Peace

~ Is Justice now justified or Is waiting for the righteous judgement enough to continue to live right~

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No Justice, No Peace:

To me the phrase “No Justice, No Peace” is not so much a threat as much as it is a cry of the heart. It is not simply a call to protest, but also a naming of the powers and what those powers have done.

A lack of justice has resulted in a lack of peace.

So many of the people of color, in particular the people of African descent in my life went to bed on last night without a sense of peace. And I am not sure that some of my non-Black friends understand why.

There is a lack of peace because of the painful reminder that historically black lives are valued less than the lives of others. This painful truth is reiterated by the invoking of names like Emmett Till, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant III, and Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown,and now Walter Scott It is reinforced through disparities in legal sentencing, in execution rates, and in drug policing.

Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014

To view the many fallen people of color and others please click this link:

http://gawker.com/unarmed-people-of-color-killed-by-police-1999-2014-1666672349.

Heavy hearts now lack peace because of the lack of justice in our nation.

But there is a lack of peace also because of the very real fear that many of us parents who have children of color, will feel every time our kids walk to the store. It is the twinge of fear and lack of peace that I and other black men feel every time we are profiled just because of the way we look.

No peace because of no justice.

Soon after the story of Trayvon’s killing became national news I found that many of my white friends did not understand the hurt and anger that I and many others felt. Likewise after the verdict was read, I again received messages from friends who didn’t get the powerful response that they witnessed on social media sites. A lack of understanding is alright, but a lack of care, a lack of concern is not.

After the jury’s verdict came down I like so many others was stunned. Dumbstruck. Silently screaming. My first instinct was to go for a walk and cry. To be quiet. But there is a time for silence and there is a time to raise our voices. Mine is now raised in calling for justice, in calling for divine intervention, grace, and guidance, and in calling out to all of us to work for change.

So now that we see that there is neither justice nor peace, what is next?

We must work for both: To fix a broken justice system and a to fix the broken peace within our hearts and within our communities.

A lack of justice and a lack of peace is a call for action on two different fronts. This means organizing to change dangerous laws like the “Stand Your Ground” and the “Stop and Frisk” policies as well as heartless gun laws in our country. But it also means working to restore peace on an individual level. This is reaching out to those who are hurting. Preaching and writing about this not only prophetically, but also pastorally. It’s working not only to change laws, but to change a culture that is far too violent in the first place. It’s not only ensuring that the taking of black life is prosecuted just the same as when a white life is lost, but it is working to build abeloved community in which no lives are lost to unnecessary violence. Change laws, get guns off of the street, and change our culture.

The “WAR” on drugs is another bogus attempt to render Justice to our communities that failed. Here is a video and a case we are working with FAMM to overturn: https://youtu.be/C_ES5m4ovPM

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Please watch Julie’s video, and share it with people you know. Because the fight for sentencing reform isn’t just about wasted money or prison over-crowding, it’s about real human beings.

Thanks,

Aaron & May Pratt

Second chance Alliance

~The Indomitable Joy In Jesus~

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Not Playing Games in Corporate Worship

I have tried these three-a-half years to lead my family and all that worship with me in the experience of sorrowful yet always rejoicing. I turn with dismay from church services that are treated like radio talk shows where everything sounds like chipper, frisky, high-spirited chatter designed to make people feel lighthearted and playful and bouncy. I look at those services and say to myself: Don’t you know that people are sitting out there who are dying of cancer, whose marriage is a living hell, whose children have broken their hearts, who are barely making it financially, who have just lost their job, who are lonely and frightened and misunderstood and depressed? And you are going to try to create an atmosphere of bouncy, chipper, frisky, light-hearted, playful worship?

And, of course, there will be those who hear me say that and say: O, so you think what those people need is a morose, gloomy, sullen, dark, heavy atmosphere of solemnity?

No. What they need is to see and feel indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow. “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” They need to taste that these church people are not playing games here. They are not using religion as a platform for the same-old, hyped-up self-help that the world offers every day. They need the greatness and the grandeur of God over their heads like galaxies of hope. They need the unfathomable crucified and risen Christ embracing them in love with blood all over his face and hands. And they need the thousand-mile-deep rock of God’s word under their feet.

The Thousand-Mile-Deep Rock of God’s Word

They need to hear us sing with all our heart and soul,

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

They need to hear the indomitable joy in sorrow as we sing:

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

If you ask me, Doesn’t the world need to see Christians as happy in order to know the truth of our faith and be drawn to the great Savior? My answer is yes, yes, yes. And they need to see that our happiness is the indomitable work of Christ in the midst of our sorrow — a sorrow probably deeper than they have ever known that we live with every day. They need to see “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

So let’s put some of that rock under out feet now — the rock of God’s word. What John Piper and Jason Meyer think counts for nothing compared to what God thinks. So let’s go to the Bible and see if these things are so.

