Faithfulness

Jesus on Current Events

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Luke 13

Repent or Perish

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.

2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?

3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?

5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.

7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.

9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

Romans 2

God’s Righteous Judgment

1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.

3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a]

Did you hear about the Marine who declared he is a conscientious objector to the war in Iraq and went AWOL? He went to a press conference and said he did not believe in “peace through violence” and went on to blame his recruiter because his recruiter knew about his pacifist beliefs but failed to warn him of the violent nature of his training.

I don’t really want to talk with you about that Marine. I do want to talk about the nature of what I’ve just told you.

We like to have discussions like these. We like to talk about the things people do that don’t click with us. When I asked you if you heard about this “conscientious objector,” what was the real meaning of my question? Was I asking you to an open discussion about the validity of this guy’s actions? No. I’ve made up my mind. When you’re standing around the water cooler at work or out in the yard in the neighborhood and someone asks you if you heard about this thing or that on the news, they are most likely expressing their condemnation or bewilderment over what they’ve heard. Most often, it’s not that we’re looking for some honest dialogue to assess the situation. There is another meaning to our questions.

Most of the time, we bring up the outrageous or strange or fascinating or stupid things people do to shed light on them and take the spotlight off of us. We know the foolish things we do. Even more, we know the foolish things we think. So there is a sense, whether it be consciously or subconsciously, in which we are justifying ourselves by keeping before us and others the more outlandish things that other people do.

Why do people like Rush Limbaugh? Because he tends to say things they agree with. Why are Hollywood gossip columns and magazines so popular? Because the stars have everything in the world but still can’t make a relationship work. Doesn’t that make you feel better? The popularity of talk radio and sports radio and shows like Jerry Springer all point to the fact that we like to keep our eyes and divert everyone else’s attention to the people we think are a little more strange or a little more immoral than we are. It is a poor but popular means of self-justification.

I like the fact that the Holy Spirit saw fit to ensure that Luke was inspired to include the account in chapter 13. Someone in the crowd asked him about events that were happening in the world around him. It allows us to hear from Jesus about current events, tragedies, and evil dictators today.

Think about what questions we would ask him today? Is Operation Iraqi Freedom God’s way of judging Saddam Hussein for his tyranny? A militant Muslim would ask God the same about judgment on the United States. Was September 11 a warning of judgment against the United States, the city of New York, or capitalism? Can we look into the eyes of a camera with any kind of confidence and say, as Jerry Falwell did, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen?” Can we say that? Is AIDS a plague from God to punish those who practice homosexuality? If so, what’s up with SARS, the new Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome? Does God want to punish the Asian people now?

Let’s make it more personal: “God, who’s right, me or my wife? Did you hear what she said to me? Did you see what he did to me?” Have you ever had that discussion?

When we ask these questions, are we really trying to submit to God’s will and sovereignty, or are we just trying to justify ourselves? Aren’t we just asking God to take sides or at least to condemn the actions of those whose behavior does not meet with our approval?

This all makes me think of all those times that the kids would come anxious to tell me what their brother or sister has done. “Dad, do you know what so-and-so did?” “Dad, you wouldn’t believe what she said to me!” You parents have any experience with this? Sometimes it happens when you’re a pastor too. “Pastor Jim, have you heard what brother so-and-so has been doing?”

I like to just look at my kids and say, “Really! How ‘bout if I beat ‘em? Would that make you feel better? You wanna watch?”

Sometimes I wonder if people would feel better if we bring back the stocks and put ‘em right up here in front of the church. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is cell leader Bob, and he failed to turn in his cell group report this week.” Then everyone else can sit in the church and feel better about themselves, thinking, “Whooooo, I’ve done some bad things but I’d never do that!”

It seems that someone in the crowd was looking for some self-justification when they caught Jesus’ attention in Luke 13:1. “Did you hear about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices?” Jesus saw right through their question. It may have sounded like they wanted to know if he knew about it and what he thought about it. His answer tells me he knew that they were looking for some condemnation—a little something that would divert his attention from their wickedness and on to the wickedness of others. They figured if Jesus would take a side, he would be on theirs.

But Jesus didn’t take a side. Instead, he answered the real meaning of their question. Notice what Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t condemn one side over another. He also didn’t comment on whether or not the tragedies were part of God’s judgment. Instead, he went straight to the heart of their question.

Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them– do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Lk 13:2-5, NIV)

Jesus was saying, “I know what you are trying to get me to say. You want me to condemn those Galileans as though the ones that died were picked out for judgment. You want me to tell you that those people crushed by the tower in Siloam were deserving of their fate. I’m not going to comment on them. Let’s talk about you. Unless you repent, all of you will also perish.”

That was not what they wanted to hear. He turned it around and addressed the real meaning of their question. He may very well have said, “whatever they’ve done will not justify you.”

What does Jesus’ answer say about you? First of all, it says that you are likewise sinful and guilty. You and I can point to all the Saddam Husseins in the world, but it would not make the stain of our sin any smaller. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” So, the truth is, we’re all lawbreakers in the eyes of God. Saddam is a lawbreaker. And likewise, so am I a lawbreaker. In that regard, we are no different. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

Jesus’ answer also points out that we will likewise perish. The original language Luke used here to describe what Jesus said is “you will similarly perish.” Jesus makes a link between death and unrepentance. But does Jesus mean all death is punishment for not repenting? Is all violent deaths like those Galileans and the victims of the tower tragedy the result of punishment? What does Jesus mean when he says we will likewise perish?

Death sometimes comes slowly. Sometimes it sneaks up on us. Death can be cruel, as it was for the Galileans at the hands of Pilate, or it can be tragic, as in the deaths of those who were crushed under the weight of the tower. When Jesus said we will all similarly perish, he was not talking about the manner of death but the finality of it. It is destined for man to die once, and after that to face judgment.

Consider Paul’s words in Romans 2:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” (Rom 2:1-6, NIV)

Unless we repent, the finality of death will surprise us.

There is also a lesson for triumphant living in Jesus’ answer and in what Paul has written. His answer warns us not to compare ourselves to other people. We can never justify ourselves by comparing. We can only condemn ourselves. If I condemn sin in you, then the sin in me is likewise condemned. Worse yet, when we make ourselves out to be better than others, we show contempt for God’s kindness and love, which was poured out so generously on us in his Son Jesus.

Jesus’ answer seemed to bring condemnation. But like a doctor’s diagnosis opens the door for healing, Jesus turned the question back on them to open the door to his magnificent grace. That is why he immediately told them the parable of the fig tree.

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ’For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “’Sir,’ the man replied, ’leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9, NIV)

I want to quickly summarize for you the lessons of grace we learn from the fig tree.

First of all, you were planted in God’s world to bear fruit for him. Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8, NIV) We are here to live purposeful lives, showing ourselves to be followers of Christ.

Second, God has endured our barrenness for quite a while. “For three years now,” said the man who planted the tree, “I have not found any fruit.” We can be thankful that God is slow to anger and abounding in love.

Third, we learn that we deserve to be cut down. If we are not bearing the fruit we were created to bear, why should we use up the soil?

It’s at this point that Jesus wanted all who could hear him understand that he has come to offer another chance. “One more year” says the caregiver. “One more chance” says Jesus. We deserve to be cut off, but Jesus pleads before the Father to give us another chance at life. Jesus shed his blood to serve as a plea before the Father for you to be restored. He gives us another chance. Do we deserve that chance? No, we deserve to be cut off. But in his mercy he spares us and by his grace he secures for us another chance.

Which leads me to the fifth lesson from the fig tree. We must bear fruit or die. “Repent or perish.” Jesus said. Bear fruit or die.

But Jesus also teaches us that he will do what it takes to make us fruitful. There are two conditions on this incredible grace, and Jesus takes responsibility for them both. We cooperate with him by our repentance.

The first condition requires that Jesus dig around the roots of our belief. We cannot let Jesus dig around those roots until we lay them down and give him lordship over them all. Whatever beliefs, whatever prejudices, whatever biases we come to him with must become fair game for him to dig up and pull out so he can replace them with a better root system.

The second condition is that we have to allow Jesus to fertilize our soil. Do you understand what that means? Are you ready for this? First of all, it means that we have to be willing for Jesus to surround us with all sorts of poop. It is often in the fires of adversity that God is able to refine us into fruit-bearing followers. If we are anything other than open to God to work through the ugly circumstances surrounding our life, we will never bear fruit.

But the main purpose of fertilizer is to pass on nutrients. If we do not let God feed us through his word, we will never become fruitful for him.

Repentance means turning to Jesus to lay a new foundation of belief by weeding out the old attitudes and allowing his word to shape his worldview in us.

It is very tempting for us to say that the United States is acting as God’s agent for bringing punishment on Iraq. It may be true. But when we put our trust in Jesus Christ, we gave up our right to be American citizens before being citizens of God’s kingdom. Viewing the conflict in Iraq as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven gives us a different perspective than if we view it as an American. How can we apply what Jesus taught in these times?

1. Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are no more sinners than any of us.
2. If this war is God’s judgment, then we too are under God’s wrath. Likewise, if September 11 is part of God’s judgment on America, then so are all men subject to God’s wrath.
3. If God uses us to exact punishment or discipline, it does not justify us. God often used kingdoms like Assyria or Babylon to topple the nation of Israel, and then later brought justice on those nations through Israel.
4. If justice is good for Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden (and don’t we all want to see justice done?), then it is good for us too.
5. Our only hope is repentance.
6. God’s response to repentance is grace.

Can you believe after all we’ve seen—after coming to the unfortunate conclusion that you and I are no better than Saddam Hussein—Jesus still pleads with the Father for another chance? Another chance to become one of his followers. Another chance to show ourselves faithful. Another chance to be reconciled to the One who created us and planted us in this world with a purpose. Another chance to do and be everything God created us to do and be.

Jesus has pleaded for another year. Jesus wants permission to dig up your roots and fertilize the soil of your heart. Are you willing? Unless you repent, you too will perish. If you repent, you too will live!

Is God Obligated?

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Jeremiah 7:1-11 (The Message)

1 The Message from God to Jeremiah: 2 “Stand in the gate of God’s Temple and preach this Message. 3 God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, has this to say to you: 4 Don’t for a minute believe the lies being spoken here – “This is God’s Temple, God’s Temple, God’s Temple!” 5 Total nonsense! Only if you clean up your act (the way you live, the things you do), only if you do a total spring cleaning on the way you live and treat your neighbors, 6 only if you quit exploiting the street people and orphans and widows, no longer taking advantage of innocent people on this very site and no longer destroying your souls by using this Temple as a front for other gods – 7 only then will I move into your neighborhood. Only then will this country I gave your ancestors be my permanent home, my Temple. 8 “‘Get smart! Your leaders are handing you a pack of lies, and you’re swallowing them! 9 Use your heads! Do you think you can rob and murder, have sex with the neighborhood wives, tell lies nonstop, worship the local gods, and buy every novel religious commodity on the market 10 – and then march into this Temple, set apart for my worship, and say, “We’re safe!” thinking that the place itself gives you a license to go on with all this outrageous sacrilege? 11 A cave full of criminals! Do you think you can turn this Temple, set apart for my worship, into something like that? Well, think again. I’ve got eyes in my head. I can see what’s going on.'” God’s Decree!

A friend sent me photographs of twenty beautiful churches through-out the world. Located as far apart as Iceland and India, each of them is architecturally unique. The most beautiful place of worship in Jeremiah’s day was the temple in Jerusalem, which King Josiah had recently repaired and restored (2 Chronicles 34-35). The people were fixated on the magnificent building (Jeremiah 7:4), and they foolishly thought that having the temple there meant that God would protect them from their enemies. Instead, Jeremiah pointed out the sin in their lives (vv.3, 9-10).

God is not impressed by beautiful buildings constructed in His name if there is no inward beauty in the hearts of those who go there. He is not interested in an outward legalistic worship that is not matched by inward holiness. And it is wrong to think that God protects people just because of the religious things they do.

