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

The Look

It transpired right after Peter’s denial as he disowned Jesus. Jesus was within sight of His disciple Peter and just after Peter’s final denial something really unnerving is mentioned in the gospel of Luke, chapter 22.

The rooster crowes and then this happens, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” There were no recorded words spoken, only a “look.” It was done, over, just as Jesus had said it would happen. Peter would deny Him in His presence. Can you imagine with me what Peter felt in that moment? His whole body must have become warm and filled with mixed emotions as blood flowed through his neck to his flush face. I can see him wanting to escape the trauma he felt, looking down, shaking, feeling embarrassment and, of course, shame. What thoughts were going through his mind as fear must have gripped his heart during and after “the look?”

Sometimes I ask a small group question that goes like this, “If you had the opportunity for one do-over in life, what would it be?” I know mine; do you know yours? I’ll bet everything I own that at that moment Peter would have wished for his one do-over.

However, Peter received His Lord’s forgiveness and went on to be the greatest soul winning preacher of the New Testament. He didn’t quit, he didn’t get depressed and he didn’t remain in shame. I believe he went to the cross and made it right. And for me, it is one of the greatest stories of redemption in the Bible.

Is there anything in your life that needs redeemed? There is One who from the cross said, “Shame off of you. Let’s work on a do-over.”

For Peter, the hours leading up to Jesus’ resurrection must have been pretty dark, but then came Sunday, where everything must have become full of light, life and hope!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Women

If You Have Chosen to Be Sexual…

I had this thought the other day when considering sexual boundaries in our lives. It’s one that I suppose some persons will agree with and perhaps others will strongly disagree with. It’s an observation I have made over the years as I watch how people respond so differently to God’s sexual boundaries lovingly written to us within His word.

Here’s the thought provoking question: If one chooses to be sexual prior to marriage, why not be sexual outside of your marriage?

It’s the same act isn’t it? It’s breaking the same moral guideline, right? It bears similar consequences, doesn’t it?

When we sow sexual seeds before marriage, what makes us think we’ll reason differently or be tempted differently while married?

If you are a young person who desires to obey your heavenly Father, then choose to sow into your future marriage relationship by following God’s moral code today. Do not think that you’ll get away with acting out sexually and then have no consequences after you say “I do,” having spoken vows of commitment for the remainder of your married life.

If you have crossed God’s boundaries, then I urge you to ask for forgiveness and experience deep repentance over disobeying your heavenly Father. Your future is very connected to the seeds you sowed in the past. Break off any soul connections from prior relationships. Declare Galatians 3:13 over your life and disconnect yourself from curses spoken or sowed. Commit once again to purity before marriage and within marriage.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day

The Answer When We Lack Peace

When facing troubling times, our human soul can take on thoughts, reoccurring thoughts, to the point that we lose our inner peace. We can also lose sleep, bite our fingernails, overeat, lose our appetite or sleep too much. We each deal with stress and anxiety in different ways.

 

 

Persons who spend an inordinate amount of time worrying can even lose weight, burning energy unnecessarily. Let’s face it – our emotions can get the best of us at times. If these emotional responses become longterm, our physical being can begin to break down with stomach issues, migraines, muscle cramps and the like.

 

 

When something is weighing on me and I know I am carrying extra things I should not be, my neck muscles will tighten and begin to ache, becoming sore. It’s where I tend to physically carry stress. It may be something with my work or my family life, but I’ll know it’s there if I pay attention to my body. While our bodies may not be able to tell us where the issue originates or what it is, our physical being can reveal there is an undealt with, ongoing concern.

 

 

It was Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Peace is attainable; Jesus handed it to us. Was He saying fear could be a reason for our “troubled” hearts?

 

 

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the future. Fear of loss. Fear of harm. Almost any fear could steal our peace. If we do not take on the words of Jesus and apply them to our lives, then we have to worry; we have to carry the burden ourselves. We have to become our own answer. That is an extremely exhausting way to live. Jesus said it this way, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

 

 

Our worrying adds nothing but more worry. Where do we find peace so we can sleep at night and not worry unnecessarily? The other day, I came across this verse and the answer to that very question, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

 

 

The answer is trust. Who do you trust? If you only trust yourself, you will find no lasting peace. But when we learn to give our worry to the One who desires to carry the burden for us and trust Him fully, He grants peace.