Why Emphasize “What the World Needs”

We will focus on 2 Corinthians 6:3–10. Why have I put the emphasis on what the world needs? Why have I framed the main point of this sermon as: What the world needs from the church is our indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow? The answer is in verses 3 and 4. Paul says, “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.”

In other words, Paul is saying: What I am about do in this chapter is remove obstacles and commend our ministry — our life and message. He wants the church in Corinth, and the world, not to write him off, not to walk away, not to misunderstand who he is and what he teaches and whom he represents. He wants to win them. If you want to use the language of seeker-friendly, watch how he does it.

A Seeker-Friendly Apostle

It’s amazing what he does here. Many savvy, church-growth communicators today would have no categories for this way of removing obstacles and commending Christianity. In fact, some might say: Paul, you are not removing obstacles, you are creating obstacles. So let’s watch Paul remove obstacles and commend his ministry. This, he says in effect, is what the world needs.

He does this in three steps: he describes the sufferings he endures; he describes the character he tries to show; and he describes the paradoxes of the Christian life.

The Sufferings He Endures

First, he describes the sufferings he endures for Christ (2 Corinthians 6:3–5):

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.

So be asking yourself: How is this removing obstacles? How is this commending his ministry? Why is this not putting people off rather than drawing them in?

The Character He Shows

Second, he describes the character he tries to show (2 Corinthians 6:6–7):

. . . by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left [probably the sword of the Spirit in the right hand and the shield of faith in the left, Ephesians 6:16–17].

So instead of being embittered and frustrated and angry and resentful by all the afflictions and hardships and calamities and labors and sleepless nights, by God’s grace Paul has shown patience and kindness and love. His spirit has not been broken by the pain of his ministry. In the Holy Spirit, he has found resources to give and not to grumble. To be patient in God’s timing, rather than pity himself. To be kind to people, rather than take it out on others.

The Paradoxes of the Christian Life

And third, Paul describes the paradoxes of the Christian life (2 Corinthians 6:8–10):

. . . through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

When you walk in the light and minister in the power of Holy Spirit, and speak the truth in “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, and love,” some people will honor you and some will dishonor you (verse 8a); some will slander you, and some will praise you (verse 8b). And that dishonor and slander may come in the form of calling you and imposter (verse 8c). You’re not real. You’re just a religious hypocrite.

Remember Jesus said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Which means that in Paul’s mind a mixed reception (some honoring and praising, some dishonoring and slandering) was part of his commendation. It removed the obstacle: You can’t be a true prophet, all speak well of you.

Outside Perceptions with Some Truth in Them

Then come six more paradoxes. If you aren’t careful, you might take these to mean that Paul is correcting false perceptions of Christians, but it’s not quite like that. Every perception here of the outsider has truth in it. But Paul says, What you see is true, but it’s not the whole truth or the main truth.

Verse 9a: You see us “as unknown, and yet [we are] well known.” Yes, we are nobodies in the Roman empire. A tiny movement following a crucified and risen king. But O we are known by God, and that is what counts (1 Corinthians 8:3;Galatians 4:9).

Verse 9b: You see us “as dying, and behold, we live.” Yes, we die every day. We are crucified with Christ. Some of us are imprisoned and killed. But O we live because Christ is our life now, and he will raise us from the dead.

Verse 9c: You see us “as punished, and yet [we are] not killed.” Yes, we endure many human punishments and many divine chastenings, but over and over God has spared us from death. And he will spare us till our work is done.

Verse 10a: You see us “as sorrowful, yet [we are] always rejoicing.” Yes, we are sorrowful. There are countless reasons for our hearts to break. But in them all we do not cease to rejoice, one of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian life!

Verse 10b: You see us “as poor, yet [we are] making many rich.” Yes, we are poor in this world’s wealth. But we don’t live to get rich on things, we live to make people rich on Jesus.

Verse 10c: You see us “as having nothing, yet [we are] possessing everything.” In one sense, we have counted everything as loss or the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8). But, in fact, we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). To every Christian, Paul says, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23).

Exactly Opposite of the Prosperity Gospel

Now step back and remember what Paul said in verse 3: “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.” He has been removing obstacles to faith and commending the truth and value of his ministry — his life, his message, his Lord. And he has done it in exactly the opposite way that “the prosperity gospel” does it.

What obstacle has he removed? He has removed the obstacle that someone might think Paul is in the ministry for money, or for earthly comfort and ease. He has given every evidence he could to show that he is not a Christian, and he is not in the ministry, for the worldly benefits it can bring. But there are many pastors today who think just the opposite about this. They think that having a lavish house and a lavish car and lavish clothes commend their ministry. That’s simply not the way Paul thought. He thought that such things were obstacles.

