in Psalm 32 that describes the depth of his depression brought on by his sin with Bathsheba?
• Psalm 32:3-4 (MsgB)
[3] When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. [4] The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.
c) If your depression is brought on by lingering guilt then you need to get a copy of last week’s sermon Freedom From Guilt. Don’t let your guilt drive a wedge between you and God; that’s Satan’s purpose for guilt to separate you from God. Run to God and find freedom from your guilt and the depression that comes with it.
6. SPIRITUAL WARFARE Perhaps the most overlooked cause of depression is spiritual warfare.

ILLUSTRATION: Personally I know that the greatest cause of the depression that I have battled over the last year has been a direct result of spiritual warfare. As a fallen minister of the faith I am plagued by not being good enough. Therefore, Satan continues to try to pick me off as contender of the faith. There have been many times that I have wanted to quit in the last year, but I stuck it out. (I’ve learned that as a minister you never resign on a Monday or in the summer because those are times the enemy will beat you down the most.) I’m thankful that God has used many of you to pray for me—even when I didn’t know it. God has heard your prayers and is helping me to overcome the depression Satan has tried to use to cripple me. I’m not going to let the devil win! How many of you would like to help me make this year even better than last year? Let’s take it to the devil this fall and see God do even greater things in and through our church. Let’s not give up.

a) Many doctors and psychologists won’t think of spiritual warfare as a cause for your depression. However I’m here to tell you that spiritual warfare may be the primary cause of your depression. It is not the only cause; Satan will use these other causes to try to beat you down. However, when we know the cause of our depression and recognize how the devil will try to use these things against us, then God can give us wisdom to know how to break free from depression. God want to show us how to climb out of the Valley of Gloom.

b) We discover freedom from depression by learning to follow the footsteps and example of Jesus. Some of you might say, “But Jesus was never depressed!” In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was engaged in perhaps His greatest spiritual battles with Satan. Jesus’ struggle with the devil in Gethsemane was greater than His temptation following the forty days in the wilderness. This was the deciding moment for Jesus. Would he be obedient to the will of the Father and go to the cross or would Jesus try to find a way to escape death? In His struggle Jesus was depressed.
• Mark 14:33 (NIV)
He [Jesus] began to be deeply distressed and troubled.
He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. (The Message)
Jesus began to be horror-stricken and desperately depressed. (JB Phillips)
• Matthew 26:37 (Dar)
He began to be sorrowful and deeply depressed.
c) In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus not only battled depression, but He also shows us how to climb out of the Valley of Gloom. Jesus show us how we can be free from depression.
II. Jesus’ path to freedom from depression. Six steps to climb out of the Valley of Gloom.
1. Jesus did not isolate Himself.
• Matthew 26:36-37 (NIV)

[36] Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane . . . [37] He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
a) Jesus did not try to win His battle with depression all by Himself. Jesus let others in on the sorrow and grief that filled His heart that night. Jesus surrounded Himself with friends.
b) How often do we do the exact opposite? Too often Christians are imprisoned by themselves because they believe the lie that their depression should be kept as a secret—a deep dark shameful secret that we hide from everyone. When we get depressed we isolate ourselves from other people and try to ‘pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.’

• Galatians 6:2 (NLT)
Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
c) Paul’s primary focus was for us to reach out to others and help them in their time of need, but there is a flip side to this verse. Those in need must be willing to share their pain with others! We are not encouraged to go it alone or to be strong and make it in our own strength. We are to join hands with a friend and share our difficulties with each other.
d) Jesus was open and honest about the trial He was facing; He did not let His depression isolate Him from others. Will we follow His example and not isolate ourselves from others? Sharing our depression with someone else is the first step out of the Valley of Gloom.

2. Jesus did not put on a mask and pretend everything was okay.
• Matthew 26:38 (NIV)
Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

a) Jesus not only was with His disciples, but He let them in on the struggle He was going through. Jesus avoided the temptation to put on a mask and say, “I’m the Son of God. I can’t let anyone know I’m hurting because they all look up to me. The disciples just can’t know the truth.”
b) Jesus didn’t just put on a happy face. He did not say He was fine when His heart was being broken in two. Jesus simply shared with His disciples His need.
c) Notice too that Jesus didn’t just tell everyone about His need. Jesus used wisdom about who He shared His need with. Jesus asked His disciples to pray, but then He pulled Peter, James and John aside and shared more openly with them. It was Peter James and John who went with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and saw Jesus in all of His glory and heard the voice of the Father say, “This is my Son; listen to Him.” Now Peter, James and John are the ones brought into Jesus’ Valley of Gloom. It was the disciples who knew Jesus best that He shared more of the details of His depression and the hardship He faced there in Gethsemane.
d) Use wisdom as you share your depression and heartache with others. That doesn’t mean you put on a mask and tell folks who don’t know you as well that you are just fine. Ask them to pray for you; tell them you are in need of God’s strength. But find a trusted friend that you can be open with who will really pray with you about your need.

3. Jesus prayed and was honest with God.

• Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

a) Jesus told the Father about His heartache. Understand that Jesus did not come to God with just a two sentence prayer. Jesus spent an hour in prayer pouring out His heart to God. Jesus didn’t hid anything from the Father; instead Jesus was honest and let the Father know exactly what caused His heart to be heavy.
b) I am amazed how some Christians want to try to keep a secret from God! They go through the motions of a worship service, singing songs, offering up lukewarm prayers, and sleeping through a sermon, only to leave with the same problems and difficulties that they came to church with. And their personal prayer closet is no different; if they even bother to take time to pray at all. Be honest with God

• Psalm 51:16-17 (MsgB)
[16] Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. [17] I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

• Psalm 18:6 (NIV)
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
c) Jesus showed us how to climb out of the Valley of Gloom by [1] not isolating himself from others; [2] by resisting the temptation to put on a mask, [3] by being honest with the Father in prayer and,

4. Jesus did not get trapped by bitterness or blame.

• Matthew 26:40-41 (NIV)
[40] Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. [41] “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

• Matthew 26:43-44 (NIV)

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. [44] So he left them . . .
a) The failure of His closest friends to stay away and pray with Him did not keep Jesus from climbing out of the Valley of Gloom. Jesus did not become bitter with His disciples; He didn’t hold a grudge or push them away. Jesus let them sleep and He continued to pray! He not only continued to pray about His need for strength, but He also prayed for His disciples. John 17 is Jesus longest recorded prayer; it is filled with His desire for His disciples and it is prayed in the midst of Jesus depression and sorrow. Jesus didn’t blame the disciples for His problems. Instead He prayed that God would help them!

