From Perfection to Forgiveness


Normally, I do not do political posts, but the last year of so, I have been watching the political climate and reactions thereof.  What I have found is quite disturbing.

What happens when one politician disagrees with another?  They call each other names.

What happens when one politician wants their agenda to pass but someone else’s to lose?  They create sympathetic stories for their specific view.

What happens when a bunch of politicians get together to question someone who has been selected for a specific position?  The politicians require perfection throughout life.

Perfection.  It’s a crazy word.  We use it when we call someone a “perfectionist”, someone who needs to have everything in order perfectly, in their eyes, otherwise they cannot proceed.  Perfection, however, goes way beyond our culture of needing our books alphabetized on our shelves, or our knick-knacks perfectly lined up on the window sill.  Perfection is something we, as human beings can never achieve.

Perfection can be defined as:

  • A condition, state or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.
  • Completely and totally flawless, without blemish

Here’s a question we should all ask ourselves in the mirror at night… did I live a perfect life today?

I know I didn’t.  When I get cut off on the highway, my mind and sometimes my mouth exude “words of encouragement” – NOT!  Sometimes, when my kids say or do the wrong things and I overreact to their actions or words, I remain imperfect.

Over the last few weeks, and more so today, we are seeing, before our very eyes, the hacking of political chaos.  When one side does not want a nominee, for whatever their reasoning, they require total lifetime perfection.

It is very unfortunate that we, as a country, have stooped to the level of requiring perfection from all that we disagree with, meanwhile, we do not require perfection from ourselves.  No longer can someone make mistakes, if they don’t think like the majority.  No longer can actions be problematic, if they don’t agree with the news agencies.  No longer can our words be honest, in love, without the repercussion of persecution and name calling.  It is very unfortunate, but there is someone who does not require perfection.

Long ago, a carpenter left his family business and began to recruit people to be his students.  First, he chose someone who was a political thief.  He picked someone who stole from his own people in order to make himself wealthy all the while paying the government only what they required.  He also chose a fisherman who had a way of not keeping his mouth and sometimes his actions unfiltered.  He chose two brothers who always fought and had anger management issues.  A prostitute followed him.  A woman who couldn’t hold a relationship together followed him.  In fact, he also chose a banker who would eventually betray him.

In the same light, this same man was rejected by the political leaders of is day.  They felt that their motives, their actions and their agendas were perfect and if he wouldn’t follow their ways, he couldn’t be perfect either.  The problem was this man was perfect.  The only one who ever was and the only one who will ever be.  Yet in spite of his perfection, he does not require perfection from us.

This man is Jesus.  He died so that we may live.  He is perfect.  We are not.  He chose imperfect people to accomplish His will in this world.  This is the beauty of the Gospel.  Jesus does not require our perfection, but He requires our obedience to Him.  Part of being obedient to Him is to forgive others who have wronged us.  It is not about not suffering the consequences to their actions, it’s about the position of being human beings, made in the image of God, in need of a Savior.  Forgiveness heals both the offender as well as the victim.  It allows us to free our minds and hearts to give that person another chance.

When Jesus was asked about how many times to forgive someone, here is what He said…

“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Now that’s an odd way of answering a question but there was a reason why Jesus said it this way.  In biblical times, it was thought that if you forgave someone seven times, you were considered above reproach.  It was also understood that if that person wronged you an eighth time, they no longer were worthy of your forgiveness.  What Jesus was communicating was not to forgive a specific number of times, but to forgive unconditionally.  This means that as those who wrong us over and over again, we should forgive them over and over again.  When we do this one of three things will happen.

First, they’ll keep wronging us, we’ll keep forgiving but at some point, the relationship will fade and the two will part ways.

Second, the person wronging you will get tired of your forgiveness and will leave because their wrong will appear to have no effect on you.

Third, the person who is wronging you will stop out of guilt and will change their ways and wrong you no more.

We all want the third option, but the first two are realities as well.

Today, we are watching as Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford go before the Senate Committee to testify about Judge Kavanaugh’s actions back in High School and College.  We are watching the deformation of character from both sides, but we are not seeing acts of forgiveness.

