strength

~A vision taught by way of adversity~ (Phillip Buchanon shares drawbacks of new found wealth)

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My wife and I were in a pickle two years ago, in a very negative environment and it was very toxic. Our number one goal was to get out of that mind-set and place. We are now ready to heal and get on with our life, to start anew. Yet there are no positives just yet to build on. It takes tenacity and strength to move past a negative stage in life, and we’ve successfully done so. And we are very proud about ourselves. :) 

Where does one begin with nothing at all? A common question many of us ask ourselves is this – How do I get from where I am to where I want to be if there is nothing to build on in the first place?

For example, you want to start a business, but you have no experience in business development. You want to shift to a different career field, but you don’t have knowledge in the area. You want to be the top in what you do but you have no know-how. You want to let go of your past and start on a new journey, but there is nothing for you to start off with. It’s like a catch 22 situation. Like a potter who needs his tools and clay, you can’t create something if there is nothing. And if you can’t create something, you can’t get anything.

Everyone Starts From Nothing

The first thing I want to point out is that everyone starts from nothing. Rich people, poor people, successful people, non-successful people, top achievers, non-achievers – all these people start from a place where they had nothing. Forget about family background, because these aren’t determinants of success – there are as many successful people in this world from poor families as there are from rich families. Let’s focus on one’s personal achievements and knowledge, because these are arguably what one uses to build future success. Let’s take a look at Phillip Buchanon.

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Phillip Buchanon is sharing what it’s truly like to become rich — and targeted — in the NFL.

I don’t want to do anything and everything. I want to be a brand that, every time I leverage my name, I want people to feel sure that it’s going to be something good – so whether it be my movies, my perfume, my restaurant, my musical, it’ll be good work, good food and good everything.

Shilpa Shetty

Buchanon, a former first-round NFL Draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, played nine years in the NFL and experienced it all; family turning on him, friends stealing from him, and even a robbery that nearly took his life.

But Buchanon survived, and decided that he wants to help the next NFL rookies, who will hopefully avoid all the pitfalls.

This week, Buchanon released his first book, “New Money: Staying Rich“, an in-depth, and at times very scary account of what it’s like to be a professional athlete. Buchanon discusses everything that comes with life in the NFL, and most importantly, what it’s like dealing with the pressures of family members and friends who think that just because you made it big, they did, too.

“When I got to the NFL, I was all dollars and no sense,” “I want to make sure the next generation of athletes doesn’t make the same mistakes.”

The book is the latest venture for Buchanon, who also wrote a comic book on the same subject, and who is continuing to do whatever he can to educate a younger generation. As a matter of fact, he thinks more people in similar situations should also write books.

“I encourage everyone to do stuff like this,” he said. “More people who’ve had success in all fields should be writing these kinds of books.”

Here is Buchanon, discussing how his relationship changed with his mother, once he made it big:

Soon after the draft, she told me that I owed her a million dollars for raising me for the past 18 years. Well, that was news to me. If my mother taught me anything, it’s that this is the most desperate demand that a parent can make on a child. The covenant of having a child is simply that you give your child everything possible, and they owe you nothing beyond a normal amount of love and respect. There is no financial arrangement. If you get old and infirm, and your kids are around to help you out at that point, then you’re lucky. It’s not written in the social contract. The mothers and fathers of the world have been rearing their kids for generations — in every culture imaginable — and it’s a one-way street when it comes to money. If they pay you back someday, and you really are going through hard times, then that’s just a bonus, a gratuity for being a great mother or father.

My mother had said my debt to her was a million dollars before, but this time she was more serious than ever. If you do the math, one million dollars divided by 18 years of raising me was approximately $55,555.55 a year in restitution. Except, at age 17 I decided to move out of my mom’s house, choosing to live with a close friend and his father because I no longer felt secure in my own home. Why, you ask? Because my mother let people come in and out of our house and take what they wanted. So technically, even if we went by her logic, I only owed her $944,444.44 for her services over 17 years.

Is it petty that I’m knocking a year off her calculation? The fact that I have written this paragraph enrages me, merely because I’m entertaining the thought that her argument had any logic at all. Maybe if I had become super rich, I could have written the check and been done with it. But, like blackmail, there is never any end, is there?

Please do not think I’m being ungrateful or cheap. I had already followed the unwritten rule of any NFL New Money Millionaire: I bought my mother a house. I also advised her to sell the old one I grew up in when I put a new roof over her head, but my mother had other plans. Instead of selling my childhood home, she decided to rent it to my aunt. So I had to finance my mother, the budding landlord. Only this wasn’t an investment. It was an encumbrance, because I didn’t share in my mother’s profit-making scheme. For the next seven years, I continued to make mortgage and maintenance payments on both homes.

I learned from this expensive lesson that big-ticket purchases for family members, such as houses and cars, should be evaluated with the following questions in mind: If you were unable to make payments for these purchases, would that particular family member be able to make the payments? Twenty years from now, who will be paying the upkeep on the house? You or your family member?

hen there’s the respect part of the equation. Are these family members respecting the gifts you give? For years, my mother left the lights on in the house without a thought as to how much I paid for electricity. This is a corollary of an old cliche that I’ve heard many times, that your kids won’t turn out the lights when leaving a room until they grow up and have to pay their own utility bills. It used to refer to kids, but in my case it fit right in as applicable to my family of Adult Abusers.

Anger built up inside me as my mother collected rent from our old house and never offered a cent to offset the expenses. It got to a point that I had to kick her boyfriend out. She accused me of messing up her life. What she didn’t see was that her boyfriend was pimping her and me out. He wasn’t bringing anything to the table, just taking.

When I told my mother she would have to take care of the maintenance after I paid off the mortgage on her house, she told me she would not be able to afford the upkeep on a house that big. In fact, she made it seem like it was my fault for picking out a house that big. In part, she was right. I bought her a house with my luxury taste and no real wisdom behind it. It was an uneducated purchase. Many NFL players choose a wiser route: they buy a reasonably sized home, pay for it in cash, keep it in their name, but gift it to their mother.

I tried giving my mother that option the second time around. I offered to buy her a comfortable house in my name for her to live in. This way she wouldn’t have to take out any loans or put my little sister and brothers in a situation where the roof over their heads could be taken away. She’d move out of the house that was too big for her and into this new one. Instead, she opted for $15,000 cash. She told me that if the new house didn’t have space for two living room sets, she didn’t want it.

Here’s what she really meant: She did not want to be embarrassed by downsizing from the home I’d originally bought for her. She was stubborn (a trait I get from her) and decided to take the cash despite my advice. I told her that if I gave her the $15,000, not to come calling when she got into trouble. Needless to say, she ended up calling. And, what’s worse, she lost the house.

I found it ironic that my mother thought she could manage my finances better than I could, yet she could not provide proof of making any money from the schemes she had set up. One day I let my anger get the better of me and asked her, “If you’re so smart, why haven’t you put together a plan to make money off of the money that you are saving from the expenses you aren’t paying?” The year I became a New Money Millionaire, I took every expense off of her hands except for food and fun money. This led her to challenge me to a money-making contest. “Oh, so you think you Phillip f*****g Buchanon? Since you think you’re smarter than your mother, we’re going to have a competition,” she said. “You give me a certain amount of money and you budget yourself a certain amount, and we will see who makes the most money from it.” I laughed, giving her credit for another attempt (a creative one at that), but she tried to fool me again. She even played upon my weaknesses because she knew that I rarely turned down a competition. Of course, I never went for this little scheme because I knew there was no way I could win. My mother would never win either because she’d simply go through the cash in a hurry. Then she’d need another clever idea to get another check. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.

I eventually learned how to deal with the numerous “family emergencies.” Early on, I found myself in too many situations where some relative would come to me and claim they needed something fixed. So I’d write them a check; of course, the problem never got fixed. The check, however, always got cashed. By trying to fix a problem, I created an additional one for myself.

I finally learned how to cope with this type of request. I paid the bills directly to the company or handyman doing the work. It was amazing to see how my family responded when I told them I would take care of it. They tried to lay the heaviest guilt number on me. I can still hear their muttering tones with tinges of disgust: “Nah, man, I’m cool. Forget about it.” This response meant they knew I was on to what they were up to. I had caught them red-handed, committing an act of adult abuse.

It took hundreds of thousands of dollars, far more than the cost of an Ivy League education, to learn this lesson. I can at least attribute it to my mother. It’s true; mothers have a way of making you learn the most important lessons in life.

~I see better having “Faith”-I am not alone~

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Facing tragedy, or life storms of any kind, can be extremely difficult. But in the midst of heartache and pain, you can find the hope and courage to go on. With God’s help, the help of caring family members and friends, and the encouragement found in the Bible and other resources, you will receive the necessary strength to overcome.

You may be thinking, I don’t know how I could ever get through this. Or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. These are all normal responses to tragedy.

But as difficult as this life storm may be, you are not alone. God is with you always. He loves you, and cares about what is going on in your life. He hears your cries and sees your pain. Moreover, He understands.

The Bible says, “And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God … For since He himself has now been through suffering … He knows what it is like when we suffer … and He is wonderfully able to help us” (Hebrews 2:17-18 TLB). Whatever we endure, His care is certain, His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure.

You Are Not Alone

For he himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5c)

On the morning of October 29, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in portions of the Caribbean and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States faced their worst nightmare … “Superstorm Sandy.” This post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds and its unusual merge with a frontal system affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, leaving death, injuries, and utter destruction in its wake. Families everywhere, especially in hard hit New Jersey and New York, were jolted out of normalcy and the comfort and security of the homes and communities they once knew. They were thrust suddenly and unwillingly into the darkness and despair of loss.

If you and your family have ever been affected by a natural disaster like this, you may feel as if you’ve been abandoned by God. However, if trouble has hit your life in some other disaster or form of tragedy—the death of a loved one, a dreaded medical diagnosis, the loss of home and property, or the loss of your job, you are experiencing your own superstorm. You may feel as if your whole world has been turned upside down and wonder how you can possibly survive the loss. In times like these, you can feel very much alone.

But you are not alone. In the midst of unspeakable sorrow, God is with you. Even if you do not feel Him near, God is there. He promises to never leave you alone. Therefore, wherever you are, God is. He is with you before, during, and after the storm, never losing sight of you, or your suffering. Even as you ponder how you will begin picking up the pieces of your life, God is there … loving you beyond understanding, holding you up, and making a way where it seems there is no way. Reach out for Him today. He is a very present help in times of trouble (see Psalm 46:1).

Taking back your life …

  1. Psalm 139:7-10 says, “I can never be lost to Your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, You are there. If I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, Your strength will support me” (TLB). What assurance can you find in these verses of Scripture when you are feeling as if God has forgotten you?
  2. In Psalm 23, David pictures the Lord as the Great Shepherd who provides for and protects His sheep (His children). In verse 4, he says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” A shepherd uses his rod to protect his sheep (by using it to beat off wild beasts), and he uses his staff to guide them. What comfort can you find in knowing that God will protect and guide you during this difficult time?
  3. In addition to needing God’s presence in our lives, we also need each other. Talk with your family or friends about the way you are feeling, so that you can share one another’s burdens, and not feel so alone in your suffering.

~A tribute to my wife~

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I never knew how much you meant to me until we started to encounter hard times in life. We have been through everything together from hunger to sickness, incarceration and drug addiction to riotous living for self gratification. We have been homeless and on top of the world. We have been in sheer darkness together as well as in the marvelous light. I thank God for a wonderful blessing and that is what  you are to me.

I got up early this morning and put the coffee on
It was a beautiful morning, a Sunday morning dawn

I made the coffee, two cups, one for me and one for you
I brought them back to our bed but to awake you I could not do

I placed the two cups on the table next to our bed
You did not know that laid back down at the foot of the bed

I watched as you laid there asleep and so peaceful
I watched you thinking to my self and God that you are so beautiful

I watched as you dreamed, the movement of your eyes and often a little smile
You looked amazing there so beautiful , you never knew I was there all the while

I watched the sun light flicker on your beautiful face
I watched you lay there, for me a beautiful place

I then Got up and placed hot water on towels in the tub
I had planed you a Sunday morning massage, a good rub

I finally awoke you about an hour after I had awaken
You never knew the time that I had taken

Time to admire your beauty, your peace as you did sleep
Truly loving each minute and building a memory to keep

I gave you your coffee in bed
“Oh, that’s Cold”, was what you said

You had no idea what I had been doing up all that time
I could not wake you and admired as you slept, so peaceful and fine

I brought more coffee and this time it was hot
I was sorry it was cold, I should have thought

I took off your night shirt, you yet knew my plans
I placed a hot towel on your back, rubbed it in with my hands

Next was a hot oil massage rubbed in with love
Something that I must do for my angel sent from above

You often say, “You don’t have to do this”
Trust me when I say if I did not it is something I would miss

It gives me the ability to express my love in a gentle and caring way
Something that I want to do for you each day

It gives me a chance to touch your body so soft and so beautiful
Something that I want to do, it is called being thoughtful

I know that you are at times in great pain, I am here for you
I hope you know that I would take the pain from you, I love you true

If my touch through a massage brings you relief and pleasure
Please let me do that for you, it means more to me than you can measure

You know that I pray, God is listening from up above
I pray that you know that I do these things out of love

I am your husband true and devoted to love and to care for you
You are my everything, my love, my life, my world, please know this is true

As your husband I am to honor and respect you and ensure that no harm comes to you
A husband should be willing to give his life for his wife, I will give my life for you in all that I do

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What is on my mind at this very moment is the notification that once again I have made the Honor Roll in school at Argosy University. I by the grace of God have worked so hard for three and a half years and in August 2015 will be graduating with my Bachelor’s in Psychology on my way to occupying a position as a Substance Abuse Counselor/ Clinical Psychologist. Who would have ever thought that the dirty streets and dark places of Perris, Ca. would see me here where I am today…Never Ever Doubt the power of God. Argosy University GPA 3.37

Seven more months and my wife will graduate with honor with her degree in psychology as her major and minor in substance abuse. Congratulations wife, who would have ever thought we would be moving with God in this way after such a rocky start in life. I love you and your determination to move with purpose and submission to the will of God for your life. He is truly building a temple of honor and love in you. Let Him complete His work because His glory upon you is refining His image in my life and countless others we have no knowledge of. I also thank God for the community of individuals He blessed us with to get to this monumental moment in time.

 

~One Gospel Is Required~

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Two Questions, Three Positions

Three positions abound today on the question of whether Christ is the only way to salvation. All three can be detected by how each answers these two fundamental questions: First, Is Jesus the only Savior? More fully: Is the sinless life of Christ and his atoning death and resurrection the only means by which the penalty of sin is paid and the power of sin defeated? Second, Is faith in Christ necessary to be saved? More fully: Is conscious knowledge of Christ’s death and resurrection for sin and explicit faith in Christ necessary for anyone to become a recipient of the benefits of Christ’s atoning work and so be saved?

Pluralism answers both questions, ‘No.’ The pluralist (e.g., John Hick) believes that there are many paths to God, Jesus being only one of them. Since salvation can come through other religions and religious leaders, it surely follows that people do not have to believe in Christ to be saved.

Inclusivism answers the first question, ‘Yes,’ and the second question, ‘No.’ To the inclusivist (e.g., Clark Pinnock), although Jesus has accomplished the work necessary to bring us back to God, nonetheless, people can be saved by responding positively to God’s revelation in creation and perhaps in aspects of their own religions. So, even though Christ is the only Savior, people do not have to know about or believe in Christ to be saved.

