Challenge, History, Identity, Issues of the Day

Dead Before Her Time

It was repeatedly stated that the Mortenson girl would end up dead way too early. 

She never knew her real father and she was placed in foster care at age six while her mother entered a mental institution. She was shifted from one home to another. 

She was molested in one of her homes, abused and mistreated in others. Her full name was Norma Jeane Mortenson and her only goal in life was (in her words), “I want to be loved for myself.”

Her first marriage was at age sixteen. Her second marriage was to a name we all recognize – Joe DiMaggio. Then another marriage and then her Hollywood name of Marilyn Monroe was given to her at age twenty-seven while working as a model. She became a national pastime, a star, certainly in the minds of many, one to emulate.

But inside Norma Jeane felt dirty, unworthy of love following molestation, foster home after foster home, marriage after marriage. She engaged in romances with some of the most famous men of her time. 

At age thirty-six, desperate for love, she reached out to talk to a friend, looking for affirmation and understanding, someone to care. But what she got was hung up on. She then swallowed a large number of pills and was found in her bed the following day dead, the phone hanging there beside her. How many more desperate calls did she make?

Loneliness is all around us. There is the widow down the street. There is the senior care home in the next town. There is a co-worker who just went through a divorce. 

So many people are looking for love. Tell them about the Someone who stepped down from heaven to be their Savior and their friend. Who needs a word of affirmation or of encouragement from you today?

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)

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Challenge, Encouragement, History, Identity, Just for fun

A Shoe Salesman of Notoriety

Recently I was reading I Corinthians chapter one and came across these profound verses: 

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

I also learned a new word lately – orthopraxy. It means to practice good or correct orthodoxy. The above verse is really good orthodoxy and great to practice conscientious orthopraxy. However, good orthodoxy will save no one. But, it doesn’t mean we do not practice righteous or correct orthopraxy. 

Let me take you to a story about a man named Lyman from Northfield, Mass who possessed neither good orthodoxy nor practiced good orthopraxy. His father died when he was 4. At 17 he could barely read or write. He left home to work for his uncle in his boot shop in Boston. There he went to church with his uncle, didn’t understand the sermons so he slept through them. A Sunday School teacher took an interest in Lyman and led him to the Lord. The leaders of the church said he’d be of little use to the kingdom of God. 

Lyman moved to Chicago to sell shoes, and he really sold shoes. He went to a church in Chicago where they found him to be “irritating with his unpolished zeal, butchering grammar and theology.” So Lyman went to the slums of Chicago to speak to children who were unschooled street kids. Abraham Lincoln once noted that this man Lyman could take “legions of ragamuffin kids and study the Bible.” 

Then the shoe salesman started his own church. The church building was destroyed by the fire of 1871. He became a traveling evangelist. He spoke 230 words a minute, so fast that few could even understand him. He was, however, doggedly determined to spread the gospel. 

This salesman who weighed over 400 pounds went on to lead one million souls to Christ and started America’s largest Bible school and one of the world’s largest publishing houses. He trained and sent over 5,000 missionaries to overseas assignments in his lifetime. 

You might remember him by his full name, Dwight Lyman Moody. Wow, what can God do with those of us who were called but not the wisest, not the most noble, not the most influential and maybe the “weakest of our clan” like Gideon? 

Even though God chose the weak things like us, He still chose us to bring His good news and to make our boast in Him alone.

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Challenge, Encouragement, History, Identity

How Do You Handle Failure?

Harland was five years old when his father passed away. When he reached the ripe old age of 14, Harland dropped out of school. He was first a farmhand, then a streetcar conductor but fired from both jobs. He lied about his age and joined the army at 16. Being pushed out of military service early he moved to Alabama and attempted blacksmithing.*

This job didn’t last either and he landed a position of locomotive fireman. Harland fell in love, married and the day he lost this job his wife announced her pregnancy. In fear of the future, his wife left him and returned home to her parents. 

The Great Depression hit and Harland decided to study law. He was licensed and soon thereafter lost his cool, got into a fist fight with his client in the courtroom and was chased from that career. He then was managing a gas station but lost that job when he decided to shoot his competitor while arguing over a sign.