Just because we’re reading the Bible, praying, and fellowshipping with other believers doesn’t mean that God is somehow then obligated to do something for us. He cannot be manipulated. The purpose of those external activities is to develop our relationship with the Lord and to help us live differently than those in the world around us.

Lord, with all the funny business associated with faulty doctrines and church leadership, help us to remember that you are most interested in an obedient heart. Change us when we think you’re obligated to us because of our religious acts of worship or service. Give us a pure heart Father in Jesus name Amen….

God cannot and will not be manipulated!!!!!!

Celebrate your Faith Even Though You Don”t See It Physically

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John 11:41

The Message (MSG)
41-42 Then, to the others, “Go ahead, take away the stone.”

They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”

The sequence of events in this passage seems strange and unusual. Lazarus was still in his tomb, yet Jesus’ thanksgiving preceded the miracle of raising him from the dead. It seems that thanks would only have been lifted up once the great miracle had been accomplished and Lazarus had been restored to life. But Jesus gave thanks for what He was about to receive. His gratitude sprang forth before the blessing had arrived, in an expression of assurance that it was certainly on its way.

The song of victory was sung before the battle had been fought. It was the Sower singing the song of harvest-it was thanksgiving before the miracle! Who ever thinks of announcing a victory song as the army is just heading out to the battlefield? And where do we ever hear a song of gratitude and thanksgiving for an answer that has not yet been received?

Yet in this Scripture passage, there is nothing strange, forced or unreasonable to the master’s sequence of praise before the miracle. Praise is actually the most vital preparation to the working of miracles. Miracles are performed through spiritual power, and our spiritual power is always in proportion to our faith. Praise has changed a lot of circumstances in my life. Nothing pleases God more than praise as part of our prayer life, and nothing blesses someone who prays as much as the praise that is offered. I once received a great blessing from this while in China. I had recently received bad news from home, and deep shadows of darkness seemed to cover my soul. I prayed but the darkness remained. I forced myself to endure but the shadows only deepened. Then suddenly one day, as I entered a missionary’s home at an inland station, I saw these words on the wall: “Try giving thanks.” Si I did, and in a moment every shadow was gone, never to return. Yes, the psalmist was right: “It is good to praise the Lord”(Ps. 92:1).

Morning Star, Elohim, Immanuel, El Rio, Wonderful, I praise your name because you are the precious lamb of God, my deliverer and strong tower. I thank you for the breakthrough of depression and fear. I thank you for the rising of my body after the deposit of another 1,440 minutes of life that was not promised. I thank you for the abiding presence of Your Spirit upon my life. I thank You for the promises contained in your word and that even though trouble may assail me I have the victory in “You.”

Immorality Is Trending

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Gay activists love to point to the changes in public opinion regarding same-sex “marriage,” announcing triumphantly that this is a sign of moral and even spiritual advancement. In reality, it is part of a larger trend toward immorality, a sign of moral bankruptcy and spiritual apostasy.

According to a May 13 Gallup report, “Just three years ago, support for gay marriage was 44 percent. The current 53 percent level of support is essentially double the 27 percent in Gallup’s initial measurement on gay marriage, in 1996.”

But let’s put that data into a larger, cultural perspective. A May 20 Gallup report is headlined, “In U.S., Record-High Say Gay, Lesbian Relations Morally OK,” with the subtitle reading, “Americans’ tolerance of a number of moral issues up since 2001.”

What exactly is meant by “tolerance”?

The report states, “Americans’ views toward a number of moral issues have shifted significantly since 2001. Their acceptance of gay and lesbian relations has increased the most, up 19 percentage points in the past 12 years—to a record high of 59 percent today. Americans’ tolerance toward having a baby outside of marriage is also now much greater, up 15 points since 2001 [actually, 2002], to the current 60 percent.”

Oh yes, “tolerance” is alive and well!

So, the America that increasingly deems homosexual relationships to be morally acceptable is the same America that increasingly deems having children out of wedlock (once called “illegitimacy”) to be morally acceptable. And this is supposed to be a sign of progress?

According to the poll, American approval of fornication—or, as the poll put it, “sex between an unmarried man and woman”—was up 10 percent (from 53 percent to 63 percent), while support for polygamy actually doubled, from 7 percent to 14 percent (keep your eye on that stat in the coming years). This is something to celebrate?

In 2001, Gallup didn’t even ask the question of the moral acceptability of teenagers having sexual relationships, but in the current poll, only 63 percent found it morally wrong, while 32 percent expressed their moral approval. How enlightening!

The pollsters used the following script: “I’m going to read you a list of issues. Regardless of whether or not you should think it should be legal, for each one, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong.”

Interestingly, while the word sex was used with reference to “sex between an unmarried man and woman” and “sex between teenagers,” and while the word affair was used with reference to “married men and women having an affair,” no such explicit or derogatory term was used with regard to homosexual practice. Rather, that was referred to as “gay or lesbian relations.”

I wonder if the response would have been different if the pollsters had asked about “two men or two women having sex”—unless, of course, “gay and lesbian relations” are all merely platonic. (Please forgive my sarcasm.)

But I digress. What is clear is that American sexual morals are in steady decline, and there is very little that shames us these days. After all, this is the nation in which a young woman’s quickest ticket to fame is a best-selling, graphic sex tape. Sometimes the girl’s parents even gush with pride at their daughter’s achievements, and at the risk of sounding trite, we can honestly say that what used to shame us now makes us famous.

It is against this backdrop that public approval for same-sex relationships continues to increase.

And let’s not forget that the same media that incessantly pushes the cause of gay activism also promotes shows like Teen Mom, glamorizing young women who have children out of wedlock, along with shows like Big Love and Sister Wives, normalizing and even celebrating polygamy. And this has no effect on the public’s perceptions?

Leading the way in these changing views toward gay and lesbian relations is the younger generation, aged 18-29. According to Gallup, in 1996, 41 percent of them supported same-sex “marriage”; today, that number is up to 70 percent. But this is the same age group that believes that roughly 30 percent of the population is gay or lesbian—an error of 1,000 percent! (The best studies put the number at roughly 3 percent.) Does the media have nothing to do with these skewed perspectives?

We should also remember that Barna polls conducted over the last 15 years indicate that only 0.5 percent of Americans aged 18-23 held to what Barna defined as a biblical worldview, in contrast with about 10 percent of the population as a whole. Is it any surprise, then, that they are so strongly supportive of same-sex relationships?

As for our country’s increasing “tolerance,” it is not happening quickly enough for 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt and her family. She has been arrested for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl, one which her father says was consensual.

The Daily Kos reports, “Florida teen Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, is seeing her young life turned upside down and her future jeopardized simply because she fell in love. Unfortunately for her, she fell in love with a younger girl who has vindictive bigots for parents.”

Her father, Steven Hunt, wants prosecutors “to drop the two charges filed against his daughter in February. A rainbow-colored ‘Stop the hate, free Kate’ page on the online petition site Change.org had more than 56,500 supporters calling for prosecutors to drop the charges Monday afternoon, and a similar ‘Free Kate’ Facebook group page had more than 30,000 members.”

Well, just give it a little more time. Soon enough, these things will be accepted too. Immorality is trending.

A Most American Way to Die

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Happy African American family. Father with three teenage daughters together having a good time. Stock Photo - 5947172

 

If you’re an unarmed black teen in Florida, someone can gun you down – and they might get away with it

This was some battle going on in that car, a cage match of warring colognes. Tevin Thompson, tall and soft-cheeked, had basted himself in Curve, swiped from the back of his parents’ dresser, where the old man kept his more expensive smell-goods. Leland Brunson, small and snarky, the runt of the four-kid crew, was bumping Chanel and a couple of clashing lotions and smelled like mixed inserts from three men’s mags. Jordan Davis, the prince – he of the red-hot girlfriend and every fly snapback sold online – was drenched in Armani and looking right. And Tommie Stornes, at the wheel of his Durango – well, who ever knew what Tommie was wearing? He kept the whole scent counter at Macy’s in his car. True, he’d taken hours to get coifed and dressed to go girl-hunting at the mall, but as these boys liked to say, you can’t rush greatness.

They hit the Town Center mall around 5 p.m. and found it hip-to-hip with Christmas shoppers. On this, the first evening after Thanksgiving, all of Jacksonville was out and about, walking of the torpor of candied yams at the fanciest galleria in northern Florida. The boys did their best impression of premium shoppers, four well-raised black teens from middle-class homes trying hard to stand out by blending in. They talked to – but whiffed with – a few of the upscale “honeys,” browsed the stores for high-priced sneakers that they mostly owned already (Tevin bought a new pair every payday; Jordan, who’d just landed his first after-school job, was breaking his father’s wallet with his shoe game) and began to make their way toward the exits. Then Jordan spotted Aliyah, his beautiful, on-off girlfriend, who was finishing up her shift at Urban Outfitters. They’d been on the rocks for weeks over the silliest teenage nonsense – he’d bought roses on her birthday but wouldn’t bring them to school, convinced his friends would clown him till graduation. Now, though, she smiled at him, and Jordan’s heart went clattering around his rib cage. “They needed to get back together so he’d stop talking about her,” says Tevin. “Every . . . …single . . . …day, it was Aliyah this, Aliyah that. We’re all like, ‘Damn it, dude: Just call her already.'”

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And so now it was 7:00, and they were driving back to Jordan’s to play Xbox on his father’s big TV. A couple of miles away, they stopped at a Gate gas station so Tommie could run in for a pack of Newports. They were blasting Chief Keef through the half-down windows and busting on Jordan about Aliyah when a black Jetta pulled into the spot beside them. A woman got out and ducked into the store; the driver, a crew-cut moose of a white man named Michael David Dunn, cracked his window and told them to turn the noise down. “I hate that thug music,” he had griped to his girlfriend before he sent her in to buy some wine and chips; Rhonda Rouer would tell detectives the next day that that was a “common” complaint of Dunn’s. They had just come from the wedding of Dunn’s only son and had left the reception early to get back to the hotel so he could walk their newly bought puppy.

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Tevin, in the front passenger seat, dialed the music down, but Jordan, sitting behind him, wouldn’t have it. Unbelting himself, he reached across the console to crank the volume up. He and Dunn went at it, peppering f-bombs at each other. “You’re not gonna talk to me like that!” yelled Dunn, reaching across the dash to his glove compartment. Tommie had come back and was strapping himself in when he saw a gun through the window of Dunn’s car. “Duck!” he yelled and grabbed for the shifter when the first three shots hit his car. Several more rounds whacked the car as Tommie floored it backward and peeled out. He broke left, past the gas pumps, while bullets winged by. Dunn, half out of his Jetta and firing two-fisted, kept shooting at the fleeing Durango; one bullet pierced the liftgate and another clipped the visor, missing Tommie’s skull by an inch.

He drove a hundred yards into the adjacent shopping plaza, stopped in front of a sandwich shop and jumped out to check on his friends. Tevin was somehow fine – his door had stopped the slugs. Leland, sitting behind Tommie, was OK too, though his hands and sleeves were wet with fresh blood. Jordan, however, was slumped in his lap. The first three shots had gone through his door; two of them lodged in his chest and groin. His eyes rolling back, he gasped for air as the three friends shrieked for help. “Jordan was making that rattle people make when they’re dying,” says Tevin. “That’s when Leland started to cry. I hugged him and tried to tell him it’d be OK.”

Tevin dialed 911, but someone had beaten him to it: The strip mall was packed with stunned bystanders. Two of them jotted down the Jetta’s plate number as Dunn tore of, speeding up Southside Boulevard. Soon, the Gate gas station bristled with sirens: cops securing the crime scene and taking statements, collecting a dozen firsthand accounts; medics working feverishly to keep Jordan breathing as they loaded him into the ambulance; and detectives comforting his stricken friends, particularly Leland, who couldn’t stop sobbing. Jordan was his best friend; they all but lived at each other’s houses. “Jordan was my third son – I loved that boy,” says Tanya Booth-Brunson, Leland’s mother. “He had this shine on him that lit up the room. He was a star, and everyone knew it.”

