Faithfulness

~Getting Started Toward a Goal Makes All the Difference~

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My wife and I started off in a small beginning. We almost destroyed one another just like we were used to devour those we sold drugs to and used drugs with. It wasn’t until five years had passed since our seeing one another that she took a small step of faith and reached out to me while I was serving my last year of a 5-year sentence in Corcoran State Prison and asked me to forgive her. That act of reconciliation has led to 23 years of friendship and 5 years of marriage. We have accomplished several small things that have turned into very significant events in our life and the lives of family and countless others.

Consider for a moment dreams or goals you’ve had which have been realized. Think back on those accomplishments or successful experiences which are most meaningful for you to remember. I’m willing to guess that more than one of them had a rather tentative, inglorious start.

When we look carefully at the path which led to a personal success, we often realize that it began with a modest step forward, that in time reaped a much greater harvest than we anticipated.

Such small first steps might include–

 An awkward first visit to a church singles group, that led to meeting the person you married.

 A hesitant phone call to ask someone out, or to inquire about a job opportunity, which received a much more positive response than you expected.

 An application for a grant, written with a sense of futility, thinking you’d probably be better off spending your time doing something else. Yet to your astonishment, the grant was given, and significant doors have now opened through that one effort.

 A business venture began with a paltry investment that succeeded far beyond your expectations.

 A book picked up in a time of discouragement, that inspired you and gave you the perspective to pursue your dream.

 A reconciled relationship, now going strong, which began with a simple request for forgiveness.

With the eyes of hindsight, we look back to such starting efforts with awe and gratitude. We realize there was greatness in that moment of small beginning that we didn’t begin to appreciate at the time. We may shudder, too, to think of how close we came to not taking that one initial step which opened such important doors.

A Reason for Optimism

Unfortunately, the benefit of the small beginning is often lost on us when we face the possibility of embarking on a new dream. The effort it would take to pursue it seems massive; we’re overwhelmed with the impossibility of it all. There seems to be little or nothing we can do to move forward.

To the eyes of faith, though, there is a world of difference between “little” and “nothing.” Often there is something we can do–some obvious first step we could take. This may be exactly what is needed to put the wheels of faith in motion.

For one thing, we shouldn’t underestimate the value that taking any initial step toward a goal has upon us psychologically. Suddenly our psyche is committed, and we become more alert to opportunities that will move us toward our dream. Others become more aware of our intentions as well and are more likely to try to help us.

Yet the spiritual aspect of taking the first step is even more important. The seemingly insignificant small beginning often gets much closer to the heart of the biblical idea of going forward in faith than we realize.

From Little Acorns . . .

We don’t usually think of it this way. The very notion of moving out in faith seems to imply taking a bold, extravagant step of some sort. We quickly think of the biblical prototypes: Moses parting the Red Sea, Joshua leading the Israelites to demolish the wall of Jericho with a shout, David marshaling his troops for battle, Gideon confronting the indomitable Midianite army with only three hundred soldiers, Esther going before King Ahasuerus knowing that her life hung in the balance, Peter preaching salvation to the large throng of Jews gathered on the day of Pentecost. It’s easy to conclude that if we’re not throwing caution to the wind, we’re not really taking a step of faith.

Yet Scripture also shows great respect for the small, subtle, unspectacular first step. Consider these examples–

 In the parable of the talents, Jesus commended the two servants who invested their money and upbraided the one who failed to give his one coin to the bankers (Mt 25:14-30). Few first steps are less inspiring than putting money in the bank. No one notices, there are no neon lights, and there is no immediate reward for this act of discipline. In fact, the period you must wait for any significant benefit can seem interminable. Yet with time, the incremental gains grow larger and larger, and the eventual profit is considerable.

It’s striking that Jesus paid such respect to prudent financial investment. Clearly, too, he intended the parable of the talents to be an analogy to other areas of life where we take risks for his sake. It conveys an unmistakable lesson–that we shouldn’t neglect the benefit of a small beginning in any venture of faith.

 Ruth’s marriage to Boaz–one of the most celebrated in Scripture–resulted from a small, ignoble step forward. The marriage became possible because of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, moved from Moab to Bethlehem. The move, detailed in the book of Ruth, was anything but a triumphant one for these two women. Both went to Bethlehem as widows–Naomi returning grief-stricken to her homeland, and Ruth following along out of devotion to Naomi. The move was borne more of necessity than of vibrant vision for the future.

Yet at least they did something to break the inertia of their grief and make a fresh start. In time the move brought benefits that exceeded their wildest expectations. Ruth met Boaz and married him, then gave birth to a son who became an ancestor of David. Naomi also found new life in this family connection, and in the many friendships that opened for her in Bethlehem. An unglamorous step forward brought about a wellspring of life for Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and countless others who enjoyed the family relationships that resulted in the generations which followed.

 We tend to glamorize the healing incidents in the Gospels and assume that those who came to Jesus for help did so boldly, with a sublime confidence that they would be instantly cured. I’m certain, though, that many came in the same ambivalent, tentative spirit in which we often seek medical help today. The woman with the hemorrhage is a case in point (Mark 5:24-34). Terribly concerned that no one would notice her, and uncertain whether approaching Jesus was even appropriate, she decided merely to touch the hem of his garment. That one small gesture not only brought her healing but an effusive compliment from Jesus about her faith (v. 34).

As we see here, Scripture not only describes small first steps which brought results over time but those which reaped a surprising harvest immediately. Virtually all of the healing miracles mentioned in Scripture fit this pattern. The “miracles of expansion” do as well. These include incidents in the Old and New Testaments where large crowds were fed with a small provision of food (2 Kings 4:42-44; Mk 6:33-44, 8:1-9), and the miraculous provision of oil that saved the widow of Cain from financial ruin (2 Kings 4:1-7). While we cannot presume that our own small first steps will immediately produce such astonishing results, we can never know unless we try.

And in time the results of a meager first effort often do surprise us.

The Challenge of Small Beginnings

While taking the small first step can make all the difference, there are two factors which can keep us from appreciating an opportunity to move forward that we actually have. One is that because of its apparent insignificance, we may not even recognize the small beginning that’s available for us to make.

I remember a friend who left a well-paying nursing job to enter a doctoral program. Though Nancy had long wanted to pursue this goal, she assumed it was financially impossible, since she was a single parent in her forties. Finally, she faced up to the fact that there was a small beginning she could make, which was to apply for grants. She made six applications, assuming her prospects for success were minimal. To her astonishment, four of the six were granted. When Nancy shared this personal triumph with me, I couldn’t help but think of how many people there must be who need this same financial assistance–and would qualify for it–yet have concluded that it isn’t worth the trouble to apply. Nancy herself had overlooked this option for years.

Of course, writing a grant application means some uninspiring paperwork, and this suggests a second factor that can keep us from recognizing the chance to make a small beginning–the fact that we may look with contempt upon what we have to do.

Such was the near-fatal flaw of Naaman the leper in the Old Testament. Naaman sought healing for leprosy from Elisha, who told him to wash seven times in the Jordan river. Naaman’s response was one of anger: “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” (2 Kings 5:11-12 NIV). The text concludes, “he turned and went off in a rage.”

Naaman’s servants had the good sense to challenge him, saying, “if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (v. 13). Naaman fortunately repented of his obstinacy and followed the prophet’s counsel. Yet his example warns us that no matter how greatly we want to reach a goal, our disdain for some of the details may keep us from moving forward. The initial steps that we must take are particularly likely to seem distasteful to us.

We need, in short, a greater esteem for the small beginnings of life. “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings,” as Pat Robertson is fond of paraphrasing Zechariah 4:10.

Taking Heart

Do you have a personal dream which has not been realized? To the best of your knowledge, is your dream in line with God’s best intentions for your life? Yet does it seem that there is little or nothing you can do to move toward your goal-that your hands are tied?

Remember that a small beginning is sometimes the very step needed to open yourself to the provision of Christ. Pray earnestly and look honestly at what you actually can do to start moving toward your goal. Don’t look with contempt on the small beginning. Think of it as the launching point for a journey of faith.

And remember that God’s hand in your life is not shortened. Stands the reason we are stepping out with Second Chance Alliance, Click to review and pray our strength. Thanks in advance.

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~Biblical Reversed Engineering~

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A good engineer thinks in reverse and asks himself about the stylistic consequences of the components and systems he proposes.

Helmut Jahn

Take the example of a business man.  When this now president of the company first began his journey in the working world he did not start as president but at the bottom of the corporate ladder.  Although he started at the bottom of the corporate ladder, yet this was not his original goal or intention; rather, being president was.  His originally goal or desires was accomplished last in execution, but his starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder, which was his goal last in order, was accomplished first in execution. With God’s decrees I call this purpose and execution; where purpose is the order of the decrees, and the execution is precision mirrored or reversed engineered implementation of these purposes.  Ecclesiastes 7:8, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning.”

 

And so, God who is infinite in wisdom has His end goal as His original intention—this is the first decree—but his last decree is what He starts first in execution, and continues to take a series of reversed engineered steps of execution until His original goal is accomplished.  This original goal is the public illuminary and supremacy of Jesus Christ, and the pinnacle instrument to accomplish this is a public, redeemed bride married to His Son, enthralled with eternal joy and praises of Him.

In any case, Adam and Eve in the garden were not God’s original intention and design for man; rather, their creation was at the bottom, in regards or order of goals; and so, as a result they were first in execution.

As I have said before, the fountain, the original and perfect example of love, is the love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, through the infinite energy and motion of the Holy Spirit. This is the original love, which all other types of love is patterned after, started from and for, and then also terminated back into this original LOVE. Therefore, the perfect type of audience for Christ to receive the highest form of public supremacy is the type of audience that is united to Christ as Christ is united to the Father in the Spirit.  This is the starting and spring of human existence and of the election of the church of God.

This was the original plan both for Christ and the church.  Adam was not God’s original plan for mankind, because Adam was not created one with Christ, united to Him in the Spirit, as Christ is with the Father.  This only happened after the cross and will only be completed in heaven with glorified saints living with Christ, full of the Spirit and united to Him as He is to the Father!   Adam in the garden, (and then the fall, and then the incarnation, (etc.)), was a starting point to get Christ and the church to the original goal of Christ fully displayed in public supremacy, by a church that is as united in love in the Spirit to Him as He is to the Father, (within the context and capacity of the public).

The result is that the Church not only finds the joy in knowing Christ, but does so only because Christ found her in her sin and filth and then died in her place to bring her to Himself as a spouse.  This great mercy or great COST given by God insures and brightens the supremacy of Christ, even more than freely given love, for it insures and enlarges the churches ability to (1) know, (2) become and (3) enjoy Christ more through it!

NLT Ephesians 1:10, “And this is His plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ– everything in heaven and on earth.”  And what is the goal of this?  Christ’s public supremacy!   Colossians 1:18, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything [i.e. preeminence, supremacy].”

God’s mercy is that He takes away our sins.  Therefore, let us read the force of verse 32 of Romans chapter 11 with that in mind to see more clearly the weight of what is being said.  God appointed all (in context to the Jews) to disobedience so that He might take away their sins!  That is an incredible thing to say!  This is why Paul simply ends with praise to God’s wisdom and Supremacy after teaching on such incredible doctrines as this.

1 John 4:9,  “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”  As said before, God’s wisdom concluded that the best possible way for us to enjoy God’s love was by us tangibly experiencing it through “mercy.”  God’s love to us is proven by mercy; this was God’s plan.  He conceived it, decreed it, and then made it happen.  God ordained the fall so that He could have mercy on us, which is the absolute and fullest measure of God displaying His love and assuring us of that love.  This was by God’s design, not by an accident, which God merely used.

One of the reasons God has it this way is because it helps to teach us about Himself and His character and ways.  Take for example how someone might ask why would God take so long to implement the New Covenant of Christ’s blood; why did God give us the old covenant and law?  Galatians 3:24, “Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher [tutor] to lead us until Christ came.”

Why do we have teachers, go to school, and have tutors to help us?  We have teachers and tutors because the end to which we are striving to accomplish (best in business, first in the orchestra, or best singer(etc.)) is too difficult and big for us to grab right now and so we are helped until the point we are ready.  This is similar with the Old Covenant and the New, or as some call it Law & Gospel.  In other words, the New Covenant of Christ’s blood was so spectacular and big and complex with so many bright glories that mankind needed preparatory aid and help to prepare them for its arrival.

Being taught and going to school is not my first goal, but getting a high paid job at a company is.  Accordingly, the tutor or Old Covenant of the law was not the first goal; rather, it was the New Covenant with a redeemed bride married to Christ.

It is important to note that the scripture is filled with this basic structure of the first idea introduced is the tutor, antitype and example and the conclusion is the actual or first intention.  In light of seeing how the first desire of God will be the last thing executed in history we see why patterns, antitypes, examples and tutors in scripture are not the original but reversed engineered from the original preparing us to understand and for the original desire or goal.

Now, we will take a quick detour into establishing the importance of the metaphysical in light of God’s predestination and decrees…

Applying God’s Sovereignty to both His Decrees and Creation:

 

Since this public creation is founded on God’s sovereign “good pleasure” to be a display of how Famous He really is through His Son, then God does not desire to “merely” give vague ideas of His Moral Beauty or Holiness, rather, His sovereign Will is to publicly reveal details about His Divine Nature and then act faithfully in this public world to this revelation so that His glory is clearly seen and adored by all watching eyes.  See Exodus 32:11-14, Psalm 79:9; God appeals to this in first person in Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 48:11, Ezekiel 37:16-33; also compare Psalm 25:11 to 2 Samuel 9:1-12; also 1 John 1:9 –God is “just” to forgive in keeping to the promises He made.

The point I wish my readers to keep in mind is this: behind any one Revelation of God, in the smallest statue, command or reward regarding what He will do, is behind it the Infinite Sovereign Will and Pleasure of God that established for His Son to have creation as a gift with Jesus as the public image of God, with His Son having the central public Supremacy and Preeminence.

Take for example God telling Joshua and the Israelites that He will cause and destine them to defeat their enemies.  Did Joshua say: God, because you predestined us to win it takes all the value and seriousness out of it?  No, of course he did not, for his is not stupid; rather, Joshua loved and sincerely longed for a homeland (taking the creation serious) and so God’s predestination (taking the Divine perspective serious, or the decrees) made the victory sweeter and the fighting of his enemies more passionate.  Here Joshua consistently applied God’s sovereignty over the creation and the God’s decrees.

In any case, in my experience when talking of God’s sovereignty people revert to 2nd graders and will apply God’s sovereignty to His own decrees yet will forgo applying this same sovereignly will over creation; or reversely, they fail to apply God’s sovereignty over His own decrees, but will do so over creation.  If we would only consistently apply and  believe God’s sovereignty over both the creation and His decrees and see the harmony between them, then many issues would be solved.

The source that gives God’s decrees and predestination their value and importance is God’s sovereign will.  Likewise, the source that gives the creation and all that is in it, including God’s revealed commandments for man, its value and importance is the same Sovereign will.  The same sovereign will that predestined, giving the future its value, is the same sovereign will that established creation giving it its value.  The value of any given thing in the creation is only as great as God’s decree made it to be, and only strongly as He sovereignly made this thing relate and reflect to the centrality of Jesus Christ in public.

As I excepted God’s sovereignty in my life when He called me to reverse my beliefs and conduct, the end of that thing became better. My drug addiction was solved, my alcoholic disposition was solved, my selfishness was solved, my sinful lifestyle was solved. When I got back up from my fall reverse engineering in the gospel appeared:

Proverbs 24:16

For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

Pray our strength and patience in pursuing our goal to help others see the need for reverse engineering through scripture for their life. Click the link to view our passion and thanks in advance for your prayers and support.

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Jesus Truly Changed Everything!!!!

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If we think that this life is all there is to life, then there is no interpretation of our problems, our pain, not even of our privileges. But everything changes when we open up to the possibility that God’s story is really our story too.

Max Lucado

Jesus Changes Everything
Mark 12:35–44

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.’

37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

 

The past couple of weeks we have been discussing the question of Jesus’ authority, and that theme continues in this passage. Jesus has been challenged about his claim to authority and then tested to prove the extent to which his authority would prevail. Now the questions have ended and Jesus goes on the offensive, asking his own question in verse 35 and then contrasting the religious practice of the scribes with the faith of a poor widowed lady.

Jesus is the new boss. His authority changes everything. In this text we see the authority of Jesus applied to three specific areas. The authority of Jesus changes how we interpret Scripture, how we live out our faith in the world, and how we worship God.

THE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE

In verses 35-37, Jesus stakes his own theological challenge. “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” he asks (v. 35). Though no biblical text specifically says that the Messiah would be a descendent from David, this was the standard understanding of the day. And for good reason. God had made a covenant with David, promising him that his kingdom would be established through his descendents and that his throne would be “established forever” (2 Sam 7:12-16). The Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C. had brought the monarchy to an end. But the prophets foretold of a restoration of the Davidic kingdom.

‎‎‎For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, ‎‎‎and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness ‎‎‎from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isa 9:6-7; see also Jer 30:9;Ezek 34:23)

‎‎‎‎‎‎About a century before Jesus, Jewish religious literature made explicit this Davidic hope, referring to the Messiah as the son of David.[1] Jesus is challenging one of the most widely held beliefs and hopes of his day.

Who is David’s Lord?

But his challenge comes in light of what David wrote in Psalm 110. “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’” (v. 36). Jesus notes that David refers to the Messiah as his “Lord,” raising the question of how Messiah could be David’s son if he is David’s superior. The answer is of course obvious to us Christians today: Jesus, the Messiah, is both David’s human descendent and also the Son of God. But let’s look closer at Jesus’ argument.

  1. Jesus appeals to the inspiration of Scripture to make his argument. “David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared.” Psalm 110 is considered by Jesus to be Holy Scripture, meaning it is given to us by the revelation and authority of God.
  2. The first “Lord” in Psalm 110 is Yahweh, but the second “Lord” is adonai. The question is the subject of the second “Lord” (adonai). Psalm 110 is an enthronement psalm; the words were used at the inauguration of the kings of Israel. But with the end of the monarchy the Psalm began to be seen as Messianic, and David’s “Lord” was understood to be a great Messianic king who would reestablish the monarchy to the point where it would never fail again.
  3. ‎‎‎While we have no problem with the idea of one’s descendent being greater than himself, both Jewish and Roman cultures did. For them, it was the patriarchs who were the “lords” of their families, and so Jesus points out the significance of this Davidic submission. Jesus’ point must have been taken, because he apparently silences his opponents with this word.

Son of David and Son of God

Of course, Jesus is not denying that the Messiah is a descendent of David. Rather, he is pointing out that he must be much more than a descendent. He must be both a descendent as well as David’s superior. And Jesus contends that he is David’s superior because the Messiah is also the Son of God. There are two pointers to that conclusion in this text.

‎‎‎‎‎‎First, as we mentioned earlier, in Psalm 110 there are two different Hebrew words for the translation “Lord.” But in Greek, it is the same word in both places, kurios. Why is that significant? Because as Mark has arranged the material, we saw the word kuriosjust a few verses earlier, in verse 29: “The Lord (kurios) our God, the Lord (kurios) is one.” There is only one kurios, and yet here we have Jesus claiming that title for himself as the Messiah.

‎‎‎Second, notice that Jesus quotes the entirety of Psalm 110:1. It is only the first line of that verse that Jesus utilizes to make his point that David refers to Messiah as his Lord (“The Lord said to my Lord”). But Jesus wants to press his audience further into the implications of his identity as David’s Lord. He is the one who sits at God’s right hand, the highest ranking that one could possibly achieve short of usurpation.[2] From there he waits until God deposes his enemies, putting them under his feet. The enemies of the Messiah are God’s enemies, destined for certain destruction.[3] These are bold claims that Jesus is making for himself.

God’s plan unfolds in Jesus

Again to Christian ears there is nothing surprising about these claims. But to those who confuse God’s kingdom with the kingdom of man, this is a clarifying text. Jesus shows us that we have to interpret the mystery of God’s plan revealed to us in Scripture through his Messiah. As David’s son there is continuity to this age, but as God’s Son there is also discontinuity. He has come to establish a different kind of kingdom than the only other kind we are familiar with. Not that his kingdom doesn’t impact the kingdoms of this age, but at the same time it challenges us to see beyond it.

FAITH LIVED OUT IN THE WORLD

The next section, verses 38-40, brings to light the tension between the uniqueness of God’s kingdom and how that kingdom impacts life in this age. The connection to the preceding is Jesus’ concentration on the scribes. In the previous paragraph Jesus questions the scribes’ interpretation of the Scriptures. Now he questions the genuineness of their religious practice.

“Beware of the scribes”

Who were the scribes? The title comes from the fact that in ancient Israel the ability to read and write was not widespread, so professional secretaries played a major role in public life. While scribes were employed in various professions, the term eventually began to be used more narrowly to refer to those who gathered, studied, and interpreted the Scriptures. But in Jesus’ day they were not mere copyists, as the word scribe might suggest. They were “the teachers of the law” (NIV) or “the experts in the law” (NET). In other words, they were the Bible scholars, the religious professionals and authorities.

One would think that we could look to the scribes for an example of authentic faith. But Jesus says we should “beware” of them. The scribes are not just wrong in their interpretation of Scripture; they are dangerous because of it.

The dangerous example of the scribes

Rather than being an example of godliness, Jesus says that they “like to walk around in long robes.” These were full-length prayers shawls made of wool or linen that set them apart as men of authority. The scribes, Jesus said, love the attention they get for wearing these “uniforms” because they also “like greetings in the marketplaces.” We are told that when a scribe passed through the market, people would rise and recognize their presence. The scribes also like to “have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts.” Who wouldn’t be gratified by the kind of public attention and respect that was afforded to the scribes? Things are no different today.

What’s so dangerous about this kind of self-seeking behavior? I think verse 40 answers that question. Not only do the scribes seek the respect of their fellow man, but they also “devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers.” Because of their behavior Jesus warns, “They will receive the greater condemnation.” Jesus’ warning seems to be that if we follow the example of the scribes we will follow them straight toward the judgment of God.

So don’t be like these scribes who “devour widows’ houses,” Jesus warns. Easy enough, right? Well, the danger is much more subtle than it appears. You see, we might think that the scribes were modern day prosperity gospel preachers, living extravagantly on the contributions of the poor. But such was not the case.