Finding himself in Corbin, Kentucky, he landed a job as chief cook and bottle washer. He found success there but the plan for a new highway bypassing the town caused him to sell the restaurant for a small portion of its actual worth. Now at age 65 he was once again starting over.

Harland signed up for Social Security and his first check arrived. It was a grand total of $105.00. Having failed or struggled most of his life, he took that check and deposited it into the bank. He would eventually start a new venture with his savings.

The new adventure caused Harland to have one of the most successful food chains in U.S. history. You remember this man by the name Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken. That idea started with $105.00 and became so “finger lickin’ good” that today there are 20,000 restaurants in 125 countries generating over $23 billion.

Is there failure beyond having hope? Have you ever felt like giving in and giving up? Honestly, no failure is a final failure. Maybe it’s finding out what doesn’t work or perhaps it’s a lesson toward the next venture. Never give up; never quit! Harland didn’t.

*Adapted from the book Amazing Stories

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Challenge, Encouragement, History, Issues of the Day

Sigmund Missed It When It Came to Faith

Sigmund Freud is said to have detested people, but longed to be seen as some sort of savior to mankind. He was born into a Jewish family, but ceased to believe in God very early in his life. He went as far as to say that religion was a “neurosis,” a “poison,” an “illusion.” He pushed a new religion he called “the religion of science” and said that an intelligent “scientific” person would toss religious faith.

Based on no evidence he stated that children were sexual beings from birth. He worked hard to separate sex from love and promoted sex as nothing but the union of the reproductive organs. 

While he did a great deal of harm to faith, he could never destroy it. The real poison was his toxic beliefs spread to his generation and infecting generations to follow. Today, most know him as a cocaine addicted person obsessed with his own sexuality.

The Pew Research Center published their findings about “religious people” around the world and their happiness. Some of those findings are written about in a January 2019 article by Joey Marshall. Pew’s research discovered several important findings:

  1. Actively religious people are more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” compared to the less-religious.
  2. The actively religious are less likely to smoke and drink, creating a higher level of health.
  3. Religious people are more than likely to join other organizations like charities and clubs, even if the organizations are non-religious.
  4. Religious persons are more likely to vote, caring about their civic duty.

Pew’s analysis over all was that, “People who are active in religious congregations tend to be happier and more civically engaged than either religiously unaffiliated adults or inactive members of religious groups…” Sigmund missed it by a mile on that account.

For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’  (Acts 17:23-28)

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Encouragement, History, Identity, Leadership

I’ll Be Turning Fifty!

Those of you who know me also know I personally reached that age some time ago. This month, a little closer to Christmas, it will be 50 years since I made Jesus Lord of my life.  

Fifty. That’s half a century of doing my best to live life in a way that would honor God. Fifty seems like a lifetime of learning, growing, changing, forgiving, repenting and transitioning. 

I have discovered that I cannot change history, but history has changed me. I discovered that failure is almost certain in areas that are not surrendered to my heavenly Father. And, I realize that if I want to hear “well done” in heaven, I need to say “yes, Lord” on earth.

Maybe you’re beyond 50 or nowhere near that number. Either way, faithfulness is the key. Remain faithful to your King; He never disappoints. He will never leave you and He will provide for your every need, even some wants. Be committed to love Him with all of your heart, mind and soul. Know that He has your best interest in mind. Pray about all things and continually thank Him, for a grateful heart is a full heart.

Never compare yourself with others; it’s unwise, Corinthians says (II Corinthians 10:12). There are two end results to comparison: insignificance or pride. Continually work toward a pure heart and mind, forsake sin and forgive quickly.

My life verse has been Galatians 2:20 which says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” That verse says it all for me. 

Fifty years. I haven’t accomplished all I desire to, but there’s plenty of time left for that. 

Merry Christmas!

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Challenge, History, Just for fun

Pennsylvania’s William Penn, a Holy Experiment

William Penn landed in America in 1682 near what is known today as New Castle, Delaware. Penn belonged to a society called the Quakers. His faith was persecuted in England and he was coming to America to establish a new colony that he contended would be a “Holy experiment.” That experiment was a place where there was no established denomination or church.

