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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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Women

Social Distancing in Marriage and 7 Ways to Defeat It

While the world is doing their best to act in good faith and maintain a six-foot social distance, it caused me to wonder about marriages that have been “social distancing” for years. We’ve met with couples who were not sleeping together any longer and couples who rarely have intimacy. We’ve met with husbands and wives who no longer take the time to communicate about their day and who no longer pray together.

 

For some, they’ve come to the conclusion that this is normality – a sort of growing old together with acceptable life changes. But those are excuses for what they have allowed into their relationship. They are excuses for abnormal behavior leaking into their hearts and minds causing a separation. They tolerate something they would have never tolerated early in their marriage and the long-term result has been social distance within their relationship.

 

It hurts because they both long for what they’re missing, but either one or both are too proud to admit the deficit, let alone take steps to heal it. There is an answer for social distancing in a marriage that goes so far as to affect and disrupt daily life. Below are some practical steps that you can take to alleviate the distance that may have come between you.

 

  1. Admit within yourself the reality of the distance and then take a step of faith and open up about it with your spouse.
  2. Ask God for forgiveness, ask your spouse for forgiveness and forgive yourself for allowing distance to occur.
  3. Attempt to create a list of any areas the two of you feel there might be distance without judgement or argument.
  4. Take a step to begin to close the distance. For example: in what ways can we improve our communication connection and when, where and how can we start?
  5. Create a new habit of thinking about our connections and how we can keep improving them.
  6. Go for a walk together and hold hands. It is amazing what can be generated from these simple gestures.
  7. Pray and ask your heavenly Father for other ideas for closing the gap and reclaiming intimacy within your marriage relationship.
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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Training

Ten Ways to Became Debt-Free

Financial debt can feel so impossible, so overwhelming at times. Over 80% of Americans are in debt and the personal average debt figure (excluding mortgages) is $38,000.00. Experian’s 2019 figure for Americans’ debt with mortgages is over $90K. When our income is not much more than our outgoing, it becomes even more challenging. Below is what we did to arrive at a debt-free position.

 

  1. My wife and I prayed together about becoming debt-free and had the same conviction. So, being in agreement and prayer together has always been step one.
  2. It is essential to give. We have desired to give beyond a 10% tithe because we wanted to do more than expected. I know it sounds counterproductive, but I can guarantee you that in giving (“Give and it shall be given unto you…”) God always honored His word and gave us a return, “…pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Practically, we sow into missionaries around the world, local ministries we appreciate and tip generously at restaurants. We believe in a spirit of generosity in all things.
  3. Build up a healthy savings account so that you can borrow from yourself and not your credit card when facing an emergency.
  4. Speaking of credit cards: we never carry a balance. You will not become debt-free paying 21% or greater interest on a credit card balance.
  5. Start by paying off your smallest debt. Once you accomplish this and feel the freedom, place that amount on your next debt and snowball your effectiveness of paying down your existing debt.
  6. Make a commitment to not borrow. Have the conviction of scripture which tells us the borrower is servant to the lender. (Note: we recognize many of us borrow for our home, which is perceived as good debt, but this too can be paid down early by paying extra on the principle.)
  7. Run your present car until the wheels fall off. Cars today can reach 150,000 plus miles. Maintaining a used car is most times cheaper than a new car payment. Meanwhile, save for your next used car purchase.
  8. Maintain and keep a close eye on that budget. Watch areas like entertainment, eating out, purchasing unnecessary items. Wait 30 days for a large purchases and if you still need it in 30 days, it may actually be a need versus a want. Have a plan and agree together on your spending.
  9. Recognize it takes sacrifice and discipline, but the goal is worth it. Yes, we do without some items like that newer computer or larger smart TV, but believe me, the sacrifice does not compare to the freedom found in becoming debt-free.
  10. Be accountable. Be accountable to one another in all of your saving and spending, even weekly. Remind yourselves that it is those small, miscellaneous expenditures that can really add up. Agree to weekly or monthly spending amounts for groceries, clothes, gifts, entertainment, sundry items like coffee and snacks. Give grace, but be accountable. It will pay off.

 

Truthfully, we can be in financial bondage with a lot of money or very little money, but when we agree together to our process of becoming debt-free, we will also find wonderful side effects. Those side effects can include: less arguments about money, less pressure when paying the bills, joy in agreement toward a certain goal and the growth of tenacity, discipline and patience in our lives, even if becoming debt-free takes ten or twenty years.

