Pastor's Corner

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Go, Do Something

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There are a lot of talking heads trying to tell us how to think, how to feel, what is important to think and feel anything about at all – to the point of distraction. I believe this is driven by several competing agendas, and here are just two; the competition to sell you something, and conditioning the public to believe that if they have a small set of facts they will imagine they know something. Both of these are done primarily to manipulate you. Some of the noise of course, is from well-meaning folks who think they are helping you. But at the end of the day, you can end up emotionally worn out trying to keep up with all of the information being thrown at you.

All of this combined with social media, has people convinced that because they felt strongly about something enough to post a comment or pass on a meme, they have done something about it. Whatever sense of outrage or other emotions being felt at that moment, feels satisfied, as if something significant has happened to change the world because you pushed the “Like” button. 

In the world of blogging there are a large number of people who simply “bounce” rather than read, and on Facebook, this is even more the case. They see it, but bounce right back out having not really paid attention. The truth is, folks have been conditioned to not really pay attention unless what they see or hear is something important to them “right now” in their life. We live in an age when there is just too much information, so folks pick and choose what they will bother reading or listening to.

1 Chronicles 12:32 “Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command.”

In the midst of one of those lists of genealogies in the Bible is this one statement made about the sons of Issachar, “they understood the times, and what Israel should do.” Here we see this important element of not just knowing about something, but doing – taking action. It is here when the world changes.

If you really think something is important, something is outrageous and someone should do something about it – do something. You will need to push out against your conditioning to go out and do something. You will have to spend less time in front of the TV, less time on Facebook, and more time engaging people face to face on a regular basis. Especially with folks who do not agree with you. You will need to write a letter or an email to voice your opinion to a local, state, or federal government representative. You will need to commit time and energy to a cause that matters. If you have children, you will need to determine how you will not neglect your family while you engage. But your children will learn from you there is something worth being a part of with your time, finances, and efforts.

What is worth your time? What would God have you do? Go do it!

 

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What is Stopping You?

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What is stopping you? Where do you want to be in life, as opposed to where you are right now? Everywhere we are encouraged to dream, there are a lot of voices cheering us on. Some companies have made billions by doing so, “Just Do It” comes to mind. But it isn’t just in marketing, there is a constant refrain around us about how we should never give up on our dreams, or how we should all be doing what we want in this life in order to be happy.

There is a problem with dreams though; sometimes they are unrealistic, and sometimes they are more of a corrupting force than a force for good in a life.

“You got some big dreams, baby, but in order to dream you gotta still be asleep” – Bob Dylan, When you gonna wake up, Slow Train Coming Album

If we are not realistic about our dreams, we can end up wasting our lives. The 5 foot 9 inch tall middle-aged man who still dreams of being an NBA star, is definitely wasting his life. What can you realistically do in this life? Not what would be easy, but what could you do that would definitely take some work, but is possible if you put your mind to it? Fulfilling a dream takes work, if there is no work, you did not think big enough. It is time to stop sleeping, get up, and pursue that dream.

 -  Know what your dream is – this takes clarity of vision.

 -  Know your God-given talents and gifts, your strengths and weaknesses – this takes self-awareness, how has God made you?

 -  Commit to the pursuit – this takes determination.

 -  Have a plan: consider your responsibilities and how you can take care of them and still pursue your dream – this takes foresight, wisdom, and knowledge of what you are pursuing.

 -  Do what is best, stop doing what is not – this takes discipline.

 -  Have some mile-markers along the way to know if you are making progress.

 -  Have some support – everything needs to happen within community because no one is a self-made man or woman.

 -  Celebrate the little victories along the way.

Paul provides a simple process concept for change:

    Stop doing what is wrong – Start doing what is right – Help others (Ephesians 4:28)

The true sign of being emotionally, mentally, and personally healthy is that you move beyond yourself to seeing the needs of others, and doing something to help them. The person who seeks a dream to expend it all on themselves has not grown, they have only provided a means for furthering their selfishness. Pursue that dream, but recognize where it takes you, whether good or bad, is in your hands. Where is God calling you? Where can you make a difference and change the world for the better?

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Obama, Black Liberation Theology, and You

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Black liberation theology is an offshoot of South American liberation theology, which is largely humanistic, attempting to apply Christian theology to the struggle of the poor. Black liberation theology focuses on Africans in general, and African-Americans in particular being liberated from all forms of bondage and injustice; whether real or perceived, whether social, political, economic, or religious. It is not to be confused with African Theology which is more like a long conversation about Jesus and how Christianity works in African culture.

