Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Parents, Training, Women

Erasing Your Debt

If you would have been a member of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019, you would have graduated debt free. All 396 students had their college loans paid in full. How?

 

The commencement speaker that year was Robert Smith, a private equity executive worth $4.47 billion. During his speech, he shared that he was donating enough money ($40 million dollars) to eliminate every graduating student’s personal debt. Everyone was stunned to say the least.

 

In his speech he asked the class to pay it forward. I don’t know what that will look like, but I do know what it feels like to receive notice from the bank or mortgage company that my debt is paid in full.

 

Unfortunately, too many of us know more about indebtedness rather than a debt marked “Paid.” We deserve that new car or house upgrade, or for others, it was unexpected medical debt or some other emergency.

 

However, if we are faithful to make our monthly payments, even adding to the principle, we will realize our goal. And when we are faithful in our tithing and giving first, we will see God multiply our income so that we can eliminate debt even faster. I do not know how that works, but I can tell you in following those principles for 50 years of my life, they are proven.

 

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  (Eccl. 5:10)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Training

How Is Your Root System?

The roots of a tree serve multiple functions. Tree roots absorb water and nutrients (minerals) for the tree. The tree root  system support the above ground portion of the tree. “Feeder roots” remain closer to the surface collecting water while lateral roots provide anchorage for the tree. Roots spread four to seven times the distance (radius) of the tree. While not all trees have what’s called a taproot, those that do are better held in storms and draw water and minerals deep within the soil, helping a tree in the driest of times. Thus, trees that experience infrequent watering will develop the deepest root system in their search for water, something that ultimately benefits the tree.

 

I once read that the mighty redwoods, even with shallow root systems, will grab hold of the roots of other trees and rocks underground in order to stabilize themselves. Many trees are dependent upon other trees around them for strength.

 

We love trees for their process of photosynthesis, i.e., turning carbon dioxide into carbohydrates.  We love their beauty and their shade. We enjoy the fruit that some trees produce and the oxygen and air-filtering they offer. Trees are vital to our environment, but tree roots are vital to the tree.

 

It is said that we discover the real us when pressure is applied. The longer the pressure, the more real we’ll become. We have a marvelous ability to fake it on the surface, but when the human element of pain comes and our roots are exposed, what has been held deep within us will surface.

 

How deep are your roots? The deeper they are the more life elements you can endure. In fact, not just endure but become stronger through the struggle and the trial. Tree roots can penetrate solid block walls and underground pipes. When your roots hit a wall, are they strong enough to find a way through?

 

Like the redwoods, are your roots grabbing hold of the stability of others around you? Do your roots sink deep into good soil for the proper nutrients to maintain a godly life?

 

 

…If the root is holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16b)

 

 

A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted. (Proverbs 12:3)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

A Sense of Justice for the Year 2020

Have you felt stolen from in 2020? We could have been robbed of time, finance, family and friend connections, local church relationships, our jobs, our business or any number of life areas.

 

Justice is defined as being just, righteousness, equitableness or moral rightness. Today it feels as though if one can claim some form of moral justice, almost anything can be defined as just. We obviously need a basis for justice.

 

God speaks a lot in His word about justice for the poor, the needy or the one being taken advantage of. His heart is broken over injustice. In Luke chapter 18 He gives us a parable about a judge and a woman who kept returning to him for justice.

 

It seems there was a certain town with a judge who did not fear God or even cared about what the townspeople thought of him. And there was this tenacious widow who kept coming to him with this simple plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” The judge refused, but the widow was relentless and finally in exasperation, he gave in so that she received justice, “…so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”

 

Here is the part I like in this parable: “Will not God bring justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (Luke 18: 2-8)

 

Do not lose your focus. Do not become distracted with all the loss we faced in 2020. Let God bring about justice for His chosen ones who cry out to Him.

 

I am fully convinced that one of the ways He will do this is by making the thief repay. On what grounds do I say that? “Yet if he [a thief] is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it cost him all the wealth of his house.” (Proverbs 6:31)

 

Make a declaration in your household today. The thief must repay and repay sevenfold!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Just for fun, Parents

Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Santa Claus?

The story of Santa Claus goes back to the 3rd century. A patron saint, a monk named Saint Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, modern day Turkey. He was known as the protector of children. The name we use today, Santa Claus, was derived from the Dutch nickname of Sinter Klaas.

