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

My Encounter with a Chain Saw

I have been using chain saws since 1978. I am familiar with them and how dangerous they are. I have never had an accident with one until recently.

 

I did not become careless or reckless, but it still occurred. For some unknown reason, the brake failed to work once the gas was let off and the moving chain just happened to find my leg. Fortunately, I am married to a nurse who has all kinds of medical supplies to put one back together again.

 

Accidents are just that—accidents. It was not tried or malicious. There was no one to get angry with and no one to yell at for the accident; it just happened. But this accident needed immediate medical attention.

 

We rush in to care for a deep cut like it’s a matter of life and death. We may need a shot, stitches and oral meds to fight possible infection. But how many of us encounter an emotional cut and give it little to no attention? Perhaps there is no gushing blood, but it’s still a wound. It’s a wound that can become infected without proper treatment.

 

An emotional wound can be carried for a lifetime before one realizes it’s there or that it’s undealt with. I liken them to hidden or covered over old wounds. I have heard about wounds that start to heal only to discover there is dirt or infection below the surface. In those cases, a wound must be reopened, cleaned and re-stitched. Not a fun experience.

 

And perhaps that is what’s happening in a nation infected by old wounds. We are reminded of them; they are reopening and there is a need for medicine so there can be permanent healing—that type of healing that is once and for all.

 

May we all be reminded of the One who received wounds because of our transgressions. He took those wounds to the point of becoming unrecognizable as a man for you and for me. And after being wounded, He was nailed on a splinter-filled cross to await death by suffocation.

 

I love the One who offered this selfless act of love for all of mankind and it is He who is the ultimate wound healer. Isaiah the prophet wrote this about Him:

 

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53: 3-5)

 

Give your wounds to the One who was wounded for you. Let Him carry them to the cross so you can walk in freedom.

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

Listening to a Black Pastor from Chicago

On a recent phone conversation with my pastor friend in Chicago, I asked him how the George Floyd incident affects him. After thanking me for asking, he shared the following bullet points that I thought might be helpful for many of us.

  • Until you experience this type of thing, it’s really difficult to relate to.
  • The hope that I personally feel is the shock of this video and that maybe people will re-evaluate where they are personally at with this subject.
  • Growing up in the 60’s-70’s I had encounters with the police and was harassed. There was no weight on my side; it was my word against theirs and I would not be believed.
  • To live in a day when the police are held accountable for their actions, experiencing the rogue paying a consequence and the fact that it is causing outrage, is progress to me.
  • I recognize as a brown person in this society I am not always perceived as the same, although I have learned to navigate this. My perspective is what does my King say about me?
  • When you’re screaming and you’re ignored, it’s hard to understand that. This must be more than a moment and the church needs to show and lead the way because it’s light versus darkness.
  • Blacks, Asians, Hispanics all have their prejudices; it is not just whites.
  • My hope is that people will come to an empathetic position and engage in dialogue in ways that affect people. While you may never experience what I have, you can empathize.

My friend said, “Look man, don’t walk on egg shells around me. If you do you will not be authentic. But always consider your audience and be careful.

 

Below is a prayer that my pastor friend shared with his heavenly Father the morning he heard about the George Floyd incident.

 

Lord, I’m angry and saddened by what happened to George Floyd, his being killed by the Minneapolis police as he literally cried for help; and what continually happens to black and brown people, especially males, in this country. I believe that You are angry and saddened by it as well. I ask You to help me not to become jaded and help me to maintain a kingdom focus. Help me to hear You clearly and distinctly regarding what I should do to glorify You and be a blessing to humanity. Help me to be strong and courageous. In America and around the world, I ask You to arise and cause Your enemies to be scattered. Your Word declares that love never fails. I’m thankful that Your love is poured out in my heart by the Holy Spirit, and I’m thankful that You help me to receive and walk in Your love. You are the just and righteous Judge. I pray that You will cause justice to reign in our nation and throughout the world! LET GOD ARISE AND HIS ENEMIES BE SCATTERED!!!

Thank You for never leaving me or forsaking me. I love You, Lord, and I trust You.

 

It was John Newton, working on a ship that trafficked humans for the slave trade, who in deep repentance penned the song, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

 

“Lord, help us to see and do better.”