Enticing to Christ for the Wrong Reason

Why? Because if they would entice anyone to Christ, it would be for the wrong reason. It would be because they think Jesus makes people rich and makes life comfortable and easy. No one should come to Christ for that reason. Enticing people to Christ with prosperous lifestyles and with chipper, bouncy, light-hearted, playful, superficial banter, posing as joy in Christ, will attract certain people, but not because Christ is seen in his glory and the Christian life is presented as the Calvary Road. Many false conversions happen this way.

So how is Paul commending his ministry — his life, his message, his Lord? Verse 4: “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.” How? By showing that knowing Christ, being known by Christ, having eternal life with Christ is better than all earthly wealth and prosperity and comfort. We commend our life and ministry by afflictions. We commend our life and ministry by calamities. We commend our life and ministry by sleepless nights. What does that mean? It means Christ is real to us, and Christ is infinitely precious, more to be desired than any wealth or comfort in this world. This is our commendation: When all around our soul gives way he then is all our hope and stay.

Sorrowful — Yet Always Rejoicing

What does it mean (verse 10) that part of Paul’s commendation to the world is that he was sorrowful yet always rejoicing? It means that what the world needs from the church is our indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow.

Let me move toward a close with two pictures of this sorrowful yet always rejoicing. One from Jesus and one from Paul.

A Picture from Jesus

When Jesus said in Matthew 5:11–12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven,” do you think it is random that the next thing he said was, “You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world”? I don’t think it was random. I think the tang of the salt that the world needs to taste, and the brightness of the light that the world needs to see is precisely this indomitable joy in the midst sorrow.

Joy in the midst of health? Joy in the midst of wealth and ease? And when everyone speaks well of you? Why would that mean anything to the world? They have that already. But indomitable joy in the midst of sorrow — that they don’t have. That is what Jesus came to give in this fallen, pain-filled, sin-wracked world.

A Picture from Paul

Or consider Paul’s experience of agony over the lost-ness of his Jewish kinsmen in Romans 9:2–3. Remember Paul is the one who said in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” But in Romans 9:2–3, he writes, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Don’t miss the terrible burden of the word “unceasing” in verse 2. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” because my kinsmen are perishing in unbelief cut off from the Messiah. Is Paul disobeying his own command to rejoice always? No. Because he said in 2 Corinthians 6:10, We are sorrowful yet always rejoicing.

What the World Needs from Us

Is this not what the world needs from us? Picture yourself sitting across the table at your favorite restaurant from someone you care about very much and is not a believer. You have shared the gospel before, and they have been unresponsive. God gives you the grace this time to plead with them. And he gives you the grace of tears. And you say: “I want so bad for you to believe and be a follower of Jesus with me. I want you to have eternal life. I want us to be with Christ forever together. I want you to share the joy of knowing your sins are forgiven and that Jesus is your friend. And I can hardly bear the thought of losing you. It feels like a heavy stone in my chest.”

Isn’t that what the world needs from us? Not just an invitation to joy. Not just a painful expression of concern. But the pain and the joy coming together in such a way that they have never seen anything like this. They have never been loved like this. They have never seen indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of sorrow. And by God’s grace, it may taste like the salt of the earth and look like the light of the world.

So I say one last time: What the world needs from the church — from us — is our indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow.

Indomitable Joy in Suffering and Sorrow

This was Paul’s commendation of his ministry. May it be our commendation of Christ at His earthly church. It is no accident that Paul concluded the greatest chapter in the Bible — Romans 8 — with words that are designed pointedly to sustain your joy and my joy in the face of suffering and loss.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in [not instead of, but in!] all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39)

So, “Church”, let the world taste your indomitable joy in suffering and sorrow.

~Pt-1 Yes Lord~

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Zaraphath (1 Kings 17:8-16)

1 Kings 17:8-16 continues God’s testing of the Prophet at a place called Zarephath–which actually means “a smelting place.” But here, another important element is added to the scenario of Elijah’s life as it is recorded for us in Scripture. It’s the element of personal ministry or outreach to others. The testing and needs of the Prophet became a means of ministry to a poor widow and her son. As I have tried to stress throughout this series, the events of our lives, even our everyday and seemingly mundane affairs, are not without importance. They are certainly not without God’s providential care as the One who works all things after the counsel of His own will. But important to this truth of Scripture is the need of God’s people to consider this fact against the varied events of their lives. We must think, trust, and act accordingly. The events of life are tools and agents of the Almighty. He uses these to get our attention, to change our values, character, priorities, pursuits, and above all, to change our sources of trust for security and happiness.

But let’s never lose sight of the fact that the same events that test us often become the means by which God is able to use us in ministry to others. In other words, our trials often become vehicles for ministry, opportunities to manifest the life of Jesus Christ and the reality and power of God (2 Cor. 4:8-15). This is precisely what we see in this next episode in the life of Elijah. His need became a means of meeting needs in the lives of the widow and her son.

Does this not serve to remind us again that we are not here for ourselves, even in our pain and need? God cares for us, but we are not alone. He cares for others too, and often seeks to minister to the people around us through the character changes He is seeking to bring about through our own suffering or need.