Shortly before noon the following day, deputies knocked on a door in Satellite Beach, three hours south down 95. Dunn, a computer programmer and gun enthusiast who’d fired his first rifle at three, stepped out onto the stoop of his beachfront condo. Fully six four and 280 pounds, he greeted the cops with the convivial air of a long-lost beer-league pal. In the interview box at the downtown precinct, he sloughed off the reading of his Miranda rights. According to Jordan’s father, Dunn said he didn’t need a lawyer, telling the detectives: They defied my orders. What was I supposed to do if they wouldn’t listen? Appalled, the cops booked him on the spot, and he was eventually charged with first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.

But several days after the shooting, Dunn told the world through his hastily hired lawyer, Robin Lemonidis, that he fired 10 shots in a crowded shopping plaza because he felt threatened by the boys. They were gang members calling their gang buddies, said Lemonidis; Dunn had to act fast, before they did. Also, they were men piling out of the car, not high school boys cringing in terror. And third, there was this, thrown in for good measure: Dunn was sure he saw a shotgun aimed at him through the right rear window of the boys’ car. (Damningly, though, he didn’t tell his girlfriend about a gun before his arrest.) And with that, nine months after the killing of Trayvon Martin, the Gunshine State of Florida had spawned a second grotesque fraud: the killing of a defenseless black kid by an armed, angry white man invoking the worst law in America – the Stand Your Ground statute of self-defense.

Help Us To Know Your Ways

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John 13:7
The Message (MSG)
7 Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”

In this life, we have an incomplete view of God’s dealings, seeing His plan only half finished and underdeveloped. Yet once we stand in the magnificent temple of eternity, we will have the proper perspective and will see everything fitting gracefully together!

Imagine going to the mountains of Lebanon during the reign of Israel’s great King Solomon. Can you see the majestic cedar? It is the pride of all the other trees and has wrestled many years with the cold north winds! The summer sun has loved to smile upon it, while the night has caused its soft leaves to glisten with drops of dew. Birds have built their nests in its branches, weary travelers and wandering shepherds have rested in its shade from the midday heat or taken shelter from the raging storms. And suddenly we realize that this old inhabitant of the forest has been doomed to fall victim to the woodsman’s ax!

We watch as the ax makes its first gash on the cedar’s gnarled truck. Then we see its noble limbs stripped of their branches as the tree comes crashing to the ground. We cry out against the wanton destruction of this “Tree of God,” as it is distinctively known, and express our anger over the demolition of this proud pillar in the forest temple of nature. We are tempted to exclaim with the prophet Zechariah, “Wail, O pine tree, for the cedar has fallen…!(Zech. 11:2), as if inviting the sympathy of every less-majestic plant and invoking inanimate things to also resent the offense.

We should not be so quick to complain but should follow the gigantic tree as the workmen of “Hiram King of Tyre” (2 Chron.2:3) take it down the mountainside. From there we should watch it being sailed on rafts along the blue water of the Mediterranean. And finally, we should behold it being placed as a glorious and polished beam in the temple of God. As you contemplate its final destination, seeing it in the Holy of Holies as a jewel in the diadem of the Almighty King, can you honestly complain that this “crown jewel of Lebanon” was cut down, removed from the forest, and placed in such a noble setting? The cedar had once stood majestically in nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house”(Hag.2:9)

So many people are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trials have stripped them bare, and yet we can see no reason for such harsh and difficult circumstances. But God has a noble goal and purpose in mind: to place them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His heavenly Zion> And He says to them, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God”(Isa.62:3). I don’t ask my cross to understand, my way to see-Better in darkness just to feel Your hand, And follow Thee.

Been There, Done That, Now What?

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Ethical Culture (also sometimes called Ethical Humanism) is the name of an evolving body of ideas that inspires Ethical Societies. Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity (Humanist Manifesto III). For Ethical Humanists, the ultimate religious questions are not about the existence of gods or an afterlife, but rather, “How can we create meaningfulness in this life?” and “How should we treat each other?”

Ethical Humanism is clear about the essential role that ethical principles play in human relationships. Despite how uncertain we might feel about our personal standards–or how best to apply them–for an Ethical Humanist, there are unquestionably acts that are good and evil, right and wrong. In order for human beings to have good lives, love must prevail, truth must be respected, honesty esteemed, justice secured, and freedom protected. Learning how to realize these ideals in personal and political relationships is the purpose of Ethical Societies.

I am not surprised by the moral decay of our leaders in congress nor the church, we are humans. There has been contingencies made by our “Ancient of Old” He gave his only Son for us to have life more abundantly. We are called to pray for our human community, the lost and regenerated. I remember not long ago I practiced serving my own desires. I thank God His spirit convicted me today of the thoughts I entertained to go back to that vomit He delivered me from. These men are no different than you and I. Use your God given discernment and not judgment to learn from these public officials that had it not been for the grace of God, there go I.

This is a generation with unparalleled opportunity:
We have travelled further faster than any people before us.
Any area we cannot visit in person, we can virtually experience via the technology of video.
Our music is replayed from Compact Discs providing fidelity unimagined twenty years ago. The next techology, DVD’s that provide higher highs and lower lows.
Immediate world-wide communication is available via the internet. I can begin plumbing the research depths of some of the world’s most outstanding libraries within five minutes of sitting down at my computer.
Education is available in any method you want to receive it.
Knowledge is doubling every seven years.
Somehow, in spite of, or perhaps because of some of these things, we have become a jaded people. It is hard to excite us. We are a set of phlegmatic personalities. We have seen too much, been too many places, dome too many things. In the words of young people who refuse to admit being outdone by one of their peers – Been there, done that!

Partied all night – “Been there, done that!”
Man, I had a hang over like you wouldn’t believe – “Been there, done that!”
Spent the night with her, (or him) – “Been there, done that!”

I. The jaded face of “Been there, done that!” – Drugs and Alcohol
A. In the U. S. 1) 70% of high schoolers have tried marijuana; 2) 62% of teens believe drinking is bad, but continue to drink.
B. Teenage drinking, to use of the words of the Surgeon General, is “out of control.” Statistics from his office show that of the 20.7 million middle school and high school students nationwide, eight million of them drink alcohol at least once a week. Nearly 18% of them admit that they “binge” (take five or more drinks at one sitting) every week.
C. About 9% of the babies born each year (375,000+) have been exposed to illegal drugs in the womb. U.S. News & World Report, Dec 13, 1993
D. Cocaine was used by about 6 million Americans in the month before a survey was taken by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
E. Each year some 375,000 babies (approximately ten percent of all newborns in the United States) are exposed before birth to illegal drugs, most commonly cocaine. Some hospitals in major cities like New York and Los Angeles report that 20% or more of their newborn patients suffer from prenatal exposure to narcotics. “Innocent victims” by Anastasia Toufexis. Time, May 13, 1991. Pages 56-60.
F. The drug problem in America has become a national scandal. It is believed that use of marijuana, LSD, and heroin are no longer the major problem. Rather it is the 4 to 6 million regular users of cocaine, especially in its easy to use form called crack. Cocaine addiction and use knows no social or economic boundaries. A high lasts only 5 to 20 minutes from one dose, and is followed by an immediate crash.
G. “Crack is cocaine fast food.” It has been processed to a ready- to-smoke stage. When smoked, it can produce a full-blown high in less than 10 seconds. But the high doesn’t last long, and addiction may occur after one binge; with depression following. The setting for these binges centers around crack spots, where crack is sold for take-out, or crack houses where a high can be bought and experienced.
H. The problems most often addressed in company-sponsored employee assistance programs, according to The Wall Street Journal, are: substance abuse, dealt with by 99% of companies surveyed; . . .
I. Drunk drivers are responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people on U.S. highways each year, and another 300,000 are injured in alcohol-related auto accidents. In addition, 90,000 Americans die from alcohol-related conditions (cirrhosis of the liver, certain types of cancer, etc.) annually. Each year 5,000 infants are born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Drinking drives the crime rate higher, too: 49% of all murders or attempted murders, 52% of all rapes and sexual assaults, and 68% of all manslaughter convictions involve alcohol. Friends Journal, Sep 1993
J. Church leaders seem blind to the drug problem within their congregations. 92% of pastors surveyed said drug abuse was a problem in their communities; only 18% saw it as a problem in their congregations. Yet, surveys of churched and unchurched youth don’t bear out that optimism. 80% of churched youth reported drinking beer as compared to 88% of the unchurched; 38% of the churched have tried marijuana, while 47% of the unchurched have done so. 22% of the churched have tried amphetamines/barbiturates with compared with 28% of the unchurched. 11% of the churched have used cocaine in comparison to 14% of the unchurched. “The church’s drug of choice” by David Lynn. Eternity, Nov 1988. Page 20.
K. In negotiating a new seven-year, $1 billion contract to televise its basketball tournament, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) decided to limit the playing time of beer commercials to 60 seconds per hour. NCAA officials said university administrators identify alcohol abuse as the number- one problem on campuses across the country
L. At 14, star actress Drew Barrymore had been in drug/alcohol abuse treatment twice. Group, Apr 1989. Page 12.
M. Almost 50% of U.S. college students are binge drinkers, according to a nationwide survey of 17,592 students, the results of which were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Washington Post Weekly, Dec 12, 1994
N. “An estimated 10.5 million Americans are alcoholics, but that is only a fraction of the number of people affected by the disease.” Approximately 67 million Americans (43% of adults in the United States) have had to cope with alcoholism in their families.
O. The economic costs of alcohol abuse, currently some $128 billion a year, are projected to hit a whopping $150 billion by 1995. “Everybody loves a drunk” by Joe Schwartz. American Demographics, Mar 1992. Page 13.

II. Sexuality –
A. 60% of 16-18-year-olds have had sex.
B. 1.1 million girls will become pregnant this year; about 400,000 will abort their babies.
C. Almost 33% of births are to an unmarried mother.
D. The median number of sexual partners for the American male is 7.3, according to a survey of 3,321 men aged 20 to 39. The study also found that nearly one out of four said they had had more than 20 sex partners, and slightly more (28%) reported having had only one to three partners. Single Adult Ministries Journal, Issue 99, 1994

III. We are a “Been there, done that!” generation. “If it feels good, do it, is the adage of our day.” We have become hard to shock, we have seen it all, heard it all, done it all. My question for this evening – “What happens when you’ve been there, done that and none of it has brought you satisfaction.” There are two individuals in the scripture who can give testimony.

IV. One is Solomon, the son of David. He is the writer of the book of Ecclesiasties. It is a virtual history of his life. Let’s listen in on Solomon’s quest for satisfaction in life.
A. Eccl 2:3 (KJS) I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what [was] that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. {to give…: Heb. to draw my flesh with wine} {all…: Heb. the number of the days of their life} . . . 2:10And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

B. Wine – Solomon could say, “Been there, done that!” Now listen to his testimony. I’m sure yours will agree.

C. v. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all [was] vanity and vexation of spirit, and [there was] no profit under the sun.

D. Now listen to his testimony concerning promiscuous sexuality, the free-love of our age – Eccl 7:25 (KJS) I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason [of things], and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness [and] madness: 26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart [is] snares and nets, [and] her hands [as] bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

E. So Solomon, you’ve “Been there, done that, now what?” Eccl 12:13 (KJS) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.

V. Woman at Well
A. John 4:13 – Married five times, now living in adultery
B. John 4:13 (KJS) Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

VI. When your “Been there, done that” is religion.
A. Nicodemus – John 3:
B. John’s Disciples – Acts 19:1-6
1. Baptized 20+ years ago
2. Received a revelation.