Exclusivism answers both questions, ‘Yes.’ The exclusivist (e.g., Ron Nash, John Piper, Bruce Ware) believes that Scripture affirms both truths, first, that Jesus alone has accomplished the atoning work necessary to save sinners, and second, that knowledge of and faith in Christ is necessary for anyone to be saved. The remainder of this article offers a brief summary of some of the main support for these two claims.

Only One Way? The Exclusivity of Jesus Christ and the Gospel

Jesus is the Only Savior

Why think that Jesus is the only Savior? Of all the people who have lived and ever will live, Jesus alone qualifies, in his person and work, as the only one capable of accomplishing atonement for the sin of the world. Consider the following ways in which Jesus alone qualifies as the exclusive Savior.

1. Christ alone was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:26), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. Why does this matter? Only as the Holy Spirit takes the place of the human father in Jesus’ conception can it be true that the one conceived is both fully God and fully man. Christ must be both God and man to atone for sin (see below), but for this to occur, he must be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a human virgin. No one else in the history of the world is conceived by the Spirit and born of a virgin mother. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

2. Christ alone is God incarnate (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:1; Philippians 2:5; 1 Timothy 2:5), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. As Anselm argued in the 11th century, our Savior must be fully man in order to take the place of men and die in their stead, and he must be fully God in order for the value of his sacrificial payment to satisfy the demands of our infinitely holy God. Man he must be, but a mere man simply could not make this infinite payment for sin. But no one else in the history of the world is both fully God and fully man. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

3. Christ alone lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 2:21; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:23; Hebrews 9:13; 1 Peter 2:21), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. As Leviticus makes clear, animals offered as sacrifices for sin must be without blemish. This prefigured the sacrifice of Christ who, as sinless, was able to die for the sins of others and not for himself. But no one else in the history of the world has lived a totally sinless life. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

4. Christ alone died a penal, substitutionary death (Isaiah 53:4; Romans 3:21; 2 Corinthians 2:21; Galatians 3:10), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And because Christ lived a sinless life, he did not deserve to die. Rather, the cause of his death was owing to the fact that the Father imputed to him our sin. The death that he died was in our place. No one else in the history of the world has died because he bore the sin of others and not as the judgment for his own sin. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

5. Christ alone rose from the dead triumphant over sin (Acts 2:22; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 Corinthians 15:16), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. The Bible indicates that a few people, other than Christ, have been raised from the dead (1 Kings 17:17; John 11:38), but only Christ has been raised from the dead never to die again, having triumphed over sin. The wages of sin is death, and the greatest power of sin is death. So, Christ’s resurrection from the dead demonstrates that his atoning death for sin accomplished both the full payment of sin’s penalty and full victory over sin’s greatest power. No one else in the history of the world has been raised from the dead triumphant over sin. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

Conclusion: Christ alone qualifies as Savior, and Christ alone is Savior. Jesus’ own words could not be clearer: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And the Apostle Peter confirms, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These claims are true of no one else in the history of the world. Indeed, Jesus alone is Savior.

Faith in Christ is Necessary to be Saved

Why think that faith in Christ is necessary to be saved? The teaching of the apostles is clear, that the content of the gospel now (since the coming of Christ) focuses directly upon the atoning death and resurrection of Christ, and that by faith in Christ one is forgiven of his sin and granted eternal life. Consider the following passages that support the conviction that people are saved only as they know and trust in Christ as their Savior.

1. Jesus’ own teaching shows that the nations need to hear and repent to be saved (Luke 24:44). Jesus commands that “repentance and forgiveness of sin should be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). The people Jesus here describes are currently both unrepentant and unforgiven. To be forgiven they must repent.  But to repent they must hear the proclamation of Christ’s work in his name. And this is true for all the nations, including Jews who haven’t trusted Christ. Jesus does not envision the “nations” as already having saving revelation available to them. Rather, believers must proclaim the message of Christ to all the nations for people in those nations to be saved.

2. Paul teaches that even pious Jews, and everyone else, must hear and believe in Christ to be saved (Romans 10:1).  Paul’s heart’s desire and prayer is for the salvation of his fellow Jews. Even though they have a zeal for God, they do not know that God’s righteousness comes only through faith in Christ. So these Jews, even though pious, are not saved. Whoever will call upon the name of Christ (see Romans 10:9along with Romans 10:13) will be saved. But this requires that someone tell them. And this requires that those are sent. Missions, then, is necessary, since people must hear the gospel of Christ to be saved.

3. Cornelius’s story demonstrates that even pious Gentiles must hear and believe in Christ to be saved (Acts 10:1, Acts 10:38; Acts 11:13; Acts 15:7). Far from being saved before Peter came to him, as some think, Cornelius was a pious (Acts 10:2) Gentile who needed to hear of Christ, and believe in Christ, to be saved. When Peter reports about the conversion of the Gentiles, he declares that only when he preached did Cornelius hear the message he needed to hear by which he would “be saved” (Acts 11:14; cf. Acts 15:8). Despite his piety, Cornelius needed to hear the proclamation of the gospel of Christ to be saved.

Conclusion: Jesus is the only Savior, and people must know and believe in Christ to be saved. May we honor Christ and the gospel, and manifest our faithfulness to God’s word, by upholding these twin truths and living in a manner that demonstrates our commitment to them.

~What Fashions “Your” Beliefs and Thinking?

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In an attempt to improve ourselves and our calling to perform ministry May & I have embarked upon volunteering three days a week at a local church/substance abuse center. We are also performing phase 2 of peer-counseling to enhance our adapting skills to the mission we have been called to perform in our community. Association with many groups has opened our eyes to Social Psychology and how it is used to fashion and shape peoples behavior.

We have ceased to think theologically about the ministry. Instead, we characterize it almost exclusively in functional or institutional terms. There are at least two reasons for this shift in emphasis. On the one hand there are the new developments in clinical psychology and counseling procedures, and on the other the requests of parishioners, the denominational programs, and the culture of the local community.

 

How is it that so many people started saying “Awesome!”, or started wearing Uggs?

These are examples of how individuals’ behavior is shaped by what people around them consider appropriate, correct or desirable. Researchers are investigating how human behavioral norms are established in groups and how they evolve over time, in hopes of learning how to exert more influence when it comes to promoting health, marketing products or reducing prejudice.

Psychologists are studying how social norms, the often-unspoken rules of a group, shape not just our behavior but also our attitudes. Social norms influence even those preferences considered private, such as what music we like or what policies we support or even what beliefs we entertain as it relates to denominational choices of churchs. Interventions that take advantage of already-existing group pressures, the thinking goes, should be able to shift attitudes and change behaviors at less cost in effort and resources.

Norms serve a basic human social function, helping us distinguish who is in the group and who is an outsider. Behaving in ways the group considers appropriate is a way of demonstrating to others, and to oneself, that one belongs to the group.

But surprisingly little is known about how attitudinal norms are established in groups. Why do some people in a group become trendsetters when it comes to ideas and objects?

“The questions are among the most challenging” in the field, said H. Peyton Young, a professor at the University of Oxford in the U.K. and at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Dr. Young studies how norms influence economic behavior. “It’s definitely a big open research area where there’s a certain amount of dispute.”

One question is whether there is always a leader that sets or changes the norm, or whether norm change occurs organically over time, even in the absence of a strong leader.

What is Christian Counseling?

What is Christian Counseling?

Christian counseling focuses on intertwining the disciplines of faith and psychology to provide an approach to mental and emotional health that pulls from biblical teachings. Practitioners of this style of counseling incorporate religious scripture and teachings to guide you through challenging life issues. When facing turbulent life events, incorporating and strengthening your faith may be the missing piece in finding proper treatment.

Origins of Christian Counseling

Rooted deep within biblical accounts, this form of therapy places an emphasis on fundamental values and beliefs that comprise the framework of modern Christianity. Ministers, Reverends, and other religious figures must seek licensed training and accreditation to provide this service to you, much like a secular clinician. In 1968, Christian counselors officially formed the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation to provide a model for current and future counselors. These counselors are bound not only to religious code, but secular standards of ethical practice as well.

Social psychology is “the study of the ways in which the imagined, implied or actual presence of others affects our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. As an African American growing up in Washington D.C. (at the time one of most diverse cities in America), My first brush with social psychology was on my neighborhood streets. “On my block alone, there were nine different nationalities represented. “I was used to growing up with all sorts of different kids, dealing with cultural conflicts, celebrating everyone’s different holidays and special occasions—that was the norm for me.”

When I was in third grade, My mom took us to a  multiethnic church comprising four equally proportioned groups: African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and whites. There, I listened to songs and prayers in languages far beyond English. We also had racial slurs hurled at us in a local church’s Vacation Bible School. These and other experiences piqued my interest early on about fundamental questions of social psychology, such as, “Why don’t groups get along?” and “Why do they perceive each other inaccurately?”

Much has been written about various aspects of pastoral theology, but there is a remarkable scarcity of literature that explores the theological issues that lie behind it. The doyen of modern pastoral methods, Seward Hiltner, has said:

Most American ministers—scholars though they may be—are functionalists at heart… . We think and feel or work our way into even the most recondite of theoretical matters only by first exploring them in relation to our functions of ministry.

Much of modern pastoral psychology is an abandonment to this American pragmatism. It is an aping of American scholarship as it demonstrates its pragmatic motivation. There seems to be a disdain for a careful study of the biblical view of the ministry.

Such is the minister’s dilemma. He is faced on the one hand with the traditional biblical definitions (though often poorly developed and frequently caricatured) and on the other with the set of functional expectations by which his service is judged. In addition he is strongly influenced by the attractiveness of new developments in clinical psychology and counseling procedures. Therefore he faces basic ambiguities in performing his task.

The minister serving in today’s secular culture is also confronted with an eroded image of the pastor. He is no longer the most educated man in the community or the one who elicits the mental image of a paragon of virtue. One is more likely to think about Elmer Gantry(Elmer Gantry is a novel written by Sinclair Lewis in 1926 that satirically represents aspects of the religious activity of America within fundamentalist and evangelistic circles and the attitudes of the 1920s public toward it) or to recognize that a recent Gallup poll showed that only eight percent of the population recommended the role of the clergyman as the preferred profession, far behind the doctor, engineer-builder.

Today , May and I are diligently looking for the reconciling benefits of social psychology, working with groups to raise our awareness of their social mis-perceptions and bringing conflicting groups together to find ways to collaborate. We are reading( Disunity in Christ) Christena Cleveland, a social psychologist, is helping churches and faith-based groups transcend deep-seated divisions. it explores how social psychology reveals fragmentation in the body of Christ. Filled with many personal stories, the book highlights, among other things, how differences become divisions, and how the prevailing marketing culture feeds unhealthy competition between groups.

“The cognitive processes that drive categorization are most powerful when they are hidden from sight we have found this to be true within various church communities we frequent. “Once individuals become consciously aware of these processes . . . the processes begin to lose their power.” May and I had the opportunity to witness another facet of cognitive processes helping groups to recognize those assumptions. It was practiced  while working with a Young Life group in a, low-income, mostly African American neighborhood in Riverside Ca., after noticing the divisive ways that the group (8 to 10 African American girls) talked about Somali girls at their school. The facilitator began asking the girls questions that helped them see their assumptions. “When you give people the opportunity to see how others misperceive them, “it makes them more interested in seeing how they misperceive others.”

More Than ‘Unity Events’

As May and I launched our campaign to perform outreach we scheduled several meetings to obtain buy in from various denominations. The joint venture began well, we had gained support to utilize one pastors 501c3 to obtain the needed resources and another pastor support to allow us the use of his church to process the recipients.  “The joint venture began well but soon ended quite poorly, leaving behind a trail of distrust, negative emotions, and bruised egos.”

We shifted our focus of  work with the pastors to explore what happened:

After hearing each pastor’s side of the story, it became clear to me that . . . each pastor had very different ideals about what a leader does and does not do, and each pastor projected his ideals onto the other pastor and negatively evaluated him based on criteria that pertained to those ideals. Essentially, each pastor gave the other a failing grade on leadership because they had very different criteria for evaluating leadership.

By working with us, the pastors uncovered their differing concepts of leadership and how that had led to misunderstanding and failed collaboration.

reconciliation books to read 2014

These are the ten books we plan to read along with an intense daily devotional for 2015.

Cleveland’s work awakens us to the language we use, particularly the ways in which we draw boundaries between us and them. “We must take active steps to expand our category of us, “so that they are now included in us. We’ve learned that the mere act of categorizing Christian groups into smaller, homogeneous groups leads us to devalue, misperceive, and distance ourselves from them.”

Once a divide goes up between groups,  they tend to exaggerate each other’s differences—and cause further division in the body of Christ. Churches, “tend to rely most on our smaller, cultural identities and ignore our larger, common identity as members of the body of Christ. . . . Christianity has been turned into a marketplace in which you can make money off your brand.” Pastors and churches are pressured to distinguish themselves from others, as we compete for the loyalty of members and seemingly scarce resources. We need a theology, deeply rooted in our essential unity in Christ that acts and speaks accordingly, seeking commonality and emphasizing shared characteristics between groups.

Instead of deepening the chasms between groups, we need sustained conversation. I would like to go one  one step further, noting that one-time cross-cultural unity events are “not the way to go.” Although well-intentioned,  such events tend to squeeze minority groups into the majority culture. Rather, healing and witness to unity in Christ comes from the long, messy work of naming issues of power and privilege. What we need are “long-term, ongoing partnerships that are proximal and mutually engaging.”

Alongside sustained conversations, we need ministries on which our groups can collaborate. I recall how many churches in Washington D.C. ran VBS programs with the exact same curriculum at different times. “It’s our empire approach to doing church,”  that fuels such redundant behavior. I also maintain that it’s better for a church to pick a single church of a differing social group (race, ethnicity, or even political inclination) and to deeply partner with that church rather than to host sporadic events with many churches. My experience has shown that churches who immerse themselves in this kind of cross-cultural partnerships never regret it. “Yes, it’s hard,”  “but it’s so much richer.”

The call to follow Jesus, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded us, is a costly one. The way of Christ is undoubtedly difficult as we lose ourselves, but as we follow in it, we find the abundant shared riches of God’s kingdom. Cleveland’s work rouses us from the patterns of speech and action that we mindlessly fall into within the confines of a homogenous social group. It points us toward healing: the healing of the church, the healing of our neighborhoods, and ultimately the healing of our own fragmented souls. May we have the courage to follow her lead.

~Reflections For The New Year To Build The Leader In “You”~

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I ON YOUR PATH, O God
You, O God, on my way.
Celtic walking prayer

IT IS NOT ONLY PRAYER that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God glory if being in his grace you do it …

FOR THE GLORY of God is the human person fully alive, and life consists in beholding God. For if the vision of God which is made by means of the creation, gives life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies

MAY I KNOW me! May I know thee!
Augustine, Soliloquies

ABIDE IN THE VINE. Let the life from him flow through all your spiritual veins.
Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life

GOD CANNOT be understood by logical reasoning but only by submission.
Leo Tolstoy, Wise Thoughts for Every Day

AS WE UNITE with God, we are invited into bonding rather than bondage.