Lets come together on this attack of our family and body of believers and stand in the gap for them in prayer. I made it this far by the prayers of church family and friends. I made it by the grace of God and you can too. I know there is someone reading this and going through some trial that makes you say I give up, but stand my friend and see the salvation of the Lord. You are at the breaking point of it all being over. Just when you give in your change is just as close. Have faith my friend until your faith has faith and materialized into your purpose. Your circumstance isn’t beyond our God’s abilities.

Be Happy About Where You Are Going And What It Will Take To Get There!!!

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Most people don’t enjoy life; they just endure it.
• They think that life must be perfect for them to be happy.
• So they are always looking for a change for the better. If I could just change my situation life would be great. If I could just get rid of all my problems, life would be fine.
• But there’s no such thing as a problem free life.

If you’re going to learn to be happy, joyful, you must learn to be joyful in the situation, in the problems, in the very experiences of life.
• “Happiness” comes from the root word that we get “happening”, from the circumstances.
• Joy is internal. Happiness is external. You have a happy time at Disneyland, you leave and you lose your happiness. Joy can be constant.
• How do you have joy in spite of what is going on in your life?

We are going to learn from Paul. From this passage (that he wrote to believers in Philippi), he seemed positive and happy with his lot, despite being locked up in prison and facing an uncertain future.
• The last 4 years of Paul’s life were miserable. He spent 2 years in prison in Caesarea, and then he was put on a ship to go to Rome to appear before Nero (known for his cruelty against Christians).
• On the way he’s shipwrecked, stranded on an island, bitten by a poisonous snake, survived the winter there, continued on to Rome and spent another 2 years in prison awaiting trial to be executed.
• During this 2 year period in Rome he is chained to a guard for 24 hours a day. He has absolutely no privacy. Every four hours he gets a new guard.

Yet in spite of all of these situations, Paul says in Phil. 1:18b “…I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”
• What’s Paul’s secret? How does he stay so positive in prison, riding above his troubles, and being joyful in spite of the fact that everything has not turned out the way he planned it.
• His words here reveal FOUR ESSENTIALS for a joyful life:

(1) I NEED A PERSPECTIVE TO LIVE FROM

Every one has problems. When you step in today, you just brought them in here with you.
• Your problems are not so important as how you are looking at those problems.
• The way you look at that problem is much more important than the problem.
• Your perspective makes the difference.

1:12 “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
• I can see the best even in the worst. I can see God at work in the problems even when they don’t go my way. If you really believe God is sovereign, you’ve got to believe this.
• This is almost an identical echo of Joseph’s words to his brothers, who sold him to Egypt.
• Gen 50:19-20 Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

1:13 “As a result it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”
• Paul had always wanted to go to Rome. He meant to have a crusade.
• Instead, God put him in prison where he would write the New Testament. He was chained to the palace guard – the elite troops of the Roman Empire. He was able to influence lives from within the palace.
• And outside, things were moving. 1:14 “Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

Amazing, everything that is considered bad (from the human perspective) and turned out to be good (in God’s perspective)!
• This is the attitude we must adopt. This is the perspective you need to live from, if you are going to have joy in your life.
• Roman 8:28 sums up this principle: “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him…”
• LESSON: God has a purpose behind every one of my problems. Get this and let joy fills your heart.

A mother was doing embroidering and her little boy comes by her side. He looked up from the floor and asked what she was doing. She informed him that she was making a beautiful flower. “It looked like a mess to me,” he said. Looking from the underside, that what you’d see. Everything looked so jumbled up with loose thread here and there.
The mom says, “Son, go a play for a while, and when I’m finished, I will let you see it from my side.”
Finally the boy saw it – from the right side – and he saw a beautiful flower by a sunset. He could not believe it, because from underneath it looked so messy.
God has a design. We cannot fully see everything in its beauty from this side of heaven. But one day we will, when we see it from His perspective.

(2) I NEED A PRIORITY TO LIVE BY

When things get tough, I need to be clear what is really important and what is not.
I want to distinguish the trivial from the significant.
• It’s like the famous Bible commentator Matthew Henry, who said after he was robbed, “Thank God, though they took my money, they did not take my life!”
• You can live your life bored down by trivial matters (usually the problems), or be driven by the significant things of life (the matters of great priority).
• Either you decide what’s important in your life or you let other people decide what’s important.
• If you don’t choose your priorities, you’ll go around putting out one fire after another, living your life simply from problem to problem, to problem and not choosing what’s important.

Look at 1:15-17. Paul says there are “competitors” outside criticizing him and attacking his ministry.
• They are doing it out of envy and rivalry, out of selfish ambition, wanting to stir up trouble for me.
• If you want something to steal your joy quicker than anything else, just listen to all the criticism people are throwing up against you.

1:18 “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

Paul says he is not going to let anyone steal his joy; not circumstances nor critics.
• He said their motives may be wrong, their style may be wrong, but if the message is getting out, so what?
• 1:18 “But what does it matter?” This is the only question in this whole book. It is a question of priority. We do not want to major on the minor. Some things are just not worth quarrelling about or losing sleep over. There’ll be differences but so let them be.
• Paul had set his priorities clear, and will not let criticisms or rivalry steal his joy.

Learn this, don’t let petty things ruin your day and rob you of joy. It’s not worth it. Don’t have to lose sleep over them.
• Differences will always exist. LESSON: Don’t major on the minor things of life. Let them go.
• Focus on what really counts. Know what is important.

(3) I NEED A POWER TO LIVE ON

I need strength to make it and to keep on going.
• Problems can wear you out, and drain you completely. One crisis after another can really cripple you, if you have no outside help.
• You need a fresh power supply.

1:19-20 “I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body…”

Paul says I have two things that give me strength and kept me going in this harsh environment: (1) The prayers of the people; and (2) the help of the Holy Spirit.

He says he eagerly expect and hope that he will have sufficient courage to face the challenges.
• Circle the words “expect and hope”. That’s where he has placed his expectation and hope – in God!
• You can’t live without hope. But you can pin your hope in people or circumstances. Both will change. We need God’s help.

During the American Revolution, when the Army had experienced several setbacks, a farmer who lived near the battlefield approached General Washington’s camp unheard. Suddenly his ears caught an earnest voice raised in agonizing prayer. On coming nearer he saw it was the great General, down on his knees in the snow, his cheeks wet with tears. He was asking God for assistance and guidance.
The farmer crept away and returned home. He said to his family, “It’s going to be all right. We are going to win!”
“What makes you think so?” his wife asked.
“Well,” said the farmer, “I heard General Washington pray such passionate prayer I have never heard before. And God will surely hear and answer that kind of praying.”
The farmer was right! It happened because man is willing to put his hope in God.

• Paul says later in Phil 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
• LESSON: Pray and pin your hope in God!