 

Romans 13:8: Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

 

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Parents

The Passing of My Father

My father has been in assisted living for seven years. For almost six of those years he was very unhappy to be there and voiced his complaints vehemently to me during almost every visit. More recently we were unable to see him from March to August due to COVID restrictions. We called, but it’s not the same and a 97-year-old blind man whose day-to-day life does not change struggles to have conversation on the phone. But finally, in August we were able to have an outdoor, “socially distanced” visit with him.

 

Not understanding COVID and not understanding the distance, he kept reaching his arms out for our usual hugs. We explained the situation only to have him do the same five minutes later. The nurse explained, but once again he wanted a hug, any kind of touch from us when the visit was over. It was heartwrenching and way too sad for my dad, knowing he wasn’t comprehending a world pandemic.

 

Several weeks later we were told by hospice staff for no known reason that he was going downhill very quickly. We went to see him. This time they allowed us in his room with masks. We touched him, talked to him, prayed with him and kissed him. He never awoke or responded. The next day we were back. We held his hand and stroked his arm, we read scripture and prayed and there was no response. My children called their grandpa and voiced their tear-filled goodbyes; then my mother and finally my sister also spoke to him. I placed the phone by his ear hoping that he could hear them.

 

Because he was a professional accordion player since he was a teenager, we found accordion music on my phone — polkas, his favorite. For his last hour of breath, he heard something familiar and something he loved, an accordion. In three brief hours he passed, forever gone from our lives on this earth. Under my breath I said, “See you later, Dad; it’s not goodbye.”

 

There is no perfect family and certainly no perfect father. I was not a perfect father and I do not have a perfect family. We hold our parents up to perfection, but at the same time give ourselves a free pass from maintaining any form of perfection ourselves. There is no perfect son or daughter.

 

I am thankful for the father God gave me, for it was He who saw fit to give me birth into this family and not another. And at his moment of death, I was also thankful for so many other things. Things like: he prayed with my wife to receive Christ ten years earlier; we were in good relationship; I walked in forgiveness; I told him I loved him; I was not angry at him for anything and I trust I will see him again because Someone else forgave him.

 

Enjoy a video of my father still playing his accordion in his mid 90’s. I remember him commenting about his mistakes and how embarassed he was by his “old age,” not so nimble fingers.  

 

It was Jesus who said we were to forgive as we have been forgiven. Those words are straight from His prescription pad. When taken seriously, they have medicinal purposes. It is medicine, not for the one who you feel needs forgiven, but rather for you. Forgiveness always brings personal freedom and can mend relationships.

 

Over many years of life I have come to believe that one of the greatest indicators of personal and emotional health is if you have dealt with your father wounds – for some, mother wounds. Regardless of history, he is still your father and the love of Jesus demands that you love him and serve him in any way you can. When we take that fifth commandment of the Old Testament (repeated once agan in the New Testament) seriously, we are given a promise: if you honor your father and mother, God will honor you with long life.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership

Obedience in All Things

On occasion, when speaking or training and then having the opportunity to sell or give away some of the books that I have authored, I am requested to sign the book for the purchaser. I have always found that request to be a bit unnerving.

 

There is this sense of unworthiness, Why would anyone desire my signature? I get it, as I have asked a few authors to sign a book I purchased, but I tell myself it’s different. I think they are famous or well known or just simply amazing in their message. I want to be honest in the estimation of myself as the scripture reminds us to do, but at the same time, I do not desire any sense of false humility in my life. False humility is a nice way of saying I am dealing with pride.

We are reminded in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” I am imperfect for sure, but there is a good work that is happening in my life. There is an “attitude of our minds” which is relevant to who we are or how we see ourselves. If that attitude reflects worthlessness or inadequacy, then we are actually downplaying what our heavenly Father is building within us.

 

I am not complete, but I am also not totally incomplete. I am not a world famous, number one best-selling author, but God has given me things to write about and I must faithfully obey His voice. And I suppose that is the ultimate goal—obedience.

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

A Lack of Protection and Security in Your Home

During my grade school years, we had the occasional, but normal fire drills and we also participated in bomb drill exercises. We were instructed by our teacher to place our heads and upper torso under our desks, just in case the day would come that there would be a real bomb. Those were some pretty powerful desks! Our school even had its own bomb shelter located in the basement of the building. It seems the thought was during the cold war, at any given time, we could be bombed. Pretty scary stuff for a grade schooler.

