Oneness

~Why is Jesus Not loved in the way He depicts Through Scripture?~

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It is erroneous to think that all Orthodox are in reality not sectarians and that all sectarians are in reality not Orthodox. Not every Orthodox in name is so in spirit, and not every sectarian in name is so in spirit, and, especially at the present time, it is possible to meet “Orthodox” who are in fact sectarians at heart: fanatic, unloving, narrow minded, persistent in human precision, not hungering or thirsting after God’s truth, but gorged with their own presumptuous truth, strictly judging others from the summit of this their imaginary truth dogmatically correct from the outside, but lacking origin in the Spirit. And, conversely, it is possible to meet a sectarian who apparently does not understand the meaning of the Orthodox worship of God in Spirit and in Truth, who doesn’t “recognize” this or that expression of ecclesiastical truth, but who in fact conceals within himself much that is truly divine, who is truly filled with love in Christ, truly a brother to his fellow man.

And the existence of such variety in Christian society does not allow a shallow approach to the problem of interfaith relations. Sectarians sin in their failure to understand Orthodoxy, but we Orthodox also do not follow our own Orthodox teachings in not understanding sectarians who are at times surprisingly fervent and pure in their persistent pursuit of the Lord towards a life in Him alone.

The narrow, arrogant, ailing reason of mankind, not transfigured in the Spirit of God, aspires identically to division and seeks a cause for it, whoever this reason might belong to – Orthodox or sectarian.

The love of Christ for us in his dying was as conscious as his suffering was intentional. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). If he was intentional in laying down his life, it was for us. It was love. “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Every step on the Calvary road meant, “I love you.”

Therefore, to feel the love of Christ in the laying down of his life, it helps to see how utterly intentional it was. Consider these five ways of seeing Christ’s intentionality in dying for us.

First, look at what Jesus said just after that violent moment when Peter tried to cleave the skull of the servant, but only cut off his ear.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52-54)

It is one thing to say that the details of Jesus’ death were predicted in the Old Testament. But it is much more to say that Jesus himself was making his choices precisely to see to it that the Scriptures would be fulfilled.

That is what Jesus said he was doing in Matthew 26:54. “I could escape this misery, but how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” I am not choosing to take the way out that I could take because I know the Scriptures. I know what must take place. It is my choice to fulfill all that is predicted of me in the Word of God.

A second way this intentionality is seen is in the repeated expressions to go to Jerusalem–into the very jaws of the lion.

Taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:32-34)

Jesus had one all-controlling goal: to die according the Scriptures. He knew when the time was near and set his face like flint: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

A third way that we see the intentionality of Jesus to suffer for us is in the words he spoke in the mouth of Isaiah the prophet:

I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)

I have to work hard in my imagination to keep before me what iron will this required. Humans recoil from suffering. We recoil a hundred times more from suffering that is caused by unjust, ugly, sniveling, low-down, arrogant people. At every moment of pain and indignity, Jesus chose not to do what would have been immediately just. He gave his back to the smiter. He gave his cheek to slapping. He gave his beard to plucking. He offered his face to spitting. And he was doing it for the very ones causing the pain.

A fourth way we see the intentionality of Jesus’ suffering is in the way Peter explains how this was possible. He said, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

The way Jesus handled the injustice of it all was not by saying, “Injustice doesn’t matter,” but by entrusting his cause to “him who judges justly.” God would see that justice is done. That was not Jesus’ calling at Calvary. (Nor is it our highest calling now. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord, Romans 12:19.)

The fifth and perhaps the clearest statement that Jesus makes about his own intentionality to die is in John 10:17-18:

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.

Jesus’ point in these words is that he is acting completely voluntarily. He is under no constraint from any mere human. Circumstances have not overtaken him. He is not being swept along in the injustice of the moment. He is in control.

Therefore, when John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16), we should feel the intensity of his love for us to the degree that we see his intentionality to suffer and die. I pray that you will feel it profoundly. And may that profound experience of being loved by Christ have this effect on you:

The love of Christ controls us . . . . He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15

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~The Righteousness Of God-Pt-2

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The Righteousness of

God in the New Testament

If righteousness and justice are the heart of the Old Testament Law, they are also at the heart of the dispute between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees.33 At the very outset of His earthly ministry, Jesus set out to contrast His interpretation of the Old Testament teaching on righteousness with that of the scribes and Pharisees. In reality, Jesus did not offer a “new” interpretation of righteousness or of the Law; rather He sought to reestablish the proper understanding of righteousness as taught in the Law and the Prophets. Thus, Jesus repeatedly used the formula, “You have heard it said. . .” (“This is what the scribes and Pharisees teach.…”), “But I say to you.…” (“But the Old Testament was meant to be understood this way.…”).

The scribes and Pharisees thought of themselves as setting the standard for righteousness. They felt that they, of all men, were righteous. Jesus shocked all when He said,

20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

It was clear that if the scribes and Pharisees could not produce enough righteousness on their own, no one could. The standard of righteousness the Law held forth was even higher than that of the scribes and Pharisees. No one was righteous enough to get into heaven. What a shock to the self-righteous who thought they had box office seats in the kingdom.

If Jesus shocked His audience when He said those who appeared to be the most righteous would not make it into the kingdom on their kind of righteousness, He also shocked them as to who would be “blessed” by entrance into the kingdom: those the scribes and Pharisees thought unworthy of the kingdom. Those blessed were not the scribes and Pharisees, but the “poor in spirit,” those who “mourn,” the “gentle,” those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” the “merciful,” the “pure in heart,” the “peacemakers,” and those who are “persecuted” on account of their relationship with Jesus (Matthew 5:3-12).

Jesus taught that true righteousness is not that which men regard as righteous based upon external appearances, but that so judged by God based upon His assessment of the heart:

15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

The Scribes and Pharisees, who thought themselves so righteous because of their rigorous attention to external matters, proved to be just the opposite when judged by our Lord:

28 “Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? 34 Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:28-35).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against externalism and ceremonialism.

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

According to Jesus, true righteousness is vastly different from the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. False righteousness is measured by men on the basis of externalism. True righteousness is judged such by God, in accordance with His Word. Because of this, men need to beware of attempting to judge the righteousness of others (see Matthew 7:1). Those whose deeds seemed to indicate they were righteous were those whom God denied ever having known as His children (Matthew 7: 15-23). Those who appeared to be righteous were not, and those who appeared unrighteous by the Judaism of that day may well have been righteous.

It is no wonder then that Jesus was not regarded as righteous by many of the Jews but was considered a sinner:

16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.… 24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He therefore answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:16, 24-25).

The great division which arose among the Jews was over the issue of whether Jesus was a righteous man or a sinner (see John 10:19-21).

The Old and New Testament leave no doubt in our minds whether the Lord Jesus was righteous. The prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah as the “Righteous One” who would “justify the many” (Isaiah 53:11). Jeremiah spoke of Him as the “righteous Branch” (Jeremiah 23:5). When Jesus was baptized, it was to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Both Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19) and the soldier at the foot of the cross (Luke 23:47) acknowledged His righteousness at the very moment when men were condemning Him.

The apostles likewise bear witness to the righteousness of Christ:

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).

29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him (1 John 2:29).

The righteousness of God is particularly important in relation to salvation. In Romans 3, Paul points out God not only justifies sinners (that is, He declares them righteous), but He is also shown to be just (righteous) in the process:

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:21-28).

Men have failed to live up to the standard of righteousness laid down by the Law (Romans 3:9-20). God is just in condemning all men to death, for all men without exception have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All men are worthy of death because the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God is just in condemning the unrighteous.

But God is also just in saving sinners. As Paul puts it, He is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). How can this be? God is just because His righteous anger has been satisfied. Justice was done on the cross of Calvary. God did not reduce the charges against men; He did not change the standard of righteousness. God poured out the full measure of His righteous wrath upon His Son on the cross of Calvary. In Him, justice was meted out. All of those who trust in Him by faith are justified. Their sins are forgiven because Jesus paid the full price; He suffered the full measure of God’s wrath in their place. And for those who reject the goodness and mercy of God at Calvary, they must pay the penalty for their sins because they would not accept the payment Jesus made in their place.

The cross of Calvary accomplished a just salvation, for all who will receive it. But we also know that only those whom God has chosen—the “elect”—will repent and trust in the death of Christ on their behalf. This raises another question related to divine justice. After clearly teaching the doctrine of divine election, Paul asks how election squares with the justice of God, and then gives us the answer:

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is a word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Romans 9:6-24).

The question assumes that divine election has been taught by Paul as a biblical fact. If it were not so—as it clearly is—the question would not have been raised by Paul. And if there is no such thing as election, Paul could have simply brushed the question aside as illogical and unreasonable. But Paul assumes the truth of election and the possibility that some might object on the grounds that election would make God unjust. Paul first rebukes the one who dares to judge God and pronounce on His righteousness. How presumptuous can a man be? Should God stand before the bar of human judgment? Of course not!

As seen in chapter 3, God is righteous in that He has condemned all, and in Christ, those who are justified have been punished and then raised to newness of life. God is also righteous for judging all those who refuse to accept His offer of salvation in Christ. God would be unjust only if He set aside justice rather than fulfilling it in Christ, whether by His sacrificial death at His first coming or by His judging the unbelieving world at His second coming.

Divine grace, the grace by which God reaches out to save men from their sins, is meted out not on the basis of men’s merits but in spite of men’s sin. Grace, as we shall later emphasize in another message, is sovereignly bestowed. God would be unjust only if He withheld blessings from men which they deserved. Since God is free to bestow unmerited blessings on any sinner He may choose, God is not unrighteous in saving some of the worst sinners, while choosing not to save other sinners. God does not owe salvation to anyone, and thus He is not unjust in saving some and choosing not to save others.