In the first century A.D. the scribes lived primarily on subsidies, since it was forbidden that they should be paid for exercising their profession. While few scribes were reduced to begging, an abundance of evidence shows that the Jerusalem scribes belonged to the poorer classes.[4]

In other words, the profession of the scribes was not in any way a sham. It was legitimate business, and most people would agree that they were worthy of their pay. How then were they guilty of devouring widows’ houses? Scribes served as lawyers, and they frequently helped a widow make decisions about what to do with her assets following the death of her husband. No one thought ill of them for receiving support from the widows they had helped. This was how they made their living. But Jesus accuses them of social injustice.

The gospel and social justice

Don’t miss this important point. Jesus expected these scribes to refuse to take any support from widows who were among the most vulnerable people in that patriarchal society. By taking support, Jesus says the scribes are guilty of violating the destitute. It’s a strong accusation to make, and we might even be surprised that Jesus expected that level of righteousness from them. But Jesus is saying that those who know the Scriptures best should be those who leave an example of how to live out the Scriptures.

If we know God through his gospel there must be a change in how we look at business and wealth. It should result in a serious concern for justice in this world. That is, true religious practice should make for a better society. We may not solve all the problems, but those who have understood the gospel should make serious contributions toward the solution. Why? Because we of all people should be concerned with social justice and not ignore it or excuse injustice for the sake of religious practice. We can be guilty of devouring widows’ houses simply by ignoring our responsibility toward them. We may not always know what to do for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized in our society; but if we know anything at all about the gospel of grace, doing nothing is not an option.

The relationship between faith and practice

I say that this is true if we know God because although to everyone else it may appear that we have a genuine relationship with God, he alone knows our heart. The scribes made “long prayers” that made them appear righteous, but Jesus said it was all done “for a show” (NIV). It was religious hypocrisy through and through. Craig Keener points out that Jesus, like the Old Testament prophets, saw social injustice and religious hypocrisy as inextricably linked.[5] This suggests the opposite may be true as well. When we sincerely respond to the gospel it leads us to live justly in society.

We have not interpreted the Bible correctly when we have not seen the gospel clearly causing us to be transformed by its radical grace so that we live differently—truly justly—in an unjust world. Such was the failure and the danger of the scribes. Now this may be discouraging to us. After all, if the scribes missed it, what hope is there for us?

TRUE WORSHIP OF GOD

Well there is great hope for us because the right interpretation of the Scriptures does not depend upon the sharpness of the mind but on the posture of the heart. That’s one of the crucial things we learn in the concluding paragraph of Mark 12 (vv. 41-44). The scribes are guilty of devouring widows’ houses because of their failure to attain real worship. And this in spite of their expertise in the Scriptures—they have missed the point of the Scriptures altogether! But we can see real worship in one of these widows.

A lesson from a poor widow

Jesus sits down across from the treasury and watches as people put money into the offering box. There were 13 receptacles in the temple for collecting the offerings of worshippers. The amount of money collected there was significant; Mark tells us that “many rich people put in large sums” (v. 41). Then Jesus watches as “a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.” A very insignificant amount, especially in comparison to the great sums deposited by the rich. This small act by an unnamed poor widow should have gone as unnoticed as her penny, except for the fact that Jesus makes a big deal about it. He summons the disciples to him for another one of those “teachable moments” (this happens 8 times in Mark’s Gospel).

And he begins his lesson with one of his 13 “amen” sayings: “Truly, I say to you.” Again, this denotes a significant observation that Jesus wants to communicate to his disciples. This discreet act by a poor widow carries huge implications about true worship and true discipleship. Why? Because “this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.” Of course, that is simply an untrue statement, unless Jesus counts differently than we count.

How the widow’s penny is more

Indeed he does. He explains that this woman has given more than anyone else because “they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (v. 44). Let’s meditate on this for a moment.

  1. The question here is about the worth of one’s worship, not the worth of one’s money. Jesus is evaluating the worship of the contributors, not the money of the contributors. Not all acts of worship have the same value in God’s eyes.
  2. True worship does not come without a sacrifice. Or, to say it another way, if there is no sacrifice then there is no true worship. The Old Testament gave us a vivid picture of this as the worship of God always included a literal sacrifice. It is impossible to worship without cost. The rich gave “out of their abundance,” that is, they offered up their surplus. They could give great sums of money without ever really missing it. But this woman gave “out of her poverty,” meaning she gave what was necessary for her own survival. It was “all she had to live on.” Her donation left her without any means for obtaining even her next meal.[6]
  3. To push that last point further, true worship is costly because it costs us everything. This poor widow, Jesus said, “put in everything she had.” She had two copper coins, but she gave both, refusing to keep even one of them for herself. This is what true worship demands. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1).
  4. This kind of worship cannot be coerced, but must be the natural result of our joy in God. This poor woman could have given her penny begrudgingly, feeling forced to do so in order to earn God’s favor. Or, she could have given her penny out of sheer delight in God, believing that he loved her immeasurably and would provide for her needs. The latter best explains why Jesus commended her.

The point of this text is not that true worship requires us to give away all of our money to the church or some other charity. It does challenge us to consider the motives of our financial giving. But money is only one part of our lives. The question here is whether or not you offer to God merely your surplus: your discretionary income and your discretionary time. Or, do you joyfully yield all of your life including your money and your time to God to be used as he sees fit?

What the scribes missed

The gospel is what can transform us to desire God above anything else. The gospel points us to Christ, the Son of David and alsothe Son of God, who has come to rescue us from our slavery to sin and death. Only the Christian gospel makes it possible for us to love God with our entire being and at the same time to love our neighbors sacrificially, unlike the scribes who were guilty of religious hypocrisy and social injustice. What was it about the gospel that they had missed?

They had simply failed to see how desperate they really were for God’s mercy and grace. They had failed to see that the deliverance they really needed was not political but spiritual, that God was far from them because of their sin not because of Roman dominance. But this poor woman knew her need and knew that God alone could supply her need. She gave everything she had in joyful worship, casting herself totally upon the mercy of God. That is what the gospel is all about. And if we can see that, and if we can let it grasp our hearts, then Jesus will change everything, beginning with how we interpret the Scripture, how we live out our faith in the world, and how we worship God.

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God Moments!

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Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.

Rick Warren

Today’s pilgrimage was a blessing. May and I were at Stater Bros. grocery store. While shopping my wife noticed a midget female, she was elderly and legs were twisted and she sat in a wheel chair. She was shopping and pushing herself independent in spirit. We walked over to ask her how was her day and to commend her for being strong and not challenged due to her physical handicap. This woman began to weep and reach for our hands and she prayed for us in the middle of the isle at Stater Bros. grocery store. She was touched by our compassion and rendered us a God moment and she spoke of her joy about the good job my mom did in raising me. She spoke of other particulars that God had to be speaking through her, because we have never met. This was a God moment!!

 

I HAVE always been an avid church goer, but not just for the sake of going. Other than it being a requirement, I go because of the information I receive when I am there. Information that is priceless that helps with daily living.

I was in bible study at our designated time and our lecturer told a story of his early days as a converted believer. He told how a young lady was interested in him romantically, however, in his newly converted zeal he turned the conversation around. It resulted in the young lady accepting the lord as her personal saviour. He said what he discovered was the woman’s attraction to the spirit of God within him. I could tell he was proud that he was able to help her with what she really needed. He encouraged the group to be very alert not to miss opportunities as such that he called, “a God moment.”

In his definition, “a God moment” is when an individual believes that another person is attracted to their positive attitude, deportment, passion, love for God and man, and whatever else that makes the individual unique. However, what the person is really attracted to is God’s spirit that has influenced the individual.

The passion that he spoke with you could tell that this was important to him. He went on to say that what such a situation occurs you have to pay attention because their is no guarantee that you will have another God moment with that person.

The question to ask is, how do we help ourselves not to miss out on privileges that allow us to share our faith? We help ourselves by being sensitive to the spirit of God. In order for us to be sensitive to God’s spirit we must be intimate with God. Our intimacy with God allow us to recognize his voice. Knowing the voice of God is knowing his word. When we know the word of God we know what he says to our situations. Also it instructs us in every area of our lives. Prayer, reading the word and worship are vital in our efforts to obtain intimacy with God.

The amazing thing is, a God moment can happen anywhere. It is not restricted to the four walls of our churches, but literally anywhere. It can happen in the grocery store, the laundry mat, in the mall, on the bus or the parking lot. We need to be attentive not to miss out on the moment when we are given a chance to share the love of Jesus. I know is it flattering when people express their adoration for us.

Nevertheless, we must understand that it is God’s precious spirit that shines through us that lead people to us. It is our responsibility to lead them directly to the source.

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My Church Should Equal The Church Christ Is Coming To Receive

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Tonight I am suffering with sheer grief about my church, my mind, my body and my spirit the trichotomy I am. The “Why” is because of the condition of the building and gathering at churches I sometime am able to frequent. People say I miss you but never call, people say I love you but abandon you, silent gang banging and clicks look upon you with disdain because of caste status or educational prominence. The church today is a place I am struggling to go and fellowship with. I am told that my sister and brother are those that love the Father, but I just can’t see that always in myself nor in my sister or brother. I am perplexed within myself because I feel some type of way about the behavior of others that make me contemplate the realism of emotions displayed within the corporate setting.

The Church renewed. Renewal means restoring the Church to the full intentions and specifications and blueprints of the One who founded it: Jesus Himself. Jesus founded the Church according to the blueprint that was in His Father’s mind. You and I are involved in renewing it, getting it back to that perfect plan that Jesus had, based on what His Father gave Him. Renewing the Church is not something that you and I do, really, but it’s something that God does through us if we will let Him do it. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that is the key factor in the renewal of the Church. It’s not our efforts. It’s rather our surrender and our willingness to be ready to be used by the Lord. But He is the one who does it. It’s His power.

I really love the calling on my life and I really love doing the work and the abiding in Christ Jesus, because He gave so much for me to be able to bring glory to His Holy name. I want above anything to serve God and love with all my heart as to allow my life to be pleasing to God. I have every reason to be in fellowship with others and with Christ. No one heard my cry when I was in a comma for seven months from being shot in the chest but Jesus, no one heard me cry when I was in a pit in Libya and getting tortured beyond what I could bare, no one heard me when I was on a level four penitentiary facing death at every turn, no one heard me when I was hungry and strung out on cocaine living in the very vomit I created because I wanted bling-bling and women and candy paint on my toys. I really feel I need a Renewal and so does the Church. I want to understand these feelings because I want to be the hands of Jesus today!!! I am so fervent in my quest to be connected I try diligently to go to Saturday church and Sunday, I try to balance all this through the precious spirit of God because I am so disconnected without my God…. I am broken, the ministry is over whelming to me tonight, I don’t know who is real or what to do with these desires to let my difference make a difference. I feel ship wrecked and I am crying out to the God of the universe to help me find my place.

What Does The Real Church Look Like?

I believe with all my heart that God is going to re-establish His true Church – the real Church. I’m talking about the Church that He intended, the one that makes it possible for those who really believe in Him to see His purpose fulfilled in their lives. And what is God’s purpose? To see all those who believe in Him conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit working in the Church (His true Church), the Father wants to strip away everything in us that doesn’t look like Jesus.

The traditional church today doesn’t know much about that. Most “pastors” (if you read the article “Leadership in the Early Church” you’ll understand why I put the word pastor in quotation marks) preach an American gospel that’s designed to make people comfortable with themselves and with God. It’s an upbeat message of “I’m O.K. you’re O.K. Just live your life however you think is best (as long as you come to church on Sunday and give me your money). Don’t worry; God will meet you where you are. No changes are required, forget repentance, let’s just rejoice and be happy. I’ll see you in heaven. Remember, God loves you, besides, you don’t believe anyone is really going to hell, do you?” Church ministry today is designed to give people what they want, what God requires is irrelevant. And, that is what you would expect it to be when men are in charge, instead of God.

To see what the real church looks like requires a somewhat novel approach,we’ll have to look at the scriptures. I know it sounds crazy, but trust me on this. You won’t find what you’re looking for in church history books. After all, the first church wasn’t a Baptist church in Oklahoma or Texas (even though the Baptists claim they can trace their roots all the way back to John the Baptist, a claim John is probably not too happy about).

No, the first real church was Jesus and His 12 disciples. The first church was actually a training school for those who would establish the second-generation churches after Jesus ascended back to the Father. It was Jesus showing His disciples, first hand, how to have church. They met in houses and gardens, by the sea and on boats in the sea, in the middle of the road, on hillsides and on mountaintops. They met wherever Jesus happened to be. These meetings formed their understanding of what church was supposed to be and established a pattern for the next generation of churches.

Now, just for fun, let me describe to you what one of these meetings in this first church must have looked like. When it was time for the meeting, everyone got dressed up in their best suit of clothes, grabbed a hymnbook and a big, fat Bible to carry under their arm. Then they all made their way down to the building with the sign out front that said “First Church”. The marquee out front had the sermon topic for the day: “How To Overcome Anxiety In A Frenzied World”, and the name of the class that would meet that evening, “Divorce Recovery at 6 PM”. Everyone filed in, sat down in neat rows, eyes forward, and waited for the minister of music to start the service. They sang three songs, recited the Apostles Creed, sang another song, passed the offering plate and listened to a choir “special”. Then Jesus, looking resplendent in a shiny, blue, three-piece suit, with a really great silk tie, took the pulpit and delivered a comforting, somewhat humorous, thirty-minute sermon. Everyone felt good about what they had heard and complimented Jesus on what a splendid job He had done, and then they all went to lunch. And Jesus was relieved that no one was uncomfortable with what He had said and felt sure that most of them would return next week. And in the satisfaction of a job well done, He soon forgot about the whole thing and began to think about something really important, His golf game (His putting had been terrible the past several weeks). That sounds just about right doesn’t it? No?

Then how about this? Get out your Bible (I mean it, don’t read any further, unless you have your Bible), now read Matthew 5:1 to 8:1. What you just read was an account of one of the very first church meetings. The actual church was small, but there was a “multitude” of visitors that day and the sermon was really long. Then read Matthew 8:2-4. That was the next church meeting, but this time there was only one visitor. Now read Matthew 8:5-13. Here’s something unusual. The sermon was only about 20 seconds long (imagine that), and it was both confronting and judgmental. I’m sure some of the visitors were offended this time, and I don’t think they’ll be coming back. Then Jesus had another meeting at Peter’s house (Matthew 8:14-17); another the next day by the Sea of Galilee (8:18-22); then, later, in a boat (8:23-27); and still another the following day on the other side of Galilee with the disciples, two other guys, a bunch of demons, a herd of pigs and some more visitors from town (8:28-34).

Are you getting the picture? From Matthew 5:1 to 8:34, Jesus had at least 7 church meetings. Actually, He probably had many more than that. How do I know? Because, in reading these 4 chapters in Matthew, the Lord taught me the one, overwhelming principle illustrated in this first church. It’s really simple, but at the same time, really profound. What does the first church show us? What should every church learn from its example? What were the 12 disciples doing? Pay attention. Here it is: THEY WERE LIVING WITH JESUS!!! The function of the church, any church, is to enable believers in their walk with Jesus. It must promote the reality of living moment-by-moment, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, week after week, year after year with Jesus.

The simple fact of the matter is that church is supposed to be the support system for believers in their continuous, uninterrupted relationship with Jesus. It should support them in their constant, openly transparent, submissive, obedient, life changing, transforming, renewing, Holy Spirit-led, love relationship with the Savior; and if you’re ever going to be conformed to the image of Christ, that is the lifestyle that is required. How can you be changed into something you haven’t experienced and submitted yourself to? And I don’t want to cover old ground again, but that doesn’t simply define a relationship. If you read your Bible (void of the prevailing religious bias and deceptions) you will realize that what I’m describing is salvation. The Bible doesn’t describe salvation as something that is accomplished in the past. It can’t be based on something you’ve already done (church membership, baptism, a profession of faith, confirmation classes, etc.). Salvation is a hope (actually, a confidence) that is based on what you are doing today. It is based on the firm commitment to a continual relationship with God that requires your submission to His will and purpose. It requires change (yours, not His). And I hate to mention this just now, but it involves suffering (really, you can look it up, try I Peter 4:12-19 for starters). If you just read the red letters in the Gospel accounts, you’ll see that Jesus never describes salvation as something that is quick and easy (only religion scribes using isolated verses do that). Instead, He presents it as something that is difficult, something that demands persistence and something that only a few will achieve (Jesus said there would only be a few that would be willing to travel the narrow road that leads to life).

Salvation is not based on what you know about God, Jesus made that perfectly clear. It’s not an intellectual exercise; it’s a lifestyle. It’s living with Jesus. The church is a group of people living with Jesus, sharing their experiences with one another, as they live with Him; nothing more; but certainly, nothing less! A community of believers undergoing change together, submitting to His will and purpose, being conformed to the image of Christ, as they are being saved (yes, salvation is a continuing process that has a starting point, but no ending point, read Luke 9:23-24; I Corinthians 1:18; Philippians. 2:12-13; Hebrews 3:14 and I Peter 2:2-3 in the NIV, a translation that actually gets it right).

I’m amazed at the number of churches today who claim to be “New Testament”, but have nothing at all in common with the churches described in the New Testament. On the other hand, it is equally amazing that I recently read of another church who described their search for identity and purpose this way, “In the absence of a clear model, we set out to create our own.” I couldn’t believe it, “In the absence of a clear model?” Give me a break! Why not just be honest and admit that you’re just another traditional church looking for new and innovative ways to attract more people, while trying to figure out how you can effectively entertain them while they’re there, so they’ll feel good about the whole deal and come back the next week. And at the same time, slip something religious into the mix, so they’ll think they had some gushy, sentimental encounter with God (you know, something they can deal with on their own terms, nothing heavy).

But there is a New Testament model. If Jesus and His 12 disciples were the first generation church, then those established by the disciples after Jesus’ ascension were the second generation churches. Now, it’s time to really pay attention again. Remember the principle illustrated by the first church wasliving with Jesus. He was there, physically with them, every day, every night, day after day, week after week, for almost 4 years. Then He was gone! Now these men, and others, began establishing churches all over the place (in Asia Minor, Europe and Africa). And the principle of these second generation churches comes through loud and clear. Are you ready for this? If you can remember what you’ve already read, you should be able to guess. Here it is:LIVING WITH JESUS IN A COMMUNITY OF OTHER BELIEVERS WHO ARE LIVING WITH HIM TOO!!!

Now I’ve said all this as an introduction to get to this place. I’m not writing a book on the subject; you’re not supposed to learn this stuff from books anyway (or from pastor’s sermons either, for that matter). You’re supposed to submit yourselves to God and let Him teach you. But, since there’s so much deception in the so-called church today, and in the absence of truth, it’s important to at least point those who are interested in the right direction.

Now I know what the problem is. I’ve heard the argument many, many times. “God doesn’t speak to believers any more. That’s why we have the Bible. He speaks to us through the written word. The Bible is our only source of faith and practice.” But now I have a real problem with that! THAT’S NOT WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS!!!

A look at Ephesians 4:17-24 might help. In verses 17-19, Paul is talking about living like Godless heathen in the futility of worldly reason, being ignorant of and estranged from God, and insensitive to any real spirituality (that is, being bound up in men’s thoughts, religion’s traditions and rituals, and experiencing no reality in God).

Then this is what we see in verses 20-24“But this is not what you learn from following Christ! If you have really heard Him and have been taught personally by Him, as all true reality is found in Him, you will get rid of your old way of life, your old self that was on its way to destruction because of deceitful lusts. And then you will continually be renewed in your mind, with a fresh spiritual attitude, a new self, being recreated in God’s image, in righteousness and true holiness.”

Thank you Paul for clearing that up for us! In my mind, the key to understanding what Paul is saying here is found in the word translated “truth” in verse 21 (“true reality” italicized in my translation above). The word is aletheia in the Greek text and means, “the reality of a thing, as opposed to the mere appearance of it” or maybe more to the point, “the truth as opposed to error”. What Paul is trying to express is the fact that the true reality of Jesus is found in hearing Him and being personally taught by Him. That’s the spiritual reality or spirituality that I talk about in some of the other articles. Again, true reality is never found in man’s religion. The traditions and rituals of man represent only the mere appearance of God, and that’s not what He wants us to have.

And when we receive glimpses of this true reality from Him, the result should be that we accept Who He is and at the same time reject who we are and change. The result, then, is as Paul says in the passage – we get rid of the old self that is on its way to destruction and embrace the new self that is being recreated in God’s image, reflecting His righteousness and holiness!

Now, what does this have to do with what the real church looks like? I’m glad you asked. The answer is found in the very next verse, Ephesians 4:25. This is what it says, “Therefore, rejecting outright everything that is false, let us all show forth this true reality to those who are likeminded with us, for we are all members of the same body.” This is what the real church should look like today: likeminded people (those with the courage to pursue Him on His terms, not theirs) who meet together to share with one another the true reality of Christ in their lives. What has He taught you and how have you changed? This is the real church: those who are being conformed to the image of Christ, sharing their experiences with one another, encouraging and supporting one another as they go.

I’ll end the blog with this, it tells us what God intended and what the Scriptures describe (this is a simple explanation of Colossians 2:5-7): believers standing together, drawing strength from one another (verse 5), determined to live with Him and be like Him (verse 6), and having the very foundation of their lives firmly established on the things He is teaching them and being thankful for His participation in their lives (verse 7). Now that’s what the real church looks like.

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Empower A Felon

Engaging The Youth Is Innovation Within Ministry

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Our vision within our scope of outreach is to gravitate the young adults as well as the ex-offenders already in the system of corrections. Click the GofundMe insignia to view our passion. It will come to pass though it tarries…

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Empower A Felon
  • Relational. Effective ministry with adolescents was built on relationships. The central place of the Emmaus story in A Vision of Youth Ministry demonstrated the primacy of relationships and of discovering God within those relationships.
  • Goal-centered. In articulating two primary goals for ministry, A Vision of Youth Ministry gave specific direction while encouraging leaders in local communities to create a variety of ways to reach their goals. There was no longer one way to minister to adolescents.
  • Multidimensional. An effective ministry incorporated eight components with their program activities so that the needs of all the young people could be addressed and the resources of the community could be wisely used. This multidimensional approach was a needed response to social-only, athletics-only or religious education-only youth programming.
  • Holistic and developmental. A Vision of Youth Ministry proposed an approach that attended to a wide spectrum of adolescent needs and that was attuned to the distinct developmental, social, cultural, and religious needs of adolescents.
  • People-centered and needs-focused. A Vision of Youth Ministry focused on young people. It encouraged an approach designed to address the particular needs of young people in their communities. A Vision of Youth Ministry did not recommend program models or specific activities, recognizing that the day had passed when one program structure could respond to all the needs of youth.