Christlikeness means that even in our pain we are to think of others and how God may want to use us. This goes totally against the grain of human nature and especially against our self-centered society. Ours is a society that is focused on what is best for me regardless of what it could mean to others. What’s best for my career, my happiness, my security, my significance, my . . . (you fill in the blank).

The Revelation to Elijah
(17:8-9)

A WORD FROM THE LORD–COMMUNICATION

The first word we see is the little connective, “then.” It continues the story and points us to what happened next in the sequence of events–Elijah received a word from the Lord with instruction. But the sequence here is resultant; it points to a consequence. In the context, this revelation to the prophet is undoubtedly the result of two spiritual facts. First, there is the faithfulness of God. The brook had dried up but God had promised to supply Elijah’s need. So the Lord comes to Elijah’s rescue. Second, Elijah had met the tests of the brook in faith. He waited on the Lord. He had not run ahead, nor run away to do his own thing, nor complained in discontent. So now, God comes to his rescue and gives new instruction. We see in this the principle of Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

Elijah had been faithful in the matter of dwelling by the brook. Now God was moving him out of this place of solitude and testing into a small, but important ministry because all ministries are important. From his faithfulness at Zarephath greater things would come. God was building Elijah’s faith, capacity for ministry, and using him to comfort the widow and her son at the same time.

What a person does with a small task is an indication of how he will handle a large one. We may think that the small things are not so important–that they do not really matter. However, faithfulness in the small things prepares us to handle the larger things when they come. Even the small things of life are tests of one’s faith and of who is really in control of one’s life.

The next words of verse 8 are “the word of the Lord came to him, saying.” Let’s note a couple of things: First, Elijah did not move until there was communion with God. He waited until he had direction from the Lord–He moved at the Word of the Lord. For Elijah, this was direct revelation, but the principle is God leads and directs us through His Word (which for us is the Bible), and through our communion with Him in Scripture. Of course, the Lord uses other things to give us direction such as open and closed doors, and our own abilities, talents, burdens and interests. He never leads us, however, contrary to the principles and directives of Scripture. Second, this reminds us just how important it is for us to commune with God in His Word so we can know the Word and use it for every decision we face. We can be sure somewhere in Scripture there will be principles that apply. This is not a series on divine guidance, but let me illustrate:

(1) Scripture does not tell us where we should cross the street. But it does tell us to obey the laws of the land and that we are not to tempt the Lord. This means that we should not jay walk in a big city, nor any city where it is against the law and where we are endangering our lives. God does not care where we cross unless we are breaking these two concepts.

(2) The Bible does not tell us what kind of automobile to drive. Frankly, I don’t think God cares unless we ignore biblical principles of the wise use of our income, or we want to own a certain automobile because it would make us feel important and is an attempt at finding personal significance.

Simply stated, we all need to do what is necessary to know and apply the Word. This means spending time in the Word daily, and gathering with other Christians for Bible study and worship. We need to learn new truth, review the old, and then apply it all.

DIRECTION FROM THE LORD–INSTRUCTION

1 Kings 17:9 Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you

This verse has three commands, “arise,” “go,” and “stay.” There is also a promise of provision. In each of these there are tests for the prophet. There are tests of faith or trust, of obedience, of availability and commitment, a test of vision for what God was doing in his life, and a test of contentment.

(1) The First Command–“Arise.” Of course, before we can move on in the will of God, we must arise, not just physically but spiritually. Following the Lord in obedience is the outcome of spiritual life and spiritual awakening. (Cf. Ephesians 5:8f.)

(2) The Second Command–(the natural outcome): “go to Zarephath.” “Go” is a Hebrew wordhalak which means “to go, walk.” In this case, it carries the idea of traveling or journeying, which included hardships and danger. I don’t want to make too much of this, but spiritually speaking, to arise is to go. It means to wake up from our apathy and sluggishness and get involved in God’s will for our lives. Too often Christians simply sit and soak. Because they are not using what they know in faith, they also eventually begin to sulk, and sour. Rather, God wants us to sit and soak up the Word, but then, by faith to strive for Him in the power of Christ (cf. Col. 1:29). This means our availability to go wherever He wants us. It means our involvement and commitment and all of these are included here. Remember, God’s will usually test us in our faith, our vision for what He is doing, our love, availability, values, commitment, and involvement, etc.

I am sure when Elijah heard these commands his heart leaped, and perhaps he thought, “Whew, just in time Lord, but that’s sure cutting it close!” As this was going through his mind, he then heard, “to Zarephath.” Zarephath comes from tsaraph, “to smelt, refine, test.” The verb is used metaphorically with the sense of “to refine by means of suffering.” Zarephath means “a smelting place, a place of testing.” God uses various testings to refine us and purge out the dross as in the refining of silver and gold. When Elijah heard this name, he probably thought, “Oh oh, here we go again, but the battle is the Lord’s and He is in control.” Then he heard, “which belongs to Sidon.” “Sidon”? He probably thought, “Lord, Sidon belongs to the land of Jezebel, that old prostitute of Baal worship. Lord, this is the center of Baal worship that is now being promoted in Israel. Yes, I know Lord, it’s still your battle and you know what you are doing. But this sure seems like strange directions.”