 

In 1881 artist Thomas Nast, drew what we recognize as our modern-day Santa: a plump, cheery and white bearded man. It was Nast who provided Santa’s bright red suit and North Pole workshop with elves and a wife, Mrs. Claus. Prior to this image, he was often depicted as a gaunt or scary-looking man.

 

In the 1890’s the Salvation Army began to use this image by dressing their donation collectors in Santa Claus suits. But where this image received a huge boost was from none other than Coca Cola.

 

Santa has been featured in Coke ads since the 1920’s and the image used was close to Nast’s original art work. From 1931 to 1964 Coca-Cola ads showed Santa delivering toys, reading his scroll-styled lists and always enjoying a Coke.

 

While Santa Claus and his imagery are fun for children around the world, it was a very real Catholic monk who was said to spend all his money on rescuing young persons from slavery or prostitution. He gave away his inherited wealth to help the poor and the sick. It is that St. Nick that sounds the most like the Christ, the first six letters of the word Christmas.

 

May we all display the true meaning and character of this Christ by serving others, giving gifts of meaning and remembering the needy around the world. Nine hundred years before the Son of God came to earth and was born in a manger, the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, scribed these words:

 

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [God with us]. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 7:14 and 9: 6)

 

(Note: Much of the history above is taken from History.com)

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day

Are You Allowing a Pandemic to Change Your Belief System?

I heard someone recently say there is a tangible pandemic and it’s not COVID-19. They went on to share the real pandemic is what is happening to people socially, emotionally, spiritually and, I would add financially, as a result of the Corona virus. What did they mean?

 

To begin with, the word Corona means “crown.” Someone or something with a crown would be considered a ruler. What is it within this pandemic that we allow to “rule” our hearts and minds?

 

In case you begin to think this is an anti-government or a conspiracy-related article, let me say from the start, it is not. The Corona virus is real and must be dealt with at every level. What I am wanting to make us aware of is the question of who or what is influencing our lives enough to change our beliefs? And, are we allowing, without even being aware of it, this pandemic to rule our lives or to change our long-held right beliefs toward fear-filled wrong beliefs?

 

If we do not acknowledge how this pandemic has affected family, jobs, schools, our places of worship, relationships and life as we once knew it, then we are not living in reality. And, if all of those areas are having a direct impact on us, then they are more than likely affecting our beliefs.

 

Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical office of the national Alliance for Mental Illness said, “There is a mental health wave to this pandemic.” The opioid epidemic has become worse during the pandemic. Overdoses have increased 20% compared to the same time a year ago. Domestic violence is on the rise. The calls to domestic violence hotlines increased by 30% in April and by August the increase had risen to 76%. And, of course, the incidents of suicide are on the rise. (Reported by ABC News, article by Dr. Yalda Safai.) These are some very negative, life-impacting challenges.

 

To the person who has often boasted of their independence, they now realize how much they need others. To the person who has been prideful in considering themselves to be an introvert, possibly now they realize how much meaningful relationships are worth. To the one who has been an extrovert, having to spend so much time without certain people, maybe they have discovered new ways of becoming interdependent.

 

To remain secure in the truth, we must remain faithful in what we know to be truth. It is essential to remain faithful to what we have been instructed in (II Timothy 3:14). We must continue to faithfully recognize the Scriptures which impart wisdom, are “God-breathed” and useful for teaching and correction (II Timothy 3:15, 16). We need the voice of God and the truth of His word to keep us balanced and to rule our hearts and minds with peace.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Women

An Affair with Pornography

One day, Amy received some pornographic pictures on her phone.  She called the phone company and asked how that could happen if she never visited such websites.  They told her someone most likely used her phone to access pornographic material.  She questioned her sons, and then she questioned her husband.  No one confessed.

 

She knew her husband had a “past issue” with pornography but had no idea of how current and active it presently was.  She pressed in once again with Jon and he denied any involvement.  “I felt so horrible,” Jon said, “but lying seemed like my only alternative.”  He just couldn’t believe he was at this point; he had been telling himself it would never get out of his control.  That thought was now a past hope, not a present truth.

 

I asked Jon why he lied to Amy about his sexual addictions, and he said, “To protect my sin.”  But then he went on to say, “Living in sin is going to bring pain, lots of it, but so is telling the truth.  My denial kept me from change and being honest with myself, others, and Amy.”