 

If you or I grow up in an unsafe environment, an environment of insecurity, abuse, neglect or simply without parental protection we too can deal with similar emotions of fear. We all need a safe environment and we all need protection. We need the protection of laws to maintain society. We need the protection of natural parents and spiritual parents.  We need the protection of our spouse. Each of us require multiple areas of needed protection.

 

However, occasionally that protection is missing, neglected or lacking in existence. Sometimes a husband is standing idly by and not protecting his wife and family. Sometimes a wife has her priorities elsewhere. When we as a spouse fail to follow God’s word, responding in a godly manner with righteous, loving, protective authority, our spouse and our children will not know security. Long term insecurity can lead to anxiety, a loss of identity and fear. And when fear is present, love is absent.

 

A spirit of fear is not from God. The Father’s heart is to love and protect you and it is His desire to use husbands and fathers, wives and mothers in that protection as well. In what ways are you providing loving protection to your spouse and children today, which in turn brings security, safety and the lack of fear?

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

“I Have Pieces of Paper, But No Money”

My daughter was getting married and we were deep in conversation with the owner of the wedding venue. She was Latin. She came to North America when she was in her twenties, having to leave her home country because she was “reading and suspected of teaching subversive anti-government material.”

 

She came to America with a few personal belongings and virtually no English-speaking capabilities. She was living with her sister and brother-in-law and her first job was washing dishes in a restaurant even though she was a trained and educated school teacher in her country of origin. She was doing her best to grasp the English language while also attending night school classes. She struggled to pass the tests in this language that was so new and so difficult. She tenaciously took those same classes over and over until she passed.

 

She said to me, “I sat in those classes in total fear of failing and I worked my heart out to wash dishes to the best of my ability.” She wanted to pay her sister rent but told her sister the job of washing dishes, “Does not pay.” Her brother-in-law asked her why they are not paying her. She didn’t know the answer but told him they hand her an envelope every two weeks with paper in it. Wisely, he asked to see those pieces of paper.

 

They were paychecks. She had valuable pieces of paper, but no money. This precious woman went on to receive her Bachelor’s degree and at the time of our conversation was working on her Master’s degree. She and her husband purchased the wedding venue so she could have a business that she loved.

 

I was so impressed with this precious lady and her story that my daughter had to keep reminding me why we were there. I just couldn’t hear enough. It was a success story of perseverence. She told me no one helped her financially and at one point was working two jobs while attending college fulltime and paying for her own small apartment.

 

Can you imagine sitting in a classroom unable to understand the language of your lecturer and then trying to pass the tests? No one convinced this courageous lady it could not be done. What are you up against today? Is there a struggle in your life that seems insurmountable? You can do it; God is on your side and nothing is impossible with Him. (See Luke 1:37.)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Prayer

For the Love of Rocks

I accomplished all of my own landscaping, by trial and error, but it is something I enjoy. While landscaping, I used rocks–lots of rocks. I outlined specific landscaped areas, made steps, created a retaining wall, built a sidewalk and even a bench seat all out of local, beautiful and from small to large rocks.

 

Finding all of those rocks was no easy task. They came from barn foundations and walls. Most of them were hand hewn and some had holes drilled right through them for one purpose or another. I would often pause and think about how many hands touched this certain rock, what quarry it originated from and was its natural beauty noticed for a century or more before I obtained it?

 

Recently in accomplishing yet another landcaping project at my home, I was once again in need of a few rocks. This time I had no idea how to find the particular color I needed. I voiced a request on social media and had an immediate response. I was told about a young stone mason who collected rocks, tons and tons of rocks.

 

I called him and we arranged a time to meet. This young man loved rocks more than me. He had dump truck loads spread over acres of ground. He had gray, brown, red, tan, black and even white rocks. I never saw so many rocks in one location. And when he heard of my love for these precious stones he couldn’t stop talking about them and then showing me his many, many accumulations. He knew the origination of each pile of rocks collected and he was excited about sharing a rock commonality. He even wanted to give me the few rocks I needed.

 

How is it that God cared enough to show me the way to some rock piles? Or did He so care about this young man that I was destined to meet, build a repore with him in order to share about faith? Not sure.

 

Matthew 6 tells us to not worry about food or clothes (or in this case, rocks). He feeds the birds and clothes the lilies of the field. He tells us to seek Him first because He knows where all the rock piles are located.

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