VII. The thing they both discovered could satisfy them – God

Thankfully, the Lord treats all of us alike, and He wants us to treat each other the same way.
In matters not what race or gender,
Rich or poor or great or small,
The God who made us is not partial;
He sent Christ to die for all.
Bribery displays partiality; love displays justice.

Perfect Fit

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Exodus 26:1-11 (The Message)
1 “Make The Dwelling itself from ten panels of tapestry woven from fine twisted linen, blue and purple and scarlet material, with an angel-cherubim design. A skilled craftsman should do it. 2 The panels of tapestry are each to be forty-six feet long and six feet wide. 3 Join five of the panels together, and then the other five together. 4 Make loops of blue along the edge of the outside panel of the first set and the same on the outside panel of the second set. 5 Make fifty loops on each panel. 6 Then make fifty gold clasps and join the tapestries together so that The Dwelling is one whole. 7 “Next make tapestries of goat hair for a tent that will cover The Dwelling. Make eleven panels of these tapestries. 8 The length of each panel will be forty-five feet long and six feet wide. 9 Join five of the panels together, and then the other six. Fold the sixth panel double at the front of the tent. 10 Now make fifty loops along the edge of the end panel and fifty loops along the edge of the joining panel. 11 Make fifty clasps of bronze and connect the clasps with the loops, bringing the tent together.
Ephesians 2:21 (The Message)
21 that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day – a holy temple built by God,

Too long, Too short. Too big. Too small. Too tight. Too loose. These words describe most of the clothes I try on. Finding the perfect fit seems impossible. Finding a church that is a “perfect fit” poses similar problems. Every church has something that’s not quite right. Our gifts aren’t recognized. Our talents aren’t appreciated. Our sense of humor is uncomfortable.

We feel as if we don’t fit. We struggle to find our place. We know, however, that God wants us to fit together with one another. The apostle Paul said we are being “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives” (Eph. 2:22 NIV).

The believers in the church today, like the tabernacle in the days of Moses and the temple in the days of Solomon, are the dwelling place of God on earth. God wants us to fit together-for there to be no divisions in His church. This means that we, the building blocks, are to be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement”. No church will be a perfect fit, but we can all work at fitting together more perfectly.

Christ’s love creates unity in the midst of diversity.

Lance Gross Shares Letter To George Zimmerman: This Is ‘What It’s Like To Be A Black Man’

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Stevie Wonder won’t be performing in Florida anytime soon.

In the wake of the George Zimmerman acquittal, the singer said he would not be performing in the Sunshine State until its Stand Your Ground law is “abolished.” He also said he would not be performing in any other state that recognizes the law, which some say contributed to Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012.

“I decided today that until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again,” Wonder said Sunday while performing in Quebec City. “As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.”
Zimmerman Letterr-LANCE-GROSS-GEORGE-ZIMMERMAN-large570

George Zimmerman’s recent acquittal in the fatal 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has sparked widespread protests and reactions across the country, with many of Hollywood’s elite leveraging their social influence to add their voices in response to the trial’s verdict.

Actor Lance Gross is the latest celebrity to weigh in on the jury’s decision. Gross took to his Instagram account on Sunday to share an open letter, written by Alex Fraser, that was addressed to the 29-year-old former neighborhood watchman:Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder for fatally shooting the teen on Saturday evening. Following the verdict, the Department of Justice released a statement on Sunday detailing that they’re continuing to evaluate whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges against the neighborhood watchman.


Some people are too quickly satisfied with Jesus’ blessings, others are never satisfied with Jesus’ blessings. These extreme types remind me of two stories.
A food editor of the local newspaper received a telephone call from a woman inquiring HOW LONG to cook a 22-pound turkey. “Just a minute,” said the food editor, turning to consult a chart. “Thank you very much,” replied the novice cook, and hung up!
In a region of Mexico HOT AND COLD SPRINGS are found side by side. Because of the convenience of this natural phenomenon the women often bring their laundry, boil their clothes in the hot spring and then rinse them in the cold spring. A tourist watching this procedure commented to his Mexican guide, “They must think mother nature is generous to freely supply such ample clean hot and cold water.” The guide replied, “No, señor, there is much grumbling because she does not supply the soap.”

hopeless and depressed group of lepers had huddled together outside one of the many villages on the border of Samaria and Galilee. They were marked men and possibly women, for their inflamed, scaly, splotchy skin condemned them as people to be avoided. Their common misery forced different races of outcast together, in spite of inter-racial hatred, as, in a flood, wolves and sheep will huddle close on a spot of high ground.
It was a despised fellowship drawn together in mutual wretchedness and in permanent separation from others. [They were outcast like many in third world countries who have AIDS are today.] Into this deplorable seemly hopeless scene walks Jesus and lives are given the opportunity to change. Those lives that day sought and received external physical change for that was all they were after. Being satisfied they went on their way. Those that did missed out on the greatest blessing Jesus offers to the one who returns to Him.
May I ask you a personal question? Have you too been satisfied with the external blessings that you have received from Jesus and gone on about your life? Or, in your gratitude, have you returned to Him and received an internal change that is eternal and for which you are continually grateful?

I. THE LEPERS’ CRY, 12-14a.
II. THE HEALING OF THE OBEDIENT, 14b.
III. THE RETURN OF THE THANKFUL, 15-16.
IV. THE LORD’S REACTION, 17-19.

While Jesus was headed toward His crucifixion He passed through Samaria. The Jews had no dealings nor friendship with these mix breeds and considered that even meeting them made one [ceremonially] unclean. But it seems that the diseased and afflicted of all races joined together in leper colonies. Verses 11-13 begin the story of the encounter Jesus had with ten lepers. “And it came about while He was on the way to Jerusalem; that He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a certain village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Levitical law prescribed the distance that lepers were to be separated from non-infected people (Lev. 13:38-46; Num. 5:2-4). Thus in order to be heard they had to cry aloud. It must have been an effort for one of the effects of leprosy is a hoarse whisper. Desperate need though often gives the body heightened physical power.
Their cry for mercy indicates that they had some knowledge of Jesus. They had heard stories of the Compassionate Healer that ministered health to those with incurable physical debilities. They had heard He was coming or perhaps they recognized Him, but in any case they addressed Him from afar.
They called Him by name, “Jesus, Master have mercy on us.” The word Master in the Greek means “Chief Commander”[ έπιστάτα -epistáta]. They recognized that Jesus was commander and chief even over disease. The question was would Jesus have mercy. Would one such as He help those such as them? Those who have been beaten down by people and difficult circumstances in life don’t often find persons capable and compassionate enough to help.
So they cry out for mercy because in Him they experienced a germination of hope and faith touching them in their desperate need. But even their dire situation had not caused them to look at their deeper even more serious need, so they called out for Him to meet their physical need. They want Jesus to be nothing more than a fixer of life, a healer of body and circumstances. As earthy and fleshy as their desires were, they did open themselves up to Jesus so that His mercy could touch them. Jesus’ mercy is ever ready to flow into every situation and life, just as water naturally flows to the lowest levels.

The answer to the ten lepers comes quickly from what we discover in verse 14a. “And when He saw them, He said to them, Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
Jesus seems to have approached the lepers for it was when He saw, not when He heard, that He spoke to them. Jesus was not one to cry aloud in the streets, nor does He simply cure from afar but He draws near to those He heals that they may see His kind face and be touched by His compassion and love.
His command to show themselves to the priests recognized and honored the law (Lev. 14:1-32), as the unclean had to be declared clean to reenter society. But the main purpose of His command was no doubt to test and thereby to strengthen the lepers’ faith. For them to set out to the priests while they saw and felt themselves full of leprosy would seem absurd, unless they believe that Jesus could and would heal them. He gives no promise that He would heal but asks for obedience and in the obedience there was the implication of healing. He utters no outward word of sympathy. His compassion is not released through His words or treatment. He simply speaks a command. [Maclaren, Alexander. Expositions of Holy Scripture. Baker. Grand Rapids. 1974. pp. 128-129.]
You too may be told to be obedient and never experience the compassion that Jesus has for you. Yet never doubt that His direct commands come from a heart of love. We too will sometimes be asked to act on the assumption that Jesus will grant our request even when we see no evidence of it. We too will sometimes need to set out in obedience as we, so to speak, still feel the leprosy or affliction.

II. THE HEALING OF THE OBEDIENT, 14b.
In the second half of verse 14 we learn what occurred on the walk to Jerusalem. “And it came about that as they were going, they were cleansed.”
The ten of them set off at once. They had gotten the word they wanted from the Lord and thought little more about Him. So they turned their backs on Him and headed off. How strange the experience must have been. For as they walked in obedience to His command they begin to feel the gradual creeping sense of soundness returning to their bodies! How much more joyful and confident their steps must have been as health returned and asserted itself in their bodies! The cure is sent forth in silence from Christ. His very thought and their obedience to His word effected the cure. He willed, and as they walked in obedience to His word, it was done.
The lepers responded in faith and Jesus healed them on the way. Many times our spiritual, mental, emotional and yes physical healing comes to us as we respond in faith to Jesus’ forth-right commands. Be it to wash in the Jordan [2 Kings 5:1-14] or to minister the Word of life to a neighbor or in far off Africa, we need to heed His word to us. Is your trust in God so strong that you will act on what He says even before you see evidences that it will work? I hope we do not need to be reduced to the desperate need of a leper to be so inclined.

III. THE THANKFUL RETURN, 15-16.
Verse 15 records the one recipient with a responsive, grateful soul. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice.”
One man was moved by gratefulness to acknowledge the significance of what had been done for him. When he realized that he was healed, thanksgiving and praise awakened within him. So he turns back to offer praise. Was it disobedient to turn back to give thanks? It is never disobedient to be thankful. A grateful heart knows that its first and highest duty is to give thanks. How like us all this scene is. God does something marvelous and we hurry away clutching our blessings and never cast a thought back to the Giver!
What a miracle had occurred. The awful incurable disease that had rob them of life and isolated them from life was taken away in a simple act of obedience. You might have expected all ten to return rejoicing and praising Jesus and thanking Him for a new start in life, but only one does. This leper’s voice had returned to Him and His loud public praises were very different from the strained croak of his plea for healing. He knew that he had two to thank, God and Jesus. He did not yet realize that these two were one.

Verse 16 continues to tell of the exuberant thankfulness of the responsive soul. “And he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.”
Because of His healing he can come much nearer to Jesus now. So he runs to Jesus and falls at His beautiful feet. At the feet of Jesus in a posture of worship he pours out the love in his heart with thanksgiving. Thankfulness brings us close to Jesus and knits our heart to Him.
Jesus healed all ten lepers, but only one returned to thank Him. It is possible to receive God’s great gifts with an ungrateful spirit–nine of the ten men did so. Only the thankful man, however, learned that his faith had played a role in his healing; and only grateful Christians grow in understanding God’s grace. God does not demand that we thank Him, but He is pleased when we do so. He then uses our responsiveness to teach us more about Himself.
Jesus notices those who come back to say, “Thank you.” In fact, according to Malachi 3:16, what we say concerning the things the Lord has done for us, His blessings to us, His faithfulness to us are written in a Book of Remembrance. Some parents keep a book in which to record their children’s first words, first steps, and growth. So, too, the Lord keeps a books recording the words, walk, and growth of His children. The question is, how big is yours? I suggest the Lord needs many volumes to contain the thanksgiving of some of His kids. For others, a single pamphlet will do.
When a prostitute began to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry them with her hair, Jesus said to his host, “When I came into your home, you didn’t greet Me with a kiss or wash My feet”—which means that Jesus not only notices what people do, but what they fail to do for Him (Luke 7:44–46). How many blessings has the Lord given me today without my even pausing to say “Thank You”? [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson’s Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 386.]
Again Luke points out that the grace of God is for everybody. This new man was a Samaritan. A race despised by the Jews as pagan idolatrous half-breeds. The heathen and the rejected who have no reason to expect mercy often are deeply touched by kindness when others who always think they deserve more are never grateful for what they do receive.