 

Pennsylvania would be a safe, free of persecution, place for Quakers and other oppressed faiths from all across Europe. This new colony also attracted German-speaking Amish and Mennonite who came to be known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch.” The first city Penn would establish would be named Philadelphia–Greek for the city of “brotherly love.”

 

This experiment was said to be a great success as many differing denominations of Christians lived together in peace. Further, in Penn’s colony, there would be absolutely no ill treatment of the native Americans as Penn insisted they would be dealt with fairly and honorably.

 

Penn died in 1718, but many of his desires continue in this state. William Penn was the father of Pennsylvania, known as the Keystone State which means “Penn’s Woodland.” Penn’s Woods claims 63,200 farms covering nearly eight million acres. These woods still boast of over two million acres of dedicated state forest land.

 

Pennsylvania is rich in natural resources. Today its Marcellas shale gas fields are said to have enough natural gas to supply every major city of the U.S. for 200 years. Oil was first discovered in this state and coal has been a rich resource of energy in the past.

 

The soil of Pennsylvania is blessed. In the county I live in, Lancaster, one of 67 counties, there is a total of 609,181 acres and 439,481 of those acres are presently farmland. That farmland produces $469 million dollars’ worth of poultry and eggs, $425 million dollars’ worth of milk and $159 million dollars’ worth of beef cattle. The land also produces abundant crops of corn, forage, soybeans, wheat and other vital animal and human food supply.

 

William Penn, thank you for your “Holy experiment” as so many of us here in Pennsylvania, across America and the world enjoy the fruit of your faith and labor. Thank you for the righteous seeds planted of which we now reap the benefit. What difference are you called by God to make in your world today? What seeds are you called to plant so that a harvest of righteousness is reaped in the years ahead?

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Children, Encouragement, History, Parents

The Effects of Love

Harry Harlow, ever heard of him? He was a psychologist who studied the nature of human love and affection by using monkeys. His experiments were labeled controversial and any attempt to measure and quantify the need for love and affection during the behaviorist movement of the 1950’s and 60’s was, supposedly, not science. * 

It was a time when many psychologists thought showing affection and love to children had no real purpose and might even be considered dangerous. But Harlow set out to prove the powerful effects of love as well as the absence of love.

How did he do it? His most famous experiment involved a mother monkey made of wire and another made of soft terrycloth. Infant monkeys, raised by these two surrogate “mothers,” had the wire mother provide needed food while the soft, terrycloth mother provided no nourishment. The result? The infant monkeys went to the wire mother for food, but preferred to spend their time with the soft, comforting mother when not eating. Harlow concluded that the need for affection was instrumental to the need for closeness and security.

This important and rather cruel research provided significant changes to how orphanages, adoption agencies and child care providers cared for children and their needs. What a powerful study on the nature of love, affection and nurture for the human spirit. We can endure a lot, but apparently we cannot endure the lack of love, of meaningful touch, affection and the security that touches the human soul. 

Who do you need to love today? Who needs your warm touch? 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

*www.Verywell mind.com, Harry Harlow and the Nature of Affection, by Kendra Cherry, December 12, 20

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, History, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Healing A Damaged Soul’s Identity

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 17

I am the head and not the tail. Deuteronomy 28:13

I am forgiven. I John 2:12

Regardless of what has happened to you in your past, those things do not define who you are today.  Your pain-filled memories, your losses, rejections, embarrassments and shame are all a moment in time.  They are moments that fill you with heartache, unforgiveness and bitterness or they have worked to create a better you.  You have either embraced them as truth and told yourself your worth and value are determined by those things or you have embraced the experience of them, sought healing through them and grown tremendously by allowing them to grow you into a deeper, more forgiving, more grace-filled and more loving, genuine person.

You have been given one life to live on this earth and it’s up to you how you will live it.  If you allow anyone else on earth to determine how you will live, then you have sold yourself to another.  It is God who has given you life and breath, not anyone else. 

Every day people are born and every day people die.  You have been given a gift of life and it’s up to you what you make of it.  You can live in history, the present or in constant hope of a better future; it’s up to you.  