At the same time, this should be a warning for us as well.  The sin we act upon in private, in our past, will one day surface to the top of our public lives.  Should Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford done the sinful things they both did in their former days?  No.  I feel for Dr. Ford.  But I also feel for Judge Kavanaugh.  Both are now suffering from their prior actions.  Both are trying to save their professional and personal lives by accusing and denying their actions.  The question in my mind is not whether they did those things or not.  The question in my mind is, “What about all of our public figures?  What is in their past that is questionable or rebellious that would disqualify them from their office?”

I am confident that if we were to use the same rule of judgement as we are seeing in today’s hearings, almost all of our current politicians would be disqualified from their office.  I am also confident that if our leaders were to begin showing acts of forgiveness, our country would be greater than it has ever been.

When we require perfection, we abandon forgiveness.  When we require forgiveness, we accept imperfection and embrace our commonalities rather than our criminalities.  Our country needs to be forgiven and needs to show forgiveness.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NASB)

We NEED to turn back to God.  We NEED to forgive others.  We NEED to look hard in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Was I perfect today?”  And if, like me, you can answer, “Not perfect”, then we have the opportunity to ask God for forgiveness.  And guess what…. He will.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 (NASB)

God is ready to forgive us.  We just need to admit our wrongs to Him.  Once we do that, He will give us what we need to forgive others.

If you and I have been forgiven by God for all that we have done, then why can’t we show that same forgiveness to others?

No one is perfect.  No one ever will be.  Let’s begin the healing process by first asking for forgiveness, then giving forgiveness to others.  God bless and let’s forgive someone today.

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Brtete Teoetghr – Leading, not making


Our words are not merely a way to express ourselves; they are also a weapon of choice, used with precision and exactness as to wound the mind into thinking that even heresy is truth.

Our brains are being scrambled.  The media is doing an awesome job telling us what to think, how to think and when to think.  Have you noticed the important stories are the ones they want to tell you?  This month alone, we have all heard stories about an illegal immigrant who allegedly murdered a young woman.  But we do not hear about the father who killed his wife and family.  As we listen, we hear about how gun violence is out of control in Chicago, but we do not hear how a woman protected herself and her family with the use of a firearm.  We hear how income inequality is rampant among our nation and we hear the war cries of injustice.  We hear how horrible the wealthy are because of how much they steal from others, only to find out that the same people who cry this way are making millions themselves.  Today is the epitome of hypocrisy and deception.

So what is the solution to all of this?  How can we overcome the hypocrisy and deception we face in today’s media driven world?  It’s not like we can just turn it all off and hide in our little bubbles.  Even though that might sound appetizing, it is not reality.  Our world is filled with various media outlets and many are subject to the brainwashing.  So if we can’t turn off the media, what can we do?  We can answer the prayer of one man, Jesus Christ.

In John 17, Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In one of his prayers, he says the following:

”My prayer is not for them (the disciples) alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:20-23 (NIV)

Today, this prayer has yet to be answered, but I believe that it can be answered and will be answered someday.  However, the only way we can come to complete unity is if we have a better understanding of what we stand for.  Now, I do not mean racial inequality or income inequality or Democrat vs Republican, no, what I mean is, as Christians, do we truly understand why we are here?  Do we really understand what our responsibilities are while we are living?

Please don’t misunderstand me…the matters of these social issues is important.  It is important when someone is arrested for something they didn’t do all because of the color of their skin.  It is important when a woman can’t make as much as a man simply because they were created as a woman.  It is important when our soldiers, who come home, are homeless, yet those who claim to fight for them, don’t even donate to causes which help our homeless veterans.  It is important to stand up for what you believe in, but is it more important to stand up for social issues and not stand up for your mission?

Our unity can only come when we fully understand the mission we have.  So what does Jesus want us to do?  Does He simply ask us to live a quiet life among those who are lost?  Does He want us to preach from the mountain top and cry out on how to come to Him?  What exactly, does Jesus want us to do?

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives us our mission.  It is a clear and focused mission and I truly believe that once we all work towards that mission, not only will be become unified, but the social ills of today will become calmer.  These issues may not fully go away, but they can be tamed if we just follow the clear and focused mission Jesus gave us:

”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our mission is a threefold mission.  But before we get into what the mission is, we need to understand why this mission is so important.  The answer…Jesus has given us His authority to do so.  Jesus told them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  This means that no matter what we experience, no matter the war cries of the media, Jesus is in control and in charge.  There is no earthly ruler that can claim that all authority has been given to them.  They may try to claim this but it would be an ill-gotten attempt to try and convince us otherwise.  Here is what I mean…

A ruler proclaims, “I have the authority over all people!  No one can stop what I have started.”  Yet in times of war, another, stronger ruler comes against this heretical ruler and overcomes him.  The new ruler takes over the former’s people and immediately proves the authority he proclaimed is limited.

However, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  How can this be proven?  When Jesus was hanging on the cross, someone said, “Hey Jesus…if you are truly the Son of God, come down from there.”  He didn’t.  Not because He couldn’t but because Jesus understood that by Him staying there and dying, He was fulfilling the command of his Father.  Therefore, He stayed on the cross willingly.

“Being found in appearance as a man, He (Jesus) humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:8 (NASB)

Then after His death, Jesus rose from the dead, showing His authority over death.  Therefore, because Jesus was fully obedient, He was given all authority over everything…in heaven and here on earth.  There is truly nothing that is out of the scope of His authority.

It is with this authority, that we can do the three things we need to do.  Our mission is not a complex one, but it isn’t easy either.

First, with the authority of Jesus Christ, we need to make disciples.  This isn’t like baking a cake.  The word for make here is to lead.  To lead means we there is involvement.  Typically, people do not follow others who are demanding or obstinate.  Instead, we desire to follow someone who has experienced the same or similar situations we have.  We like leaders who are willing to get their hands dirty with the people they are leading.  We do not like those who say they are leaders but are not willing to do the things others are willing to do.  Our calling is to be in the trenches with others.  To share the message of Jesus Christ with them.  We do not lead them to a way of acceptance, but rather to the one who has accepted them already.  The first part of our mission is to lead them to the cross of Jesus Christ.

We, alone, cannot change anyone.  We can only show them a better way to live.  It’s like the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  The same holds true with sharing the Gospel.  We can lead someone by telling them about the Gospel, but just as the cowboy leads the horse to water, so too, must we lead others by walking with them.

Our words are a weapon which can be used in a precise way to allow others to see that what Jesus Christ did for them is real.  Others must also see that what we say are not just merely words, but we are willing to place action behind them.  We must walk with them.  We must not pull them forcibly.  We must not push them when they do not want to move.  But we must hold their hand, walk at their pace, show them the love of Jesus by helping them when they are struggling or hurting.  We must sit with them when they are tired.  We must sleep when they sleep, move when they move.  If we simply tell someone the Gospel, but do not show them the Gospel, we blindly swing our sword in the hopes to hit the broad side of a barn.  Instead when we only tell them, we swing our sword injuring both them and us in the process.

If you want to unite the world, we must first be united as Christians, with a united goal.  We can be better together if we focus in on the first part of our mission, lead others to the cross.  Next, we will look at the second (and possibly third) part of our mission.

Let’s unite under the cross of Jesus Christ and not worry about the brainwashing of society.  Our authority to lead comes from the Maker of Heaven and Earth, so stop following blindly and open your eyes to the truth…Jesus is in control and has called us to lead as one.

Let’s answer the prayer of Jesus to become united as one body.  We are truly better together when we are united in our mission to lead.  God bless and encourage someone today.

Like our Fore-Fathers


Have you ever read something and just can’t get it out of your head?

Yesterday morning, as I was doing my devotions, I read through Amos 5.  Although the entire chapter was intriguing, I found a few of the verses quite compelling to my mind:

“Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?  It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him.  Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20 NASB)

It wasn’t the prose that gripped my mind, but it was the essence of what these words mean.

At this time, Israel had rejected God and gone after idols and sensuality.  They had rebelled against the very one who had rescued them time and time again from their enemies.  The kings of Israel had decided that it was better to lead the people in the ways of immorality, idolatry and ignorance.  They had experienced the temporary happiness of wealth, wine and women and forsook the eternal joy of their Creator.

However, even though they had forsaken God, they still observed the “rules” and “traditions” contained within the Torah.  They completed the festivals, burned the offerings and did each task as required, but their mindset was one of rote instead of gratitude.  We know this by God’s reaction to them in the next few verses:

“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.  Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24 NASB)

The Israelites continued to worship in the methods and traditions they always had.  They completed the tasks and rituals they were supposed to.  They sang the songs and recited the prayers as they had always done.  However, their hearts were not present.  So why did this grip me the way it did?  Recently, as I study church history, I noted a pattern within the church that is exactly the same in ancient Israel.