Deception The Number One Device Of The Enemy

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When someone has every material gain the world has to offer, when you are somewhat happy in the pursuit of happiness associated with life. If you are successful in establishing yourself to share a future of comfort. Why do you leave out the need for Christ in the equation?

Rev 20:3
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

Rev 20:7-8
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth,

The greatest power that Satan possesses is the power of deception. He is the great deceiver.

Deceive – To cause to believe what is not true;
If Satan can make you believe something that is not true, then he can control you.

I am afraid that today many of us govern our lives through the deception of evil people in high places who are under the control of Satan, and the deceptions are so subtle that we are not even aware of them.

As I have said before, we come to conclusions and form our beliefs based on what we are fed.

Other than the Word of God I don’t know what is true anymore.

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Deception:

I talk to people who say that you don’t have to go to church, I can worship God at home.
I believe I’m going to heaven because I don’t cuss, or drink, or run around on my spouse. I am a pretty good person.

What Satan does not tell you is that salvation is not based on how good you are, but on what Jesus did on the cross and you placing your faith and trust in Him as your savior and Lord.

2 Cor 11:3
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

John 8:44
When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Luke 15:11-24
11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

Luke 15:30
30 thy son hath devoured thy living with harlots,

14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Imagine living in an environment where fear controlled your life, constantly insecure, what you ate was determined by what you could scrounge up, clothed with what you could find that was thrown out by someone else, where hate and selfishness filled your environment, where joy and happiness is only a distant memory.

But also imagine living in an environment where there was no reason to fear, and there was always plenty to eat, clothes to wear, always a loving and caring environment and a happy atmosphere.

Why would this boy make such a terrible choice?

What was he thinking?
James 1:14-15
14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

He was deceived in thinking that the grass was greener somewhere else.

Deception causes people to throw their lives away.
Other examples;

David and Bath-sheba (2 Sam 11:2)
What was he thinking? I am king and answer to no one, no one will know, just one little fling, that’s all,
Now he finds out that she is expecting. Bring home her husband to sleep with her. He wouldn’t, so cleverly have him killed. He marries her.
What was the deception? I can do this and not get caught.

Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1)
What were they thinking? We want to look as religious as all the other givers.
What was the deception? We can do this, look good, and have money to blow.

Isa 14:12
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

It was deception that he used and is still very successful at it today.

Today, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and divorce are become a norm in our society and are accepted in many religious organizations.

You have got to recognize the voice speaking to you.
John 10:27
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

If you commit any sin, it was because of a deception.
Every sin is the fruit of a deception.
1. I won’t get caught. (no one will know about this, or see me)
2. This will gratify me. (Temporary gratification is not worth the pain)
3. This will make me happy.
4. This will make me rich.
5. I can be my on boss.
6. I don’t have to obey. (rebellion)

If we can believe that we can provide sustenance, better health, a better lifestyle, better entertainment, than God can provide, feel that we have no spiritual need, we have been deceived.

John 14:6
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

1 John 1:7
walk in the light, (Truth, know your Bible and you won’t be deceived)

“Better safe than sorry.”

We use this cliché often when dealing with worldly issues when buying or not buying things, taking medicines, but how about in matters that involve eternal choices? We try to make careful choices in the area of health, safety, finances, etc: because we would rather be safe than sorry, but do we become careless in decisions that matter most?

We want our salvation safe and secure. Safe is good, sorry is bad.

We sense a place of safety in all the promises of God if all the conditions are met.

Ps 4:8
8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

Prov 18:10
10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

Deut 11:26-28
26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;
27 A blessing(safe and secure), if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:
28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God,

Josh 24:15
choose you this day whom ye will serve; (make the right choice).

Heb 11:7
7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Luke 17:26-30
26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

1 Cor 15:30
30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

2 Cor 1:22
22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

Eph 1:13
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Eph 4:30
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Real Wealth Is In The Word

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Paul prays #1 for STRENGTH. Tonight we will look at some additional requests in this prayer that ends the first half of the book of Ephesians

Years ago there was a song that went, ‘My love is higher than the highest mountain, softer than a sigh, my love is deeper than the deepest ocean, wider than the sky, my love is brighter than the brightest star that shines every night above, and there is nothing in the world that can ever change my love’.
We would all agree that this person has a highly exaggerated expression of human love but if you change the words from My love is to God’s love is then you suddenly have a song that reflects truth instead of exaggeration.
PAUL SECOND REQUEST IS THAT OF LOVE

REQUEST #2: LOVE (17) …and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (19) and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,..
· Three things necessary for Paul’s kind of love

1. FIRST: It is something we are to be rooted & grounded in
a. This means to be established/stabilized in the
Superior love that comes from God.
b. The world has it’s own brand of love which is very
self -centered. Paul prays that we will be
established by God’s definition of what love really is.

Two words: One is agricultural while the other is architectural. One means to get our roots solid into the soil. The other means to be stable so as to not be collapsible. Our love is firmly rooted in our relationship with Jesus and the storms of the world cannot make our love fall apart.

c. It is one thing to be rooted and grounded in doctrine or
even in service in the church but being grounded in
God’s kind of love is an even deeper walk with God.

Parallel verse to this would be Romans 5:5 ‘the love of God has been shed abroad/poured out in hearts through the Holy Spirit’.
Thought of swabbing the decks, pouring water everywhere, or for us today ‘laying carpet’. Covers every area, ‘wall to wall’. Missing 6 inches on one side would look odd.
We are to be so rooted/grounded in love that it effects every part of our life. Every relationship, ministry, attitude, action.

SOMETHING WE ARE TO BE ROOTED AND GROUND IN
2. SECOND: Something we strive to know the extent of.
Able to comprehend what is the breadth, length, height,
depth
a. ABLE – idea of being a full strength, full capacity.
When we are spiritually at optimum place then we
begin to understand some tremendous things about
God.
b. Comprehend means more than just to know something
but it literally means to lay hold of something so as to
make it your own, to know and to feel.
To understand it to the point that it has a deep impact
upon who you are as a person.

You might tell somebody a joke and ask, ‘Do you get it?’
Louis Armstrong said about JAZZ, ‘Man, if I’ve got to explain it, you ain’t got it’.
We get our word for a monkey’s tail from this word.

b. Comprehend(grasp 4 things)
The Breadth of Love: wide enough to encompass all mankind
The Length of Love: long enough to last for eternity
The Heighth of Love: high enough to take us to heaven
The Depth of Love: deep enough to reach the most
despicable sinner
CAN YOU EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THAT KIND OF LOVE
AND TO MAKE IT YOUR OWN.
AND TO LOVE LIKE THAT YOURSELF.
Paul prays that you do. Imagine a church like that.
Comprehend with all the saints..

SOMETHING TO BE ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN SOMETHING TO KNOW THE FULL EXTENT OF
3. THIRD: It is something we see the fullest expression in
Jesus. (19) and to know the love of Christ which
surpasses knowledge.
a. This is actually a pretty funny statement by Paul.
He is praying that we will know what is unknowable.
The love that is in Christ is beyond human knowledge.

Lit. ‘to throw beyond’. I am playing shortstop but God’s thought keep going over the center field fence. I will never catch them, they are too far beyond my position.

b. KNOW is an intimate word like the love between a
husband and a wife. Paul prays that we will have an
intimate knowledge of the love of Christ.

Don’t ask me to explain the love of Christ but if you ask me if I know what it is then I can say I do, I have experienced it.

STRENGTH LOVE
REQUEST #3: FULLNESS (19) …that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
1. Paul prays that we might be filled with God’s fullness.
This word for filled means to be filled over the top, a full
supply.
a. Paul is praying that we will be overwhelmed the
presence of God. Think that sounds like an inviting
prayer?
b. To pray this prayer means that we want God to so fill
us with Himself that there is nothing left of me.

Demonstrate this kind of attitude by some men who were called the Cambridge Seven.
In 1884 they were seven of the finest cricket players in England and were each students at Cambridge University.
They each gave up wealth, privilege, and comfort to bring the gospel to the people of China.
This would be equivalent to a Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Ken Griffey Jr. quitting baseball in their prime to go to the mission field.
The most notable was a man named C.T. Studd who also gave up a sizable inheritance to serve as a missionary in China, India, and Africa for 45 years.

Verse 20 is a wonderful verse that opens up the truth
about the heart of God towards us. If we can just get
self out of the way then look what God is waiting to give
when we embrace His fullness. Illustrates Paul’s fourth
request.

REQUEST #4: Glory (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, (21) to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. AMEN
1. This great prayer of Paul that we would have God’s
strength in our service, have God’s love in our hearts, and
have God’s fullness in our lives is all for a purpose.
That purpose is to bring glory to God.

a. It is all meant to draw attention to the one behind the
curtain who makes the kind of life we live possible.
2. When we live DYNAMITE CHRISTIAN lives then verse 20
describes the kind of God the world will begin to see.
a. HIM WHO IS ABLE – That will be the testimony our life
teaches. God is able in all of life’s struggles, He is
more than sufficient
b. ABLE TO DO EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY BEYOND:
1) TO DO: create, perform, bring forth. No matter
what the challenge God can bring forth lemonade
out of lemons, healing out of hurts,
2) EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY BEYOND: three
straight superlatives. Beyond was used to describe
a river above capacity or at flood stage.
Exceedingly beyond capacity. God can do more
than our life could ever contain.

Like the little boy asked by his grandparents about how big the grand canyon was, ‘Way big, way way way way big’

c. BEYOND ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK: More than our
life could contain and more than our minds could
imagine. I don’t know about you but I can think of a
lot of things but God is able to do more than that.

CONCLUSION: The world knows God can do these things because He is doing them in the lives of His people. Those who:
1) Those who surrender through faith to His Spirit so that His power might strengthen our lives.
2) Those who experience the extend of His Amazing Love and so share it with the world
3) Those who are filled to overflowing with His presence as they lose themselves in Him.
All these things bring Him glory in the church…to all generations forever and ever.
Didn’t end with Paul or the Apostles. This prayer was not just for the Churches in that day but for every generation forever and ever. IT IS FOR US!

God alone deserves glory for He alone is glorious.

Fusion Man

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Psalm 55:1-8 (The Message)
1 Open your ears, God, to my prayer; don’t pretend you don’t hear me knocking. 2 Come close and whisper your answer. I really need you. 3 at the mean voice, quail before the evil eye, As they pile on the guilt, stockpile angry slander. 4 My insides are turned inside out; specters of death have me down. 5 I shake with fear, I shudder from head to foot. 6 “Who will give me wings,” I ask – “wings like a dove?” Get me out of here on dove wings; 7 I want some peace and quiet. I want a walk in the country, 8 I want a cabin in the woods. I’m desperate for a change from rage and stormy weather.

Yves Rossy accomplished something people have dreamed of since the ancient myth of Icarus. He has flown. Known as “Fusion Man,” Rossy built a set of wings with an engine pack that uses his body as the fuselage of the aircraft, with the wings fused to the back of his heat resistant suit. His first flight took place near Geneva, Switzerland, in 2004, and he has since had numerous successful flights.

The psalmist David longed to have wings so he could fly away. In a time when he was being pursued by enemies who were seeking to take his life, Israel’s king cried, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest “(Psalms 55:6).

Like David, when we’re facing pressure, mistreatment, hardship, or grief, we might wish we could sprout wings and fly away. But Jesus offers a better way. Rather than fleeing our struggles, He invites us to flee too Him. He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me… and you will find rest for your souls”( Matthew 11:28-29). Rather than wishing we could fly away and escape life’s problems, we can bring them to Him. Escape cannot give us rest, but Jesus can.

O give me a spirit of peace, dear Lord,
Midst the storms and tempests that roll,
That I may find rest and quite within,
A calm buried deep in my soul.