The good news of the gospel is that salvation by grace is offered to all men, and by the righteousness of Jesus Christ, men may be forgiven of their sins and made righteous:

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

Conclusion

If sin is the manifestation of our unrighteousness and we can be saved only through a righteousness not our own—the righteousness of Christ—then the ultimate sin is self-righteousness. Jesus did not reject sinners who came to Him for mercy and salvation; He rejected those who were too righteous (in their own eyes) to need grace. Jesus came to save sinners and not to save those righteous in their own eyes. No one is too lost to save; there are only those too good to save. In the Gospels, those who thought themselves most righteous were the ones condemned by our Lord as wicked and unrighteous.

If we are among those who have acknowledged our sin and trusted in the righteousness of Christ for our salvation, the righteousness of God is one of the great and comforting truths we should embrace. The justice of God means that when He establishes His kingdom on earth, it will be a kingdom characterized by justice. He will judge men in righteousness, and He will reign in righteousness.

We need not fret over the wicked of our day who seem to be getting away with sin. If we love righteousness, we most certainly dare not envy the wicked, whose day of judgment awaits them (see Psalm 37; 73). Their day of judgment is rapidly coming upon them, and justice will prevail.

If we realize that true righteousness is not to be judged according to external, legalistic standards and that judgment belongs to God, we dare not occupy ourselves in judging others (Matthew 7:1). We should also realize that judgment begins at the house of God, and thus we should be quick to judge ourselves and to avoid those sins which are an offense to the righteousness of God (see 1 Peter 4:17; 1 Corinthians 11:31).

The doctrine of the righteousness of God means that we, as the children of God (if you are a Christian), should seek to imitate our heavenly Father (5:48). We should not seek to find revenge against those who sin against us, but leave vengeance to God (Romans 12:17-21). Rather than seeking to get even, let us suffer the injustice of men, even as our Lord Jesus, that God might even bring our enemies to repentance and salvation (Matthew 5:43-44; 1 Peter 2:18-25). And let us pray, as our Lord instructed us, that the day when righteousness reigns may come:

10 “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

~Through us God will take Care of you~

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I find myself being more and more comfortable in relatively complete solitude/isolation.

Before, I longed to have friendships and relationships and felt tremendous sadness that I didn’t, but over the course of the past several months I’m finding myself more and more content with just being alone and not having to face other people. The only true interaction I have is going to the various meetings associated with getting certifications and training to obtain alignment for our Business vision, and even then I try to make myself as small and quiet and unnoticeable as possible, and it seems to work for the most part. Friends I used to see and talk to sporadically have completely fallen by the wayside; they still try to reestablish contact every few weeks, but I systematically ignore their attempts.The only people I actually talk to on a semi-regular basis anymore are my Pastor and selective men of God, and they live over an hour away so I hardly ever have to actually see them. And random texting conversations with my brother who is a pastor in Chantilly Virginia over 3200 miles away.

I think I have just become so numb and so tired of having to climb an Everest of anxiety to have a basic interaction with another person that I have simply given up to take the pressure off. I still have bouts of loneliness sometimes but they are fleeting and usually getting on the internet or resting completely in meditation and expectancy of hearing from the spirit of God on how to move and interact with people in general. Going to church since the hand of God has moved us into Lodebar ( a dry place of isolation) has even become impossible to do. My spirit is tired of dogma’s and traditions that aren’t fostering a loving spirit of unity, but of separatism and divisions within the ranks of theologians and demanding people. My wife and I have been set apart in isolation and we are finding the  joy and purpose of being prepared by God in this uncertain existence.

spiritual-isolation

I don’t know. Is this a bad thing? Should I be concerned? Am I giving in to social anxiety and slowly becoming a complete shut-in? Will I wake up one day in 20 years completely alone with not a soul in the world who knows me or cares about me and have deep regrets about this? I’m not sure what I should be thinking or doing differently. I have this fantasy that someday soon I will move far, far away and start fresh and leave the anxiety behind and be able to make deep lasting connections with people. I know that’s ridiculous and very unlikely to happen, but the fantasy seems to sustain me day after day, and I kind of cling to it.

This is rambly, I apologize. Just trying to organize my thoughts about this to bring up in therapy and hoping to get some perspectives from people who may have similar issues.

“But nobody ever sees how far the things we shouldn’t feel can take us. I just want to walk along the shore for an hour, watch the waves rearranging whatever they can. I like the way the sea encourages me to think about the past, as if I could leave it where it is: the moon on the water, the stars that gleam and are gone.”
Genesis 21:145-21 
In a time of great rejoicing, when everyone else would have been having a good time; Sarah looked over in the midst of the celebration and saw that Ishmael was making fun of her new son Isaac. Paul tells us in Galatians that he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born of the spirit. Filled with rage that her son was being tormented, she immediately told Abraham to send the woman and her son away. But Abraham was a righteous man, and he was unwilling to comply until God assured him that he would care for Hagar and her son. Filled with that assurance, Abraham acquiesced and gave Hagar a skin full of water and a loaf or so of bread and sent her off into the desert. He did the best he could, but after this moment, Hagar would be all alone. Who knows how long they journeyed in the desert, finally the water was gone, and thirst began to set in. Ishmael now greatly humbled by his thirst walked beside his mother until he could go no further. Finally Hagar sat her son down under a scrub of a bush and walked a short distance away. Her heart was breaking because she knew there was nothing left to do but die. She couldn’t walk far away because she didn’t want her son to die alone, but she dare not stay to close lest she be forced to watch her son die. Now in despair she began to sob. And then God showed up. My friends this story for all it’s familiarity is both touching and powerful. For all it’s harshness, it is full of promise and hope for those who would despair at their last moment. Because whether it’s our lives or someone else’s, life itself is hopeless and painfully unbearable until God shows up. Hagar is for us a model representing single mothers everywhere, and her story displays both the problems and the solutions in God’s program for single mothers. In Hagar especially we see God’s love for those women in our world who have been abused and misused, forgotten and forsaken, the single mothers on welfare, the woman fleeing abuse and living with her children in the family shelter. As God loved and blessed Hagar, God will love and bless each of them. They may be forgotten by the world, but not by God. That’s a significant section of our local population which our church should be poised to meet. The struggles that single mother’s face are enormous, and not every one is as fortunate as May to be surrounded by a family that helps and a church that loves and forgives. Many single mothers, struggle alone to fulfill the jobs of both mother and father, a job they were not designed to fill. When troubles mount and hopelessness rears its ugly head it becomes hard to find God in the midst of the struggle. That’s where we come in. There are people in our community from all sorts of backgrounds languishing in depression and need. They need to be reminded by our works as well as our words that God is a very present help in time of trouble. And God can use us; we here at God’s Restoration Church (May & Aaron) -Second Chance Alliance are His hands and feet to lighten the burden of single mothers and disenfranchised individuals.  I’m convinced that we as a church need to be active in our statement of faith. Our God is a living God and He want’s us to be his living hands and feet on this planet. We can make an impact on single mothers and challenged individuals if we accept the restoration of our challenged life and assist those  in our community. We can lift them up, and lead them to Jesus; and we can meet their needs in the name of Christ – and in so doing serve Christ Himself.
 I want to take Hagar’s name as an acronym to show you what we can do to change a life. If there’s one message we need to bring, it’s this: Through us God will take Care of you. 
HOPE – Try to imagine Hagar pushing off into the wilderness, supplies for a day or so at her side, and her son walking beside her. She’s been ousted by the boy’s father – someone she couldn’t even call her husband. Now she’s alone and terrified, wondering what’s she’s going to do when the bread and water give out. Then look at Hagar putting her son under the bush and walking a stone’s throw away to sit and wait hopelessly for her son’s death.
Single mothers often deal with feelings of guilt, real or imagined, combined with tremendous feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. Single mothers are also dealing with the sudden stark reality that this child is going to take the rest of her life to raise, a life some of them had barely begun to live themselves. It doesn’t matter how they got to be single mothers; Teen pregnancy, Divorce, being widowed, or abandoned. They’re often struggling alone, isolated and scared of the future; they need CONSTANT ENCOURAGEMENT. 
Think about the enormous power that hope has to give life where none existed before. Imagine also the overwhelming power of hopelessness to destroy a heart and crush a human being beyond repair. The first thing we can bring to the single mothers in our community is Hope. The Second is Assistance.