~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.

~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

 

Avoiding Hurt In The Church

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The title of this writing may seem to be rather unusual. After all, we would suppose the church to be a safe place – right? However, unfortunately, the church has sometimes been a place where many have experienced wounds instead of healing. In fact, statistics show that a great percentage of persons who cease attending church, do so because of some type of offense or injury to their feelings that happened there. Sometimes these occur because of the insensitivity of the church; other times, people are themselves at fault for being too touchy or sensitive to misunderstandings. In any case, it is sad that such experiences ever occur, because the church is an indispensable part of the believer’s life. Not only does it provide a place to worship, serve and learn about God, but it is also a community where believers can practice love toward their brethren as the Bible requires; “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Whatever you do, don’t give up on the church. God requires you to be faithful to it and to be accountable to its spiritual leaders. (See Hebrews 10:25; 13:17). If you have been hurt there, don’t run away – but equip yourself with the protection of God’s Word. You may not be able to stop offensive things from happening, but by applying God’s principles you can stop them from hurting you. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Ps. 119:165 KJV).

The following 13 steps are the revelations I have found to work in avoiding hurt within the church:

(1) Avoid developing unreasonable expectations of the church — “My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him” (Psa. 62:5).

The definition of disappointment is “the failure to attain one’s expectations.” Don’t expect things from the church or the minister that they can’t deliver, or that the Bible doesn’t teach for them to do. Many expectations have to do with preconceived “traditions” which we have come to associate with a church, perhaps from another fellowship we once attended or grew up in, etc. It’s a good idea to meet with the pastor and ask what you can expect of his ministry and the church.

Occasionally people get disappointed when they find out their church can’t supply all their earthly needs. Most ministers and churches do attempt to help people in every way they can – especially the needy during crisis and emergencies. But some people come to expect the church to meet all their material needs or pay their bills like the early church did. Unfortunately, this just isn’t possible unless everyone agrees to sell all their property and possessions and give them to the church like the early believers (Acts 4:34-35). Most churches would be blessed if everyone merely paid their tithes, however statistics show that only a small percentage of churchgoers give a full tithe regularly.

Neither is it realistic to expect the pastor to spend all his time with you, to attend every social function, or for him to show you constant attention. Instead, learn to place your expectations upon God — He will always be faithful to His promises in His Word and will never let you down.

(2) Don’t place an absolute trust in people —   “Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD” (Jer. 17:5).

Come to terms with the fact that everyone is human and will fail you at sometime or another. Even the pastor will make mistakes. The only one you can trust entirely without fail is God.

Realizing that any human can fall short, the degree of trust we place in people must be limited and will depend on their track record. The more we get to know a person’s character and the history of their behavior, we’ll be able to determine how trustworthy they are. This is one of the reasons why the scriptures tell us to get to know our pastors and spiritual leaders — so from their godly lifestyle, we’ll be able to trust their leadership. “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” (1 Thes. 5:12).

There’s a difference between “love” and “trust.” It’s possible to love and forgive someone, without placing an absolute trust in them. To illustrate this, let’s say there’s a school bus driver who has a drinking problem. One day while transporting a load of children he becomes intoxicated, wrecks the bus and kills all the children. As the lone survivor of the crash, he turns to the church to seek God’s forgiveness for this horrible act of irresponsibility. If he repents of his sin, will God forgive him? Absolutely. Should the church love and forgive this person? Of course. And what if he would then like to volunteer to drive the church bus for us? Do we trust him? Absolutely not! It would be unthinkable to put a person in the driver’s seat who has shown such recent negligence. Certainly, we love and forgive him, but because of this man’s poor track record, we could not risk the lives of our passengers. Over a long period of sobriety and safe driving, this person may be able to prove that he is again reliable or trustworthy.

Remember that love and forgiveness is granted unconditionally, but trust must be “earned.” Trust is the acquired confidence in a person’s actions. We certainly can, and should trust persons who show trustworthy behavior, but because all men have the potential for failure, we should never put an infallible sense of trust in anyone but God.

(3) Focus on common ground — “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

Avoid becoming highly opinionated. Opinions are the interpretations and ideas of men, which if constantly pressed on other people, can cause division or promote sinful debates and quarrels (Rom. 1:29). Opinionated people are prone to get hurt when others disagree with them.