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

Joining the Dishonest

Why do we think it’s more spiritual to appease others or live by conciliatory gestures?  And why is passive-aggressive behavior tolerated more today?  Are we being merciful and gracious or are we being dishonest?

 

Today we write comments on social media or letters to the editor trying to get our aggressions across in an acceptable media-centered way.  But is it the right way?  As well, what about the people in your life who will not tell you what they see or feel, but they will definitely show you or make an inference on Facebook?  That is passive-aggressive behavior.

 

Matthew chapter 18 tells us that if your brother sins against you, you are to go to your brother.  Nowhere in that chapter does it say to write a letter to the editor, bully them on Facebook, ignore them or slam them with passive-aggressive tactics.  We are to go one-on-one in love, in the hope that our brother will hear us.

 

Listen to I Peter 3:8 & 9: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  We must determine that part of being a blessing is speaking compassionate truth and words of blessing.

 

One day Jesus encountered an issue with Philip while Philip was requesting to be shown the Father.  Jesus looked straight back at him and said, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you for such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”  I’ll bet Philip never asked that question again.

 

I’ve had leaders who have loved me enough to confront me with what they saw as a deficit in my life.  As hard as that kind of thing is to receive and look at, I realize they love me enough to tell me the truth as they understand it.  To me, that is real mercy.  Not being confronted toward change will cause me to repeat the wrong I was doing. 

 

I’ve often asked other leaders to let me know if they hear something in what I teach that is culturally insensitive or incorrect.  After speaking on one occasion, I requested input and, low and behold, I was told, “Yeah, there was one thing…”  I agreed and was thankful for their honesty.  If you do not want truthful input, don’t ask, but then do not expect to grow.

 

Another Reason or Three Why We Do Not Confront

  • Self-protection – I am apprehensive because I am protecting myself from a projected reaction that will affect me, so I choose not to go there. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, “True friends stab you in the front.”
  • Arrogance – Rather than moving in love, compassion and humility, we feel arrogance because we’re not walking in this sin, wrong doing or what we think is wrong thinking. Arrogance is full of pride and will keep us from changing.
  • Insecurity – I perceive my worth, my identity wrapped up in the garment of this person liking me and not rejecting me. If I confront them, my identity could be shaken.  Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare…”

 

The book of Proverbs wisely counsels there are times we are to overlook an offense.  (See Proverbs 17:9, 19:11.)  It simply is not worth getting into.  But when is it worth getting into how do we confront someone with the truth?  Here are some life-giving ways or approaches to consider.

 

  1. When you expose another’s fault, a sin, you do so in love in order to win your brother or sister back (Matthew 18:15). Compassion is a major ingredient in the why of your confrontation.  “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”  (Proverbs 27:6)
  2. When it is not criticism for criticism’s sake and it is not, “The truth hurts sometimes,” because that can be mean-spiritedness. It must be that I love you enough to tell you the truth.  The spirit of the conversation is love and the vehicle is grace.  (Ephesians 4:15)
  3. Paul the Apostle disagreed with Barnabas about taking John Mark on their missionary journey because John Mark had deserted Paul in Pamphylia. Paul was honest about how he felt concerning John Mark and why.  Be honest, be truthful while at the same time believing for and positioning yourself for healing in the life of the one you have to be honest with.
  4. Paul would eventually reconcile with John Mark. Everyone is worth a second chance.  Give the one you are confronting the benefit of the doubt and trust God for a second chance and reconciliation.
  5. Proverbs says that the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18). Is what you have to say spoken in an effort to bring healing or destruction and judgement?  It takes courage in the desire to bring healing to another.
  6. Stop airing your opinions and move toward understanding (Proverbs 18:2 – “Fools have no interest in understanding, they only want to air their opinions.”). Once we speak what God has shown us, stop and listen to understand.
  7. Be the tongue that brings life and not death (Proverbs 18:21 – “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”) Grace-filled truth brings life.
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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Men, Parents, Women

Experiencing 2020 Battle Fatigue

Battle Fatigue is a term no longer used. We now have a brand-new label. Psychiatrists began to notice psychological wounds that veterans sustained from the Vietnam War. Their symptoms included cynicism, alienation, depression, mistrust, an inability to concentrate, insomnia, nightmares, restlessness and expectation of betrayal. They called this disorder, “Post–Vietnam Syndrome.”