 

e, Sr., has a tremendous passion for God’s WORD coupled with agape love for all God’s people. He has a contagious spirit of generosity that flows through every facet of his ministry.

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

George Washington Carver

 

The emerging consensus of research shows a growing percentage of young adults are not connected with any religion, although many younger Americans express an interest in spirituality. This reality raises concern about young adult participation in religious communities.

What is the involvement of young adults in local congregations of all faiths across the United States? And how are faith communities with significant proportion of young adults distinctive?

youth-min

For these resources, a congregation is considered to have significant young adult participation if 21% or more of its participants were 18 to 34 years of age.  Across all faiths, a total of only 16% of all congregations were in this category.

The resources below explore patterns and practices of churches and other congregations with significant young adult involvement.

A report summarizing the research on churches and faith communities with significant young adult participation highlighted their distinctive characteristics.

A narrative review of current literature on the topic of young adult participation (PDF).  This review was authored by LiErin Probasco, a PhD candidate in sociology at Princeton University. She has been involved in young adult ministry and taught the subject at seminaries in Virginia and New England.  She is currently engaged in community research in East Palo Alto, California.

A summary of the best practices for young adult ministry based on the following case studies and our research. (PDF)

And finally, ten case studies of churches and other faith communities with significant young adult involvement.  These cases were chosen to capture to diversity of American religious congregations today. They vary in size from a group as small as 50 to a megachurch and are from multiple faith traditions.  In each case the case study involved one or more on-site visits with the local group and interviews with key leaders and some of the young adult participants, as well as gleaning information from working documents and Web sites.

A few years ago, one of us (Ken) was part of an ongoing study group with a profoundly ecumenical mix of clergy.

Ranging in age from the late 20s to the early 60s, the members were from the United States, Canada and Ireland and represented a variety of faith traditions: Roman Catholic, Mennonite, Jewish, United Methodist and Presbyterian.

As Ken and his colleagues reflected on their experiences leading people of faith, they came to an unexpected epiphany: none of their congregations placed much value on ministries with youth.

The large Roman Catholic parish always assigned youth ministry to the newest priest. Two of the mainline congregations hired staff from other denominations to lead their youth groups. And a couple of the other churches had simply abandoned the field to parachurch organizations.

That conversation opened Ken’s eyes. He realized for the first time that mainline churches in the United States have essentially outsourced ministries with youth.

The reasons for this development are varied. Youth are rarely in positions of power in local churches and often have no strong advocate on church governing boards. Clergy who have studied and trained in theological schools often prefer to preach and teach among adults — the typical and most rewarded career path in ministry. And given the very nature of adolescence — a sometimes chaotic and messy season in life — youth ministry is inherently challenging work.

As a result, many congregations have all but walked away from the field, allocating minimal resources to youth programs and hiring people with little theological training to lead them.

To borrow from the work of Clayton Christensen, this is a classic “bottom of the market” scenario in which disruptive innovation occurs. As Christensen might argue, overlooked youth ministries operating out on the margins — just like small steel mills making low-grade rebar — do not remain marginal. Youth ministers mature and develop; the most effective ones are not content simply to lead small groups in abandoned church basements.

While mainline churches were looking the other way, many youth ministries transitioned from small groups to larger gatherings with sophisticated music and technology to entire alternative worship services. It is not an accident that many of the most effective and visible megachurch pastors in the United States (Adam Hamilton and Bill Hybels among them) began as youth ministers. At the same time, many parachurch organizations such as Young Life discovered new ways to engage youth directly, bypassing congregations and connecting their ministries to high schools and other contexts.

And so, in the same way that Toyota entered the American auto market with the low-end Corona (which eventually morphed into the Land Cruiser and the entire Lexus line of luxury cars), marginalized youth ministries became laboratories for innovation. And like 1970s-era General Motors, mainline Protestant denominations largely ignored them. Like GM, we stayed too long with established models even as they declined in numbers and quality.

Meanwhile, new laboratories in congregations and parachurch organizations flourished, offering young people significant opportunities to experience Christ. Over the years, as mainline Protestants settled for weaker forms of youth ministry, many of these laboratories became their own vibrant institutions — with real consequences for mainline Protestants.

As a result of our neglect of youth ministries, mainline Protestants have lost young people who might otherwise have grown up to become adult leaders in our congregations. Even more important, we have also lost an untold number of gifted young people who might have considered a call to ordained ministry.

Fortunately, Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation also tells us that solutions are possible. Hand-wringing despair is not mainline Protestants’ only option. Rather, we can learn from the best insights of these laboratories and develop our own skunk-works experiments.

Duke Divinity School has already developed one such experiment, the Duke Youth Academy for Christian Formation, which has had a profound impact on many of its participants — not only the teenagers who attend the academy every summer but also Divinity School faculty and alumni. Many other seminaries have developed similar academies, most with the visionary support of Lilly Endowment Inc. And some mainline congregations are investing more resources and talent in ministries with young people.

At the same time, we need to remember that the growth of youth ministry laboratories has not been an unequivocal success. Clearly, youth ministries still have room for improvement — much of which the mainline is uniquely positioned to achieve. The lack of theological education among those who serve and lead adolescents going through one of life’s most developmentally important seasons is a travesty. Approximately 70 percent of full-time youth ministers have no theological education, according toone recent survey.

Already, experiments to help address this challenge are emerging from within mainline Protestantism. Building on the Youth Academy, Duke Divinity School now offers a master of arts in Christian practicedesigned for active youth ministers in partnership with their congregations. The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church offers a youth director cohort that provides skills training, vocational support and spiritual formation for persons serving in youth ministry programs.

When we recall Ken’s conversation with ecumenical clergy, we might be tempted to avoid the subject — and the challenge — of youth ministry altogether. After all, Christensen called this kind of change “disruptive” for a reason.

It will be no small task for pastors and judicatory leaders to rethink our practice of outsourcing — or worse, ignoring — youth ministry. But it will be equally challenging to allow new forms of worship, music, technology and community to reform us.

The future of mainline Protestant witness will depend on whether we can incorporate disruptive innovation into our identity for the sake of ongoing faithful Christian witness.

When we were in seminary, one of our professors published a book entitled “Will Our Children Have Faith?” In the light of the disruptions of the past several decades, the question we need to ask ourselves now is, “Will our faith have children?”

Pastor Kendall B. Goslee, Sr., has a tremendous passion for God’s WORD coupled with agape love for all God’s people. He has a contagious spirit of generosity that flows through every facet of his ministry.

Pastor Kendall B. Goslee, Sr., has a tremendous passion for God’s WORD coupled with agape love for all God’s people. He has a contagious spirit of generosity that flows through every facet of his ministry.

I Am Learning Obedience While In My Desert

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With faith and obedience practiced long enough, the Holy Ghost becomes a constant companion, our natures change, and endurance becomes certain.

Henry B. Eyring


http://youtu.be/jT4G9o4EkqU

May and I define a blessing as any expression of God’s goodness and love toward us. Answered prayer, miraculous provision, and unexpected favor are some examples. We easily recognize these as God’s gifts. But sometimes He chooses to bless us in different ways. For instance, He grants us strength and joy in the midst of hardship, and He uses our suffering to help us mature spiritually.

When we obey God, we can trust that He will display His goodness and love to us. Those who are wise will watch for His blessings in all their different forms.

Biblical Examples

A. Noah’s obedience saved his family from the flood.

B. Abraham’s obedience resulted in his becoming the father of a great nation, God’s chosen people, Israel.

C. Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.

D. Joshua won the battle of Jericho by following God’s supernatural strategy.

E. David refused to harm Saul, the anointed king.

F. Jehoshaphat relied on God’s word when the Ammonites attacked Judah.

G. Peter obeyed Jesus’ command to fish in the heat of day.

H. Paul followed God’s will and took the gospel to the Gentiles.

Types of Blessing

God’s gifts aren’t always obvious. But when you obey Him, He may bless you with:

A. Peace, joy, and contentment. These internal qualities often result when we step out in faith and obey God.

B. Spiritual growth. We will have more faith to obey the next time God challenges us to do something.

C. Eternal blessings. When we stand before God on judgment day, we will be rewarded for our obedience (see Mark 9:41; Luke 6:21-23).

Suffering Before Blessing

Often, the first effect of obedience is not blessing, but suffering. Sometimes, what God requires of us will initially lead to pain and sadness. We shouldn’t assume that difficulty means we’ve made a mistake or that He has abandoned us. Let’s look at two significant examples of suffering as an initial result of obedience:

A. Moses followed God’s command to lead His people out of Egypt. Not only did the leader experience difficulty in freeing the Israelites from bondage; the people also complained bitterly about life in the dessert once they were released. Despite these and other challenges, Moses is known as the most important leader in the Old Testament.

B. Paul obeyed God by preaching the gospel. As a result, he suffered tremendous persecution, danger, and physical abuse (2 Cor. 11:23-27). However, because he was imprisoned, the apostle had time to write his epistles to the Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians, and Philemon. His obedience resulted in supernatural blessing (see 2 Tim. 4:7).

God’s Purposes for Our Suffering

A. To bring us to the end of ourselves. We become most useful to the Lord when we rely on Him completely. If we respond correctly to loss and suffering, we will find blessing through it.

B. To prevent pride. Suffering reminds us that all good things are gifts from God and not earned by our own efforts.

C. To remove idols from our lives. Worshipping anything other than God is a problem. He causes all things to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). So if He removes a good thing from our lives, He must have a purpose, even if we can’t see it at the time.

D. To deepen our understanding of His ways. When God does something and we aren’t sure why, we can anticipate learning something new about how He operates.

E. To demonstrate His faithfulness to His children. In suffering, you and I have the opportunity to become living examples of the goodness of God. As others watch how we respond to overwhelming adversity, they recognize His loving care.

Conclusion:

If you obey God, can you expect His blessings? Yes. But remember that His choice of blessing may be different from yours. Perhaps He will use suffering to draw you closer to Himself. Or He may use it to remove from your life those things that hinder fruitfulness for Him. No matter what, if you walk in His will, He will bless you in surprising ways. We are speaking from a suffering spirit right now, but O’ how sweet it is to see His provision and peace all the while.

Behavior-Nothing New Under The Sun

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Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Ecclesiastes 1:9

The Message (MSG)

 Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.]
    There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work,
    a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
    but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
        planet earth.

mandrake


And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest

Leah’s eldest son, who is supposed to be at this time about four or five years of age F5, who went out from the tent to the field, to play there perhaps; and this was at the time of wheat harvest, in the month Sivan, as the Targum of Jonathan, which answers to part of our May; a time of the year when the earth is covered with flowers: and found mandrakes in the field;
the flowers or fruit of mandrakes, mandrake apples, as the Septuagint. This plant is said to excite love, provoke lust, dispose for, and help conception; for which reasons it is thought Rachel was so desirous of these “mandrakes”, which seem to have their name “dudaim” from love: the word is only used here and in ( Song of Solomon 7:13 ) ; where they are commended for their good smell, and therefore cannot be the plant which goes now by that name; since they neither give a good smell, nor bear good fruit, and are of a cold quality, and so not likely to produce the above effects ascribed unto them. It is very probable they were lovely and delightful flowers the boy picked up in the field, such as children delight in; some think the “jessamin”, others lilies, and others violets F6; it is not easy to determine what they were; (See Gill on Song of Solomon 7:13); and brought them unto his mother Leah;
as children are apt to do, to show what line flowers or fruit they have gathered: then Rachel said to Leah, give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s
mandrakes;
being taken with the color or smell of them; for as for the notion of helping conception, or removing barrenness and the like, there is no foundation for it; for Rachel, who had them, did not conceive upon having them; and the conception both of her and Leah afterwards is ascribed to the Lord’s remembering and hearkening to them.

 

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Looking back on the rich, colorful history of sexual stimulants, it is interesting to note, in light of the medical advances we have enjoyed, that many ofthese substances worked to promote sexual interest just by correcting a nutritional imbalance. It makes sense that a person suffering from a mineral deficiency would find his or her interest in sex returning after ingesting a mineral-rich substance touted as an aphrodisiac. After all, a healthy person is much more likely to have the desire and energy for sex.

In ancient times, the pursuit of sexual stimulants was governed by the “law of similarity.” According to this rule, whose erroneous precepts still commandcredence in some parts of the world, any item that looks like aroused male or female genitalia will be powerful aphrodisiacs. One example of the principle, the oyster, is as popular among sensation seekers today as it was hundredsof years ago. The root of the mandrake, which resembles a human male, was also much sought after in biblical times. A testimonial to the enduring urgencyof our search for these stimulants is the fact that many of the animals whose parts were and are used as sexual aids under the law of similarity are nowextinct or nearly so.

For instance, the law of similarity is the basis of the continuing popularityin Asia of powdered rhinoceros horn. Often publicized in the news when customs officials confiscate and burn huge quantities of the illegally obtained horn, the fallacy continues that the horn will work as an aphrodisiac. Frequently, poachers will kill rhinoceroses and leave their bodies to rot after usingchain saws to take off the massive protrusions. As a result of this longtimehunt of the animals, all five species of rhinoceros are now endangered. China banned sales of the horn in 1993, but it continues on the black market, fetching prices of up to $27,000 per pound in Taiwan in 1990.

Chemical analysis of rhino horn reveals that it contains ethanolamine, phosphorous, and sugar, along with the free amino acids threonine, aspartic acid, lysine, histidine, ornithine, and arginine. This last ingredient has a reputation for raising the intensity of sexual sensation, although there is little evidence to support this assertion. In general, rhino horn is made of keratin–the same material of which our nails and hair is made. Originally, the penis of the rhinoceros was what men sought to restore their sex drives and potency. Under the law of similarity, this portion of the animal’s anatomy must surely have represented a persuasive argument that it would serve their purpose.

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Genesis 30:14-21

The Message (MSG)

14 One day during the wheat harvest Reuben found some mandrakes in the field and brought them home to his mother Leah. Rachel asked Leah, “Could I please have some of your son’s mandrakes?”

15 Leah said, “Wasn’t it enough that you got my husband away from me? And now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”

Rachel said, “All right. I’ll let him sleep with you tonight in exchange for your son’s love-apples.”

16-21 When Jacob came home that evening from the fields, Leah was there to meet him: “Sleep with me tonight; I’ve bartered my son’s mandrakes for a night with you.” So he slept with her that night. God listened to Leah; she became pregnant and gave Jacob a fifth son. She said, “God rewarded me for giving my maid to my husband.” She named him Issachar (Bartered). Leah became pregnant yet again and gave Jacob a sixth son, saying, “God has given me a great gift. This time my husband will honor me with gifts—I’ve given him six sons!” She named him Zebulun (Honor). Last of all she had a daughter and named her Dinah.

Perhaps Leah is already worried that Reuben’s birthright would be stolen. He finds some MANDRAKES:
1. Thought of as an aphrodisiac and aid to fertility.
2. Mentioned only Song of Solomon 7:13 “The mandrakes send out their fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my lover.” (Song of Solomon 7:13)
3. The Arabs called it the “devil’s apples” and the Greeks nicknamed it “love apple” because of its legendary reputation as an aphrodisiac.
4. Mandrakes are part of SHAKESPEARE PLAYS where they are given mystical or occultic powers.
5. Spoken of in HARRY POTTER –
6. JOSEPHUS – reflects the first century idea that digging when you dig up the root of a mandrake, a demon like character lets out a scream that kills anyone who hears it. Josephus recommended securing a rope around the mandrake and tying it around a dog’s neck. When the dog follows his master, the mandrake will be removed and if the screech is heard, it will kill the dog while saving the master. (Josephus, B. J. vii. 6, § 3), quoted in http://www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/m/mandrake.html.
RACHEL thought the MANDRAKES would help her get pregnant.
RACHEL embraces CULTURAL VALUES over God’s Word. This is not the only time that Rachel embraces cultural ideas over confidence in God. In Genesis 31:34 she takes the “household gods.” when leaving for BerSheba
Rachel trusts in good luck charms but NOT in God.
LEAH’S ACCUSATION: Gen 30:15. “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband, will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”
YEARS of frustration and anger
RACHEL controlled the bedroom rights.
LEAH is angry and manipulates Jacob’s love.
JUST LIKE US, RACHEL – trusting in her own ways.
LEAH – Waiting for an opportunity and lashing out.
LEAH unleashes her POISON BOX
Reuben is now a young boy or teenager
Leah has not forgotten that she is not loved
She has STORED UP her anger and it comes out when provoked. I call the place in our hearts where we store the hurts and pains of the past our POISON BOX.
THINGS WE PUT IN OUR POISON BOX
Past Hurts
Insults
Wounded Pride
Theft
Injustice
“Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.” (Proverbs 26:18–21) “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.” (James 1:9)
and  Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20)
The Danger of Keeping a POISON BOX:
The darts that we store away will eventually be used
When you throw your poison arrows you cannot control where they land or how much damage they cause. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6) Once thrown, you cannot take them back. Ben Franklin is attributed with saying, “A slip of the foot you will soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.”The longer you hold your poison, the more it takes control of your life.

But we don’t have to keep a poison box! Here are some God Honoring alternatives to storing up past offenses.
1. Overlook Offenses
Proverbs 19:11 A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 20:3 It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Things that should NOT be overlooked (Ken Sande)
Is it (the offense) dishonoring to God?
Is it damaging your relationship? Matt 18:15-20
Is it hurting others? 2 Tim 2:24-26
Is it hurting the offender? Gal 6:1-2; James 5:19-20
Reconciliation. Matt 5:21-24 (you and your brother/ sister)
Negotiation. “A mutually agreed upon third party or method.”

When the two in the dispute attempt to work things out themselves.
Proverbs 18:17–19 The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. 18 Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart. 19 An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.

2. Mediation. Intervention counseling is a form of mediation. An example of this is the The Jerusalem Counsel. Acts 15:1-5

3. Arbitration. (Example, OT PRIESTS, NT Jerusalem Counsel, An example of arbitration can be found in Deuteronomy 17:8–13 If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the LORD your God will choose. 9 Go to the priests, who are Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. 10 You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the LORD will choose. Be careful to do everything they direct you to do. 11 Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. 12 The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the LORD your God must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. 13 All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again.

4. Accountability. In serious conflict ask that a third party ensure that everything is being fulfilled according to the agreed upon plan.

There are great Benefits of Restoring Relationships
The most GOD HONORING thing we can do when we are hurt is to show grace to the one who hurt us.
James 3:18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
Hebrews 12:14 (NKJV) “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord”
Ephesians 4:3 (NKJV) “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

What do we do with our poison box?
Give it to the Lord.
Forgive what can be biblically forgiven
Commit to a God honoring way to resolve other differences
Release those who refuse to be reconciled from any personal desire for revenge or vindication. Leave it in the Lord’s Hands.

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There’s nothing new on this earth.
    Year after year it’s the same old thing.
Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”?
    Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story.
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday.
    And the things that will happen tomorrow?
Nobody’ll remember them either.
    Don’t count on being remembered.

Rejection Is The Pathway To Victory

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Romans 8:31-39

The Message (MSG)

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

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 People can live in bondage to rejection and not even know it. It causes us to believe lies about ourselves and undermines our relationships with the Lord. Even though God says He is for us and nothing can separate us from Him (Rom. 8:31-39), past experiences can make us feel differently. It’s impossible to avoid feeling rejection’s sting, so we must deal with it by acknowledging its presence, discovering its source, and letting the Lord help us overcome it.

II. The Nature of Rejection. It is a painful emotion that is created when someone refuses us, and it has many negative outcomes:

A. It creates a feeling of being excluded or unwanted. We can feel unworthy or like we don’t fit in.

B. It is a form of control. Those who refuse to accept us can influence what we do and think.

C. It leads to self-rejection. We become critical of ourselves and lose self-respect.

D. It can become a syndrome. Those who have never dealt with their feelings act in ways that cause others to reject them.

III. What are the characteristics of a person suffering from rejection? People who are consciously or unconsciously enslaved by rejection will:

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A. Have a critical spirit toward themselves and others. People with low self-esteem often try to bring other people down.  

B. Experience difficulty in loving others. If people don’t love themselves, they’re not equipped to love others.  

C. Have feelings of inferiority. Rejection makes people believe they never fit in or measure up.  

D. Be overly attentive to appearance. Hurting people try to dress in ways that will help them feel accepted.  

E. Be prone to perfectionism. To avoid failure, some people won’t try tasks they cannot do perfectly. This also leads to procrastination.  

F. Live in a state of floating anger. An attitude of anger permeates their lives and leads them to find fault with others.  

G. Display an attitude of superiority. An arrogant demeanor is really just a cover-up for feelings of inferiority.  

H. Be overly sensitive. Those who struggle with feelings of rejection are easily hurt and prone to misinterpreting comments as being unkind.  

I. Resist being loved. People who don’t feel worthy have difficulty accepting affection.  

J. Be suspicious. Some people become suspicious of anyone who tries to befriend them because they believe there must be an ulterior motive.  

K. Become aloof. To avoid rejection, some people become loners.  

L. Fall into depression. When people feel unworthy, they naturally are sad and discouraged.  

M. Be cheated out of life. People who can’t overcome the emotional effects of rejection miss God’s best blessings.  

N. Have a materialistic focus. To feel wanted, some people gather possessions only to find they never satisfy.  

O. Miss God’s plan for their lives. Feelings of rejection cheat people of all the Lord wants to do in and through them.  

P. Adopt sinful practices. When people can’t accept themselves, they sometimes turn to drugs, drinking, or sex in a search of relief.

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IV. Reasons for Feeling Rejected. The underlying cause of this painful emotion is a person’s opinion of himself, which is brought about by hurtful experiences such as:

A. Physical defects. Not liking how he looks can make a person feel undesirable or unlovable.

B. Past emotional hurts. When a person is hurt, the damaging effects always linger.

C. The death of a loved one. Some people interpret loss as rejection because they feel alone. In their eyes, God has turned His back on them.

