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

Do You Know a Drug Addict?

Being trapped in drug addiction Is a horrible way to live: the lying; the hiding; the destruction to self, your marriage, your children and your future. Several years ago, I lost my 49-year-old cousin to an overdose and I promised myself that I would not stop loving, chasing and attempting to help others.  But drug use changes things.

 

It changes relationship with God and others.  It changes financial conditions.  It changes the ability to deal with life in terms of reality.  Drug addiction stops personal growth and causes regression. It is idolatry at its finest.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not judging drug addicts as having the worst sin because each of us have our issues.  But it affects so many areas of life that the personal cost, the family cost and the societal cost is so great; all the while, the person can sometimes live in denial of their very own problem.  It is called a “disease” and I guess that is how our world tries to understand, define and cope with it.

 

The problem with that, in my mind, is that so much personal choice and responsibility are involved.  Truly “disease” is a better term than mental illness, but when we make a continual choice to abuse, regardless of the number of rehabs we have gone through or programs at huge expense to so many, then I feel the need to ask the question that Jesus asked, “Do you want to be well?”

 

The real disease is often directly connected to selfishness.  You have effectively made yourself more important than anyone else in your life.  If that sounds harsh, please let me explain.  We are not our own; we were bought with a price.  I Corinthians 13 reminds us that love does not seek its own.  When we live in self-centeredness, forgetting who we really are, who we were made to be, why we were created in the image of God, we forget whose image we are truly to live in.  When we are consumed with our own selfish desires, we will never love others in the way we were created to and, hear me, that includes loving ourselves.

 

Maybe mentally these persons feel as though they have no choice.  I have never been there.  But in the lives of those whom I have cared about, I have watched them throw away those who love them, those who employ them and those who truly care about them.  No one is beyond hope, the love of Jesus or life change, but don’t we have to want it, desire it, be passionate for it?  Don’t we need to want to be well?  Don’t we need to stop choosing and chasing this “disease” that is killing us?

 

If I am not writing these things in love, then I have no voice; it’s only religious judgment.  But if I speak from love, concern and God’s heart, then hear me.  No matter our sin, our history, our personal pain or our idolatry, there is an answer, always an answer which gives freedom.  It is the cross, the Man who carried your sorrow, your grief, your pain and your addiction.  He is the only One who can identify and redeem.  Be assured of His love and the hope always found in Him.  Come home to Him, please, before it’s too late.

Standard
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)

Standard
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.

 

Standard
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.

Standard
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.

Standard
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.)

Standard
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.

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

The Aversion to Counseling

It was not unusual for me to receive a call from a spouse requesting counseling. Often I asked if their marriage partner will accompany them and just as often I would hear something like this: “Oh, they don’t think they need counseling.” I have news for that spouse and every other person alive. We all need counseling at one time or another throughout our existence on this planet.

 

What is the aversion to counseling? There are numerous I suppose, but number one on my list is pride. We pridefully feel that our spouse needs counsel far more than we do. Or, we simply do not desire to admit that we need a counselor in our life.

 

Another is the avoidance of one-on-one confrontation and the fear of having to face the fact that we might be wrong. Again, a derivative of pride.

 

Perhaps another is being married to someone who is forever, chronically seeking counsel, but then never healing.

 

And still another is that proverbial response of, “What can a counselor tell me that I don’t already know?” Great question for the person who doesn’t even know enough to realize there is safety in a multitude of counselors. (Proverbs 15:22; 24:6)

 

Wise counselors are a gift to human kind from God and to be appreciated. One of the names of God’s Son is Counselor

 

My wife and I have been to a counselor. I once bribed my whole family with pizza if they would first be willing to share with a counselor how their dad could improve upon being a dad. I have sought out counsel in many forms and fashions from experts who had keen insight into areas like finances, home repair projects, business building, child raising and leadership. God has experts in every category of life and I’ll bet you have access to some of those wise counselors.

 

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Perfect—Everything is Perfect

Have you noticed lately when calling your insurance company, your bank or just about any customer service person there has been a change?  When communicating about a problem or an update the word you often hear over and over is “perfect.” Repeatedly I hear, “Yes, perfect;” “That’s perfect;” “Mmm perfect.” When they ask the spelling of my name and then answer, “Perfect,” I feel a little unnerved because now their perfect word actually becomes incongruent to the question. Of course I can spell my last name perfectly. You would think life is just perfect in their world.

 

Are these persons being trained to use this word in their dialogues with customers over and over? What’s so great about this word and who started this nuance? What consultant or training guru first said, “Use one word and one word only over and over—PERFECT.” Did some scientific study or major poll figure out we love to hear the word perfect? Is there some unknown psychology behind this word, “perfect?” Is perfect what every human being has a desire to become so they repeatedly make use of this word? Or, is it the fact that no one is perfect and these persons, no matter how frustrated we the customer become, accept what is being said because of this special, overused and overrated word?

 

I hear parents repeatedly tell their children practice makes perfect, but it does not. Practice makes better, not perfect. If perfection is our goal, then we’re defeated before we even begin. Is anything in this world perfect?

 

Only One. Read below about this Perfection:

 

II Samuel 22:31 – His way is perfect and His word is flawless.

 

Job 36:4 – He is perfect in knowledge.

 

Psalm 18:30 – God’s way is perfect.

 

Isaiah 25:1 – He is perfectly faithful.

 

Hebrews 7:28 – The Son of God, perfect forever.

 

James 1:17 – His gifts are perfect.

 

I John 4:18 – His love is perfect.

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership

Being Aware of Life Distractions

Important stuff versus the distractions of just stuff…

 

I seem to have this continual mental battle regarding what is the best use of my time. What builds life and love versus loss and fear? What is a good cause versus a great and godly cause? What is God’s will versus my will? What is secular, of this world, and what is of His kingdom?

 

It takes discernment and wisdom and it reminds me of a story I was reading in the Scriptures just the other day.

 

The disciple Peter was being questioned by Jesus and he was confessing Christ by his repeated answering of the question, “Who do you say I am?”

 

Then Jesus begins to speak of His coming death, how He must be killed. Peter takes Him aside and, get this, “rebukes” Him. Wow, that took some nerve, but I get that it was a desperate plea on Peter’s part. Of course, this is where (and it seems out of character) Jesus tells Satan to “get behind” Him and for Peter to stop being a “stumbling block.”

 

Following this dialogue there is this partial sentence in which Jesus expresses something significant. He said, “…you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (See Matthew 16:13-23.)

 

Bear in mind, Jesus had just told Peter that he was blessed and that his Father in heaven was revealing things to him. Apparently, this rebuke was not one of them.

 

Struggling with Which Cause to Fight For

 

It seems that every week or two our world has a new cause, a new band wagon, a new catastrophe to jump on depending on the crime or news attention of the day.

 

It is really easy to get caught up on social media with opinion, videos, responses and emotion. Perhaps we need to stop and reflect on Jesus’ words: what do we have in mind, the things of men or of God? Good things might not be God things.

 

And that’s where this word, distraction, comes in. Life is full of causes. Tomorrow and next week will be another headline. But as those who are called to reflect the mind and the image of Christ, we must seek first the kingdom of God and not be distracted by each and every cause of the day.

 

We do not want to be a stumbling block to anyone. Jesus also said that if we wanted to follow Him, we had to first deny ourself and then take up His cross. Many of the bandwagons of our day have no relationship with the cross.

 

Jesus’ final question in this passage concerning distractions was this, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”

 

I do not think it’s the world’s gain or approval we are seeking.

Standard