The Bible teaches for all Christians to “speak the same thing” so that there will be unity in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 1:10). The only way such unity is possible, is for Christians to focus on the common ground of Christ and His Word. That is, we need to “say what the Word says,” to let the Word speak for itself and not try to promote divisive opinions about it. In scripture, we see that Paul instructed Timothy to “Preach the Word,” not his opinions (2 Tim. 4:2). A preacher is intended be a delivery boy of God’s message, not a commentator of the message. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job (1 John 2:27).

Similarly, at one time the news media was required to comply with a very strict code of ethics. They were to report the facts of the news accurately without adding their opinion or commentary. However, as time has passed, news reporting has become less factual and more opinionated — corrupted with rumors and gossip rather than real information. Reporters have evolved into commentators which manipulate what people think about the news. Like reporters, preachers need to stick with the facts.

Naturally every believer has his or her own convictions about a great many things, but if you continually try to push your opinions on others, conflict will eventually emerge. Avoid controversy over scriptures which are vague and foster many interpretations — stand fast upon those common, basic truths — Jesus, His life, death and resurrection — and don’t add to what God’s Word says. “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6).

(4) Don’t expect any church to be perfect — “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (Rom. 7:18-19)

It is remarkable to consider that the Apostle Paul — the great author of scripture — openly confessed that he was not perfect. Like us, he experienced struggles in his flesh to do the right things. If one of the leading authors of scripture and apostles of the early church admitted to this, it should not seem too strange if we find other brothers and sisters in the church struggling with imperfections too.

Since churches are made up of people like you and me who have imperfections, there will never be such a thing as a perfect church. Unless people understand this, they’ll have an unrealistic view of the church, and will eventually become disillusioned and hurt.

One of the jobs of the church ministry is to help perfect the saints — like a spiritual hospital, where people go to get well. Instead of resenting persons in the church for their flaws, be thankful they’re there trying to grow in Christ to get better. Learn to love and accept people for what they are — they’re not any more perfect than you are.

Just as it has been said of beauty, imperfection is in the eye of the beholder. A person with a negative attitude can find fault wherever they wish. In contrast the person with a positive outlook can always find the good and beauty in things. The well adjusted person in the church should seek out the good and encouraging things as the Bible teaches (Phil. 4:8). Those who dwell on the negative or continually find fault with the church will eventually get hurt.

(5) Don’t seek to promote yourself or your own agenda — “Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck. For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another” (Psa. 75:5-7).

Have a humble and meek attitude like Christ (Matt. 11:29, Rom. 12:3). Besides being obnoxious, pride and arrogance will set you up for a fall (Prov. 16:18). Don’t promote yourself, campaign or strive to attain an appointed or elected position. God is the one who puts persons in such positions, and unless He does it, stay away from it. Lift up the Lord in all that you say and all you do. Don’t boast or talk about yourself. “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him” (John 7:18).

Avoid an attitude of competition which creates conflict in unity. A competitive attitude compares self with others, and strives to rise above that comparison (2 Cor. 10:12). The philosophy of Christianity is not to try to outdo one another, but to submit to and lift up one another (Eph. 5:21). We are even told to “prefer” our brother above ourselves. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10). Competition between churches and Christians is divisive and contrary to the faith.

Don’t expect to receive preferential treatment or to get your way about everything. The Bible teaches that favoritism is wrong, and the church will try to make decisions and do things in the best interest of the whole congregation, not just a certain few. “…but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9). If you do things for the church or give generous offerings, do it to bring glory to God, not to bring attention to yourself or to gain influence (Col. 3:17). The Bible even says that when you give charitable offerings, do it anonymously so to gain God’s approval, not merely man’s (Matt. 6:1).

Avoid the trap of presuming that your opinions are always divinely inspired or are indisputable. Share your suggestions and ideas with church leaders, but don’t press your opinions or personal agenda. Sometimes, persons feel that all their ideas come from God. They may attempt to add clout to their suggestions or complaints by saying “God told me so.” Indeed, God does speak to His children, but you will not be the exclusive source through which God reveals himself in a matter. If your opinions really come from God, the Bible says that others will bear witness with it, especially His pastors and leaders (2 Cor. 13:1, 1 Cor. 14:29). (You won’t even have to invoke God’s name — they’ll be able to tell if your ideas came from Him. Be cautious, lest you find yourself using His name falsely, a very dangerous thing — Ex. 20:7). Pastors are His representatives in His ordained chain of command, and if He wants to get something across to His church, He’ll bear witness with the persons in charge.

(6) Avoid blaming the church for personal problems — “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

When you go to church, you should try to dissociate the church from the other personal problems you deal with. The majority of hurt feelings in a church result from wounds and sensitivities people carry in with them. This kind of emotional distress can create “distorted perceptions” which may prevent you from seeing reality the same way others do. Such things as a low self esteem, abuse as a child, marital problems, personal offenses, family conflict, a root of bitterness, health problems or job dissatisfaction can twist your interpretation of words and actions. You may imagine that people don’t like you (paranoia), or misinterpret well-intended words as an offense. Trivial problems will seem like big problems. Blame for unhappiness may be transferred to the church, its leaders or the people. You may lash out against others or be quick to find fault with the church. Remember this: Don’t jump to conclusions over anything, because things are usually not as bad as they seem.