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Healing, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership

Do Black Lives Matter? My Story

The sign in front of church read, “We know no strangers, only friends we haven’t met.” My closest friend from my military days told me years later, “You know, Steve, that sign was not true for me.” I asked him what he meant. He said, “I was the wrong color.” While I knew there were no black persons attending this southern state local church, I had no idea why. He told me he endured negative comments and prejudice for years.

 

I asked Wayne why he never told me and why he kept attending as he endured racism among his Christian brothers and sisters. He said, “You were my friend and I was there with you and for you.” I had no idea. But then, I remembered something…

 

It was 1975 and Mary and I had just been married. That same year our pastor came to us and asked if we would start a Sunday School bus ministry. We asked him what that was. He sent us to a training, we bought a bus, painted it red and white and hit the road every Saturday morning. We filled that bus with unruly, unchurched but extremely happy kids. We played games, sang songs and had contests to and from Sunday School.

 

We visited, with a pocket full of candy, those kids faithfully every Saturday and we knocked on new doors as well. Soon we filled a second bus and then a third. Parents even began to come with us and then we received some alarming news.

 

Our pastor called Mary and I into his office. He, with great uneasiness said, “We have a problem with the bus ministry.” He went on, “The board is complaining of the costs; your kids do not tithe.” And then he added the most shocking words, “As well, your kids are the wrong color.” We had no words. The bus ministry was in question and perhaps on the chopping block of this local church board and congregation.

 

Finally he said, “They have given me an ultimatum; it’s either Steve and Mary’s bus ministry or them, their tithe and of course me being able to continue here in ministry.”

 

We truly thought it would be the termination of our outreach to those wonderful kids, “our kids.” Surprisingly, the pastor then spoke these bold words, “So, here’s what we’re going to do. Rather than bringing the buses into the back of the church and unloading, we’ll now bring the buses to the front parking lot. We’ll unload directly to the main auditorium, placing your kids and your helpers (lots of helpers) in all of the front rows you can fill. We’ll then begin Sunday School classes for the first ten minutes there with a general opening. Every congregational member will be forced to sit behind your kids and look at them each Sunday morning.”

 

This courageous step meant certain death to our pastor’s job and the ministry we loved. He ended our conversation with a few words we’ll never forget, “We will give every reason in the world for the members who do not want this ministry to continue the opportunity to leave this church!” What a brave man of God taking such a brazen step because lives matter. We grew in our respect of this godly man who would place his ministry on the line for an integrated church and we learned a great deal about Christ-centered leadership that day.

 

Our kids were of black, brown, Latino, Asian, Caucasian and mixed races and we often sang, no screamed, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves…”

 

Decades later we visited that church. It is now a mega congregation with numerous Sunday morning services. There is no bus ministry, but as Mary and I sat in the balcony overlooking the crowded seats we noticed something. I leaned over to my wife and quietly remarked, “Are you seeing what I am seeing? Do you think the bus ministry of decades ago planted a seed for this?”

 

Later in talking with the current pastor, we asked him the demographics of his congregation. He unashamedly stated, “Our demographics are exactly the same as the demographics of our community.”

 

We went to lunch with my friend Wayne that day. Even though we left this church years earlier to move back to PA, Wayne stayed. Today Wayne is the prison ministry chaplain for the church, a church that perhaps now knows no strangers, only friends they haven’t met.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Training

The Bondage of an Offense and Six Healing Steps

Many years ago, I worked with someone who continually picked up offenses.  With tremendous immaturity and insecurity, they made life miserable for everyone around them.  We walked on eggshells when this person was present.

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

The Death of a President

I was seated at my desk in our third-grade classroom when our teacher was called out of the room.  It was a pretty normal and uneventful day up to that particular time.  She returned to the classroom crying.  I never saw her cry before.  Experiencing a teacher crying was totally new for me.  The date was November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was shot and killed.  We would be dismissed from school early on that day.

 

I watched our black and white TV that evening as men in suits held onto a man who they claimed killed our president, Lee Harvey Oswald.  They were pushing him through some dimly lit halls to…well, I didn’t know where.  In horror, another man in a black suit came up beside him and fired shots from his pistol.  I watched Oswald fall into the arms of those escorting him.