To sum up so far, we need (1) to see things from God’s perspective, (2) major on the important things in life, and not let the trivial things rob us of joy and focus, and (3) lean on God’s strength through prayers. And finally:

(4) I NEED A PURPOSE TO LIVE FOR

1:21 “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
• This is Paul’s purpose of living. He lives to preach the Gospel. This goal provides him the fulfillment of life. He is a happy man because he is fully satisfied with what he is doing.
• You may be able to take away his freedom, his privacy, his comfort, his fellowship with Christians, or everything else, but you cannot take away the joy of doing God’s will.
• Not even the joy of ‘leaving this world and my number one partner and returning home to be with the Lord.

To die is a gain. It’s a blessing. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (v.23). That’s the ultimate fulfillment for every Christian.

Phil 1:22-26 “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.”

Even if he stays, it would be for the sake of the believers – for your progress and joy.
• This is Paul’s purpose of living. It is for the sake of others.
• The best use of your life is to invest it in something that will outlast it. How? Invest in His church, the Body of Christ. The things you do for one another, for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, will be remembered.

The director of the Institute of Child Behavior Research, Bernard Rimland, did a study about happiness.
Each person involved in the study was asked to list 10 people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness – a stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare – an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others.
In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those “whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness… are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy.” The research concludes, “The happiest people are those who help others.”

This is the secret of joy – J O Y – Jesus first, Others second and Yourself third.
• The reason why there is so much unhappiness and discouragement in our society is because we’ve reversed that order to me first, others second and God last (or not even recognized).
• It is a preoccupation with self. What’s best for me? What will make me happy? The ME generation.
• No wonder there is little joy in our society today, but many heartaches and pain.

When you learn to have a greater purpose in your life than just yourself, you will experience joy more than you ever imagine.

There is no such thing as problem-free living.
• When you live by these biblical principles, then problems just aren’t as significant. So what if things haven’t worked out as I’ve planned, God has a purpose that is bigger than my problems.
• God wants you to enjoy the rest of your life. But we need to do it His way.

LET’S PRAY.
(1) Are you looking at the problem from God’s viewpoint or just your own? God has a purpose behind every problem. You need to pray, “Lord, help me to see this problem from Your viewpoint.”
(2) You need a priority to live by. Have you settled the issue of what is really important in your life? Ask God for the wisdom to distinguish what is significant and what is not. Focus on what is important.
(3) You need a power to live on. Have you been trying to solve your own problems? God says, relax. You are carrying a burden that was never intended for you to carry. Come to God and give it all to Him, and ask Him to recharge you – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
(4) You need a purpose to live for. Everybody wants to live a long time, but why? Life is not judged by its duration. We want to invest in things significant and eternal. Whose lives have you invested in and whose lives do you want to invest in, in the coming days?

Can you say, “For me to live is Christ!”

Do We Know What These Signs Mean For The End?

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A Global Warning

From director Davis Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Truth is a passionate and inspirational look at former Vice President Al Gore’s fervent crusade to halt global warming’s deadly progress by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it. In this intimate portrait of Gore and his “travelling global warming show,” Gore comes across as never before in the media – funny, engaging, open and intent on alerting citizens to this “planetary emergency” before it’s too late.

Interspersed with the bracing facts and future predictions is the story of Gore’s personal journey: from an idealistic college student who first saw a massive environmental crisis looming; to a young Senator facing a harrowing family tragedy that altered his perspective; to the man who almost became President but instead returned to the most important cause of his life. With an emphasis on hope, An Inconvenient Truth ultimately shows us that global warming is no longer a political issue but rather, the biggest moral challenge facing our civilization today.

After having its U.S. debut at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and international premiere at Cannes, An Inconvenient Truth opened to rave reviews and enthusiastic audiences everywhere. A smash hit, the film went on to win Academy Awards® for Best Documentary feature and Best Song. It also became a global phenomenon, one of the highest grossing documentaries of all time with a worldwide audience estimated at 5 million people.

The Impact

The impact of An Inconvenient Truth is unprecedented. Since its release in 2005, the film has helped to galvanize governments, leaders, organizations and individuals worldwide to take action on global warming. More than a billion people are now aware of the issue and have been motivated to act.

Learn more about some of these historic developments:
•Over 106,000 tons of carbon were offset in the year following the film’s release, which is equivalent to 225 million car miles.
•4200+ tons of carbon were offset just by people switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
•Over 15 climate change bills have been introduced in Congress, with the historic Markey-Waxman Bill passing the House in June, 2009.
•Five countries – England, Scotland, Czech Republic, New Zealand, and Germany – and the Canadian province of British Columbia incorporated An Inconvenient Truth into their secondary schools’ curricula.
•President Obama created the new position of Assistant to the President for Climate and Energy.
•The United States House of Representatives established a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
•The U.S. Senate established a Select Committee On Energy Independence and Global Warming.
•Over 2600 people have been trained to give The Climate Project presentation and 4 million people on all seven continents have heard the presentation.
•The issue of global warming reached more than a billion people worldwide.
•Changed public perception: 33% of people surveyed before the film’s release believed global warming is real versus 85% after the film’s release (that figure has since declined).

The present world as we watch it is undergoing shakings. Governments who are previously unmovable were trembling. Kings and Rulers who are untouchable in the past are being removed from their glorious palaces. Aside from unrest from different parts of the world, earthquakes and Tsunamis are getting stronger. It is time to read the signs of the time and check the historical map. Where are we, according to God’s master plan?

Shaking of the earth is not something that a bible reader should be surprised with. The bible recorded that it had already happened and predicted that it will happen again.

Hebrew 12:26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.”

Hebrew 12:27 This means that the things on earth will be shaken, so that only eternal things will be left.

Hebrew 12:28 Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.

Hebrew 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Paul, the Author of the book of Hebrew summarized the above text from the book of Haggai Chapter 2:6-7.

The same book added the following prophecy in preparation for the glorious temple and heavenly kingdom:

“I will overthrow royal thrones, destroying the power of foreign kingdoms. I will overturn their chariots and charioteers. The horses will fall, and their riders will kill each other.” Hag 2:22

Tonight as I write these thoughts, the 30 year regime of Egypt ruler fall and the heat of revolution are spreading to other countries in the Middle East.

The world as it has been shaken once again reminds us of three fundamental truths. And we must heed the divine call less we also be stumbled and shaken.

I. THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT MAY SLIP AWAY

Hebrew 12:26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.”

Lesson 1: No government or a person no matter how powerful they are has the power to remain. The world is changing as it revolves.

The shaking of the world power is not new to history. Daniel chapter two dramatically described it in prophetic way through the dream of the Babylonian king and through it the future transitions of the world powers were revealed.