D. Divorce. This is a very painful experience because both spouses and children are affected and are left feeling discarded.

E. Childhood experiences. Words of criticism and rejection stick in a child’s memory and shape his view of himself. He will spend a lifetime trying to validate his worth.

V. How can we overcome feelings of rejection? These negative feelings must be dealt with if we are to be truly complete. There are three essential elements that comprise a healthy attitude, and the Lord supplies them all. Through Him, we gain:

A. A sense of belonging. Those who are a part of the body of Christ belong to God’s family (Rom. 8:16). Once we fix this truth in our hearts, we’ll feel secure no matter what.

B. A feeling of worthiness. Jesus considered us so valuable that He was willing to die in our place (John 3:16).

C. A sense of competence. When we accepted Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit came to live inside us. One of His jobs is to enable us to accomplish whatever God calls us to do (Phil. 4:13).

VI. Conclusion: There is no need to go through life handicapped by past experiences. The first step to gaining victory over rejection comes when you choose to believe the Lord and find your acceptance in Him. Begin by asking the Lord’s forgiveness for allowing hurtful emotions to hinder you. The next step is to deal with your offenses toward others and ask for their forgiveness because true healing demands that you address both sides of rejection. After that, it all boils down to a choice between believing what God says or what others say about you.

We Started In Our Home; Second Chance Alliance

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Empower A Felon
Empower A Felon

Famous Garage Startups:

#1 Amazon
#2 Apple
#3 Disney

About 45 minutes down the road from Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CA, there’s a house in Los Angeles where The Walt Disney Company got its start.

In 1923, the house belonged to Walt Disney’s uncle, Robert Disney. Walt and his brother Roy moved in with their uncle and set up “The First Disney Studio” in the one-car garage out back. There they started filming the Alice Comedies which was part of the original Alice’s Wonderland.

May & I started this vision while displaced and uncertain about sheer survival. I went on 205 interviews with fortune 500 companies. I even worked for a company 4 hrs. running a purification process as a machine operator bottling water. The supervisor said you improved our process and made more quality product than our 3 operators. He asked me when can you start? I was very transparent about my past. I past the written text and drug screen and physical, but when it was time to get the offer and sign for the position I was told we can’t hire a felon. I took a stand for religious liberties honoring the Sabbath. We were propelled into homelessness and destitution. God and a loving family accepted a student and a out of work engineer, (both felon’s) into their home and community. We began to pursue education about this cause and my wife is about to graduate Argosy university with a psychology major and substance abuse minor. I have an associates degree in Human Behavior and B.S. in Chemical Engineering.

We are now in a new home and awaiting the blessing of getting this business up and running in a facility with May’s name on her office door. We are dreaming big because we have been impregnated with this vision from on high. So like Disney and the 10 garage start-ups we will tarry though the vision seems out of reach. Our faith is in the things we can’t see. Our restoration to this point was birthed by faith.

Today, Disney is the highest-grossing media conglomerate in the world.

MORE THAN 600,000 individuals will leave state prisons and return home this year. That is 1,600 a day, and a sixfold increase in prisoner releases since 1970. Of course, inmates have always been released from prison, and corrections officials have long struggled with how to facilitate successful transitions. But the current situation is decidedly different. The increase in number of releasees has stretched parole services beyond their limits, and officials worry about what assistance can be provided at release. Research confirms that returning prisoners need more help than in the past, yet resources have diminished. Returning prisoners will have served longer prison sentences than in the past, be more disconnected from family and friends, have a higher prevalence of untreated substance abuse and mental illness, and be less educated and employable than their predecessors. Legal and practical barriers facing ex-offenders have also increased, affecting their employment, housing, and welfare eligibility. Without help, many released inmates quickly return to crime.

This video though low budget is as transparent as one can be. We are not ashamed of the gospel nor of the tools at our disposal. If you can not see us with your funds to put to good use. Then think about this:

Over time, the impact of reducing recidivism is substantial when considering the average cost of housing an inmate is $60.73* per day. With a median sentence of 2.5 years, the average cost savings could be as much as $55,428 per inmate.” (4) On one hand, many lives are being ruined in a vicious and expensive cycle of crime and punishment, and on the other, taxpayers’ money is being used to finance it — a losing scenario for the prisoners, government, and society. If that same $55,428 was used to invest in programs like Construction Career Training Program, there would be a direct increase in the number of ex-offenders that could be served.

Reduce Recidivism: Invest in Life Changes
Community re-entry programs for ex-offenders are vital and necessary to not only reduce the recidivism rate but to also teach the ex-offender how to become a productive, contributing member of society. Thousands of ex-offenders are released back into our communities, every day. The rate of recidivism in the United States is estimated to be about two-thirds, which means that two-thirds of released inmates will be re-incarcerated within three years. Recidivate means to return to a previous pattern of behavior, especially to return to criminal habits. The recidivism rate increases when an ex-offender commits another crime and re-enters the criminal justice system and returns back to prison. Studies show that if an offender is not rehabilitated or educated, they are highly likely to be re-incarcerated or recidivate.

We are proof that education fueled with a positive support group that holds you accountable to the faith in Jesus Christ and each other works. Thank God for Kansas Ave. SDA and Crown of Life Ministries. Let’s put Second Chance Alliance in some hearts so we can get this same testimony from them.

See “Yourself” Through Scripture No Matter What…..

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Rejection-It-Will-Be-Ok-750x350

To be rooted is perhaps the most
important and least recognized need of
the human soul.

Simone Weil

The year was 1858 and the Illinois legislature used what might be called a dirty political trick. The legislature gave newly elected U.S. Senate seat not to the man who won the popular vote but to the man who had the most support from the Illinois legislature. The man sent to the US Senate was Stephen A Douglas and the man left behind was Abraham Lincoln. A concerned friend asked Lincoln how he felt and this is what he said: “Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.” 

What is rejection?
Webster defines rejection as to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use to refuse to hear, receive, or admit

Rejection is a part of life and at some point we are all going to feel the cold sting of rejection. Rejection is something that we have all dealt with. Whether it’s on a personal level or a professional level, the sting is still there. 

We have felt the familiar pain of rejection in a variety of ways. The job or promotion we were not given, the loan that your bank turned down, the position that you were not given, the family member that stopped speaking to you. Rejection happens to us all and rejection inflicts pain. It comes and drives its fangs into our heart and unleashes its poison. 

You can take heart because if you have ever felt rejection, then you are in good company. There were many that felt the sting of rejection throughout the pages of the Bible.


Adam and Eve rejected the command of God 

Jeremiah was rejected by the people of his day and was thrown into a well

Jonah rejected the people of Ninevah after they repented

Jesus was rejected by the society and religious leadership of His day

Peter rejected Jesus by denying Him three times

Stephen was rejected and executed by the Sanhedrin

670px-Accept-Social-Isolation-for-Targeted-Individuals-Step-1

My own thinking sometimes rejects my faith thoughts and at that very moment the battle begins. My creativity is at risk and my resolve to forge ahead is stifled. In trying to partner with God on this vision of Second Chance Alliance I am really at my wits end concerning fund raising and the philanthropic aspects associated with measuring success.  The concept of rejecting yourself is more apparent than from outside entities.

Rejection Started in Joseph’s home  in Genesis 37:3

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

When we first meet Joseph he had a favored position in his household. He seems to play the role of the spoiled child. He is the one whom his father played favorites with. To further make the favoritism known, Joseph was given an expensive robe to wear. This would have been a symbol of status. We see the response of his brothers to this was not good. 

The writer makes it clear that the brothers hated Joseph because of his favored treatment. The manner of their attitude toward Joseph is seen in their envy, animosity and their jealousy. 

5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Joseph is given a vision through a dream and makes the mistake of telling his brothers about it. The response is only more of the same. Look at the end of verse 8, they hated him all the more. The burning hatred of Joseph’s brother roared out of control and consumed them. The consuming fire of hate would soon burn Joseph.

Notice the downward spiral that Joseph’s brothers went down and each step brought them one step closer to their rejection.

Bitterness
The brothers were bitter over the special treatment that Joseph received and from the negative report that he gave about them.

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Anger
The brothers became angry over the dreams that Joseph told them about. They felt that he would never have authority over them

Jealousy
The brothers were jealous of Joseph’s special place with their father and with his obvious special abilities.

Resentment
The brothers allowed their negative feelings to linger and then they infected the way they saw Joseph. Notice that they hated Joseph. These are strong words for an even stronger emotion.

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. 19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” 21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe–the richly ornamented robe he was wearing– 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed. 28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. 29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?” 31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.” 33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”

images (1)Notice what happened with the brothers and Joseph:

They mocked him; The brothers saw Joseph coming and they mocked him calling him that dreamer. The fuel of hatred moved them from hard feelings to hard words and hard hearted actions. They plotted against him as the brothers saw Joseph coming, they began to plot how they would attack him. The original plan was that they would kill Joseph and tell their father that he was killed by an animal.

They attacked him: Joseph’s brothers joined together and attacked him. The brothers got the jump on Joseph and physically assaulted him. This means that they grabbed him and held or beat him. No matter what they did they were physically abusive to him.

They stripped him:

The first thing that the brothers do is to take the favored possession from Joseph. The robe that made him the father’s favorite was stripped from him. The symbol of their resentment, jealousy and rage was taken. They took the thing that was withheld from them. In a sense they were stealing their father’s blessing from Joseph.

They threw him:

Before the brothers kill Joseph Reuben stops them and convinces them to put him in a dry cistern. They throw Joseph in and this means none too gently either. A cistern could have been anywhere from 15 to 30 feet deep and could have caused significant injuries.

They sold him:

The brothers agree to not kill Joseph but to teach him a lesson. Judah sees a trade caravan and gets the idea to make some money on the deal and the brothers decide to sell Joseph. Judah makes the plea to not kill Joseph because he is their brother, let’s just sell him instead.

The saddest part of the whole situation was that when they sold Joseph, they did so for the lowest price possible. Twenty shekels was the price for an injured slave. The fact is that they just wanted to be rid of him. Let’s do the math, ten brothers and twenty shekels of silver comes to two shekels each. These brothers sold their brother for about $10 each.

They ignored him:
As Joseph was in the cistern, he cried out for help from his brothers. They ignored him. When they turned him over to slave traders, Joseph cried out to them for help and they ignored him. This may have been the cruelest of all their actions, they heard and did nothing for Joseph.

They buried him:

This is figurative and not literal. The brothers slaughter a goat and dip the robe into it. The whole time trying to make it look like Joseph was attacked by a wild animal. They in essence gave Joseph a burial. They lied and told their father that Joseph was dead.

What do we learn from Joseph in this passage? What can we take away from all this? How do we live in the face of rejection?

Be open:

We have to be willing to be open to the work of God in our lives. Joseph was given the visions of God in dreams. This is an incredible ability. The abilities that you have may not be visions from God but they are equally important to the church. If you allow your life to be open to God, He will decide where, when and how to use you.

Be humble:

One of the downfalls of Joseph was the simple truth that he didn’t keep his mouth shut. Joseph was given a great gift from God but the manner in which he displayed it was totally inappropriate. Pride comes before a fall and Joseph’s pride caused him to be humbled in tragic ways.

Be patient:

Many times we look at the short term effects of the trials we go through and doubt God is using them in a positive way. Before things would improve for Joseph, they would sadly get worse. God is not finished working in us and through us. We cannot judge the outcome by the unfinished product. Allow God to finish what he has started in you.

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

Never forget that God is not done with your life and making you into the person he knows you can be until you die or Jesus returns. Until then be sure that God is working his plan out in our lives even in the rough spots and the difficult days. This morning if you are dealing with some form of rejection or other form of personal pain, I invite you take a moral inventory of self and give the situation over to God.

Bring the Rain
I can count a million times People asking me how I can praise you with all that I’ve gone through The question just amazes me Can circumstances possibly change who I forever am in You Maybe since my life was changed long before these rainy days it’s never really crossed my mind To turn my back on you O lord my only shelter from the storm But instead I grow closer through these times So I pray:

Bring me joy, bring me peace bring the chance to be free bring me anything that brings You glory And I know there’ll be days when this life brings me pain but if that’s what it takes to praise you Jesus bring the rain.

Empower A Felon
Empower A Felon

Prayers of Intercession and Spiritual Warfare For Israel

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  Why is the history of Israel so important to our world today? 

The history of Israel, from Abraham to present time, is most important to the world today. To the secular world this may be a confusing statement, however, to those who understand biblical truths, this statement is fully understandable. 

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 History of Israel – The Israel Controversy

To look at the state of Israel today one cannot avoid the issues that constantly arise around the nation and its people. Israel does not look to make itself a controversy to the world. In fact, Israel desires peace. However, its history will never allow peace. Israel is an historically rich nation. It is the home to the most controversial individual of all time, Jesus Christ. It is also the home of the world’s largest religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Abraham, an Ancient Israel patriarch is said to be the father of all three religions. These three religions have differing beliefs that bring very different opinions as to who is right and to which God Abraham actually served. The debate has been the source of wars and disputes throughout history including World War II, the deadliest and bloodiest war of all time. 

Today, the Middle East and many other nations around the world continue to struggle over the issue of Israel. Traditionally, Israel is a Jewish nation, yet as the root of Christianity and the homeland of a major holy site for Islam (the Dome of the Rock which sits on the site of the biblical Jewish temple of God), Israel remains a major topic of controversy. 

Where the Religions Stand
True Christians around the world look to protect Israel. According to the Old Testament (by which Judaism derives its beliefs) Israel is the beginning of Christian understanding. It is the beginning of Christianity; a time of preparation leading to Jesus Christ. To Christians, Israel is the homeland of their religion and the people of Israel are the chosen of God. To Christians, the Jewish people are their brothers and sisters who are missing the truth of Christ as their Messiah and Savior. Christians pray for Israel and support it in many ways, in the hope of bringing the nation of Israel and the Jewish people to see Jesus Christ as their Messiah. 

Islam is another story. Years of violence has led to bitterness between Jews and Muslims. Much of the Islamic world would love to see the people of Israel destroyed and the land it occupies given back to the Islamic people, namely the Palestinians. Israel protects itself through a series of allied nations around the world, in addition to their own military strength. Israel is a Jewish nation, though largely secular in comparison to its early history, surrounded by traditionally Islamic nations; some of which are radical in their ways and highly aggressive in their actions toward Israel. 

It is safe to say that without the existence of Israel today, there would be much less controversy in the world. However, as it stands, Israel remains important to the make up of our world and the overall history of its existence. 

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And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)

 

Father God, I know that the greatest spiritual battle is taking place right now over the Holy Land. Satan is once again trying to annihilate Your Chosen People and to discredit Your Word and Prophetic Promises to Israel. I come against this illegal warfare against Israel and Her People in Jesus’ Name. I come against every deception and lie that is being propagated against them. I command the demonic powers of Satan be bound from this hideous action, in Jesus’ Name.”

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

I come against the lie that has many Christians deceived into believing that God is finished with Israel and has no further plans for Her. This “Replacement Theology” is from the pit of hell! The Body of Christ has not replaced Your Position, purpose and plans for Israel (Romans 11:1-2). Open the blind eyes of those who have accepted this deception and reveal to them Your everlasting purposes for Israel, in Jesus’ Name.

 

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:24)

I come against the propaganda and the lies that are designed to make Israel appear as the terrorist’s aggressor and the Palestinians as the victims! Lord God, let the world see the lie the media is perpetuating and reveal the truth of the promises You gave to Israel as her land of inheritance.”

Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous. (Psalms 31:18)

“I come against the satanic anti-Semitic hatred that is being instilled into the minds of people in order to convince nation after nation not to stand with and come to the aid of Israel in this, her greatest time of need! I decree the favor and love of God to be demonstrated to her so the world may see and comprehend the mercy, love and power of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in Jesus’ Name!”

 It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me. 

 And that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. (II Samuel 22: 48-49)

Wielding The Word In Perilous Times: “FAITH”

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Sometimes, as we struggle along through and endure these perilous last days, it can seem like the Devil is winning on every front. Oftentimes it truly does seem that every single hallmark of morality and righteousness in the world is not only under demonic attack but is in fact being relegated to the dustbins of society. Sometimes it may seem as though God has totally withdrawn, and that we are left to fend for ourselves. Truly, the chalepos snares of the forces of darkness abound today like no other time in history. The result of these perilous days will ultimately soon culminate in full-scale apostasy during the Tribulation of course. (as the Laodicean Church evolves into the Apostate church) But we members of the terminal generation era (alive at time for rapture) of the bride of Christ need always to ponder and reflect upon the fact that all these ominous signs of the times need not cause us to fear. Rather the prevalent perilous times present today should give us renewed hope and spiritual vigor as we labor onward in this ever darkening world.

Many people fail to understand or to grasp the unique spiritual blessing that is inferred by the phrase, “blessed hope.” The Greek term “makarios elpis,” is the rendered phrase that we as Christians know uniquely as the wondrous “blessed hope.” It is a term that is intended to convey to every Christian alive during the last days, a quiet but assuring message about an imminent gathering with the Lord before the climactic Day of Trouble.

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(Day of the Lord)  The term means that the last days Christian is “supremely fortunate and able to confidently anticipate” the Lord’s coming even as we witness the signs of the Last Days taking place all around us. And what a blessing it is too! Christians should never allow the Devil to rob them of this wonderfulmakarios elpis! The blessed hope and the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ (epiphaneia) are majestically and supernaturally interlocked in the providential plan of God. Otherwise, the Christian of today could not look out across today’s world landscape, and see a view that is overflowing with the ever-advancing forces of darkness, and still yet be filled with absolute confidence and an anticipatory sense of excitement. These perilous times indicate that the time for Jesus return is on the radar screen for Christians and that we, his ambassadors in this world will soon be recalled home. The great tribulation era is simply not on the radar screen for Christians!

Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;

 

Some reasons to be encouraged even during the perilous times of the Last Days are the following:

 

  • Jesus has promised his children that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Even in the most perilous of times, the Lord is our constant refuge and strength.

 

Hebrews 13:5-6 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

 

Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 62:7-8; Psalms 118:4; II Corinthians 12:9)

 

  • The providential plan of God does not call for his children to be subjected to the “Day of the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16) when Jesus returns to this world as a Lion! (Revelation 5:5) Yes, God’s plan calls for our withdrawal and rescue!

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-9 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

  • This world is not our home. Heaven holds our citizenship, and as citizens of Heaven, we are presently serving as the Lord’s ambassadors to this present world. We are literally spiritual aliens in this world, and this evil infested world hates us just as it hated Jesus. Our rewards, our crowns, our substance, and our inheritance are all in Heaven. There is an old song that says it plainly: (This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue, the angels beckon me to heavens open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore!) (Romans 8:17-21; Titus 2:12; Galations 1:4; Ephesians 2:12)

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Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

 

  • Accountability to God is the great motivator for righteous living, and persisting in the faith even under the most trying of circumstances. In the end analysis, we will all  (Christian or non-Christian) discover that real accountability rests solely with God. Accountability should always be a powerful reminder for us to live righteously and soberly in this present world. Every action, word, deed, and thought for every individual will be scrutinized and evaluated by God. No one shall escape God’s strong right arm of justice. Vengeance, mercy and justice belong to him alone, and all earthly kings, presidents, dictators, and all men, rich or poor, whether evil or good will one day be required to give an accounting to God. Anticipating the Lord’s words, “well done good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” are wonderful words that should encourage every Christian to endure to the end.

Romans 14:11-12 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Matthew12:36; Matthew 18:23; I Peter 4:4-5; Revelation 20:12-13)

 

  • Jesus is absolutely 100% victorious and he is coming soon to claim his kingdom! Regardless of the perils that we are subjected to while we are in this world, we must never forget the fact that Jesus Christ has already won our salvation and we must also never forget the fact that he will soon return to this earth avenge his/our adversaries.

 

    Jeremiah 46:10 For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries:

Luke 18:7-8 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.

Deuteronomy 32:43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

 

  • The Church is and always will be triumphant! Although the Church will experience the onslaught of Hell, the forces of Hell will never prevail over Christ’s bride. It is true that the Church of these perilous last days will be enamored with the gods of this world and become amalgamated into the Apostate church of the Tribulation. But for us as Christians during these perilous last days, we can labor on for Christ with full confidence that the power that resides in us is more powerful than the anti-Christian powers that are presently peaking in this evil world.

 

Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

Romans 8:33-39 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.        Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Even the great falling away (II Thessalonians 2:3) that is taking place within the church today is cause for spiritual exuberance and encouragement! Even as the modern church is undergoing a phenomenon of a deplorable luke-warmness that is coupled with an abandonment of sound doctrine, we can take comfort in the fact that the Lord foretold that this anemic spiritual condition would reach its climax within the church in the days just prior to his glorious return. The Bible has a name for this kind of enemy inside of the church. It is called apostasy, and involves the workings of the mystery of iniquity. (there is an ecclesiastical enemy inside the church today operating with amazing power) The Greek word from which we derive the word apostasy simply means “a falling away, or a rebellion or revolt.” To apostatize in biblical times meant to desert one’s station or post. (abandon the doctrinal faith) The Greek biographer Plutarch used the word to describe a political revolution. In apostasy, those who profess to be Christians actually pollute and compromise the clear teachings of the Scriptures, turning God’s word into a popular age of fables. The Scriptures also show that apostasy has existed from the church’s infancy and will continue with its highs and lows right up until the Lord returns. The grand apostate will be the Antichrist. The Church has experienced an ebb and flow throughout history, but the falling away will reach such an intensity that it will be allowed by God to result in the coming of the Antichrist and the establishment of a one-world apostate religion. Then and only then will Christ return and establish His kingdom.  For this reason, even as I continue to observe the modern decay of the church and alhough it is a sad scene, I am also greatly encouraged. I am encouraged because I understand that God is preparing to separate the true believers from the pretending believers. The activated blessed hope of every Christian conveys to his spiritual instincts the fact that our stubborn resistance to the spiritual wiles of the antichrist movement is still obstructing his rise to power in this world. The mere fact of the present apostasy should awaken genuine believers to vigilance and readiness for the Second Coming of Christ. For those of us who are on the spiritual front lines of Christian fundamentalism and activism, there is every reason to be confident. Because whatever the finale, whether revival or rapture, the rise of apostasy indicates there is a very happy ending in the near future of all us who truly have faith in the Lord!