(7) Treat others as you wish to be treated — “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

Human beings tend to be “reciprocal” creatures. That is, they reflect the way they are treated. This is why Jesus gave us the Golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.” The way that most people interact with you is as a direct result of how you interact with them. If you have a frown on your face, you won’t get many smiles. If you offer friendliness, it will usually be offered back (Proverbs 18:24). Be gracious, encouraging, and a blessing for others to be around. If you have a negative, critical attitude toward people it will tend to generate their critical attitude toward you. “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

Many hurt feelings can be avoided if we will realize that people usually react to how we deal with them. Take a close examination at the way you say things, or even how much you talk. “…a fool’s voice is known by his many words” (Ec. 5:3). Don’t be rude and impolite. Check your attitude that you’re not overbearing and bossy — people will be turned off and will seek to avoid you.

(8) Have a teachable, cooperative attitude — “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).

The Bible teaches believers to be cooperative and submissive to their spiritual leaders — something that’s not possible unless the believer is committed to a church and accountable to a local pastor. Accountability to a godly shepherd is a part of God’s order for the spiritual growth of every Christian. God’s Word gives the pastor authority to organize and maintain order of the church, and to teach God’s truth, to correct, and to discipline when necessary to hold his flock accountable to biblical principles. In Paul’s encouragement to ministers, he stated, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). (See also 2 Tim. 3:16, Tit. 2:15, 1 Tim. 5:20.)

A lack of proper respect toward authority is a common problem today. People don’t want to be told what to do, or be corrected if they are wrong. This is one reason why the modern church is turning out so many immature believers. When some people hear something they don’t like, or are corrected in some way, they simply pack up and go to another church down the street, or church-hop until they find one that says things they like to hear. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers” (2 Timothy 4:3).

As long as you are a part of any particular church, you must come to accept that the pastor and leaders are in charge there. Regardless of how unqualified you might think they are, God recognizes them as the authority in that body and will hold them accountable to that responsibility. Consequently, God holds you accountable to respect their authority, to pray for them, and to cooperate — not to be defiant and rebellious.

Always be cooperative, willing to humble yourself. If you have a rigid, inflexible attitude in the church you will probably get hurt.

(9) Don’t oppose or hinder the church — “These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).

One of the things that God dislikes most are those who sow discord — who create division and strife in the body of Christ. Don’t be a gossip, a complainer, or stir up turmoil. If you’re displeased with the church in some way, offer your help to make improvements, pray for it, or as a last resort, find another church you’re happier with — but never become a source of agitation or hindrance.

Don’t badmouth a man of God — if you do so, you’re asking for problems. One time when Paul was punished for preaching the Gospel, he unknowingly condemned Ananias, the high priest, who had ordered the apostle slapped. However, when Paul realized who he was, he apologized for speaking against Ananias, knowing that it’s forbidden to speak against God’s representative — despite the fact that Ananias’ treatment of Paul was in error (Acts 23:5). It is a serious matter to “touch” God’s anointed — either with our words or our actions. Imperfect as they may sometimes be, they are His representatives. “He permitted no one to do them wrong; Yes, He reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm” (Psa. 105:14-15).

If a minister has done you wrong in some way, don’t incriminate yourself by responding in an unbiblical manner — don’t lash out against him, retaliate with rumors against him, or run him down behind his back. You should go and confront him privately according to the scriptural fashion described in Matthew 18:15-17. If the first and second attempts do not bring a resolution, take the matter to the spiritual body, such as the church board, or denominational overseers to whom he is accountable — any correction or discipline should be left to them. Keep in mind, an accusation against a minister is a serious matter and will not be accepted unless the matter can be substantiated by other witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19).

When things are not as they should be in the church or with its leadership, there are honorable ways to help promote improvements or resolve inequities. However, it’s unethical to oppose the church or attack its leadership, and persons who do will likely end up hurt, bitter or possibly worse.

(10) Be committed to forthrightness and truth — “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. “But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:15-17).

When someone has wronged you, Jesus says that you are to first go to them and confront them privately between yourselves. Most offenses in the church result from misunderstandings, and many could be quickly resolved if offended parties would just go to the source and find out the facts. Unfortunately, some offended people will just absorb the offense silently, while growing bitter and resentful. It is important to God, and a matter of obedience to His Word, that such issues are confronted so that (1) you will not become bitter and withdraw from the church, (2) that the offender is held accountable to not repeat his offenses which could harm the faith of others, and (3) so that the offender who has perpetrated sin might be reconciled with God. If they are uncooperative with your first private effort, you are to try a second time, taking witnesses with you. Finally, if no success, turn it over to church leadership.