1. The transition of the world powers explained: Daniel 2: 36-44

You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue– an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing-floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. Dan 2:31-35

1. The Babylonian Empire by Nebuchadnezzar -The head of Gold
2. The Medo-Persian Empire: by Darius & Cyrus -The arm of Silver
3. The Grecian Empire by Alexader D’ Great -The belly and thighs of bronze
4. The Roman Empire by Caesars -Legs of iron and clay

2. The coming of the Kingdom of Christ the Rock foretold:

Dan 2:44 In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure for ever.

3. Jesus confirmed the Rock which is our Corners Stone:

Mat 21:42 Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ’The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous to see.’
Mat 21:44 Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

This present world and government will someday pass away. We have to put our hope and trust to someone who will remain forever. We should build our foundation of Jesus because he is the Rock of our salvation. We should build our foundation on Jesus the Chief corner stone.

Let us put our trust on the one who said: “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever.” Mat 24:35

Why? Because: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Heb 13:8

TO HAVE JESUS MEANS VICTORIOUS LIFE!

• Kings and rulers may come and go but Jesus will remain the same
• Friends and family may leave us but Jesus will never forsake us
• Wealth and fame may be temporary but Jesus is forever
• Position and power may slip from our hands but no one can snatch us from God’s hand
• Beauty and looks may fade away but those who are in Jesus will keep the beauty of the heart forever.
• World powers may conquer one another but we are more than conqueror in Christ
• The world may persecute us, detain us or even kill us, but no one can imprison or kill our spirit because we have freedom in Christ and we will emerge victorious in the end with Christ.

II. LIFE AND ITS CONTENTS MAY COME TO AN END

Heb 12:27 This means that the things on earth will be shaken, so that only eternal things will be left.

Lesson 2: Life on Earth is temporary so we must not live for Earth but for heaven.

A well known author started a book by asking: What on Earth am I here for? If life is temporary and we are all passers by, why are we so concerned about this world rather than preparing for something that will be eternal?

Shaking is not happening in the government and system only. But most importantly, it is happening to us as individual. It has many faces and forms:

• There are shaking in our relationship with God
• There are shaking in our faith
• There are shaking in our church
• There are shaking in our job and business
• There are shaking in our character
• There are shaking in our Christian life

Many times it has been said. The purpose of God is not for our comfort on this Earth but character development. This explains the shakings that is happening in our own life.

• This explain the injustices and harassment
• This explain the poverty
• This explain the problems
• This explain the sickness and bad health
• This explain the questions that we encounter everyday
• This explain the hurt and heart aches
• This explain the hot of the days and the cold of the nights
• This explain the bad guys

not comfortable here because we are not of this world. As Christians and Children of God, Our citizenship is in heaven. We are only under training here for character development.

III. RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD IS THE ONLY THING THAT WILL REMAIN FOREVER

Heb 12:28 Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.

Heb 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Lesson 3: Relationship with God is the only thing that we can keep forever.

In life we always have choices:
• The temporal things of this world or the eternal life with God?
• The luxury of this life or the joy of heaven with God?
• The praise of men or the approval of God?
• The acceptance of people or the presence of God
• The court with the kings and rulers or the sanctuary of God?
• The safety of your body or the salvation of your soul?

Mat 16:26 And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?

All things may pass away; the world as we know it may be uprooted; life as we experience it may come to an end; but one thing stands eternally sure–the relationship of the Christian to God.

If you want to have a closer relationship with Jesus, you can pray this prayer and make this your own:

Dear God,

I am now convinced that I cannot manage my own life without you. I am now inviting Jesus to come into my heart today and be the King and Lord of my life from this time on. I surrender my life to you today and I accept you as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

A Chinese Firm Plans to Buy the Largest U.S. Pork Producer. Should You Be Worried?

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On December 8, the House of Representatives passed the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act which is the vehicle for Fiscal Year 2011 continuing appropriations and food safety legislation. This legislation puts the federal government and the World Trade Organization in control the nation’s food supply from growing your own food to selling or trading it among neighbors or friends to roadside stands to large processing plants that import or export food. This bill establishes a “Surveillance System” that can spy on farmers, gives the government authority to collect fees and requires reports from those growing food. This is essentially a food IRS putting the government between citizens and their ability to survive.

Sold as a mandate to protect the food supply from contamination, the bill contains in it the language which passed the Senate on November 30 by a 73-25 margin. It will be sent back to the Senate for approval because all appropriations bills must originate in the House. This is a lame duck tyrannical power grab by the very people Americans voted out of office on November 2. These people at the very least should be charged with high crimes and misdemeanors and tried for their insidious attempt to exercise federal and international control over the food supply of this nation. It is written as a measure of protection for the people, but language is open to absolute federal and international authority over the food supply.

Many wonder how Americans could be forced to take the mark of the beast as described in Revelation 13:16-17,

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

This legislation sets the stage for the Revelation prophecy to be carried out legally in the United States. There will now be a system established that could incentivize turning in you neighbor for growing food, allows international authority over your land, and provides a fee system that can increase food costs at will.
chinesepork
The CEO of Smithfield Foods says, ‘There will be no impact on how we do business.’

News that the largest pork processor in China, Shuanghui International, would be purchasing American-based Smithfield Foods for $4.7 billion ricocheted among the food and business communities this morning.

According to The Washington Post, it “represents not only the biggest such takeover of an American company by a Chinese firm, but the first of a major U.S. consumer brand.” It also provides Smithfield, the world’s largest hog producer, with a very desirable entryway into China’s vast, pork-hungry market.

The steady stream of news about tainted food scandals in China, which range from melamine in milk to more recent examples, like 16,000 dead pigs being dumped in Chinese river, has some worried unsafe practices will be adopted stateside. Indeed, concerns about Shuanghui are valid. The New York Times reports that Shuanghui was “at the center of a meat scandal after some of its farms were found to have fed a chemical [Clenbuterol] harmful to humans to livestock.”

Smithfield CEO Larry Pope dismisses such food-safety concerns, emphasizing this deal is about American-raised pork products being exported to China—not the other way around.

“There will be no impact on how we do business in America and around the world,” Pope said in a conference call. “This is America exporting to the world.”

The company provided the same reassurance to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which has worked closely with Smithfield and its customers—including McDonald’s, Burger King, Costco, and Johnsonville Sausage (which announced its commitment this morning) to eliminate the use of gestation crates in hog production. Smithfield brings 15.8 million hogs to market each year.

“Smithfield has notified HSUS that their gestation crate policy—which is worldwide—is intact,” Josh Balk, director of corporate policy and supply chain strategy at HSUS, tells TakePart.

“As bad as the pork industry is in the U.S. for animal welfare, it’s even worse in China. Our hope is that Smithfield, which has the most progressive animal welfare policy of any of the large-scale producers, will translate into an increase of animal welfare within China,” he says.