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To the many, though dwindling stalwart Christian faithful out there still manning the Lighthouses around our world, let me encourage all of you with these resounding words; Press Onward Christian Soldiers, because Christ the royal master leads against the foe! Be encouraged, even in these perilous days!

 

    1 Peter 1:3-8 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

1 Peter 1:18-20 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

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1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

 

    II Corinthians 1:3-5 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

 

Psychology, Gospel, Theology: What Is The Parallel?

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The church today is anemic spiritually for many reasons, but one of the major reasons has to be the loss of biblical content in so much of contemporary preaching. Pop psychology substitutes for the Word of God. Feel-good messages on “Five Ways to Be Happy” and “Three Ways to Love Your Mother” have become the steady cotton candy diet fed to the average church. Today’s sermonic focus therefore is on application. But application, without textual warrant for such, does not “stick;” it needs the glue of textual meaning. Biblical content accordingly must precede application; how else can we possibly know what to apply? Thus, in the headlong rush to be relevant, People magazine and popular television shows have replaced Scripture as sermonic resources. There are other signs of this anemia: In some churches, the music portion of the worship service has lengthened while the sermon time has diminished. No wonder so many spiritual teeth are decaying in our churches.

Biblical preaching, especially when it is done in a creative way, will always meet the needs of people, felt or otherwise.

Eloquent nonsense abounds in many pulpits today; sometimes it is not even eloquent. The conjuring adroitness of many preachers who keep producing fat rabbit after fat rabbit out of an obviously empty hat is the marvel of much contemporary preaching. There is mounting evidence that people are beginning to grow weary of these trite pop-psychology sermons. Biblical preaching, especially when it is done in a creative way, will always meet the needs of people, felt or otherwise. Only biblical preaching can meet the ultimate spiritual needs of people.

Preach the Word … in a text-driven way!

As I prepare to look into the medicine cabinet of my bible I have this question, how is psychology and the gospel  relevant?  Many people are now interested in the relationship between religion and science, but links between Christian belief and psychology have been relatively neglected.

Psychology is sometimes rejected altogether by evangelical Christians on the basis that it is a flawed discipline. Evangelicals are threatened by what they might call spirituality hiding behind the veil of science. But psychology must be viewed properly, as must theology, in order to interpret and apply its claims correctly. The Bible may be considered revealed truth, but it is not the only truth God has revealed to humans. The Bible is God’s revelation to man in written form, and is reliable as long as it is interpreted and applied properly. God has also given man truth
which is outside of, and consistent with, His written revelation. This truth is discoverable through observing creation and through scientific experimentation. It is through this general revelation that the social sciences have discovered truths about man which have enabled man to better understand himself and his relationships with others

The nature of integration in science is to work together two fields. Both theology and psychology are sciences, and therefore must be treated as such. Just as hermeneutics is not God’s Word itself, neither is theology. They both fall under the scientific heading of the study of God’s Word. The sciences of theology and psychology can be integrated just as any other sciences can. The difference is that special consideration must be given to theology due to the subject it is treating. Any discussion of the integration of Biblical principles and the principles of psychology also necessitates a proper understanding of what is at stake. The issue is not just theology and just psychology. It comes down to philosophy and world view. The struggle of integration was already taking place in early church days, mostly through the work of Greek philosophers. The debate about where to draw the line is a long-standing one.

 

                                                                                                     Classical Greek Dualism

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In classical Greek dualism there is a physical realm and a spiritual realm, a separation of the body and the soul . Philosophers created only two categories for people to use in approaching humanity. This poses many problems. If this is the case, then in physical matters such as medicine, one does not have to bother himself with morality: “One of the attractions of the dualist view appeared to be the notion of the soul as a detachable spiritual entity, associated with the body but not identified with it” . The spiritual dimension was reserved for things other than the material and the mental. Social sciences such as psychology would be classified in the spiritual dimension.

This separation has crept imperceptibly into modem thought, and since psychology is made out to somehow be a part of the spiritual dimension, it is often critiqued by Christians as if it were. Psychology could never pass a test of doctrine, it could never hold up if it were passed off as inerrant and true. Christians, then, are apt to reject psychology altogether in favor of the higher thing in the spiritual dimension, the Bible itself. But psychology is not in the spiritual dimension. The two overlap, but are not the same.

Psychology is a separate discipline, not a subset of theology. If a man went into a church and claimed to know a great deal about group dynamics, he would not automatically be considered a theologian.

His findings might supplement the theologian, whose primary job it is to remind people that what God has said is right and what God has said is wrong. When religion adopts a dichotomous reasoning, polarizing itself from other disciplines in the same way Greek philosophy would polarize spirit and matter, it also breaks down relationships between God and the world. “Such a view of the sacred as completely separate from the mite world parallels the compartmentalized epistemology that sees religion as completely separate from science” . Certainly the divine has a special nature, but it is not cut off from the rest of life.

On the contrary, it should permeate the rest of life. Although psychology is not synonymous with theology, it also cannot be separated from it.

                                                                             

                                                                                 Written and Spoken Revelation
The Bible is primarily about two issues: one’s relationship with God and one’s relationship with people. But the Bible never claims to have all the truth of God when it comes to relationships with people. For example, there is no group theory there. Dr. Lawson in the counseling department at Liberty University called this the two book theory. He said God has a written revelation and a spoken revelation, the world. These two should never conflict, and if they do it is only in human understanding. “All truth is God’s truth,”  whether found in the Bible or in nature. Whether a Christian discovered 2+2=4 or not, it is still true. Paul wrote on this subject to the church at Rome two thousand years ago. The King James translation of Romans 1 :20 says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” God has revealed Himself to us, therefore making men accountable to Him for truth, whether they had a copy of the Bible or not. Everything that is true is from God, and gives glory to God.

 

 

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                                                                                       Types of Spoken Revelation
In addition to the Bible, God also allows His truth to be revealed through science, and even psychology. The Bible does not claim to contain everything that we need to know about plumbing or about schizophrenia. Technical things about the brain and the hypothalamus are not in the Bible. In fact, Wallace Clift asserts that for religion to be able to “meet the needs of its day it must be in accord with, and understandable in the language of, the scientific knowledge of the time” .

We cannot assist the people living in our culture if we are not keeping up to date with their needs and how best to meet them. We have no excuse when the Lord has put psychology at our disposal. It is laziness to avoid it altogether simply because it takes work to evaluate what aspects of psychology are useful and what are not.

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Bible never intended to contain all truth. The Bible does have a lot to say about counseling and how to speak with people. Psychology expounds on those things to develop how we can apply them to people in a counseling setting. Many of the foundational aspects of psychology are in the Bible. However, it does not, and God never intended it to, contain all the truth there is in the world. John 21 :25 even says that Jesus did more while He was on earth that was not recorded because books could not contain all of the information!

It is dangerous ground to walk upon when one is speaking of the Bible. It is true that ”the Bible stands alone as God’s only perfect guide to life and growth” . The Bible is absolutely complete and dependable. The fact that psychology can be helpful in counseling does not mean that the Bible is lacking in some way. It only means that psychological theories should not be thrown out altogether. They do hold value in the specific application of principles that are found in the Word of God.
We have established that truth can be found outside the Bible itself, and also that psychology provides years of experience and research that can be filtered through Scripture and applied in practice. What truth is found there at the end can and should be used. Theologians Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart (1982) say, “Wisdom is the discipline of applying truth to one’s life in the light of experience” . Applying psychological truth to the foundation of Biblical truth wisely meets the needs of man.

God’s Word is always accurate, but unfortunately, man’s interpretation of it can be inaccurate. For example, in our country’s early history pastors were saying that God condoned slavery. On the other hand, psychology can also be incorrect in its scientific interpretation of a matter. So when theology and psychology conflict, we must look at
everything, remembering of course that the answer could be that it is so complex we do not even have an answer.

Human error is not limited to interpretation, but also extends to application. In Romans 1: 18 Paul says that there are men that “hold the truth in unrighteousness.” He is talking to the Romans, who were highly intelligent people. He is saying that there is truth but people are suppressing it from them by explaining it incorrectly. These Romans are people that have only thus far had natural revelation, and Paul tells them they can know the truth and are without excuse. God judges people and He does it on the basis of natural revelation because that genuinely and sufficiently reveals Him.

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They should have honored God because they looked to nature and gave Him credit for what He created.

On any given Sunday in today’s preaching pantheon, one can observe a diverse group of devotees, some paying homage to the chapel of “creativity,” others sitting at the feet of the “culturally relevant.” Some are transfixed at the nave marked “narrative,” while others have their hearts strangely warmed at the chasse of “pop-psychology.” There is never a shortage of worshipers at the “new homiletic” altar, and the “topical” shrine always receives its share of Sunday patrons. Fearful that some as of yet undiscovered homiletical “method” might be missed, the gatekeepers of the pantheon have installed an altar inscribed “to the unknown preaching method.” It is that method which I declare unto you. Actually, the method itself is not “unknown” at all, and like the true church on earth, it has always had its practitioners in every era of church history.In fact, it is the oldest method in the preaching pantheon, having been used by the earliest preachers as far back as the apostolic era of the church. It is called “expository preaching.

”Fearful that some as of yet undiscovered homiletical “method” might be missed, the gatekeepers of the pantheon have installed an altar inscribed “to the unknown preaching method.”

 

 

 

Being Created In Jesus Likeness Through Challenging People

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One of the most challenging aspects of pastoral ministry is dealing with difficult people. These are people who need help but seem to challenge you at every turn as you try to provide that help.

In my quest to become more like Christ and humble in remaining teachable this morning I ran to the scriptures to find the answers I need to fuel my soul to yield to the challenges God has put into my life by way of difficult people and trials of life. I thank God for the many blessings of yielded vessels He has put in my life that allows me ears and hearts to bounce difficult question off and be rendered an array of insights to glean from. This being a sensitive issue, I had to seek many tried men who have experienced the intricate struggle of loving in-spite of being disrespected and targeted for hatred.

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How should the church respond and minister in these situations? Everyone has to relate to difficult people—and most of us have been difficult people ourselves at one time or another! Therefore, every Christian should know how the gospel guides us in these relationships.

Two passages that guide me in this are 1 Peter 4:8 and Ephesians 3:14-19. In the 1 Peter passage, we are called to “love one another deeply.” The word translated deeply can also mean “constant”. “Keep love constant” would be a good translation. The word describes something that is stretched or extended. The love of the saints keeps stretching, in both depth and endurance. This connects nicely with Ephesians 3 where Paul prays that we would “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” Persevering love grows out of the gospel. You must start here if you are going to find the strength and incentive to go the distance with people.

With these scriptures as guidance, I offer a list of ten ministerial skills that I learned as I discipled one individual who came with many difficult problems.

I will call her “Nancy”. She is in her 40’s and seems to be a sincere believer in Christ. She is in a bad marriage. She is someone who would classically be labeled bipolar or manic-depressive. She has successfully isolated herself from people in her church because once they get to know her, they become overwhelmed by her. Here is the challenge: How do I love Nancy well? What will it look like to be useful to her in her growth in grace? These lessons have taken me many years to learn—and I am still learning with other “Nancys” that God graciously and wisely places in my life. I will speak directly to you, the reader, about the difficult people God calls you to serve. Sometimes I will refer to Nancy in particular and sometimes to difficult people as a whole.

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Lesson 1. Pay Attention to the Heart (Yours and Theirs)

The category of the heart must be kept on the radar at all times.

Yours—God has ordained that this person be in your life. The first pastoral exercise is to pay attention to the common temptations to sin that different kinds of difficult people pose to you. Manipulative “borderline personality”? Angry and oblivious? Addicted and deceitful? Unstable “bipolar”? You may be tempted to overpower, or to appease, or to avoid such people. You will likely move typically in one of these directions or bounce back and forth between them in an effort to get some relief. You end up, if you are not carefully attending to your own heart, sinfully responding to the challenges that the difficult person is bringing into your life. If you do this, how then can you call this person to respond to life in godly ways when you aren’t even responding in godly ways? This, by the way, is true of any relationship.

Theirs—As you get to know difficult people, you begin to see the particular types of suffering that each person has experienced. You begin to see typical ways that the person tends to respond. With people who evidence what may be a more physiological component, keep that in mind as you seek to pastor them well. With someone who is manic-depressive, don’t let behavior on either extreme of the continuum fool you. Don’t get hijacked by the momentary emotional state. With Nancy, many elements were at work at any given moment when I would talk with her: a bad day with her husband, children, person in the church, no sleep, fear of the future… or a good day with her husband, children, person in the church, and lots of sleep. Each person is responding in either a godly or ungodly way to events. What patterns do you see as you get to know them and move towards them? What are their typical ungodly ways of dealing with life and what tends to drive those behaviors? There will be opportunities to help a person see these things. Find simple Scripture passages that will provide guidance during these times, and experience the joys of biblical repentance in the midst of the difficulty.

Lesson 2. Clearly Define Who Sets the Agenda

The common language that is often used here is the language of “boundaries”. I think that can be helpful but it does not go deep enough. Who sets the agenda in any relationship? God does. The only difference is what the agenda will be not who sets it. God sets the agenda in all of our relationships and He does here as well. Recognizing this, reminds you that you—the helper—are also under the gaze of God. The language of “boundaries” typically gives the impression that as the helper, you must set boundaries in order to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. If we think of this in terms of God setting the agenda, the end result will be you loving the person well rather than just protecting yourself.

With Nancy, because God set the agenda, there were times when I made sacrifices that were appropriate. Some of these decisions affected my family and lifestyle: the phone call at home late at night, or the sudden appearance at my house or office. Then there were other times that I told her I could not speak with her at that moment but would be willing to talk to her at some later time that we both agreed would work. There were times though, that I was tempted to agree to speak to her immediately because I did not want her to dislike me, or I was fearful that she would tell someone in the church that I had not cared for her like a good pastor should. Saying no at these times was an expression of godliness and love for Nancy. There were instances that I told her to go home and get some sleep and then call me that afternoon at the office. Grace-driven acceptance of a person does not mean open-ended availability.

It is important that you take the initiative to communicate some guidelines for the relationship and to alert the person that there will be many times when you will not be available. Be clear about when and where you may be contacted. Do this with love and then have godly courage to say no a few times early on when you think the person has moved beyond what is appropriate for the moment. If you are too available, it will likely lead to anger in you, because you assume that the person should respect boundaries like other people do. Don’t make that assumption. Another reason to set limits for people is because otherwise it may be too easy for them to go to you before they cry out to God. You, in effect, could be the very person who is making it too easy for them to avoid dealing directly with and depending upon Christ.

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Lesson 3. Have Biblically Realistic/Optimistic Goals

Here is a place where your theology of the Christian life means everything. The doctrine of sanctification sees the Christian life through the biblical lens of slow, steady, back and forth progress. It’s realistic: change is incremental. It’s also optimistic: there is progress. For me, as I got a handle on the practical pastoral implications of this biblical understanding of the Christian life, it made all the difference in the world.

When Nancy was really depressed, I was thankful that she was still coming to church and seeking help. When she was particularly upbeat and euphoric, I would avoid being duped and then let down when she was depressed again. Without this leveling view of the Christian life, you will be a manic-depressive enabler!

Lesson 4. Redefine Love

If you do not re-define love biblically, you will be very disappointed if you are called to help other people— especially difficult people. A succinct definition of love is found in I John 3:16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” That’s it. Love means death. Let me nuance that some. Loving people well is the most inefficient thing you could ever do, but according to Jesus, it is the godliest thing you can ever do. I John 3:16 goes on to say, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Another way of thinking about this is exchanging the word “servant hood” in place of the word “success.” We are not called to fix people; we are called to serve them. The sooner we lay hold of this biblical priority, the sooner we will not be undone when someone does not “get better” right away or remains in our lives for a long time. Imagine in John 13, when Jesus washes his disciple’s feet—if he thought in terms of success—he would have kicked the bucket over, screamed at the disciples and stomped out. When you look at the characters in the room that night, success would not have been a word that would come to mind. And yet Jesus served. Paul Miller makes this wonderful observation in his book Love Walked Among Us, “Jesus’ tenderness with people suggested to me a new, less “efficient,” way of relating. Love, I realized, is not efficient.”1

It was through the “Nancys” in my life that I realized what it was like to work with people. It’s messy and inefficient and I don’t like that. And yet, it was just where God wanted me. I needed Nancy as much— if not more— than she needed me. I needed her in the sense that I needed to be more like Christ. I needed to see how much I wasn’t like him. I needed to see how desperately selfish I was and that if I did not redefine love along biblical lines, I would continue to be a selfish person who only met with people because I had to.

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Lesson 5. Give the Person Hope

For someone like Nancy, change doesn’t seem to be something that is very visible or tangible. There were times when she was so discouraged that she thought suicide was a possible option. One of the practical ways to help someone like Nancy have hope is by clearly defining some things that can reasonably be accomplished and stating these in simple measurable ways.

Ask the person, “What do you want to see God do in your life over the next week?” You will be amazed how this re-frames the person’s view of the future. This question encourages them to think about the possibilities of being different and of living differently in the coming week. Maybe their circumstances will not change, but maybe they can change instead. The simpler the goals are— the better. Do this within the context of the gospel and Christ’s covenant love for them.

Lesson 6. Call the Person to Serve

Another critical place a difficult person often needs to grow is in the area of loving others. The Bible says that everyone has been given gifts and can encourage, bear burdens, and be used in the lives of other people. As you attend to the heart issues in a person’s life and as you frame the relationship to serve the sanctifying purposes of God, a hopeful call to loving others is only appropriate.

Nancy had a husband and two children whom she could love and serve. She was surrounded by other wives who were struggling in their marriages. It is not good for difficult people to simply “take” from their families and friends. This is destructive behavior that is not pleasing to God and it is driven by a host of attitudes that God will not bless. Calling people to serve others will move them towards people and outside of themselves. It will help them see that they are valuable members of the body of Christ, and are not the only people who struggle.

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Lesson 7. Connect the Person with the Body of Christ

This is important for two reasons. First, it is only within the context of others that difficult people are going to die to themselves. Secondly, it is only within the context of other people that you can adequately help the person. My experience is that difficult people need a host of helpers that are all doing basically the same thing in concert with one another.

I always encouraged Nancy to stay connected. I knew that I was not sufficient for her growth. But that is nothing new, is it? We all need many people around us speaking into and acting in our lives and on our behalf. I would structure contexts for discipleship for her. Thankfully, she would do a lot of this on her own, too. Though sometimes her involvement with others was selfishly motivated, thankfully it was with wise women who knew how to love her well. She was also connected to a small group Bible study where she was surrounded by a group of people who would keep up with her.

Your failure to do this reveals as much about your heart as it does the heart of the difficult person. When people are overly needy, and we do not share the load, it reveals that we may be overly needy of their need of us!

Lesson 8. Work Wisely with Other Helpers

It is inevitable as you work with difficult people that you will be criticized by them. Sometimes they will do this to your face, but most of the time they will do it with others who are reaching out to them. The illustration that I think works here is the illustration of a child. If the child does not get what is wanted from one parent, the child will complain to other parent in an effort to get it. If you are helping a difficult person, chances are you are not the only person in their lives. They are amazingly connected! If you know this from the outset, you can begin to find out who else they depend on. With that information, you can wisely seek appropriate ways to make sure that the various helpers do not get caught between the complaints of the difficult person. When a difficult person complains to you about someone who has not helped them, use this as an opportunity to remind the difficult person that the person they are speaking about does care for them. Encourage the others to do this as well.

There were occasions with Nancy where I would have to remind her of how much God had been good to her by giving her the friends she had. It was also an opportunity to challenge her to learn to love even when she was not getting what she wanted from others.

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Lesson 9. Connect the Person to Christ Himself

What could be more obvious and yet what could be least obvious. People need something and someone more than you. They need Christ. If you are not careful, you may be the one person that keeps them from him if you love yourself more than you love the difficult person. One of the temptations in pastoral ministry is to forget who the Chief Shepherd of the sheep is. A gentle reminder: it is not you. I remember being in the midst of a broader family crisis with Nancy. The weight of it all was coming down on me. Sometime that week a friend called me and sensed the weight in my voice. He spoke gently and lovingly to me when he said, “Tim, remember, you are not the ultimate shepherd of the sheep, Jesus is.” His words cut and healed at the same time. They called me to repent of my people, control, and success idolatries. At the same time, they reminded me that Jesus was more concerned for and able to help this person than 1000 pastors working at once. We need to connect people to Christ to remind them as well as ourselves that we are not the Chief Shepherd of the sheep.

Lesson 10. Remember: We are All Difficult People

Finally, a helpful reminder that is always appropriate to remember as we serve difficult people. From God’s point of view, aren’t we all difficult people? Romans 5:8 sums it up nicely when it says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Verse 10 goes on to say, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.”

Conclusion

These 10 lessons are ministerial ways that I have grown in wisdom within the context of ministerial ministry. Helping difficult people is challenging but if you see it as a extension of the gospel into the everyday lives of God’s people, your path will be clearer and your love more “constant” because it depends less on you and more on the God who calls you to do it. My pastor and other ministers and brother of the faith have made me see my errors in dealing with difficult people by looking at my struggles first. I have great men of God surrounding me and keeping me accountable to Christ and ministry. I am struggling with being faithful to my calling due to the discomfort surrounding serving God in a time when dogma’s and tradition supersede the simplicity of Jesus Christ gospel, but Jesus sat down and had dinner with these same struggles and brought about the New Testament of Righteousness by Faith. Let us work while it is still day.

One Seed of Hope That Linkedin with Someone’s Faith Equaled a New Life

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“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress …” (James 1:27, NIV).

Scripture clearly and repeatedly exhorts Christians to care for the fatherless. And, with 127,000 children waiting for a mother and father in the U.S. foster care system and numerous infants needing loving homes, answering the biblical call to care for orphans is no small task.

In 2007, Ke’onte was just eight years old, News 8’s Gloria Campos featured him as a Wednesday’s Child in hopes of finding a family to adopt him.

Following a failed adoption and disappointment, Gloria did another report on Ke’onte two years later, in hopes the second time would be the charm.

Now 14, Ke’onte returned to WFAA to surprise Gloria Campos, live, during the News 8 at 10 broadcast.