ASSISTANCE. Need comes in a hundred different flavors. Sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s emotional, or moral, or whatever else we daily rely upon. Just like everyone else, unsaved single mothers need Jesus. Just like any other person, the saved need to be taught solid Christian principles. And just like everyone else single parents need A SUPPORT SYSTEM. God’s design for the family means that at least two people are there to bear the burden of raising a child. But a single mother doesn’t have that luxury. Hagar had no person to turn to, and she despaired. How fortunate that she called out to God for help. And He provided. Do you realize that God’s provision for many single parents is us? James 1:27 says that we should care for widows and orphans. We are God’s hands to take care of those who need God’s help. What that looks like take a thousand different shapes. It might mean some of the men in the church doing maintenance on a car or a home. It might mean the women helping with the children, and giving advice when it’s asked for. Unwanted advice often does more harm than good. And let’s not forget the deep need that every person has to be loved.  And though we sometimes think of assistance as monetary, I believe most people prefer the dignity of earning a living to a handout when given the chance. Sometimes we may need to assist someone financially, and I believe that’s God’s use for us from time to time, but more than that we might be able to help with daycare so that mom can get a secure job. Thirdly they need a strong faith in GOD. GOD A STRONG FAITH. Can you imagine the emotional problems Hagar experienced. First she’s an unwilling partner in a pregnancy, then she’s beaten by her mistress, then she’s ousted by her child’s father at Sarah’s demand. Bitterness, anger and resentment are to be expected, As well as despair, and feelings of rejection. Only God is capable of curing the heart, as we take care of picking up the pieces. We can assist single mothers by encouraging them to hear God’s voice. To be in the Bible and to Pray. Just like Hagar, every parent, even single parents, need a strong faith in God to deal with the inner wounds in the heart. No matter what her reasons for being a single mother: divorce, death, or a child out of wedlock; the reason doesn’t change the result – and the need. With a relationship with God in place, next comes the need for:

 ACCEPTANCE – Far less today, for good or for ill – single mothers are no longer singled out for ostracism and public humiliation. But often there’s still a secret fear that she won’t be accepted, and sadly that feeling is often strongest in relation to the church. How desperate some of these women are to be loved and accepted, and how vital that the people that extend that hand be Christians who along with a kind heart offer words of forgiveness and acceptance – not just from God, but also from us.

 RELIEF. Hope, Assistance, God, Acceptance and finally Relief. Single mother’s need A SAFE PLACE FOR THE CHILDREN. We live in a predatory society. Safety for these children is a top concern. From the church nursery to the homes of some of our members, every mother knows how vital it is that her children are cared for. Hagar put her dying son under a bush so that he could die in what little comfort she could manage, and then she moved to the distance a bit. She didn’t want to see him die, but she couldn’t dare leave him either. If we provide a safe place for a child, we are serving Christ’s most favored people! On top of a safe place for the child, mom herself needs a safe place. John Fuder nails down one of the greatest problems facing Single mothers as ISOLATION. He says, “[single] moms are isolated and alone – living their adolescent years shouldering adult parenting Responsibilities.”  Often, there is no-one to help them. They must be both father and mother, provider and caretaker for the child they are barely equipped to handle.

Eventually the stress needs a release valve: TIME ALONE. Every mother needs some time to herself. And single mothers often have no way of achieving this. Again, time alone is fed by having a baby-sitter available whom they can trust. I’m convinced that if we could get a roster of baby-sitters available to put in the hands of single mothers; we would do much – not only for the child, but also for the mother. Jesus said, “whatever you’ve done to the least, you’ve done to me.” How many of you would be willing to baby-sit Jesus? I’ve had fragments of this message in my mind and in my heart for over a year now. Long before We dealt in some measure with this issue in our own body. But I have waited.  And now even coming to this section on Hagar many weeks ago, I kept finding other topics to cover on Sunday evening. Not for fear certainly – and not for lack of passion either. God has burdened me with a ministry that I am not equipped to carry – a ministry to single mothers and ex-offenders in our community. Today I’m asking God and you to look into your hearts and to find someone who’s heart stirs with a passion to search out these single mothers in our community. Someone willing to have their own hearts broken in the struggle for another woman’s soul.

~Be Careful The “Hater” Isn’t “YOU”~

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Don’t worry if you have haters; Jesus Christ was perfect, and they still hated him! What should we expect being imperfect?

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on therighteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I think it’s important to first say a little about why loving your enemies is necessary. Jesus gives us the answer in verse 48. Based on everything that has gone before in this chapter (as well as the concept of loving your enemies), Jesus says you cannot be perfect without it. The word perfect in verse 48 comes from the Greek word “teleios.”   And while “perfect” is a good translation, I think it distracts from the meaning here. Another way to translate teleios is “complete” or “mature.” So what I think Jesus is trying to say here is if you wanted to be a complete person, or a fully mature human being, loving your enemies is something that you have to do.

 

 

haters

“They hating on me!” or “Haters are going to hate!” are common phrases that some use to justify reasons why someone or a group of people have an unfavorable opinion of them or their activities.  The term “haters” has become popular in the last few years to describe others, but can you actually “hate” on yourself?  Read some ways the person hating on you could be in the mirror.

1. Comparing Yourself to Others – If you are constantly comparing what you have or don’t have to what others do or don’t have, then you may be borderline hating on yourself.  Comparisons may ignite low self-esteem and depression and have been one of the top five causes of why relationships end.

2. Not Listening to Your Inner Voice – Your inner voice, your conscience, or whatever you prefer to call it can be your saving grace for so many reasons.  Usually, your conscience is based upon your mind and body’s history and best practices in each situation.  Sometimes your natural reaction may not be your best reaction and it’s that inner voice that tells you to do differently. Listen.

3. Doing Just Enough to Get By – With the exception of trust fund babies, “self-made” successful people usually have a story of sacrifice, hard work, perseverance and dedication.  The only person “doing just enough” hurts is yourself.  When you can, do more, give more, show how much “more” you are than people realize.

4. Not Being a Man or Woman of Your Word – One of the quickest ways to get “realistic” haters is to lie about who you truly are.  Saying one thing and not following through gives a false representation of who you truly are. Don’t allow others the satisfaction of misinterpreting you. Give them the real “say-what-i-do-and-do-what-i-say” self.

5. Not Believing In Your Ability – We can sometimes be our own worst enemy.  Saying that you “can’t” or that something “never” happens to you is speaking to your own downfall.  Use words like “I can” and “I will” to verbally affirm your current and future positions.  Research has shown that those who visualize their goal on a consistent basis are 33% more likely to achieve those goals.

6. Saying That You Have Haters (When You Really Don’t) – Be honest with yourself:  are people really “hating” on you or are they telling you the truth?  Sometimes the truth hurts, but can lead to healing.  It may do you good to take a look at what the person says (not how they say it) and see if it’s true.  If it’s true, do what you need to do to be better. If it’s false, do what you need to do to stay strong.

Remember, announcing that you have haters rarely does anything to help your case, as nearly everyone has haters nowadays.  The differentiating factor is how you rise above despite your obstacles.

 

 

~Does There Have To Be A Ground Under You Before You Believe You Can Walk?~

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Now, God be praised, that to believing souls gives light in darkness, comfort in despair.

William Shakespeare

Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son… I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven; …because thou hast obeyed my voice (Genesis 22:16-18).

And from that day to this, men have been learning that when, at God’s voice, they surrender up to Him the one thing above all else that was dearest to their very hearts, that same thing is returned to them by Him a thousand times over. Abraham gives up his one and only son, at God’s call, and with this disappear all his hopes for the boy’s life and manhood, and for a noble family bearing his name. But the boy is restored, the family becomes as the stars and sands in number, and out of it, in the fullness of time, appears Jesus Christ.

That is just the way God meets every real sacrifice of every child of His. We surrender all and accept poverty; and He sends wealth. We renounce a rich field of service; He sends us a richer one than we had dared to dream of. We give up all our cherished hopes, and die unto self; He sends us the life more abundant, and tingling joy.

And the crown of it all is our Jesus Christ. For we can never know the fullness of the life that is in Christ until we have made Abraham’s supreme sacrifice. The earthly founder of the family of Christ must commence by losing himself and his only son, just as the Heavenly Founder of that family did. We cannot be members of that family with the full privileges and joys of membership upon any other basis.

We sometimes seem to forget that what God takes He takes in fire; and that the only way to the resurrection life and the ascension mount is the way of the garden, the cross, and the grave.

Think not, O soul of man, that Abraham’s was a unique and solitary experience. It is simply a specimen and pattern of God’s dealings with all souls who are prepared to obey Him at whatever cost. After thou hast patiently endured, thou shalt receive the promise. The moment of supreme sacrifice shall be the moment of supreme and rapturous blessing. God’s river, which is full of water, shall burst its banks, and pour upon thee a tide of wealth and grace.

There is nothing, indeed, which God will not do for a man who dares to step out upon what seems to be the mist; though as he puts down his foot he finds a rock beneath him. Please have faith with us that Second Chance Alliance will become a reality in God’s time. Click the insignia to view the cause and offer your prayer if not your talents or treasures.

Empower A Felon

 

~Radical and Upside-Down~

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Luke 14:7-14

New King James Version (NKJV)

Take the Lowly Place

So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

The values of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish were radically different than those of His day. The Pharisees and teachers of the law clamored for the spotlight and sought the adulation of the crowds. Many of us still do this today. We want instant gratification from peers and outsiders. We want our praise now, WOW!!! Lord please send your glory upon us to replace our selfishness, purify our hearts and breath new life upon us.

In Luke 14, Jesus told a parable taught His followers not to be like that. The parable talks about people who chose the most honored seat for themselves at a wedding feast (vv.7-8). He said they would be embarrassed when the host asked them publicly to take their rightful place (v.9). Jesus went on in His story to talk about whom to invite to such dinners. he said they shouldn’t invite friends and family, but “when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame , the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay” (vv. 13-14).

Are you disappointed because you have not broken into the more elite group in your church or neighborhood? Or because you are stuck down on rung two when you’d rather be on rung eight or at least climbing the social ladder? Listen to what Jesus said: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v.11). That’s the radical and upside-down way of  God’s kingdom!

Blessed Savior, make me humble,

Take away my sinful pride;

In myself I’m sure to stumble,

Help me stay close by your side.

Empower A Felon

In Christ’s Kingdom, humility trumps pride every time………….