Animal welfare, of course, is only one element of large-scale animal production. Continued use of low-dose antibiotics and controversial drugs like ractopamine administered through the animal feed have been on the radar of consumers, environmental groups and foreign governments that may prohibit certain drugs used in hog production. China and Russia both ban the use of ractopamine, which is used to promote lean muscle, though it is not prohibited here in the U.S. As recently as two weeks ago, Smithfield announced they would raise half their hogs on feed free of ractopamine.

Rising feed costs also continue to impact Smithfield’s bottom line. At the Fortune Brainstorm Green event earlier this month, Smithfield’s Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer Dennis Treacy said the company is concerned with the U.S.’s ethanol policy; corn makes up 70 to 80 percent of Smithfield hogs’ diets.

“We’re losing money on our hog operations at times, depending on the price of corn. Before ethanol, corn was $2-3 a bushel. Then it went to $8. Now it’s just below $6. But even at $6, it’s doubled and has a dramatic impact on us, which is why we’re looking more closely at sorghum and wheat,” said Treacy.

Even with these important hurdles, the move by the Chinese company makes sense.

“With China’s enormous population and appetite, it imports a dramatic amount of food from the U.S., partly because of food-safety concerns,” he said.
Here is a comment from a upset consumer:

This article is ridiculous. Smithfield is the corporation with unsafe practices. Screw China, SMITHFEILD is horrible. They use drugs they aren’t supposed to, practices they shouldn’t, and pay off congress to write bills that allow them to do things the American public is shocked by, in those rare cases they actually find out. You should do more research, and make this article about Smithfield and not their by out. Do the US a favor and use this moment to shine a light on what’s really happening in its own backyard when it comes to animal cruelty, chemical and antibiotic use, wasting life by killing millions of live chickens because they’re the wrong sex or grinding up the remains of animals and putting it into the feed of its friends to gain profitably fatter animals. Not to mention genetically modified foods that are soaked in deadly poisons and then fed to these animals, which are then fed to us. Please! Do more research and do another article! I’ll find what I can again and post it to you to help you start your search.

And yet another reply to this ad:

I’m sorry, but I’m not shooting the messenger, I suggested they write another article in order to let people know what is happening. This article is pushing what Smithfield wants – for people to believe that they are the good guys and that people should trust them. This doesn’t warn people about the cancer that these chemicals are giving people, or the inhumane practices of animal husbandry, or the fact that they are lining the pockets of congresspersons in order to have laws written that protect their business practices over the safety of the American people. It’s just passing on the statement’s made by Smithfield without any take on it whatsoever, which is the exact same thing as passing on Smithfield’s messages and pandering for them. You say people will know soon enough – well anyone reading this article, on this page, now knows a whole lot more. And just for more information for you, and others to look into: It doesn’t mean vegetarianism for people who do not feel that’s right for their health or lives. There are many other options. Local farmers all around the US are working hard to move their business into the standards we hope to become law one day. Buying All Natural meat is a start, and buying meat that’s Organic is the goal, though hard to find. Animals that have been husbanded properly (fresh air, open space, and real human care) that have been fed organic feed, it’s happening all over, you just have to expect to pay more and search a little. Your local farmer’s market is start, and places like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, etc. Also, looking for grocers and restaurants that obtain their products from the Niman Ranch, which is a company comprised of smaller farmers living up to these standards that use the company Niman Ranch to get their natural and organic products out to retailers easier. And you seem to think that saying what’s being used is the same thing as warning people, to which I would like to ask if you see a difference between these two things: “Amy, I just wanted to let you know there’s a guy headed your way.” and, “Amy, look out! That guy is coming after you full speed with a lead pipe in his hand!!!!”


With all the prophesies unfolding in our span of time I am convinced that our redemption draws nigh. Food, water contaminations, droughts and plagues and wars. Before you read on, please note this important point. In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks of wars, earthquakes and such things, but says these are just the “beginning of sorrows” and “the end is not yet”. Now that word “sorrows” in the original language meant “birth pangs”, the pain in childbirth. Now birth pangs speak of frequency and intensity. And as a woman gets nearer the birth, the “pangs” become more frequent and intense. This is true also for the signs of the end times. These signs began not long after Jesus’ day, and as Jesus quoted, the end would not yet be, because this was just the beginning of sorrows. But throughout history we have seen the “pangs” (signs) become more frequent and intense, culminating in the day we live in now where the pangs are so frequent and intense that we must be right at the time of “delivery”, when Jesus is about to return. So don’t let anyone fool you into believing that the signs today are just the beginning of sorrows and the end is not yet.

“The beginning of sorrows” started nearly 2000 years ago with the persecution of the early church and the destruction of Jerusalem. We are living at the end of time.
End Time Sign – MASS ANIMAL DEATHS
dead-fish
Hosea 4:3 …’Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.’

This one has become a fairly recent phenomenon. During the last few years we have seen fish, birds and other animals die in huge numbers. Since 2010, millions of fish have been turning up dead in lakes, rivers and the sea, with this deadly red tide partly to blame. Also, Birds have been dropping out of the sky in huge numbers. And we are seeing other unusual animal deaths all around the world. Including Bees and Bats dying in their millions.

Speaking of the mass fish deaths in America, Mark Flammang, a fisheries biologist said … “It’s something I’ve never seen in my career, and I’ve been here for more than 17 years.” (source)

The Honey Bee crisis deepens as evidence shows there has been a dramatic increase in die offs .. up to 50 percent of Bees are dying now, creating worry over food supply. (source)

The book of Hosea not only applied to the nation of Israel. It also applies to our day and contains prophecies concerning the state of the world we live in today. So is this text from Hosea fulfilled in our day? Is it a sign of the end times? Yes!

Many wonder how Americans could be forced to take the mark of the beast as described in Revelation 13:16-17,

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

This legislation sets the stage for the Revelation prophecy to be carried out legally in the United States. There will now be a system established that could incentivize turning in you neighbor for growing food, allows international authority over your land, and provides a fee system that can increase food costs at will.

Revelation 14:9-11 says,

“If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.”

No matter how hungry you are remember the promise of Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:31 and 33,

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink?, or wherewithal shall we be clothed?…But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Pressing Into The Spirit to Use My Gifts For God

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I want to take this opportunity to thank wordpress for making it possible for me to write and extend these thoughts throughout the world. I also would like to thank the countless viewers that have taken time to read and stroll through the many writings God has allowed me to put together for your education and encouragement. The reason I feel so compelled to salute you all is because we live within a network of people closer than many of you are to us at this present time and I can not get the support I get from many of you world wide. “Fresh Oil” status over the past few weeks have soared beyond anything I thought it would, and its because of you in every corner of the world.