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Having a passion to serve and treat others as you would want to be treated is equal to self respect and having a compassionate heart. Seeds like that grow into viable organisms. Gloria Campos had purposed in her heart to let her difference make a difference in this young man’s life and now he is restored with hope that will help his parents have joy and those of whom he will touch in his school environment as well as community at home.

There are several touching stories like this. Adoption can be risky business for both parties but restoration of discarded human beings as well as animals is the work of a Powerful God. Only He can soothe pain and fill voids and create clean hearts.

Adoption has been gaining attention as a national priority in the United States. More than 150,000 adoptions take place each year, but there are still 127,000 children waiting for adoption in the U.S. foster care system, as well as infants born to birthmothers not ready to parent. In light of Christ’s command to care for orphans, the number of children without loving homes is more than just another social issue; adoption is a Christian concern.

Defined as the permanent, legal transfer of parental rights over a child from biological parents to adoptive parents, adoption is an important social practice that promotes the well-being of children, families and society. Though there are several different categories of adoption, every adoption scenario gives adoptive parents the same rights, responsibilities and joys as biological parents, and gives adopted children the same legal, social and emotional benefits of birth children.

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Adoption positively impacts all those involved with the process. It gives birthmothers the assurance that their children will be raised in stable families, gives adoptive parents the joy of parenting, and gives children the opportunity to join a permanent family and grow up in a loving home. Adoption also promotes the social and economic well-being of our nation because an adopted child is less likely (than the child of a single mother) to grow up in poverty, more likely to obtain an education, and more likely to have an involved father.

Adoption is also connected to important social issues, such as the sanctity of human life and the definition of family. Adoption upholds the sanctity of human life by providing a positive alternative to abortion for birthmothers who feel unable to parent. Adoption contributes positively to family formation by creating the opportunity for children waiting in foster care to have a loving mother and father—replacing what the child has lost.

And yet, the adoption process has been recently burdened by initiatives that ignore its purpose and promote unrelated goals. Anti-life forces rarely mention adoption as a positive alternative to abortion, and same-sex advocates reject mother-father family structures as the model for adoptive families. It is no wonder then that the fundamental purposes of adoption have come under attack and that adoption has become a topic of political controversy.

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Recognizing the importance of adoption and current political threats to the practice, Focus on the Family is passionately committed to not only promoting adoption among churches and families, but also to advocating adoption policies that promote and defend the well-being of children, parents and families.

While orphan care is clearly a biblical mandate for churches and families, adoption is also an important policy concern that impacts other efforts to defend life and family. The option of adoption allows pregnant women who do not think they are ready or able to parent to confidently choose life. Also, adoption provides orphans the filial relationships that God intended for all mankind to have. In other words, it grants children who are waiting for homes the hope of receiving loving families.

Children’s Needs Lost to an Agenda

Along with the sheer challenge of finding loving homes for all children who need them, the current political climate – particularly movements to redefine the family – makes child placement even more difficult. While adoption is meant to provide children with a mother and a father when the original family is broken, unfortunately, the adoption process is now used as an avenue to advance homosexual rights. Efforts to advance rights and protections for homosexuals often place a higher priority on an individual desire to parent, rather than a child’s need for a mother and a father. Today, it is not enough to promote the practice of adoption; we must also defend adoption against initiatives that would distort its purpose.

As evidenced by the fight for adoption rights by same-sex couples, the current movement to protect and promote homosexual rights threatens the adoption arena and children’s best interests. Though they might push for it, homosexual couples—and all couples for that matter—possess no right to adopt. Rather, children have a right to grow up with the love that only a mother and a father can jointly provide. Adoption placements should acknowledge that placing a child in a family structure with a married mother and father is in the child’s best interest. Unfortunately, current anti-discrimination policies and judicial decisions often negate the best interest of children in the name of tolerance and equality.

One conflict has already risen to the surface. The movement to promote individuals with same-sex attraction as a legally protected class threatens the work of adoption agencies that hold moral convictions against same-sex adoption. Certain anti-discrimination laws in the U.S. ultimately mandate that adoption agencies allow same-sex couples to adopt children. These acts stifle the freedom of independent adoption agencies to decide that concern for a child’s best interests requires them to make placements in married mother and father homes rather than with gay or lesbian-identified couples, or cohabiting heterosexual couples. Ultimately, sexual orientation laws that were meant to prevent discrimination actually violate the freedom of adoption agencies that hold religious or moral convictions against certain adoption placements, and deprive a child of either a father or mother. Adoption agencies are forced to decide between closing their doors and violating their deeply held beliefs.

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This has already happened. In 2006, Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination laws pushed Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the nation’s oldest adoption agencies, to leave the adoption business in order to uphold its religious convictions about marriage and family. More recently, an Arizona-based Internet adoption registry was forced to stop providing adoption services to Californians after the company was sued for refusing to provide services to a same-sex couple.

Clearly, laws should be passed protecting the moral and religious rights of adoption agencies, which should be able to help children find the loving homes they need without violating their deeply-held religious convictions about marriage and family

In summary, adoption is an important Christian concern. If we as believers are to fulfill our biblical mandate to care for orphans, we must support initiatives that: encourage adoption; advocate policies that promote the well-being of children, parents, and families; and reject measures that negate the best interest of children, deny God’s design for the family or threaten the moral rights of adoption services.

Keep Hope Alive In-spite of Uncertainty and Frothy Emotional appeal

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Today is a beautiful day because I am fighting the good fight of faith. I am alive and my purpose is to serve God and love mankind no matter how many times life shows up in its various colors I am to stand with the resolve to press onward. I completed a thirteen month house arrest sentence that almost paralyzed my being in September of 2013, only to find out that my fight wasn’t over. Coupled with living arrangement struggles, financially devastated, and labeled with the scarlet letter “F” (Felon) the penal system came after me once again with a hefty offer of 24 years if I took this debacle to trial, but God and prayer changed those twenty four years to His sovereign will being perfected in my life to 100 more days of house arrest and the financial cloud of doom to pay for this is even more heavy to my soul than serving the sentence.

Hit with the death of two major men of God in my life of restoration and the untimely news of an aligning dad whom I haven’t been able to see in 10 years, the daunting task of everyday limited routines due to the now meager resources and mere existence of purpose I fight the looming depression of uncertainty by self talking and determination of will to believe what I can’t see as truth rather than what I do see as defeat.

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Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting into a class you really wanted to take), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks). How we deal with these problems can play a major role in not only the outcome, but also the long-term psychological consequences.

Romans 5:3-5
New International Version (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

On a consumer flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston in the summer of 1987, the pilot heard an unusual noise near the rear of the aircraft. Henry Dempsey turned the controls over to his copilot and went back to check it out. As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the rear door. He quickly discovered the source of the mysterious noise. The rear door had not been properly latched prior to takeoff and it fell open. Dempsey was instantly sucked out of the jet.

The copilot, seeing the red light on the control panel that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport requesting permission to make an emergency landing. He reported that Dempsey had fallen out of the plane and requested that a helicopter be dispatched to search the area of the ocean.

After the plane had landed, the ground crew found Henry Dempsey holding onto the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow, he had caught the ladder and managed to hold on for 10 minutes as the plane flew 200mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet. What is more, as the plane made its approach and landed, Dempsey had kept his head from hitting the runway, a mere 12 inches away. According to news reports, it took several airport personnel more than a few minutes to pry the pilot’s fingers from the ladder.

That is a picture of endurance – the ability to hang on when it would have been easier to let go. Many people are blessed with certain attributes, but endurance jumps to the forefront for success in any endeavor. Endurance is the key that keeps us from giving up and letting go.

Endurance “the power of going on in spite of difficulties.” Popular colloquial phrases describe it as: “Keep on keeping on.” “Hang in there.” “Put up with it.” “Stick-to-itiveness.” “Don’t quit.” Its synonyms are determination, perseverance, tenacity, plodding, stamina, and backbone. When endurance is used in the Bible it means “to abide under,” “to bear up courageously,” and “to tarry or wait.”

Henry Dempsey would just say it is holding on for dear life.

The Bible considers endurance a priority. Paul expressed its importance in character development, “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5). The writer of Hebrews also knew that perseverance was mandatory in the pursuit of character. “For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised” (Heb. 10:36).

The following practical secrets will enable you to develop perseverance.

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I. Accept the unchangeable
Accept those things in life that cannot be changed. William Barclay described endurance as “the courageous acceptance of everything life can do to us and the transmitting of even the worst event into another step on the upward way.” Let’s face it, some events and circumstances are inevitable. Sometimes life is not fair. Injustices creep into every one’s arena. Sometimes, in one way or another, we fall out of unlocked airplane doors.

It helps to remember that God is in charge of our lives. His desire is for us to grow in the likeness of his Son. So whatever enters our life – unfavorable circumstances, tragic events, or irritating people – is for the development of character. Be it good, bad, or indifferent our response to life’s irritants forms our character.

The oyster and its pearl provide a beautiful picture of a positive response to life’s irritants. The pearl is a product of pain. An alien substance – a grain of sand – slips inside the oyster’s shell. On the entry of that foreign irritant, all the resources within the tiny, sensitive oyster rush to the spot and begin to release healing fluids that otherwise would have remained dormant. Eventually the irritant is covered and the wound healed by a pearl. No other gem has so fascinating a history. It is the symbol of stress. The precious, tiny jewel is conceived through irritation, born of adversity. Had there been no wounding, no irritating interruption, there could have been no pearl.

J. B. Phillips understood this as he paraphrased James 1:2-4: “When all kinds of trials crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they have come to test your endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men (and women) of mature character.”

II. Adjust to the obstacles
A young naval captain was commanding his first battleship. As it pierced through the ocean one night, a light was spotted in the darkened distance coming directly toward the ship.

The commander radioed, “Alter your course ten degrees.”

The reply came shortly, “No, you alter your course ten degrees.”

The undaunted captain angrily sent a message, “Alter your course, I am a destroyer.”

The reply came quickly, “Alter your course, I am a lighthouse.”

Sometimes we have to adjust our way to fit the realities of life. Solomon wrote, “A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished” (Prov. 22:3). Some circumstances are unavoidable. Disappointments are certain. Obstacles are sure. Losses will occur. The person with perseverance acknowledges the road blocks and makes adjustments. Thomas Carlyle noted, “The block of granite that was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the pathway of the strong.” When the obstacles of life are stacked before us we can adjust by going around, climbing over, or tunneling under.

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Are you allowing intrusions to distort and disfigure your life? Are their circumstances or people in your life that you have been trying to change? Why not transform these obstacles into growth blocks by learning to adjust?

When we adjust to the detours of life God reveals some of his marvelous handiwork off the beaten trail. Don’t think of adjustment as failure, think of it as an education. Hang on, see what God has in store for you around the next bend in the road.

III. Abide with patience
Someone once said, “You can do anything if you have patience. You can carry water in a sieve – if you wait until it freezes.” Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that patient. When we need it, we usually pray, “Lord, give me patience . . . and I want it now.” Or, as Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, said more eloquently, “I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.”

But one can’t learn patience by listing to a sermon unless the sermon is so long they have to practice it while they listen. Nor can they learn patience by reading a book unless the book is so boring that they have to muster up patience to finish it. The only way to learn patience is by facing this hurly-burly world, taking life as it comes. It is holding on, gritting your teeth, clinching your jaw, riding out the storm.

And that is not easy. Joyce Landorf writes, “God’s waiting room is the most difficult aspect of the Christian experience.”

In the Greek language, the term for patience is often translated “long-suffering.” It’s a compound word. The first part means “long or far.” The second part means “hot, anger, or wrath.” Putting it together we literally have “long-anger.” We have an English expression “short-tempered.” We would not miss the meaning very far if we called patience “long-tempered.” Patience is that ability that keeps us from blowing up when events don’t go our way or losing our cool when others upset us.

Believers are exhorted to display patience. James wrote, “Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7-8). James shows how the farmer demonstrates patience. A farmer cannot make it rain or give growth. He must rely on God to act in the most wise and merciful way.

The secret of patience is abiding. We must learn to rest and endure under the load of pain and suffering. We abide under the load of pain and suffering by abiding with a God who is faithful. We must not only learn to abide in Christ but also abide with Christ under the struggles and the pressures in life.

IV. Affirm the presence
As we progress toward a life that resembles Jesus Christ we must always remember that God is with us. Sometimes God is like a teacher instructing us with the construction. Sometimes God is a fellow-worker challenging us to excellence. Sometimes God is a spectator encouraging us to keep on keeping on. Whatever situation we find ourselves, God is always with us.

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I recall the long and grueling basketball practices in high school. The gym was not air-conditioned. We would run forever, it seemed. My legs would throb, my side hurt with a splitting pain, and my chest pounded like it was about to pop out. I wanted to quit. But then something wonderful happened. My body would provide a miraculous gracious replenishing of energy, known as a second wind.

As we run toward a distinctive life of character we will experience a similar feeling. Getting started possesses no problem. We get bogged down as the race continues. A time comes when our personal resources are exhausted. Yet as we endure, God seems to give us a spiritual second wind.

Isaiah described this miracle: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV)

The secret is found in affirming God’s presence. The world says give up, drop out, run away. God says to just trust me, lean on me, and fall into my arms. God is with you to support and sustain you. To give you hope, courage, and strength to continue. He has promised, “‘My presence will go [with you], and I will give you rest'” (Ex. 33:14).

Ignance Paderewski, Poland’s famous concert pianist and prime minister, was giving a series of concerts. A mother, wishing to encourage her young son’s progress at the piano, bought tickets for a performance. When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway waiting on stage. The mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy eventually made his way through a door marked, “No Admittance.” When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the great piano master appeared on the stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, “Don’t quit – keep playing.” Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon, his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and young novice held the crowd mesmerized.

In our quest for contagious character, unpolished and incomplete though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, “Don’t quit – keep playing.” And as we do, he augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. But with the hand of the Master, our character can truly be beautiful. Our responsibility is to not quit, to keeping playing; his part is to fashion a masterpiece.

Remember God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. And, he’ll always be there to love and to guide you to great things.

Conclusion
Are you close to quitting? Please don’t do it.

Are you tired of trying to live for Christ? Hang in there.

Do you feel like giving up on the Christian life? Roll up your sleeves and get back in there.

Can’t resist temptation? Accept God’s forgiveness and keep on living rightly.

Do you feel that sorrow and disappointment greet your every morning? Hold on. Help is just around the corner.

Endurance prevails. “Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12 NIV). Remember you are not a failure until you give up. You are not a flop until you let go.

So don’t quit. Never give up. Keep going. Hold on. God’s rewards await us in the distant future not near the beginning; and we don’t know how many steps it will take to reach the prize. No breaks or time outs exist; we must work every day of our life. It has been said, “Life is like reading a book. It begins to make sense when we near the end.” Endurance maintains the stamina needed to see the end and embrace the prize. So fight another round, rise another time, and, above all, like Henry Dempsey, don’t let go.

The Game of Life

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Romans 12:2
The Message (MSG)
Place Your Life Before God

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

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Life is a game just like all of the other games. The only difference is that life is the only game that we don’t realize is a game. Each of us has made up, largely unconsciously, a set of rules (our values)–based on our worldview and our beliefs–and we think our rules are right and inherently true. And everyone else’s is wrong. Well, sorry to break the bad news to you but, our rules aren’t right and theirs aren’t wrong.

I’m not suggesting that we do anything different than what we are already doing, all I’m suggesting is that we acknowledge that what we think is real, is actually a game. We made up the rules and now we can play the “game of life” full out; we can be happy when we “win” and dissatisfied when we “lose.” But realize it is only because we said so> And here’s the bottom line; It is always possible to remember that we made up the rules, even if they were made up unconsciously and adopted largely by osmosis form our culture and our parents. And when we do that, we can also remember that events have no inherent meaning, at which point the pain and suffering result from”losing at the game of life” can be dissolved on the spot.

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All of us have a story. Many of the chapters have already been written by choices that we have made, situations that we have encountered and by people that we have met. Our story is filled with challenges that attempt to stretch us to our limit; pressures that pull the energy right out of our soul. We grope around looking for direction and at times the only voice we hear is the negative voice calling us back into our painful past.

So we have to make a decision. Do we risk going into a future filled with more uncertainty or do we retreat into the painful past just because it’s familiar?

The Old Testament contains a story of a group of people who were oppressed, mistreated, and demoralized. At one point in their lives they were enjoying peace and success, but circumstances changes and they found themselves enslaved to a foreign government. Their days were filled with hard labor and unrealistic expectations. In their despair, they cried out to God for help.

God heard their cry and sent a deliverer. His name was Moses. Through a series of miraculous events, Moses led this group of slaves out of Egypt. They were headed to a new land filled with new opportunity, but something happened in the process. Their road to success took an unexpected turn.

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Exodus 14:8-16
The Message (MSG)
8-9 God made Pharaoh king of Egypt stubborn, determined to chase the Israelites as they walked out on him without even looking back. The Egyptians gave chase and caught up with them where they had made camp by the sea—all Pharaoh’s horse-drawn chariots and their riders, all his foot soldiers there at Pi Hahiroth opposite Baal Zephon.

10-12 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them—Egyptians! Coming at them!

They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, “Weren’t the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn’t we tell you this would happen? Didn’t we tell you, ‘Leave us alone here in Egypt—we’re better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.’”

13 Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you’re never going to see them again.

14 God will fight the battle for you.
And you? You keep your mouths shut!”
15-16 God said to Moses: “Why cry out to me? Speak to the Israelites. Order them to get moving. Hold your staff high and stretch your hand out over the sea: Split the sea! The Israelites will walk through the sea on dry ground.

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“Today”

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I am occupying a dwelling “Today” that society said I didn’t qualify for due to my past record. I am sitting in this dwelling suffering from Sickle Cell Anemia “Crisis” and meditating on my past. I grew up in a home consumed with a polytheistic culture and a spirit of over achievement which resulted in me graduating at the ripe age of 16 and going on to pursue my career by attending Syracuse University while simultaneously serving my country. The past always has haunted my peace due to the many challenges I had to endure getting out of the home I grew up in. Once I graduated college I went on to become a Navy Seal. I had a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, but elected to turn down a commissioned officer rank and serve as an enlisted. I am pondering “Today” the decision I made that may have plagued my success in life. Once I received my orders to report to The USS Enterprise and then be detached to Desert Shield I was in contemplation once again, because the BUDS training never equaled to the reality I had to face once in the thick of combat.

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I remember while sitting under the glare of the moon in a hostile country wondering if being here was better than being at home with all the pressure and dysfunction I ran from. I heard a voice within my inner man say Aaron I am here, “trust” me to set your life in order. Uncertainty about what the future held for me at the age of 21 with a 2 year old son and wife back home depending on me and I am here fighting an enemy that hasn’t done anything to me.

I am asking this question tonight, What keeps me from being content where God has placed me “Today”? There are so many other challenges that took place in my life to get here where I am tonight, like imprisonment as a soldier and a civilian, drug addiction to cocaine and addiction to fame and fortune. The deaths of 3 children a mother and two brothers while serving my country and as a civilian. I received my call to Christ at the age of 8 years old, only to be restricted in how and who to worship.

Family dysfunction can be any condition that interferes with healthy family functioning. Most families have some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances (death in the family, a parent’s serious illness, etc.). Healthy families tend to return to normal functioning after the crisis passes. In dysfunctional families, however, problems tend to be chronic and children do not consistently get their needs met. Negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children’s lives.

After going to prison and losing several homes and other securities my life had gotten accustomed to I blamed my dad and his influence he once had on my life. I am going to pursue release from this fog by looking to the healer of our souls.

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Proverbs 3:13
The Message (MSG)
The Very Tree of Life

13-18 You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom,
when you make friends with Madame Insight.
She’s worth far more than money in the bank;
her friendship is better than a big salary.
Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth;
nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.
With one hand she gives long life,
with the other she confers recognition.
Her manner is beautiful,
her life wonderfully complete.
She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her.
Hold her tight—and be blessed!

Psychologist William Marston once asked three thousand people, “What have you to live for?” He was shocked to discover that 94 percent of the people he polled were simply enduring the present while they waited for something to happen–waiting for children to grow up and leave home, waiting for next year, waiting to take a trip, waiting for someone to die, or waiting for tomorrow. They had hope, but no ongoing purpose for their lives.

Only 6 percent of the people identified relationships and activities in the present tense of their lives as valuable reasons for living! The 94 percent would be wise to recall the words of this poem by and unknown author:

During all the years since time began,
Today has been the friend of man;
But in his blindness and his sorrow,
He looks to yesterday and tomorrow.
Forget past trials and your sorrow.
There was, but is, no yesterday,
And there may be no tomorrow.

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Instead of dwelling on your past mistakes, make a new start by thanking God for all the good in your life. I thank God for the ability to write and focus through my pain, I thank God for my trials and His deliverance through them all. I thank God for His word that renders so much solace when I am perplexed and confused. Guilt is concerned with the past. Worry is concerned about the future. Contentment enjoys the present. I have new mercies “Today” to escort me through difficulties from yesterday. Thank you ABBA for Your “Grace” to press onward..

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What “Performance Indicators” Are In Place At Your Church To Support A Healthy Culture?

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Do you want your church to be a New Testament church? Most people would unequivocally say yes. If so, then after which New Testament church would you like to model your church? The one in Ephesus? Corinth? Galatia? What about the church of the Thessalonians?

Let’s face it, the early church had its challenges. In fact, believers in the first century could have invented the term dysfunctional. The early churches experienced racial and ethnic strife, sensuality and immorality among members, doctrinal divisions, and heresy taught by charismatic personalities.

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The early churches also had difficulty assimilating new members into the body of Christ. Conflict among church leaders occurred on a regular basis. In many ways, things haven’t changed in two thousand years. People and churches still experience the same problems the early church encountered.

When we say we want to be a New Testament church, I believe we mean this: we desire for our church to be characterized by a vibrant, evangelistic spirit that witnesses the power of God transforming lives. What would your church look like if it patterned its ministry after churches in the New Testament? Should we not expect God to transform those who are enslaved to immorality, addicted to drugs, or enmeshed in difficult relationships? Or does God only work in the lives of good people who just need a little “tweaking”? If ours is to be a healthy church, a New Testament church then it will include dysfunctional people who are being transformed through God’s grace.

Unfortunately, many of our churches are not reaching the unchurched. The reason? They do not have a church culture that encourages intentional efforts to bring the lost to Christ.