~It Cost God Everything To Serve Us~

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Jesus never considered failing God. He knew that worry is a form of unbelief; It is anathema to God. Now me knowing this should alter my thoughts and fears to obey the knowledge I now possess. Taking on the impossible sometimes makes you forget the reality of the truth. Peter when asked to launch out of the boat to walk on water had to be an insurmountable endeavor, but he cast off the thoughts of what he may look like to his cohorts and pressed on. God’s visions and dreams He impregnates us with are huge and they make you experience contemplation based off what is visible and obtainable. I must admit I am going through the motions teetering  “anathema”  with this vision of Second Chance Alliance.

We are called for a holy and noble purpose! You were put on earth to make a contribution. You were not created just to consume resources, to eat, breathe, and take up space. God designed us to make a difference with our life.

While many best-selling books offer advice on how to “get the most out of life”, that’s not the reason God made us. We were created to add to life on earth, not just take from it. God wants you to give something back. This is God’s purpose for your life, and it is called your “ministry” or service.

You were created to serve God- the Bible says, in Eph. 2:10b. God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do” (Col. 3: 23-4; Matt. 25: 34). These good deeds are your service. Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God (Eph. 6:7). What God told Jeremiah “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work” (Jer. 1:5). You were placed on this planet for a special assignment.

You were saved to serve God, the Bible says. “It is He who saved us and chose us for His holy work, not because we deserved it but because that was His plan” (2 Tim. 1:9). God redeemed you so you could do His “holy work.” You are not saved by service, but you are saved for service. In God’s Kingdom you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. This gives your life great significance and value.

It cost Jesus His own life to purchase your salvation. The Bible reminds us, “God paid a great price. So use your body to honor God” (1 Cor. 6:20). We do not serve God out of guilt or fear or even duty, but out of joy, and deep gratitude for what He has done for us. We owe Him our lives. Through salvation our past has been forgiven, our present is given meaning, and our future is secured. In light of these incredible benefits, Paul concluded, “Because of God’s great mercy … offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service” (Rom. 12:1).

The apostle John taught us, “Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life” (1 John 3:14). If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, and I am only concerned about my needs, I should question whether Christ is really in my life. A saved heart is one that wants to serve.

Another term for serving God that’s misunderstood by most people is the word “ministry.” When most people hear “ministry” they think of pastors, priests, and professional clergy, but God says every member of His family is a minister. In the Bible, the words servant and minister are synonyms, as are service and ministry. If you are a Christian you are a minister, and when you are serving, you are ministering.

When Peter’s sick mother-in-law was healed by Jesus, she instantly “stood up and began to serve Jesus” (Matt. 8:15), using her new gift of health. This is what we are to do. We are healed to help others. We are blessed to be a blessing. We are saved to serve, not to sit around and wait for heaven!

Have you ever wondered why God does not just immediately take us to heaven the moment we accept His grace? Why does He leave us in a fallen world? He leaves us here to fulfill His purposes. Once you are saved, God intends to use you for His goals. God has a ministry for you in His church and a mission for you in the world.

You are called to serve God. Growing up, you may have thought that being “called” by God was something only for missionaries, pastors, nuns, and other “full-time” church workers experienced, but the Bible says every Christian is called to service (Eph. 4:14; Rom. 1:6-7; 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 1:2,9,26; 7:17; Phil 3:14; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:3).

Your call to salvation included your call to service. They are the same. Regardless of your job or career, you are called to full-time Christian service. A “non-serving Christian” is a contradiction in terms.

The Bible says “He saved us and called us to be His own people, not because of what we have done, but because of His own purpose (2 Tim 1:9). Peter added, ” You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you” (1 Peter 2:9). The Bible says, “Now you belong to Him … in order that we might be useful in the service of God” (Rom. 7:4). How much of the time are you being useful in the service of God? In some churches in China they welcome new believers by saying, “Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, and a new heart to love others with.”

One reason why you need to be connected to a church family is to fulfill your calling to serve other believers in practical ways. The Bible says “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). Remember, there are no insignificant ministries in the church. Some are visible and some are behind the picture, but all are valuable. Small or hidden ministries often make the biggest difference. In my home, the most important light is not the bright light in our dining room but the little night light that keeps me from stubbing my toe when I get up at night. There is no correlation between size and significance. Every ministry matters because we are all dependent on each other to function.

What happens when one part of our body fails to function? We get sick. The rest of the body suffers. Imagine if your liver decided to start living for its own self. “I’m tired! I don’t want to serve the body anymore! I want a year off just to be fed. I have to do what is best for me! Let some other part take over.” What would happen? Our body would die. Today thousands of local churches are dying because of Christians who are unwilling to serve. They sit on the sidelines as spectators, and the Body suffers.

We are commanded to serve God-if we are saved. Jesus says “Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life” (Matt. 20:28). Beloved, for Christians, service is not optional, something to be tacked onto our schedules if we can spare the time. It is the heart of the Christian life. Jesus came “to serve” and “to give” – and those two verbs should define your life on earth. Mother Theresa said, “Holy living consists in doing God’s work with a smile.”

Serving is the opposite of our natural inclination. Most of the time we are more interested in “serve us” than service. We say, “I’m looking for a church that meets my needs and blesses me,” not “I’m looking for a place to serve and be a blessing.” The mature follower of Jesus stops asking, “Who is going to meet my needs?” and starts asking, “Whose needs can I meet”

God wants to use you to make a difference in His world. He wants to work through you. What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived. If you are not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using?

“Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was co-dependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive, and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriage, Zaacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits. But God used each of them in His service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses.”

Help us to be of service and we will help those we serve. Click the link to view our cause. I promise we will give back by empowering those we help to be productive tax paying God fearing people, they need community and helping hands to re-enter-grate them into a unforgiving society. We speak only what we know because God did it for May & Aaron.

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Are You Experiencing Narcissism As A Christian?

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So, In my examination of self this morning I am looking at the topic called Christian Narcissism. The bible strongly admonishes us to examine oneself ( 2 Corinthians 13:5). In this examination I found key discrepancies within my own temple. There are several point of views within this topic, especially related to Christianity. Instead of taking the critics standpoint I will take the optimistic and see what I can do to change myself from the erosion of my personality and witness to the world.

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Narcissism , Freudian term, drawn from the Greek myth of Narcissus, indicating an exclusive self-absorption. In psychoanalysis, narcissism is considered a normal stage in the development of children. It is known as secondary narcissism when it occurs after puberty, and is said to indicate a libidinal energy directed exclusively toward oneself. A degree of narcissism is considered normal, where an individual has a healthy self-regard and realistic aspirations. The condition becomes pathological, and diagnosable as a personality disorder, when it significantly impairs social functioning. An individual with narcissistic personality disorder tends to harbor an exaggerated sense of his own self-importance and uniqueness. He is often excessively occupied with fantasies about his own attributes and potential for success, and usually depends upon others for reinforcement of his self-image. A narcissist tends to have difficulties maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships, stemming largely from a lack of empathy and a propensity for taking advantage of others in the interest of self-aggrandizement. It is often found in combination with antisocial personality disorder.


Narcissism describes the trait of excessive self-love, based on self-image or ego.
The term is derived from the Greek mythology of Narcissus. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus pined away and changed into the flower that bears his name, the narcissus.

In psychology and psychiatry, excessive narcissism is recognized as a severe personality dysfunction or personality disorder, most characteristically Narcissistic personality disorder, also referred to as NPD.

Sigmund Freud believed that some narcissism is an essential part of all of us from birth and was the first to use the term in the reference to psychology.

Andrew Morrison claims that, in adults, a reasonable amount of healthy narcissism allows the individual’s perception of his needs to be balanced in relation to others.

The terms narcissism , narcissistic, and narcissist are often used as pejoratives, denoting vanity, conceit, egotism or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others.

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Celebrating narcissism
Dandyism
A dandy is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and the cultivation of leisurely hobbies. Some dandies, especially in Britain in the late 18th and 19th century, strove to affect aristocratic values even though many came from common backgrounds. Thus, a dandy could be considered a kind of snob.

“A Dandy is a clothes-wearing Man, a Man whose trade, office and existence consists in the wearing of Clothes. Every faculty of his soul, spirit, purse, and person is heroically consecrated to this one object, the wearing of Clothes wisely and well: so that the others dress to live, he lives to dress…And now, for all this perennial Martyrdom, and Poesy, and even Prophecy, what is it that the Dandy asks in return? Solely, we may say, that you would recognise his existence; would admit him to be a living object; or even failing this, a visual object, or thing that will reflect rays of light…”

Narcissism is the term used in psychology to describe a preoccupation with self. It is a Greek term taken from the name of the mythological Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and was doomed to die because he would not turn away from it. A narcissist is a person who displays a high level of selfishness, vanity, and pride. He sees everything from a “how does this affect me?” perspective. Empathy is impossible for the narcissist because his only perspective is the one centered on self. In psychology, narcissism is seen as a broad spectrum of conditions ranging from normal to pathological.

The Bible says that we are born sinful since the fall (Romans 5:12). This means that we are born with only sinful tendencies and no ability to be “good” or righteous on our own. What we call “human nature” the Bible calls “the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). Part of our sin nature is a total focus on self. This focus, also called “egocentrism,” is how babies see and experience the world. Narcissism is like egocentrism in that the adult still relates to the world like an infant, a perspective that impedes personal growth and relationships.

Psychological theories about narcissism suggest that the narcissistic person uses defense mechanisms to idealize self so that he does not have to face his own mistakes (sin) or flaws (fallen state). The diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder outlines the behavior patterns of a narcissistic person as being haughty, non-empathetic, manipulative, and envious; he also possesses a sense of entitlement and grandiosity. From a biblical perspective, it is clear that these heart conditions are due to pride, which is sin (Proverbs 16:18). The Bible tells us to “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). The narcissist routinely disobeys this command.