 

In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association adopted the term Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. This broadened term also related to non-combat exposure with those who experienced rape, natural disasters, accidents and assaults. For example, post the Oklahoma City bombing, 34% of the survivors developed PTSD.

 

Because we as human beings grieve and experience emotional reactions through pain-filled events in our lives, we can also experience some of the PTSD symptoms. The good news is that, in time, most persons improve.

 

It is said by counselors, doctors and other professionals that many individuals, marriages, youth and children experienced high levels of unending stress in 2020, primarily related to Covid – 19, but not solely. We have had to endure racial strife, riots and burning cities, constant political discord and a barrage of fear-based media. If we maintain high levels of ongoing stress, we may begin to see many of the symptoms mentioned above. A weariness can settle in and a “who cares” attitude can take over as a means of coping.

 

We have an opportunity to talk ourselves into ill health or out of ill health. Battle fatigue will shorten our patience, cause us to lose our joy and destroy our dreams. This level of fatigue repeatedly says, “Give up; what’s the use?”

 

Press through and press on. Find others to serve and to help. Do not allow your focus to become centered on yourself and just your perceived needs. Recognize the voice within yourself that desires to keep your soul downcast versus the truth that desires to bring freedom. Determine to steadily walk forward and to not get stuck at any one place. Put a stop to the negative voices and negative media around you which are constantly complaining or instilling fear. Listen to life-giving worship music and read a daily devotional that uplifts your soul. Occupy your thoughts with prayer and the giving of thanks.

 

There are active steps that you can take to fight battle fatigue. It’s not wrong to recognize our weakness if we, at the same time, recognize God’s strength.

 

Paul the Apostle said it best, “That’s why I take pleasure in in my weaknesses…hardships…and troubles that I suffer…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:10)

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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, 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, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Singles, Women

A Silent Killer in Marriage

Pornography for many, is a silent killer.  It’s a killer of intimacy, of honesty, of time, of finance and of our own bodies.  Jesus said, “Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.” (Luke 11:34)

 

Our eyes provide a window to our mind, our heart, and our spirit.  When our eyes wander toward or are attracted to pornographic images, we give darkness permission to enter the light.  Jesus warned us about this very thing when He said, “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” (Luke 11:35)

 

There is no redeeming factor when it comes to pornography.  It is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the USA built on lust.  Lust is insatiable, and Satan will hand it to us freely.  Lust is about taking and fully self-seeking.  Lust will increase as we feed it until we find ourselves in bondage.  But love is satisfying, focused on giving, and full of selflessness.  As love increases, we will find ourselves walking in freedom and becoming closer to our life mate.

 

In our pre- and postmarital book, Called Together, we ask the question, “Can you be involved in lust toward your spouse?”  That question creates quite a stir and challenges couples not yet married.  A single person may think that marriage means the end of lusting after another, but married couples know that simply is not true.  According to the above definition of lust, we can be involved in lust within our marriages by demanding, taking and sexual selfishness.  Pornography will feed that self-centered attitude.

 

Love feeds an attitude of giving, sharing, and bringing pleasure out of a heart and mind that is not tarnished by images of raw, base acts.  Love is never demanding in the bedroom, as it speaks encouragement, affirmation, and genuine acceptance.

 

Viewing pornography opens the door of our soul and spirit to spiritual oppression, confusion, hopelessness, hurt, control and domination in evil ways.  Men and women feel betrayed by spouses who use porn.  Women feel as though they cannot compete with the images their husbands are viewing.  It is an illusion that says women will do anything to please their man; no woman in real life lives within that kind of fantasy world.  It brings insecurities to her and can destroy her esteem.  She will question her attractiveness and her adequacy as a lover.  She can eventually think and believe that porn is more important to her husband than she is to him, an ultimate sexual betrayal.

 

Lastly, pornography will make you into a liar.  You will have to constantly lie about your use to your love ones and perhaps your employer.  I love these verses that Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord…Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (I Corinthians 6: 13,18)

 

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

 

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