God gives us strength to face our problems, not to flee from them…

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Bearing Fruit

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No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.

Epictetus

To what extent do we have shared or unique perceptual experiences? We examine how the answer to this question is constrained by the processes of visual adaptation. Adaptation constantly recalibrates visual coding so that our vision is normalized according to the stimuli that we are currently exposed to. These normalizations occur over very wide ranging time scales, from milliseconds to evolutionary spans. The resulting adjustments dramatically alter the appearance of the world before us, and in particular alter visual salience by highlighting how the current image deviates from the properties predicted by the current states of adaptation. To the extent that observers are exposed to and thus adapted by a different environment, their vision will be normalized in different ways and their subjective visual experience will differ. These differences are illustrated by considering how adaptation influences properties which vary across different environments. To the extent that observers are exposed and adapted to common properties in the environment, their vision will be adjusted toward common states, and in this respect they will have a common visual experience. This is illustrated by considering the effects of adaptation on image properties that are common across environments. In either case, it is the similarities or differences in the stimuli – and not the intrinsic similarities or differences in the observers – which largely determine the relative states of adaptation. Thus at least some aspects of our private internal experience are controlled by external factors that are accessible to objective measurement.


2 Chronicles 7:14
The Message (MSG)
12-18 God appeared to Solomon that very night and said, “I accept your prayer; yes, I have chosen this place as a temple for sacrifice, a house of worship. If I ever shut off the supply of rain from the skies or order the locusts to eat the crops or send a plague on my people, and my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health. From now on I’m alert day and night to the prayers offered at this place. Believe me, I’ve chosen and sanctified this Temple that you have built: My Name is stamped on it forever; my eyes are on it and my heart in it always. As for you, if you live in my presence as your father David lived, pure in heart and action, living the life I’ve set out for you, attentively obedient to my guidance and judgments, then I’ll back your kingly rule over Israel—make it a sure thing on a sure foundation. The same covenant guarantee I gave to David your father I’m giving to you, namely, ‘You can count on always having a descendant on Israel’s throne.’

An Arab proverb illustrates the concept that as the tares and wheat grow, they show which of these God has blessed. The stalks of wheat bow their heads because God has blessed them with abundant grain. The more fruitful they are, the lower their heads. The tares lift their heads up high above the wheat, for they are empty of grain.

D.L. Moody once said, “I have a pear tree on my farm that is very beautiful; it appears to be one of the most beautiful trees on my place. Every branch seems to be reaching up to the light and stands almost like a wax candle, but I never get any fruit from it. I have another tree, which was so full of fruit last year that the branches almost touched the ground. If we only get down low enough, my friends, God will use every one of us to His glory….The holiest Christians are the humblest.”

When our prayers focus only on ourselves and our needs, they bear little fruit. When our prayers are focused on the Lord and His desires, they produce a great harvest. To yield what we want to what He wants is not only the key to prayers, but also the key to success in every area of our lives. Humility is the principle aid to prayer. If we see more humility than pride our adaptations of what is real, true and pleasing to God would recalibrate itself to believe those visuals rather than what we so often put our adaptations and normalizations on.

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“A Black Holocaust in America.”

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“Eugenics is the study of the agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally.”
– Francis Galton, first cousin and associate of Charles Darwin, circa 1883

“Natural selection must be replaced by eugenical artificial selection. This idea constitutes the sound core of eugenics, the applied science of human betterment.”
– Theodosius Dobzhansky. Heredity and the Nature of Man. 1964



If you are still drinking yourself to death, stop! If you are still using the poison made to kill you, like cocaine and all other drugs, stop! If you are committing constant crimes and you have no desistance to eradicate the madness you find yourself participating in, let this post be enough to synergize desistance and change the way you view television, food, habits and activities. Please pass this education on to your family because It’s still happening in America today and it is called “Eugenics”.

Ron Wallace: co-author of Black Wallstreet: A Lost Dream Chronicles a little-known chapter of African-American History in Oklahoma as told to Ronald E. Childs. If anyone truly believes that 9/11 attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was the most tragic bombing ever to take place on United States soil, as the media has been widely reported, they’re wrong,plain and simple. That’s because an even deadlier bomb occurred in that same state nearly 75 years ago.

Many people in high places would like to forget that it ever happened. Searching under the heading of “riots,” “Oklahoma” and “Tulsa” in current editions of the World Book Encyclopedia, there is conspicuously no mention whatsoever of the Tulsa race riot of 1921, and this omission is by no means a surprise, or a rare case. The fact is, one would also be hard-pressed to find documentation of the incident, let alone an accurate accounting of it, in any other “scholarly” reference or American history book.

That’s precisely the point that noted author, publisher and orator Ron Wallace, a Tulsa native, sought to make nearly five years ago when he began researching this riot, one of the worst incidents of violence ever visited upon people of African descent. Ultimately joined on the project by colleague Jay Jay Wilson of Los Angeles, the duo found and compiled indisputable evidence of what they now describe as “A Black Holocaust in America.”

The date was June 1, 1921, when “Black Wallstreet,” the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all-black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving 36-black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering-A model community destroyed, and a major Africa-American economic movement resoundingly defused.

The night’s carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead, and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half-dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could be expected, the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials, and many other sympathizers. In their self-published book, Black Wall street: A lost Dream, and its companion video documentary, Black Wall street: A Black Holocaust in America!, the authors have chronicled for the very first time in the words of area historians and elderly survivors what really happened there on that fateful summer day in 1921 and why it happened. Wallace similarly explained to Black Elegance why this bloody event from the turn of the century seems to have had a recurring effect that is being felt in predominately Black neighborhoods even to this day. The best description of Black Wall street, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be to liken it to a mini-Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans had successful infrastructure. That’s what Black Wall street was about.

The dollar circulated 36 to 1000 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now in 1995, a dollar leaves the Black community in 15 minutes. As far as resources, there were Ph.D’s residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry who also owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, a hefty pocket of change in 1910. During that era, physicians owned medical schools. There were also pawn shops everywhere, brothels, jewelry stores, 21 churches, 21 restaurants and two movie theaters. It was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six blacks owned their own planes. It was a very fascinating community. The area encompassed over 600 businesses and 36 square blocks with a population of 15,000 African Americans. And when the lower-economic Europeans looked over and saw what the Black community created, many of them were jealous. When the average student went to school on Black Wall street, he wore a suit and tie because of the morals and respect they were taught at a young age.

The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. Nepotism was the one word they believed in. And that’s what we need to get back to in 1995. The main thoroughfare was Greenwood Avenue, and it was intersected by Archer and Pine Streets. From the first letters in each of those names, you get G.A.P., and that’s where the renowned R&B music group The GAP Band got its name. They’re from Tulsa. Black Wall street was a prime example of the typical Black community in America that did business, but it was in an unusual location. You see, at the time, Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state. There were over 28 Black townships there. One third of the people who traveled in the terrifying “Trail of Tears” along side the Indians between 1830 to 1842 were Black people. The citizens of this proposed Indian and Black state chose a Black governor, a treasurer from Kansas named McDade. But the Ku Klux Klan said that if he assumed office that they would kill him within 48 hours. A lot of Blacks owned farmland, and many of them had gone into the oil business. The community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand-to-hand, and because they were dependent upon one another as a result of the Jim Crow laws.

It was not unusual that if a resident’s home accidentally burned down, it could be rebuilt within a few weeks by neighbors. This was the type of scenario that was going on day-to-day on Black Wall street. When Blacks intermarried into the Indian culture, some of them received their promised ’40 acres and a Mule,’ and with that came whatever oil was later found on the properties.

Just to show you how wealthy a lot of Black people were, there was a banker in a neighboring town who had a wife named California Taylor. Her father owned the largest cotton gin west of the Mississippi [River]. When California shopped, she would take a cruise to Paris every three months to have her clothes made. There was also a man named Mason in nearby Wagner County who had the largest potato farm west of the Mississippi. When he harvested, he would fill 100 boxcars a day. Another brother not far away had the same thing with a spinach farm. The typical family then was five children or more, though the typical farm family would have 10 kids or more who made up the nucleus of the labor.

On Black Wall street, a lot of global business was conducted. The community flourished from the early 1900s until June 1, 1921. That’s when the largest massacre of non-military Americans in the history of this country took place, and it was lead by the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine walking out of your front door and seeing 1,500 homes being burned. It must have been amazing.

Survivors we interviewed think that the whole thing was planned because during the time that all of this was going on, white families with their children stood around on the borders of the community and watched the massacre, the looting and everything—much in the same manner they would watch a lynching.

In my lectures I ask people if they understand where the word “picnic” comes from. It was typical to have a picnic on a Friday evening in Oklahoma. The word was short for “pick a nigger” to lynch. They would lynch a Black male and cut off body parts as souvenirs. This went on every weekend in this country. That’s where the term really came from. The riots weren’t caused by anything Black or white. It was caused by jealousy. A lot of white folks had come back from World War I and they were poor. When they looked over into the Black communities and realized that Black men who fought in the war had come home heroes that helped trigger the destruction. It cost the Black community everything, and not a single dime of restitution—no insurance claims-has been awarded to the victims to this day.

Nonetheless, they rebuilt. We estimate that 1,500 to 3,000 people were killed, and we know that a lot of them were buried in mass graves all around the city. Some were thrown in the river. As a matter of fact, at 21st Street and Yale Avenue, where there now stands a Sears parking lot, that corner used to be a coal mine. They threw a lot of the bodies into the shafts. Black Americans don’t know about this story because we don’t apply the word holocaust to our struggle. Jewish people use the word holocaust all the time. White people use the word holocaust. It’s politically correct to use it. But when we Black folks use the word, people think we’re being cry babies or that we’re trying to bring up old issues. No one comes to our support. In 1910, our forefathers and mothers owned 13 million acres of land at the height of racism in this country, so the Black Wall street book and videotape prove to the naysayers and revisionists that we had our act together. Our mandate now is to begin to teach our children about our own, ongoing Black holocaust. They have to know when they look at our communities today that we don’t come from this.

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The Deception: Jihad In America

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Jihad

Jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community.

John O. Brennan
I find it to be no surprise about the mask America wears to concede to any measure in operating and implementing the pieces of the puzzle called deception. If Christopher Columbus used deception to defraud the Indians and tribes of old for food and more this nation is not beyond the same practices. I am looking at so many vantage points of religion and politics and I must say I am not appalled at any findings thus far.

Steve Emerson and The Investigative Project on Terrorism’s documentary Jihad in America: The Grand Deception is a powerful film that should be shown across America -in high schools, on college campuses, in our houses of worship, and most importantly, throughout the state and federal governments. It turns the concept of political correctness that has dominated our learning institutions, government bureaucracies, and media and entertainment organizations on its head as the viewer is left in wonderment at the self-induced and resulting indoctrination that has overwhelmed American culture.

Emerson’s documentary exposes the stealth war that the Muslim Brotherhood has been conducting behind the scenes in America as its influence has infected academia, Hollywood, journalism, law enforcement, and the highest echelons of government. Throughout the film, undercover video and audio clips are interspersed between interviews with law enforcement officials and MB experts to describe the evolution of an organization that was founded in Egypt in 1928 in order to bring Muslims back to their Islamic values and create an Islamic caliphate across the world. From founder Hassan al-Banna: “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations and extend its power to the entire planet.”

With the MB’s migration across the globe, its presence in the U.S. should be no surprise. What is surprising is the film’s exposure of the extent to which the MB has infiltrated so many influential aspects of our society. Through the establishment of a complicated network of front groups seemingly legitimate on their face, the group has gained respectability without accountability and successfully camouflaged its true agenda of destroying Western civilization from within.