How Can We Create a Climate for Reaching the Unchurched?

Several positive steps can be taken. Once taken, they also may reveal information that can lead toward other strategic actions.

Pray for the unchurched.

Prayer should permeate all of our evangelism efforts. Jesus wept over the spiritual condition of the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Scripture assures us that God is at work redeeming the world. He wants us to be sensitive to His activity around us.

In Sunday School/Sabbath School classes and departments, pray for neighbors, family members, coworkers, and acquaintances in the marketplace. Pray for the lost by name. Pray for your class to be sensitive for opportunities to share the gospel. Prayer time should not be a one-minute brief acknowledgement, but instead should provide opportunities for members to pray earnestly for the evangelism efforts of the church.

Establish prayer groups that meet for the sole purpose of praying for the lost of the community and for such evangelism efforts as FAITH ministry. Make the midweek prayer service truly a time for the church to pray for God’s activity, not just to read a list of those who are sick.

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Commit to develop relationships with the unchurched.
Before inviting the unchurched to church, it is important to develop a relationship with them. While it may sound like a cliche, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is this: Don’t invite persons to your Sunday School/Sabbath School class until you have invited them to your home. In other words, get to know your unchurched friends and neighbors over a meal or dessert. Find interests you share and can enjoy together.

Spend time getting acquainted. Find out where they come from and what their spiritual background has been. Pray for these new friends daily. Look for ways to minister, such as mowing their yard while they are on vacation or working on house projects. Invite these friends to attend sporting or cultural events with you.

Winning the lost and assimilating them into the body of Christ is not a quick-strike operation; it requires a long-term commitment to relationships.

Become a hospital for the spiritually wounded.
Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. . . . I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12-13). Churches that reach their communities embody the doctrine of grace. People’s lives have been changed and they share that good news with others who are seeking hope, help, and healing.

Examine your Sunday School/Sabbath School and church records. Are you only baptizing your own, or is your church reaching unchurched families and adults for Christ?

Recognize That Ministry Can Be Messy
Reaching the unchurched is messy. The unchurched are not familiar with the language or acceptable behaviors of Christians. Unfortunately, many churches follow this formula: Behave, Believe, and then Belong. With this thinking we are implicitly saying, “First, you must behave the way we behave. You must talk and dress like us. Then, once you behave like us, you must believe what we believe. Then, if you believe what we believe, you can belong to our church.”

To reach the unchurched we must reverse that formula. Postmoderns are looking for a community in which to belong. Once they feel accepted for who they are, they begin to change their values and beliefs. After they understand what God is calling them to be and do, they will change their behavior. Focus your Sunday School/Sabbath School on developing an open-group strategy in which everyone feels that they belong.

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Teach for spiritual transformation.
Whether it was the woman at the well or the leper by the pool of Siloam, Jesus always spoke to the needs of the individual. He met people where they were and gave them hope for the future.

The unchurched may or may not be concerned about the doctrinal stands of your church. Many don’t care what version of the Bible you read or how your church is governed. While they are open to spiritual things, experiencing faith in a church setting has been a stumbling block.

Their concerns are more pragmatic. One out of three will struggle with finances. The issues in their lives are to find a well-paying job, meet the mortgage payment, put food on the table, get out of debt, and maintain job security. Unchurched adults often are concerned about personal health issues.

Family matters occupy their attention. They want help with child-rearing: discipline, school events, dating, and allowances. Single parents worry about how to carry the parenting load alone. Unchurched adults want close personal friendships and a clear purpose for living. Median adults are concerned with the challenges of meeting the needs of aging parents. Most of the unchurched are drowning in the whirlpool of life’s realities and don’t believe the church has anything that can help them.

Bible study must go beyond what happened thousands of years ago among a group of nomads wandering in the desert. Bible study must be directed toward life application so that God’s transforming work can take place in people’s lives. Do your teachers apply Scripture to everyday life? Are lives being changed by applying the truth from God’s Word?

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Sometimes your culture is consumed by a secret of deception of Sectarianism and Schisms. Partiality towards a bigger tither or individuals who have influence within the social sector who portray being supportive of church visions can destroy or split a church.

Tell the Unchurched How Jesus Makes a Difference
The unchurched want to know, “Does following Jesus make any difference in your life?” “Does the Bible have anything to say about my problems?” Address the hot buttons of the unchurched. Provide learning opportunities outside the walls of the church to address these issues.

Consider starting community family groups that meet in apartment buildings or in homes. Use these groups to address life issues from a biblical perspective. Provide parenting tools and seminars in community clubhouses or conference centers. The unchurched are more open to meeting at a neutral site until they get to know members of your church.

Be willing to change.
In the movie Sister Act, Whoopi Goldberg plays the part of a nightclub singer. She finds herself incognito as Sister Mary Clarence, a nun in a faltering Catholic church in an urban decaying neighborhood. The church on Sunday morning is comprised of the “few but faithful” older members. The streets are filled with bustling activity while the church quietly goes about its traditions.

Sister Mary Clarence pushes to assume leadership for the choir and changes the special music to a more contemporary style, drawing the wrath of her superior. However, the teenagers and young adults begin to walk in off the street because they hear (described by the priest) this “heavenly music” calling them.

The Mother Superior is angry that such raucous music is being sung. It is blasphemy. She loves the traditions of the church.

What traditions in your church are keeping you from reaching the lost? What true changes (not superficial ones for the sake of change) do you need to make to reach the unchurched?

The pastor and key Sunday School/Sabbath School leaders must be committed to change.
A crucial factor in changing the church’s culture is the leadership of the pastor and Sunday School director. Unless the pastor and key church leaders are committed to changing the culture and are involved in reaching the lost, the church will not reach the unchurched.

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What specific things will you do to cast a vision for reaching the lost? What will you do personally to share your faith?

Do you need to teach a class on friendship evangelism, start a new class, or develop a prayer ministry for evangelistic efforts in the church? What Sunday School issues need attention? Are you involved in FAITH; if so, how can you better support that evangelism strategy?

Make specific and strategic plans to be a New Testament church that reaches the unchurched for Christ’s glory.

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Paul Heaven Is “Yours” I salute “You” MOKA Man & Friend..

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“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward.”
— Henry Ford
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“When someone we love dies, it seems as if time stands still. And silence… a quiet sadness… often can be felt, not just heard, a longing for one more day… one more word… one more touch… And we may not understand why God chose to have him leave this earth so soon, or why he had to leave before we were ready to say goodbye, but little by little, we will begin to remember not just that he died, but that he lived. And that his life gave us memories too beautiful to forget. We will see him again someday, in a heavenly place where there is no parting. A place where there are no words that mean goodbye.”

This man of God trod the Earth

Great men and eminent men have monuments in bronze and marble set up for them, but this man of divine fire managed in his life-time to become enmeshed in many of hearts so that all of us became somewhat of the stuff that he was made of, though to an infinitely lesser degree. He spread out over many lives, or in select places, or in assemblies, but in every hamlet and hurt of the lowly and those who suffer. He lives in the hearts of all of us and he will live for immortal ages.

…He has gone, and a whole church and community there is a feeling of having been left desolate and forlorn. All of us sense that feeling, and I do not know when we shall be able to get rid of it, and yet together with that feeling there is also a feeling of proud thanksgiving that it has been given to us of this generation to be associated with this mighty person. In ages to come, centuries and many millenniums after us, people will think of this generation when this man of God trod the earth and will think of the impact and faithfulness to God’s work however small, could also follow his path and probably tread on that holy ground where his feet had been. Let us be worthy of him. Let us always be so.

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The adoption of May & I will always linger within the recesses of my spirit, Paul you touched every fiber of our being with your tenacious and warm spirit. We have been left with another model of love and compassion. I pondered many things today when I received the news of your untimely passing away, things like who will lead us in our MOKA meetings in the favorite song “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus”? I pondered who will represent Christ while wreaking in pain without a complaint? Who is going to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving and Christmas all the while suffering from a debilitating sickness with joy and smiles? Who will visit the sick and shut in of the church and leave them with the joy of the Lord by way of a pleasant spirit? Who will visit the incarcerated and disenfranchised of society and feed them “The Word Of God” like you did? Paul you shared your whole family with May and I and I am determined to never let your memory die. I will serve God with my whole heart as you demonstrated all the while we walked the trials of my life and yours.

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A devoted son and husband and father you were. A mentor that represented the whole Kansas Avenue Seven Day Adventist Church. No matter what faults this community may have your work and devotion to God covered them all. Your example of all these attributes are fueling my being Paul. I am forever thankful for the hospitality you gave me in welcoming me into your home and life. You shared your mom and kids equally with me as if I was born into your blood line. El’Rio and “You” will always be the conscious I reflect on when my mind drifts to complaining or hideous thoughts.

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My dear friend,
close your eyes…
hold my hand,
and hear me whisper…

For the times I was lost,
you were there to look for me.
Will you believe me when I say I love you more than you’ll ever know.
Will you trust me when I say …this time you have to let me go.

My dear friend, I must leave.
The world no longer needs me.
It’s my time to be gone, until we meet again someday.
Don’t you cry now, I know I’ll be okay.
Trust that I’ll never forget you.
Don’t be sad now, just close your eyes until it’s through.
Hold my hand, don’t open your eyes yet…
wait when I no longer whisper..

My dear friend, you’ll be fine.
I’ll be up there watching over you.
For the times I’ll be gone, don’t ever forget
the words I whispered to you.

God calls on my name… and I have to let go of your hand now…
Please don’t cry… and smile for me..
because I’m with the one who made us friends.

Remember, I’ll always love you.
so come, wave me goodbye…
It’ll be painful but we have to…
Hug me, hug me tight, feel the words I can no longer say.

My dear friend, I’m going to miss you.
just pray because I’ll always listen.
and one day, when it’s your time,
I’ll be there for you…
Just like the way I used to.
…I love you…

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This Is My Doing….

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1 Kings 12
The Message (MSG)

22-24 At this time the word of God came to Shemaiah, a man of God: “Tell this to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, along with everyone in Judah and Benjamin and anyone else who is around: This is God’s word: Don’t march out; don’t fight against your brothers the Israelites; go back home, every last one of you; I’m in charge here.” And they did it; they did what God said and went home.

Knowing that everything has to go by my “father” in heaven, I’ve purposed my thoughts to believe that disappointments of my life are simply the hidden appointments of love from my God. My family, I have a message for you tonight. Let me whisper it in your ear so any storm clouds that may arise will shine with glory, and the rough places you may have to walk will be made smooth. It is only four words, but let them sink into your inner being, and use them as a pillow to rest your weary head.”This is my doing.”

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Have you ever realized that whatever concerns you concerns Me too?”For whoever touches the apple of [My] eye”( Zech. 2:8). “You are precious and honored in my sight”(Isa. 43:4). Therefore it is My special delight to teach you. I want you to learn when temptation attacks you, and the enemy comes in like a pent-up flood, that “this is my doing” and that your weakness needs My strength, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.

Are you in difficult circumstances, surrounded by people who do not understand you, never ask your opinion, always push you aside? “This is my doing.” I am the God of circumstances, “I am in charge.” You did not come to this place by accident–you are exactly where I meant for you to be.

Have you not asked Me to make you humble? Then see that I have placed you in the perfect school where this lesson is taught. Your circumstances and the people around you are only being used to accomplish My will.

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Are you having problems with money, finding it hard to make ends meet? “This is my doing,” for I am the One who keeps your finances, and I want you to learn to depend upon Me. My supply is limitless and I will meet all your needs. I want you to prove My promises so no one may say, “You did not trust in the Lord your God”.

Are you experiencing a time of sorrow? “This is my doing.” I am ” a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. I have allowed your earthly comforters to fail you, so that by turning to Me you may receive “eternal encouragement and good hope.” Have you longed to do some great work for Me but instead have been set aside on a bed of sickness and pain? “This is my doing” I am in charge. You were so busy I could not get your attention, and I wanted to teach you some of my deepest truths.

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“They also serve who only stand and wait.” In fact, some of My greatest workers are those physically unable to serve, but who have learned to wield the powerful weapon of prayer. Tonight I place a cup of holy oil in your hands. Use it freely, My children. Anoint with it every new circumstance, every word that hurts you, every interruption that makes you impatient, and every weakness you have. The pain will leave as you learn to see Me in all things.

“This is from me,” the Savior said,
As bending low He kissed my brow,
For One who loves you thus has led.
Just rest in Me, be patient now,
Your Father knows you have need of this,
Though, why perhaps you cannot see–
Grieve not for things you’ve seemed to miss.
The thing I send is best for thee.”

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Then, looking through my tears, I plead,
“Dear Lord, forgive, I did not know,
It will not be hard since You do tread,
Each path before me here below.”
And for my good this thing must be,
His grace sufficient for each test.
So still I’ll sing, “Whatever be God’s way for me is always best.”

God at Work

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John 14:15-23
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

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As I stood on the Golan Heights, with the sea of Galilee sparkling in the distance, I listened to our Jewish guide tell about his participation in the 1967 Six-Day War. His vivid accounts of Israel’s victories over bigger, more powerful enemies reminded me of Bible stories I learned as a child.

Even though I believe that God has been moving individuals and nations down through history to accomplish His purposes, sometimes I get the idea that God stopped working in people’s lives when He finished writing the Bible. Now that He’s less visible, I conclude that He’s also less involved. But that’s not true. Even though God has finished His book, He hasn’t finished telling the story; He’s simply using a different form of media to tell it.

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In bible times, God often communicated in tangible, visible, and audible ways-tablets of stone, a pillar of fire, a still small voice, to name a few. But when Jesus came, that changed. He told His followers that God’s Spirit would live not only among them but also within them (John 14:17). When I long for God to communicate in ways I can see and hear and feel, I need to remember that He is doing something even better. He is living in me, so that through my life the world will be able to see and hear and feel Him.

By this shall every person know
That we serve God above:
His Spirit dwells within our hearts
And fills us with His love.

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God’s Spirit lives in us in order to work through us…..

The Third Word from the Cross

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John 19:26–27
26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, z“Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

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Jesus’ Willingness to Care for You

There are at least three reasons that this word of Jesus to his mother and to the beloved disciple is a tremendous encouragement to our faith. The first reason is this: if Jesus was so eager to care for his mother in her hour of need, how much more is he eager to care for his disciples who hear the Word of God today and do it. Ordinarily one would reason just the opposite: if he loved his disciples who were not his relatives, how much more would he love his own mother. But Jesus didn’t view things in an ordinary way. With him it was strangely true: if he loved his mother with a natural affection, how much more can his obedient disciples bank on his love.

We know this because of an incident recorded for us in Luke 8:19–21:

His mother came to him and his brothers also, and they were unable to get to him because of the crowds. And it was reported to him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see you.” But he answered and said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

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That was not a depreciation of his mother and brothers, but an exaltation of obedience. It means very clearly, those who hear the Word of God and do it have a more ready access to Jesus’ fellowship and help than do his own family members.

In one sense it is very risky to hear and do the Word of God. For the Word of God is always calling us to sacrificial acts of love. “He who would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his own cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23). But in another sense there is nothing safer and more rewarding than to hear and do the Word of God, because Jesus said, those who hear and do the Word of God are my mother and my brothers. Loving obedience to the Word of God puts us in a relationship to Jesus which is more intimate and more certain to be heard and helped than his nearest family relations.

So you can see now what a tremendous encouragement it is to our faith when Jesus makes provision for the needs of his mother at Calvary. Those who hear and do the Word of God have an even greater claim on Jesus’ care than she. So if he took care of her, will he not much more provide for all your needs, “O ye of little faith”?

Jesus’ Ability to Take Care of You

The second reason that this word to Jesus’ mother is an encouragement to our faith is this: if Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in a moment of his deepest weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present power and exaltation! Not only are you, as an obedient disciple, in a better position than Jesus’ own mother to receive blessing at the hand of the Lord, but he is now in a better position to give it to you than he was to her then.

According to Ephesians 1:19, 20 the greatness of God’s power which is working on behalf of us who believe “accords with the working of the strength of his might which God generated by raising Christ from the dead and seating him at his right hand in heaven.” The satisfaction made for our sin at Calvary was so complete that God honored this sacrifice by raising Jesus from the dead and giving him incomparable glory and power and wealth of all things. And so when the apostle contemplates whether we can bank on Christ for the provision of our need, it is this wealth of glory that gives him assurance. He says, “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). The risen Christ is so full of glorious riches that he need not turn anyone away. As Paul says in Romans 10:12: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches to all who call upon him.”

Therefore, the word of Jesus to his mother from the cross is a great encouragement to our faith. For if he could provide for his own in the moment of his weakness and humiliation, how much more can he meet all our needs today from the right hand of God, full of power and wealth and glory.

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The Church as a New Spiritual Family

The third reason Jesus’ word to his mother encourages our faith is that it illustrates for us the benefits of the church, the body of Christ. Notice that contrary to custom and expectation, Jesus did not admonish his own brothers to care for their mother. Whatever the reason for not putting Mary in the care of her other sons, the new relationship between Mary and John illustrates for us the provision made for us in the body of Christ.

You recall how Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and follow him. The man turned away, and Jesus said, “How hard it will be for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And Peter said, “Behold we have left everything and followed you.” And Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms for my sake and the gospel’s, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” Now where in this life are we going to receive 100 children and 100 mothers? Answer: in the church, the family of God.

When Jesus says to Mary: “Look on John as your son”; and to John: “Look on Mary as your mother”; he is showing us how our needs are to be met when we have left everything to follow him. Paul said in Acts 20:28 that Christ “purchased the church of God with his own blood.” Therefore, one of the gifts Jesus gave to us from the cross was the church: a loving, caring, sustaining, encouraging family beyond family. And it is a great encouragement to our faith that he illustrates the meaning of the church the way he did in the relationship between John and Mary.

So let us all take courage in the care and power and provision of our Lord. If he was eager to care for his mother, how much more eager will he be today to care for those who hear and do the Word of God! If Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in the moment of his greatest weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present wealth of power and exaltation. And if Jesus purchased the church with his own blood and ordained that in it bereft mothers find sons and sons find mothers, then no one should be without a caring family today in the body of Christ. Amen.

Feeling Poor?

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Read: Psalms 86

Psalm 86

A Prayer of David.

1 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and distressed, needy and desiring.
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In one way or another, we can all relate to Psalms 86:1 where David says, “I am poor and needy.” Even the richest among us should understand that poverty and need relate more to the spirit than to the wallet. When billionaire Rich DeVos speaks to groups, he often says, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”

Psalms 86 tells us that the help God provides is not measured by a monetary ledger sheet. When we acknowledge that we are poor and needy, it’s not so God will lavish material riches on us. No, we do so to open the door to other, more valuable treasures.

Here’s what God does for the poor and needy. He will “preserve’ our lives and “save” all those who trust in Him. He will be “merciful” and “ready to forgive”. He will listen to and answer prayer. But we’re not to take God’s blessings without giving back. We have a responsibility to learn God’s ways, walk in his truth, “fear [God’s] name”, praise the Lord, and glorify [His] name”.

Do you consider yourself among the “poor and needy”? If so, welcome to the club. Let’s not forget all the spiritual blessings God has for us and the godly response we should have towards His generosity.

We’re thankful for the blessings, Lord,
You give us day by day;
Now help us show our gratitude
By walking in Your way.

The poorest man is he whose only wealth is money….

Do You Except God’s best or Do You Settle for what you consider a extraordinary act of faith?

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2 Kings 13:18-19
New International Version (NIV)
18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”

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Looking from the posture I now have insight I am guilty of this type of faith. My predicaments sometimes dictate opposite reactions in retrospect of having a full time faith posture. I was rocked to the core today when I realized I operated contrary to my witness before a brother I was trying to disciple. I saw my full feebleness without Jesus being all I need no matter the situation.

How striking and powerful is the message of these words! Jehoash, king of Israel, thought he had done quite well when he struck the ground “three times and stopped. “To him, it seemed to be an extraordinary act of faith, but the Lord and the prophet Elisha were deeply disappointed, because he had stopped halfway.

Yes, he did receive something; in fact, he received a great deal–exactly what he had believed God for, in the final analysis. yet Jehoash did not receive everything that Elisha meant for him to have or that the Lord wanted to bestow on him.. He missed much of the meaning of the promise, and the fullness of the blessing. he did receive more than any human could have offered, but he did not receive God’s best.

Dear believer, how sobering is the truth of this story! How important it is for us to learn to pray through our circumstances and to fully examine our hearts with God’s message to us! Otherwise, we will never claim all the fullness of His promise or all the possibilities that believing prayer offers.

Ephesians 3:20-21
New International Version (NIV)
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

In no other place does the apostle Paul use these seemingly redundant words: “immeasurably more than all.” Each word is packed with God’s infinite love and power “to do” for His praying believers. yet there is the following limitation: “according to His power that is at work within us.” He will only do as much for us as we will allow Him to do in us. The same power that saved us, washed us with His blood, filled us with the power of His Holy Spirit, and protected us through numerous temptations will work for us to meet evry emergency, every crisis, every circumstance, and every adversary.

Are My Troubles Always from God or Have I Caused Them?

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Psalm 71:20

King James Version (KJV)
20 Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.

God makes you “see troubles.” Sometimes, as part of your education being carried out, you must “go down to the depths of the earth” (Ps. 63:9), travel subterranean passages, and lie buried among the dead. But not for even one moment is the bond of fellowship and oneness between God and you strained to the point of breaking. And ultimately, from the depths, He “will restore [your] life again.”

Never doubt God! Never say that He has forsaken or forgotten you or think that He is unsympathetic. He “will restore [your] life again. “No matter how many twists and turns the road may have, there is always one smooth, straight portion. Even the longest day has a sunset, and the winter snow may stay quite some time, but it will finally melt.

Be steadfast, “because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”. He will turn to you again and comfort you. He has shown Himself real to me so many times. And when He does, your heart that has forgotten how to sing will break forth in thankful and jubilant song, just like the psalmist who sang, “My tongue will sing of your righteousness” (Ps.51:14).

Though the rain may fall and the wind be blowing,
And chilled and cold is the wintry blast;
Though the cloudy sky is still cloudier growing,
And the dead leaves tell that the summer has passed;

My face is fixed on the stormy heaven,
My heart is as calm as the summer sea,
Glad to receive what my God has given,
Whatever it be.