While Black theology did not start in the 60s, the civil rights movement helped make the concepts and application of it more a part of the black community struggle against injustice, bigotry, and violence against blacks in America. This form of theology is not limited to a single denomination, but it is more isolated to the black community in various churches. The United Church of Christ church that Barack Obama attended for years, was led by pastor Jeremiah Wright, an advocate of this view of Christianity.

Liberation theology has its roots not only in humanism, but also in communism. Perhaps this will help you better understand how the president thinks, and why he would have so many communist mentors and ties in his past. For Obama, perhaps it is all a part of the same thing.

Pastor Wright and his congregation through the years have done incredible things for their community. They have helped many people rise against the bigoted view of blacks being stupid or useless by helping them get educated, providing jobs, and mentoring young men so they can grow up and have dreams of being lawyers and doctors. And in a poor neighborhood, these are not common dreams. But, the issue Liberation Theology has struggled with over and over again, is its tendency to emphasize social justice and the here and now, over the eternal kingdom of God. And in the black community this theology has created a tendency to overemphasize racial issues to the point that you can see a bigotry displayed that can be just as ugly as the bigotry being resisted. Folks take up a tendency to be “black” before they are Christian.

This tendency though, is a common problem in all cultures if we are not careful. I have seen many Americans who tend to be American first, and Christian second. Unfortunately, the line between can be so blurred that folks don’t know the difference. I am Christian first, Hispanic and Navajo second. As a Christ-follower, I have a citizenship in heaven and an allegiance to Christ which must come first, always. When I hear some of the more conservative folks talking about immigration, I see this line blurred. In fact, I have read some pretty bigoted sounding statements coming from those who claim to be Christian. You see, we all have this problem. And honestly, we all need to take a closer look at our biases and bigotries – then we need to begin doing something about them. I hope this helps you understand the president a little better, and I also hope it helps you with a glimpse of your own heart as well. 

 

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Stronger and Better Equipped

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In high school, my athletic coaches never settled for what we could do. We were always expected to go beyond what we did before to something more. In football we all suffered through “hell week”. This was the first stage of pushing off the summer sludge physically, and the priming of our body to take the grueling torture of physical activity required to play the game. We knew it was never a good workout unless someone had been pushed to the limit and had vomited. I know, gross…. but it worked. Somehow, in a short period of weeks we were prepared to play football and take a beating so we could do what was necessary and win. At 5 foot 9 ½ inches playing middle linebacker, I had to be prepared to take a beating and get the job done against kids much larger than myself. Every athlete knows it takes physical strain and reaching beyond what you have done before, if you are ever going to reach your goals.

In life, strength never comes from a life of ease and a lack of trouble. Strength comes as a result of being tested and pushed beyond what we imagined we could handle. No one enjoys it, although the apostle James said we should learn to welcome it with joy.

James 1:2-3 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have {its} perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Some folks create their own troubles because of their own bad choices, there is simply no getting around the consequences of bad choices. Live like a fool, and you will have a fool’s life. But other times, troubles come our way and it seems to us we had little or nothing to do with it. God never allows us to go through the troubles of this life without purpose. He is growing us up, prepping us for life struggles, and causing us to be strong enough to live this life in a way that keeps us above defeat.

Perhaps you are not prepared to welcome trials with joy as yet. It’s alright. But I would encourage you to stand confident knowing God has not only not abandoned you, He is working in you to create the man or woman He desires you to be. Let the testing of your faith produce the desired outcome, a stronger and better you. 

 

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The Ebb and Flow of Marriage

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When we married, we thought our love would last forever. This is what every couple thinks about their love for each other. We promise in our vows to love each other “until death do us part.” But things do change, all of the time. And in marriage, our relationships are never static, ever. The man who is still doing the same things to relate to his wife after ten years of marriage, has missed how she has changed. We all change, and in a marriage where there has been children, there are even more changes that have taken place. Over the course of a decade, there is very little that remains the same.

Yes, there are some consistent elements that remain the same for any marriage that lasts over twenty years. Honesty, integrity, respect, and consideration for your mate will never go out of style. Remaining faithful to your spouse will never go out of style either. In fact, in the Bible, the Apostle Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is a tremendous list of what love should look like if you would give a love worth giving in marriage. Check it out.

Apart from these things though, there is an ebb and flow to every relationship, and in marriage this is especially the case. There are times when you will feel very close to each other, and times when you will feel very alone in the same house. The pressures of life, work, and the kids will push into your relationship and shove it around a bit if you do not keep this in check. You need to maintain an awareness of how your relationship is moving back and forth between intimacy and the lack of it if you are going to keep it in check. As you notice the changes taking place, you take action to maintain your intimacy as a couple. If you have gotten so busy that a date night has been so long ago you can’t remember when it was, it is time to do something.