If you choose to live in history, then you most likely are choosing to live in unforgiveness. Unforgiveness gives birth to brokenness, being stuck in life, the loss of freedom, physical illnesses, depression, bitterness, anger, self-pity, self-torment and the like.  Living in unforgiveness is an anguishing way to live life.  It holds us in bondage to others. I believe it was author and speaker Joyce Meyer who said that to hold onto unforgiveness is like drinking poison in hopes that the one who you cannot forgive dies.  It only hurts you.  Unforgiveness is certain death to any sense of wholeness and identity.

Counselees would often say to me, “You have no idea what I have been through” and they were right.  But you will not move forward if you stick with that excuse.  You will be stuck forever in history.  Listen, it is not about what we have been through; it’s about who He is in you for yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Does that mean we are in denial of our past?  No, it does not.  But if you are waiting for an apology from that person who hurt you, you might be waiting all of your life.  That confession may never come. Those tears of sorrow for hurting you might never surface.  Then what?  If you keep waiting, placing your life on hold, you have become a captive of the person or persons who hurt you.  You have empowered them to control your life and your emotions.  You have made them more powerful than yourself and more powerful than God.  You are allowing them to determine who you are and what you are.  

Jesus is as concerned about your future as He is your past and the Holy Spirit desires to move you on.  No one created by God was designed to live life looking backwards, constantly filtering everything that happens today through what happened to them yesterday.

Jesus said that we were to forgive as we have been forgiven.  Have you ever needed forgiveness?  How many persons have you hurt, have you damaged?  Every one of us are in desperate need of forgiveness. We are commanded to live in forgiveness. 

Question for reflection:

Are you in any way stuck in the past, bound to people who have hurt you?

You can order your new book here or start a small group and study the book together.

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Challenge, History, Identity, Insecurity

The Loss of Identity and the Prison of Self II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 9

I am in Jesus Christ’s hands. John 10:28

I am God’s house. Hebrews 3:6

The more self-consumed we become, the more our identity is inhibited.  Being self-consumed provokes a self-centered focus.  We will never find an identity within ourselves of our own making.  It will be false and have no basis to live life.  It will be like the teenager who changes from year to year, trying to find where they fit in life and where they fit among their peers.

I Peter 1:18 tells us, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers.”  I am not here to blame anything on your parents or family line, but what I do desire to do is to cause you to think about what was “handed down” to you.  What were some of those identity-forming beliefs handed down to you?  What were those prisons that you readily accepted without question because they are all you know?

I had a friend who was fearful of meeting new people.  He would literally quiver, get his words mixed up and shy away from any setting where this might happen to him.  One day we were talking about his history and he revealed to me that his mother lived in a constant state of fear of strangers.

One example he shared was that while growing up on a rural Pennsylvania farm, his father worked away from the farm during the day.  So that left his mother, him, and siblings home alone.  Regularly, a traveling salesperson, grain or feed truck operator would show up.  My friend’s mother would lock the door and then hide herself with all of the children in a small, dark closet.  There they would stay quietly until the stranger would leave.

To this day, my friend is in a self-imposed prison when it comes to meeting new people.  

It is important to ask ourselves a question about life itself, including our past life, our present situation and even our future thoughts: who determines or who makes decisions for us? And what part does God have in those decisions?  If we allow life circumstances to direct those thoughts, or empower someone else to speak over us and determine who we are, then we are allowing someone or something else to determine our identity.  We are given a choice to become what life hands us or to be different. 

Jesus expressed to us that we were to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and to follow Him.  What an opposite piece of advice from what we hear on a daily basis through our modern-day culture.  How could one “deny themselves” and yet feel better about themselves?  Never did Jesus state that what we do for Him is who we are. 

As Christ lives in you, you become His hands and his feet. You represent the King of kings and you are His holy temple. While we appreciate our church buildings, they are not holy or the “house of the Lord.” You are the house of the Lord; He lives in you to do His work on the earth. And, you can do all things in Christ.

Question for reflection:

If you are living in a self-imposed prison, how can you move out of that place and be all that Christ is calling you to be?

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