A disturbing lesson from the film is that the U.S. government — from the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State to the F.B.I. — has full knowledge of the MB’s intricate network and agenda. In the face of that knowledge, the officials whom we have entrusted with national security and protection of our freedoms and values have either willfully turned a blind eye or been utterly complicit in furthering the nefarious goals of radical Islam.

For instance, the viewer learns of a declassified FBI document that states, “…the IKHWAN (Muslim Brotherhood) in the United States has as its ultimate goal political control of all non-Islamic Governments in the world.” And yet, instead of isolating the MB, the government has engaged them and shut down decades-long FBI investigations into their activities. Dr. Mamoun Fandy, a MB expert featured in the film observed, “The West is tremendously naïve about the danger of these various Islamic organizations.”

My viewing of the film was particularly timely in light of IPT’s recent report on the White House meeting between staff members of the National Security Council and an Islamist cleric who is the vice president of a Hamas-supporting group founded and headed by MB spiritual leader, Yousef Qaradawi (featured prominently in the film stating, “We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America! Not through sword, but through da’wa.”) While the MB’s infiltration in, and influence over, government institutions did not begin during the Obama administration, it has certainly flourished over the past several years as MB members serve openly in the administration, meet with high-ranking officials, and are labeled “moderates.” By granting legitimacy to the various MB organizations that have been established as part of the “tangled web” (an FBI code word for the group’s network), the government is abetting the advancement of the “grand deception” that is their “jihad in America.”

It is ironic that while Americans seem singularly focused on the illegal immigration and societal integration of Hispanics, few have taken notice of legal Muslim immigrants who are self-described in the film by a leader of the Islamic Society of North America (a MB front group) who states, “Ultimately, we can never be full citizens of this country because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country.” So much for the concept of America as a melting pot.

And while the millions of illegal immigrants are here in order to pursue the American dream, the film illustrates that members of the network of MB institutions are pursuing quite a different dream. Zudhi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, summarizes:

Their dream is the creation of an Islamic state. Their utopia is having the law be Sharia. So their strategy in America, I believe, is to use America’s freedoms and liberties in order to achieve that dream.

Nathan Garrett, a former FBI agent and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, expounds:

[There are] so many organizations working on so many fronts to use our very system, the systems that they deplore, our democracy, our Constitution, our rule of law, our tolerance. That’s what they use to exploit their message. That’s what they use to protect themselves and create a façade around them that would allow them internally to operate and seek to achieve their true and often unstated objectives.

For any doubters of the veracity of those statements, recalling the domestic terrorist attacks of 9/11, Ft. Hood, and the Boston Marathon should serve as a reminder that this film is an honest – and scary – portrayal of a growing threat to our democracy.

But the film makes clear that jihad takes on many forms. While terrorism is but one strategy – it is not the only tool that the jihadists are using to achieve their goals. The film elucidates the various stealth strategies by which the “grand deception” is succeeding including:

– the use of the media (one board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, another MB front group, is heard advising his audience that, “It is very important, media in the United States is very gullible.”)

– false accusations of racism and Islamaphobia made against critics of radical Islam (for acknowledging the “moral corruption within a certain segment that is using [Islam], hijacking it for a theopoitical movement,” Jasser has been labeled a clown, an Uncle Tom Muslim, and a self-hating Muslim)

– political camouflage (an ISNA representative stated, “You don’t get involved in politics because it’s the American thing to do. You get involved in politics because politics can be a weapon to use in the cause of Islam.”)

– language manipulation (former Muslim militant Abdur-Rahman Muhammed featured prominently in the film states, “Their type of radical Muslims know that if anyone caught wind of their agenda, they’d be done so they have to hide it. They mask it. Hide it in plain site.”)

– portraying the fight as against all Muslims rather than just radical Islam (this is the lie promulgated by Anwar al-Awlaki, aka “the bin Laden of the internet” who has radicalized homegrown terrorists including Maj. Hassan).

Douglas Farah, a former reporter for the Washington Post, acknowledges in the movie just how difficult this information is for people to comprehend, as they label it “crazy talk.” But Jasser and Muhammed point out that Americans’ tolerance, desire to be fair-minded, and fear of being labeled a bigot actually enable the MB’s success. For those of us living in reality, free of guilt and intellectually honest, The Grand Deception is a warning that should be heeded as the MB’s infiltration into basic societal institutions moves it closer to its goal of worldwide Islamic domination.

The war we face is one we can win if only the ruling classes dominated by the PC police bring themselves to acknowledge its very existence. One of the more entertaining parts of the film is a clip of Eric Holder testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in 2010. He simply cannot bring himself to use the term “radical Islam” to describe one of the possible causes of terrorism. What a perfect illustration of the government’s complicity in moving the MB agenda forward.

The viewer must watch to the very end of the film as its credits are interspersed with clips from another Congressional hearing addressing the homegrown terrorist threat to the country’s military communities in the aftermath of the Fort Hood terrorist attack (yes, despite the government’s refusal to label the shootings terrorism, sensible humans recognize the tragedy for what it was). Eerily robotic-like, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Stockton refuses to acknowledge that we are at war with violent, Islamist extremism – or that violent, Islamist extremism is at war with us. In response to pointed questions he repeats, “No sir” like a brainwashed automaton. Were it not such a serious matter, the exchange would be laughable.

Serious matters call for serious dialogue, serious policy, and serious minds. At the moment, this country is lacking on all fronts. The Grand Deception is an important first step in moving the country toward saving itself from institutions, policies, and ideologies that would otherwise lead to the demise of our way of life. It has deservedly won numerous awards including Best Documentary at the 2013 Beverly Hills Film Festival and Myrtle Beach International Film Festival and most recently was given the special award of Best USA Documentary on a Political Subject at the NYC International Film Festival.

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The decline of morality in our society

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Today the major English-speaking nations watch as a storm of problems draws ever nearer, a storm created by hostile forces that blurred and weakened their sense of morality. Does the Bible indicate where we will go from here?

A recent article in USA Today captures the essence of present discontent in the United States. It laments: “In poll after poll, two-thirds or more of Americans say the country is on the wrong track. Oil prices are near an all-time high. The president’s popularity hovers near record lows over a deeply unpopular war. Millions of homeowners are in danger of losing their houses to foreclosure. And many more Americans fear the loss of their jobs”

The article goes on to compare the country’s plight today with its tumultuous national picture in the 1970s: “Americans were shocked by the ’70s. We seemed to be running out of everything: oil, beef, even toilet paper. Prices were rising, and so was unemployment. Both the president and vice president resigned from office. The long struggle in Vietnam ended in a desperate retreat from Saigon by helicopter.”

Comparisons with recent history can be very instructive, but we should not ignore ancient times. The biblical “song of Moses” also invites historical perspective. It reaches down through the generations and suggests meaningful comparisons with the past: “Remember the days of old , consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you” (Deuteronomy 32:7
, emphasis added throughout).

If young and middle-aged Americans were to ask the country’s “greatest generation” of World War II what they thought of our current cultural behavior, what would the answer be?

Would they be full of praise for our national conduct? Are they pleased with what passes for entertainment on television during the evening of their lives? Would they not think that what’s really wrong with the nation is its steep moral decline over the last half century?


The other day I was talking with a man who is worried about his 15 year old daughter. His concern came when he found she was seeing a young man of 21 in an inappropriate manner, and his daughter could not see anything wrong with the relationship no matter how hard this man tried to explain it. And as we were talking about this at a function weeks later, one of the teenagers who overheard our discussion on the topic also saw no problem, and went on to inform us how things like this occur on a daily basis in and away from school, and began to boast how he could have sex with just about any girl from the age of 14 on up with no problem.

He explained the different sites where ads are put out for free, where anyone can write about anything that can be concocted in the human mind, and get replies. I asked him for the site, and he gave it to me. It was then I decided to browse through and actually see one of the most shocking sites I have ever seen. On the outside, it looks like a fairly innocent trader magazine type site, with people selling cars, furniture, electronics, and labor services. But one can go to the Personals section and look under the various types of personal ads beginning with the typical men and women seeking each other, etc. Then it goes into the homosexual and other misc. sections. What I saw were people posting their ads, some with nasty pictures included, requesting things with other people I had no idea of. But my teenage friend was correct. The ads had young women and men attempting to sell themselves for money or drugs, and whatever else.

The appalling thing to me was that this site is free, and has nothing except a button that allows the user to claim they are of legal age before entering. Any child can easily walk right in and read some of the most deranged postings that can be conceived. But it was not just the teenagers that bothered me; I saw many posts for married people looking for trysts and other strange requests. Many of these people were between their mid-twenties and on into their forties.

There were young women who wanted to stay married, yet wanted to glean extra money on the side by selling their various services, and married men who posted desires to exchange money for those similar acts. I will not even get into the rest of what was there. But it made me look deeper at why so many people, especially our youth, are so enamored with sex and money to the point they would cheapen themselves and think it perfectly alright. And of course there are many reasons I believe. The Liberal views that took root in the 60’s have begun coming to full fruition. The Sexual Revolution as the Women’s Movement called it took hold. How they ever figured it would benefit women is beyond me, but they pushed it. Then the Gay movements arrived, and took hold in a militant form that has an agenda to have our children taught that their lifestyle is just fine, and should be explored. Reading some of those ads, it also became evident that roots had strongly taken in our society. It is quite evident that having “fun” is more important than traditional; values such as hard work and fidelity.

Then the massive thrust of television and theaters that taught these same people that sex, and alternative lifestyles, marital infidelity, and divorce are all to be accepted as normal. The violence from Hollywood has also inundated the minds of our society, and has taken root as well. And even further, is the Liberal PC movement that takes into regard many of these lifestyles and embraces them as acceptable, all the while bashing Christianity and its value system. We have allowed in this nation to have the Bible, and mention of Christian values taken from society and have allowed all these other immoral and destructive behaviors and lifestyles to become seen as normal.

Yet, women are finding now that the militant Feminist movement has trapped them rather than liberated them. We now have many more abortions, many more single women trying to raise children due to divorce, or never having been married at all because for decades, this has been rewarded by one sided divorce rulings that offered no consequence for infidelity or real abuse. Why commit to marriage when divorce is so easy and so profitable?

We have allowed Hollywood to flood our homes with garbage sitcoms and movies that endorse and glorify these strange values. And we have allowed the alternative lifestyles to be taught to our children as acceptable, because God forbid we ever be called Homophobes by the Left thinkers.

And in this age of technology and mass media where we have to power and ability to use these things for the good of our society, we use them for its corruption and degradation. And we see the battle everywhere now, in our homes, in the office, in schools, in the court systems, and in our politics. And for anyone who has a sense of decency and morality, this is heart breaking at best.

And the Conservative Voice must be heard again in this nation. We need to disregard PC, disregard the small minority who wants God from our society and gladly pay for one way tickets to a Communist nation where those ideals are favored. We need to demand a moral government and we need to hold those politicians responsible for their example. Bill Clinton himself no doubt had a huge impact when he basically proclaimed that what he did was no big deal. To cheat on ones’ wife, to humiliate the office of President, to lie about it, our children saw and absorbed. After that episode, I talked to many teens who felt it was no problem as well and also took on those traits. Our children, our future, and they are of the mindset that infidelity is acceptable and just run from problems by divorcing or aborting human life is just fine when the going gets tough. We see our daughters and sons degrading each other, and we see wives becoming prostitutes and husbands refusing to live as men as an example to their children and wives.

We see a nation of self centered ideology where the upcoming generations desire all their parents have without the hard work. We have a very large population of young men in their 20’s and 30’s still living at home with little ambition. Because they know when the parents are gone they will inherit what they now have. Why become educated? Why work? Just have fun until Pay Day arrives in the form of a funeral. Why get a job when there are so many men willing to pay for a woman’s body? Why stay married when things get shaky, when a divorce and another spouse will make everything better?