When I feel the cold, I can say, “He sends it,”
And His winds blow blessing, I surely know;
For I’ve never a need but that He will meet it;
And my heart beats warm, though the winds may blow.

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Are You Troubled and Confused Over Offenses?

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Truth is Exclusive and Absolute

Some people are offended by truth because of its very nature— it is exclusive and it is absolute, not relative. The absolute nature of truth means that it does not depend on, nor is it changed by, people’s opinions. For example, if someone says, “There is no God,” that does not affect the existence of God. It only shows that the person is ignorant. Truth is also exclusive, meaning that it is “narrow” because it excludes anything contrary to it. Unfortunately, in the spiritual world, some people view the narrow nature of truth as “narrow mindedness.” We all recognize the narrowness of truth when it comes to the physical world. People do not put water in their gas tanks or jump from tall buildings if the elevator is full. We train our children to do what is “right” (like looking both ways before crossing a street), and not to do what is “wrong” (like running with a knife) so they will live safely in our “narrow minded” world.
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There is a false belief held by some Christians, sort of a Christian myth, that if you are a good Christian you will not offend anyone. In fact, a Christian who offends people is sometimes considered to be just one more arrogant, insensitive, narrow-minded Christian, because it is thought that “true” Christians are sensitive and considerate, and never offend anyone.

To be sure, there are Christians who offend others by their tone of voice, overbearing manner, or by insistence on things that could be called “dogma” rather than truth. This article is not intended to excuse prideful Christian behavior, attitudes, or hardheartedness. History shows that there have been and still are many Christians who do not act very Christ-like. Much could be said about the great need for Christians to walk in love, have good character and demonstrate the fruit of the spirit.

Luke 7:23 (King James Version)

And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
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It is sometimes very difficult not to be offended in Jesus Christ, for the offense may be the result of my circumstances. I may find myself confined to narrow areas of service, or isolated from others through sickness or by taking an unpopular stance, when I hoped for much wider opportunities. Yet the Lord knows what is best for me, and my surroundings are determined by Him.Wherever He places me, and my surroundings are determined by Him. Wherever He places me me, He does so to strengthen my faith and power and to draw me into closer communion with Himself. And even if confined to a dungeon, my soul will prosper.

The offense that causes me to turn from Christ may be emotional. I may be continually confused and troubled over questions I cannot solve. When I gave myself to Him, I had hoped that my skies would always be fair, but often they are overcast with clouds and rain. But I must believe that when difficulties remain, it is that I may learn to trust Him completely–to trust and not be afraid. And it is through my mental and emotional struggles that i am being trained to tutor others who are being tossed by the storm.

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The offense causing me to turn away may be spiritual. I had imagined that once within His fold, I would never again suffer from the stinging winds of temptation. Yet it is best for me the way it is, for when I endure temptation His grace is magnified, my own character matures, and heaven seems sweeter at the end of the day. learning to trust a righteous God that has proven Himself faithful, wonderful, marvelous and excellent is a painful but worthwhile endeavor to encounter in this life. Once I arrive at my heavenly home, I will look back across the turns and trials along my path and will sing the praises of my Guide. So whatever comes my way, I will welcome His will and refuse to be offended in my loving Lord.

Blessed is he whose faith is not offended,
When all around his way
The power of God is working out deliverance
For others day by day;

Though in some prison dark his own soul does fail,
Till life itself be spent,
Yet still can trust his Father’s love and purpose,
And rest therein content.

Blessed is he, who through long years of suffering,
Not now from active toil,
Still shares by prayer and praise the work of others,
And thus “divides the spoils.”

Blessed are you, O child of God, who does suffer,
And cannot understand
The reason for your pain, yet will gladly leave
Your life in His blest Hand.

Yes, blessed are you whose faith is “not offended”
By trials unexplained,
By mercies unsolved, past understanding,
Until the goal is gained.

I am experiencing the trial of my life at this very moment as I write this post. I cannot understand how any of this is working out for my good. I cannot see the victory coming or even piercing the doom and gloom I am faced with, but by faith I believe God is here and will make a way out of what seems to be no way. Our Father is forever acquainted with His permissive will and will see us through every storm. The pain is I believe to burn away our reliance on self.
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I am going to cloth myself in His clothing, I am going to walk in the spirit, I am going to give thanks for Him trusting me to stand in His finished work and declare and decree victory though it seems so far away from reality. He will rescue me and receive His glorious praises from my unworthy vessel.

A Captive’s Prayer

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Tonight I find myself perplexed and disillusioned by the trials that have assailed my life all of a sudden. I know from reading and studying the gospel that nothing over takes us by His surprise. I know God loves us and I know that I am His child, but when I look at this clip and my life I can’t help but ask why Lord? Why do we have to wait to be delivered from oppression and the harassments of an enemy that has chosen his direction and purpose for life?
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Revelation 3:19
The Message (MSG)
19 “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!

I really feel that God selects the best and most notable of His servants for the best and most notable afflictions, for those who have received the most grace from Him are able to endure the most afflictions. In fact, an affliction hits a believer never by chance but by God’s divine direction. He does not haphazardly aim His arrows, for each one is on a special mission and touches only the heart for whom it is intended. It is not only the grace of God but also His glory that is revealed when a believer can stand and quietly endure and affliction.

If all my days were sunny, could I say,
“In His fair land He wipes all tears away’?
If I were never weary, could I keep
This blessed truth, “He gives His loved ones sleep”?
If no grave were mine, I might come to deem
The life Eternal but a baseless dream.
My winter, and my tears, and weariness,
Even my grave, may be His way to bless.
I call them ills; yet that can surely be
Nothing but love that shows my Lord to me!

I need you everyday like the deserts need rain and the morning needs the sun. Help me tonight Lord to believe although it looks bleak and doomed. I need you to help my unbelief Lord, because It seems like I am fainting fast. Christians with the most spiritual depth are generally those who have been taken through the most intense and deeply anguishing fires of the soul. If you have been praying to know more of Christ, do not be surprised if He leads you through the desert or through a furnace of pain.
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It is my prayer tonight that The Lord doesn’t remove my cross from me. Instead, comfort me by leading me into submission to His will and by causing me to love the cross. I pray that You Lord only give me what will serve You best, and may it be used to reveal the greatest of all Your mercies: bring glory to Your name through me, according to Your will.
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4 ways Christians can respond during times of uncertainty.

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Today marks a strange and rare occurrence in America. The government is in a partial shutdown for the first time in nearly 18 years.

But you know this by now. At this point, there are few who don’t know that this is happening. However, many don’t fully understand what it means. Life has continued on for most as it always has. But life has come to a stand still for many of the 800,000 “non-essential” government workers who were told to go home or not come in today.
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The bickering on Capitol Hill is disturbing despite which side your find yourself on for the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” as it has become known. This is an embarrassment on a global scale. Even Syria, in the midst of a civil war, has continued to pay its bills. This is not a time of great pride in our great country.

We can respond in a way that shows this country, this world, the love of God.
Despite all of this, a unique opportunity has arisen for Christians everywhere. We can respond in a way that shows this country, this world, the love of God.
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This time can activitate the giving heart of the Church. Many local Bodies are ahead of the curve in this, but others have no idea where to start. Many people are confused and unsure of what’s next, but the Church has an unfailing hope. We should always show it, but it’s in times like these where something beautiful can awaken in those who know Jesus and in those who do not know Jesus.

Here are 4 ways for us as Christians, as the Church, to respond to the shutdown:

Pray for the leaders of this country and the people who are hurt by this

This should be the no. 1 action on every Christian’s “list” right now. This should be continuous for us. We need to ask God to intervene in the lives of the men and women who will not agree. We need to ask God to intervene in the lives of the people who are hurt by that lack of agreement.

We all have opinions, and that is great. That is a wonderful part of humanity. What cannot happen, though, especially in the Church, is for the opinions to cause disunity among us and cause us to ignore what it seems is currently being ignored in Washington: People.

God loves people. We need to love people right now and ask God to intervene at this time.
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Ask your local church if there is anything you can do for those in need

Giving is, at times, sacrificial. We cannot be so materialistic that we look at what we have and not want to give to the one who has none. Sometimes, God even asks us to give all we have to the one who has none. And at a time when people will be going to work without any guarantee of pay, there is an opportunity for some of us to offer help.

It is so important to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, because He tells us what makes sense to God, not us.

The leaders in your local church should have a solid grasp of the general needs of your community. If they don’t, find a local church that does have a good grasp of those needs and ask what you can give/do.

Being a pastor, I see that our local body often has more needs come to our attention than the provisions to meet those needs. This isn’t completely out of sheer number, it’s also because of the poverty mentality that so many of us possess. The concept of giving or helping is so foreign to so many. We have to open our eyes to the needs around us. The pleasure of helping others is something that we can ALL do.

You can give resources, pastors can put you to work, or you can be given tips and advice on how to help those around you. If the shutdown continues, those government employees on furlough may need financial assistance, and even if it doesn’t, they could probably use your encouragement and support.

Don’t wait for your local church or community organization to organize something

I know this kind of contradicts what is written above, but hear me out. Sometimes, we really embrace being sheep. Whether it is witnessing, social justice or even fun, we generally wait for someone else to organize something.

This isn’t completely terrible. Some people have no idea where to start. In that case, yes, contact these places to see what is happening. However, do not ignore the fact that the very best weapon against the injustices around you is you.

Some local churches will definitely have a good handle on the general needs of the community. But you also have a great handle on the needs around you. You have family, friends and neighbors that a local body doesn’t always know about.

Don’t wait to see what organizations are doing. Don’t say to yourself, “Someone should do something to help.” The Church is people, not a place. You are the Church. Go help the people around you.

What we can do is not simply rise to a national occasion of need, but always be available to meet needs.
Don’t let this be isolated

Needs will always be around. Jesus said that we’ll always have the poor with us. It’s the nature of being on this planet.

What we can do is not simply rise to a national occasion of need, but always be available to meet needs. In any time of uncertainty, the Church should be at the forefront of helping and offering hope. Not simply for publicity, but because it’s what we should have been doing all along.

We should always be helping meet needs. Let this time of uncertainty be a wakeup call to understand that we are not to rise to the occasion like it’s some special thing. There is always an occasion. There are always needs. If you do something during this time, don’t let the next public crisis be the next time you do something.

We are the Church, and we should bring hope to the world. Whether that is salvation or meeting a need, don’t see it as simply “rising to the occasion” right now. Do what we should have been doing all along: Loving people.

You make me feel some type of way!!!!

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The only people that we truly need in our lives are those who respect us and want us enough to be in theirs. Living life to try to live up to someone else’s standards is not only degrading to ourselves, but it also puts our mental freedom in the hands of a person who could care less about whether we are free or not. In order to avoid situations such as these, we have to be strong, and smart enough to recognize the people who don’t really care about us when it comes down to it.

If someone doesn’t show you the same love that you show them and acts as if you are unimportant at most times, this may be a big clue as to the fact that you don’t need them in your life. Be wise in your decisions on who to love, and be sure that the people that you love, and that you would be there for, would be there for you as well when you need it.

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Psalm 77:3 (The Message)
remember God – and shake my head. I bow my head – then wring my hands.

Psalm 77:3

New International Version (NIV)
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[a]

I wonder how many of us have ever been over critical and missed a blessing of God? Psychologists define attitudes as a learned tendency to evaluate things in a certain way. This can include evaluations of people, issues, objects or events. Such evaluations are often positive or negative, but they can also be uncertain at times. For example, you might have mixed feelings about a particular person or issue.

Researchers also suggest that there are several different components that make up attitudes.
1.An Emotional Component: How the object, person, issue or event makes you feel.
2.A Cognitive Component: Your thoughts and beliefs about the subject.
3.A Behavioral Component: How the attitude influences your behavior.

Attitudes can also be explicit and implicit. Explicit attitudes are those that we are consciously aware of and that clearly influence our behaviors and beliefs. Implicit attitudes are unconscious, but still have an effect on our beliefs and behaviors.

I remember a mother of a church I once attended by the name of Mary Smith. She went to church one Sunday morning and winced when she heard the organist play a wrong note during the processional. She also couldn’t help but notice that the alter bouquets were looking wilted. She felt the usher passing the offering plate was scrutinizing what every person put in, which made her angry. To top it all off, the preacher made at least five grammatical errors in his sermon. After the closing hymn, as she thought, What a careless group of people!

Amy Jones went to church one Sunday morning and was thrilled by the arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress” that was performed. Her heart was touched at hearing a teenager read the morning Scripture lesson. She was delighted to see the church take up an offering to help hungry children in Nigeria. In addition, the preacher’s sermon answered a question that had been bothering her for some time. During the recessional, she felt radiant joy from the choir members. She left the church thinking, What a wonderful place to worship God!

Mary and Amy went to the same church, on the same Sunday morning. Which service would you have attended? Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I an thankful that thorns have roses. I believe the whole word of God. I especially like the introduction of the New testament that depicts the essential Christ and His finished work that has given us every spiritual gift in heavenly places.

Have you ever reflected on your actions and discovered that they go completely against everything you’ve always stood for? Its difficult to have the words we say and the things we do always be a positive reflection of our values and convictions. In my experience, it does not just happen naturally once you state your guiding principles in a vision or mission statement. Rather, it takes dedication, discipline, and hard work to stay faithful to what you believe in and hold true. What do we do then when we find our actions do not match our beliefs?


This week I was reading the book of Jonah, a story in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) written almost 800 years before Jesus arrived on the scene in Israel. The book begins with a situation similar to the one I described above. Jonah negatively reacts to a message from God and find himself acting in a way that completely contradicts his values and calling as a prophet of God. Because of his actions he risked loosing both his credibility as messenger of God and his God-given calling. I believe the book provides four lessons on how to approach a situation where your actions and beliefs are at war with each other.

Consider these four lessons from Jonah’s struggle:
1.Don’t run from the fact that you are struggling to do the right thing. There is no shame in this type of struggle. In fact, this type of struggle helps you gain clarity around your convictions and the behaviors that support them.

2.Seek help. How you do this is up to you. Hopefully, you have a small group of people you trust for support and wise counsel. If you don’t, then do what Jonah did and pray. No matter where you are at in your relationship with the Almighty, He always wants to hear from you and help you.

3.Remember you were created for a purpose and a calling. Sometimes we lose site of the fact that each of us has been given amazing gifts and talents to serve others. When we use those special gifts and talents we don’t need to worry so much about the outcome or struggle because we know if we are true to ourselves and our calling, our actions will be blessed.

4.Rejoice in your freedom to choose. What an amazing gift is free will and to live in a country where we have the ability to make personal choices based on our beliefs. Give thanks for this opportunity.

If you are struggling with a decision or behavior that does not align with your core beliefs, don’t give up or lose hope. Remember these lessons from Jonah and start making the small decisions to help you stay true to your beliefs. As always, I’m here to help…

Healing from Heaven

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Experiencing life while walking with the Father of Life is a painful, yet blessed encounter. I am in so much discomfort tonight due to the state of my life and our nation. I realize God is still in control, but to gain knowledge by way suffering is not in vain. I count it all joy to be considered worthy to grieve from the conditions that God wills for my life.
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2 Corinthians 1:1-10 (The Message)

1 I, Paul, have been sent on a special mission by the Messiah, Jesus, planned by God himself. I write this to God’s congregation in Corinth, and to believers all over Achaia province. 2 May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours! Timothy, someone you know and trust, joins me in this greeting. 3 All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! 4 He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 5 We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort – we get a full measure of that, too. 6 When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. 7 When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it. 8 We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. 9 We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally – not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! 10 And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.

Thomas Moore (1779-1852) was an Irish songwriter, singer, and poet. His talents brought joy to many who saw him perform or who sang his music. Yet, tragically, his personal life was troubled by repeated heartaches, including the death of all five of his children during his lifetime. Moore’s personal wounds make these words of his all the more meaningful: “Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” This moving statement reminds us that meeting with God in prayer can bring healing to the troubled soul.

The apostle Paul also saw how our heavenly Father can provide solace to the hurting heart. To the believers at Corith he wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Sometimes, though, we can be so preoccupied with an inner sorrow that we isolate ourselves from the One who can offer consolation. We need to be reminded that God’s comfort and healing come through prayer.

As we confide in our Father, we can experience peace and the beginning of healing for our wounded hearts. For truly “earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Prayer is the soil in which hope and healing grow best……

Visualization!!!!!!

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When I watched this movie I could relate to everything Pi was experiencing because I too was raised in a home of multi cultural beliefs. I use to ponder as a child why I had to sale bean pies and pray so many times a day facing the east. I use to ask my dad why we couldn’t use Afro Sheen products as our friends. I would have to attend bible study and prayer meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and then on Thursday go to the mosque and perform neighborhood watch detail and sale the final call newspapers. I would have to pray with my mom and still maintain the strict disciplines of Islam.

I remember asking the Pastor of my mom’s church, which was the church of God and Christ why is there so much confusion associated with God and religion? He said to me that God will reveal Himself and the path in which He has planned for all of His called children. I never understood any of it. I just wanted to get out of that house and find my way on my own. Once I was excepted into the navy and had chose the University I wanted to attend I began to feel God’s presence for myself and things began to unfold. I had my own visions and they weren’t forced upon me.


What happened to me after graduation from Syracuse was not viewed by me as God being cruel, but quite the contrary. I saw it as God being intimately acquainted with the process of developing my life. I maintained my thoughts and vision for my life without any outside influences. I endured racism and hardships while at Syracuse. I experienced all sought of attacks on my ethnicity in the navy. I prayed to the only God that was calling me towards Him and that God’s name is Jesus. He used every circumstance to mold me for the tragedies that waited for me in Libya and Kuwait and Desert Storm. He knew what Iran was going to be like for me. This movie The Life of Pi spoke volumes to my inner man about survival of having faith and finding your way to God with vision and that is my opinion.

Ecclesiastes 7:25-29

The Message (MSG)

How to Interpret the Meaning of Life

23-25 I tested everything in my search for wisdom. I set out to be wise, but it was beyond me, far beyond me, and deep—oh so deep! Does anyone ever find it? I concentrated with all my might, studying and exploring and seeking wisdom—the meaning of life. I also wanted to identify evil and stupidity, foolishness and craziness.

26-29 One discovery: A woman can be a bitter pill to swallow, full of seductive scheming and grasping. The lucky escape her; the undiscerning get caught. At least this is my experience—what I, the Quester, have pieced together as I’ve tried to make sense of life. But the wisdom I’ve looked for I haven’t found. I didn’t find one man or woman in a thousand worth my while. Yet I did spot one ray of light in this murk: God made men and women true and upright; we’re the ones who’ve made a mess of things.
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Major James Nesmeth, and average weekend golfer shooting in the mid-to-low-nineties, dreamed of improving his golf game. But for seven years, he never touched a club nor set foot on a fairway. During those years, however, he developed an amazingly effective technique for improving his game. The first time he returned to a course, he shot an astonishing seventy-four! He had cut twenty strokes off his average.

What was his secret? Visualization. For seven years, Major Nesmeth was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He was imprisoned in a cage 4 1/2 feet high and 5 feet long. Most of those years, he saw no one, talked to no one, and had no physical activity. He knew he had to find some way to occupy his mind, or he would lose his sanity, so he played eighteen holes at the imaginary country club of his dreams. He imagined every detail… every shot. And not once did he miss a shot or putt. Seven days a week, four hours a day, he played eighteen holes in his mind.

Your dreams for the future will be much more likely to come true if you visualize your goals and imagine reaching them. you will be training your mind to produce successful thoughts and ideas. On the clarity of your ideas depends the scope of your success in any endeavor. What goals do I have that would benefit from visualizing success be? I will share that with you. I have been on house arrest for 355 days and my wife and I have had to use visualization coupled with faith to get to this point of our trek. We have found our God to be incredible. We lost everything we had acquired before this debacle. We have been sustained by God all the way through this time of uncertainty. We visualized a bill for felon reformation, we visualized us being able to worship and go to church while serving our time of captivity, we visualized my wife making the Dean’s list while being allowed to continue her education, we visualized restoration of having a car to get to our appointments and to do the work of the Lord. We have visualized getting a LLC business to employ those suffering from the effects of having a felony arrest of their record.

All things begin with your thoughts. When the thoughts are distorted your future will be distorted. Leave your fears beside the road and hit your knees with brokenness and confess all you need is the Lord to speak to you about your plight and He is faithful to do what He said.

My Thorns Have Become My Praise!!!

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I have received full payment and even more. (Philippians 4:18)

It is now T-15 days and counting until my wife and I are able to hit the ground running for Jesus. We have suffered greatly in our inner persons while serving our house arrest time, but we have also been blessed tremendously by God in study and increase of knowledge.

In one of my wife’s gardening books there is a chapter with a very interesting title: “Flowers That Grow in the Shade.” It deals with those areas of a garden that never catch direct sunlight, and it list the kinds of flowers that not only grow in the dark corners but actually seem to like them and to flourish in them.

There are similarities here to the spiritual world. There are Christians who seem to blossom when their material circumstances become the most harsh and severe. My wife and I lost everything fighting this case we have now served 350 days out of 365. We have faced sheer destitution and couldn’t rely on our own strength to provide. Like these flowers we have grown in the darkness of uncertainty and shade. If this were not true, how could we otherwise explain some of the experiences of the apostle Paul?

When he wrote the above verse, he was a prisoner in Rome. The primary mission of his life appeared to have been broken. But it was in this persistent darkness that flowers began to show their faces in bright and fascinating glory. Paul may have seen them before, growing along the open road, but certainly never in the incomparable strength and beauty in which they now appeared. And words of promise opened their treasures to him in ways he had never before experienced.

Among those treasures were such wonderful things as Christ’s grace, love, joy, and peace, and it seemed as though they had needed the circumstance of darkness to draw out their secret and inner glory. The dark and dingy prison had become the home of the revealed truth of God, and Paul began to realize as never before the width and the wealth of his spiritual inheritance.

Haven’t we all known men and women who begin to wear strength and hopefulness like a regal robe as soon as they must endure a season of darkness and solitude? People like that may be put in prison by the world, but their treasure will be locked away with them, for true treasure cannot be locked out of their lives. Their material condition may look like a desert, but “the desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom”(Isaiah 35:1)

Every flower, even the most beautiful, has its own shadow beneath it as it bask in the sunlight. Where there is much light, I’ve learned there is also much shade.