No marriage relationship will burn red hot all of the time, nobody can maintain this forever. But no marriage can withstand a deadness in your relationship and intimacy for extended periods of time either. There is no need to stare at your marriage like a vulture stalking his prey, but you should stay aware of the changes taking place in your relationship so you can work together to maintain your connection as a couple. We all married to have a life partner, someone we could share all of life together with. Staying aware of your relationship is one of the keys to lasting through the years. 

 

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ISIS as Christian Missionaries

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We are always seeing the news about ISIS and the latest atrocities they have committed to another group of people in another city. It seems it never ends. These blood-thirsty radicals cannot seem to fill their insatiable lust for killing, raping, and torture. And what is more, it seems they have no problem finding more sick, inhuman people like themselves to fill their ranks, including people from our own country here in America.

It is certainly clear their propaganda works among a certain age and socio-economic bracket all over the world. But ISIS and other groups like them are also spreading another message as they go city by city brutalizing people. There is an unintended repercussion that is occurring as a result of their brutal tactics. Check this out quote from Dr. Dave Chasin.

“I have often referred to Islamic radicals as “proto-evangelists” for the Christian faith. First there was the Ayatollah Khomeini. His brutal regime in Iran, whose atrocities and policies have lead many Iranians to leave Iran, has also led to an exodus of Iranians out of Islam. Estimates are difficult, but the numbers are significant. Outside Iran the numbers are firmer but no less astonishing. In Sweden, fully ten percent of the Iranian immigrant population has converted to the Christian faith. That is approximately 8,000 out of a total of 80,000 in the entire country. Some Iranian believers have called the Ayatollah the greatest missionary because he showed us what Islam is really like.” – Dr. Dave Chasin, Mission Frontiers

And this is how it is happening. Members of the Muslim faith are seeing Islam for what it is and this is causing them to depart in large numbers all over the world, many of whom are turning to Christ. They are tired of the constant threats, the brutal treatment, and the horrible lives they are forced to live as a result of ISIS and others like them. The reality of Islam is coming full circle in front of their eyes, and it is pushing against their cultural understanding of their faith. And this is leaving them with no alternatives but to reject the faith they have known since childhood.

Fortunately in many of these countries where this is happening, Christians are still there to deliver the message of hope that can only be found in Christ. Fortunately many believers are risking their lives to reach out to those who are seeking for the truth in the face of Islam’s brutal reality.

In light of this, Christians in America should take heart as we enter into a new era of an American society that is turning against Christ and against Christianity. It will not be long before the reality of what we are seeing taking place here in our own nation, will turn on those who are following this new brand of morals and social mores. There will be consequences to be dealt with, ugly consequences folks here are not prepared to deal with. And when it fails, and it will fail, we must recognize our need to be the Church, and be those who hold to the truth and bring a message of real hope. 

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Jesus is More Important than Life

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Acts 9:24-25 “but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.”

Heeding the direction of Jesus (Matthew 10:23), Paul had to flee for his life while in Damascus. As a new believer in Christ, Paul had been preaching the gospel in the city and this caused some enemies to plot to take his life in order to silence him. So, along with some of the Christians there, Paul made his escape through an opening in the wall at night. Paul suddenly found himself a refugee fleeing from his own people.

Possibly you remember the terror attack in Nairobi, Kenya (2013) when gunmen entered the Westgate Mall and began killing everyone who was not a Muslim. At some point in the attack one of the gunmen invited everyone who was a Muslim to leave, but they had to prove they were Muslims. One Kenyan man, Joshua Hakim, covered up his Christian name on his ID as he showed it to the gunmen and they let him leave. Another man, an Indian, was asked what the name of Muhammed’s mother was. When he could not answer the question, they just shot him. This went on for some time and many people were killed. Christians all over the world are now teaching each other how to escape a dangerous region. While they will not claim to be Muslims if directly questioned, they have learned many methods of escaping some of the worst of situations.

“Life is more important than your possessions, so flee if you can. But, Jesus is more important than life.” – Amgad Mikhail

This is the reality of life for Christians in many parts of the world. These are the daily issues they have to consider. Every day they walk a dangerous line between trying to not deny Christ, and not throwing away their lives uselessly. What would you do?

We do not live under such threats as Americans, so the whole concept appears strange and distant to us. Nevertheless, I wonder, would you think about this a little with me? No, it is not a pleasant thought, but identifying with and praying for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ is something we should absolutely be doing. And if nothing else, I wonder if you might consider those refugees and immigrants in our own borders in a different light? Every day they are also just trying to find a way to live. 

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Persecution and the Future of American Christianity

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All over the world, for centuries, Christianity has come with a price tag, and often that price has been alienation, torture, and death. We have read about it for a couple of decades; and we have discovered there are more Christians being persecuted now than ever in the history of the Christian Church. To be baptized in the name of Christ can mean death, including death at the hands of your own family members in some countries. But in America we have been untouched and relatively distanced from all of these types of threats.