 

It was all a bit much for an eight-year-old kid.  The talk for weeks in our country was the loss of our president.  I didn’t really know what it meant, but listening to the adults in my life, I knew it was unprecedented and enormous to them.  Everyone mourned and felt a bit lost, dazed really.  

 

As I look back, what sticks out in my mind now was that I never remember hearing the words Democrat or Republican.  It’s like President Kennedy was neither, just president of the United States of America.

 

Surely people voted and followed their party of choice, but there was no antagonism, no backbiting, no name calling, no sarcasm and no wishing another harm.  At least not in the part of the world I lived in.

 

Unfortunately, the world we live in today is extremely different.  Even the major news outlets are different.  They simply have totally left objectivity and what is often reported is their personal slant or belief in an unbelievably, openly biased (which party we support) way.

 

It was this very president, John F. Kennedy, who said this, “If a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.  All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days.  Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.  But let us begin.”

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

Did Your Candidates Get Elected? Here Are 7 Ways to Follow-Up

With this election behind us, both winners and losers now face a certain reality.  My wife, an elected poll official, said her polling place was busy all day and evening.  This is not the norm for interim elections, but certainly good to see an interest among constituents.

 

You’ve had to listen to all the political rhetoric before the election and we’re hoping it doesn’t follow the election so we can get on with our lives, so to speak. For those elected, to get to work representing those who elected them and those who did not.  But, what can we do now for those who are elected?  How can we serve them as godly persons?

 

We can pray!  I would like to share a few guidelines for prayer for the newly elected and the ones remaining in political office.  The scriptures admonish us to pray for these persons and we desire to obey that word so clearly spoken.  That means, even if the elected official is not one whom you voted for, you are still admonished to pray for them.

 

Specifically, what can we pray that also aligns with God’s word?

 

  1. Pray for a revelation of the love of God. Knowing God’s love and responding to that love affects every aspect of personal and public life. (Romans 5:5, 8; I John 4:9, 10)
  2. Pray for a revelation of God’s truth. It is the word of God and the Ten Commandments that initially created our foundation for law.  Pray that this same Word is seen as truth as it was with our forefathers. (Proverbs 30:5; Hebrews 4:12)
  3. Pray for a revelation that all humanity is of value and created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27; John 3:16, 17)
  4. Pray for a revelation of life – life in the womb and life at every stage of life. (Psalm 139: 13-16; Jeremiah 1:4, 5; Isaiah 44:2)
  5. Pray for a spirit of wisdom and humility with high moral character and integrity to lead this nation. (Psalm 25:9; Proverbs 10:9; 11:3; Isaiah 66:2)
  6. Pray for a revelation of the fear of God; it is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10)
  7. Pray for a heart that seeks after God and desires His will and not their own. (Matthew 6:10; Hebrews 10:9)
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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing

Finding a Sense of Wholeness After Insecurity

As a kid I lived in insecurity.  I was insecure in school, in relationships, in trying new things and in my family relationships.  Insecurity is defined as instability, self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence. That was me.  There were plenty of reasons for my insecurity, but at the time it was just life and trying to grow up.

 

Insecurity takes over your life.  Everything is filtered through those insecure thoughts and beliefs. We reinforce our insecurities through our self-talk every waking hour.  I can remember climbing up the ladder at the local lake to attempt to go down the slide and into the water.  It was high; at least it felt that way.  I reached the top and froze.  I had to go back down the ladder.  Insecurity led to fear and fear overcame my ability to try something new.

 

I suppose we grow out of many of our insecurities, but there are those relational ones that seem to forever stick with us.  Author Les Parrott once wrote, “If you try to find intimacy with another person before a sense of wholeness on your own, all your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself.”  Meaning, insecurity within oneself creates a sense of “un-wholeness,” so we then attempt to find wholeness in others.  Those types of relationships go south quickly because no one on this earth can provide the security and wholeness we are longing for.

 

Jesus once approached a woman at a well that was not married, but He told her she had had five husbands in the past.  Jesus identified the longing in her heart to be whole and He let her know that another husband would not do that for her.  His answer: to draw living water from Him – a spring of eternal life.  His answer to this woman’s insecurities, her longing to find relational fulfillment in men and her insatiable desire for wholeness was met in one encounter with the Messiah.