There are two topics here that are very prevalent within today’s church.  The first is concern with the End Time events.  When will the Lord return?  When will the rapture take place?  When will God’s judgement be poured out on sinful mankind?  These are the questions of today.  We discuss, debate and degrade each other when we cannot come to a consensus.  We concern ourselves with the details of the events, the bewilderment of figurative or contextual language.  We look toward the sky and cry out to God about the sins of the earth.  We sing the songs of the Psalmist and shout praises from the mountaintops.  Yet in all of this, we forget the heart of God and where His heart remains; for the lost.

This is not to say that the topic of the return of Christ isn’t important.   It is.  Paul, John, Daniel and others examine the events surrounding this time, which is yet to come.  However, as we read through the text, we seem to forget that it is not a time to rejoice in, but to mourn.  We mourn because those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior will suffer His wrath and eternal damnation.

God had picked Amos, the shepherd, to proclaim His words to His people.  God wanted Israel to know that the day of the Lord is not something to look forward to.  It is a day to beware and mourn, a day of reckoning and a day where people will run from one tragic event to another, only to find themselves in the grips of death.

Amos said the day of the Lord is like a man who fled from a lion but meets a bear as he flees.  Or after he flees the bear, he runs home, exhausted only to lean on the wall to be bitten by a snake.  Then the venom of the snake rushes through his body and courses through his veins.  It begins the process of breaking down blood cells, killing the coagulation agents and finally killing the tissue it comes in contact with.  It is a time of great suffering for those who do not believe.

We have forgotten the love, grace and mercy for the lost.  We proclaim about injustice in the world.  We cry about our rights being taken away.  We shout against Republican or Democrat, Socialist or Communist.  We forget that it matters not what party you belong to, what color you are or what social environment you are a part of.  What matters are there are lost people who don’t realize that they are headed toward eternal separation from God.

It is when we forget about the lost, that God deems our worship invalid.  When we forget the lost, our songs are just noise from our lips, not making any sense nor pleasing to the ear.  When we forget the lost, our offerings are rejected and not used, our sacrifices are looked upon as dung.  When we do not have the heart of the Father, there is no use in our worship, no worth in our worship.

When I look at social media, I find many who proclaim the rights of American over the love of Christ.  Many proclaim the evangelism of democracy rather than evangelize the lost, showing that the love of democracy supersedes their love of God.  This is the basic definition of idolatry.

Like Israel, we have a golden calf.  I love my country and know beyond any shadow of doubt that this is the greatest country in the world.  I love the stars and stripes, Old Glory.  The red stripes representing the blood spilled to unite our country and fight the tyranny of England.  However, I love the stripes of Jesus Christ all the more.  His blood which was spilt to save us who are lost.

So how do we solve this dilemma?  How do we change our mindset and actions?

First, we must repent.  Repentance is turning around and walking the opposite direction we have been going.  We must forsake our idols which so easily entangle us both individually and corporately and turn around toward the cross of Jesus Christ.

Second, we need to study.  Scripture has been given to us for our benefit.  It proclaims the love and redemption of God and provides us insight into how to proceed in sharing God’s message.  It warns us, encourages us and teaches us about the wonderful saving message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Third, we must pray.  Simply put, praying is how we communicate and commune with God.  It is how we cry out to Him when we are hurting.  It is how we proclaim His glory.  It is how we intervene for our loved ones and it is how we show our concern for the lost and our enemies.  Prayer is an essential part of our daily lives.

Fourth, we must fellowship with other believers.  This is more than just spending time together.  It is an intimate process.  Because of Jesus Christ, our lives are intertwined with each other.  We are now brothers and sisters.  Regardless of our looks, cultural background or past experiences, we are family and are to care for each other.  We are to share our struggles, confess our sins and encourage each other into a closer relationship with God.  Without fellowship, we deny ourselves the necessary nutrients for our spiritual bodies.  We starve ourselves from the relationships God desires us to have with each other.