Now in America, Christianity is looking like it is starting to come with a price tag. This is no longer about culture warring. This is about a deliberate effort, through social banishment and the court system in our nation to silence the Christian community. Those who would silence you, hope you will climb into the closet with your faith and leave quietly. To be silent is to be compromised so as to avoid unpopularity, conflict, and the courts? (A court system, by the way, more afraid of offending someone than upholding the rule of law or the Constitution.) We now face the reality of whether or not folks are truly following Christ, or have simply been religious. Pastors should anticipate their congregations will begin to shrink because the religious folks will not risk being identified with Christ since this has a price tag.

What is required is genuinely living out your faith in the face of a growing national religious bigotry against Christ and Christianity. It is time to quit complaining about what we have lost, and start living with what is right in front of us. It is time to start living like a Christian.

We must stand out as those who have the truth. We must stand out as those who have received grace, and extend that grace to everyone. Instead of spending millions on sound systems and video equipment – as well as more and more expensive buildings... it is time to spend ourselves on ministering to the poor, the downtrodden, and the unpopular. This is the future of Christianity. It is the future of Christianity because it is the history of Christianity, and not the other way around. And while some may bemoan this turn of events, I know that persecution has always strengthened the Church, not weakened it. The hope for the future of Christianity in America looks bright!

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Christians and the SCOTUS Decision

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In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage, a lot of incredibly hateful comments and posts have been posted among those who call themselves Christians. Some of which, quite honestly, make no sense. I will not illustrate this point because I do not want to further the mentality which was already posted. To you who say you are following Jesus, and are making these ugly comments which have more to do with politics and political warfare than they do Bible, I say it is high time you took a better look at Jesus.

Luke 9:53-55 “But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of…”

When the city did not want Jesus there, the disciples reacted in anger, but Jesus did not. They wanted to call down fire on the city and its inhabitants, Jesus did not. If you are so caught up in the politics of what is happening right now you are behaving like the disciples, Jesus says to you, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of…” The disciples’ behavior and your behavior is contrary to Jesus. How does Jesus feel concerning the whole of humanity?

Mark 6:34 “When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”

No matter how this nation turns, this one thing remains the same. If we are Christ-followers, we must do what our master does. No matter what this nation’s leaders do, our call remains the same, we follow Jesus. Because of the decision of the Supreme Court, following Jesus will likely be more difficult than it currently is in this non-Christian nation. This is not about American politics, this is about the Kingdom of God. This is not about who is the president, this is about who remains King of Kings – the One we are committed to following at all costs. Jesus is committed to a broken humanity, and He extends His love and compassion to them. They are broken, we are broken. We stand in the grace of Christ, we must extend that grace to others who like ourselves… are broken. Nothing has changed for us. We live in a broken world and we are committed to following Jesus in it.

No, I do not like how the decision has concluded with the Supreme Court, but it is not surprising given how the last decade has gone. This is not the end of the world, not yet. Jesus still has a heart for this broken world, and so should we. Vote, contact your state and local representatives and tell them how you feel – but behave will you? 

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The SCOTUS Ruling

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A quick reminder regarding the Supreme Court, the president, and a nation enduring critical changes to its moral and social structure is found in the Psalms.

Psalm 29:9-11 “The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve and strips the forests bare; And in His temple everything says, "Glory!" 10 The LORD sat as King at the flood; yes, the LORD sits as King forever. 11 The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace.”

The Lord God Almighty remains enthroned over His creation, nothing has changed. Sure, our nation is going through a lot of moral and social changes. But in the end, nothing has changed. And for the people of God there is a peace He makes available to us. God wants to bless His people with His peace. Jesus repeats this promise.

John 14:27 “"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Nations rise and fall, world leaders come and go. This is always how it has been. The world has not ended because our Supreme Court has made this decision. Most of us anticipated the decision going how it did. This is the current of our nation, it would have been surprising had it not gone this way. This nation will not last forever, and in its current direction we will likely see the loss of our freedoms as well. This is not something I am encouraging to accept with little or no resistance, but to imagine all things will go on as we desire is not reasonable.

I think we should get our houses in order financially, legally, verbally, and mentally. But this will only be something that temporarily fends off the current trends. We are facing something which will define the Church in America over the next decade. Never before has there been a greater need for the Church to behave like Jesus. And in the midst of it all, God promises peace to His people. 

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Knowing What You Believe

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He began as a church pastor in California, was popular, and was photographed alongside of local city mayors, congressmen, and senators. He helped a number of people who were struggling on the streets with homelessness and addictions. But as the church looked poised to begin expanding further, something changed. He convinced a few hundred people over a period of time, to put down their Bibles and follow him instead. The end result was Jim Jones leading them to their deaths by poison.