Flora Slosson Wuellner, in Weavings

I BRING my void here for filling;it is my poverty God needs. With my want the Lord builds palaces.
Kilian McDonnell, from “A Place to Hide: Light On,” in Weavings

GOD CAN’T CLEAN the house of you when you’re still in it.
Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually)

RECEIVING FORGIVENESS requires a total willingness to let God be God and do all the healing, restoring, and renewing.
Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

IF A MAN HUMBLES himself, God cannot withhold his own goodness but must come down and flow into the humble man, and to him who is least of all he gives himself the most of all, and he gives himself to him completely. What God gives is his being, and his being is his goodness, and his goodness is his love.
Meister Eckhart

I HAVE DISCOVERED that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.
Blaise Pascal, Pensées

IT IS NO EASY TASK to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things and we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, and aching. We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction.
Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing

ONE OF the uncomfortable facts about ourselves is that we all must live in a way that meets our own approval.
Paul Holmer, Making Christian Sense

DOES DISCOVERING who you are awaken a kind of inner unrest? … If you started accusing yourself of all that is in you, would your nights and days be long enough?
Brother Roger of Taizé, Essential Writings

A MAN’S AT ODDS to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he don’t want to. Best not to look in there.
Cormac Mccarthy, Blood Meridian

ONE OF the strangest things that people say is, “I’m a good person.” I am always amazed when people claim to know that about themselves. … History demonstrates, repeatedly, that if enough people begin to define themselves as “good” in contrast to others who are “bad,” those others come to be seen as less than human.
Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace

THE POWER of temptation is not in its appeal to our baser instincts; if that were the case, it would be natural to be repulsed by it. The power of temptation is in its appeal to our idealism.
Helmut Thielicke, Our Heavenly Father

THE EVIL WROUGHT by those who intend evil is negligible. The greater evil is wrought by those who intend good, and …

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

Neil Gaiman

~How Far Have We Come & And Where Are Blacks Going In America?~

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Eric Garner

A New York City grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the case of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed black man who died July 17 in a police choke-hold.

The grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was attempting to arrest Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

Amid crowds gathering tonight to protest in Manhattan and growing discord on social media about the decision, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department is opening a federal civil rights inquiry.

Holder, while urging calm in the aftermath of yet another controversial grand jury action, promised that the federal inquiry would be “independent, thorough and fair.”

President Obama said the grand jury decision will spark strong reaction from the public, especially in the wake of a similar decision in Missouri last week not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown.

The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.

Saying the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that. Below I set out numerous examples of these facts.

The question is – are these facts the mistakes of an otherwise good system, or are they evidence that the racist criminal justice system is working exactly as intended? Is the US criminal justice system operated to marginalize and control millions of African Americans?

Cover photo

Information on race is available for each step of the criminal justice system – from the use of drugs, police stops, arrests, getting out on bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial, sentencing, prison, parole and freedom. Look what these facts show.

One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable rates – according to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses – according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.

Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites.

Three. Since 1970, drug arrests have skyrocketed rising from 320,000 to close to 1.6 million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.
African Americans are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rate for whites – according to a May 2009 report on disparity in drug arrests by Human Rights Watch.

Four. Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites. For example, the New York state division of criminal justice did a 1995 review of disparities in processing felony arrests and found that in some parts of New York blacks are 33% more likely to be detained awaiting felony trials than whites facing felony trials.

Five. Once arrested, 80% of the people in the criminal justice system get a public defender for their lawyer. Race plays a big role here as well. Stop in any urban courtroom and look a the color of the people who are waiting for public defenders. Despite often heroic efforts by public defenders the system gives them much more work and much less money than the prosecution. The American Bar Association, not a radical bunch, reviewed the US public defender system in 2004 and concluded “All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring…The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.”

Six. African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service according to a June 2010 study released by the Equal Justice Initiative. For example in Houston County, Alabama, 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by prosecutors from serving on death penalty cases.

Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial – the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, “Who wouldn’t rather do three years for a crime they didn’t commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn’t do?”

Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.

Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.

Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.

Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.

Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project.

Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the world’s population but a quarter of the world’s prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.

Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!

So, what conclusions do these facts lead to? The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist.

Professor Michelle Alexander concludes that it is no coincidence that the criminal justice system ramped up its processing of African Americans just as the Jim Crow laws enforced since the age of slavery ended. Her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sees these facts as evidence of the new way the US has decided to control African Americans – a racialized system of social control. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crow – creating legal boundaries between them and us, allowing legal discrimination against them, removing the right to vote from millions, and essentially warehousing a disposable population of unwanted people. She calls it a new caste system.

Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.

Other critics like Professor Dylan Rodriguez see the criminal justice system as a key part of what he calls the domestic war on the marginalized. Because of globalization, he argues in his book Forced Passages, there is an excess of people in the US and elsewhere. “These people”, whether they are in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or US jails and prisons, are not productive, are not needed, are not wanted and are not really entitled to the same human rights as the productive ones. They must be controlled and dominated for the safety of the productive. They must be intimidated into accepting their inferiority or they must be removed from the society of the productive.

This domestic war relies on the same technology that the US uses internationally. More and more we see the militarization of this country’s police. Likewise, the goals of the US justice system are the same as the US war on terror – domination and control by capture, immobilization, punishment and liquidation.

What to do?

Martin Luther King Jr., said we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.

We are all entitled to safety. That is a human right everyone has a right to expect. But do we really think that continuing with a deeply racist system leading the world in incarcerating our children is making us safer?

It is time for every person interested in justice and safety to join in and dismantle this racist system. Should the US decriminalize drugs like marijuana? Should prisons be abolished? Should we expand the use of restorative justice? Can we create fair educational, medical and employment systems? All these questions and many more have to be seriously explored. Join a group like INCITE, Critical Resistance, the Center for Community Alternatives, Thousand Kites, or the California Prison Moratorium and work on it. As Professor Alexander says “Nothing short of a major social movement can dismantle this new caste system.”

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May and I are really concerned for our family and our community. I know my faith will see us through this American experience and we will have answers from on high on how to empower our grand children and God’s gifts of human beings in our life. We strive to know His will for our life to help others. Pray without ceasing for us and our world.

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~Are They Forgotten?~

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Addiction can happen at any age, but it usually starts when a person is young.  If your teen continues to use drugs despite harmful consequences, he or she may be addicted.

If an adolescent starts behaving differently for no apparent reason––such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile—it could be a sign he or she is developing a drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of puberty. Other signs include:

  • A change in peer group
  • Carelessness with grooming
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Missing classes or skipping school
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Trouble in school or with the law
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends

Through scientific advances, we know more than ever before about how drugs work in the brain. We also know that addiction can be successfully treated to help young people stop abusing drugs and lead productive lives. Intervening early when you first spot signs of drug use in your teen is critical; don’t wait for your teen to become addicted before you seek help. However, if a teen is addicted, treatment is the next step.

Why can’t some teens stop using drugs on their own?

Repeated drug use changes the brain. Brain-imaging studies of people with drug addictions show changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Quitting is difficult, even for those who feel ready. NIDA has an excellent video that explains why drugs are so hard to quit:

It could be helpful to show your teen this video. It helps explain why the inability to stop using drugs is not a moral failing, but rather an illness that needs to be treated.

If I want help for my teen or young adult, where do I start?

Asking for help from professionals is the first important step.

You can start by bringing your child to a doctor who can screen for signs of drug use and other related health conditions. You might want to ask your child’s doctor in advance if he or she is comfortable screening for drug use with standard assessment tools and making a referral to an appropriate treatment provider. If not, ask for a referral to another doctor skilled in these issues.

You can also contact an addiction specialist directly.  There are 3,500 board certified physicians who specialize in addiction in the United States.  The American Society of Addiction Medicine Web site has a Find a Physician feature on its home page, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has a “Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finder” on its Web site. you and the physician can decide if your teen or young adult should be referred to treatment.

It takes a lot of courage to seek help for a child with a possible drug problem, because there is a lot of hard work ahead for both of you, and it interrupts academic, personal and possibly athletic milestones expected during the teen years. However, treatment works, and teens can recover from addiction, although it may take time and patience. Treatment enables young people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on their brain and behavior so they can regain control of their lives. You want to be sure your teen is healthy before venturing into the world with more independence, and where drugs are more easily available.

~I am Not Alone In Trying Times~

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Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path.

Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it. You feel numb. Perhaps the worst part is that you remember when you actually felt something and the contrast between then and now makes the pain worse.

So many things about your life are difficult right now. Things you used to take for granted—a good night’s sleep, having goals, looking forward to the future—now seem beyond your reach. Your relationships are also affected. The people who love you are looking for some emotional response from you, but you do not have one to give.

Does it help to know that you are not alone? These days depression affects as much as 25 percent of the population. Although it has always been a human problem, no one really knows why. But what Christians do know is that God is not silent when we suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children have been able to find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV):

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Come to God with your suffering

You can start to experience the inward renewal that the apostle Paul experienced when you come to God with your suffering. God seems far away when we suffer. You believe that He exists, but it seems as if He is too busy with everything else, or He just doesn’t care. After all, God is powerful enough to end your suffering, but He hasn’t.

If you start there, you’ll reach a dead end pretty quickly. God hasn’t promised to explain everything about what He does and what He allows. Instead, He encourages us to start with Jesus. Jesus is God the Son, and He is certainly loved by his heavenly Father. Yet Jesus also went through more suffering than anyone who ever lived!

Here we see that love and suffering can co-exist. And when you start reading the Bible and encounter people like Job, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul, you get a sense that suffering is actually the well-worn path for God’s favorites. This doesn’t answer the question, Why are you doing this to me? But it cushions the blow when you know that God understands. You aren’t alone. If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.

God speaks to you in the Bible

Keep your heart open to the fact that the Bible has much to say to you when you are depressed. Here are a few suggestions of Bible passages you can read. Read one each day and let it fill your mind as you go about your life.

    • Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
    • Use the Psalms to help you find words to talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 your personal prayers to God.
    • Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)
    • Don’t think your case is unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you and they will tell you that God did not fail them.
    • Remember your purpose for living. (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20,  2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)
    • Learn about persevering and enduring. (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4).
    • Try one step at a time Granted, it seems impossible. How can someone live without feelings? Without them you have no drive,nomotivation. Could you imagine walking without any feeling in your legs? It would be impossible.Or would it? Perhaps you could walk if you practiced in front of a large mirror and watched your legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical, but it could be done.People have learned to walk in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.As you walk, you will find that it is necessary to remember to use every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: 1) take one minute at a time, 2) read one short Bible passage, 3) try to care about someone else, 4) ask someone how they are doing, and so on.You will need to do this with your relationships, too. When you have no feelings, how to love must be redefined. Love, for you, must become an active commitment to patience and kindness.
    • Consider what accompanies your depressionAs you put one foot in front of the other, don’t forget that depression doesn’t exempt you from the other problems that plague human beings. Some depressed people have a hard time seeing the other things that creep in—things like anger, fear, and an unforgiving spirit. Look carefully to see if your depression is associated with things like these:

      Do you have negative, critical, or complaining thoughts? These can point to anger. Are you holding something against another person?

      Do you want to stay in bed all day? Are there parts of your life you want to avoid?

      Do you find that things you once did easily now strike terror in your heart? What is at the root of your fear?

      Do you feel like you have committed a sin that is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness? Remember that the apostle Paul was a murderer. And remember: God is not like other people—He doesn’t give us the cold shoulder when we ask for forgiveness.

      Do you struggle with shame? Shame is different from guilt. When you are guilty you feel dirty because of what you did; but with shame you feel dirty because of what somebody did to you. Forgiveness for your sins is not the answer here because you are not the one who was wrong. But the cross of Christ is still the answer. Jesus’ blood not only washes us clean from the guilt of our own sins, but also washes away the shame we experience when others sin against us.

      Do you experience low self-worth? Low self-worth points in many directions. Instead of trying to raise your view of yourself, come at it from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you. Let that define you and then share that love with others.

      Will it ever be over?

      Will you always struggle with depression? That is like asking, “Will suffering ever be over?” Although we will have hardships in this world, depression rarely keeps a permanent grip on anyone. When we add to that the hope, purpose, power, and comfort we find in Christ, depressed people can usually anticipate a ray of hope or a lifting of their spirits.

 

~ I Need Thee~

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True grace delights in solitude

American Christians in particular are prone to understanding many of the New Testament teachings relating to the local church as passages addressed to individual believers. In doing so we “individualize” many texts intended for an entire local church.

But it is nonetheless true that the gospel first addresses us as individuals. While each Christian becomes part of the body of Christ – a body that collectively is the bride of Christ – God knows us by name and relates to us one by one.

So while believers are members of God’s family and the New Testament prioritizes the congregational aspects of faith in Christ, biblical Christianity also normalizes meeting with God alone. As Jonathan Edwards put it, “True religion disposes persons to be much alone in solitary places for holy meditation and prayer . . . True grace delights in secret converse with God.” Bombarded with thoughts of having to be successful and financial responsibility I have felt no growth or increase spiritually and need to run to Jesus and my Father to get revived. If you are reading this please pray for May & Aaron to find God’s ultimate peace and direction.

 

He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when evening was come, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23).

The man Christ Jesus felt the need of perfect solitude–Himself alone, entirely by Himself, alone with Himself. We know how much intercourse with men draws us away from ourselves and exhausts our powers. The man Christ Jesus knew this, too, and felt the need of being by Himself again, of gathering all His powers, of realizing fully His high destiny, His human weakness, His entire dependence on the Father.

How much more does the child of God need this–himself alone with spiritual realities, himself alone with God the Father. If ever there were one who could dispense with special seasons for solitude and fellowship, it was our Lord. But He could not do His work or maintain His fellowship in full power, without His quiet time. Would God that every servant of His understood and practiced this blessed art, and that the Church knew how to train its children into some sense of this high and holy privilege, that every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed himself alone with God.

Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself, and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!

Lamertine speaks in one of his books of a secluded walk in his garden where his mother always spent a certain hour of the day, upon which nobody ever dreamed for a moment of intruding. It was the holy garden of the Lord to her.

Poor souls that have no such Beulah land! Seek thy private chamber, Jesus says. It is in the solitude that we catch the mystic notes that issue from the soul of things.

A MEDITATION

My soul, practice being alone with Christ! It is written that when they were alone He expounded all things to His disciples. Do not wonder at the saying; it is true to thine experience. If thou wouldst understand thyself send the multitude away. Let them go out one by one till thou art left alone with Jesus… Has thou ever pictured thyself the one remaining creature in the earth, the one remaining creature in all the starry worlds?

In such a universe thine every thought would be “God and I! God and I!” And yet He is as near to thee as that – as near as if in the boundless spaces there throbbed no heart but His and thine.

Practice that solitude, O my soul! Practice the expulsion of the crowd! Practice the stillness of thine own heart! Practice the solemn refrain “God and I! God and I!” Let none interpose between thee and thy wrestling angel! Thou shalt be both condemned and pardoned when thou shalt meet Jesus alone!
–George Matheson

~Cacophony In Leadership; Why?~Part 3

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Understanding Congregational Dynamics

In difficult times church leaders need to pay careful attention to congregational dynamics. On one level, a congregation is a complex emotional system, and changes to one part of the congregation also affect the rest of the system.

Difficult situations create stress on the congregation, and stress shows up in a variety of ways. Church leaders must learn to expect and recognize the symptoms of stress and understand that different people will react in different ways. Some may withdraw, unable to face the pain of the difficulty. Others may overreact and try to solve the problem too soon. Still others may complain about seemingly unrelated matters in an unconscious attempt to avoid the issue and divert the attention of the leaders.

Congregations in difficulty will find that their members are grieving. Grieving people tend to resist change because change always involves some loss. Therefore, they may want to hang onto familiar things even more than usual. So, for example, while introducing a new song at any other time might not be a major issue, during a difficult time it may be a volatile move. Leaders should be prepared for the resentment and even hostility that may come from frustrated parishioners. They need to remind themselves to remain as calm as possible, absorbing some of the anxiety of the system and thereby providing some immunity to the congregational body.