You should never take one side of a story and accept it as fact without verifying it with the other party. There are always two sides to a story. The scriptures address this very problem, that before we believe a rumor, we are to investigate thoroughly, to verify all the facts. “…then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently… if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination was committed among you…” (Deut. 13:14).

Without doubt, it is not possible to have a relationship with a group of people without occasional misunderstandings and offenses. And unless you will commit yourself to confront these issues in the way Jesus described, you will become hurt in the church.

(11) Be devoted to love and forgiveness — “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10).

Christians will avoid a lot of problems if they will just commit themselves to an unconditional love for their brethren. The practice of loving the brethren — all the brethren, not just the lovable ones — keeps us from stumbling. Never forget that Jesus takes personally how we entreat our Christian brothers and sisters. When we love even the “least” of our brethren, Jesus accepts that love toward Himself (Matt. 25:40). You cannot love the Lord any more than you love the least in the body of Christ. “If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20).

Be quick to forgive and don’t hold grudges. Unforgiveness and bitterness is one of the greatest reasons why people get hurt in the church and probably the greatest cause of apostasy — falling away. Remember that unforgiveness is one of your greatest enemies. If you refuse to forgive, it will prevent God’s forgiveness of your sins and could keep you out of Heaven. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

(12) Don’t get caught up in the offenses of others —  “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend” (Psa. 15:1-3).

One of the great characteristics of the body of Christ is to care about the burdens and sufferings of one another. However, as we seek to console and encourage friends that have been offended, we may be tempted to take up their offense against another. In sympathy, we may tend to take their part against the pastor, the church or whoever they blame for the offense. This is very unwise and an unscriptural thing to do, considering that your friend may be the cause of his own offense. His hurt feelings may be due to a misunderstanding, a difference of opinion, his own rebellious attitude, emotional instability — or he may be childish and immature. There are always two sides to a story, and only an idiot develops an opinion based on one side or without all the facts.

Sometimes offended persons will seek sympathy from naive, listening ears. They go about pleading their case, pouring out their bleeding-heart of injustice to those sincere, tenderhearted persons who will listen. Their goal is to seek out persons who will coddle them, support their opinion and take up their offense against the offending party. You should love and encourage a friend with hurt feelings, but reserve your opinion and avoid taking sides, lest you find yourself a partaker in other men’s sins, or you also become offended and hurt with the church.

(13) Don’t personalize everything that’s preached — Obviously, every pastor preaches with the hope that everyone will take the message personally and apply it to his or her own life. “If the shoe fits, wear it.” However, there are always a few who think the minister is pointing his sermon specifically at them. This is a common misunderstanding which causes persons to get hurt.

Feelings of personal focus from a sermon may occur if persons are (1) under conviction about a particular matter, (2) especially self-conscious, (3) under emotional distress, (4) if they spend a lot of time counseling with the pastor, or (5) if he has previously corrected them or hurt their feelings in some way. Keep in mind, a pulpit preacher doesn’t focus his attention solely upon one person. His concern is for the broad range of people in attendance.

Occasionally persons think their pastor focuses on them, the same way they focus on him. When a pastor stands in front of a congregation week after week, they develop a feeling of close friendship with him — they come to know personal details of his life, his family, and other traits. However, even if the pastor knows each person in his flock, it’s not really possible for him to concentrate on each with the same detail that they do on him. It’s easy for dozens of people to know him well, but not realistic for him to know dozens of people in the same way. Consequently, some develop the illusion that the pastor focuses on them when he preaches — that he remembers their personal details in the same way they remember his. But the pastor has too many other people to consider. He counsels with dozens of people, hears scores of similar problems and details. It’s not likely he will single someone out and preach at them, while trying to minister to the whole congregation. If there’s something specific that the pastor needs to say only to you, he will deliver it to you personally, in private — not in subtle hints from his sermon.

Besides this, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to personalize God’s Word to us so that we’ll examine ourselves and search our own hearts. When the Lord is dealing with us about His Word, it may seem like the pastor is speaking directly to us. Sometimes the Holy Spirit may even direct the preacher to unwittingly say things that may pertain specifically to us. The best attitude to have is to listen to each message objectively. In every sermon from the Bible, God has something to say to all of us. Be open to whatever the Lord would have to say, willing to accept His correction or guidance. Defensiveness is usually a sign of resistance to conviction.

It is my prayer that these principles will help and encourage you in your relationship with the church. If you been injured there or have merely strayed away, I urge you to find God’s grace to forgive those who may have hurt you and return to the fellowship of God people. As challenging as it may seem sometimes, the church is Christ’s plan for His people, and it is there that He will develop and mature you into a fully equipped disciple of His kingdom.

Behavior-Nothing New Under The Sun

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

Reinhold Niebuhr

Ecclesiastes 1:9

The Message (MSG)

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

mandrake


And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Genesis 30:14-21

The Message (MSG)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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