Lastly, we must reach out.  This is more than just sharing the Gospel.  It is getting involved in people’s lives that are lost.  It is caring for those who don’t care for us.  It is loving those who have been deemed unloved.  The best example of this was Jesus Christ.  He ate with the dredge of the earth, tax collectors, adulterers and sinners.  He healed those who were hurting and freed those who were slaves.  Like him, we too must not be afraid to associate with those who are hurting, with those who are hungry and with those who are thirsty for something more than just this life.

The Scriptures have warned us.  We are not to be so enamored by arguable doctrines rather we need to be enamored by sharing the heart of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  As we move away from our idols and toward the cross, we will find that the things we once fought for are just like a dust in the wind.  We will find ourselves loving others as Christ loves us.  We will find ourselves serving others and sharing the Gospel with those in need.  We will find that our own hearts and those of our churches will once again be transformed because of the renewing of our minds.  We will find that all we stand for can be solved if we just place our trust in Jesus Christ and His mission, to seek and save those who are lost.

God bless and encourage someone today.

I Survived and Lived to Be a Difference – #isalt


Over 80 years ago, there was a movement that would change the course of history.  A charismatic leader began to speak to the public, promising a life filled with happiness and security.  Many times, this leader would speak with children by his side to show his support of the furtherance of securing the children’s future.  The problem was not what was promised, but rather the method by which he felt this security and prosperity would occur.

In 1923, this same leader wrote a book, while in prison, called Mein Kompf (My struggle) where he filled the pages of why he hated Jews so much.  In this horrific text, Adolf Hitler gives his hate-filled explanation that Jews were the reason why Germany was in so much trouble.  Obviously, this was influenced by the Prince of Darkness, Satan, himself.  However, out of this terrible time period of history, influenced by evil, there were countless stories of survivors.

Some had survived mass military style executions.  Some had survived the concentration camps.  Others ran for their lives and hid while their families were gathered for execution.  Regardless of the stories, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their survival, there seems to be a common theme among each of these survivor stories – they survived and wanted to make a positive difference.

Have you gone through something so traumatic, so horrific that you wondered why you survived?  Do you think it may be possible that your survival was meant for something so much more?

These questions came to mind after my experience in 1993.  After I had survived an attack while someone was attempting to steal my car, I began to look at my life and ask myself some questions.  Why did I survive?  What was I supposed to learn from this?  How can this be used to benefit others?  I also began to look back at my life and realized something, God had been (and continues) protecting me all my life.

In 1972, as a young toddler, I pulled a piping hot coffee pot onto me.  I had been burned on most of my chest.  When I was a little bit older, I had a habit of climbing up into trees that swayed freely in the wind on branches that shouldn’t have held me.  As time went on, I had fought every day for 3 straight years because I had been fed up with being bullied.  Right after high school, I had made a trip to Haiti with my church only to find out that within minutes of taking off to leave Haiti, a coup had occurred and our safety would have been in jeopardy, had we stayed or been delayed.  Even after all of this, God allowed me to survive the attack in 1993.  It was because of this, I concluded that God had been saving me for a purpose.

As I began to pray and reach out to God, he graciously began to reveal why I had been allowed to survive.  He showed me the story of Peter drowning but surviving because Jesus Christ had pulled Peter to safety.  He showed me the stories of Paul, who was shipwrecked at sea and stoned for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Both of these men had once rejected God, rejected the Savior and yet it was the same Jesus who called them into a relationship with him and allowed their survival to have a purpose, to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  It was through these stories that I realized my life was not my own.  In fact, my life was saved for the same reason as Paul and Peter, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, before I could share the Gospel, I also needed to realize that my life was not where God wanted it to be either.  It was then I began to make the commitment to grow in the faith given to me so that I can help in fulfilling the greatest commission ever given to mankind:

“Therefore, go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

It was during this time of learning that I found out how inefficient I was at sharing the message of Jesus Christ.  God allowed me to realize I had preconceived ideas about people groups and philosophies.  He showed me that to neglect those who are considered the lowest of my time is to reject Jesus Christ and His message.  It was revealed to me that my prejudices, my dislikes were not toward a specific action but toward a people who were different than I.  How could I make a positive difference if I held so many sins in my life?

You see, I learned my life was an anger filled, hatred, bigoted and filled with lies.  I was able to convince people of things that never even happened in my life.  The process of learning who I was, was not easy.  It hurt.  It was very painful but it was necessary.  It was necessary for me to allow God to destroy the wickedness inside of me to produce a branch that had good fruit on it.  This good fruit would benefit others in a positive way by leading them back to the Savior.