Often the troubling symptoms of the difficult time will become focused on worship, the major corporate activity of the church. Worship can become the congregational lightning rod, since it involves the greatest portion of the congregation all at once, and since it is so closely tied to people’s faith. Moreover, the term “worship war” has become so common that church members almost expect it to happen. It could even become the smokescreen that overshadows the real underlying problems of the congregation. So paying careful attention to worship is all the more important in difficult times.

Worshiping as the Body of Christ

That careful consideration should include a basic understanding of what the church is called to be and how it is called to worship. These matters are central to all congregations at all times, no matter what their situation, but are especially important in difficult times.

A helpful way to think of the church as it faces trying situations is to reflect on Scripture’s metaphors for the church. One that is often cited both in regard to the church and in teaching on emotional systems is that of a human body. The body is made up of cells and tissues and organs that all contribute to and sustain the body’s life. It has many different parts that are all necessary and that together make up something even greater than the whole. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul notes the importance of all parts of the body and their unique contributions. The emphasis in this passage is on the spiritual gifts of church members—some more obvious, others less so, but all necessary and important.

Another metaphor both for the gifts of the church and its web of relationships is a horticultural one. In John 15 Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” The fruit-bearing image appears also in Matthew 7 (“You will know them by their fruits”) and in Galatians 5 with the list of the “fruit of the Spirit.”

Both metaphors are fitting because the church is the body of Christ—a living organism. These images are helpful for understanding what happens to a congregation in a difficult time. When a person has a toothache her whole body hurts. If she loses her sight or her hearing, the activity of her entire body is affected. When a branch is pruned or shocked by frost the plant will react by working harder to heal the broken parts. Or it may shed them.

Similar reactions can be found in the living body that is the church. And worship may be the greenhouse or the nursery in which suffering plants can be brought back to health. The rituals of the liturgy may become “the leaves of the tree that bring healing to the nations” (Rev. 22:2). In worship we learn again to abide in the true vine—both by hearing the Word of God and reenacting its stories in worship. In worship we remember who we are as a community of baptized persons and we celebrate our redemption at our Lord’s Supper. In worship we receive the nutrients that feed our souls and give us life. And we recall God’s faithfulness as we seek to bear the Spirit’s fruit. Like plants that take in oxygen and put out carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis, so in worship we are in dialogue, in a reciprocal relationship between the creatures and the Creator.

Worship is so essential to the church that it rarely stops. When a church building is struck by fire, an alternative location to meet for worship is found quickly. The members of the worshiping body want to be together in times of crisis to comfort one another. Even congregations experiencing severe conflict still meet for worship, so it is the most appropriate venue for healing and reconciliation. And this is possible because in worship we recognize that we need to abide together and abide in Christ. As we pray and sing, offer lament and give thanks, hear God’s promises and dedicate ourselves to live for him, we remember who we are in Christ and are able to become one in him.

~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.

~No Battle, No Blessings~

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

When we obey God, we can trust that He will display His goodness and love to us. Those who are wise will watch for His blessings in all their different forms. Life is full of decisions. And, since God’s Word is clear that we reap what we sow, it’s important that we make right decisions.

Psalm 24:1-5 King James Version (KJV)

24 The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?

He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Biblical Examples

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

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

C. Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.

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

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

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

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

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

III. Types of Blessing

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

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

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

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

IV. Suffering Before Blessing

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

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

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

V. God’s Purposes for Our Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

VI. Conclusion:

If you obey God, can you expect His blessings? Yes. But remember that His choice of blessing may be different from yours. Perhaps He will use suffering to draw you closer to Himself. Or He may use it to remove from your life those things that hinder fruitfulness for Him. No matter what, if you walk in His will, He will bless you in surprising ways.

I Obeyed The World’s Military and Failed; I Now Serve God’s Service and Won~

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Aaron ribbons

Luke vii.2-9. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

There is something puzzling in this speech of the centurion’s. One must think twice, and more than twice, to understand clearly what he had in his mind. I, indeed, am not quite sure that I altogether understand it. But I may, perhaps, help you to understand it, by telling you what this centurion was.

He was not a Jew. He was a Roman, and a heathen; a man of our race, very likely. And he was a centurion, a captain in the army; and one, mind, who had risen from the ranks, by good conduct, and good service. Before he got his vine-stock, which was the mark of his authority over a hundred men, he had, no doubt, marched many a weary mile under a heavy load, and fought, probably, many a bloody battle in foreign parts. That had been his education, his training, namely, discipline, and hard work. And because he had learned to obey, he was fit to rule. He was helping now to keep in order those treacherous, unruly Jews, and their worthless puppet-kings, like Herod; much as our soldiers in India are keeping in order the Hindoos, and their worthless puppet-kings.

Whether the Romans had any right to conquer and keep down the Jews as they did, is no concern of ours just now. But we have proof that what this centurion did, he did wisely and kindly. The elders of the Jews said of him, that he loved the Jews, and had built them a synagogue, a church. I suppose that what he had heard from them about a one living God, who had made all things in heaven and earth, and given them a law, which cannot be broken, so that all things obey him to this day — I suppose, I say, that this pleased him better than the Roman stories of many gods, who were capricious, and fretful, and quarrelled with each other in a fashion which ought to have been shocking to the conscience and reason of a disciplined soldier.

There was a great deal, besides, in the Old Testament, which would, surely, come home to a soldier’s heart, when it told him of a God of law, and order, and justice, and might, who defended the right in battle, and inspired the old Jews to conquer the heathen, and to fight for their own liberty. For what was it, which had enabled the Romans to conquer so many great nations? What was it which enabled them to keep them in order, and, on the whole, make them happier, more peaceable, more prosperous, than they had ever been? What was it which had made him, the poor common soldier, an officer, and a wealthy man, governing, by his little garrison of a hundred soldiers, this town of Capernaum, and the country round?

It was this. Discipline; drill; obedience to authority. That Roman army was the most admirably disciplined which the world till then had ever seen. So, indeed, was the whole Roman Government. Every man knew his place, and knew his work. Every man had been trained to obey orders; if he was told to go, to go; if he was told to do, to do, or to die in trying to do, what he was bidden.

This was the great and true thought which had filled this good man’s mind — duty, order, and obedience. And by thinking of order, and seeing how strength, and safety, and success lie in order, and by giving himself up to obey orders, body and soul, like a good soldier, had that plain man (who had certainly no scholarship, perhaps could barely read or write) caught sight of a higher, wider, deeper order than even that of a Roman army. He had caught sight of that divine and wonderful order, by which God has constituted the services of men, and angels, and all created things; that divine and wonderful order by which sun and stars, fire and hail, wind and vapour, cattle and creeping things fulfil his word.

Fulfil God’s word. That was the thought, surely, which was in the good soldier’s mind, and which he was trying to speak out; clumsily, perhaps, but truly enough. I suppose, then, that he thought in his own mind somewhat in this way. ‘There is a word of command among us soldiers. Has God, then, no word of command likewise? And that word of command is enough. Is not God’s word of command enough likewise? I merely speak, and I am obeyed. I am merely spoken to, and I obey. Shall not God merely speak, and be obeyed likewise? There is discipline and order among men, because it is necessary. An Army cannot be manoeuvred, a Government cannot be carried on, without it. Is there not a discipline and order in all heaven and earth? And that discipline is carried out by simple word of command. A word from me will make a man rush upon certain death. A word from certain other men will make me rush on certain death. For I am a man under authority. I have my tribune (colonel, as we should say) over me; and he, again, the perfect (general of brigade) over him. Their word is enough for me. If they want me to do a thing, they do not need to come under my roof, to argue with me, to persuade me, much less to thrust me about, and make me obey them by force. They say to me, ‘Go,’ and I go; and I say to those under me, ‘Go,’ and they go likewise.

And if I can work by a word, cannot this Jesus work by a word likewise? He is a messenger of God, with commission and authority from God, to work his will on his creatures. Are not God’s creatures as well ordered, disciplined, obedient, as we soldiers are? Are they not a hundred times better ordered? A messenger from God? Is he not a God himself; a God in goodness and mercy; a God in miraculous power? Cannot he do his work by a word, far more certainly than I can do mine? If my word can send a man to death, cannot his word bring a man back to life? Surely it can. ‘Lord, thou needest not to come under my roof; speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.’

By some such thoughts as these, I suppose, had this good soldier gained his great faith; his faith that all God’s creatures were in a divine, and wonderful order, obedient to the will of God who made them; and that Jesus Christ was God’s viceroy and lieutenant (I speak so, because I suppose that is what he, as a soldier, would have thought), to carry out God’s commands on earth.

Now remember that he was the first heathen man of whom we read, that he acknowledged Christ. Remember, too, that the next heathen of whom we read, that he acknowledged Christ, was also a Roman centurion, he whom the old legends call Longinus, who, when he saw our Lord upon the cross, said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’ Remember, again, that the next heathen of whom we read as having acknowledged Christ, he to whom St. Peter was sent, at Joppa, who is often called the first fruits of the heathen, was a Roman centurion likewise.

Surely, there must have been a reason for this. There must be a lesson in this; and this, I think, is the lesson. That the soldierlike habit of mind is one which makes a man ready to receive the truth of Christ. And why? Because the good soldier’s first and last thought is Duty. To do his duty by those who are set over him, and to learn to do his duty to those who are set under him. To turn his whole mind and soul to doing, not just what he fancies, but to what must be done, because it is his duty. This is the character which makes a good soldier, and a good Christian likewise. If we be undisciplined and undutiful, and unruly; if we be fanciful, self- willed, disobedient; then we shall not understand Christ, or Christ’s rule on earth and in heaven. If there be no order within us, we shall not see his divine and wonderful order all around us. If there be no discipline and obedience within us, we shall never believe really that Christ disciplines all things, and that all things obey him. If there be no sense of duty in us, governing our whole lives and actions, we shall never perceive the true beauty and glory of Christ’s character, who sacrificed himself for his duty, which was to do his Father’s will.

I tell you, my friends, that nothing prevents a man from gaining either right doctrines or right practice, so much as the undutiful, unruly, self-conceited heart. We may be full of religious knowledge, of devout sentiments, of heavenly aspirations: but in spite of them all, we shall never get beyond false doctrine, and loose practice, unless we have learned to obey; to rule our own minds, and hearts, and tempers, soberly and patiently; to conform to the laws, and to all reasonable rules of society, to believe that God has called us to our station in life, whatever it may be; and to do our duty therein, as faithful soldiers and servants of Christ. For, if you will receive it, the beginning and the middle, and the end of all true religion is simply this. To do the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven.

CAM00008

What Do You Do @ 4 A.M. ?

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Benjamin Franklin — the original guru of self-control and productivity — once said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Fast forward to today and rising early is still considered a common quality of highly successful people. Much has been made of the benefits of being an early riser — we’re told that morning people are more proactive and get better grades, and that many of the most powerful CEOs wake up by 6 a.m. Early-risers, the experts claim, might also sleep better and feel happier. Of course, it’s important to note that waking up early shouldn’t come at the expense of getting enough sleep: Adequate shuteye is also an important component of success. (Don’t believe us? Check out these famous nappers.) Missing out on sleep has been linked to decreased productivity and problems focusing, among other effects. We took a look at what some of the world’s most successful people — past and present — do first-thing when they get up in the morning. Not everyone on the list is an early bird (Simone de Beauvoir said she “dislike[d] starting the day”), but they all know how to leverage their mornings to start working on a positive and productive note.   1. Barack Obama

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antiterror Obama is a self-proclaimed night owl — but he wakes up early to squeeze in a workout before getting in to the office at 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. “Health is obviously important to Obama,” writes Robert Pagliarini of CBS News. “So much so that it’s the first thing he does in the morning. He doesn’t hope to squeeze in a workout if he has time, he ensures he has time by doing it first thing.” 2. Anna Wintour anna wintour Before her daily blow-out at a quarter til seven to perfect that famous coif, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour reportedly starts her day with a rousing 5:45 a.m. tennis match, according to The Guardian. 3. Margaret Thatcher margaret thatcher The Iron Lady — who famously ran on around four hours of sleep — would stay up until two or three in the morning with her officials working on speeches, according to the BBC. But she would still be up by 5 a.m. to listen to “Farming Today,” a popular broadcast program on BBC Radio 4. (While Thatcher is a suspected “short sleeper,”skimping on sleep isn’t healthy for the vast majority of people.) 4. Vladimir Nabokov vladimir nabokov Like many writers, the prolific Russian novelist said that he liked to start his work first thing in the morning. He described his writing habits at his home on Lake Geneva in an interview with The New York Times in 1968: “After waking up between six and seven in the morning, I write till 10:30, generally at a lectern which faces a bright corner of the room instead of the bright audiences of my professorial days,” Nabokov told the Times (looks like someone was ahead of thestanding desk trend). “The first half-hour of relaxation is breakfast with my wife around 8:30.” 5. Tim Armstrong tim armstrong The AOL CEO told The Guardian that he gets out of bed immediately when he wakes up at 5 or 5:15 in the morning, either to answer emails or sneak in a workout. “Historically, I would start sending emails when I got up,” he told The Guardian in April. “But not everyone is on my time schedule, so I have tried to wait until 7 a.m. Before I email, I work out, read and use our products.” 6. Gwyneth Paltrow gwyneth paltrow daily routine Health comes first for actress-turned-wellness guru Gwyneth Paltrow, who wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to practice her asanas. ”I’m really not a morning person at all,” Paltrow told In Style. ”It’s just sheer determination. I’m very strict with myself. When I practice six days a week and eat clean food, I feel much better.” 7. Frank Lloyd Wright frank lloyd wright The genre-defining architect came up with his best ideas between four and seven in the morning, according to Daily Rituals, Mason Curry’s blog-turned-book about the routines of famous artists. “I go to sleep promptly when I go to bed,” Lloyd Wright explained to a friend, as documented in Daily Rituals. “Then I wake up around 4 a.m. and can’t sleep. But my mind’s clear, so I get up and work for three or four hours. Then I go to bed for another nap.” 8. Michelle Obama michelle obama prison Like her husband, Mrs. Obama puts exercise at the top of her morning to-do list. The First Lady told Oprah that she wants her daughters to see her as a woman who takes care of herself, even if it means waking up at 4:30 a.m. to do it. “I just started thinking, if I had to get up to go to work, I’d get up and go to work,”Michelle said in an interview for O Magazine in 2009. “If I had to get up to take care of my kids, I’d get up to do that. But when it comes to yourself, then it’s suddenly, ‘Oh, I can’t get up at 4:30.’ So I had to change that. If I don’t exercise, I won’t feel good. I’ll get depressed.” 9. Simone de Beauvoir simone de beauvoir “The Second Sex” author and feminist thinker Simone de Beauvoir — who professed to not being a morning person — said she always started her day with a cup of tea before diving into writing. “I’m always in a hurry to get going,” she told The Paris Review in 1965. I first have tea and then, at about 10, I get under way and work until one.” 10. Robert Iger disney ceo Disney CEO Robert Iger is also part of the 4:30 a.m. club, waking up bright and early to enjoy a little quiet time to himself. “It’s a time I can recharge my batteries a bit,” Iger told The New York Times in 2009. “I exercise and I clear my head and I catch up on the world. I read papers. I look at e-mail. I surf the Web. I watch a little TV, all at the same time.”

Black Female Judge Who Will Decide Oscar Pistorius’ Fate

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Thokozile Matilda Masipa is a former social worker turned journalist turned lawyer turned superior court judge. She’s “eloquent” and highly respected by her peers, but perpetrators should tread lightly.