How about another illustration. He started out preaching and became popular. Soon his congregation began to grow, sometimes it seemed exponentially. He held miracle crusades where people came forward and were supposedly healed of various ailments, and the crowds grew even bigger. Soon he was traveling all over the world with his crusades and the crowds continued to grow and the money began to flow. Over time, there were rumors circulating about him having affairs and mishandling money. How could so many people believe what was so obviously a lie? This man said so many outrageous things from the stage, but no one questioned it. How could so many people buy into a religious scam artist like this whose parlor tricks were so easily exposed? No one was led to their death at this man’s hand, not physically. But spiritual death certainly happens as folks believe the lies instead of embracing the truth of the gospel.

How did this happen?

These types of men have success partly because people are naïve, and partly because people want to believe the lies. But one of the largest contributing factors is too many people do not know what the truth is in the first place in order to recognize who is true and who is a liar. Ideas have consequences. What we believe does matter because we will ultimately act upon what we truly believe.

Do you know what you believe? Do you know what historic Christianity is and what truths have been solidly in place since the first century under the apostles? With a foundation of the core beliefs of what Christians believe, and have always believed, you can protect yourself from the well-spoken liars.

2 Peter 2:17These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.”

Where do you start? Start by consistently reading your Bible on a regular basis. Know the truth because you spend a lot of time reading it and are familiar with it. Then, there are a few good books on basic Christian beliefs or doctrines. Pick one and get started. Know what it is you are supposed to believe. Knowing the truth always exposes the lies when they come around.

The Great Doctrines of the Bible by William Evans (Often available as a free ebook)

Basic Christianity by John Stott

Christian beliefs by Wayne Grudem

What every Christian ought to know by Adrian Rogers

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Dealing with Discouragement and Depression

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I had tried and tried, but no matter what I did, nothing would come together. Life was feeling like one of those house projects where everything you do only makes things worse. I was feeling so discouraged.  Discouragement can be a difficult thing to deal with. Depending upon what it is that is bringing us down, it can feel incredibly overwhelming. Discouragement can come as the result of many causes, here are just a few.

  1.  Not having a clear vision regarding what you are trying to accomplish.

  2.  Having a negative attitude about life.

  3.  A wrong idea about what success is, or wrong expectations.

  4.  Previous struggles can cause a déjà vu sense of a recurring failure coming.

  5.  A habit of wanting instant gratification can leave us ill-equipped to do what is necessary for long periods of time.

  6.  We could simply be tired, or not be eating right.

  7.  Not seeing any fruit from our efforts can leave us discouraged.

There are issues we may not immediately consider. We are targets of our enemy who wants to bring us down so we will not be fruitful for the kingdom of God. These are attempts at making us give up or quit the thing God has called us to. Or, God could be working on something in us, and the process does not seem like the hand of God so we feel discouragement. In these times of God working in us, He is seeking to make us better – more like His Son.

As you seek to overcome discouragement or depression, start with some basics: eat properly and get enough sleep. These two basic essentials are crucial elements to successfully overcoming discouragement or depression. Next, reorganize your life. Take control of your schedule and don’t allow the demands of life to control you. You could be doing the right thing, but in the wrong way, so consider how else you might approach what it is that you are doing. Be more creative in your approach.

Another primary element to overcoming discouragement or depression is turning our gaze back to the glorious God we worship. It is too easy to get so caught up in our troubles they become all we can see.

Psalm 121:1-2 “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

If you are under attack, there is no greater defense than the Lord. If God is working on something in your life, then you need to reconnect with the Lord who is working on you. Either way, turn your eyes back to the Lord. Discouragement and depression are common to all of us, never feel like you are alone or are a failure because you feel these emotions. Recognize your feelings, put them in proper perspective, and deal with the root causes. Soon you will find yourself becoming free of them and once again having a sense of the joy of the Lord. 

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Dreaming of Being Heroes Once Again

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All of us grow up wanting to be the hero. We have all dreamed of heroic things we would have done had we only possessed superpowers. We had the cape, we had the stance, and we even had some pretty cool moves as we dashed about saving people and defeating the bad guys. Of course, now, after the film “The Incredibles” we learned that having a cape is a dangerous risk. So, “No cape!”

Then we grew up, became responsible adults, and most of us gave up on being a hero. We never did discover our superpowers anyway, cape or no cape. But giving up on being the hero has come at some loss to us all. In the current wave of narcissism overwhelming our nation, no one dreams of rescuing others – only about how they can gratify their next desire. And worse, the term has been cheapened like we noted in “The Incredibles,” everyone is called a superhero, so no one is. Someone does an incredibly selfish act in the view of the public and the media photographs it, films it, and speaks of how it is so heroic that this person did it. And suddenly something which is shameful and selfish, becomes heroic and brave.