 

Jon spoke softly, “We have to decide which one is going bring more freedom: lying or telling the truth.  For a season, I thought that lying was the only way to keep pain from my wife and family.  So, to be accepted and loved, I would tell others what they wanted to hear.”

 

We turned to Amy. “As a wife, I discovered that I was married to a lie after it all came out.  There is not a word in the English language that can explain what I felt when hearing about Jon’s addiction and unfaithfulness.”

 

Meanwhile, Jon wondered, If she knows the truth about me, will she even like me?

 

Amy continued, “Every foundation I stood on began to fall apart – my belonging, my acceptance, all within minutes of Jon’s confession seemed to disappear,” Amy shared.  “My self-worth, my security, and my spiritual security just dissipated.”  Amy then said something we’ll never forget hearing: “The sense of shame flooded me and I began to battle constant thoughts of,  ‘I’m not good enough,’ ‘I’m not pretty enough,’ ‘I’m just not enough,’ and I ended up in a fetal position on our bathroom floor begging God to kill me.”

 

What follows is directly from the heart of this precious couple whose marriage has survived this major infraction and is in the process of healing and becoming stronger again.  These steps of healing are the redemptive part of their story and they desire to share them with you.

 

  1. Start making better choices through honesty and a spirit of humility.
  2. Meet with your pastor/spiritual leader and tell your whole story. Leave nothing out and cover nothing up.  Discuss present roles and responsibilities in your local church and evaluate any necessary changes.
  3. Immediately start professional counseling.
  4. Meet with any other spiritual leaders in your lives, share your story, and receive healthy input and discipline for your life.
  5. The person struggling with sin needs a lot of intervention, counsel, prayer, accountability, and education concerning the sin and how it affects him or her as well as others.
  6. The non-offending spouse needs just as much intervention, education in the truth, counsel, prayer, accountability, friendship, acceptance, and pastoral care.
  7. Begin working toward forgiveness before working toward rebuilding trust. Forgiveness is key to healing.
  8. Recognize that trust disappears through the fractured relationship. It must begin to be rebuilt, layer by layer. To rebuild trust, you have to start being honest in everything.  There can be no more lies, not even one.
  9. Be accountable and remain accountable to God, to one another, to your counselors and to your pastoral oversight.

Are you needing to bring something from darkness to light in your relationship? Honest confession and truth telling will start the process of healing.

(Adapted from Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair, Steve and Mary Prokopchak, Destiny Image Publishers)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Are You Wearing Your Dog Tags?

Most everyone knows of or has heard of dog tags. They are small oval shaped metal discs placed on a chain to be worn around the neck by the service member. They are an identifier. But what is the history or the story behind dog tags?

 

In 1936 William Randolph Hurst, the newspaper tycoon, wanted to challenge support for President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Apparently Mr. Hurst heard that the newly formed Social Security Administration wanted to give out nameplates for personal identification. Hurst referred to them negatively as “dog tags.”

 

Soldiers from World War II also referred to them as dog tags, claiming they were being treated like dogs. But some form of identification tag goes all the way back to the civil war as soldiers were afraid that upon their death no one would be able to identify them. Some men carved their names on metal discs or pieces of wood and hung them around their neck. They feared a grave marked “unknown.”

 

ID tags became official in 1906 when the Army required an aluminum disc be warn by all soldiers under their uniform. Then in 1916 two tags were required, one for the body and one for the grave of a soldier killed in action.

 

I still have mine issued by the United States Air Force when I served back in the early 1970’s. I remember them asking me what my religion was. I wasn’t quite sure what to say so I quickly spoke up that I was a Christian. Within minutes I had two dog tags with my name, social security number (no longer placed on dog tags since 2015) blood type and at the very bottom the word “Christian.”

 

I love that about my dog tags. They proclaim something very important about me. And while they no longer hang around my neck that proclamation remains solid within my heart. I am an unashamed Christ follower and I will wear that name with pride. It is that name and only that name, the name of Jesus, in which we can find eternal life with our heavenly Father.

 

Happy Veterans Day and if you have served your nation or are serving, THANK YOU!

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day

A Higher Calling Than a Political Party

Are you an Indian People’s Party, a Labour Party, Libertarian Party, National Party, Christian Party, Democrat or a Republican? Did you know there was a political party registered in New Zealand in 2015 called the “Not A Party” party? Regardless of your party affiliation, this is not your identity.