This gift my wife and I have been given has come by way of trial and error. We gladly share while on house arrest with you because its our gift from God to be found working and sharing hope. We have been blessed with several churches to help sustain our existence, but not without God’s leading none of them nor you would have done the great things you have done. Please except our thanks for everything any of you have done to keep us while going through.

Using What God Has Given
A man from out east had always dreamed of owning a cattle ranch and had finally saved enough money to buy his dream spread in Wyoming. His best friend flew out to visit and asked, “So, what’s the name of your ranch?” His buddy told him that he had a really hard time coming up with a name that he liked. He and his wife couldn’t agree on what to call it so they settled on, “The Double R Lazy L Triple Horseshoe Bar-7 Lucky Diamond Ranch.”

His friend was really impressed and then asked, “So where are all the cows?” To which the new rancher replied, “We had quite a few…but none of them survived the branding!”

I have been focusing on some ways that May & I can improve our service, I want to suggest this afternoon that it’s possible to get so caught up in what we call our spiritual gifts that we might not survive servant hood. The key is not so much to identify what we have but to use what we’ve been given. 1 Peter 4:10: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

Matthew 25:14-30. We started this series with the words of Jesus about servant hood and now we’re going to conclude with His teaching about our responsibility to use what He has given us.

Let’s set the context. This parable comes in the section of Matthew’s gospel where Jesus is giving an answer to the disciples’ question about His Second Coming in Matthew 24:3: “…When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus warns them to be on guard so that no one will deceive them and helps them understand that once He leaves, He will come again. He challenges them in Matthew 24:44 to be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when He is least expected.

In chapter 25, Jesus compares His coming to the eastern custom of a bridegroom arriving in the middle of the night. He concludes by saying in 25:13: “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Chapter 25 ends with the separation of the sheep and the goats. Sandwiched in-between is the parable of the talents.

Notice verse 14: “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey…” The word “again” indicates that Jesus is using yet one more parable to explain future events. The man going on a “journey” is Jesus.

As we walk through this powerful passage this Afternoon, we’ll see Seven Stewardship Lessons.

1. What we have is not ours. Verse 14 continues by saying that this man who was getting ready for a journey, “…called his servants and entrusted His property to them.” It was common for wealthy men to take long journeys. Before they would leave, they would arrange to have someone pick up their mail and feed their pets. But even more than that, they would often delegate the control and multiplication of their wealth to trustworthy employees. They were expected to bring a return on what had been handed over to them. Given the uncertainties of transportation in those days, the time of return for even a well-planned trip was often open-ended.

There was no doubt in the minds of these servants that the property and money still belonged to the master. They were the possessors, but not the owners. Their job was to manage what they were given. Likewise, we must remember that everything we have has been given to us and is not really ours anyway. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Haggai 2:8 adds, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the LORD Almighty.” He has the rights, and I have the responsibility. He is the Master and I am the manager. I am the servant; He is the sovereign.

Have you allowed this basic principle to permeate your personhood? You don’t really own anything. Everything belongs to the Lord. Until we recognize this truth, we will not be good managers of what has been entrusted to us. Our days are in His hands. Our gifts and abilities are on loan from Him. Our money is an “advance” from the Almighty. Our houses, cars, clothes, and every possession we have doesn’t belong to us. We really don’t own anything.

2. We’re given what we can handle. In verse 15 we see that the master gave some talents to three of his servants: “To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.”

We need to pause here in order to recognize that this word “talent” is different from our present-day understanding. A talent was a measure of weight as used in Revelation 16:21: “From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men.” A talent was also used to indicate a very large sum of money. Its value varied depending on whether it was copper, silver, or gold. While commentators differ on the exact amount, most agree that it would take an ordinary laborer almost twenty years to earn just one talent. To put this into our economy, using a minimal hourly wage, a talent would be the equivalent of about $300,000.

While we’re focusing this series on the discovering, developing, and deploying of spiritual gifts, this parable has first reference to how we invest our money. It has a secondary application to how we use our God-given talents and supernatural abilities.

That reminds me of two men who crashed their private plane on a South Pacific Island.

One of the men brushed himself off and proceeded to run all over the island to see if they had any chance of survival. When he returned, he rushed up to the other man and screamed, “This Island is uninhabited and there is no food or water. We’re going to die!”

The other man leaned back against the fuselage of the wrecked plane, folded his arms and responded, “No we’re not. I make over $100,000 a week.” The first man grabbed his friend and shook him. “Listen, we’re on a deserted island. We’re doomed!”

The other man, unruffled, again responded. “It’s OK, I make over $100,000 a week.” Mystified, the first man, taken aback with such an answer again repeated, “For the last time, I’m telling you that we are lost. It doesn’t matter how much money you make because there’s no one around to help us.” Still unfazed, the first man looked the other guy in the eye and said, “Don’t make me say this again. I make over $100,000 per week and I tithe 10%! My pastor will find us!”

Let me put you at ease this morning. I’m not going to preach about tithing except to say that if you make that many shekels a week, I’ll track you down somehow!

Let’s go back to the story. The Master gave the first servant five talents, which was about $1.5 million. The second guy received two talents, or approximately $600,000. And the third steward got one talent, or $300,000. Even though there’s a big difference between five talents and one talent, the guy who received one talent still had a lot of money. That reminds us that God gives out of His abundance to us!

I want you to notice that each servant received talents “according to his ability.” Your responsibility is tied to your ability. This is very interesting. God’s kingdom purposes do not operate according to what is “fair” but according to what is best. In 1 Corinthians 3:5, after challenging believers to be united by not breaking into subgroups who follow different leaders, Paul writes, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” Did you catch that? Each of us has been assigned a task. It’s our job to be faithful to what He has given us to do.

You have what you have because God gave it to you. And He expects you to manage His gifts within the boundaries of ability that He has wired into you. As we learned last week from 1 Corinthians 12, there are different kinds of gifts, service, and workings, and the Holy Spirit distributes these responsibilities “to each one, just as He determines.” God entrusts different stuff to different people according to His sovereign purposes. In other words, He knows what we can handle. Our job is to be faithful with whatever amount we have to work with. Do we trust that God knows more about us than we even know about ourselves?

3. We must invest what we’ve been given. Verse 16 tells us that the man who received five talents went “at once and put his money to work and gained five more.” He didn’t waste any time but immediately went to work on his investment strategy and doubled his master’s portfolio. The guy who got two talents did the same thing; only the text doesn’t say he went to work “at once” like the first guy did. We do know that he worked hard however, because he also doubled his master’s money, ending up with four talents.

Verse 18 describes the different approach of the third servant: “But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” Even though we don’t read about any specific instructions for what to do with the money, the first two guys went to work and multiplied their investment. The one-talent guy was a slacker who went off and buried his blessing. The practice of hiding valuables in the ground was quite common back then. It was one of the safest—and least profitable—ways of protecting possessions.