Heroes think of others, heroes give of themselves to benefit others and make their lives better because they encountered someone they could be of benefit to. Not some codependent thing where we feel we are not worth anything unless we are rescuing someone, but as people who know their strengths and abilities and how to better the world with them. Jesus was and is not some giant narcissistic codependent who was only seeking to gratify His own needs.

Romans 5:7-9 “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

It was God’s great love which drove Jesus to the cross for us, His compassion for all of humanity that brought Him here in the first place. And it is that great love and compassion which ought to thrive in the hearts of God’s people so we, His ambassadors, would move forward as heroes as well. It doesn’t take superhuman strength to come alongside of someone who needs us to be an encouragement to them today. It doesn’t require incredible mental capacity to sit with a young elementary student, read with them, and help them learn to read. Perhaps you could give up a meal out or two and send some money to enable a child in a third world nation to have a safe place, some regular meals, and the chance to get a basic education? You only need to set aside some of your time, talents, and resources to step into someone else’s life and make a difference that can last a lifetime. It only requires us to look past ourselves into the world around us and see the many needs we can actually do something about, for the glory of God, and for the sake of those people we see in need.

Perhaps it is time to start thinking of being heroes once again. 

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Speaking Truth in an Age of Tolerance

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In their attempt at being accepting of the “minority”, they have rejected the majority out of some smug intolerance which rises from their view of what tolerance means. This new enlightenment has given way to a new bigotry, which is embraced out of a general feeling of superiority because of their views. Meanwhile, blinded to their hateful prejudice, they proclaim themselves the ambassadors of kindness.

The only ones who are worse, are the perpetrators of the propaganda which brought about the new “tolerant” hate. More wicked than their followers because they are not blind to their actions, it was their agenda all along to force this new brand of bigotry under the guise of tolerance. The ugliness of this new bigotry is hidden under the social acceptance it has gained. Without this, the obvious nature of the new bigotry would be seen as ugly as that of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

The purpose of this new tolerance is to silence all those who oppose their view. If you find yourself holding back truth because of the pressure to “not offend” anyone, you have failed to see the obvious social tactic being used against you. Perhaps it is because they sound so nice proclaiming their views, perhaps too many folks are just not thinking when they embrace this new social standard. Think through what is being said, think it out to its end conclusions. Eugenics sounded good to the social elite, doctors included. (Eugenics: A social philosophy advocating the improvement of human genetic traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of people with desired traits (positive eugenics), or reduced reproduction and or sterilization of people with less-desired or undesired traits (negative eugenics), or both.) That is, until they saw Hitler using it at its basest level as an excuse for why he was killing millions of Jews. Same philosophy, just exposed for what it was by Hitler.

Sometimes the truth does not feel good, never imagine otherwise. But if I do not tell you the truth, there is no kindness in a lie which comes in the form of silence. Speak the truth, be kind and compassionate to others, but speak the truth.

Ephesians 4:15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” 

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A Fight Worth Fighting

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People are often surprised to see boxing champions who never go anywhere without a body guard or two. Why would someone who has beaten some of the best fighters in the world need someone to protect them? Champion athletes need body guards because when you are on top, everyone wants a shot at you. Some foolish men, wanting to prove their manhood, will take random shots at these alpha males who represent the prime of manhood. All because they would imagine themselves more manly if they can get a good punch in or knock them down.

So they have body guards to prevent a worthless fight. They would spend all of their time fighting someone, and as an athlete it is not worth it. All you would need is one guy getting in a lucky punch, or some guy who is out of control – and you would see your career come to an end.

In our lives, many fights are like this, they are not worth it. Yet, entirely too often I see folks engaging in worthless fights. Fights in the workplace with managers and co-workers, fights with their spouses, fights with their children, or fights with the culture. On Facebook, there is not a day that goes by where I do not see someone fighting about something. And quite honestly, far too many of those fights are worthless.

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

In Paul’s life, he did not waste his time competing in worthless things, only in what would lead to finishing the race well. I think there is something important about this example. As Christ-followers, we should follow this example and not waste our time fighting about things that ultimately will not matter. Unfortunately all around us in the media there are alarmists about a multitude of subjects, everywhere there is a threat, everywhere we are at risk and we must hurry and do something now!!

Parents of teenagers have to pick their fights, there are too many things which can easily get us upset and fighting with our teens. As a parent you have to pick the fight that really matters. Well, as a Christ-follower you must approach life this way as well. What has eternal value? What is a genuine threat, and what is simply inconvenient? If you are always angry, always fighting about something – eventually this will become your known character and nothing you perceive as a threat will be taken serious. Remember the boy who cried wolf?