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Pride is a reason people do not feel they need a savior or forgiveness. Pride tells them they are “good” people or have a “good” heart. Pride also blinds people to their own personal responsibility and accountability for sin. Narcissism (pride) masks sin, whereas the gospel reveals the truth that leads to remorse for sin. Narcissistic traits can be dangerous because, at their worst, they will lead a person to destroy others to satisfy the lust of the flesh (2 Timothy 3:2-8).

The Bible addresses the issues related to narcissism as part of our sinful natural self (Romans 7:5). We are slaves to the flesh until we place our faith in Jesus, who sets the captives free (Romans 7:14-25; John 8:34-36). Believers are then slaves to righteousness as the Holy Spirit begins the transforming work of sanctification in their lives. However, believers must surrender to the Lord and humble themselves in order to have God’s perspective rather than a selfish one (Mark 8:34). The process of sanctification is turning away from self (narcissism) and turning toward Jesus.

All people are narcissists until they either learn how to cover it and get along in the world or until they recognize their own flesh and repent of their sin. The Lord helps people to grow out of narcissism when they receive Jesus as their savior (Romans 3:19-26). The believer is empowered to begin loving others as himself (Mark 12:31).

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I am inclined to believe that there is an epidemic of narcissism taking place as we speak in the world in Hollywood, churches, home and communities alike. I see from my perspective a prevalent outbreak within my community of interest “gangbangers” and the “disenfranchised” families and their children.

The narcissism epidemic involves two related processes. The first is the rise in narcissism among individuals, and the second is the change in the larger culture’s values, beliefs, and practices. I hope to address the cultural-level change one day soon as I further study and evaluate myself.

An epidemic is usually declared when more individuals are affected than would be expected in a population. If we use the recent past to formulate those expectations, there is clearly an epidemic of narcissism.

We know that narcissism has increased over time among individuals based on several datasets. College students now endorse more narcissistic traits than college students did in the 1980s and 1990s; in one large sample the change seemed to be accelerating after 2002. An Internet sample of the general population also showed higher narcissism scores among younger people than older people. Perhaps most disturbing, a 2005 study using a large, randomly selected sample of Americans found that nearly 1 out of 10 people in their twenties had experienced NPD — the more severe, clinical-level form of the trait. Only 1 out of 30 people over 64 had experienced NPD in their lifetime — even though they had lived 40 more years than the people in their twenties and thus had that much more time to experience the disorder. This suggests a large increase in NPD over time.

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How did we get here?

There is no single cause of the narcissism epidemic; instead we point to several contributing factors in life. Admiring oneself is now considered crucial to success in life. This began in earnest in the 1970s, became more influential with the self-esteem movement in the 1980s and 1990s, and today is taken for granted in American culture. We see this in slogans like “You have to love yourself before you can love others” and at preschools with young children singing, “I am special/Look at me.”

At the core of narcissism is the fantasy that you are better than you really are (and better than those around you). Any process that allows that fantasy to exist despite the less glamorous reality is an opportunity for narcissism to thrive. For example, the Internet allows people to create phony images of themselves and seek fame and attention. Easy credit has allowed average Americans to pretend they are wealthy and successful (at least until the foreclosure sign went up). The inflation of grades and other feedback in schools has lets kids believe they are better students than they really are. And the list goes on.

Finally, the explosion of shallow celebrity culture promotes narcissism as not just acceptable but desirable. Celebrity gossip and happenings are now found on mainstream news channels. The social models we see are often advertisements for a narcissistic lifestyle.

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Has the narcissism epidemic affected everyone?

Yes and no. No, not everyone is narcissistic. But the epidemic has sucked in non-narcissistic people too. At one time, only Hollywood types did things like get plastic surgery, whiten their teeth, and shape their eyebrows; now these appearance enhancers have trickled down to ordinary people. And many humble people have had to deal with the consequences of working with, dating, or otherwise associating with a narcissist at one time or another.

The epidemic has reached most groups in society. The trend appears in poor neighborhoods and rich ones, in all regions of the U.S., and across many different ethnic groups. As I continue my search for truth I will read the book called, the epidemic — now strongest in North America — also appears to be spreading to many cultures around the world.

There was one difference by group: Most data shows that the increase in narcissism is larger among girls and women. Males still score higher on narcissistic traits than females on average, but girls and women are catching up. This is not entirely surprising in an era of pedicure parties for 5-year-olds and breast implants for high school graduation. As parents of girls, we’re scared too.

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Isn’t narcissism necessary in an increasingly competitive world?

Some degree of self-promotion is more necessary now than it was in the past. However, there is a big difference between being able to talk about your strengths at a job interview and talking about how great you are to your wife, kids, co-workers and anyone else who will listen. Not only is this kind of pervasive narcissism not necessary, but it will hurt you in the long run. Narcissists also tend to be overconfident and take too many risks. This works great during boom times but causes spectacular failure when things turn south. (If you remember 2008, this might sound familiar.)

This Is My Doing….

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1 Kings 12
The Message (MSG)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selfish Christianity

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John 6:22-27
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”

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Words to the People

26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

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Think honestly about this question: Which interests you more—who Jesus is or what He can do for you? I’m afraid that too many of us are more concerned about what the Lord can give us than we are about getting to know who He is.

But this is nothing new—Jesus had the same problem when He walked on earth. The crowds often sought Him out for what He could do for them. Even though their needs were quite often legitimate, Christ knew their motives.

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There is a fine line between selfishly trying to use the Lord to get what we want and humbly coming to Him with our needs and struggles. Some of the issues we bring to Him are so pressing and urgent in our minds that our desire for Him to take action in the way we want becomes greater than our willingness to submit to His will. At times, what we call “faith” is really a demanding spirit.

We must remember that our earthly needs will come to an end, but Jesus Christ will remain forever. If our prayers have dealt only with presenting our requests to the Lord, then we are missing a great opportunity to get to know the One with whom we are going to spend all eternity. Let’s invest time in pursuing intimacy with the great God who created us. Then we can enjoy all the benefits of that relationship forever.

How much of your communion with God is devoted to your needs—even legitimate ones? Are you spending any time getting to know the Lord? Although God delights in our prayers and tells us to pray about everything, He also wants us to come to Him just because we enjoy being with Him.

I will Rejoice in “The Lord”

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1 Peter 1:8

New International Version (NIV)
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,

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I asked myself today how has God blessed me in the past? I asked that because I heard my spirit say that my wilderness experience is temporary. On Thanksgiving Eve day I have been in constant meditation about my present posture and position in Life. Instead of looking only at my physical lack, I chose to look at my spiritual richness and “rejoice” about what God says I am in His precious word.

I remember the mother of one of my team members from college. She was fearful about the outcome of the surgery she faced. Doctors had not been able to discover the reason for her symptoms, and cancer seemed an undeniable possibility. To add to her concern, she had little in savings, and being self-employed, she had no insurance or paid sick leave.

As the day of her surgery drew closer, she found herself reading her Bible more and more frequently. A passage in Habakkuk that her son and I would read every night we shared it with her and she called and said I am puzzled.

The prophet obviously knew his nation was about to be invaded and ravaged, but he said;

Habakkuk 3:17-18

New International Version (NIV)
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

She began to write us and tell us that she knew God was always with her and always loved her. Instead of asking for healing, finances, or peace, her prayer became simply, ” I love You, Too! I love You, too!”

As it turned out, the surgeons removed a benign cyst. Her recovery passed quickly. Friends helped with meals, laundry, housekeeping, errands, and even a mortgage payment. She reflected later, “This experience made my love for God grow deeper. And that was far more meaningful than a good medical report.”

If you are facing a burdensome situation today, Rejoice, reflect on God’s love for you. remember His faithfulness in the past. Then, with joy in your heart, tell God what I am saying, Lord I love you even if what I presently am enduring doesn’t work the way I feel it should, I love You so much. I don’t have a daisy peddle love with my God.

No prayer of adoration will ever soar higher than a simple cry: “I love You, God! I know You love me…

Gay Rights, Religious Liberties

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Two titanic legal principles are crashing on the steps of the church, synagogue and mosque: equal treatment for same-sex couples on the one hand, and the freedom to exercise religious beliefs on the other.

The collision that will play out over the next few years will be filled with pathos on both sides.
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Act One: A Love Story

Harriet Bernstein, mother of two and grandmother of six, realized a few years ago that she was drawn to women. She lives in Ocean Grove, N.J., a quiet beach town known as “God’s Square Mile,” because the land is owned by a Methodist retreat center, formally known as Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.

Eight years ago, she went on a retreat with Jewish gay men and lesbians in the Poconos Mountains and met her future wife.

“I took a chance and went up for a weekend of cross-country skiing and ice skating,” Bernstein recalls. “And I saw this lovely lady across a crowded room, as they say in South Pacific, and immediately decided she was somebody I wanted to get to know. And I did.”

“We came together like magnets,” Luisa Paster adds. “We had all our meals together. We went cross-country skiing. And we exchanged phone numbers at the end of the weekend.”

Bernstein and Paster formalized their union last year, a few months after New Jersey legalized civil unions.

Bernstein fetches the wedding album and flips past photos of the rabbi, the cake (adorned with two brides), and various shots of the two outdoorsy, gray-haired women smiling as they stood on the boardwalk in their white tunics and pants.

Paster then reads the invitation to their civil union, emphasizing the ambiguous wording.