Because Antonio’s voice was high and squeaky, he did not make the tryouts for the Cremona Boy’s Choir. When he took violin lessons, the neighbors persuaded his parents to make him stop. Yet Antonio still wanted to make music.

His friends gave him a hard time because his only talent was whittling. When Antonio was older he served as an apprentice to a violinmaker. His knack for whittling grew into a skill of carving and his hobby became his craft. He worked patiently and faithfully. By the time he died, he left over 1,500 violins, each one bearing a label that read, “Antonio Stradivarius.” They are the most sought-after violins in the world and sell for more than $100,000 each. Antonio couldn’t sing or play or preach or teach but his responsibility was to use his ability, and his violins are still making beautiful music today.

Our potential is God’s gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to Him. Zig Ziglar has said, “You are the only person on earth who can use your ability.” Are you investing what you’ve been given, regardless of how much it is? Or, have you buried your blessing and kept it hidden from others?

4. A day of accountability is coming. None of us want to be audited by the IRS, but we’ll all be audited by the Almighty. We’ll have to give an account for how we’ve used what we’ve been given. Look at verse 19: “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.” Jesus is coming again and there will be a day of reckoning. While most of us believe this in our heads, we don’t always live with eternity in our hearts. If we would think more about His return, we’d be more focused on making an eternal return on our investments. Romans 14:12: “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” It was the duty of servants to always bear in mind that the master would be returning and would settle his accounts with them.

Friends, Jesus is coming again! Let’s be faithful in doing whatever He gives us to do. He’s invested something in you, and one day He’s coming back to claim it. Your job may be big or small, but whatever it is, do it to the best of your ability and you’ll be ready for your audit. Wouldn’t it be terrible to be ashamed and unprepared when Jesus comes back? 1 John 2:28: “And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” Serve in light of a future reckoning.

It would help us to get in the habit of asking the question, “How will my money management, or this decision to serve or not serve look on the day of accountability?”

5. What we do with what we have reveals our view of God. As we come to verses 20-25, we see that the man who had been given five talents brought five more with him. The language is insightful here. He says, “See, I have gained five more.” The word “see” means, “Behold” or “Look!” He was eager to invest what he had been given and now he’s excited to show the master what He had done. He’s bubbling with enthusiasm and thoroughly thrilled. He couldn’t wait to present what he had done because he wanted to please the owner.

The man with the two talents approached this time of reckoning with the same anticipation and excitement. The master is thrilled with both of them because they demonstrated responsibility for their ability. He says the exact same thing to both of them: “Well done, good and faithful servants! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” The master increased their resources after they had proven themselves faithful. Jesus said a similar thing in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you.”

These two faithful servants received:

Affirmation: “Great job! Well done. I appreciate your good work and your faithfulness.”
Promotion: “Since you’ve done so well with what I’ve given you, I’m going to give you even more responsibility and opportunity for growth.”
Celebration: “You’ve made me very happy. Let’s celebrate together!”
The phrase, “well done” can be translated, “excellent,” or “wonderful.” They were faithful and were called good because they had a right view of the master. Likewise, when we see God for who He is, we will want to be faithful and we’ll focus on doing good things. God is looking for faithful people, for those who properly manage their resources for kingdom purposes. And, when we’re responsible for what we’ve been given, we’ll be given even more responsibilities. I picture a smile on Jesus’ face when He says, “Come and share your master’s happiness!”

The one-talent guy came a bit more reluctantly to the master and said in verse 24: “…I knew that you were a hard man…” Notice that the first words out of his mouth were about himself: “I knew.” We could translate this as, “I always knew.” The other two guys kept the focus on the master when he returned: “Master, you entrusted me.”

This third guy had a wrong view of the master and had his mind made up even before he received his talent. He looked at him as someone who was hard and harsh, instead of loving and gracious. A.W. Tozer was right when he said that what we think about God is the most important thing about us. If we view God as a tyrant then we’ll filter everything through this lens. Some of you may be secretly angry with God because you think He did something, or didn’t do something that you think He should have. As a result, your view of Him is skewed. Your preconceived notions prevent you from seeing Him as a God of grace, and as a result you refuse to serve Him with what He’s given you. When we blame God we end up burying our blessings.

A faulty view of God can also lead to excuses. In verse 25 this man declares that the reason he didn’t do anything with what he had been given was because he was afraid. His fear paralyzed him and so he decided to play it safe. He hid the money to make sure it wouldn’t be lost. And he accomplished exactly what he set out to achieve: nothing. Like the saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”

A wrong view of God always leads to fear: “So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground…” A right view of God always leads to faith. If you’re struggling with fear today, the best antidote is to further your understanding of the character of God and ask Him to grow your faith. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is moving ahead in spite of your fears. I think the first two guys were probably a little afraid as well, but because they knew the master’s character, instead of being frozen by fear, they stepped out in faith.

Let’s look at the differences between the two servants who served and the one who took a dive.

The first two were determined to make a profit; the third was determined to not take a loss.
The first two were willing to work hard and take risks; the third took no risks.
The first two received the gift; the third refused the gift.
The first two wanted to advance the master’s domain; the third had no interest in what mattered to the master.
The first two viewed the money as an opportunity; the third guy saw it as a problem.
The first two allowed the master’s gift to change their lives; the third refused to let the gift touch his life.
The first two invested; the other one wasted.
The first two saw a blessing; the third guy saw a burden.
The first two knew the master; the third guy had no clue.
6. What we have we must use or what we have we will lose. Verse 26 reveals that the master saw right through the flimsy excuses of the servant when he said, “You wicked, lazy servant!” The word “wicked” means “evil, hurtful, and malicious.” In other words, the master is saying, “You’re lying. In your heart, you are a selfish and lazy bum. If you really wanted to do something, you would have put my money in the bank. I see right through you.” These are pretty strong words. God will judge not merely for doing wrong, but for not doing right!

The man was wicked because he deliberately misrepresented both his master and himself. He falsely accused the master of being harsh and he lied when he said in verse 25: “See, here is what belongs to you.” He actually owed his employer not only one talent but also whatever it would have earned had he been faithful. Amazingly, instead of owning his guilt, he behaves as if the master should have given him credit for having been so cautious.

Wickedness and laziness partner together to keep many people from full surrender and service. In the original, this combination of terms is unforgettable because they rhyme. While the other two servants were busy and working hard, this selfish sluggard dug a hole, little realizing that he was digging it for himself! A selfish heart coupled with an unwillingness to do anything about it, will take many people on the path of destruction that can lead to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We all have an element of laziness in us. And, our culture seems to be set on slothfulness as well. Just this week I read that Nintendo is looking to hire 50 people this summer at a wage of $100 a day to play computer games all summer long.