 

All these political parties are meant to offer a difference in belief and values. At their core, these differences tend to divide if we let them. If we have found ourselves turning up our noses at our neighbors’ political signs, chances are we have allowed the differences to divide us. If our family members vote differently from us, we again have an opportunity for division.

 

The world systems tend to bring division. Often names are attached to certain values which then becomes an identity. But, as believers, this is NOT who we are. We must rise above the rhetoric, the anger, the angst and the propaganda. There is no political party on the earth who can save one single soul. There is no party in this world that can change a life like Jesus can.

 

Now that we have that settled, where is your alliance? Are you spending more time reading about your party, sharing about the beliefs of your party and advocating for your party over the time you spend sharing with others the most life-giving, life-changing good news available to mankind? It is good to talk about politics, but it is great to talk about a kingdom that has no end.

 

In politics we disagree, we voice our opposition, speak our mind and/or we resist. In a kingdom, we bow down to the King. In politics we elect leaders and then reelect years later. In a kingdom the King reigns for a lifetime or in our case, for all eternity. We are called to serve our King over country. We are called to a priesthood, a divine position within the kingdom.

 

To live this way, we spend our lives getting to know the King, because our heart is to obey Him first. And then, we tell our neighbors about Him, the King of kings, Lord of lords, Jesus!

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28)

 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Prayer

We Know About Green Spaces, But What About Blue Spaces?

We hear a lot about green spaces and how we all need time to view the open land, touch the trees and enjoy the air quality they create for us. But how many of us value blue spaces?

 

Blue spaces are areas near water such as lakes, oceans and fresh water streams. These too are all associated with a better well-being, less stress and relaxation.

 

I recently read about a current study in which it was discovered that those who lived less than half a mile from a coast were less likely to suffer from “common mental disorder” like anxiety and depression. Interesting, but what’s the point?

 

This study leads me to one of my favorite scriptures in the New Testament. It’s found in Matthew chapter 13, verse one, “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.”

 

There’s something about water, the sounds, the fresh or ocean air that surrounds it. Jesus had a spot, a blue spot to commune with His Father and to consider His day ahead of Him.  Apparently, just taking time to be, was important to His well-being also. Eventually the crowds found Him so He entered a boat and taught them while the people stood on the shore listening.

 

Do you have a favorite blue spot? If not, perhaps you want to find one and enjoy some time to commune with your Father just like Jesus did.

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day

Challenging Beginnings

I was perusing an older (2013) Forbes magazine article and came across something intriguing. It was a brief article about the so called “American Dream” and how some billionaires faced very humbling and difficult beginnings. The article offered a few real-life examples.

 

Larry Ellison, co-founder of the Oracle Corporation, born in the Bronx, NY and who now owns Hawaii’s Lanai Island was given up for adoption after contracting pneumonia when only nine months old. He did not see his biological mother again until he was 48 years old.

 

Shahid Kahn who owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and one of the US’s largest private companies immigrated from Pakistan and worked for $1.20 an hour as a dishwasher to put himself through the University of Illinois.

 

Oprah Winfrey, the former host of the highest-rated talk shows in TV history, was born in Mississippi to a single, teenage mother and then bounced among family members and finally ran away in her teens to escape abuse.

 

Howard Schultz, who we know as the builder and owner of Starbucks coffee, grew up in a housing project in Canarsie, Brooklyn, NY. His family was left destitute when his father lost his job after an injury. Howard’s mother pleaded with him to not start a coffee company because, “Who’s going to buy coffee?”

 

Not one of these persons were born into wealth with a silver spoon handed to them. I find it interesting that most of us would downplay our ability to create something that has great potential.

 

Since the beginning of time, people have been trading goods and services in order to also create a better standard of living. Steve Forbes has said, “Money measures wealth; it is not wealth itself.” Money is what we attach to goods and services.

 

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc with the world’s economy and many will sit back and allow it to happen. I pray that Christians around the world will pursue God’s next creative idea for them which will have a direct and lasting effect upon those around them.

 

Regardless of your beginnings, what ideas (good works) has God given you to help others, while at the same time, creating income for you and your family? Has this season of rest or pause generated ideas within you?

 

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

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