“Location to be announced,” she reads. “That’s because we had to send out the invitations before we had final word on whether we could use the pavilion.”
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Paster and Bernstein look through their wedding photo album. Instead of marrying at the pavilion, the couple wed on a pier in New Jersey.

The Coming Storm?

Same-sex couples are challenging religious organizations’ policies that exclude them, claiming that a group’s view that gay marriage is a sin cannot be used to violate their right to equal treatment. So far, the religious groups are losing.

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Act Two: The Conflict

The pavilion in question is an open-air building with long benches looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. It is owned by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.

“A building very similar to this has been on this site since the late 1800s,” says the Rev. Scott Hoffman, the group’s administrator.

During the summers, Hoffman says, the pavilion is used for Bible studies, church services, gospel choir performances and, in the past at least, weddings. Heterosexual weddings.

When Bernstein and Paster asked to celebrate their civil union in the pavilion, the Methodist organization said they could marry on the boardwalk — anywhere but buildings used for religious purposes. In other words, not the pavilion. Hoffman says there was a theological principle at stake.

“The principle was a strongly held religious belief that a marriage is between a man and a woman,” Hoffman says. “We’re not casting any aspersions or making any judgments. It’s just, that’s where we stand, and we’ve always stood that way, and that’s why we said no.”

The refusal came as a shock to Bernstein, who says Ocean Grove has been revived by the gay community.

“We were crushed,” she says. “I lived my whole live, fortunately, without having any overt prejudices or discrimination waged against me. So while I knew it was wrong, I never knew how it felt. And after this, I did know how that felt. It was extremely painful.”

Luisa says that initially, they walked away from the situation. “We were so stunned, we didn’t know what to do. But as we came out of our initial shocked stage, we began to get a little angry. We felt an injustice had been done,” she says.

So the couple filed a complaint with New Jersey’s Division of Civil Rights, alleging the Methodists unlawfully discriminated against them based on sexual orientation. Attorney Lawrence Lustberg represents them.

“Our law against discrimination does not allow [the group] to use those personal preferences, no matter how deeply held, and no matter — even if they’re religiously based — as a grounds to discriminate,” Lustberg says. “Religion shouldn’t be about violating the law.”

The Methodist organization responded that it was their property, and the First Amendment protects their right to practice their faith without government intrusion. But Lustberg countered that the pavilion is open to everyone — and therefore the group could no more refuse to accommodate the lesbians than a restaurant owner could refuse to serve a black man. That argument carried the day. The state revoked the organization’s tax exemption for the pavilion area. Hoffman figures they will lose $20,000.

Now, with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal firm, Hoffman is appealing the case to state court. He says religious freedom itself is in jeopardy.

“And that potentially affects every religious organization in America, not just Christian organizations, but every religious organization. And I get calls from Jewish rabbis who are equally concerned — people from across the spectrum who think it’s a battle worth fighting. And we agree,” Hoffman says.

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Act Three: A Nationwide Story

As states have legalized same-sex partnerships, the rights of gay couples have consistently trumped the rights of religious groups. Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, says that does not mean that a pastor can be sued for preaching against same-sex marriage. But, he says, that may be just about the only religious activity that will be protected.

“What if a church offers marriage counseling? Will they be able to say ‘No, we’re not going to help gay couples get along because it violates our religious principles to do so? What about summer camps? Will they be able to insist that gay couples not serve as staff because they’re a bad example?” Stern asks.

Stern says if the early cases are any guide, the outlook is grim for religious groups.

A few cases: Yeshiva University was ordered to allow same-sex couples in its married dormitory. A Christian school has been sued for expelling two allegedly lesbian students. Catholic Charities abandoned its adoption service in Massachusetts after it was told to place children with same-sex couples. The same happened with a private company operating in California.

A psychologist in Mississippi who refused to counsel a lesbian couple lost her case, and legal experts believe that a doctor who refused to provide IVF services to a lesbian woman is about to lose his pending case before the California Supreme Court.

And then there’s the case of a wedding photographer in Albuquerque, N.M.

On January 28, 2008, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission heard the case of Vanessa Willock v. Elane Photography.

Willock, in the midst of planning her wedding to her girlfriend, sent the photography company an e-mail request to shoot the commitment ceremony. Elaine Huguenin, who owns the company with her husband, replied: “We do not photograph same-sex weddings. But thanks for checking out our site! Have a great day!”
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Willock filed a complaint, and at the hearing she explained how she felt.

“A variety of emotions,” she said, holding back tears. “There was a shock and anger and fear. … We were planning a very happy day for us, and we’re being met with hatred. That’s how it felt.”

Willock declined to be interviewed, as did the owners of Elane Photography. At the hearing, Jonathan Huguenin said that when he and his wife formed the company two years ago, they made it company policy not to shoot same-sex ceremonies, because the ceremonies conflicted with their Christian beliefs.

“We wanted to make sure that everything we photographed — everything we used our artistic ability for, everything we told a story for or conveyed a message of — would be in line with our values and our beliefs,” he said.

The defendants’ attorney, Jordan Lorence at ADF, says that of course a Christian widget-maker cannot fire an employee because he’s gay. But it’s different when the company or a religious charity is being forced to endorse something they don’t believe, he says.

“It’s a very different situation when we’re talking about promoting a message,” Lorence says. “When it’s ‘We want to punish you for not helping us promote our message that same-sex marriage is OK,’ that for me is a very different deal. It’s compelled speech. You’re using the arm of the government for punishing people for disagreeing with you.”

In April, the state human rights commission found that Elane Photography was guilty of discrimination and must pay the Willock’s more than $6,600 attorneys’ fee bill. The photographers are appealing to state court.

In the meantime, they wonder whether all the hassle is worth it and whether they should get out of the photography business altogether.

Georgetown University professor Chai Feldblum says it is a compelling case of what happens in a moment of culture clash. Feldblum, who is an active proponent of gay rights, says the culture and state laws are shifting irrevocably to recognize same-sex unions. And while she knows it’s hard for some to hear, she says companies and religious groups that serve the public need to recognize that their customers will be gay couples.

“They need to start thinking now, proactively, how they want to address that. Because I do think that if a gay couple ends up being told their wedding cannot be filmed, five couples will not sue, but the sixth couple will.”

And as one legal expert puts it, the gay couples “would win in a walk.”

A Captive’s Prayer

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

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

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

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

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In a rare non-partisan move, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to create a special envoy for religious freedom in South Central Asia and the Middle East, but the measure will go nowhere without help from the Senate and White House.

The legislation – drafted by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) – was approved with 402 votes in favor and 21 Republicans and one Democrat against.The bill, if approved by the Senate, would create a special office within the State Department for an envoy who could become an advocate for religious minorities.

“Will a special envoy guarantee these communities’ survival and even flourishing? I do not know,” Wolf said in a speech before the House earlier this month. “But I am certain that to do nothing is not an option, lest on this administration’s and this Congress’s watch we witness a Middle East emptied of ancient faith communities, foremost among them the “Sunday People.”

The legislation is supported by many large religious groups in the U.S., including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the United Methodist Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Many Jewish and Muslim groups have also endorsed the legislation.

Wolf applauded those who voted for the legislation in a statement to FoxNews.com.

“I applaud my colleagues for voting for this bill, which sends an undeniable message to persecuted people of faith the world over, and just as importantly, to the forces that oppress them, that America – this shining city on a hill as envisioned by our founders – will not be silent in the face of the evil,” he said. “I urge the Senate to act swiftly and send this legislation to the president’s desk for signature. A special envoy for religious minorities is long overdue.”

The same piece of legislation was brought forward for a vote on Capitol Hill hill back in 2011 and was also passed by 402 votes but blocked when it moved on to the Senate for a vote. Critics fear that, without support from the White House, the Democrat-led Senate will once again let the bill die.

“Passage of this legislation comes at a critical time for religious minorities, especially in the Middle East. This new special envoy will give a new voice to the millions being persecuted for their faith — be it the Coptic Christians in Egypt, Christians like American pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran, or countless others,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, told FoxNews.com.

The House vote comes as attacks against religious groups – Christians in particular – have risen sharply around the globe.

Last Sunday two suicide bombers attacked the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing 85 people.

According to recent reports, more than 40 churches and other Christian institutions and schools have been attacked in Egypt alone, with Coptic Christians targeted by Islamic extremists since Mohamed Morsi was ousted as president.

Pressed, but Not Crushed

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2 Corinthians 12:10

The Message (MSG)

7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
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Bathyspheres are amazing inventions. Operating like miniature submarines, they have been used to explore the ocean in places so deep the water pressure would crush a conventional submarine as easily as if it were an aluminum can, Bathyspheres compensate for the intense water pressure with plates of steel several inches thick. The steel keeps the water out, but it also makes a bathysphere heavy and difficult to maneuver. The space inside is cramped, allowing for only one or two people to survey the ocean floor by looking through a tiny plate-glass window.

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What divers invariably find at every depth of the ocean are fish and other sea creatures. Some of these creatures are quite small and appear to have fairly normal skin. They look flexible and supple as they swim through the inky waters. How can they live at these depths without steel plating? They compensate for the outside pressure through equal and opposite pressure on the inside.

Spiritual fortitude works in the same way. The more negative the circumstances around us, the more we need to allow God’s power to work within us to exert an equal and opposite pressure from the inside. With God on the inside, no pressure on earth can crush us!

It is not enough to begin; continuance is necessary. Success depends upon staying power. Abiding in the word and prayer is the way to have strength to deal with the pressures of life.