 

Have you given Him your insecurities and attempts to find wholeness in others?  Here are some truths to help you do just that.

 

You are highly esteemed – Daniel 9:23

You are God’s child – I John 3:2

You are justified from all things – Acts 13:39

You are the righteousness of God – II Corinthians 5:21

You are free from condemnation – Romans 8:1

You are free from your past – Philippians 3:13

You are a new creature – II Corinthians 5:17

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

Can God’s Creation Create Healing?

I recently read a Reader’s Digest article called, The Nature Cure and was totally intrigued.  I will share some of the information from that article below.  It seemed to verify what I have believed and incorporated into my life, certainly appreciating that this periodical would help to validate this belief.

 

The article actually called nature a “miracle medicine for our mental health.” It seems social scientists are discovering that our brains are not machines which do not tire, but rather become easily fatigued and with as little as three days of rest, creative problem-solving tasks can increase by 50 percent!

 

When architect Fredrick Olmsted looked over Yosemite Valley, he urged the California legislature to, “…protect it from development…. that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes is favorable to the health and vigor of men.”

 

Thousands of years ago gardens were constructed for this very reason — rest and mental relaxation.  It seems most kings mentioned in the Scriptures incorporated them.  The U.S. national park system was created because people like Ralph Waldo Emerson built a case for creating the park system stating that nature had healing powers.

 

Researchers today are discovering that people who live in or near “green spaces” suffer less depression, anxiety and migraines.  A study in Japan found those persons who walk in the forest decrease the stress hormone cortisol.  There is healing in God’s gift of nature and yet less than a quarter of Americans spend 30 minutes or more outside in nature daily.

 

Did you know pediatricians are now telling parents with young families to regularly visit parks so the whole family can de-stress and play? When is the last time you went camping, hiking in the mountains, visited gardens, introduced your child to the wonders of a stick, sat around a campfire, watched a sunset, played in a creek, observed butterflies or sat by a lake?

 Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made.  (Genesis 2:8

Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake.  (Matthew 13:1)

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Healing, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Postmarital, Women

Dealing with Lechery in Marriage

Perhaps lechery is a word you are not familiar with.  If you look into its meaning the dictionary states, “…unrestrained or excessive indulgence of sexual desire.”  I have come across this “desire” within some marriages.  Usually, it is the man who relentlessly pursues an inordinate desire for sexual relations, but this is not always the case.

Let’s be clear by stating that sexuality is something God has said “yes” to within the boundaries of marriage.  It is something we should “desire” and “indulge” in regularly, but who defines “regularly” for you and your life mate and who then defines “excessive?”

Well, you both do.  You find what works for you.  You find what you both can agree to and enjoy.  You find what honors, respects and blesses your spouse sexually and you purposefully and unselfishly pursue that.  You also find what might be the cause of “…unrestrained or excessive indulgence.” We need to discover what is at the core of our lives that promotes something which is bringing harm to our marriage bed. Why? Because God’s gift of sex is never forced or abusive to another.

Let me give you some harmful effects of sexuality that can make their way into marriage.*

 

  • Sex can be harmful if it is demeaning to another.
  • It is unhealthy if it makes another person feel less valuable or used.
  • It is unhealthy when it is purely selfish, used only for physical gratification.
  • It is unhealthy when it shames another.
  • It is damaging when forced or coerced and the law of “love does” not rule.
  • Sex is not healthy when used as a replacement for affection or tenderness.
  • Sex is unhealthy when it violates someone’s conscience.
  • Sex is unhealthy when pornography is involved in any form.

Sexuality within the confines of marital commitment actually increases the marital bond.  It fosters the growth of intimacy. It serves to reduce stress and anxiety by providing a special tone of togetherness and a release of tension.  It provides a private and intimate shared experience and a bond of emotional security.  It promotes a sense of well-being and happiness within the marriage and, of course, it is a gift given to us by our Creator to enjoy through many years of married life together.

(*Some of the above points are adapted from the book, The Sexual Man by Archibald Hart.)

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