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South Africa’s biggest murder trial is under way, and there’s a black woman at its helm.

Oscar Pistorius—one of that nation’s most renowned paralympics professional athletes and a former Olympian—stands accused of murdering his 29-year-old model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

With the world watching, Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa—and only Masipa—will decide if Pistorius intentionally killed his girlfriend or if he sincerely thought she was an intruder and thereby killed her by accident, as Pistorius claims. Unlike murder trials in the United States and most modern judicial systems, South Africa does not have trials decided by jurors because it was nearly impossible to find jurors not influenced by the racial effects of apartheid.

Masipa has had an impressive career. Her tough background, which The Root culled from global news reports, lends credence to court watchers’ speculation that she will not be influenced by the defendant’s emotional breakdowns or the crying and vomiting in court. Here are seven things to know about the judge:

1. Judge Masipa was born in Soweto—the Johannesburg township famous for the anti-apartheid youth uprisings in the 1980s—in 1947, just one year before apartheid became an official ideology that was supported by a leading political party in the country’s 1948 political elections.

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Participants in a march to commemorate Youth Day in the Soweto Township on June 16, 2013, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

2. Masipa received a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a specialization in social work, in 1974 and a law degree in 1990 from the University of South Africa. In fact, she passed South Africa’s version of the bar exam (pdf) in 1990—the same year Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

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                                                                      The University of South Africa (UNISA) at night.

3. Masipa put all that schooling directly to use, quickly exhibiting a knack for public service. Before her judgeship, she worked as a social worker and then as a crime reporter covering racial-discrimination cases. Some reports say that her time as a journalist influenced her decision to practice law.

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4. Masipa maintained her respect and fondness for the field of journalism after becoming a judge. In an 2003 interview, she described how she wants judges to be more transparent and use the media to communicate their court decisions and judicial processes to the public.

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5. She’s no pushover. Masipa once handed down a 252-year prison sentence to a guy who raped three women during a series of house robberies, and a life sentence to a police officer who killed his wife during an argument about their divorce settlement.

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6. In 1998 Masipa became the second black woman to be appointed a judge in the High Court of South Africa.

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7. Masipa’s selection for the Pistorius murder trial was all luck and a routine allocation of court cases—not a “special selection,” a representative from the country’s Department of Justice explained.

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                                                                                    Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa (center)

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As Oscar Pistorius faces trial for murder, a large group of South African women have become like a shadow that the runner seems unable to shake.

In this notoriously violent country, a vocal group of women, most of them black, say they believe Pistorius’ girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was a victim of an all-too-common crime, one that crosses all social and racial boundaries: domestic violence.

Violence against women is stunningly common in South Africa, where a woman is killed every eight hours by her intimate partner, according to a recent study by the well-respected Medical Research Council.

No one doubts that Pistorius killed his girlfriend of three months—the sprinter admitted to the shooting in a sworn affidavit just days after the incident on Feb. 14, 2013. He claims he mistook her for an intruder and did not mean to shoot her four times through a locked bathroom door. The prosecution argues that he knew she was behind the door, and that he meant to kill her.

The suggestion that Pistorius, the famous double amputee whose carbon-fiber blades on the track earned him the moniker “Blade Runner,” may have abused his girlfriend has forged an unlikely kinship in a society still fractured around racial lines. Black women have marched regularly outside the Pretoria courthouse where Pistorius’ bail hearing was held in February 2013.

 

Being Created In Jesus Likeness Through Challenging People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson 2. Clearly Define Who Sets the Agenda

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

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

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

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Lesson 3. Have Biblically Realistic/Optimistic Goals

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

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

Lesson 4. Redefine Love

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

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

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Lesson 5. Give the Person Hope

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

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

Lesson 6. Call the Person to Serve

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

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

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Lesson 7. Connect the Person with the Body of Christ

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

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

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

Lesson 8. Work Wisely with Other Helpers

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

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

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Lesson 9. Connect the Person to Christ Himself

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

Lesson 10. Remember: We are All Difficult People

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

Conclusion

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

Kissing and Harassing to Demoralize a Society of People

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The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices raise serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights. The Department’s own reports on its stop-and-frisk activity confirm what many people in communities of color across the city have long known: The police are stopping hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers every year, and the vast majority are black and Latino.

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio closed a divisive chapter in New York City history Thursday when he announced that his administration had reached an agreement with the civil rights lawyers who challenged the Police Department’s abusive and racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk program in federal court.

The agreement clears the way for the Police Department to carry out reforms ordered last summer by Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan, and thus to repair its damaged relationship with minority communities. The judge ruled that the department’s stop-and- frisk tactics violated the constitutional rights of minority citizens and said that city officials under the former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, had been “deliberately indifferent” to these illegalities.

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports:

In 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 532,911 times
473,644 were totally innocent (89 percent).
284,229 were black (55 percent).
165,140 were Latino (32 percent).
50,366 were white (10 percent).
In 2013, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 191,558 times.
169,252 were totally innocent (88 percent).
104,958 were black (56 percent).
55,191 were Latino (29 percent).
20,877 were white (11 percent).

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Every time a police officer stops a person in NYC, the officer is supposed to fill out a form to record the details of the stop. Officers fill out the forms by hand, and then the forms are entered manually into a database. There are 2 ways the NYPD reports this stop-and-frisk data: a paper report released quarterly and an electronic database released annually.

The paper reports – which the N.Y.C.L.U. releases every three months – include data on stops, arrests, and summonses. The data are broken down by precinct of the stop and race and gender of the person stopped. The paper reports provide a basic snapshot on stop-and-frisk activity by precinct and are available here.

The electronic database includes nearly all of the data recorded by the police officer after a stop. The data include the age of person stopped, if a person was frisked, if there was a weapon or firearm recovered, if physical force was used, and the exact location of the stop within the precinct. Having the electronic database allows researchers to look in greater detail at what happens during a stop.

In response, the city argued that minority residents were stopped more frequently because they committed more crimes. But evidence at trial showed that those being stopped were overwhelmingly innocent, that blacks and Hispanics were stopped in disproportionate numbers and that officers were more likely to use force against minority citizens. Mr. Bloomberg appealed the decision. Mr. de Blasio’s criticism of the policy, and his promise to drop the appeal, helped propel him into office.

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The setting for the announcement from Mr. de Blasio, Police Commissioner William Bratton and the city’s top lawyer, Zachary Carter — a community recreation center in the mainly minority Brownsville section of Brooklyn — powerfully reinforced their message. Brownsville was ground zero for the stop-and-frisk program at its height. A Times analysis in 2010 found that the police had logged nearly 52,000 stops within eight or so blocks over a four-year period. This meant that young people in the area were growing up in the equivalent of a police state where they could be detained on the sidewalk at any time for no reason at all. The fear and distrust that flowed from this undermined confidence in the Police Department, making it all the more difficult for officers to do their jobs.

Mr. Bratton, who has made good community relations a cornerstone of his career, acknowledged as much in his remarks. “We will not break the law to enforce the law,” he said. “That’s my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live, or what they look like. Those values aren’t at odds with keeping New Yorkers safe — they are essential to long-term public safety.” Mr. de Blasio spoke movingly of the toll that the program has taken on the social fabric and on minority youth, many of them deeply alienated by tactics that have presumed them criminal until proved otherwise.

The city can now set about taking the corrective steps that Judge Scheindlin ordered. She has selected Peter Zimroth, a respected lawyer and former prosecutor, to serve as a monitor. His responsibilities will include developing new reforms governing Police Department policies and training and discipline on stop-and-frisk. These measures should help to bring police policies fully in line with the Constitution.

So I…pull over to the side of the road, I heard
“Son do you know why I’m stoppin’ you for?”
Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hats real low,
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know,
Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo’?
“Well you was doin’ fifty-five in a fifty-four.
License and registration and step out of the car
Are you carryin’ a weapon on you I know a lot of you are.”

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Behavioral profiles that rely on an individual’s conduct are far more
accurate than profiles that depend on an individual’s race. When officers take
race into account to develop a criminal profile, they rely on stereotypes about
criminal tendencies of minority groups, rather than objective and rational criteria
for suspicion.

This use of racial stereotypes to detect criminality violates
multiple amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Despite the fact that many strong
arguments against the practice of racial profiling may be derived from the
Constitution, the legal system in the United States has utterly failed to effectively
address the problem of racial profiling. Thus, the legal system perpetuates a
class structure in which society may continue to socially oppress African
Americans
by portraying them as possessing uncontrollable and innate urges
toward criminality. Racial profiling is a denial of equal treatment as well as a
reflection of the historical stigmatization of all African Americans.

The specific analysis of New York’s racial profiling problems detailed above illustrates the
manner in which society ignores the role of this historic stigmatization when
examining racial profiling.

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Many who speak out against the practice of racial profiling link its existence to slavery in this nation. Courts have consistently failed to acknowledge the connection between demonizing African Americans, as a means
of justifying the institution of slavery, and racial profiling practices used by police in contemporary American society. Historical presumptions that developed to maintain the slavery system continue to remain; these presumptions base themselves on the assertion that African Americans are habitual criminals that should be under constant suspicion.

The stigma of criminality attached to African Americans by white society was developed as a means of social control over the enslaved and later emancipated African Americans. By creating an image of blacks that portrays them as prone to irrepressible violence, white society effected the perception of slaves as subhuman. This perception reinforced the belief that the institution of slavery was needed to restrain African Americans. By placing whites in
constant fear of blacks, white citizens would be more willing to accept black subordination to ensure white safety. Abolition of the slavery system proved ineffective in negating centuries of historical, legal, and cultural stripping of African Americans’ humanity. Racial profiling of African Americans has always been and remains to be a part of the nation’s social and legal fabric.

We Need To Reinvent The Wheel Of Racial Equality Still

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Race, as it relates to human beings, is not biological in nature. Yet, many Americans still hold the belief that Asians, Africans, Europeans, Indigenous North Americans and others are peoples of different races. I know this because I’ve polled tons of folks who still maintain that because we “look” differently physically that we’re somehow fundamentally different, and this is not the case.

The concept of race was invented to divide people, to justify the disenfranchisement of certain groups, to exploit those groups for economic and political gains and to normalize the idea of race so that the aforementioned activities could continue indefinitely.

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It’s clear to me that we’re living in that “indefinitey,” because we are a happily divided people, with a perpetual upper and underclass; both believing that our current state of affairs is normal.

The problem is that there are no racial differences, just socio-economic ones connected to political, educational, and health statuses. Historically, those in power, such as political leaders, media moguls, or privileged educators, have exploited the masses by ensuring that ideas of normality and abnormality were sustained.

Some philosophers and historians believe that these ideas are basic to America structure. If this is the case, then the idea of a post-racist America might be just that, an idea.

We, then, cannot (not may not) ever be free of our racist relationships. As much as I would like to be free of racism, I’m not suggesting that it’s actually possible. In fact, I, wholeheartedly doubt it.

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So, what I propose is that we stop lying about our racist history, both from the past and the one we’re living today. I would rather we admit that to be racist is to be American, as we founded and built our country holding truths that allowed us to take a people’s land and strip another people of their heritage. I would rather we admit that our scientists and politicians deliberately fabricated “facts” to justify the disenfranchisement of these Others for political and economical gain.

Let’s assume we’ll never be free of our racist ideas; why not try to simply challenge them by acting in ways that speaks the truth that “all men” (and women) “are created equal.” Truth-telling or realty-telling is done in language, different texts, therefore, to create a new reality–living text– is to tell another story via a new action, a new behavior that reflects a world community that respects all of its inhabitants, dare I say, equally.

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With this ideal in mind, the idea for “Do Something Different” (DSD) was born. Launched in 2006, we started this initiative at Nova Southeastern University. This initiative is designed as a grassroots movement where participants would challenge themselves to “fight the power” within themselves and respond to the views of others that support the idea that we are indeed one people.

From our history we have enough data to declare what does not work. Our definition of “fighting the power” is not marching with picket signs or sitting in places to make an establishment change its policies. Fighting the power in this case is confronting one’s own racist ideologies. The same ideologies that have slain leaders and killed soldiers.

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DSD was created to challenge thinking people who know that there is only one race — the human one. Today my challenge to us all is to acknowledge that we’ve all embraced many lies about who we are as it relates to others. Let’s admit that we’ve probably accepted truths about our own intelligence, social status, natural abilities, educational level and physical appearance that are grounded in many lies that have either propelled us forward or held us back.

These so-called truths are distortions that no longer have to keep us from being the one nation that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed about, or that our Pledge of Allegiance purports.

Our condition as a nation will not change without the everyday, intentional actions of each one of us. This is how change becomes less or a lofty dream and more of a reality.

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Good Wishes

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Philippians 1:9-18
New International Version (NIV)
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[a] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[b] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,

In Singapore, the Chinese New Year season’s social and business dinners often begin with a dish consisting of salads, dressings, pickles, and raw fish. The name of the dish, Yu Sheng, is a pun that sounds like “year of prosperity.” It is traditional for those present to toss the salad together. As they do, certain phrases are repeated to bring about good fortune.

Our words may express our hopes for others for the year ahead, but they can’t bring about good fortune. The important issue is–what does God want to see in us in the coming year? In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expressed his desire and prayer that their love “may abound still more in knowledge and all discernment”. The church had been a great tower of support for him, yet he urged them to continue to grow to love others.

Paul wasn’t talking about intellectual knowledge but knowledge of God. Love for others starts with a closer relationship with Him. With a fuller knowledge of God, we can then discern between right and wrong. Giving our best wishes to others for the coming year is fine. But our heartfelt prayer should be that we abound in love, so that we may be “filled with the fruits of righteousness…to the glory and praise of God.”

Teach us Thy patience! still with Thee
In closer, dearer company,
In work that keeps faith sweet and strong,
In trust that triumphs over wrong.–Gladden

people with a heart for God have a heart for people…

Perseverance: Alice Walker Kept Hope Alive: Black History Portrait

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Writer and activist Alice Walker (b. Feb. 9, 1944) made history as the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her seminal novel The Color Purple (1982), for which she won the National Book Award. American Masters presents Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, premiering nationally Friday, February 7 at 9 p.m. on PBS in honor of Walker’s 70th birthday and Black History Month. Filmmaker Pratibha Parmar’s new documentary tells Walker’s dramatic life story with poetry and lyricism, and features new interviews with Walker, Steven Spielberg, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones, Gloria Steinem, Sapphire and the late Howard Zinn in one of his final interviews.

American Masters — Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth charts Walker’s inspiring journey from her birth into a family of sharecroppers in Eatonton, Georgia, to the present. The film explores Walker’s relationship with her mother, poverty, and participation in the Civil Rights Movement, which were the formative influences on her consciousness and became the inherent themes in her writing. Living through the violent racism and seismic social changes of mid-20th century America, Walker overcame adversity to achieve international recognition as one of the most influential — and controversial — writers of the 20th century.

Delving into her personal life, Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth reveals the inspiration for many of her works, including Once (1968), The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970), Meridian (1976), The Color Purple (1982), In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens (1983), Possessing the Secret Joy (1992) and Overcoming Speechlessness (2010).

Praised and pilloried, Walker has driven people to express joy as well as anger and ruthless vilification over her art, personal views and global human rights advocacy. As seen in the film, Yoko Ono awarded her the 2010 LennonOno Peace Award for her ongoing humanitarian work. American Masters analyzes these aspects of the self-confessed renegade’s life and career.