A Matter Of Perspective

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It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that most notably stated, “all progress is precarious and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” I had never contemplated my personal success as precarious progress, or that my success to this point could bring any non-materialistic problems, but I now find myself, like many of my fellow successful, young, black men, in a moment of crisis

The exact contours of my story do not parallel every young successful black male’s life, for some their path diverged in high school or college, for others they did not feel like an anomaly until they took their first job after school, and still for some the crisis has yet to make itself apparent. By way of example, I have several black male friends who recently graduated from law school and are trying to figure out what their impact will be with their newly attained degree. At the same time, I have black male colleagues who work at major Wall Street firms and are now trying to figure out where they should be spending their time and energy. Yet, despite the differences, the common threads of educational attainment, exceptionalism, and ambition are apparent. And now many of us have realized that we are in a metaphorical no-man’s land, where no one can guide us or point the way.

 

We are now forced to make it up as we go along and for many of us this is a nerve-wracking reality. Up to this point, we simply did the next logical thing, graduated from high school, went to college, took a career-oriented job track where we would be an associate for a few years before trying to move up, or went to professional school where we would pass the requisite exams and enter our professional careers. But now that we are here, where there is no next logical step, simply a vast number of opportunities, many of us find ourselves trying to answer the larger questions of life, like what I am supposed to do while I am alive, in order to gain a sense of direction.

I am sure that everyone who continues to be ambitious and pursue ever far-fetched goals eventually comes to the place that I just described. So, what makes it a crisis for young, successful black men, but simply a part of life for some others? The short answer is that it is a crisis because there are so few examples of high levels of success from which black men can mold a path.

Over the last 200 years of American history, there has been one African-American male President, one African-American male Attorney General, one African-American male Secretary of State, and two African-American male Supreme Court Justices. There is currently one African-American male governor, there have only been four in American History. Five (0.83%) of the Fortune 500 CEOs are African-American men. Approximately 1% of all law firm partners are African-American men. There has been one African-American male Surgeon General in American history. And fewer than six percent of all high-ranking military officers are African-American.

All of these statistics are an attempt to paint the picture that these laudable successes reinforce the crisis. The rarity of these accomplishments sends the message to similarly aspiring black men that getting into these positions comes with no guidebook, nor general path. Some might suggest that for many of the positions I cited there is no general path for anyone because so few people ever rise to those levels of success. However, this critique misses the point. For each position I named, there is a more or less common route, but those routes have not applied to African-American men who attained those positions.

I want to switch the tone from my perspective to a spiritual perspective to gaze into the scriptures to see how God views using peoples perspective verses His.

Exodus 14:1-14

The Message (MSG)
The Story and Song of Salvation

14 1-2 God spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites to turn around and make camp at Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. Camp on the shore of the sea opposite Baal Zephon.

3-4 “Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are lost; they’re confused. The wilderness has closed in on them.’ Then I’ll make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn again and he’ll chase after them. And I’ll use Pharaoh and his army to put my Glory on display. Then the Egyptians will realize that I am God.”

And that’s what happened.

5-7 When the king of Egypt was told that the people were gone, he and his servants changed their minds. They said, “What have we done, letting Israel, our slave labor, go free?” So he had his chariots harnessed up and got his army together. He took six hundred of his best chariots, with the rest of the Egyptian chariots and their drivers coming along.

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

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

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

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

14 God will fight the battle for you.
And you? You keep your mouths shut!”

Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? Whether that question is posed during a business meeting, a church council, or a family discussion, it often springs from a sense of exasperation in trying to comprehend why someone has acted in a certain way. More often than not, the answer is a matter of perspective.

If we had been among the Israelites leaving Egypt after four hundred years of slavery, we would likely have seen Pharaoh as part of the problem–and he was. yet God saw something more. Inexplicably, the Lord told Moses to take the people back towards Egypt and camp with their backs to the Red Sea so Pharaoh would attack them. The Israelites thought they were going to die, but God said that He would gain glory and honor for Himself through Pharaoh and all his army, “and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord”.

When we simply cannot understand why God allows circumstances that threaten to overwhelm us, it’s good to remember that He has our good and His glory in mind. If we can say, “Father, please enable me to trust and honor you in this situation”, then we will be in concert with His perspective and plan.

Your words of pure, eternal truth
Shall yet unshaken stay,
When all that man has thought or planned,
Like chaff shall pass away.

Faith helps us accept what we cannot understand……

Fishing Where They Ain’t

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Luke 7:36-50
The Message (MSG)

Anointing His Feet

36-39 One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”

40 Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Oh? Tell me.”

41-42 “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”

43-47 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.”

“That’s right,” said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”

48 Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.”

49 That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!”

50 He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
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I have a good friend I fish with now and then. He’s a very thoughtful man. After climbing into his waders and boots and gathering up his gear, he sits on the tailgate of his truck and scans the river for fifteen minutes or more, looking for rising fish. “No use fishing where they ain’t,” he says.

This makes me think of another question: “Do I fish for souls where they ain’t?” It was said of Jesus that He was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners”(Luke 7:34). As Christians, we are to be unlike the world in our behavior, but squarely in it as He was. So we have to ask ourselves: Do I, Like Jesus, have friends who are sinners? If I have only Christian friends, I may be fishing for souls “where they ain’t.”

Being with nonbelievers is the first step in “fishing.” Then comes love-a heart-kindness that sees beneath the surface of their offhand remarks and listens for the deeper cry of the soul. It asks, “Can you tell me more about that?” and follow up with compassion. “There is much preaching in this friendliness,” George Herbert (1593-1633), pastor and poet, said.

Such love is not a natural instinct. It comes solely from God. And so we pray: “Lord, when I am with nonbelievers today, may I become aware of the cheerless voice, the weary countenance, or the downcast eyes that I, in my natural self-preoccupation, could easily overlook. May I have a love that springs from and is rooted in your love. May I listen to others, show your compassion, and speak your truth today.”

We are to be channels of God’s truth-not reservoirs…..

The Manosphere’s Largest Political Influence

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It is typically assumed that The Manosphere, as it evolves and gains steam, will somehow “counteract” feminism. But the truth is we don’t have such grandiose hopes or dreams of it bringing the universe “back to balance” in some kind of Jedi Knight sort of way. Matter of fact we have no dreams at all, truthfully. It is really just more of a visceral and self-respecting backlash against the communist tyranny cowardly and hypocritically disguised under the cloak of “women’s rights.” Men don’t carry out “crusades” of a political sort. We just fight back our enemies till they don’t bother us again and get back to enjoying our lives (feminists should take note of that).

However, I did realize something and was able to connect two VERY FAR apart dots. And this connection made me realize just how much of a threat The Manosphere is NOT to feminism, but to the general trend and political movement of socialism, communism and tyranny. A threat most liberals and leftists are completely unaware of.

Most of you right now are thinking that this must go through the eye of “feminism=socialism veiled for women’s rights attack destroy” sort of thing. While that is true AND The Manosphere does fight against socialism in that way, the two dots I connected are much further apart, completely different, AND much more significant.

Namely:

Black men, and by extension, minority men.

Anecdotal evidence started piling up as I entered The Manosphere. Houseboy was an ounce of ingredient. My readership being disproportionately black/Hispanic/minority was another ounce of ingredient. And it wasn’t until I saw some traffic coming from this that I realized I was genuinely onto something and my observation was most likely true.

In short, black men are pissed.

Pissed at what?

How black women treat them.

And it is here that I must take the liberty of consolidating an infinite amount socio-political observations of millions of black men and hope that I don’t miss the mark too much.

In short, black American men are further down the feminist rabbit hole than any other American male racial group. Specifically, government feminist policies that, in short, replace the father and men with a government check. Please point to me a community where government check replacing a man has been more successful than in the black community. Single motherhood is the standard with 70% of black births being out of wedlock. Politicians at the state, federal and local levels are all too eager to show how much they care for not just “heroic” single mothers, but single MINORITY mothers to garnish more votes and bribery money. The results to anybody who has been paying attention is obvious. Black men have literally been replaced by the government. They have been discarded, they have been outsourced, they have been replaced by society.

But what is the cost?

Frankly, MULTIPLE lost AND ALIENATED generations of black males.

With generation after generation of black males brought up without fathers, who are taught they are nothing, who have nothing to look up to or mold themselves after, and can simply be replaced with a government check, can you imagine the psychological destitution and torment this wreaks upon a male psychology?

Furthermore, how do you compete?

“Compete against what?” you might ask?

Compete against the politician who uses the trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to pose as the ultra-wealthy bachelor suitor you can never beat. No one single man (again, regardless of skin color) can beat the politician who has access to trillions of dollars of taxpayer money and promises it to you and your children (as long as you vote for him). No strings attached, no discipline or “father is the head of the household” necessary. No, just “here’s the money sweetheart, vote for me!”

Meanwhile black males are relegated (sadly, and I don’t mean this to sound derogatory, but to point out the truth and sadness of it all) to sperm donors with nothing much else to live for.

And you wonder why crime is higher amongst black males.

The reason is there’s nothing left to live for. There’s nothing great or better than themselves. No wife, no family, no children, no future. Thank you politician douchebag for stealing my woman, stealing my family, stealing my children and stealing my future. What else do I have to pursue in my life?

Now, I’m not socio-psychologist. But in my philosophizing and mental meandering I have realized that it is other people that matter the most. Have the most advanced X-Box 360 game, nothing is more engaging, entertaining and mentally stimulating than another human. Humans are dynamic, they are not finite or programmed like an X-Box and they conscientiously CHOOSE to spend their time with you IF they deem you WORTHY enough to hang out with. And that is the TRUE proof or “reward” to another human being that they are worth something. That somebody else “confirms” or “corroborates” that you are a worthwhile human being in the fact they spend their time with you.