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Making God Choices

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Matthew 10:29-30 “"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

God cares about every detail of our lives. The word Jesus used in verse 30 for “numbered” is more like “named.” This is the level of detail God concerns Himself with regarding us. Never imagine God has forgotten you, or doesn’t care about what is happening in your life. He cares about every detail. But there are some things I think are not as consequential about what we are choosing to do. For instance, I would imagine God is more concerned with how much debt load you are taking on when you buy a vehicle, than He is about what color the vehicle is.

When do you ask God about whether you should do something or not? Do you ever ask God about your decisions and actions? I have encountered some folks who go with the terrible reasoning of, “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” when it comes to God. What a low view of God you must have to approach God in such a manner. To disregard God completely in our decision making process indicates a breakdown in our relationship with God. I personally do not think God is demanding that I seek His face over what breakfast cereal I should have this morning, in fact, I think there are many personal decisions that God simply leaves in our hands each day. It is not because I think God doesn’t care, Jesus told us God does care.

So what about those choices? I have noticed how some people make choices based upon how they will appear in the eyes of those around them. They are ego driven or are driven by their insecurities. If you never seek God about your choices in life, then you are not a disciple, you are simply religious. A disciple follows his master, everything is done in light of the one he has chosen to follow. A disciple makes choices because of what they know of their master; not according to their personal preferences, the cultural norms, or what is currently popular. Listen to the apostle Paul on this matter.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”

What are you doing? What are you choosing? Is it really what is best in light of the Kingdom of God? Is it really something that will cause you to grow in your faith, or will it hinder your spiritual growth? Just because you can do something the apostle says, doesn’t mean you should do it. Paul even adds the element of how what we are choosing to do, will affect others around us. What will you choose today? I hope you make God choices. 

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Doing the Work We are Called to

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Every day they get up and they seek out someone who needs to hear the truth of the Gospel. Every day a large number of them risk their lives even speaking the name of Jesus in parts of the world where it is illegal to do so. Every day, not occasionally, and not when it feels like it might be ok. Their world is filled with people who know nothing about Jesus Christ and what He did for them on the cross.

Who are they? Missionaries.

Acts 1:8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Missionaries are seeking to fulfill the last part of this commission given to the whole Church; go and be Jesus’ witnesses in the world at its remotest parts. They dress unusually, they eat strange and exotic foods, and they speak to people with foreign languages. Some of them are doing Bible translation, some are traveling their region talking to anyone who will listen, and others are doing acts of mercy and kindness such as putting in wells so people can have access to clean and safe drinking water.

For the native missionaries, where they live is the remote part of the world for us; but for them it is their Jerusalem (home town), or their Judea (their national lands). And it is from many of these foreign nations we are seeing more and more missionaries enter the world. Imagine, South Korean is one of the top five missionary sending nations of the world! China is sending missionaries, and from all over the African continent missionaries are going out to be witnesses for Jesus. The Church is growing worldwide, and in each nation where Christ is known, they are sending missionaries.

Jesus told us to be His witnesses (Matthew 28:18-20), all of us. Missionaries all over the world go because the hope is that at home, Christ-followers will be bringing the Gospel to their home towns and nation. This includes here in the U.S. Missionaries are longing for the Church to fulfill the first part of our call here at home, while they go out to the remotest parts of the earth.

Who are we? Missionaries! Every one of us.

The hope is that we will risk comfort, relationships, careers, and other non-life threatening elements of our lives, while they risk their lives. By the way, the word Jesus used in Acts 1:8 for witness, is where we get our word “martyr.” All of us must do a little dying if we are going to be obedient to the call on our lives. Who are we? Missionaries. What do we want? The Kingdom of God to grow!

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Words and Acting Like Jesus

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We have these words which have risen in modern society in recent days which are more than words. Every generation has them, every generation has to determine what they are going to do with them. These words are used as tools for propaganda, they are used as a means of shifting social values and beliefs. And in the process of their use to accomplish these end goals, the result is silencing someone whether by placing upon them a stigma or causing them to be shunned by others in that society.

Words like fascist and homophobic for example, have become a couple of those types of words. They have a basic meaning, but used as a propaganda tool, they portray someone in a particular light for the purpose of trying to push someone out of a conversation – if not out of society altogether. Label someone a fascist, and this ugly term becomes a means of politically causing others to imagine the worst of someone. Liberals and conservatives both have used this term against their opponents. Call someone homophobic, and there is an immediate view they must be intolerant and hateful toward the homosexual community. This response to such words are from a generation whose perspective has been developed over a period of time through conditioning and manipulation. But, as Rick Warren has said, there are two prominent lies that are believed in our society.