American Masters — Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth is one of 50 films that form part of Women and Girls Lead, a public media campaign spearheaded by the Independent Television Service, that harnesses the power of documentary film to showcase extraordinary women and girls who are changing the world. The initiative features groundbreaking women like Alice Walker, who refuse to submit to gender stereotypes or compromise her form of artistic expression.

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth Production Credits
Director Pratibha Parmar’s past works include feature film Nina’s Heavenly Delights (2006) and the documentary Warrior Marks (1993), based on the book of the same name that she and Walker co-authored.

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth is a Kali Films LTD and Kali8 Productions LLC and American Masters for THIRTEEN production in co-production with Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation and the Independent Television Service and in association with Artemis Rising Foundation. Pratibha Parmar is writer, director and producer. Shaheen Haq is producer. Babeth M. VanLoo, Eve Ensler, Regina Kulik Scully and Deborah Santana are executive producers. Pratibha Parmar, Paul Monaghan and Linda Peckham are editors. Original music composed by Tena R. Clark and Tim Heintz with featured music by Christen Lien. Andy Shallal is associate producer.

For American Masters: Susan Lacy is executive producer. Stephen Segaller is executive-in-charge. For Independent Television Service: Sally Jo Fifer is executive producer.

American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, Anne Ray Charitable Trust, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers. Funding for Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth is provided in part by National Endowment for the Arts, Ms. Foundation, Berkeley Film Foundation, Rosenthal Family Foundation, Schwab Charitable Fund, Integrated Archive Systems, Inc., Screen South (UK Film Council), and Astrae Lesbian Foundation for Justice.

http://youtu.be/JJR86ncuMgE

My strength and Crutch for life Is God’s Promises In His Word

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“Whatever brings you to your knees in weakness carries the greatest potential for your personal success and spiritual victory.”

When I am weak, then I am strong.” These words, taken from Paul’s writings in 2 Corinthians, bring thoughts of contradiction. How can we be strong, when we are weak? How can we function, when it feels as though our world will break and fall apart? Shouldn’t we try to hold everything together, not letting anything slip beyond our control, our rescue, or our grasp?

Some of you who read these words know the pressure that comes from trying to keep everything in check and looking nice and orderly on the outside. But on the inside, a torrential river is raging its way throughout your life.
None of us can escape the pressures of life. Most of us know what it feels like to be disappointed. We know the painfulness of embarrassment, the sting of rejection, and the sorrow of failure. Regardless of the level of control we have over our lives, there always comes a time when the stove top settings end up on high and lids come boiling off the pots and pans.

What pots are boiling out-of-control in your life? Is there a financial need? Maybe there is a relationship problem you are facing, and your prayer each night before you turn off the light is for God’s wisdom and guidance in handling it. Countless people have physical needs that go far beyond what many of us can imagine.
Regardless of what your situation is, you can trust this principle: whatever brings you to your knees in weakness carries the greatest potential for your personal success and spiritual victory.

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No one enjoys feeling weak, whether it is emotionally, spiritually, or physically. There is something within the human spirit that wants to resist the thought of weakness. Many times this is nothing more than our human pride at work. Just as weakness carries a great potential for strength, pride carries an equally great potential for defeat. It cannot co-exist with God’s Spirit of love and humility. Pride was Satan’s downfall, and it is the one element that must be removed if we want to experience the peace that comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
As long as pride is involved, there will be a distance between you and God. This happens because pride resists the loving nature of God. It can’t stand to be humbled, and this is the very thing God calls us to be. (James 4:6; 1 Peter 3:8) Instead of moving you toward God, pride separates you from Him by tempting you to be strong in your own strength and not in the strength of Christ.

Paul learned a valuable lesson in this area. God allowed him to be buffeted by a severe trial in order to humble him and remove the potential for pride. (2 Corinthians 12:7) As a young man he was trained by one of the greatest scholars in Jewish thought and culture. He understood the elements of the law and practiced them with great zeal. Yet when he came face to face with Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road his life was changed. He no longer viewed the world around him through human eyes. God gave him spiritual insight that far surpassed anything he had known.
Still, he had to be broken further so that he could be used in an even greater way by God. Like everyone else, Paul faced temptation. He was not spared affliction. One in particular was severe enough for him to pray three times for its removal. Later, he recorded its existence in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

It was through this time of weakness that Paul learned a new principle: weakness is strength. Frailty in a certain area is not something that should bring embarrassment. When we are humbled before God, He sees the meekness of our hearts and sends His strength and blessings into our lives.

Even though Paul could have listed many personal accomplishments, he chose to tell his audience what he believed was the key to experiencing a victorious life, and that was in accepting his weakness so that the strength of Christ might live fully in him. He was writing about living a completely surrendered life to Jesus Christ. “I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (v. 9).

We are called to be strong in Christ. Our strength is not within ourselves or our ability. It is in Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:19) God knows until we come to the end of ourselves there is little chance we will turn over the reins of our lives to Him. He has given you a limited free will. This means that at any time He can step in and put a stop to a problem or a certain course you have chosen to take. Many times, He does not do this because He wants you to see that on your own you will struggle and fall, but in Him you will have strength and victory.
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We do not know the trial that Paul was facing. He called it a “thorn in the flesh.” In the Greek, the word thorn means a stake used for torturing or impaling someone. This was not a gentle infliction. It was painful. He writes that he was buffeted by it, indicating that the trial was either ongoing or recurring. When Paul felt he could no longer withstand the blows leveled against him, God reassured him that His grace, the grace of God, is sufficient for anything he faced.

There are several ways you can respond to trials. You can blame others or even God for your circumstances. You can become bitter and resentful; you can give up and end up fighting feelings of depression; grit your teeth and strive to keep all the lids perfectly on the pots, even though the heat is turned up on high; or you can surrender your desire to control your life and let God take care of you.
There is true value in weakness because it helps you view your life under the light of God’s mercy. You may accomplish great things. People amass financial fortunes having never established a close personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They climb the ladder of success, drive expensive cars, build huge homes, and travel around the world, but without the hope that Jesus brings, their souls are empty.

What the world views as being strong is really nothing more than weakness under wraps. Strength that withstands the stresses and blows of this life comes from one Source, the eternal indwelling presence of God within the life of every believer.

When we accept our weaknesses and the fact that we cannot handle them on our own, God goes to work. He sends encouragement and a sense of creativity, helping you to try new avenues that lead to hope and fresh beginnings.
Are you weary from trying? Has exhaustion made its mark? Are you afraid others will see your weaknesses and laugh? Is there a thorn in your life that could expose your deepest fear? Let it go. Release your fears to Jesus who loves you. Let Him strengthen you. Nothing compares to the freedom that waits for you within His loving arms. Nothing will ever bring more completion to your heart and soul than knowing the unconditional love of God. It is yours today.

The Power Of Our Weaknesses
None of us enjoys feeling weak. We like to think we are strong and can do anything we are given to do. However, it is at the point of our greatest weakness that God comes to us speaking words of hope and encouragement.
Why does weakness work in your favor?
Weakness has the ability to bring you to the end of yourself. It is there you realize your need for Someone greater. Only Jesus Christ can calm the storm that is battering your life. Only He can provide the wisdom you need to stand and not fall in times of temptation.

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Obedience and commitment are two key principles for spiritual success. When we submit our lives to Jesus Christ we are telling Him that we are ready to obey His commands. This is an indication that we are committed to Him and seek to lay down our human desires in return for an eternal perspective. Submission is a tough command, and you cannot do it without the help of Christ.

If we disobey the Lord, He will allow us to hurt until our wills are broken. Painful as it is, experiencing a season of adversity may be the only way many will relinquish their need for control over their lives.
However, trials are not always a result of sin, they come to strengthen us and fit us for God’s service. Submission to Jesus Christ is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of holy allegiance, or great internal strength, power, and peace.

God’s goal is for you to be weak from a human perspective but strong from a spiritual one. It is then that He fills your life with a resilient strength far beyond the comprehension of this world.

EEOC: Employers can’t refuse to hire convicts

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At one time, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fulfilled an arguably important role in enforcing anti-discrimination laws against people who really faced unfair discrimination. Now, it appears the EEOC has declared war not just on unreasonable and unjust discrimination, but on all discrimination in hiring — even reasonable choices by employers. In a page updated ten days ago at the EEOC, the commission warns employers that basing decisions not to hire people based on background checks may violate their notion of fairness, even if the law doesn’t actually cover it:

There is no Federal law that clearly prohibits an employer from asking about arrest and conviction records. However, using such records as an absolute measure to prevent an individual from being hired could limit the employment opportunities of some protected groups and thus cannot be used in this way.

Since an arrest alone does not necessarily mean that an applicant has committed a crime the employer should not assume that the applicant committed the offense. Instead, the employer should allow him or her the opportunity to explain the circumstances of the arrest(s) and should make a reasonable effort to determine whether the explanation is reliable.

Even if the employer believes that the applicant did engage in the conduct for which he or she was arrested that information should prevent him or her from employment only to the extent that it is evident that the applicant cannot be trusted to perform the duties of the position when

considering the nature of the job,
the nature and seriousness of the offense,
and the length of time since it occurred.
This is also true for a conviction.
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Actually, no, it’s not also true for a conviction. With a conviction, an employer can assume that the person committed the crime and make hiring decisions based on that information, in whole or in part. The point about arrests is a good one, but most background checks done by hiring companies only include convictions (and in some cases, civil actions as well); arrest records that don’t lead to court appearances are not usually that easy to acquire.

The hiring process involves a series of value judgments, with only a few objective measures. For employers who conduct background checks, conviction records supply one of the few objective measures in the process. If an employer has a choice between two equally qualified applicants and one has a conviction for fraud or theft, it would be absurd to tell the employer that the hiring decision cannot rest on that data. And yet, that’s exactly what the EEOC argues in this “advice” on compliance with its regulations — which in this case the EEOC acknowledges doesn’t exist on this topic. The EEOC is making a recommendation based on its own opinion rather than actual law.

It’s impossible to tell for certain when this advice was first offered; the last page revision came on August 6th of this year, according to the HTML source code. However, I’d be willing to bet that this advice is recent [see update below], because it would have been unnecessary when unemployment was low. Competition for labor would have forced employers with open entry-level positions to consider people with criminal records for some roles. The glut of labor on the market means that anyone with a record will find it very hard to find a job, and the EEOC apparently has decided to run interference for them by intimidating employers into treating convicts as a protected class.

But here’s the real question: if truly unfair discrimination has become so rare that the EEOC has to attack reasonable and rational choices in hiring based on the actual record of the applicant, hasn’t the EEOC argued for its own dismantling?

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Empower A Felon

It’s How High You Bounce!!!

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Psalm 3:3-4
The Message (MSG)
3-4 But you, God, shield me on all sides;
You ground my feet, you lift my head high;
With all my might I shout up to God,
His answers thunder from the holy mountain.

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How can I let God turn my troubles into triumphs? Last year I was perplexed with this question more so than I was at peace. I found out while looking at 42 years of imprisonment for something I didn’t do that God can only move you into victory when you position yourself for acceptance of His will and a unmovable faith. I have been blessed in my life on several occasions to see the hand of God move on the battlefield as a soldier, in the courtroom as a criminal, on the sick bed in a hospital, in drug addiction and shear life persecutions. He is real and lives within the vessel that seeks Him and confesses they need Him.

Max Cleland was a typical, all American boy, who starred in sports and was voted his high school’s most outstanding senior. At age twenty-four, he volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam as a first Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. One month before his return home, Cleland noticed a grenade that had been dropped accidentally. Moving to retrieve it, he was thrown backward by its explosion. He looked down in horror to find his right hand and leg missing and his left leg badly mangled. he tried to cry out, but shrapnel had ripped his throat.

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No one expected Cleland to survive. But as he recovered from a triple amputation, he recalled two things: Paul the apostle had said that hope did not disappoint, and General George Patton had said, “Success is how high you bounce after you hit bottom.” Upon his return to civilian life, Cleland entered politics, learned to drive a special car, and traveled extensively, mobilizing support for veterans’ causes. At age thirty-four, he became the youngest man ever to head the Veterans Administration and was later elected Georgia’s secretary of State. Max says, “Life doesn’t revolve around an arm and a leg. People look at you the way you look at yourself.”

I have found in my life that effort is the supreme joy. Success is not a goal, but a means to aim still higher.

Are you the “Oil of God’s Joy” In this Life?

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Colossians 3:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

There is an old story of an elderly man who always carried a little can of oil with him everywhere he went, and when he would go through a door that squeaked, he would squirt a little oil on the hinges. If he encountered a gate that was hard to open, he would oil the latch. And so he went through life, lubricating all the difficult places, making it easier for all those who came after him. People called the man eccentric, strange, and crazy, but he went steadily on, often refilling his can of oil when it was nearly empty, and oiling all the difficult places he found.

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In this world, there are many lives that painfully creak and grate as they go about their daily work. Often it seems that nothing goes right with them and that they need lubricating with “the oil of joy”, gentleness, or thoughtfulness. Do you carry your own can of oil with you? Are you ready with your oil of helpfulness each morning? If you offer your oil to the person nearest you, it may just lubricate the entire day for him/her. Your oil of cheerfulness will mean more than you know to someone who is downhearted. Or the oil may be a word of encouragement to a person who is full of despair. Never fail to speak it, for our lives may touch others only once on the road of life. and then our paths may diverge, never to meet again.

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The oil of kindness has worn the sharp, hard edges off many a sin-hardened life and left it soft and pliable, ready to receive the redeeming grace of the Savior. A pleasant word is a bright ray of sunshine on a saddened heart. Therefore give others the sunshine and tell Jesus the rest.

We cannot know the grief
That men may borrow;
We cannot see the souls
Storm-swept by sorrow;
But love can shine upon the way
Today, tomorrow;
Let us be kind,
Upon the wheel of pain so many weary lives are broken,
So may our love with tender words be spoken.
Let us be kind.

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Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Romans 12:10

Am I blaming my Leaders for ‘The Culture’ for Our Distorted View of God?

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Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.

Pablo Picasso

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Dichotomy
“In contrast to trichotomy, the view accepted by most scholars is that man is dichotomous, or consists of two parts; a material aspect, and a non-material aspect. The non-material part is called by many different names; soul, spirit, mind, life force, or any of a dozen or more equivalent Scriptural words. These are not separate parts of a person, but are just different words for the different aspects of the non-material aspect of man.” [1]

Relevant passages

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.” – 1 Corinthians 14:14
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Matthew 10:28

David F. Wells has written his book again. Indeed, reading a new book by Wells is something like my experience of reading new books by Anne Lamott. About 15 pages in, I find myself asking: Isn’t this the same book, again?
Readers who pick up Wells’s latest, God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Crossway), will find themselves covering the same ground he’s covered since No Place for Truth (1993).
Wells—a historical and systematic theologian at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary—has a fairly simple “big idea”: a tale of loss and recovery. Culture has corrupted the church, and renewal means returning to a set of views we have lost. The argument is couched in potted histories that paint thinly with broad brushes, highlighting how the church has been corrupted by modernity and, especially, post-modernity. For Wells, the word is shorthand for everything-wrong-with-the-world.
The genre is pitched somewhere between jeremiad and rant, with predictable protests, retreaded cliches, and lots of complaints about the 1960s. It’s like how I would expect a theological grandfather to harrumph about “kids these days.” It will convince no one who doesn’t already agree.

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Because we’ve listened to the culture rather than Scripture, we’ve been suckered into a therapeutic rather than a moral view of God: God is reduced to a Therapist and Concierge. Even many conservative evangelicals effectively worship the god of Oprah. On this point, Wells’s diagnosis is helpful.
False Dichotomies
But what’s the antidote? As in his previous books, God in the Whirlwind outlines the “view” that needs to be recovered. This view has two countercultural features.

First, we need to recover a sense of the objectivity of God, the otherness and transcendence of God. “God stands before us,” Wells emphasizes. “He summons us to come out of ourselves and to know him. And yet our culture is pushing us into exactly the opposite pattern. It is that we must go into ourselves to know God.” Elsewhere, Wells writes, “When God—the external God—dies, then the self immediately moves in to fill the vacuum.” God begins to look like us writ large.
Second, we need to learn to focus on the character of God, which Wells describes as “holy-love.” By doing so, he is trying to hold together what we too often separate: Our therapeutic gods are loving but not holy; and our moralistic and legalistic gods are holy but not loving. But the biblical understanding of God, revealed above all in Jesus Christ, is holy-love. Wells ranges across the Bible to show how this holy-love runs counter to the erroneous cultural habits we’ve acquired.
But this also locates the book’s limitations. Let me highlight two.
First, both the analysis and the prescription traffic in false dichotomies. “The shaping of our life is to come from Scripture and not from culture,” Wells writes. But isn’t Scripture itself the product of a culture (many cultures), and doesn’t the gospel invite us into the alternative culture of the body of Christ? Our goal is not a biblical viewpoint bereft of culture, but a cultural formation that’s biblically infused.

Perhaps the most puzzling (false) dichotomy is Wells’s emphasis on the objective versus the subjective. This would confuse Augustine, for instance, who wrote: “Do not go outside yourself, but enter into yourself, for truth dwells in the interior self.” Yet no one would confuse Augustine with Oprah.
Indeed, Augustine’s Confessions recount the interior journey of a soul toward the majesty of God, culminating in the meditations of Book 10: “Through my soul I will ascend to him.” By turning inward, Augustine’s self-confidence is destabilized. “People are moved to wonder by mountain peaks, by vast waves of the sea, by broad waterfalls on river, by the all-embracing extent of the ocean, by the revolutions of the stars. But in themselves they are uninterested.” Yet he finds his own interiority more awesome precisely because it is unfathomable: “I find my own self hard to grasp. . . . I never reach the end.”

But in this internal vertigo, he also finds the One who is greater: “You are my true life.” “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you.”
Instead of reverting to Wells’s dichotomy of the objective versus the subjective, what if we engaged modernity with this kind of Augustinian strategy? What if we invited our neighbors (who are, admittedly, focused on the self) to honestly probe their depths? Might they learn to recognize—yes, even feel—the Creator who beckons from within?
The inward turn is not the problem. It’s that people don’t go far enough to experience the inadequacy of the self. They might be better served by exploring the writings of David Foster Wallace than by reading God in the Whirlwind.
Beat of a Different Drummer
If the book’s diagnosis of our cultural situation is off the mark, so too is its prescription. Wells rightly appreciates that we Christians have absorbed the cult of the self by osmosis. Nobody convinced us to view God as our concierge; to the contrary, this is more like what the philosopher Charles Taylor calls a “social imaginary” that we absorb unconsciously through the stories, images, and mythologies that suffuse our cultural milieu.
In other words, we are not just “thinking things” who have been “taught” to see God this way; we are desiring creatures who have been trained to “imagine” God this way. And our imagination is formed on a visceral, even unconscious level. It doesn’t just change how we think; it shapes how we love.

Yet while Wells is attentive to the dynamics of our cultural deformation, he is oddly flatfooted when it comes to imagining reformation. He prescribes an intellectual antidote for an imaginative disorder.
Late in the book, he introduces a metaphor that actually touches on this point. As Wells puts it, believers “live in the midst of their culture,” but “they live by the beat of a different Drummer. They must hear the sounds of a different time, an eternal time, [and] listen for the music from a different place.” The challenge is one of attunement: “How are we going to hear this music? How are we going to hear the Drummer whose beat gets lost in all of the noise of our modern world?” Indeed, this is the psalmist’s question, too: “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (137:4, NASB).

But the metaphor is better than Wells’s actual prescription. Instead of inviting us to absorb the rhythm of the Spirit, he prescribes a regimen of music theory, “a framework of ideas.” But if we’ve been following the wrong drummers, isn’t that because their beat got our toes tapping and captivated our imaginations?
The Spirit reforms our imaginations by a similar dynamic. By inviting us to inhabit the rhythms of embodied, intentional Christian worship, God not only informs our intellects but retrains our heart’s desires. Worship, then, is not just how we express what we already believe. It is also formative—an incubator for a biblical imagination.
Amid the whirlwind of modern culture, what we need most is not a better message, but a fresh encounter with the holy-lover of our souls, who will sweep us off our feet.

Why You Should Not Adopt

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November is National Adoption Month. Many advocates, and in particular evangelicals, are making the case for why Christians should prayerfully consider adoption. In reading through some of the material I was surprised to find a “hard sell” from one of an influential Christian leader against adoption.

“Don’t Adopt!” This is how Dr. Russell Moore began a recent article concerning adoption. Why would Moore, an outspoken proponent for adoption speak so emphatically against adoption? He simply wants people to consider why they want to adopt and how that motive will translate into a life of “cross-bearing love.”

Dr. Moore writes:

If you want your “dream baby,” do not adopt or foster a child: buy a cat and make-believe. Adopting an orphan isn’t ordering a consumer item or buying a pet. Such a mindset hurts the child, and countless other children and families. Adoption is about taking on risk as cross-bearing love.

Moore is saying that if you are considering adoption and approaching it like a consumer then you should stop and go buy something. Don’t adopt. The mindset behind adoption is not about meeting a need for you the parent. Instead, it is about meeting a need for the child.

If we are thinking biblically we would understand immediately what Moore is writing. His point is, “Don’t adopt in order to love yourself. Adopt in order to love someone else.”

We learn in the Bible that love “…does not seek its own…” (1 Cor. 13:5). The Bible also teaches that God is love (1 John 4:8). How does God demonstrate that love? By sending Jesus to lay down his life to save sinners like you and me (1 John 4:10). Love, therefore, is about a willful, joyful sacrifice of ourselves in the service of another for their holiness. Certainly you can hear Dr. Moore saying, “Don’t adopt if you are trying to love yourself through this.” What a disaster for the kids and the parents if this is the case.

His hard sell continues. Moore insists that we should not adopt if we are not ready to be hurt. This goes for all parents of course, but should be considered for prospective adoptive parents also.

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Love of any kind brings risk, and, in a fallen world, brings hurt. Simeon tells our Lord’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that a sword would pierce her heart. That’s true, in some sense, for every mother and every father. Even beyond that, every adoption, every orphan, represents a tragedy. Someone was killed, someone left, someone was impoverished or someone was diseased. Wrapped up in each situation is some kind of hurt, and all that accompanies that. That’s the reason there really is no adoption that is not a “special needs” adoption; you just might not know on the front end what those special needs are.

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Don’t adopt if you are not ready to be hurt. When you give yourself to someone you give yourself to another sinner. This is done in the midst of a world that is cursed for sin. As a result, the stage and the actors, so to speak, are all beset by weakness. We should be surprised when good things happen. We should treasures such times and persevere by grace through the tough times.

Once we have examined our motives, counted the cost, and felt the stiff wind of a cursed world upon our face then we are able to, if God leads, to consider moving forward with adoption. In other words, Moore is arguing, once you have come to steep in the gospel for some time you will remember who you are, that you have been adopted, that you have been lavished with grace, that you have been loved (as defined above) by the One who is love, and that you are now motivated to show that love to others. Christian should never ignore the gospel in anything we do, but especially not in parenting.

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You make me feel some type of way!!!!

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

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

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

Psalm 77:3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The King is Dead

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I am grieving tonight more so than I have since August 21st when the Syrian attack Saran gas was unleashed on innocent men, women and children. I have long seen our nation as King of this world dead and I have long grieved its future. Out of all God’s creations Man is the only thing that does what it wants. Man was given dominion over this planet and we have all played the harlot with our own lives and those of whom we have been trusted to Steward. I am in prayer that we as a nation would come back to our first love and begin to act as a nation with a Living King seated on the right hand of God Almighty.

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REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay a hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.
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READ: Isaiah 6:1-13
Not too long ago I watched part of a documentary on ABC Television which traced the history of the Royal Family – the House of Windsor. In that program they recounted the passing away of King George VI. In 1952 the sad word went forth from London . . . “THE KING IS DEAD”. King George VI had died in his sleep at the age of 56. He was somewhat of a private man, in comparison with others who’ve held the throne, but he was greatly respected and admired. His reign had carried him through the rigors of World War 2, the election of a socialist government, and the dissolution of much of the British Empire. His tired heart gave way. All across Britain, people flocked to churches to worship, to pray, and to seek comfort and hope.

In 1963, another shocking word was sent out across the world: “The President is dead”. It was unbelievable. JOHN F. KENNEDY, young, vibrant and dynamic, was cut down by an assassin’s bullet – a nation was plunged into grief. People flocked into churches in the greatest numbers since the announcement of the end of World War 2. Ministers changed their sermon texts and preached messages of healing and hope to the people of America.

About 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem, the sad announcement was made, “THE KING IS DEAD”. King Uzziah, the eleventh King of Judah, had died. Crowned at the age of 16, he had reigned 52 years. Despite his failings, he was the greatest king since David.

The heart of Isaiah, the prophet, was broken. Uzziah was not only his king, he was also his friend. In his heartbreak, Isaiah made his way to the Temple to worship and to seek comfort and renewed faith.

Friends, when sorrow comes, when life presses you in, the best place to be found is in the House of the Lord. (We ought to ALWAYS be found in the House of the Lord! But especially when we’re facing the difficult seasons of life – there is an answer in god, there is hope in Him, if we will quickly turn to Him.)

When Isaiah went up to the House of the Lord, he learned that the king was dead . . . BUT THAT GOD WAS NOT DEAD! He was still upon His throne. Isaiah had lost his earthly king, whom he loved, but he caught a fresh glimpse of the King of Kings. He met with God in an encounter that radically changed his life.

Would you note with me, tonight, that Isaiah saw four things that I want to draw to your attention:

1. ISAIAH SAW THE LORD.

Here is the greatest vision that anyone can ever have. To see the Lord! Let’s read about it together. [READ vv1-4.]

Isaiah saw something of God’s nature and character – he caught a glimpse “through the curtain”, as it were. He saw something of the Lord as Moses described Him in Exodus 15:11 – glorious in holiness, fearful in praises (or awesome in His glory – NIV).

The vision was of God high and lifted up upon His throne. He saw God as the central object of all praise, surrounded by heavenly courtiers – angelic beings – the seraphim.

What a vision! Oh, that we would all have such times of encounter with God. BUT, would you note with me, it seems that it was ONLY ISAIAH who saw the glorious vision. If others were seated around him there in the Temple, THEY had no such revelation. He doesn’t write “WE saw the Lord”, he says, “I saw the Lord”.

There is a sense in which our corporate worship is still very much made up of INDIVIDUALS who are worshipping. (Hopefully we are not “individualistic” in our worship, in the sense that we ignore or disregard others around us. We must be mindful of one another, and offer Him corporate adoration – BUT WE ARE STILL INDIVIDUALS as we do so!)

It IS possible for one person to be moved to tears, whilst the person beside them – on the same row of chairs – is UNMOVED. One repents, whilst another trusts in his own self-righteousness. One responds willingly – with a soft heart – to the claims of Christ, whilst another is desperately resisting the persuasion of the Holy Spirit.

Which one are you tonight? Are you sat here, going through the motions of a cold, formal religion, satisfying your conscience that you’ve come? Or are you meeting with God here? Are you opening up to the Lord as He knocks at the door of your heart?

Isaiah met with God, he had a revelation of the greatness of the Lord, and it changed his life forever. The same living Lord is here tonight to meet with WHOEVER will call upon His name. EARTHLY kings may come and go – but the King of Kings is alive forever more, and just as powerful as ever He has been, and just as willing to reveal Himself to men.

And listen, Isaiah didn’t get this revelation just because he was a prophet. He saw God because he had a soft, pliable heart, and a listening ear. Titles and offices don’t cut any ice with God!

2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is LOYAL to Him.

The Old King James put it: “Them whose heart is PERFECT toward Him.”

That word “loyal” or “perfect” is the Hebrew word “SHALEM”, which means “completely devoted to”; and it’s related to the word “SHALOM”, which means “PEACE” or “stillness”.

So, the verse says that God’s eyes roam the whole earth looking for a heart that is disposed toward Him, devoted to Him, and still before Him. God looks for people to reveal Himself to who are listening and available.

Isaiah was listening, and ISAIAH SAW THE LORD. The second thing that Isaiah saw this day in the Temple was:

2. ISAIAH SAW HIMSELF.

[READ v5.]

Isaiah SAW HIMSELF as he had never quite seen himself before. He did not see himself in the way that one sees themself as they admire their own image in a mirror. No, no! He did not see himself as a good person, worthy of God’s commendation, and the praise of people. He didn’t think to himself, “WOW! I must be the best person here, because God has honoured ONLY ME with a vision of Himself.” That was NOT his attitude at all.

Instead he cried out: Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips!

AND THIS IS ALWAYS TRUE. The closer we get to God, the more clearly we see our sins. The contrast between His holiness and our unholiness gives us a vivid awareness of just how very far short of God’s glory we truly fall.

The times when we DO feel we have made it – we’ve arrived – we’re knocking on the door of perfection – they’re the times that we’ve been neglecting to pray and worship and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.

When Peter was CLOSEST to Jesus he said: Depart from me; for I am a sinful man. When John received the Revelation of Christ on the Island of Patmos, he wrote, I fell at His feet as though dead!

A lost sense of God brings a lost sense of sin. But a renewed sense of God brings a renewed awareness of our own sinfulness.

Isaiah saw himself in a whole new light.

The third thing that Isaiah saw was:

3. ISAIAH SAW GOD’S CLEANSING POWER.

And I praise God for this! Oh, if all we ever see is the weakness of our sin – the depravity of our hearts – without discovering the cleansing power of God, WHAT MISERABLE PEOPLE WE WILL BE. But He DOES have power to cleanse!

When Isaiah confessed his sin, God was faithful and just to forgive his sin and cleanse him from all unrighteousness.

Let’s read about it . . . [READ vv6-7].

A live coal – a burning coal – a coal that speaks of purification and cleansing – was brought by that seraphim from off the altar of sacrifice and touched to his lips. That altar that the live coal was taken from was the Altar of Burnt Offerings – it was the altar where the blood was shed. It was the place where the priests would kill those animals to pay for the sins of the people, because without the shedding of blood there is no remission (no cleansing) from sin – Hebrews 9:22 – God has declared it.

So you have a coal that has been touched by two things: BLOOD and FIRE. The blood speaks of cleansing from sin (only blood can wash away our sin), and the fire speaks of refining, purifying power. The blood washes away sin, the fire brings the refining of positive holiness.

When God saves you, what does He do? He applies to your life the cleansing power of the eternal blood of His Son, Jesus – that washes away the sins of your old life – and then He sets you in the way of a whole new life which is being refined by the workings of the Spirit of Holiness; we begin to live a life of positive righteousness. HE CALLS US RIGHTEOUS BECAUSE OF THE BLOOD OF HIS SON, AND THEN HE MAKES US RIGHTEOUS THROUGH THE WORKING OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT – the FIRE of the Holy Ghost.

This is the power that ONLY GOD has in a life. Government agencies, social workers, psychiatrists, modern education; they can all try what they will, they cannot change the heart of man with all their programs of reform – THEY’RE POWERLESS! But God can come in a moment of time, and revolutionize a person, and make them a new creation!

[ILLUSTRATION:] I understand that the success rate for rehabilitating hard-line drug addicts is pitifully low. An independent government study was undertaken in the U.S. and found that the success rate of de-tox centres in getting people off drugs permanently (tested after 7 years) was just 2 – 9%. The more intensive rehabilitation centres were not much better – just 9 – 11%. But this independent government study found that “TEEN CHALLENGE” (an organization that is thoroughly Christian – founded by David Wilkerson in New York – you may remember the story “The Cross and the Switchblade”) had a success rate documented as being 86%. When the government researchers were asked what was the difference, they replied (in their words) that the ONLY thing they could put Teen Challenge’s success down to was “THE JESUS FACTOR” (the government’s own words!). Teen Challenge are making a difference because this is not a program based upon the wisdom of men, but on the power of God to transform a life. they’re not preaching rehabilitation; they’re preaching RADICAL REGENERATION. And they’re not prescribing substitute drugs; they’re prescribing a relationship with the Saviour Jesus Christ!

Isaiah saw God’s cleansing power. The seraphim applied the blood-soaked, fire-purifying coal from off the altar and Isaiah experienced the sweet, clean feeling of forgiveness and peace. Hallelujah! Oh, there’s nothing like it in all the world!

Isaiah saw the Lord, Isaiah saw himself, Isaiah saw God’s cleansing power; then, the fourth and final thing he saw was:

4. ISAIAH SAW THE WORLD.

[READ vv8 – 9 (up to “GO!”)]

A knowledge of God will make us good in all our relationships. Isaiah got in with God and he heard God’s heartbeat for a lost and dying people. He heard God’s summons for a messenger to reach out to them. God said: Whom shall I send, who will go for us? And immediately Isaiah says, HERE I AM, SEND ME!

Would God call a sinful man to preach His message? A man of unclean lips?! Friends, there are no other kind of people available to God! Yes, God calls sinners to go for Him. He has not committed His glorious gospel to sinless angels, but to fallen men.

But God sends them ONLY after they’ve been cleansed of their sins by His grace. The message of God must be spoken through purged lips. The work of God must be poured from clean vessels. YOUR PAST WILL NOT EXCLUDE YOU FROM BEING USED BY GOD: BUT HOW YOU’RE LIVING TODAY MIGHT!

Yes, God can take YOU and use you for His glory – if only you’ll live for Him a cleansed, purified life.

CONCLUSION:

Note: Isaiah did NOT say, “Where do you want me to go?” “What’s in it for me?” “What is the salary?” “What are the retirement benefits?” Isaiah signed a blank cheque on his whole life. He didn’t try to strike a bargain with God; he didn’t attempt to negotiate a compromise. God called – Isaiah answered. God commanded – Isaiah obeyed. Such an unconditional response comes only from the heart of one who has SEEN THE VISION: the one who’s MET WITH GOD.

The same thing can happen to you here tonight. THE KING IS ALIVE! He WAS dead – He died for our sins on the cross. But He arose from the grave and He lives today – He lives forever! He calls us to see Him as He truly is – the holy God. He calls us to see ourselves as we truly are – sinful and needing Him desperately. He calls us to discover that He can cleanse from all sin, and give life anew to those who will receive Him. And then He commissions us to look on the fields of this world that are white unto harvest, and to GO and be His witnesses.

Where are you along this process tonight? Have you seen Him? In the pages of His Word – in the voice of the preacher – do you hear His call? Do you recognize that your sin and guilt keep you from Him? Have you accepted His salvation – purchased with His own blood? Are you hearing His call to go, to be His witness to others?

Open your heart to Him tonight. Don’t be the one who is hardened, and goes away empty. Respond to Him with the faith He gives.

Jesus on Current Events

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Luke 13

Repent or Perish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 2

God’s Righteous Judgment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider Paul’s words in Romans 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…..

Will America Contribute to Positive Fossil Fuel Resistance?

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It got so hot in Australia in January that the weather service had to add two new colors to its charts. A few weeks later, at the other end of the planet, new data from the CryoSat-2 satellite showed 80 percent of Arctic sea ice has disappeared. We’re not breaking records anymore; we’re breaking the planet. In 50 years, no one will care about the fiscal cliff or the Euro crisis. They’ll just ask, “So the Arctic melted, and then what did you do?”

Here’s the good news: We’ll at least be able to say we fought.

After decades of scant organized response to climate change, a powerful movement is quickly emerging around the country and around the world, building on the work of scattered front-line organizers who’ve been fighting the fossil-fuel industry for decades. It has no great charismatic leader and no central organization; it battles on a thousand fronts. But taken together, it’s now big enough to matter, and it’s growing fast.

The Fossil Fuel Resistance: Meet the New Green Heroes

Americans got to see some of this movement spread out across the Mall in Washington, D.C., on a bitter-cold day in February. Press accounts put the crowd upward of 40,000 – by far the largest climate rally in the country’s history. They were there to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run down from Canada’s tar sands, south to the Gulf of Mexico, a fight that Time magazine recently referred to as the Selma and the Stonewall of the environmental movement. But there were thousands in the crowd also working to block fracking wells across the Appalachians and proposed Pacific coast deep-water ports that would send coal to China. Students from most of the 323 campuses where the fight for fossil-fuel divestment is under way mingled with veterans of the battles to shut down mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia and Kentucky, and with earnest members of the Citizens Climate Lobby there to demand that Congress enact a serious price on carbon. A few days earlier, 48 leaders had been arrested outside the White House – they included ranchers from Nebraska who didn’t want a giant pipeline across their land and leaders from Texas refinery towns who didn’t want more crude spilling into their communities. Legendary investor Jeremy Grantham was on hand, urging scientists to accompany their research with civil disobedience, as were solar entrepreneurs quickly figuring out how to deploy panels on rooftops across the country. The original Americans were well-represented; indigenous groups are core leaders of the fight, since their communities have been devastated by mines and cheated by oil companies. The Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus was handcuffed next to Julian Bond, former head of the NAACP, who recounted stories of being arrested for integrating Atlanta lunch counters in the Sixties.

It’s a sprawling, diverse and remarkably united movement, marked by its active opposition to the richest and most powerful industry on Earth. The Fossil Fuel Resistance has already won some serious victories, blocking dozens of new coal plants and closing down existing ones – ask the folks at Little Village Environmental Justice Organization who helped shutter a pair of coal plants in Chicago, or the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, which fought to stop Chevron from expanding its refinery in Richmond, California. “Up to this point, grassroots organizing has kept more industrial carbon out of the atmosphere than state or federal policy,” says Gopal Dayaneni of the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project. It’s an economic resistance movement, too, one that’s well aware renewable energy creates three times as many jobs as coal and gas and oil. Good jobs that can’t be outsourced because the sun and the wind are close to home. It creates a future, in other words.

These are serious people: You’re not a member of the Resistance just because you drive a Prius. You don’t need to go to jail, but you do need to do more than change your light bulbs. You need to try to change the system that is raising the temperature, the sea level, the extinction rate – even raising the question of how well civilization will survive this century.

Soon after the big D.C. rally, the state department issued a report downplaying Keystone XL’s environmental impact, thus advancing the pipeline proposal another step. Since then, at the urging of the remarkable cellphone-company-cum-activist-group Credo, nearly 60,000 people have signed a pledge promising to resist, peacefully but firmly, if the pipeline is ever approved. By early March, even establishment commentators like Thomas Friedman had noticed – he used his New York Times column to ask activists to “go crazy” with civil disobedience; 48 hours later, 25 students and clergy were locked down inside a pipeline-company office outside Boston. It’s not a one-sided fight anymore.

No movement this diverse is going to agree on a manifesto, but any reckoning begins with the idea that fossil fuel is dirty at every stage, and we need to put it behind us as fast as we can. For those of us in affluent countries, small shifts in lifestyle won’t be enough; we’ll also need to alter the policies that keep this industry fat and happy. For the poor world, the much harder goal is to leapfrog the fossil-fuel age and go straight to renewables – a task that those of us who prospered by filling the atmosphere with carbon must help with, for reasons both moral and practical. And for all of us, it means standing with communities from the coal fields of Appalachia to the oil-soaked Niger Delta as they fight for their homes. They’ve fought longest and hardest and too often by themselves. Now that global warming is starting to pour seawater into subways, the front lines are expanding and the reinforcements are finally beginning to arrive.

Climate Change and the End of Australia

Right now, the fossil-fuel industry is mostly winning. In the past few years, they’ve proved “peak-oil” theorists wrong – as the price rose for hydrocarbons, companies found lots of new sources, though mostly by scraping the bottom of the barrel, spending even more money to get even-cruddier energy. They’ve learned to frack (in essence, explode a pipe bomb a few thousand feet beneath the surface, fracturing the surrounding rock). They’ve figured out how to take the sludgy tar sands and heat them with natural gas till the oil flows. They’ve managed to drill miles beneath the ocean’s surface. And the hyperbolic enthusiasm has gushed even higher than the oil. The Wall Street Journal has declared North Dakota a new Saudi Arabia. The New York Times described a new shale-oil find in California as more than four times as large as North Dakota’s. “We could make OPEC ‘NOPEC’ if we really put our minds to it,” said Charles Drevna of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. “We’re talking decades, if not into the hundreds of years, of supply in North America.”

True Rewards Of A Committed Life To Jesus

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2 Chronicles 16:9
The Message (MSG)
7-9 Just after that, Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said, “Because you went for help to the king of Aram and didn’t ask God for help, you’ve lost a victory over the army of the king of Aram. Didn’t the Ethiopians and Libyans come against you with superior forces, completely outclassing you with their chariots and cavalry? But you asked God for help and he gave you the victory. God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him. You were foolish to go for human help when you could have had God’s help. Now you’re in trouble—one round of war after another.”

Wow!!, God is looking for men and women whose hearts are firmly fixed on Him and who will continually trust Him for all He desires to do with their lives. God is ready and eager to work more powerfully than ever through His people, and the clock of the centuries is striking the eleventh hour. The world is watching and waiting to see what God can do through a life committed to Him. And not only is the world waiting but God Himself awaits to see who will be the most completely devoted person who has ever lived: willing to be nothing so Christ may be everything; fully accepting God’s purposes as his own; receiving Christ’s humility, faith, love, and power yet never hindering God’s plan but always allowing Him to continue His miraculous work.

There is no limit to what God can do through you, provided you do not seek your own glory. George Mueller, at more than ninety years of age, in an address to ministers and other Christian workers said, “I was converted in November 1825, but I didn’t come to the point of total surrender of my heart until four years later, in July 1829.
It was then I realized my love for money, prominence, position, power, and worldly pleasure was gone. God, and He alone, became my all in all. In Him I found everything I needed, and I desired nothing else. By God’s grace, my understanding of His sufficiency has remained to this day, making me an exceedingly happy man. It has led me to care only about the things od God.

And so, dear believer, I kindly ask if you have totally surrendered your heart to God, or is there something in your life you refuse to release, in spite of God’s call? “Before the point at which I surrendered my life, I read a little of the scriptures but preferred other books. Yet since that time, the truth He has revealed to me of Himself has become an inexpressible blessing. Now I can honestly say from the depth of my heart that God is an infinitely wonderful Being. “Please, never be satisfied until you too can express from your innermost soul, ‘God is an infinitely wonderful Being!'”

My prayer tonight is that God would make me an extraordinary Christian in Jesus name..

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

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

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

“I decided today that until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again,” Wonder said Sunday while performing in Quebec City. “As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.”
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George Zimmerman’s recent acquittal in the fatal 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has sparked widespread protests and reactions across the country, with many of Hollywood’s elite leveraging their social influence to add their voices in response to the trial’s verdict.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O.B. Markers

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Jeremiah 5:21-31 (The Message)
21 Listen to this, you scatterbrains, airheads, With eyes that see but don’t really look, and ears that hear but don’t really listen. 22 Why don’t you honor me? Why aren’t you in awe before me? Yes, me, who made the shorelines to contain the ocean waters. I drew a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. Waves roll in but cannot get through; breakers crash but that’s the end of them. 23 But this people – what a people! Uncontrollable, untamable runaways. 24 It never occurs to them to say, ‘How can we honor our God with our lives, The God who gives rain in both spring and autumn and maintains the rhythm of the seasons, Who sets aside time each year for harvest and keeps everything running smoothly for us?’ 25 Of course you don’t! Your bad behavior blinds you to all this. Your sins keep my blessings at a distance. To Stand for Nothing and Stand Up for No One 26 “My people are infiltrated by wicked men, unscrupulous men on the hunt. They set traps for the unsuspecting. Their victims are innocent men and women. 27 Their houses are stuffed with ill-gotten gain, like a hunter’s bag full of birds. Pretentious and powerful and rich, 28 hugely obese, oily with rolls of fat. Worse, they have no conscience. Right and wrong mean nothing to them. They stand for nothing, stand up for no one, throw orphans to the wolves, exploit the poor. 29 Do you think I’ll stand by and do nothing about this?” God’s Decree. “Don’t you think I’ll take serious measures against a people like this? 30 “Unspeakable! Sickening! What’s happened in this country? 31 Prophets preach lies and priests hire on as their assistants. And my people love it. They eat it up! But what will you do when it’s time to pick up the pieces?

Psalm 119:75

The Message (MSG)

With your very own hands you formed me;
now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you.
When they see me waiting, expecting your Word,
those who fear you will take heart and be glad.
I can see now, God, that your decisions are right;
your testing has taught me what’s true and right.
Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight!
just the way you promised.
Now comfort me so I can live, really live;
your revelation is the tune I dance to.
Let the fast-talking tricksters be exposed as frauds;
they tried to sell me a bill of goods,
but I kept my mind fixed on your counsel.
Let those who fear you turn to me
for evidence of your wise guidance.
And let me live whole and holy, soul and body,
so I can always walk with my head held high.

Tonight I need to be reminded that everything is being watched by God, even how I accept what He allows. In watching this George Zimmerman verdict, I am appalled, but I need to resolve my inner man to trust God to protect and strengthen us as a people to trust in Him to vindicate us when we feel or are unjustly accused or not given a righteous judgment by “man”. I am soliciting anyone and everyone to pray for us as a nation or tribe that seems to be not considered worthy of honor. I want you to honor yourselves and those of the same spirit to “Trusting” God as so many of our forefathers had to do.

In the game od golf, out-of-bounds or O.B. makers designate when a ball has gone out of play. If a player’s ball goes out-of-bounds, a one stroke penalty is imposed. The prophet Jeremiah warned the southern kingdom of Judah about their persistent rejection of God’s boundaries for them. He said that even the sea knows that the sand on the seashore is its O.B. marker, “an everlasting barrier it cannot cross”(Jeremiah 5:22). Yet the Lord’s people had defiant and rebellious hearts(v.23). They grew rich on deceit(V.27) and ignored the pleas of the disadvantaged(v.28).

God has given moral boundaries in His word for us to live within. He gave them not to frustrate us but so that by keeping within them we may enjoy His blessings. David wrote: “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right”(Psalms 119:75). God told Israel through Moses, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and cursing; therefore choose life”(Deuteronomy 30:19).

Don’t test God’s boundaries and invite His correction. Make wise choices to live within His O.B. markers in His Word.

The Lord has given us commands,
And told us to obey;
Our own designs are sure to fail,
If we neglect His way!

A small step of obedience is a giant step to blessings.