We have seen to roots of Liberalism take a strong hold, and we are now reaping the fruits of it in our society. Because a nation is no stronger than its family structure I do not care how wealthy or powerful. Rome fell to decadence and Liberalism, and extreme taxation, and they last for 1200 years. We have achieved that decadence and immorality in just 200 years. This in the area of mathematical probability means we will also fall much faster if we do not return to our original roots. And as it says in Deuteronomy about the nation that walks from God, our children will be servants of the foreigners, our food that we grow will be eaten by those who do not inhabit the land, we will see diseases that cannot be controlled or cured, and eventually we shall ebb into the past where Babylon, Alexandra, Rome, and others have passed before us.

Or we will reclaim our roots and our morality and take back what has been stolen from us by the Liberal and immoral tenets that have soaked the minds of the generations coming up after us.

Or the roots that we now step over will strangle the life of this nation.

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Where are Ordinary Black Youth in Pop Culture?

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Being young and black in America today must be hard. The experiences of black youth are so often left out of the national discourse, it probably seems like no one really understands their plight. On the few occasions that stories about them appear in pop culture, particularly television and film, they’re often shown in one of two ways — the overachiever, the kid that “makes it” despite the odds, like Jay-Z, or the lazy underachiever, the thugs and welfare moms that so many on the right often allude to.

While it’s a great testament to our nation’s progress to have stories about Will Smith’s talented kids and Obama’s smart girls, we need to make “ordinary” black kids a commonplace as well.
The voices of these at-risk youth need to be heard and their stories need to be told, but there’s another perspective that we also need to hear — that of positive, average black kids. In their own way they’re invisible — kids that are more like The Beaver and Wally than gangster Frank Lucas, and are neither marginalized or at the proverbial mountaintop. Their stories seem to be regarded as unrelatable to a mainstream America that still values blonde hair and white picket fences.

It’s easy to understand why this happens. In the more than four decades since the Civil Rights Movement, black youth are still lagging behind. Many of the statistics and stories that we hear about young African Americans, much like the ones Bryan Stevenson shared on recent Moyers & Company shows, are abysmal. Add in the other “isms” that all too many black youth are familiar with, like classism and sexism, and you can see why there’s an anxiety about the state of young black America.

One of the stories that did receive a lot of media attention in the recent past is the Trayvon Martin case. He was the teen killed last year in Florida by a man who allegedly thought he was threatening his life. Putting the politics of the case aside, Trayvon, a young middle-class black kid, with two involved (if not together parents), who liked hoodies, his girlfriend, Twitter and Skittles, is probably a good example of your average black kid. But how much does America really know about the Trayvons of the world except when violence intervenes? When do their stories get told? When do we understand that most black kids aren’t all that different from white kids?

I know a bit about this because growing up I was that Trayvon. I wasn’t what many would classify as a “burden” to society, but I wasn’t the next Barack either. I lived in a single parent household that was loving and instilled the values of hard work and sacrifice. And I was far from an anomaly. I was surrounded by other black families like mine, some with more money, some with less, some with fathers and mothers together, some with only fathers, but many were happy, working and middle-class Americans.

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Rudy Huxtable, Moesha Mitchell and Laura Winslow
In the eighties and nineties, mainstream network television and film was better about showing middle-class black families. Girls like Moesha, Rudy Huxtable and Laura Winslow looked like me. Today however, with a decreasing number of black family shows — and an explosion of celebrity culture — storylines about average black youth are even rarer. While it’s a great testament to our nation’s progress to have stories about Will Smith’s talented kids and Obama’s smart girls, we need to make “ordinary” black kids a commonplace as well.

I’m lucky that the lives of black youth aren’t hidden to me. I am surrounded by a number of young black men and women that are doing well, that are smart and talented and talk endlessly about annoying parents, relationships, and even politics. But popular culture is a powerful tool. It shapes and defines many of our beliefs about our larger society. And while it is important to voice the stories of those that need it the most — those that have been left behind, discriminated against and crippled by injustice in an all too often unequal society — we must also hear more about ordinary black kids, who are more the norm than the exception.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

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You’ve seen the commercial, “Can you hear me now? Good!” 34 year old Paul Marcarelli of New York City got the nod to represent 50 people who drive 100,000 miles a year to test the reliability of the cellular network. Yes, those are his own glasses, too!But now the phrase, “Can you hear me now?” has become part of our vocabulary.
And its certainly a phrase that God could ask of us. Do you hear God talking? This is a question that is so often abused and mis-used “God told me” I am al-ways so leery and reluctant to say, “God told me” I don’t want to put words into God’s mouth.

But this is an important question. How does God talk to us to-day, and what does He want us to do? We’re going to spend two separate weeks on it, in fact. Our Key Verse for today: “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.” — Isaiah 28.23

I. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH CREATION
A. God reveals Himself in a gen-eral way through what He has made.
1. “For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his in-visible qualities¡Xhis eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.” — Romans 1.19-20 (NLT)
2. “The heavens de-clare the glory of God; the skies pro-claim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” — Psalm 19.1-3
B. Show photos of cosmos
1. And what do learned people say? “Wow! How cool that all this just happened like this!”
2. “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies.
So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever — Romans 1.25 (NLT)
3. Grand Canyon: “Nice job, God”
II. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH EVENTS
A. The Bible says that there is a reason for everything un-der the sun
1. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” — Ro-mans 8.28
2. If He works all things for good, then there is purpose behind all things!
B. We don’t want to over-analyze every single thing that happens in our lives, but rather to be more sensitized to the work of God in our lives.
1. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” — Proverbs 16.9
2. “That’s a God thing”
3. Is God trying to tell me something?
III. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH BLESSING
A. We are a blessed people.
1. The poorest among us are so much better off than in other parts of the world
2. What we consider ne-cessities are considered luxuries elsewhere
3. That leads to “taking it for granted”
B. Job’s experience
1. “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: Na-ked I came from my mother womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”Job 1.20-21 What we have is from God
2.Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? Job 2.10
3. Deuteronomy 8 from out-line
C. When good things happen to us, when God blesses us, we need to train ourselves to go to God and say,
a. “Thank you”
b. “What do You want me to do with this?”
IV. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH TRIALS
A. Trials happen. They are a part of life, not an aberration in life.
1. 1 Peter 1.6-7 on outline
2. Hebrews 12.11 on outline
B. What is God saying to us when trials come into our lives?
1. “I love you right where I found you; but I love you too much to leave you there!”
2. SHOW BASEBALL BAT — It takes a lot of planning, sanding, cutting, carving and shaping to make this (BAT) from a tree.
3. How much molding and shaping is it going to take to make you into Jesus Christ?
„« “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son– Romans 1.29 (NLT)

V. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH PAIN
A. CS Lewis called pain, “the megaphone of God”
1. When we hurt, it directs our attention to God
2. Psalm 69.1-3, 13, 16 on outline
„« see also Psalm 77
B. We try and drown out, dull down and hide from pain
1. God sometimes has to turn up the heat, turn down the screws, or lay us out flat on our backs to get us to listen
2. We can complain, yell, get angry but ultimately, eventually, we need to ask, “what is it, Lord?”
3. And remember, our great-est source of pain, may be our biggest opportunity for service
VI. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH STILLNESS
A. We live in a noisy world
1. The quietness of Arizona; Grand Canyon
2. “I can’t hear myself think!”
B. God sometimes speaks softly so we have to listen intently
1. “I wait quietly before God, for my salvation comes from him… I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”– Psalm 62.1, 5 (NLT)
2. Sometimes we just need to “shhhh. Be quiet.”
3. “Then Job answered the LORD: ¡§I am unwor-thy how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer twice, but I will say no more.¡¨” — Job 40.3-5
4. Elijah and the gentle whisper (1 Kings 19)
„« not the wind, earth-quake, fire
5. God sometimes speaks to us with a gentle nudging, persistent prodding, quiet urging do you hear Him?
VII. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD
A. God has spoken. Verbally. Audibly.
1. God’s Words were codified.
“can I get that in writ-ing?”
2. They were written down, collected, preserved and passed down, so we have an inerrant, infallible rec-ord of what God said.
3.teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” — Hebrews 8.3
B. God often warns us and pleads with us not to forget His statutes, His law, His words.
1. “All Scripture is God-breathed — 2 Timothy 3.16
2. This Word we take so granted; we ignore; we use as a leather-bound paper-weight, is the breath of God.
3. Are you listening?

VIII. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS SON
A. But the Word is not the final goal.
1. The written Word leads us to the living Word (not to make us Bible scholars)
2. Hebrews 11.1-3 on outline
3. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus often says, “but I say to you”
4. Jesus shows us God.
“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father¡¦s side, has made him known.” — John 1.18
If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.
B. “The Spirit of God, takes the Word of God, applies it to the Child of God, to make us more like the Son of God.”

God is still speaking today. Ultimately, God is driving every-thing toward His Son, Jesus Christ.
Two questions:
1. Do you hear His voice? “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” — Mark 4.23

2. Don’t harden your heart. “That is why the Holy Spirit says, ¡§Today you must listen to his voice. Don¡¦t harden your hearts against him — Hebrews 3.7-8 (NLT)

Listen for God.
Listen to God.
We need to learn to:
a. See God’s fingerprints
b. Read God’s handwriting
c. Hear God’s voice

Can you hear Him now?

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Because

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Job 2

The Message (MSG)
The Second Test: Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Warning Signs That We Should Prepare For The Worst

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

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

NationalDebt1-1024x765
Our Prosperity Is An Illusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Illusion Is Unraveling

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

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

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

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

The Beginning of “the End”

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

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

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

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

What Will Economic Collapse Look Like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recession Obsession

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

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

Why the Weak Dollar?

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

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

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

What Effect Does This Have?

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

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

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

What Does This Mean in the U.S.?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the doomsday scenario, friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Faceing Our Fears

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fears

Judges 6:11-23

The Message (MSG)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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provisions

Phil. 4:14-19

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

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

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

“Walk outside,” said the voice.

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

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

Phil. 4:19 ….according to His riches.

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

This principle is illustrated throughout Scripture:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unexpected Blessing

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Ruth 2:11-23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Breath Of Life

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quotes-on-life
Psalm 139:13-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Black Man is Coming

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StandWithIsrael1

 

God’s Love for Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Power of a Changed Life”

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

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

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

The Message (MSG)

Plots Against Saul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Real Meaning of Love

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love

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

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

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

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

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

The Need for Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Character of Love

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

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

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

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

You could form these around four basic concepts:

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

Let’s look at these one at a time:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self Seeking
This could be rendered “worship yourself.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Supremacy of Love

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

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

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

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

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

Remember? God so “loved” the world that …

Conclusion

• Love doesn’t happen overnight

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

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

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

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

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

• Needing & Asking for things isn’t bad

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

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

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

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

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

God Chose a Father for His Son

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

Frank A. Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firstly, would you note with me that he was:

1. A LOVING MAN.

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

a.) TOWARD MARY.

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

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

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

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

Joseph was a loving man toward Mary.

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

b.) TOWARD JESUS.

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

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

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

2. A DEVOUT MAN.

a.) He was a man who OBEYED God.

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

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

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

For another thing:

b.) He was a man of FAITH.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our kids are watching our faithfulness.

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

Finally, he was also:

3. A WISE MAN.

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY.

THE REASONING OF FALLEN MAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. MAN’S RELIGION (23).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conceived in Anguish; Consummated in Glory

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anguish

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

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

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

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

Moral Turpitude Against God-Who Will It Be?

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

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

‘All flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

and the flower falls,

but the Word of the Lord remains forever.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

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

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

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

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

Symbolism And Sterotypes Shake Yourself Loose

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Historical Lesson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of a male crack dealer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Blessing To His Kids “Laughter”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reread Galatians 5:22-26. It says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

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

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

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

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

In other words, you can tell whether or not you are really in touch with the Spirit by your fruit. In order to contrast good fruit to bad, Paul explains what the “sinful nature” is like: The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-23).

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

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

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

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

“The Pearl”

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

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


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

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

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