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You do not have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” – Rick Warren

As a Christ-follower I have one very prominent figure who is an example for me in how much Rick Warren is right. Jesus Christ. Jesus gave Himself for all of humanity despite disagreeing with how we believe, how we live, and even how we feel about God in general. Jesus went to the cross and died for our guilt and shame due to sin, even while we were still enemies of God because He loves us.

Romans 5:8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

I will continue to argue against a popular idea if I know it to be a lie. I will continue to disagree with you if I believe or know your worldview and lifestyle are wrong and self-destructive. But never imagine for a second it has anything to do with fear or hate – I love you and I will continue to act on your behalf because I do. This is what Jesus did, it is what I must do. 

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Our Own Burdens

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In my last post I discussed the need for Christ-followers to come alongside of others who need them to help carry their burdens. There are simply times, we have all known them, when we become overwhelmed by life and the strain it puts on us. Check it out if you are wanting to know more. But, I would add one more thing – this is done in community, not alone. We all need to be in community with other Christ-followers.

But there is another aspect to this.

Galatians 6:2-5Carry the burdens of one another, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something although he is nothing, he is deceiving himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in someone else. 5 For each one will carry his own burden.”

As we keep reading, the apostle admonishes us to be careful about how we see ourselves. The human tendency is to imagine ourselves as better than those we are helping. Or to think they are not worth our time, not worth our effort, not worth much at all to us. We must keep a close watch on our own spiritual life, personal life, and our souls before God. In the end, we will all bear the weight of our own burden before God. We will all face God regarding ourselves, not others.  

Paul uses two different words for “burden” here in verses 2 and 5. Verse two indicates a burden which is too great to carry, while verse five clearly indicates there is a burden we are responsible for carrying – one capable of being carried. In day to day living, we are responsible for ourselves. What we can do, we should be doing. There are some burdens we cannot take up for others without causing them to become weakened instead of strengthened by the weight they carry. If in living for example, you were required to carry 100 pounds each day, but I carried twenty-five pounds of it for you all of the time because I can, I have not helped you. Perhaps I could initially carry it, but at some point you must carry it or you will never grow and be strong enough to live your life as you ought. This principle carries through into all of life.

2 Thessalonians 3:10For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”

Everyone must carry their own burden, no one should be allowed to just keep taking without eventually standing on their own. A welfare state creates dependents, we are to be independent and carry our own weight. Should you help someone? It depends. All of this requires discernment on the part of the one who is helping others. We must be careful to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and hold the knowledge in ourselves there are some things in life everyone should be carrying for themselves. And we must do this with humility and compassion since we do not always understand the weight others are carrying in life. 

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Burden Bearing

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She called me troubled over how she was not coping with life and felt like a failure as a Christian. When I asked what had been happening in her life she told me; She had lost her mother a couple of months earlier, her husband had lost his job in the last month, and she had been in a rollover accident where a semi-truck had literally rolled over her car nearly killing her. Seriously, this was her life over the previous few weeks. I tried to encourage her and calm her, and after a bit of a conversation she felt a lot better and like she was going to make it.

Galatians 6:2Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

We have a calling as a Christ-follower to help carry the burdens of others when they are too much for them to carry on their own. This is the idea of the words Paul is using here in this passage – it is a great weight, more than someone can reasonably carry on their own. Perhaps you have never been in a position like my friend with so much going on all at once. But if you have lived any length of time at all, you know what it is like to have seasons when you felt overwhelmed by life and circumstances. All of us, in those times would truly appreciate someone standing alongside us and walking through those times. Often husbands and wives do this for each other, but this is not always the case. Sometimes if we have a really good friend, they will do this for us as well.

This calling is clearly for all of us to do, not just for our spouse or a good friend, but for anyone who is overwhelmed. In doing this Paul says, we are upholding “the law of Christ.” In doing this we are living according to the example and standard Jesus left for us to follow.

-          We must be aware of others if we are going to notice they are carrying a load they cannot carry.

-          We must recognize no one else is like us, so we cannot judge what others are struggling with because everyone has different capacities for pain, struggles, and abilities.

-          We must make space in the rhythms of our lives for standing alongside others and not just do our own thing.

-          Because helping someone carry a burden beyond their capacity will include financial situations, we will need to set aside money to bear the burden with them.

-          Also, praying for them and keeping them in prayer is an essential part of helping bear their burden.

We must also be careful to not become the “rescuer” – we cannot keep stepping in when they should be doing something on their own, nor can we allow them to become dependent upon us when they need to be dependent upon God instead of us. We are not called to be the hero, we are called to always point people to the Great Rescuer, Jesus Christ. 

 

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