Now ask yourself.

What kind of message do we send to the average black man (or any man, I guess) when we tell him that his intellect, his persona, his soul and his personality doesn’t even compare to a government check. That a piece of paper that warrants purchase of other goods is better than him himself.

Well I’ll tell you what that tells him. “You’re a worthless and COMPLETELY unnecessary POS.”

We getting anywhere here now? We starting to realize the situation here?

Now, my political conclusion or “epiphany” should be pretty obvious by now.

Black (and minority men, as well as all men) have been completely screwed over by feminism. However, in the fact that for all men a wife and (maybe) family is the ultimate, darwinistically programmed goal into their genetic DNA, many of them are waking up to the fact that modern day feminism is a bunch of bullshit. Feminism is against a male father figure, it is against men simply being men, and it PREFERS to replace men with the government. However – and this is where the VERY INTERESTING political ramifications come in – NO OTHER RACIAL GROUP has suffered MORE THAN BLACKS under FEMINISM which is NOTHING MORE THAN SOCIALISM DISGUISED UNDER THE RUSE OF “WOMEN’S RIGHTS.”

So what do you think black males are going to do?

My humble opinion is that black males will wake up, if not (by evidence of the links above) they already have. And the primary reason is because political socialism, under the guise of feminism, has destroyed anything for them to live for. Socialists/democrats have taken away their would-be wives, and thus, their would-be children. Socialism under the guise of “feminism” have taken away their families and thus taken away any sort of future for them. And it is here that The Manosphere I believe has it largest potential.

Forget fighting feminism

Forget fighting against single motherhood.

Forget whatever feminist goal post we wish to destroy.

The true political influence of The Manosphere is that we delivered the red pill to black males (as well as all other minority males).

And can you imagine what would happen to the political dynamics of the US if all of the sudden all black American males started to man up and started voting republican?

It is here I believe that political bonds are stronger via gender than race. If push comes to shove EVERY man wishes to have the same thing. If the Chinese were to invade, a whole lot of racist blacks and a whole lot of racist whites would set aside their differences and repel the red horde.

I ask why can’t we unite to fight the much more serious, realistic and present communist feminist horde?

The Power of Creative Writing

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A writing workshop in Arkansas is teaching kids about diversity and acceptance.
Teaching kids how to express themselves through writing is invaluable.

Jontesha wants to start her own business, Aaliyah plans to attend law school, and Marla hopes to become a Broadway actress.

These goals are written on the teenage girls’ coat of arms in a summer program called “In Our Own Voices.”

Sponsored by Just Communities of Arkansas, a nonprofit that seeks to bring people together to achieve inclusion, equity, and justice, the workshop aims to teach students about themselves and others through creative writing projects.

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“From our work with young people, we know that they need to be encouraged to find their own voices, and to be confident that what they think and feel is important,” Ruth Shepherd, executive director of Just Communities of Arkansas.

“Giving these youngsters an opportunity to explore the themes of diversity, identity, neighborhood, parents, and other important adults and institutions in their lives makes it possible for them to become more introspective, more thoughtful about how they present themselves, and how they interact with others.”

The class is based on a curriculum to foster social justice created by Kelly Ford, a graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service.

Ford writes in her curriculum paper: “Young people can benefit from a structure that encourages them to think, share and listen face to face. And if, in the doing of these things, they find their voice, improve their communication skills and self-esteem, or develop an affinity for reading and writing, wouldn’t we call that impact?”

On a recent Wednesday at the newly opened Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center in Little Rock, neighborhood is the topic. Students are asked to close their eyes and imagine their house and its surroundings. When prompted by the moderator, the students share what they see.

“A garden with colorful flowers,” a child says.

Another one says, “A brown house that needs to be cleaned.”

“A big, loud dog,” says one girl.

From there, the students write about their neighborhoods on bright, yellow pieces of paper. They are timed as a way to work quickly. After a few minutes, they are asked to share their work with others at their table.

They then take their thoughts and write a poem that will be placed in their binder. Students are asked to read their poems, and after a reading, everyone snaps their fingers for positive feedback.

Other daily projects include creating a coat of arms about what makes each student unique, writing an ode to something they like and a writing exercise about who raised them. The latter project’s goal is to teach “diversity, self-esteem, acceptance and understanding,” according to the curriculum.

At the end of the two-week class, the students will host a party to “share their voices” with family and friends and read their best piece of writing. They will also have a book with their writing in it to keep.

Just Communities of Arkansas plans to share the curriculum with its affiliate organizations around the country. Ford says she believes the power of the arts—literary, performing and visual—can effect change.

“Writing is a way for students to discover how they really think and feel about some things. It’s an opportunity for them to dream, to mourn, to explore situations (hypothetical or real), and more,” Ford said.

“I think we learn empathy from reading and writing. Hopefully, this curriculum is structured in such a way that the students find much within themselves of which to be proud.”

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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Oneness Intergration Projects: Will It Work In America’s Philosophy?

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Music can also be a sensual pleasure, like eating food or sex. But its highest vibration for me is that point of taking us to a real understanding of something in our nature which we can very rarely get at. It is a spiritual state of oneness.
Terry Riley


Being “one with the tiger” is a popular goal in the modern world, and our leaders are forever leaping into tiger dens in the hopes of becoming one with the beast.

In the Bronx Zoo, David Villalobos was rescued from a tiger den after leaping inside to, in his own words, “Be one with the tiger.”

Being “one with the tiger” is a popular goal in the modern world, and our leaders are forever leaping into tiger dens in the hopes of becoming one with the beast. These leaps of faith end about as well as they did for Villalobos who was mauled by the tiger, but like Villalobos they never seem to draw the proper conclusions about the dangerous nature of tigers.

British, French and German leaders did not hop into tiger enclosures in the London Zoo, the Parc Zoologique de Paris and the Berlin Zoological Garden. Instead they turned these cities into open air safaris where the natives were encouraged to mingle with the tigers. The multicultural safari has not been going well, with the tigers mangling the natives, burning their cars and chewing on their police officers. The European Union zookeepers have been wondering loudly what they can do to fix their oneness integration project, while releasing still more tigers into the streets of London, Paris and Berlin.

The United States did not jump into a tiger den in the Bronx Zoo. That would have been fairly sane compared to its leap into Libya. With the Arab Spring, the tigers were freed and men like Christopher Stevens jumped inside. The bloody marks on the walls of the Benghazi consulate are a grim reminder of what tigers eventually do to the men who move into their dens.

In his Cairo speech, Obama let the Muslim world know that he wanted us to be one with the tiger.

“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles.”

Three hundred million Americans and one billion Muslims would no longer be exclusive; they would overlap, like a plane overlapping with a skyscraper, a bomb overlapping with a consulate and a falling man overlapping with the open mouth of a tiger.

Oneness is a noble goal, but unlike seeking oneness with the universe, when seeking oneness with a tiger it is best to consider the terms on which that oneness will be achieved. While the man’s idea of becoming one with the tiger is to give it a big hug, the tiger’s idea of becoming one with the man is to devour him. Both are forms of oneness but only of them is survivable for the man.

The Islamist mobs burning embassies, smashing cars and assaulting police officers are the tiger’s growl warning us of the terms on which that overlapping oneness will occur. Islamist rulers in Turkey and Egypt are giving interviews telling us that oneness with them will depend on our willingness to accept their values and laws. The question is whether, like Villalobos, we will be as besotted with the tiger as to accept oneness with it on those devouring terms.

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “If you ride a tiger, it is difficult to get off.” Riding the tiger is difficult enough, but getting off it is even harder.

The United States leaped on the back of the tiger when it began its dangerous relationship with Saudi Arabia. Europe tumbled on when it allowed itself to be flooded with Muslim immigrants who established Islamist mosques and schools in its cities. Both the United States and Europe have been mauled by the tiger, but still believe that there is nothing to do but to go on riding the beast deeper into the jungle until it becomes convinced of our common overlapping values and stops trying to eat us.

The deeper we go into the darkness, the harder it is to tell whether we are riding the tiger or the tiger is riding us. As newspapers tremble at the thought of a Mohammed cartoon and government officials beg YouTube to take down a Mohammed trailer that offends the tiger, it seems as if the tiger is riding us.

According to police detectives, Villalobos became obsessed with tigers. The West has in its own way become obsessed with the Muslim world. Westerners going off to seek oneness with the mysterious east are not a new phenomenon, but a hundred years ago they did not drag entire countries and civilizations them with into the tiger’s maw. Today the new Lawrence’s of Arabia are no longer playing with Eastern empires; they are trifling with the survival of the West.

When Villalobos jumped into the tiger’s den, there were police officers and zookeepers there to rescue him. But as the West leaps into the tiger’s den, who will be there to save us?

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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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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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Warning Signs That We Should Prepare For The Worst

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

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

NationalDebt1-1024x765
Our Prosperity Is An Illusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Illusion Is Unraveling

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

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

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

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

The Beginning of “the End”

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

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

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

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

What Will Economic Collapse Look Like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recession Obsession

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

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

Why the Weak Dollar?

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

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

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

What Effect Does This Have?

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

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

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

What Does This Mean in the U.S.?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the doomsday scenario, friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sectarianism and Schism

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

The Danger of Schism Sectarianism and Schism

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

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

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

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

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

The Necessity of Separation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Faceing Our Fears

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Judges 6:11-23

The Message (MSG)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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?