I’m convinced that laziness is extremely dangerous to our spiritual lives. When we think we can put something off until later, we will eventually discover that it will one day be too late.

Proverbs 6:9: “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?”

Proverbs 10:5: “He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”

Proverbs 13:4: “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”

Hebrews 6:11-12: “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

Because this third guy did not use what He had been given, He lost it according to verse 28: “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.” It’s the “use it or lose it” principle. Friend, don’t hold what you have. Develop it, compound it, and multiply it by using what you’ve been given.

7. Who you know and what you do will lead to either abundance or agony in the next life. In verse 29, we learn that those who are faithful with the little things will have an abundance, or excess: “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” Those who have given themselves in full surrender and selfless service will be given even more opportunities.

On the other hand, those who bury their blessings will face agony. Jesus concludes this parable by saying that the worthless servant will be thrown “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This description is used elsewhere to refer to hell. Those who don’t know God don’t serve Him. A lack of serving may indicate that a person has never been truly converted. That’s why Jesus referred to him as “worthless.” A believer has worth because of his faith in Christ. This servant lived in the house of the Master but didn’t know and love the owner.

A distinguishing mark of a true Christian is service and giving. A lack of service betrays a heart where Jesus doesn’t really live.

A Christian who is not using what God has given is a contradiction in terms. As you survey your servanthood quotient, and you conclude that you’ve buried your blessings, maybe you haven’t yet been saved. Do you want abundance or agony in the next life? Determine to know the Master and serve Him wholeheartedly.

Don’t hide the truth. Don’t bury it. Allow the greatest treasure of all ­ Jesus Christ Himself to radically reform your life.

Summary
Stewardship is best defined as the use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals. How do you line up with these seven principles?

What we have is not ours.
We’re given what we can handle.
We must invest what we’ve been given.
A day of accountability is coming.
What we do with what we have reveals our view of God.
What we have we must use or what we have we will lose.
Who you know will lead to either abundance or agony in the next life.
Have you ever seen the “Antique Road Show” on TV? I like watching how people bring their stuff to the appraisers to find out how much it’s worth. Many times those who have lavish items come on the show thinking that they have a huge treasure. More often than not, they find out their treasure is a forgery or a duplicate and worth very little.

Then there are those who come with a small trinket or a painting that was up in their dusty attic. They’re just happy to be on the show. And, many times, these people discover that their item is worth far more than they thought.

The people who are hoping to hit it big with their extravagant item are a bit like we are when we think we can impress God with what we have. On the other hand, some of us think that we don’t have much to offer, but what we have is really a treasure from God himself. Our responsibility is to use our ability to invest in God’s kingdom purposes.

Jesus has placed His business into our hands and will return someday to judge our faithfulness. Are you partnering with Him or are you making excuses?

America’s New Slavery: Black Men in Prison

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We have two evils to fight, capitalism and racism. We must destroy both racism and capitalism.

Huey Newton


A new American slave trade is booming, warn prison activists, following the release of a report that again outlines outrageous numbers of young Black men in prison and increasing numbers of adults undergoing incarceration. That slave trade is connected to money states spend to keep people locked up, profits made through cheap prison labor and for-profit prisons, excessive charges inmates and families may pay for everything from tube socks to phone calls, and lucrative cross country shipping of inmates to relieve overcrowding and rent cells in faraway states and counties.

Advocates note that the constitution’s 13th amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery in the United States, but provided an exception—in cases where persons have been “duly convicted” in the United States and territory it controls, slavery or involuntary servitude can be reimposed as a punishment, they add. The majority of prisoners are Black and Latino, though they are minorities in terms of their numbers in the population.

According to “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008,” published by the Pew Center on the States, one in nine Black men between the ages of 20-34 are incarcerated compared to one in 30 other men of the same age. Like the overall adult ratio, one in 100 Black women in their mid-to-late 30s is imprisoned.

“Everyone is feeding off of our down-trodden condition to feed their capitalism, greed and lust for money. They are buying prison stock on the market and this is why they want to silence the restorative voice of many who are authority spokes men and women of this hideous monopoly, because they want to repair those who fill and would support the prison system as slaves. The report states that the rising trend stems from more than a parallel increase in crime or surge in the population at large, but it is driven by policies that put more criminals in prison, extending their stay through measures like California’s Three Strikes Law. Of course we have over-criminalization to warn America of also.

Atty. Barbara Ratliff, a L.A.-based reparations activist, said the prison industrial complex’s extension of the slave plantation plays out in a pattern of behavior that Black people must study in order to survive. “I’m not talking about behavior of the individual incarcerate, but the pattern of treatment that digs into institutional racism. Corporate profit from prisons is no different than how slave owners received benefit from their labor, and that impact remained even after slavery. For instance, freed Blacks were arrested and put on chain gangs for their labor which continued to benefit slave owners, so this is no accident,” she said.

Inmates produce items or perform services for almost every major industry. They sew clothes, fight fires and build furniture, but they are paid little or no wages, somewhere between five cents and almost $2.

Phone companies charge high amounts for collect calls and inmate care packages can no longer be sent from families directly. Inmates must purchase products from companies to be sent in, which feeds capitalism, activists charge.

Although the costs of prisons is skyrocketing and consuming state budgets, money continues to be spent to push more Black youth into prison, activists assert. Many education and prison advocates charge there is a plot to populate U.S. prisons based on the dumbing down of America’s youth. Figures show those most likely to be incarcerated and to return generally have the lowest level of education. The report said, “While states don’t necessarily choose between higher education and corrections, a dollar spent in one area is unavailable for another.”

U.S. spending on prisons last year topped $49 billion, compared to $12 billion in 1987. California spent $8.8 billion on prisons last year and 13 states spend more than $1 billion a year on corrections.

Giving and Receiving

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Those-who-are-happiest-are-those-who-do-the-most-for-others.

John 13:14

The Message (MSG)

12-17 Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.

He received two degrees, including a master of science degree. He was elected a fellow of Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in London and won the Spingarn Medal. He received a 100,000-a-year job offer from Thomas A. Edison. He was visited by Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt and was invited by Joseph Stalin to superintend plantations in southern Russia. Yet for all he received, George Washington Carver is best known for what he gave.

He dedicated his life to making Tuskegee Institute an instrument of ministry to the needs of rural blacks, teaching them how to become skilled farmers and useful citizens. He taught better ways of tilling the soil, the importance of a balanced diet, and called upon black farmers to grow a variety of crops, including peanuts, sweet potatoes, and cowpeas, instead of only cotton. He led the way towards the development of more than three hundred derivative food and industrial products from peanuts and more than a hundred products from sweet potatoes.

In the end, your resume of accomplishments will mean little. Your gifts to others count the most! The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank….