No, It Is Not Un-Scriptural to Speak Out

Mario Murillo wrote an article about Christian attitudes towards speaking out against authority. A link to his full article can be found at the bottom of this letter, but here are the final three paragraphs of his article that stood out to me:

 

“Evil laws are the worst form of sin as they provide legitimacy to evil. Matthew Henry said, “Iniquity is daring enough even when human laws are against it, which often prove too weak to give an effectual check to it; but how insolent, how mischievous, is it when it is backed by a law! Iniquity is not the better, but much the worse, for being enacted by law; nor will it excuse those that practice it to say that they did but do as they were bidden.””

“Notice how at the end, Henry says we can’t use the excuse that we were just obeying the law. That is why Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.””

“The laws being created by Democrats, using the coronavirus as an excuse, are far worse than the virus itself because, unlike the virus, those new laws become permanent. It is time for the church to wake up and take action, beginning with voting the evildoers out of office and quit calling our submission a godly thing, when it is just a cowardly thing.”

 

Many Christians quote from Romans Ch 13 as a reference that we are duty bound, by Scripture, to submit to authority, no matter what or who that authority is. If this is true, then everything the Nazi’s and German people did in WW2, was legitimate and Hitler was a leader appointed by God. I don’t think so. In fact, I know this is wrong. 

Some Christians use quotes from Jesus such as when he said “to turn the other cheek” as another example to obey. Completely taken out of context. I have shared this before, and will do so again, refer to the latter half of Acts Chapter 16, and you decide for yourself if Paul “turned the other cheek” or “submitted to authority”. Spoiler alert: no, he did not. (see Acts 16:37)

If Christians believe it is their position to remain quiet, lay low, and follow the rules no matter what, that is their right to do so. Some Christians need to remain spectators. But it is not right for them to judge other Christians who have the fortitude, the courage, and the passion to speak out against foolish laws/orders, lack luster politicians, and invasive policies.

And then, there are Christians who say they are tired of people “spewing their Constitutional Rights”. This one grieves me the most, but, they are free to say this and believe this, because the Constitution allows them to. But I suspect this position will change if they lose that right and are then forced to submit. But I could be wrong and am ok with that.

I have seen it said that less than 10% of our country volunteers to join the military. These volunteers do so to support and defend the 90% who either don’t, or can’t. Perhaps it is also the case that only 1O% of Christians are anointed to speak out in order to defend and support the 90% of those who don’t. 

Does this mean that the Christians who do speak out are not doing so out of love and humility? Not any more or less than those who remain silent are judging others when they do speak. Most are operating in love and humility, even if occasionally their passions get temporary hold of them. Not all Christians are quiet speakers, some are loud, just the way God created them and intended them to be. Amen!

 

https://mariomurilloministries.wordpress.com/2020/05/11/no-there-is-no-verse-in-the-bible-that-tells-you-to-obey-evil-government-or-laws


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The Bible and the US Constitution – Both are Controversial in Days Like This.

Within the borders of the United States (and outside to some extent I suppose), the only document more controversial than the Bible, is the US Constitution. 

 

  1. Both of these documents discuss what true freedom is, how to attain that freedom, and how to maintain it.
  2. They both discuss liberty and what it means to be truly liberated and truly alive.
  3. They both state rules that people don’t like.
  4. They both provide for a system of judgment.
  5. Both documents were written before anyone today was alive (except Jesus Christ of course). 
  6. Opponents of both documents state that neither document still applies because of how “society” has evolved. Make no mistake, the opponents are wrong.
  7. Both documents still have their ardent Pharisee’s and their Sadducee’s; but they both also have true believers that know how to operate in faith and respect.
  8. Both documents include the written Word of God (yes, the Constitution is significantly based on Scripture, the three branches of government are the most obvious example of this).
  9. Wars have been fought over both of them. 

 

The Bible remains Supreme and has survived for thousands of years, even though there have been numerous attempts to suppress it.

The US Constitution remains that longest surviving Constitution in world history, and there are regular attempts, past and present, to suppress it. 

There are nations around the world that continue to weep for the day that they can finally have a Bible in their hand, and a Constitution exactly like the USA, that they can depend on.

Both the Bible and the Constitution are the most misinterpreted, abused, and misused documents over any others in global history. Yet, there are others that know, and believe in, the truths that both documents praise and admonish. 

Both documents have been fought and died over. And yes, I believe in all my heart that both documents are still worth fighting and dying for. Yet, we have people that are willing to sacrifice one, or both, because they are afraid of death. My friends, there are things more important than dying, if you know, adhere, believe, and love what Scriptures tell us.

Biblical and spiritual freedom, as ordained in the written Word of God, also means to be free from the fear of physical death. For those that prefer a more secular approach, then perhaps the words of Patrick Henry are more edifying, when he said “Give me Liberty, or give me death!”. This is what men believed, how they lived, in the tumultuous times during the fight for freedom and Independence. But it also helps that he, and men like him, were God fearing men. Men that wrote the US Constitution.

Nonetheless, people that actually take time to read these controversial documents, meditate on what these documents really have to say, abide by them exactly as written, help to enforce them, and continue to teach on them – these people live the most free, the most liberated, and recognize honor and glory for what it truly is. 

I love God and I love my country. Both documents point to the philosophy of love and the value of men. The Constitution was written from the hearts of men who were focused on love of God first and love of country second, intent on a moral and God fearing society for future generations that the writers themselves would never get to witness. The people that truly understand and live by what the Bible and the Constitution have to say are the most honorable and humble people on earth – until you challenge and fight them on these very documents.

The Bible comes first and the US Constitution comes second. God’s authority (logos Scripture) is first before men’s authority. 

I am one that will do my part, whatever it may be, to preclude forces opposed to both documents, to push me into a corner where they want me to hunker in a bunker with my arms wrapped around my knees. Instead, I intend to stand my ground on both of them, the Bible in my right hand and the US Constitution in my left.

Is this position controversial? Yes, but it is because of what these documents represent and what they have to say, not necessarily because of my stance. Yet, I know that people like me are hated and despised, but I am not afraid. Because both the Bible and the Constitution, were written for men like me to allow people like that to have the freedom to do exactly that. 

I want nothing more than to tell everybody about somebody that saved a nobody like me. I want people to live free, not just because of the Word of God, but also because the nation in which they are a citizen, has also provided for that same liberty and freedom that the Bible offers. If I must perish as a result of this, then I accept that.

 

I don’t want to die today, but if I must, then I fully intend to die on my feet, under God’s terms, not man’s. Glory to God!


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What About the November Elections?

Biden warned Trump not to move the election in an interview with the Today show this week, where he suggested the November presidential election is laid out in the Constitution. The election cycle is laid out by statute, so while you will not find it in the Constitution itself, he is partially correct. 

“Let’s be clear,” Hillary Clinton tweeted. “Trump does not have the power to cancel or postpone the November election.”

The irony and problem with what Biden and H.C are warning is that Trump hasn’t spoken on the issue – not once. However, maybe they had some form of prophetic vision or something, where they saw Trump taking action. Or, the most likely scenario, they are operating in a state of anxiety about Trump – in their world, he is unpredictable and this scares them (I could go deep on this topic alone). 

Elections have been delayed only one time in history – and that was for a mid term congressional election in Georgia in 2018. I find it ironic that we have more problems in our modern society than in the past, but I must move on. 

Who has the authority to delay the election in November, if that is what is deemed necessary? Under our Constitution, the executive branch has no authority whatsoever to delay, reschedule or otherwise change the federal election in November. On the other hand, Congress and the states do have that authority. State governments can change the dates of their presidential primaries or whatever other state primaries they are holding. 

The Democratic Party is arguing for paper mail in ballots, the Republican Party is fighting this. If our Presidential election is managed via paper mail in ballots, a system in which none of our states are prepared to handle (not even Wisconsin which many tout as having the best absentee ballot system of all 50 states), we may not know who has won the election until after the constitutionally mandated swearing in date of 20 January (20th Amendment). And, even then, it is very likely the loser will fight the results in court, citing anomalies in, you guessed it, the mail in paper counting system. 

So, what is the solution? Well, this is based on your opinion of which there are 340 million opinions. My opinion is that we cancel the apocalypse and open the country back up for business and hold our elections the way we always have. But this is because I hold a God view of things and not a world view. It is also based on my views of our US Constitution. 

What can you do? Email your congress person and state your case, as a voting constituent, of what you think is the right solution for the November elections. If you don’t, you have nothing to complain about come November. Do not forget to include your state representatives – remember, states have more control of the election process than federal.


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A Game of Chess

While playing chess, professional players learn to think three steps ahead of their opponent; else they are guaranteed to lose the game. Many people are looking at the game board today, and only making a move after their opponent makes theirs. Meanwhile, their opponent has caught on to this and is now thinking 5 steps ahead (forget 3). Because he knows he has the upper hand he may even toy with you a bit, allowing you little victories, increasing your confidence. And then, before you know it, he has your queen. Check Mate!
Some players know some of the rules and they might even know the names of some of the pieces. They may know the pawn can move forward, but they can’t remember if it is one space or two spaces. A player that doesn’t understand the game, or play it often enough to win against a more seasoned player, is almost certain to lose 100% of the time. Eventually, they give up and just stop playing, even if they remain intrigued by the game itself.

But, you too can become a professional. You get yourself a Coach, a Mentor, a Guide. You have faith that your coach is the One who knows the game better than you and can teach you to be just as good as He is. You may even need to get yourself a rulebook and a “how-to” manual. 

This is followed up by constant and regular practice, every day. Before you know it, you are operating three steps ahead of the other guy, your opponent. You understand the Benko Gambit and the Bishops Opening and can see it happening in front of your eyes. And then, you have YOUR day, where you are the one that screams out “Check Mate!” Take that bad guy!!

Your confidence increases, your heart leaps with joy. Your stress of losing the game decreases, you are no longer disappointed. You are now holding your head high and you can look your next opponent in the eye and say “Bring it on brother!”. You have become an expert at the Two Knights Defense and trust their position on the board. You also know the Torre Attack, a true warrior move. 

You may lose some games as you progress but you are no longer shackled to a loser mentality. You observe, you learn, you increase your knowledge of the game – and then you move on to the next one. Even though you may lose here and there, you find yourself winning more and more. 

You applaud your Coach, thank Him for teaching you the game. And, just as importantly, faith in yourself has increased and you now operate in confident expectation that when you play again, you will win. Check Mate!


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When the Rooster Crows

Romans 8:28 (NASB), “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28 shows that God can take a bad thing and see that good things comes from it. No matter what issues and challenges you are dealing with, or have gone through, the Lord can help you make lemonade from the lemons you have been given. But, we should consider the warnings, or failure to listen to His voice as He tries to get our attention before our world has crashed down on top of us, or, His comforting voice as we experience persecution, offense, or other hurts in our lives. He can make good out of anything; He also has an alarm system at His disposal if He has failed to get your attention early on – that of the crow of the rooster.

Proverbs 30:29-31 (NASB), “There are three things which are stately in their march, Even four which are stately when they walk: The lion which is mighty among beasts, And does not retreat before any, The strutting rooster, the male goat also, And a king when his army is with him.”

Proverbs 30:31 shows us that the rooster is one of three creatures considered complimentary to the king, from the lowest to the greatest. Each of the “kingly” creatures are marked by confidence, they express it in their demeanor and their swagger as they walk in a room, and as they oversee their dominions. A rooster is proud and a rooster is cocky; but the Lord can use this. It is the roosters crow each morning that signals the rise of the sun; it also gets our attention and can wake us up if we are asleep.

Matt 26:74-75 “…Immediately a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Peters arrogance and self-sufficiency was exposed at the moment the rooster crowed. He didn’t hear it from a human voice, but as soon as he heard that rooster crow he remembered his denials, and he was broken, and then he wept.

Psalm 34:18 (NASB), “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

There is something about brokenness that is attractive to the Lord. It’s weird to us “naturally” because it is opposite to us, we don’t like broken. We want everything to work and to be fixed, we are drawn to the proud, to those that are self-assured and confident, to those that have their act together. Why not God? Why does He oppose the proud and give grace to the humble? The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those that are crushed in spirit.

James 4:6 (NASB), “…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Jesus blesses the poor, the hungry, those who weep, and those who are persecuted. Paul says that his power is made great in weakness, not in his strength. He declares that he will boast gladly in his weakness so that God’s power will rest on him.

Matthew 5:3-6 (NASB), “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB), “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

What the heck is going on here? The simple answer is that the Lord is drawn to the broken because He loves us, and make no mistake, we are all broken. Every one of us are broken, though we may not recognize it, not yet anyway. We might be in a position in our life where everything is like Peter, we are pretty sure that we have our stuff together and since God grades on a scale, we are doing all right. That’s what we want to think, that God grades on a scale and that all we have to do is stay one step ahead of others.

Remember the story of two guys hiking in the woods and a bear comes upon them? One guy takes off his hiking boots and puts on his running shoes. The other guys calls him a fool and tells him that he can’t outrun the bear. The guy responds that he doesn’t have to outrun the bear, he just has to outrun him. But that is not how God gets us into heaven; He doesn’t grade on a scale.

So, there we are, we are sitting pretty, confident that we have our stuff together and that everything is going to be ok. In the military there was a saying, “My tents up,”; meanwhile, other soldiers are still building their own tents. Most of the time we are not actually cocky or walking around with a spiritual swagger, but, our arrogance does show up in the symptom of selfishness. We love God but we aren’t thinking about God. We’re just doing our thing and going our way; life is all about us. That is, until like Peter, we hear the Lord’s alarm system for ourselves, the crow of the rooster.

Peter was focused on himself, his abilities, his understanding, his self-discipline, and his religion; this even after Jesus had been personally teaching him for three years about pure humility and trying to make him understand that his relationship should be centered on Jesus. Peter didn’t get it, until that rooster crowed. And then, all of a sudden, he recognized what Jesus had been trying to tell him all along. He learned it that fast, just like that. Peter had a real life, one on one with Jesus Himself, yet he still missed it. None of us are immune to the human condition of pride and arrogance.

When Peter wept, he repented to the Lord; and when he returned to the other disciples, he encouraged them. Because Peter was now broken, God was going to use him; this is when the Spirit of God began to move in Peter. It would be a few weeks before Peter’s ministry began, but when it did, this is when Peter began his stellar servant leadership of the church. He’s humble now, no longer arrogant.

Psalm 147:3 (NASB), “He heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds.”

James 4:10 (NASB), “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

The key is that before Peter could experience breakthrough in his life, something had to break in him first. God uses broken people, people like you and me, to heal people that are broken, just like you and me.

That same rooster that crowed for Peter, crowed in the early morning of the third day after Jesus died on the cross. The rooster is letting us know that He is alive and that His tomb is empty. And here we are, 2000 years later, fruit of Jesus resurrection.

God has a wonderful plan for all of us but something in us has to break first. God has a breakthrough waiting for each of us, in our spiritual life, in our relationship with Him, and more. But, like Peter, something has to break inside of us first.

We have something inside of us that God wants to let out, to pour out on others, an anointing with God’s unlimited potential for us; but we must break first or what’s inside of us cannot come out.

Unless we are broken, there’s no release for that breakthrough He has planned for us; our flesh, our pride, must first be broken. This is what Peter finally figured out after he heard the rooster crow. He realized that he had failed; however, he didn’t use his brokenness for an opportunity to quit, he used it to persevere.

How many of us can say that? Some of us will consider it the end, it’s over! We will put a few lessons learned into our backpacks – or rucksacks for my fellow brothers in arms – and close that chapter in our life. But Peter went back and he strengthened his brothers. Because he repented, God was able to use that brokenness in his life to make a difference in the church. He was a different man, a different leader, and a different friend. Because he let God use that brokenness in his life, He allowed God to minister through him. I, for one, do not want to ignore the crow of the Rooster.

Sometimes our arrogance is shown in our indifference, or our self-absorption. We come to church because we want something from God or we pray when it is convenient for us. But there’s a voice inside of you, trying to prevent you from destroying your life. We don’t always listen to that voice and we keep heading for disaster until we finally reach that place of brokenness and then, if we are listening, we hear the crow of the rooster.

We should be encouraging others before they hear the rooster, before their world crashes around them. We should want to hear the voice of the Lord today and open our hearts to Him.

Some people are broken by life, some are broken by circumstances, and some are broken financially. Whereas there are others that were broken by people that should have protected them or been with them in times of trouble.

But, no matter what, the Lord is close to the broken hearted and He saves those that are crushed in spirit. God is drawn to the broken, to every situation. He is drawn to those that need to be saved and rescued. Jesus Himself tells us to come to Him and He will give rest to our souls.

Matthew 11:28 (NASB), “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Not only will He heal you, but He will help you use that brokenness in your life. Don’t use your brokenness as an excuse to quit. Don’t give up on God, or church, or people. Don’t quit but humble yourself before the Lord. You’ll be surprised at what He can do.

Some are hearing the rooster crow, the cry of the Spirit, telling them to alter course or to change, but they are defying Him, saying to themselves “I got this, don’t tell me what do.” Don’t wait to go through what Peter went through. Peter had opportunities to learn well before the rooster crowed, but he was too hardheaded. Open your heart and listen for His call to make changes. Don’t wait until the world crashes around you or until you lose everything. Don’t wait for that rooster to crow.

People need to be rescued. They will not ask for help when they need it most because they are frightened by what they believe is a sign of personal weakness. They don’t see that something has to be broken before the good stuff can come out of them. 


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Quarantine and Isolation: What are your Constitutional rights? How does this impact your personal liberty for the cause of social liberty?

When the Founding Fathers convened the constitutional convention over 250 years ago, they were very familiar with pandemic diseases. They had personally witnessed the devastation of smallpox and yellow fever amongst others. They were also familiar with the first quarantine law passed in the colonies, established by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1647. With this knowledge, did they include anything in the US Constitution that would provide for a response, activities, or actions in order to prevent the spread of the disease?

What are your rights if government forces a quarantine? Or isolation? What does the US Constitution say, or the law, in regards to your personal liberty in this situation? Who has the authority, the jurisdiction, to do what and under what criteria can they do it?

The events of 2020 are not the first time where people would seem to be willing to give up their personal liberty for the sake of what they perceive will benefit their security and safety. But, how much liberty are you willing to give up if it is a misapplication of power? What if the scenario were more personal? 

What if authorities showed up at your door to take away your 10 year old child, or your spouse, because they have paperwork that says they tested positive?

In order to address these questions, we must understand the difference between quarantine and isolation; they are completely different and each come with a different set of rules and authority.

Under the US Constitution, which we know guides the actions and affairs of the Federal Government as well as the rights and freedoms of its citizens, the federal government does have the authority to isolate IF the disease is on a list of diseases under Executive Order (such as Ebola for example). BUT, the federal government DOES NOT have statutory authority to quarantine. A bit more on this a little later.

What is the difference between isolation and quarantine? Isolation happens when a person, or persons, has been flagged positive for the disease. Quarantine happens when a person, or persons, are believe to have been EXPOSED to the disease but we don’t know for sure yet.

When the Founding Fathers established the Constitution, they retained authority at the Federal Level for Isolation, but they left the authority for Quarantine at State and Local levels. 

Isolation and Quarantine are both legal and necessary, everyone should follow the direction of local and state officials; but, there are limits, as there should be, to this power. What are the criteria? How serious does the disease have to be? When can they call for quarantine? What if the person, or persons, have been misdiagnosed or no evidence of a diagnosis is provided?

People may not care much whether the authority is at federal, state or local level, or, they may not care much about the difference between a quarantine and isolation. But this is also why it is critical that we understand what we are giving up when we give up personal liberty for security and safety, even if it’s the misapplication of power or a false sense of security at the sake of liberty.

We need to follow the direction of authorities but we should also understand the process and the rules for how this would take place. If your child or spouse were taken from your home simply because their paperwork says they have tested positive, would you like to know where they are going?  Would you like to see the paperwork? Would you like to see evidence? What if there was a mistake?

Should your family be hauled off instead of the obnoxious jerk that definitely has the disease but still wants to go to the office party and get everybody infected? Now its personal and due process will matter much more to you.

Webster’s defines “liberty” as: 1)  the quality or state of being free, the power to do as one pleases, 2) freedom from physical restraint, 3) freedom from arbitrary or despotic control, 4) the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges.

In a society, we give up certain natural liberties in exchange for civil liberty; however, liberty that is going to be infringed by civil liberty has to be when there is an absolute necessity for the safety of the entire society.

A great example of acceptable infringement of personal liberty that most people would agree with is that the government should do its best to prevent a highly infectious person from infecting others and stop that person from infecting everyone else. But, who should handle this? Federal, State, Local? What is the due process protecting you from abuses of this power?

While the decisions and issues of quarantine are left to state and local governments, they all do it differently, including the use of different criteria. This creates a problem when the disease crosses state lines. This, in turn, is when the federal government gets involved; but under what authority does the FED intervene?

Rolled up into the Immigration Laws is the authority to quarantine people entering the country if they are suspected of having been exposed to a disease – this includes US Citizens returning back to the US from abroad. But, this still creates a legal problem for the FED within the boundaries of the country. The answer to this was to use the Commerce Laws, but……

Some people don’t know that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) falls under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Generally speaking, state and local authorities receive guidance and opinions from the CDC about proper mitigation and response to infections – almost all will request it, so no issues there. But the CDC did not have legal authority; at least they didn’t until the very last day President Obama was in office.  Before going further, we need to understand what a STATUTE is and what a federal REGULATION is.

A STATUTE is a law that is passed by our elected representatives (i.e. Congress). Once passed, it becomes the law of the land.

A REGULATION is a rule that a department or agency head passes down within his/her department. The Department is then expected to follow these regulations. It is important to recognize that an agency Department Head is an appointed bureaucrat,  they were not elected.

Regulations are often challenged in court systems – as they should – to which favor tends to lean more often for the department than the complainant; but not always. The result being that we have courts, more often than not, enforcing rules that are not law, which sets both a legal precedent and a mechanism for appointed officials to influence behavior that they feel is necessary – in their opinion.  

The downward impact of “regulation abuse” can be an infringement on your personal liberty and can be considered an abuse of power. The question then becomes, if it were that important, why does this not get forwarded to Congress to be voted on and passed into law? Great question!

On 19 January 2017, the day before President Trump took office, the Secretary of HHS dropped a regulation and passed it to the CDC, giving them authority that expanded their power in granting broad quarantine actions. This was unprecedented.

I know, people just want the virus stopped, the disease mitigated, so many are willing to give up whatever authority is necessary with little forethought. But, it is exactly in times like this, that we have got to be careful in granting any new power to government, especially the federal government; particularly when it comes to something that will give up your liberty and the liberty of future generations.

So, what can you do if you or a loved one is taken into custody for mandatory isolation or quarantine? You can request a medical review; however, the doctor giving the review will be appointed by the CDC who now, because of the Obama Administration, has the authority to not only isolate you, but also quarantine you.  If that feels wrong, it is.

The final item you can do is request a judicial review, but experts continue to debate if this is valid and actionable. Therefore, you may likely run into walls if you were to attempt this route. Herein is the argument for guarding your personal liberty as much as you can before it is taken from you.  What we need is improved due process without limiting the correct levels of government to fulfill their obligation to protect social liberty.

Can we prevent abuse? This is hard to say and would likely lead to unfounded conspiracy theories. The government should have the right to quarantine and isolate, but it should be the “right” government, and, you should have due process.

Should the FED have control over everything? I sure hope not, this is dangerous and is a path to authoritarianism. However, whatever authority the federal government needs should be taken up as a Constitutional Amendment that would give them that authority. Your personal liberty SHOULD NOT be impacted based on the opinion of an unelected court system or an unelected federal agency head.

And this, my friends, is the truth as we know it today. God bless and may His Spirit continue to guide and protect you.


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These are days that test us, but….

I suppose it is fair to acknowledge that these are, indeed, scary days, but, your perspective in how to react is based on your worldview, and/or, your God view. 

As of the date of this writing, 13 March 2020, my wife and I had been discussing the issues over the previous few days, just as I suppose many other couples were doing as well. We despise the regular negative messaging; however, our worldview is not impacted by fears of getting sick, while being respectful and vigilant about not wanting to infect others. Do we think that the Corona Virus is real and is impacting people’s lives? Yes, of course. Are we concerned about our health? Not really. Why? Because of our God view – a view based on, and under, the New Covenant; and the fact that my wife is a health food “expert” who has been keeping our house regularly stocked with goodness for several years. A healthy diet will help your immune system; both the Bible and science tells us this. 

Though we are not concerned about our health, this does not mean that we aren’t following protocols; of course of we are. But the protocols being espoused by the “experts” are activities we have tended to do anyway; hygiene is standard for us, so our lives have not really changed. If we should happen to get sick, we know where we stand under the cross; while we don’t ignore it, we also don’t fear it. 

The other day I had posted a verse from Leviticus (Lev 15:13) about the washing of hands in order to preclude the spread of disease. This was a worldview perspective about proper hygiene and medical protocols, yet, some felt that I was neglecting a correct God view, where we acknowledge what we have because of the cross under the New Covenant. While I can see how me sharing the verse might indicate I was failing to accept and receive the healing grace of Jesus Christ, that was not my intent. While I do receive and accept the New Covenant, I do not believe this means that we should stop washing our hands and practicing safe protocols – a worldview. 

OK, so… the supply chain and economic news is “not cool”; but what can we do about it? Not much, but we can pray – fervently. Is this “chaos” cause for panic? The chaos is manmade; therefore, in our minds, no. Does this mean that we should not do some things to prepare and plan? Of course we should, and we are. But we also rely on the Lord’s grace and guidance while also operating under confident expectation with our hope placed in Him that we will be taken care of – one way or the other. 

So…sure, we agree that these might be frightening times, but your reactions to it depend on your worldview and, more importantly, your God view. Therefore, pray!

Disney has decided to close ALL theme parks around the world. The US Stock Market has suffered its worst losses since the 1980’s. Sports venues are cancelling games, tournaments, and events. Restaurants and bars are closing out of fears of adding to the spread of the virus. These are facts that even hard-core Christians cannot dispute; we are witnessing things that we have never seen before in modern times. But, does this mean that we should operate in a state of fear and panic? I don’t think so, but this is due to our God view. If you do not have a God view, then you may be operating in a state of panic because you are dominated by your world view. 

One psychologist notes, “Fear influences how we react to media coverage of health hazards. The most severe levels of contamination fear are found in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Approximately 50% of people with OCD have a fear of contamination from dirt or disease that causes them to wash and clean compulsively.” In times of anxiety, we tend to pay more attention to threat-related information, impacting our world view, which drives up our anxiety and distress. Therefore, pray!

A heightened worldview (which is prioritized over a God view), creates a “bias for threat” – meaning we expect the worse – which can actually intensify our reaction to this disease or any other disease, also leading to increased panic. Panic is “an irrational fear reaction that, by definition, your body’s reaction and adrenaline response takes over from your ability to rationally evaluate the situation.” There is an appropriate response to fear, a response that is vital not just for our psychological wellbeing but for our physical health as well. Therefore, pray!

Noted clinicians tell us that stress causes our bodies to produce greater levels of the hormone cortisol which can cause anxiety and depression, which further leads to elevated inflammation that will compromise the immune system. This leads to even more levels of exaggerated stress. Unmanaged stress decreases the body’s white blood cells that help fight infection. The lower your white blood cell (lymphocyte) level, the more you are at risk for viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

The main way we relate to information about the world is through “feelings and gut intuitions”; therefore, it is vital that we maintain a positive God view (spiritual view) while simultaneously paying attention to objective medical advice and practical steps that we can take today. Pray!

And it is absolutely paramount that we turn to resources that can provide a level of peace which we cannot otherwise produce ourselves. This is available via a positive and accurate God view…and prayer. 

76 percent of doctors say they believe in God. A God view, an active Christian faith, has been proven to uniquely help in times of crisis such as the current coronavirus pandemic. Your belief system, with heart felt faith, that Jesus does answer prayers, that we ought to accept His invitation to trust Him with our fears, and that there is power that comes from submitting to the power of God, is indicative of the relevance of the hope that is found in Jesus Christ and the Christian community.

Unfortunately, there are some that believe that a God view like this is irrational, that we cannot place faith in Him and must place our faith in science. I would argue that we should choose both. It is a mistake for scientists to discount God’s wisdom, just as it is a mistake for Christians to discount scientific wisdom; God uses physicians in His continued ministry on earth. He calls physicians just as He calls ministers and pastors. He uses the expertise of both to advance His healing ministry in our broken world. Let’s pray for them, encourage them, and follow their guidance. 

He calls each of us to use our gifts, abilities, resources, and influence, in proactive ways, as he leads and empowers us. People may be more open to their need for God now than they were a month ago. They may be more aware of their mortality and limitations. They may be more willing to seek help. And they may be more open to our witness and compassion. 

The coronavirus pandemic is admittedly unique and frightening, but it also presents a unique opportunity to take Christ to a frightened culture. There is a worldview, but there is also a God view, the view of a God who wants to redeem this physical threat for eternal spiritual good.

 


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God’s Army Will Always Flourish; But, Where Are The Men?

The Lord is raising His Army, an Army that will consist of those that have “been there” and “done that”, but, this isn’t about those that have been Christians, or properly behaving as Christians, for as long as they can remember. This Army will be filled by those that came to recognize His salvation and righteousness a little later, those that have been challenged by negative forces redirecting the paths of their lives – distractions, torment, addictions, rejections, and lack of love amongst others.  

These are those that have been through the basic training of life and can recognize a lost soul almost on site, due to the Spiritual discernment earned through their own personal sacrifice by placing their lives at the foot of the cross. An Army focused on saving lives, not taking them.

Membership in this Army means that they have learned the way of the Spirit and recognize that the natural realm is far less in substance than the spiritual realm, just like a mirror reflects the image of the reflected.

Members of this Army must have their minds renewed as this will be the only way that they can receive instructions, the only way to hear His Voice.

This Army will have similarities to the natural military, but it will also be dramatically different:

They both:

    • Train for the purpose of defeating an enemy
    • Train to specialize in the use of different weapons
    • Practice discipline and focus
    • Have objectives, strategies, and tactics
    • Have those that engage the enemy and those devoted to support and supply

God’s Army:

    • Will fight to give life, not take it
    • Fights to free people, not conquer them
    • Focuses on victory in tearing down strongholds
    • Uses weapons that aren’t carnal, but spiritual
    • Trains for battles, objectives, strategies, and tactics that will be spiritual, not physical

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

The members of God’s Army serve as the bridge between the spiritual and natural realms, living in both worlds, because they have been Born Again by the Spirit. They know when they win because they have clear objectives that define victory, that Jesus came “to destroy the works of the devil” (see 1 John 3:8). Their purpose is to destroy the works of the enemy and rescue those in bondage to him so that mankind can be fully restored to God.

This Army knows that they can never experience a moment of hesitancy because hesitation can turn victory into defeat. They are fully resolved and will relish the victories when they attain them. God’s Army serves His Church; but, while they serve His Church, His Church is also creating a dilemma in filling the ranks.

The last two millenia have proven that the Lord’s Army will always flourish one way or the other; nonetheless, there is a spiritual stronghold that has taken hold within the Church. 

The Church, led mostly by men, has created a culture that is mostly feminine, removing much of the masculine influence needed, causing men to struggle with relating to the present day Church and its structure. This is why more than 70% of the church is composed of women, and many of the men who are in the church today are not really connected in their hearts. Where are the men? Absence from the Church also means that many are AWOL from God’s Army.

The Book of Revelation refers to the Church as both the Bride of Christ and an Army of God. This creates confusion for those that are intended to be a part of His Army, and one of the areas that confuse men on how to act as Christ Warriors; it is not clear to them on how they are supposed to fit because it seems contrary to their masculine nature. Church’s focus almost specifically on the idea of being a Bride, but rarely on the idea of being a Warrior. Additionally, if men are to serve as part of the Bride of Christ, then this means that women can also be in the Army of God. But, and this is where it is missed, this does not mean that men are to become more feminine or that women are to become more masculine; this is an area where the devil has successfully blurred this distinction, and it is creating a lapse in membership in Gods Army, just as it is in the US military.

The devil has played his part in causing men to become more feminine and women to become more masculine, but this is NOT what the Lord created. The Lord created feminine women who can be great warriors and masculine men that can be great worshippers, however, men and women must learn to walk in both of these natures in order to operate as proper soldiers in God’s Army.

The greatest example of this is King David, who was one of the greatest warriors in the Bible while also one of the greatest worshippers.

Men are having a hard time relating to the church, they are bored with it, they feel out of place; they don’t understand why their masculine nature seems contrary to what is being taught in the church. They do not understand how this plays into God’s Army and how they are to operate. This is due, in a large degree, to the church fostering a culture of seekers rather than conqueorors, allowing the culture of political correctness to step in and guide their hearts rather than guarding their hearts against correctness that is contrary to His Word. This is antagonistic to God’s Army and serves as an example of a significant stronghold within the Church that must be taken down.

The best warriors are feminine women and masculine men that have seen it, experienced it, questioned it, and learned what it truly means to become a part of God’s “martial culture“. A martial culture is one focused on being a soldier; therefore, God’s martial culture is one focused on being a proper soldier for God.

When the church learns how to adopt and take on the martial culture that it was called to have, then men will start returning to the church and want to be a part of it. They will engage and will accept discipleship into God’s Army as well as prepare for battle as a Bride of Christ. They will recognize that to be fully functioning members of God’s Army, they are not to remain as seeker’s who do not fully understand the nature of the Church that Christ created. His Army requires the understanding and application of the ‘dunamis’ power of His Spirit.

Within Scripture, He uses the title “Lord of hosts” or “Lord of armies” ten times more than all His other titles combined. Human martial culture is not the same as God’s martial culture. In Isaiah 55:8-9, the Lord declared, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” … “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

God’s Army fights using the ways of God; the US military fights using the ways of man. Spirit realm vs. natural realm; God’s ways vs. man’s ways.

Religion has designed and added human activities, human definitions, and human martial character into its congregation and message; this is why men leave the church, or at a minimum, disengage. Because of the spirit the Lord gave them, men know, in their spirit, that something is wrong; they just don’t understand it so they become confused and feel a sense that they are no longer a fit. For those that do recognize it for what it is, they feel powerless to do anything about it, so they are relegated to silence, allowing their spiritual life to become dull.

Jesus said that He came in order to give us an abundant life, but He did not say that it would all be good. Outside of actual military service, nothing in life is more exciting than a true Christian life, but nothing is more boring than “religion”. If we find that our spiritual life is dull, then we are not on the path that Jesus came to lead us on. Our responsibility, at that juncture, is to get back on the path of life, and stay on it.

Like most young men, I myself thought of war as an adventure; I wanted it, I sought it, and I found it. I can say with certainty that after participating in three wars over a twenty year military career, that while war is exciting, once conflict is experienced, it turns into the worst kind of hell. But this is not the case in God’s Army. His army is one of the most exhilarating things we can ever be a part of.

True adventure is participating as a member of God’s Army on recovery operations and search and rescue missions within the Body of Christ; this is when men feel triumphant, when they see their purpose and their identity restored – the bible prophecies on this throughout the Scriptures.
 

God’s Army is a movement – a God sustaining organism that will never stop moving. In this regard, all Christian denominations once started as a movement, but, many have stopped moving and they have turned into institutions. We, as Christians, as members of God’s Army, have NOT been called to an institution; we have been called to be a part of a never ending movement, the most awesome adventure that anyone can experience – the path of life.

It is not within the Christin nature to just have fruit; we want A LOT of fruit. Deep within this very nature we discover that we CAN accomplish something relevant and very significant. Your small story then becomes a part of the larger story, and this my fellow Warriors, is exciting. This is what it is meant to be a member in God’s Army.

There is nothing more interesting than God so if you find that your church life is boring, then you are not in the right place my brother or sister. The closer you get to Him and the more you follow Him, excitement will become a regular part of your life, for there is nothing greater than a true Christian life. We are called to a life of significance, God is mobilizing an Army of resolute and fearless warriors who have been trained via the conflicts of life. 

If you follow Him and not just “religion”, then your life will never be boring. You are on His Army now!!

 

 

This article was made possible via the book “Army of Dawn” written by Rick Joyner.


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Does Ancient Israel Mimic our Present World?

Why are the nations in an uproar and the people devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed…He Who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Psalm 2:1-4

As outlined in Psalm 2, the nation of Israel was fighting a spiritual war. Do any of these same thoughts and beliefs exist in the American nation today? You may be surprised (or not). 

When our nation was founded, the founding members made clear that, in their opinion, the protection of Christian principles must be thoroughly protected; else the nation will tend to crumble. However, even then there were dissenters; Thomas Paine, for example, was very vocal in expressing hostility towards Christianity that has become commonplace today. The difference is that 200 years ago, people rose up against those, like Paine, to ensure that his sentiment remained an exception rather than the rule. 

Benjamin Franklin was very forceful in a response to Thomas Paine, declaring to Paine that “I will not enter into any discussion of your principles though you seem to desire it….consequences of printing [your materials] will be a great deal of hate drawn upon yourself and of no benefit to others…Do you imagine any good that would be done by it?”

Paine published his opinions anyway and was promptly and resoundingly condemned by the nation at that time. He was even chastised by Supreme Court Justice William Paterson. However, as the years went by, public denunciations against attacks against Christian principals of the American nation began to lessen, thereby encouraging the rise of a well organized secularist movement in America. 

In 1877, the National Liberal League, who would be considered a progressive left activist organization supporting the Democratic Party today, published its objectives and public policy positions for America in a piece it called “The Demands of Liberalism“. I will close with nine bullets from that document.

1. We demand that churches and other ecclesiastical property shall no longer be exempt from just taxation.

2. We demand that the employment of chaplains in Congress, in state legislatures, in the navy and militia, and in prisons, asylums, and all other institutions supported by public money, shall be discontinued.

3. We demand that all public appropriations for educational and charitable institutions of a sectarian (religious) character shall cease.

4. We demand that all religious services now sustained by the government shall be abolished; and especially that the use of the Bible in the public schools, whether ostensibly as a textbook or avowedly as a book of religious worship, shall be prohibited.

5. We demand that the appointment, by the president of the United States or by the governors of the various states, of all religious festivals and fasts shall wholly cease. 

6. We demand that the judicial oath “So Help Me God!” in the courts and in all other departments of the government shall be abolished….

7. We demand that all laws directly or indirectly enforcing the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath shall be repealed.

8. We demand that all laws looking to the enforcement of “Christian” morality shall be abrogated (meaning repealed).

9. We demand that not only in the Constitution of the United States and of the several states but also in the practical administration of the same….that our entire political system shall be founded and administered on a purely secular basis….

Do any of these comments match the agenda of the Democratic Party today? Yes, most of them do. In fact, you may have thought that some of these were written last week. The timelessness of these positions truly demonstrate that the conflict being fought really is the spiritual one described thousands of years ago in Psalm 2. 

https://commons.wikimedia.org/…/File:1872_Demands_of_Libera…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Liberal_League


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How should Christians respond to culture?

As I watch from the cushions of my favorite chair or listen from the seat of my car, I am introduced to new and daily stories that share what I believe, to be representative of moral decay in American culture. If you are like me, these stories leave you shocked sometimes, shaking your head at what is happening around us. You are befuddled and confused as to how it is possible that others cannot see it? However, for those who seek to live by biblical truth, there’s a hidden temptation we must identify and avoid. 

Responding to his accusers, Job reminds us in Job 12:5 that it is easy for some, who think they are above it all, to point fingers and blame others for our problems while simultaneously scorning them. In my own personal experience, I think he is right. 

When we are comfortable in our own beliefs, it is very easy to feel “contempt” for those who do not believe the same way. When we do this, are we not a mimic of those that repudiate and retaliate against Christians for what they call “hate” speech? When we go down this path, we start to blame lost people for being lost and secular people for living by secular morality. That is a pit that I have fallen down myself numerous times. 

When we fall into that trap, we start to view the immorality of our culture through a superior and condemning attitude. We can then tend to forget that we are to grieve for the lost and stand in solidarity with those we are called to serve. 

When Nehemiah heard about the suffering of Jerusalem resulting from the nation’s sin and divine judgment, he turned to God and confessed the sins of Israel, himself, and the house of his fathers (Nehemiah 1:6). There is no evidence in scripture that indicates Nehemiah participated in any of the sinful acts that led to the destruction of Jerusalem, but yet, he counted himself among his Jewish people and made their condition his own. By this example, if we view declining morality from the lens of history, you might see that it was the church that was silent and abdicated from its role in culture, allowing culture to sway – adrift in the winds and seas of the world. Are we surprised by our present condition when the church removed itself from cultural discourse for the last 50-60 years? 

When Jesus Himself drew near to Jerusalem, “He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41–42). He then rode into the Holy City and called out that if the people had only recognized that day, they would have seen what was good for them, but now it was too late. He then warned, in vv.43-44, of what was about to befall them because they were blind. 

If we are truly the salt and light of the world, we must take responsibility for responding to the decay and darkness of the world, not blaming or condemning others (Matthew 5:13–16). If we condemn and blame, instead of taking responsibility, then are we not in danger of committing the same sins we condemn others for? 

The sixteenth-century theologian Erasmus advised us: “If Satan tempts you toward boasting, double your efforts to be humble in all things. If Satan tempts you to withhold your prayers, increase them. If your inclinations are to be greedy and selfish, increase your donations to charity. This way you can find in temptation renewed provocation to increased piety. 

“This procedure galls Satan the most. It makes him afraid to tempt you because nothing is more hateful to the Evil One than that he should be responsible for some good.”


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Political Forgiveness

One area where forgiveness is often needed, particularly in today’s climate, is in the area of politics. Political campaigns are ugly, bruising, full body contact sports, regularly filled with cutting accusations and scathing claims made by candidates against one another. Just take a surface level view of the 2020 Presidential campaign, it is bloody. However, rough campaigns are not unique to today’s climate, the campaigns of 1800 (between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) or the 1828 campaign (between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson) were also just as bloody.

When Jesus was walking the earth, Peter asked Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? (Matt 18:21). Jesus replied by taking it to the extreme, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matt 18:22). Jesus took this much further in his parable of the king whose servant was unable to repay a debt. While that servant moved the king, that servant was not so moved be another fellow servant who owed a debt and tossed that one in prison. This made the king angry, whereby, the king turned that servant over to be tortured until the debt could be repaid (vv. 32-34)

Jesus concludes this story by admonishing His disciples:

“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (v. 35)

American Founder Thomas Pickering had a long career in politics, who served as both a general in the American Revolution and Secretary of State for President George Washington. He had received a letter from an associate who was asking for his forgiveness due to the way that he had treated Pickering. Pickering responded:

“Whatever imperfections or faults are in my character, I trust that implacability (hard heartedness) forms no part of it. As a man, it would do me honor – as a Christian, it is my indispensable duty – to forgive those who offend me.

Pickering knew that forgiveness was not a Christian luxury but was a Christian necessity. It was not optional, it was mandatory.

Richard Allen was a man who was raised a slave who had raised enough money to purchase his own freedom. He then became a Gospel minister and the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church – America’s first black denomination. He once wrote to other blacks who had been enslaved and mistreated:

“Let no rancor or ill-will lodge in your heart for any bad treatment you may have received from any. If you do, you transgress against God, Who will not hold you guiltless. He would not suffer it even in His beloved people Israel; and do you think He will allow it unto us?….I am sorry to say that too many think more of the evil than of the good they have received.”

The only life giving response to anything is to extend forgiveness, whether asked for or not. Jesus echoed this reality in His teachings, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12)


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Crime: God Looks At The Heart

Crime is the bane of any civilized society. Every year, governments at all levels across the nation, spend billions in their attempts to prevent crime and punish criminals. But, crime will never be completely prevented by their efforts because government entities only address the outward behavior of criminals; to which Jesus tells is that this is not the source of the crime:

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness……All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23)

Crime must be dealt with from the inside, therefore, the only sure way to prevent crime is to address the heart – a truth that was clearly understood by the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“The precepts of philosophy and of the Hebrew code laid hold of actions only. He (Jesus) pushed His scrutiny’s into the heart of man, erected His tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountainhead.”

Christian principles go beyond merely attempting to regulate outward behavior by addressing the condition of the heart before a crime is ever committed (while it is still only a thought in the heart). Only the Bible provides effective “rules for the government of the heart” and thus prevents external crimes that originate internally. Evidence validates this effectiveness, according to Wallbuilders, through a comparison of government run and faith based prisons. Government prisons focus on controlling the external behavior of a prisoner while faith based prisons focus on reforming the inside. 

Only 8% of those incarcerated in a faith based prison will return, compared to the 67% of inmates who were incarcerated in government facilities. Addressing the heart clearly makes a difference in outward behavior. 

When the government rejects the assistance the Bible offers, they will utilize extensive manpower and spend massive amounts of money attempting to restrain behavior that is an external manifestation of the heart (internal chaos and disorder). Benjamin Rush, who signed the Declaration of Independence warned that if America ever ceased promoting Biblical principals in the public arena, then we would “waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains in preventing them.”

James McHenry declared: “In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses.”

The Word of God ought to be the much preferred choice over government coercion and force; the Bible is the best weapon civil authorities have in fighting crime versus the “woke” methodologies being implemented today.


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What do you want people to know about you?

Today is my birthday and here is my wish – What do you want people to know about you?

It can be tempting to develop our online presence with a focus on impressing others: nice meals we’re enjoying, exotic places we’re visiting, popular people we’re spending time with. Those things are fine to share. But Jesus didn’t say He would use our accomplishments to draw people to Himself. He said that it would be our love (John 13:35). 

In transparency, I like to share some of my hobbies online (such as wood working, my book writing, or one of my favorite pastimes of smoking meat of different varieties). In fact, I foresee a very near future endeavor to make bacon for the first time and I will share it all in it’s glory, whether it turns out good or nasty. Why? Because it is fun.

However, for 2020, I would challenge you to start making it a habit to regularly share His transforming love.  Yes, I suppose it is ok to share headlines of what is happening in the world around us as I don’t believe that Christians ought to bury their heads in the sand.  BUT, and this is a large BUT, we should also flood social media platforms with His good news as well. In fact, I would offer that if you share something negative or fanatical, then you are now responsible to share a minimum of two positive items for every negative or sensationalized item you share. Would that be bad?  

Romans 10:10 (NASB), for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

Start Small…

Sharing a Bible verse, something historically positive, or a quote that is motivating in social media is easy. You can even share content from devotionals you are reading or from a book that you are thoroughly enjoying.  Some of you seem to find it easy to share a news headline or a popular humorous meme, why is sharing a bible verse so hard?

…Then Build Your Habit.

Once you’ve shared a few times, set a goal to share something positive and uplifting, something motivating, every day for a week (I still say you should share two positives for every negative bit of news you share). It won’t be long before you realize you have turned this into a wonderful habit. In fact, you may even feel some degree of regret if you miss a day.

Perhaps it is simply because I am getting older but I’d like to think that this is on my heart because the world around us is imploding, due in large part to the fakeness and highly addicting negativity that surrounds us (for those that pay attention anyway). We are losing our identity, who we are and who we were meant to be.

People today are confused, misoriented, and not aligned with the true reality of what they were meant to be. The hears of people are falling into an abyss, and it is sad to say that some will never recover.

Some people refuse to share news headlines or political spin meme’s at all. They wont even acknowledge them when they come across their wall, twitter feed, or other social media platform of choice. I suppose there is a healthy attitude to this, as long as they don’t isolate themselves from the world – where are the sinners located after all?

Nonetheless, Stop being so negative…

Too many people focus way too much attention on the negative truths while ignoring the positive truths. Some will even spread negative information without fact checking it. Did you know the world will lie to you? “The Democrats did this blah blah blah. President Trump did this and that blah blah blah.”  People are consumed by it, forgetting the positive stuff or, much worse, being blinded to the positives.  Some people see these present days as a sign that the end times are here, as prophesied in scripture. They shout that we are “closer than ever to the return of Jesus”, just look at what is happening around us in nature, or the hearts of people.

Of course we are closer to His return, every day is closer whether it is next week or the next century.  But this does not mean that we should stop “whispering His love to all that are willing to hear”.

…and start spreading His love. 

We can share “factual” headlines BUT we must balance, or overwhelm, the world with His good news more so.  It comes down to your priorities.  What are your priorities?  To share His truth or to share the latest drama? 

I wonder what would happen if we flood the mind killing social media world with His good news in a ratio of 3:1 as compared to the negative junk.  Or 4:1. How about 5:1?   

Remain situationally aware my brothers and sisters, our nation is at stake and this is true. However, His truth is also at stake and that should be our top priority – to keep His truth moving forward.  This is what I want people to know about me.

 


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The Power of a Label

Throughout the 2019 Calendar Year, I had been struck by how we tend to view people based on the labels we put on them. We then treat that person based on the label we have applied to them (I am guilty of this).  Making this more traumatic is that we don’t care whether the person accepts or rejects the label, in fact, how often do we label someone without even telling them, or talking with them about it?

I wrote an article last year titled “Keep Going, Keep the Faith, Keep Pressing Forward“. In that article, I shared how I may not fit what some Christians may view, in their mind, a typecast perception of a Christian profile.  I am not talking about the profile of love, caring, compassion, or the fruits of the spirit as shared in Galatians 5:22-23.  I am talking about that of a personal bias, an opinion, a “religious” belief that forces a label on someone else because they don’t fit your idea of a model Christian. And then, the person with the “label” is treated according to that label – whether they are aware of the label or not (they just know that they are being treated differently by some people than these same people treat others). And this my friends, is one reason why, men in particular, are walking away from the church.

I recently came across an article by Rebekah Lyons and I thought it was beautiful, it really spoke to my heart. The article below is a paraphrase of what she wrote and is not her full article but I pray that the spirit of what she says below resonates with you just as much as it did me.

 

Excerpted from an article by Rebekah Lyons

 

I’ve been struck by how many conversations revolve around our labels. “I’m ADD, OCD, manic, depressed, disabled, handicapped, diabetic…” The list goes on and on. We throw out labels as if they clarify who we are, maybe even our most defining marks. We use these descriptors as a way of helping people keep their expectations of us in order. The problem is, when we use one of these labels to describe ourselves, they often give us our deepest sense of identity. We believe the lie that the label defines us. We shift from believing a particular label is something we face to believing it’s someone we are.

This sets up expectations of an indefinite future with a predetermined outcome. Labels are powerful things we can misconstrue as our identities. But what if we came to understand that labels don’t define us? That, instead, they are an explanation to help the world understand things we’ve dealt with or come up against? When we don’t view our identity through a label, we’re able to find ways to thrive in spite of whatever label we are living under. This mindset helps us turn from despair to hope in action.

Today, 76 percent of us believe we best “define ourselves” by looking within.1 That is, if we stare deep into our psyches and evaluate our feelings, personalities, passions, desires, and even addictions long enough, we will discover our true selves. But looking only at ourselves can bring disillusionment and lead us to an empty place. Why? Because though our internal realities are true, they don’t define us. They don’t always show us who we really are. After all, isn’t the self always growing?

Isn’t the soul oriented toward God always changing on its journey to eternity? Staring into a mirror might show us what we look like in the moment, but it cannot show us who we are or where we’re going.

So how do we find our true identity, who we are and where we’re going? The Christian faith leads us beyond the trappings of ourselves and into an identity rooted in something more solid, more immovable — God Himself. Identity in Him is trustworthy and unchanging.

When our identity is found in who God says we are rather than in our highs and lows, our successes and failures, or our desires, affections, or shortcomings, we experience the freedom we were meant to enjoy. When I need to be reminded of this, I read this list of phrases that tell me the truth about who God says I am, and it always helps:

I am a child of God. (John 1:12)

I am a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I am a friend of Jesus. (John 15:15)

I am created by God to do good. (Ephesians 2:10)

I am free in Christ. (Galatians 5:1)

I am chosen and loved. (1 Thessalonians 1:4)

I am the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

I am not ruled by fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I am forgiven. (Colossians 2:13)

I am God’s possession. (Titus 2:14)

I am free from the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:24)

I am a light in the world. (Matthew 5:14–15)

I am secure in him. (1 Peter 1:3–5)

I am loved by God. (1 John 4:10)

If you have worn your own identity label like a name tag, take a moment to ask God who you are in Him. Root yourself deep in that identity. Then, with an identity rooted in the God who gives wisdom, strength, and love, go out into the world, secure and confident in who you really are.

It’s amazing how much more we find compassion in our hearts when we truly know someone. Are you quick to label others? Are there labels that you’ve been trying to break free from that people have given you your whole life?


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The Revolt Against the Bible and a godly Constitution

Should Politics and Culture be preached from the pulpit?

There is much debate today about whether or not cultural issues or politics should be discussed from the pulpit in our churches. I had lunch with a dear friend a few weeks ago and he and I disagree on this: I believe that culture and politics should be preached on, whereas he does not. However, while we are both adamant about our view, we do not allow our difference of opinion to impact our relationship. Now, let me be specific about one item, I would not agree to any endorsement of a specific candidate for “any” office, but I am talking about policy and political agenda items. 

Here is an example of a preacher that discussed politics and culture in his sermons while not endorsing any specific person for office:

The Reverend Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766) studied theology at Harvard, and although he pastored a Congregational Church, he pursued an independent course, teaching that the Bible should be the basis of doctrine and theology. He was a staunch defender of civil and religious liberty and published many famous sermons (at that time) related to the preservation of those liberties, including a 1750 sermon against unlimited submission to civil authorities as well as a sermon about a repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766.

Mayhew was highly esteemed by many patriots (including John Adams, who considered him one of the key figures in American independence) as well as by distinguished historians of earlier generations (such as award winning historian Clinton Rossiter (1917-1970), who listed Mayhew as one of the six greatest intellectual leaders shaping American independence). 

One of the complaints from men about church in general today is that they are unable to determine how church fits into their life. They do not understand how to apply the principles and biblical foundation into their work life,

Across the centuries, there have been many different forms of government with widely varying results, some good and some bad. What makes America unique among all the nations of the word, what makes it possible that our form of government has not changed in over two centuries, while operating under the same governing documents, is based on the founding fathers affirmation that the Bible was instrumental in producing our constitutional republic.

Titus 2:5 (NASB), …….the word of God will not be dishonored.

The “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” was adopted by the settlers of New Haven in 1639 and is often considered the world’s first written constitution. This document was written by the founders, Reverend John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton and reads in part:

“…..where a people are gathered together, the Word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people, there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require.”

 

Learning History is Scriptural.

Psalm 143:5 is one of the many verses that stipulate the importance of knowing history. David wrote, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.”

Other verses that tell us to study history include Isaiah 46:9, “Remember the former things long past” and Hebrews 10:32, “But remember the former days.”

Unfortunately, history today has evolved into a dreary and too often useless subject. But, the truth is that it is not that people don’t enjoy history, but rather how it is taught. Adding to the dilemma, educators in some states are rewriting, or retelling, history to fit a modern idea rather than the truth of what really happened. 

In the Bible, we learn about how people lived by studying the lives of Daniel, David, and Samuel rather than a boring chronology of dates. God has wired us in such a way that we respond more to stories about people, not just informational data and facts. Additionally, people don’t respond to history when it is taught with no purpose and no unifying theme.

The world is evolving to a degree that it is unable to comprehend the activity of God, unwilling to suggest personal relevance or identifying life lessons for fear of injecting moral values of rights and wrongs into the discussion. But previous generations did and they studied it with the intent of seeing would could be learned and applied today.

Supreme Court Justice James Moore stated, “History is God’s providence in human affairs, and it is a part of it to triumph over error, and to assign to the actors in great events their proper places.” Benjamin Franklin believed that when history is presented accurately, students would reach the inescapable conclusion that God and religion were necessary to success in both personal and national life. 

Without vision, the people perish (Prov 29:18). When history lacks purpose, it will be uninteresting. Previous generations believed that to exclude a Providential view of history will deprive students of a truthful portrait of human events.

We should not let the current anti-Biblical approach to teaching history discourage us from the study of what really, what actually, happened in America. We shall always remember that “History is God’s providence in human affairs.”

We are told today that the US Constitution is complicated and only those with legal acumen can interpret it. Yet, for decades after the American founding, the document was taught in elementary schools with annual written tests on its content. But sadly, the only amendment that most US citizens know today is the first amendment while only 1 in 1000 can actually name all five guarantee’s (freedom of religion, press, speech, assembly, and petition).

For 150 years after the American founding, the “uncomplicated” constitution was interpreted via Originalism (meaning original intent, that the constitution means exactly what it says). Very similar to Scripture, right? However, 150 years later, we started teaching about evolution in school, AND, a decade after evolution started being taught, people started interpreting the constitution as a Living Constitution. The result is that our student citizens have become confused as to how we are to read and interpret the Constitution. Ironically, this also coincides with the beginning in a decrease in biblical literacy.

Harvard Law School dean Christopher Langdell applied Darwin’s premise of evolution to jurisprudence. He believed that since man evolves, laws must also evolve, and that judges (not your elected representatives) are charged with guiding the evolution of law AND the US Constitution. Any belief in absolutes in moral or common law are to be dismissed. Students were taught this and now sit as judges in our courts such as state supreme courts and the US Supreme Court. It has become an institutionalized belief rather than the original intent of the American founding.

We are under a US Constitution but the constitution has become whatever the judges say it is. No wonder our citizens are confused today, or, intimidated by the constitution. But, the good news is, we can fix it.

We fix it by being prudent and wise when voting in our elected officials – at all levels. Don’t just focus on federal elections, local elections actually impact you more.

How many countries around the world do you think dream of having a constitution like ours? A faithful Christian is a steward of what God has provided. He has given us a great country and a God inspired Constitution. That’s why we have the largest influx of immigrants than any other nation around the world. We should not take our liberty for granted.


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Unanswered Prayers Led Me to Revelation

Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG), “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 

I like the Message paraphrase of this verse because I tend to be more receptive to very direct statements verses a 20 minute dialogue in hopes that I might get it (clue bird anyone?).  Perhaps my background in being confrontational is one of the reasons for this? More on this in a bit.

This verse ranks in the top 3 of Prayer Principles that is the most difficult for me.  I also believe this to be a challenge for many others.  I still find myself, today, praying for things that I know I have already prayed for before but I have yet to grasp or see the fruit from it.  Sometimes, I forget that I have prayed for something until I am right in the middle of prayer, and then I giggle mid-prayer, give a little spiritual “duh!”, repent, and move on out.

As I meditated on this with the Lord and asked Him about this, “Why do I keep repeating myself in prayer?”, He provided three prevailing statements to me

  1. It is because you (meaning me) do not have faith that He will answer that prayer.
  2. It is because I am holding onto fear, referring to the worldly outcome to me if my prayer is not answered. In others words, I am being “selfish”.
  3. It is because I am holding onto strongholds, blocking the needed Spiritual variables to operate in my life and not allowing them to work through me which would then, in turn, allow the answers to my prayer to manifest.

I dug a tad deeper into this with the Lord because it was really important to me regarding one particular area in particular that I have been praying about for several years now. My first reaction to His first three statements to me was frustration and to lash back and say “Come on, man! This isn’t right.”  And then I would argue, “But what if what I am praying for are for the Spiritual variables to operate? I want them to operate, I have made a choice for them to operate. In my “mind”, I feel that I am allowing them to operate.”

If I am not getting results from my prayers because these variables are not operating, which I am now praying for, then what is wrong?  Am I that jacked up? I then hear this from the Lord:

“Peace brother”. LOL, yep, that is what I heard. Ok? What about peace?

I lived the first 40 years of my life trying to live a life by my own knowledge, wits and cunning, never trusting anyone into my court when it was something near and dear to me “professionally”. As a result, I developed an internal system of being very analytical, applying intellectualism to dominate my thought life. I learned to be very creative, always coming up with “a way” to get past my obstacles or challenges. 

I made an earlier statement above where I stated “in my mind”. “In my mind” I was allowing the necessary spiritual variables to operate, but I was not allowing them to operate in my heart. The Lord was telling me that I was not allowing Galatians 5:22-23 to operate:

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”

I was struggling to allow them to work “in my heart”. My heart gate, while having been freed from it’s hardened state, still required additional areas to be skimmed, allowing more of Him to soak in. My mind was still trying to control most of everything, to manage my conditions and think creatively. I was not allowing my mind to be renewed by my heart and my heart was NOT at peace with my new identity, a battle ensuing between my old man and my new man (see Romans 7-8).

Colossians 3:15 (NLT), And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Philippians 4:7 (NLT), Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

My most innermost heart felt prayer to God is not, and has not been, about money, success, or even physical health for that matter. If it were God’s will, I would gladly give up and sacrifice my money and professional success for one thing that I desire above anything, above all else.  As a matter of fact, I am slowly and methodically sacrificing both of these things each and every day. And because I know this, I was allowing it to impact my faith, causing it to wane..

I was not getting an answer to my prayer because I was not at peace within my heart.  Within the binders of His scriptures, He provides us with answers on “how to find peace”.  But, I am a 20 year soldier with a military mindset, and, in the military, there is a common saying:

“This brief’s well, but…….”  [I am using this as a metaphor in respect to what the Bible tells us to do and our ability to follow it].

In the military, at some point we become well versed briefers. When giving a Decision Brief or a Course of Action Brief, we eventually learn all of the keywords, the emotional points, the winning phrases that will get us what we want; yet, executing what you brief is significantly different. Because now you have to put your plan into action while depending on others to follow through.

This is when some well minded Christians will step in and say, “Well brother, the Word tells you what to do and how to do it. If you don’t do it, then I can’t help you.”  Or, even more condemning, some of the more religious and legalistic Christians will say, “If you are truly Born Again, then this would not be a problem for you”, or, “if you have His Spirit in you, then this would not be an issue. If you are struggling with finding peace, then you do not really have His Spirit.” Or, even worse, some Christians will tell you that “You are not really saved then.”. 

My response to them is – “not cool.”  When men, in particular, experience this battle of the heart, it is not a clear cut issue of sin, it is an issue of a believer struggling on the fence between two worlds, the physical world and the spiritual world. You need a heart for life, both the blood pumping muscle in your chest and the spiritual one that is the wellspring of true life. Easton’s illustrated dictionary of biblical terms says, “the heart is that center of spiritual activity and all the operations of human life”.

Will the struggling person get there?  Yes, BUT, not by being condemned with lies that they must not be truly saved, or, that they can’t be helped.  A person in this condition is a person hungry for Jesus while struggling with the concept of heart and spirit.  They need coaching, discipling, and intimacy through another believer living by example.

Jesus makes it clear that it is the heart He is after. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also. (see Matthew 6:21).

So, what to do?  Here is the process He told me, which many Christians are familiar with.

  1. You MUST spend time, every day, in His Word, and, spend time at the cross. Prayer, meditating on Him, look for Him in your heart (no matter how much time it takes)
  2. You MUST build a relationship with Him. He wants your attention and He wants your heart.
  3. You MUST practice your spiritual muscle. Fellowship, community, journaling, sharing with others, lifegroups

 

Now, with that said, it is true that the believer struggling with this concept, who is not experiencing a fruitful prayer life, MUST take personal responsibility. This person MUST fulfill the basics of scripture and fellowship. So, what to do when a believer cant seem to take personal responsibility? There is no magic formula or specific step by step process. Each person’s character and personality must be taken into account. Our goal is to protect the heart of the believer while encouraging him.

In his book, The Three Battlegrounds, Francis Frangipane, points out that it is foolish to assume that our salvation alone eliminated all of our bad attitudes and ideas,  strongholds, as they are still influencing our perceptions and attitudes. While it is true that our old man has passed away and we are a new man, but, until we are walking in the fullness of Christ, it would be dangerous to presume that the process of change is over.

At the individual level, there are areas of uniqueness that affect our continued success in the spiritual war that comes with yielding to the Lord. This process continues as He reveals our own unique strongholds to us and we agree with Him through repentance and pull those strongholds down. Sometimes, these strongholds are so deeply hidden that we do not recognize them or identify them. This is why the salvation and trandformative experiences are different for everyone, as well as the variable of time. Some transform at a faster pace than others, which can discourage the hard headed and heavy hearted man.

We need to get our thought life in agreement with what Christ has placed in our heart. And this my brothers and sisters is where it can cause rifts within christian circles. Why? Because there is significance in the process of deliverance for some men, which often involves longer seasons of inner conflict and turmoil.

Some christians will look at a man that is struggling with this process as a sign that the man is not truly born again. When in fact these signs are positive, signifying that the person has a strong desire to be free. We should expect a time where we exercise our  authority in Christ as we help these individuals resist the devil, not discourage them from the process and demote them to a position in the back row of the pews. I for one, will guide them to the front row. 


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Strength, Courage, Resolve, and a Bridge

1 Cor 10:13 (NLT), The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

John 14:6 (NLT), Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

 

Most of us have, and prayerfully others will as well, come to a bridge that we must cross. This bridge will take us across a deadly chasm and, eventually, to the other side where His Kingdom resides, His Promise! As we cross this bridge, we will experience problems, challenges, and chaotic moments that will cause us to pull from our faith, as the bridge is tossed back and forth in the crosswinds of life.  The bridge will be rickety at times and have gaps in it that will possibly create opportunities for doubt.  And yet, you will see people on the other side of that bridge, with the knowledge that they too, dealt with the same winds, the same gaps, the same opportunities for doubt, the same issues of life, and yet they made it across the bridge. The Bridge is The Way, but it is up to you to continue. 

Some people will unfortunately be blown off the bridge and perish in the rocks and raging rivers below, allowing the seeds of doubt to take root, allowing the issues of life to take their life; they let go of the rope that was their faith. Their issues blurred them to the truth, His truth, that He is the Way and His Way is strong. It is our job to keep crossing that bridge ourselves while helping others to continue and encouraging others to also take their first step on that bridge, to the Promise! Allow others to borrow your faith if necessary, but not permanently. 

To be blunt for just a second, whatever problem(s) you are dealing with, right now, is nothing special! I know, some problems can feel really harsh, as if it/they are crushing your very life from you. I had been living a very shallow life, thinking that the problems and challenges I was dealing with were something unique to me. That somehow, I needed to create my own solution(s) to get through, or across, whatever it was I was dealing with.  If I am to be honest, I am still challenged with this shallowness from time to time; only now, I recognize it and can apply faith to conquer it.

There are many different kinds of traps people struggle with that span all walks of life. Any type of addiction can be a serious trap. Or how about financial (this is always a good one)? It’s easy to let worries consume your thoughts. That is not God’s will for our life.

1st Corinthians 10:13 gives God’s perspective on all the problems you are facing right now. No matter how overwhelming, suffocating, and insurmountable your issue might seem, it is merely a common human problem that has already been faced and overcome by countless other people and believers in the past.

It is an insidious trick of the devil to plant the false assumptions in your mind that your need is a special case, I myself had fallen victim to this several times. I can also share freely, that If he succeeds in doing this, it will be vastly more difficult for you to overcome your problem, you’ll assume that none of God’s principles apply to your situation because your problem is bigger, unique, and special. And before you know it, you have taken over and are relying on yourself and noone else to help you. And when someone gives you an answer for your situation from God’s word, you’ll just nod and say, “yeah, whatever”. You will agree with what the Bible says, but you will still consider your case to be an exception.

1 Cor 16:13-14 (GNT) “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be brave, be strong.” The NASB translation commands people to “Act like men” and be strong.

Paul warns us that believers must be alert about competing traditions of worldly wisdom and stand firm. Paul’s command to “Act like men”, is due in large part because faith in Christ will face opposition, where others will try to convince you that God cannot help you, that His Word is nothing but words on paper.

It is imperative that you stop looking at your issue as something that no one else has ever experienced. It is always true that your problem is something that countless others have faced in the past and are facing today. Yes, some of the variables may be different, but the problems are the same.

How you look at the problem will determine how quickly you get out of it! If you look at it like it’s huge, unique, and special, you will have a very hard time getting over it.

“Act like men” is translation from the Greek andrizomai, was a frequent command in the Old Testament and is used to encourage people (i.e., soldiers) to act with courage and strength in obedience to the Lord and with confidence in His power. They must be resolved to remain in their faith with strength and courage. 

Keeping crossing that bridge. Grab the rope and hold on tight. Sometimes, you will have to drop to your knee’s, while this will allow you to sturdy yourself on the bridge, also symbolic to you dropping to your knee’s in prayer to Jesus to give you strength, courage, or whatever you need to continue to cross that bridge. And them stand up and continue across that bridge to His Kingdom. Finish the race across that bridge.

How should you look at your problem? “In the history of mankind, I’m not the first person to face this type of challenge, and I won’t be the last. There are numerous people facing problems far more worse than mine, yet they are able to smile and maintain their joy in the midst of the challenge and end up victorious on the other side! This is just a common problem that many people have conquered before me-and I’m going to be the next to do it!”

When you adopt this attitude, you position yourself to quickly escape the trap your in by reducing the size of your problem in your mind into something manageable and conquerable. God is faithful to make a way of escape for you. He will show you how to get out of any trap you might find yourself in right now. There is a way out, and God has given you his word and his spirit to guide you every step of the way across the bridge, avoiding the rocks below, and keeping you from turning back to your old life.


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Faith, Practice, Mirrors, and Timelines

2 Peter 1:5-10 (NASB), Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;

 

In early December, I spent some time with a group of 18-20 men, we were discussing the concept of peace. Are you at peace with who you are, or, do you not like who you are?  When you sleep at night, are you truly getting rest, or do you wake up each morning not feeling rested?  What do you think about yourself when you look at yourself in the mirror?

The discussions revolved around worry, stress, anxiety, and internal conflict; how these things impact our perceptions about ourselves. Do we like the way we look or the way we feel?  Are we satisfied with our thought life, as well as our heart life?

I was reminded about some time that I had spent on this a little over a year ago. If we do not like ourselves when we look at ourselves in the mirror, what are we supposed to do with that information?  The Lord actually took this idea of the mirror one step further with me. If you don’t like who you see in the mirror, ask yourself this, do you like the person you are becoming?
 
Perhaps you don’t like who you see in the mirror today but you believe that you are a better person today than you were yesterday.  Praise God for that, it’s progress!!   If you are happy with who you are becoming, then why is that not a good thing, why suffer anxiety about it today?
 
For some, it is a matter of expectations of time. You may have placed a calendar on yourself and maybe you aren’t living up to that calendar.  Rather than focusing on the timeline, we should probably focus on the process, which of course, we find within scripture, in God’s Word.
 
You are not in trouble, but yet trouble is on your mind. It is messing with your love, messing with your destiny and how you are viewing yourself. But, when you get into the Word, the Word eventually works its way into your spirit. Once it is in your spirit, its thoughts become your thoughts. It allows your mind to go through a metamorphosis.
 

Peter provides us with a list of qualities in 2 Peter 1:5-8 that we are to supplement our faith with:

  • Virtue with knowledge
  • Knowledge with self-control
  • Self control with steadfastness
  • Steadfastness with godliness
  • Godliness with brotherly affection
  • Brotherly affection with love

 

Peter tells us that these qualities are ours for the asking and will increase in us because of our faith. But if we should find any of these qualities lacking, we should practice them (v. 10), continuously.  With practice, he continues, you will be richly rewarded.  Some find this easier than others and that, my friends, is the rub for some men.
 
In Hebrews 5 (v. 11-14), we read about the maturing Christian, who, after first being born again, is like a toddler who requires milk instead of solid food. But, like a child, as we mature in our faith, we start taking in solid food. This is in reference to the degree’s of understanding scripture and the application of what He is teaching us in the Word. The writer in Hebrews tells us that with time, we ought to be matured, [through practice], enough to become teachers of the faith ourselves.  However, while rebuking the believer that they should be teachers of the faith, the writer does not place a timeline on the maturation process, the timeline is completely up to you – the believer.  For some men in particular, this can be frustrating – almost always due to ego and pride, or, lack of repentance and forgiveness, causing them to give up.
 

Too many men feel that they should be faith experts, or, that they should “see” changes within a short period of time. This is because they are comparing their ability to learn and adapt their faith with their ability to learn and adapt with their earthly endeavors – their intellect and their minds. We miss the idea that spiritual endeavors are not the same as physical endeavors. While spiritual endeavors CAN be easier, it is also the most complex – due to bad programming in the mind. Men, we need to recognize that spiritual endeavors are of the heart, not the mind. We can’t see change when we are focusing with our physical eyes, we need to learn to see with the eyes of their hearts (our eye gate).

A man matures in his faith through PRACTICE.  He practices his faith with other men, discipleship, prayer, listening to God’s voice, fellowship with other men, digging into the Word so that our spirit can soak it up. We are  training our spiritual muscle, much like we train the muscles of our bodies. It can be difficult for a man to read the bible for spiritual revelation when he has been trained to read books either for entertainment or for intellectual knowledge. We will, with practice, train our spirits to react with muscle memory, our spirit is acting before we even realize it.

With practice, the Lord will work on the man from the INSIDE and eventually work its way to the OUTSIDE.  If we view ourselves with the eyes of our heart instead of the eyes of our head, we will see that while we may not like who we see, we will like who we are becoming.  Some changes can be subtle but change is nevertheless happening.

One man said that he had to learn to trust God, that he put up a wall between he and God. This is typical for a man that has learned to trust only himself because placing trust in others has usually led to problems.  Over time, he learned to trust God and the wall eventually came down. This wall came down because the man learned, through practice, how to apply his faith to his life.

For the man that has adapted to lack of rest during sleep caused by stress, anxiety, and worry; this too goes away as we practice our faith and allow the Word to sink into our spirit. At night, while we are sleeping, our spirit is still awake – always awake – always guarding our hearts in our sleep.   How many times can you recall quoting scripture, or declaring Jesus, in your dreams?  It is an awesome experience when that happens.

Through practice, we can all learn to have faith like the Apostles Peter and Paul.  Yes, we can!!


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Suicidal Thoughts, The Pit of Despair and the Fear of the Lord

For some reason, this morning the Holy Spirit spoke up in me regarding men, around the world, that are living a life where they truly hate and despise the holidays. SO I am going to obedient and modify my plans for Him.

We see messages all of the time about folks that despise the Christmas Season and that we should look out for them, pray for them, and show compassion and empathy (possibly a little egg shell walking?). Please allow me to share a personal and first hand account why this is truly paramount and critical – it could save someone’s life.

After my son died in the Middle East in February 2011, I began a massive heart decline that nearly tore apart my soul. I was truly a functioning “hate-a-holic”, grasping at straws for a reason to keep moving forward. The issues revolved around what I perceived my relationship to be with my son, that whatever opportunity we had together was now gone – forever.

I told my wife later, that if I had a gun in the house, I might have shot myself. I don’t know if I would have done it, but the pain was deep enough that I considered it. Nonetheless, what I did do, was pray to God for an event, an accident, or some catastrophe that would take me out. I wanted to die.

For a little more than three years after his death, I grew despondent about life, riddled with guilt, remorse, severe depression and every other negative emotion you can probably think of. And I masked it really well. I am not sure if there is a difference between having “suicidal tendencies” or being “suicidal”, but I most definitely had suicidal tendencies.

I never spoke against God, but I sure was angry. I was mad at everything. I was mad at God but I was most angry with myself and I learned, once again, to hate myself. This “mindset” was tearing me apart. So, I self-medicated myself by pursuing a Doctorate Degree, to allow me to focus my mind on different thoughts, to keep me occupied. I was kicking the can down the road as I knew, at some point, I was going to have a collision course with this issue.

My academic pursuits worked a little bit, for a short period of time.  Did nothing for my family though, as I darn near ignored them, spending as little time with them as possible. Just enough to feel comfortable that I was doing my part as a “diligent” dad as we adapted to our new life without our son, a life where my daughter and my youngest son needed to move on without their older brother.

After three years and some poor decisions, a very tiny spirit hole that I somehow allowed to remain intact in my heart started to allow a small point of light to peak through the darkness I was in.  This small point of light eventually grew and expanded enough to allow me to make a decision that I needed to get back to His business.

Psalm 40:2 (NLT). “He lifted me out of the pit of despair……..”

I started to panic, a sense of fear that I had never experienced before.  I realized that I had completely removed God from my life and it scared the crap out of me.  And I knew, without a doubt, that I was in the current predicament I was in because I had severely backslidden.  Outside of clear instructions from Him telling me to “go back to His house”, I heard absolutely nothing more.

Prov 19:23 “The fear of the Lord leads to life……..”

There was a comfort in simply going back to church, that I did not really need much more, at that point in my “comeback”. I think the family was simply happy that I was going back. Nobody questioned me, no one berated me for my three year absence, they simply acknowledged me and smiled in that knowing way. Marcus was back.

The Lord is the healer that can make all things new.  This allows us to keep Moving Forward.

Once back, the Lord and I were engaged.  And He was assisting me with my comeback.

Psalm 40:2 (NLT). “…….. out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

There are people struggling at this time of year and most of them are embarrassed about it. As you try to comfort them, they will have issues of trust at first, but, with the Lord involved, He can help you work through the “human” consequences both you and the struggler find themselves.

“The fear of the Lord is loving what God loves (wisdom) and hating what God hates (evil)l”. ~Pat Morley

 

Let Him be the guide and do what the Lord tells you to do, your spirit will be reconnected under the grace of our Lord Jesus. Keep the faith and remain consistent and loyal to Him – and then rest.
 

Prov 19:23 ” ………..So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”


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The prodigal father

In the Book of Luke, we read Jesus Parable of the prodigal son, but is it also possible that this parable can also apply to a Prodigal father? 

 

Some men come to Christ late in life, and sometimes, their children are grown.  Scripture reminds us that the man is to be the spiritual head of the household, along with principals on how to raise their children amongst others.  As the man in this example digs deeper into the Word of God and he begins to realize that he missed it, the guilt can be strong, particularly if their children are not leading the lives they would want for them, or, when they realize that they had been absent from their children’s lives – giving a sense of “it is too late now. I messed up.”  For a man at this stage of his life, this revelation can cause the man to progress with a broken spirit.

However, what does God have to say that can help the prodigal father with a broken spirit? 

In Psalm 51:17, we read that the God actually desires a broken spirit, because this is when the man, in this case, realizes that he needs help and comes to Him. This is when “help” is something that only the Lord can provide, requiring humility, strength, and courage.

Fathers may have to admit to their families that they did not carry out their God commanded responsibilities to be the spiritual head of the house. The father should ask forgiveness from his family and pray that through this example of reconciliation his adult children will be pointed to Christ. As we see in Psalm 51:17, God honors a broken and contrite heart.

A dad can sit down with each child and explain how he now sees things and admit he should have done things very differently in regard to their upbringing. He should let them know he has confessed this to the Lord and then ask them to forgive him, even if they don’t understand what this means right now.

The prodigal father makes the decision that he is determined to move forward as an example to them of what a good father can be. Then the father needs to spend much time in prayer with his spouse for their children, grandchildren, and the generations to come if necessary. Prayer is the source of our power, according to James 5:16, prayer is highly effective when offered by the one who has confessed his sins – an act that a righteous person does.

But wait, there’s more. For the prodigal father, God has more to say. 

In Hebrews 9:14, we see that the blood of Christ has cleansed our conscience from our [past] acts that were leading us to death. 

There was no timeline placed on this, or a length of time that your past can be forgiven, as if there is some form of cut off point. That is good news, but wait, it doesn’t stop there.

In Rev 2:17, John shares a vision where Jesus is going to give us, meaning believers who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, a white stone. 

Why did Jesus promise a white stone in Revelation 2:17? What is the significance?

In both ancient Rome and ancient Greece, black and white stones were used when voting. In the case of Roman trials, judges would cast a black stone for guilty or a white stone for not guilty. In Greece, citizens would vote on an issue by casting a black stone against the issue or a white stone in support of the issue.  In both of these examples, we conclude that a white stone is used when in support of something. In Jesus case, His white stone is cast for you. His white stone means that He has reviewed all of the evidence, all of the data, and He has judged in your favor. 

When Christ promised a white stone to the believers who overcame, he was not only announcing freedom, forgiveness, and acquittal from a past sinful life, but he was also telling them, my vote is for you. I am putting my full support behind you.

A white stone in Revelation 2:17 declares that Christ has found us not guilty and that he is putting his full support behind you and me. Christ is voting for us!  Including The Prodigal Father.

Men like me, who came to the Truth a little later in life, that you have been forgiven and washed in the precious blood of Christ, you are forgiven – period. The devil may try to hassle you in your mind and torment you with past memories that God himself doesn’t remember. Since His blood was applied to your life, He has found you completely blameless and free from shame.

If it doesn’t feel at the moment like anyone else is for you, just remember that Christ himself has cast his vote for you. My friend, if Jesus has cast His vote for you – and He has – you can throw off all despair and start rejoicing, because the one vote that really matters has been cast in your favor!


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How My Desires Nearly Destroyed Me

1 Tim 3:1 (NIV), Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.
 
Phil 3:14 (NASB), I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
 
In 1 Timothy, Paul was instructing Timothy to choose people for church leadership roles who have the specific quality of “desire”. While this verse is in reference to a position in Church leadership, we can have desires for other things, as long as they remain a noble desire in the eyes of God.
 
The word “desire” describes a longing, a craving, an urge, a burning desire, or a yearning ambition to achieve something. A person so fixed on the object of his desire that his whole being is stretched forward to take hold of that goal or object, and he will not be satisfied until he reaches and obtains it.
 
Paul held the qualification of “desire” above everything else in his list of requirements for leaders – and it takes only a few personal experiences with “desireless” people to clearly understand why he did this.
 
We also find in Scripture that we, as believers, need to press on toward the goal of the prize to be found in Jesus Christ. 
 
Whatever our desire, whatever we deem a prize, we are to press on – as long as we know, that we believe, that our desire is good in the eyes of our Father.
 
Before Christ, I was a driven man, in pursuit of success no matter the cost. Pat Morley refers to this as “success sickness”.  My mission, my objectives, were more important to me than anything else, including people. If someone told me “no” when I wanted a “yes”, then I would do whatever it would take to turn that no into a yes. For the most part, I was honorable and followed the rules, but, the rules did not say anything about relationships and people.
 
You too will run into many obstacles in life that no one prepared you to face, possible even people. However, your obstacle may be money, a regulation, or something technical.  No matter what your obstacle may be, if you have the inward desire to achieve your goal:
  • Any obstacle can be overcome
  • Any challenge can be conquered
  • Any mountain can be successfully climbed

 

Paul stressed the importance of “desire” because it is absolutely fundamental to achieving success in any arena of life. If your level of “desire” is strong, it doesn’t matter if you’re ill equipped or uninformed. You will complete your assigned task because your inward determination and resolve will not let you give up!

“Desire” pertains to anyone who desires to reach “….the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14) for their own lives.  But, be careful, because “a human mad with desire is more fearsome than a demon. Be careful with your desires.

For me, the easiest obstacle to get through were people. I did accomplish my missions and my objectives most of the time, but I destroyed a lot of relationships along the way, and it came “to hurt me back” later in life.  I did not conduct myself with grace nor mercy. I was graceless and merciless.

Each persons calling is different, and you are uniquely gifted to fill a specific role within the great plan of the Father. However, to truly realize your potential, you must possess a strong inner desire – a desire that refuses to quit at all costs and continually presses forward to reach new heights.

Go for it, but don’t do what I did. Ensure that you are acting in a way that honor’s Jesus as you do it.


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Preaching the Walk; Walking the Preach

2 Tim 4:2 (MSG), I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.

2 Tim 4:2 (Amp) Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching.

You can read the article that follows, or, you can watch my video on this message HERE.  The video is just a tad more spontaneous and natural, lasting about 15 minutes.
 

I read a saying the other day that is apparently shared among some Christians that I have been led to understand is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” My understanding of this phrase, as interpreted by those Christians familiar with it, is that it means that are to live God’s truth before others without actually having to explain it, and that this, by itself, is sufficient to fulfill God’s command to “preach the gospel.” But, if you have to because people just aren’t getting it, then go ahead and use words to share the Gospel. I have personally listened to others teach or say to other Christians that all we need to do is live Jesus out in our lives and this, in itself, will preach the Gospel, that people will be curious about you enough that they will either wonder among themselves or ask you directly, “What is it about you that makes me want what you have?”.  As I was reading Second Timothy 4:2, this verse seems to contradict that understanding, but at the same time, I want to be very cautious and do not want to neglect or understate the importance of how we live and conduct ourselves, both in private and around others. Of course, our lives should never detract from God’s Word and our message. Indeed, the Christian is called to live in such a way as to make the gospel attractive as we are reminded in Titus 2:10 where we are told “to show that they (meaning we Christians) can be fully trusted, so that in every way they (meaning we Christians) will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (NIV). But, ultimately, if the Word of God is to be proclaimed, we must use His words.

When I was working for the ministry at Wycliffe Associates (love that ministry by the way), there were plenty of people working for the ministry that I would not know were Christian if they were not working in that environment (I can unfortunately include myself in that category). However, there were two men, in particular, that simply projected love – there was something about them that said “I love you”. I wanted what they had and I wanted to be like them. Without even speaking, these two guys just exhibited love – something that is very difficult to explain. I spent as much time as I could around these guys, hanging out with them in their office and talking with them. I wanted to know them and be around them, I wanted to soak in what they were projecting.

What these two men had to share with me is in complete alignment with how they carry themselves in their character and behavior; that aura they projected that was easily sensed and felt. It was amazing, but yet, it also caused me to wonder what was wrong with me, laying subtle seeds of doubt. Why can’t I be like them? Why can’t I present myself, in a way, that people can simply feel the love that I have for the body?  I was not jealous or prideful, but I suppose there was envy. Because, I knew, without a doubt, that this is what Christ wants for all of us and I did not feel that I had it. After leaving Wycliffe in 2018, I can honestly say that I really miss these two guys more than others.

I have been around A LOT of people who are very charismatic, people that I trust completely, but this is different. I don’t want to downgrade what other people have as far as their anointing is concerned as we are all different, but I can honestly say that I have never been around other men like these two guys. As I read through 2 Timothy Chapter 4, these two were immediately illumined in my heart and in my mind. These guys did preach the Word as Paul tells us, but they were also living it – at least when I was around anyway. So, in the meantime, what do to? 

I have decided that the path for me is to continue to immerse myself in His Word. I will continue to bear my heart and talk with others. When people engage with me, it is very apparent that I have a lot of passion, that there is a lot in my heart – even if they are perhaps taken a little aback by my very verbose and fast talking. I talk very fast which is why I am very intimidated about doing video or podcasts. But, what I can also say, with complete sincerity, is that I never feel as alive as I do when I am sharing my heart, and Jesus, with others.  I don’t know how I feel about the thought of me “preaching” as the Scriptures discuss as I am not a Pastor, but I am very comfortable with the thought of “sharing” what the Scriptures illumine to me – even if very pointed and directed. As we learn how to share the Gospel, at a minimum, is it ok that we, as His disciples, practice?  Not practicing the action of talking, though that is important; I am talking about practicing to listen – listening for what the Holy Spirit is telling you. Sometimes we may miss it, but over time, we get it and, over more time, the process gets easier.   This is very similar to what they teach regarding the gift of prophecy – we need to practice2 Tim 4:2 (Amp)

We need to practice because the process of preaching and teaching of the Word can have a life changing, yoke destroying effect on peoples lives.  The Word of God breaks down strongholds, releases the supernatural power of God, and transforms minds and lives as it changes external destinies. And perhaps one day, the Word of God will pour out of us, even when we are not speaking, it is simply by our presence.

Which, is a good transition back to 2 Tim 4:2,. As we read this verse, we may tend to believe that this is only applicable to the pulpit. But this is not what Paul says. As I had alluded to earlier, the word “preach”, from the original Greek, means to “publish or proclaim openly.” When Paul tells Timothy to preach the Word, the idea of a formal setting behind a pulpit or in a church service is not present. Nor does it connote a certain style of speech—“preaching” vs. “teaching” vs. “normal conversation.” In the context of 2 Timothy, any presentation of the truth of God’s Word is “preaching.” Therefore, any Christian can and should do this. So, I guess I should take back my original discomfort of with me in the action of “preaching”. Perhaps some of you should as well.

The Word can be proclaimed by books, magazine articles, and email. I am not a fan of bumper sticker meme’s, but the Word can be proclaimed through Facebook posts and Tweets. The Word can be proclaimed through music and the visual arts. The Word can be proclaimed by a get well card to a sick friend.  The Word can be proclaimed by men, women, and children of every age and station in life. And, yes, the Word can and should be proclaimed when the church gathers together for corporate worship (whether the pastor “preaches” from behind a pulpit or sits on a stool and “just talks” to the congregation – fyi, our Pastor does this and has been well received). All of us are responsible to preach, that is, to communicate God’s Word to others in whatever situation we find ourselves in with whatever tools of communication we can muster.

The verse goes on to tell us that we should be ready to do this when it is convenient and when it is not. Perhaps one of the most convenient times is when faithful church members have gathered to hear their pastor “preach.” Perhaps one of the most inconvenient times is when a group of co-workers are gathered around the water cooler. Even when it is inconvenient, we must proclaim the Word with “great patience and careful instruction,” even when the situation calls for rebuke.

Therefore, if I want to be like the two men from Wycliffe, who poured out the Gospel simply by their very presence – then I need to constantly be in the Word, strive to always live it out, and I need to always be ready to “preach” and “communicate”, no matter the time and no matter the obstacles placed before me. Today, that is via the books that I have written and am writing, the articles that I have written and the articles I will write, and via the video’s I have done and the videos I will do. The rest of it, is up the Lord, for as Paul instructed Timothy, I intend to stay put and remain at my post, just as any soldier of Christ should do. Thank you for allowing me to practice sharing Him. For practice is how the Lord is preparing me, and you.

This preaching of the Word is necessary because “the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (verses 3–4). People normally tend to be comfortable with falsehood, and Timothy must combat this tendency by being ready at all times to preach the truth, that is, to preach the Word of God.

How this can apply to the everyday Christian who does not have the opportunity to preach in a church service. The answer comes from a proper understanding of the word translated “preach.”

 

One thing is sure: as you determine to remain faithful to your divine call and to the place where God has assigned you, He will empower you with inner strength that enables you to see it through to a glorious conclusion!

 


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Dysfunctional “Bible” Families

Did you know that some of the most prolific characters, and hero’s, of the Bible were part of what many might consider “dysfunctional families”?

The very first family, Adam and Eve, were dysfunctional (Cain killed Abel). King David was part of a dysfunctional family (he had relations with a married woman and had her husband killed). King Ahab married Jezebel (enough said on that one). Even Abraham and Sarah were dysfunctional (he gave his wife away, twice; Sarah gave permission to Abraham to “lay with” another woman).

What about the story of Joseph and his family? His brothers sold him off to slavery because they were jealous. Even Joseph and Mary left a 12 year old Jesus behind, they forgot about Him. You can probably think of more examples yourself.

No matter how dysfunctional you think your family may be, this does not mean that the Lord cannot use you or use your family. In some examples of Some people are tearing themselves down because of their family dysfunction and have given up hope of any glory or blessings in their lives. This is what some in the world want you to believe, but it is not the truth of what God can do or what God expects – the bible is clear about this truth.

While our earthly family may cause us some distress, continue on your race, continue on your path for the Lord is like a candle under your feet. He will guide you, if only you will allow Him and stop allowing your family situations to distract you.


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My Plight with Friendships and Relationships

Proverbs 18:24 (NIV), One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

How many people have asked to be a friend in your life and then, once you commit to being a friend, you never hear from them again? I find that this is a two way street in my own relationships.

Over the last year, I have had some folks ask to be connected with me and be my friend, to which I gleefully accepted – only to never hear from them again. After wishing one guy a happy birthday a month or two ago, he responded to me by asking, “where do we know each other from?”, when he was the one that reached out to me just a few months earlier from a Christian group (LOL, true story). But that’s ok. Simultaneously, in life, we invest time and effort into certain friendships, only to not have that investment returned back. It sucks when that happens but it is also an area that we recognize we just need to let it go and move on.

And then, there are friends who only exist on a “friend list”. They never acknowledge something great happening in your life nor do they reach out with “anything at all” when your life experiences a dramatic turn of events. In this case, my background and experience usually tells me that I am the one that messed that one up. My thought life is flooded with “Somehow, someway, somewhere, I screwed up”. Man that is an uncomfortable feeling, particularly when you have no idea what you did, if anything. I have a niece that has coined this as the “rejection” and “guilt” clause. Love those terms.

However, and even more sadly so, I have reached out to others to become friends and, while I do know who they are unlike my “friend” mentioned above, I have not done anything to foster that relationship, to make it grow, to develop it. I never respond or acknowledge anything, neither via social media, phone call, nor in person. It makes me feel horrible to think that that is me. If you are one of those that I have neglected, then please forgive me.

As humans, as God’s children, we are created to be sociable and relational and, for me anyway, if I feel that I have failed in that regard – it can tear me up. Why? Because of my past. I held to a certain character and conduct ten years ago and earlier that still hold a subtle part of my programming. I simply “did not care”. If I was on a mission and you were in my way, I would shove you out of the way and not bat an eye. Collateral damage, yep, that was me.

If I sense that my old self has surfaced, after working so long and so hard with the Father to make those corrections in my heart, I will experience a deep conviction. That I have somehow let the Lord down. But, this is good news. Why? Because that old self is coming to the surface and identifying itself so that it can be scraped away. Sometimes, I have to scrape it away a dozen times before I finally get it.

Iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17). Never perfect, but always being perfected (Phil 1:6). This is God’s way and His desire for me, and you.


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The Church Stranger – A Short “Fiction” Story

THE CHURCH STRANGER
 

As the stranger enters the first and outer door, he wants to be hugged, but he is stand offish. He wants someone to say “Welcome”, but he gives an impression of not being approachable – a body language that says “stay away”. He hungers for love but his body language, his patterns of behavior, drive those away that he so wants to be close to.

Those familiar patterns emerge, again, where the people reject him. This is how he feels anyway and what the whispers in his head keep telling him. Nonetheless, the stranger courageously enters the auditorium through the inner door, thirsty for something that will fill his heart and give him a reason to live, a reason to exist. “Please hug me, please tell me that you love me,” he thinks to himself. Only to turn people away via a look or his downcast eyes. And yet, he continues through the struggle to humble himself, fighting the urge to run away, just so that he can hear a message that might explain his existence. He has heard that this is what this place is for. Right?

Time lapses, the message the stranger hears is on par, it tugs at his heart, pulls him in. “Does the man on the stage know me or something”, he ponders. “How does this guy know my story?”. There is an urge to run to the stage, his heart is pumping new blood, it is life giving, but the fear is overwhelming and he rejects the notion. They don’t want him up there because he is ugly, inside and outside. And then, finally, the man on the stage cries out for someone to come forward, sacrifice the fear and end the suffering. “Come and receive life, we love you, we want you, we need you. Come forward NOW!!” In whose name? Who did he say?

“Is he talking to me?”, he wonders. “Nah, nobody likes me, I wasn’t even acknowledged when I walked in”. “Wait, I feel something pulling me in, what is that?” It is then that he feels the tug of war, the whispers, telling him that this is stupid. They are not talking to you, they are talking to someone else. He feels a force trying to pull him forward, but there is another opposing invisible force pushing him back into his seat. He feels like people are staring at him, like he is an idiot or something.

He starts to cry, it is unbearable, but he fights it and, eventually, it stops. He wants to crawl down to the floor, he cannot bear his own weight sitting in the chair. The man is done talking and he is thanking people for coming. The man on stage dismisses all of the people but the stranger remains in his seat. He is in the back of the auditorium and he watches as the people walk past him. Some are at least acknowledging him with their eyes, a smile here and there. But, for the most part, the people congregate with those they are apparently friends with and the stranger is, once again, back to being a nothing, a nobody. Invisible.

He slowly rises and shuffles to the exit door, passing two groups of friends who are having their own private discussion. The stranger is again hoping that someone will recognize him, acknowledge him, give him a hug and tell them that they love him. His shoulders shrink deep into his chest and he leans his head forward and down to look at the ground. He cannot bear the thought of looking at anyone. They might recognize him as someone that does not belong.

“Well, I tried”, he sobs inwardly. “They don’t want me here, but that is what I expected anyway.” The stranger continues to meander, slowly, to the last door before he is outside.

He wants to say out loud “Please”, but he can only beg inwardly to himself. “Somebody”, pause, “Help me!”, pause, “I need someone, anyone”. Nope, his head whispers, figures.

He perceives, no wait, he senses, that he is being stared at. He is one step from the outer door. “Is someone going to stop me?”, he wonders.

No. He must have been mistaken. He is just a few inches from the outer door when he feels that strong tug on his heart again. Still an unfamiliar sensation, his body starts to shake. He doesn’t understand it, what does it mean. He slowly lifts his head and twists it a little to his left. There he is, an older guy, watching me. His eyes are crystal blue, what is that I see in them? The old man smiles at him, just slightly, and nods his head just a little, enough to tell the stranger that he sees him. The eyes of the old man look like they are saying, I recognize you.

“Weirdo”, he thinks. “Leave me alone”. The stranger turns his head back to the door and walks the final inches to enter the parking lot. He hears that whisper again, see, I told you. Nobody likes you, you are pathetic.

The stranger walks faster once he gets outside. Just shy of a jog, that familiar force that he has felt his entire life is pulling him forward. And, just as the stranger is ready to turn a corner, placing the building behind him for the last time, a slight shimmer stops him cold.

Turn around, he hears. “No”, he says to himself. Turn around, what you need is back where you came. “No, that is not true”, the stranger says to himself once more. I love you. “Yeah right! I am hated, nobody likes me, they don’t care about me. Nobody does.”  The man pushes through the shimmer, with the shadow of a cross from the roof of the building striking his back, pleading for him to come back.

Meanwhile, the old man that the stranger had seen at the outer door, cries out to himself. “You fool, you let him go”. “He needed you, the Spirit told you to grab him and hold him tight”, a slight inward pause, “But the stranger looked dirty, and there was a glint in his eyes that said beware. He was scary.” “Lord, forgive me and please place someone in his life that can get to him, lead him to the joy and freedom that he so desperately needs. In Jesus Name.”

The old man is so consumed with his own personal pride and grief about letting the stranger go that he does not hear that still whisper in his heart that says, “Go get him, chase him. Bring him back”.

The stranger allows the familiar force to continue to pull him away while ignoring that new and strange sensation to turn around. The battle fades as he continues walking to never be seen again.
 
***********
 
There are men, throughout the world, who were rejected as children and continuously rejected throughout their adult life, to a degree that they have a difficult time adjusting from that pattern in their lives. After a while, they start to create the conditions where they actually become a cause for that rejection. In their hearts, “once rejected always rejected”. They believe that they have become incapable of feeling the love that they recognize is so essential and critical to living a fruitful and joyful life. This is tormenting to men like this.
 
Some will make an effort, take that leap, to go to the one place where there is not supposed to be rejection. A place that is understood to be overflowing with love. As they enter the doors to this “building”, they are still carrying that rejection on their shoulders, you can see it in their eyes. But yet, their hearts are beating with anticipation, to finally be somewhere where they can feel like they belong, a reason to exist, a purpose for “all of this”. However, strangers will never recognize that this building is filled with many hurting people. Rejected people are people easily hurt and offended. They, more than ever, need someone in the Church to help lead them to Christ.
 
The Church is not the Pastor nor the building; the Church is about God and His people. His people should show Him through their character and their hearts towards people that they are introduced to and encounter – some seeking a new body and a new beginning. It is the people that love and take care of each other, this might be the first physical expression of love that someone has experienced. A family – even if a dysfunctional one. Sometimes, a stranger appears, who wants to enter the family, to get a piece, even if only a portion, of what a church family has. The successful integration of the stranger depends on the people (who God operates through), not the Pastor by himself, and most definitely not the building. If the people are perceived to not care, then the stranger may conclude that God does not care either. And that my friends, may be the end of the stranger. 

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