Through Scripture I learned that I was a new creation in Christ.  The old me had passed away and the new me was birthed.  This then led me to the painful journey of evaluation.  I needed to ask God, what David asked of him, to destroy any wicked way in me.  From there, I needed to realize that those who tried to take my life, did so out of ignorance and blindness.  The book of Romans teaches that all have sinned and we all fall short of the glory of God.  Therefore, the only difference between me and my attackers were that Jesus called to me and I responded.  They have yet to respond to His calling.

After this, I learned that Jesus ate and spent time with people who were thought to be useless in society.  He had healed those who had ailments from birth, sickness for many years, people who were thought to be property and not people.  The leaders of his day asked how he could eat and spend time with such people.  It was then Jesus showed his compassion by saying that the sick need a doctor, so these people need him.

You and I need Jesus in our lives.  We need to rely on His power, His strength and His wisdom to get us through each and every day.  We may struggle with being a survivor, with anxieties and paranoia but we also are called by Jesus to be His because He loves us.  Survivors, like us, are meant for something bigger.

Over the past few years, I have watched as people I know have passed away for various reasons.  Some from cancer or accidents or old age.  I evaluated the lifestyles of each of these and came to the following conclusion….life and death are in the hands of God.  It is not up to us how long we live, it is up to God.

Being a survivor means, God has given us the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  Being a survivor means, that we have a purpose greater than ourselves.  Being a survivor means we have been saved to share that experience with others to lead them straight to the cross of Jesus Christ.

If you ever wondered why your life was spared, read the book of Acts.  Read about those who survived many trials and tribulations, yet had the fortitude to proceed with the responsibility that God placed into their hands.

Hopefully, you and I can also live lives that God is not only pleased with but that will make a positive difference in others.  So what do you say?  Are you ready to begin the next phase of your journey?  Are you ready to help others?  Are you ready to share your story?

How has your survivor story positively influenced others?  Share your story in the comments box.

May God continue to use you as He sees fit.  God bless and encourage someone today.

I Survived and Lived to Forgive – #isalt


On June 4th, 1993, I went to bed as if it were any other night.  As I slept soundly, I suddenly heard the scream of my mom as she burst into my room yelling, “Someone is stealing your car!”  This must be a dream.

I jumped out of bed and ran towards the door.  I thought to myself, “This must be a dream and if it is I can do anything and not pay for the consequences.”  Running out the door, I began running toward the street.  As I approached my car, I saw the figure of a person halfway inside my car.  I yelled an obscenity or two and decided in that moment, that I would kill who ever this person was.  It was my dream, so I would have superhuman strength to overcome my foes.  As I came to the passenger door of my car, the person suddenly stood up.  There was no where he could go.  I had him.  All I had to do was to grab him and snap his neck.  Then I would wake up and I would chalk this up to another nightmare.  As I went to lunge toward him, I hesitated for a moment.  It was in this moment, that my dream would change my life forever.

As I woke up from my dream, I heard a voice say, “One, two, three, lift.”  I couldn’t move.  What was happening to me?  Why couldn’t I move?  I began to scream out and fight my restraints.  The voice said to me, “Joe, if you don’t calm down, you will die.”  It was then I immediately realized, my dream was not a dream at all, but my reality.

I could feel my heart pounding through my chest.  One EMT was working on me, while the other drove, racing me toward the hospital.  Was I going to die?  Why me, why now?  I hadn’t even begun to live yet.  I cried out to God, “Lord, please don’t let me die today.  Please calm me down.”  No sooner did I utter these words that I felt a hand upon my shoulder.  I suddenly had a peace I could not explain.  Immediately, the EMT uttered, “Whoa.  What just happened?”  When I asked him what happened, he said, “Your heart rate just went from critical to normal.”  Then a song entered my heart and I could not help but sing, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way.  To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

I knew I had a long road ahead of me, but I also began to understand what forgiveness was about.  But what about those who did this to me?  Could I really forgive them after what they did to me?  It was then I was reminded of what Jesus had done for me.  His life was filled with helping others, loving others and spreading the Good News to those around Him.  Yet in all of this, there were still those who wanted Him dead.  They beat him, laughed at him and beat him some more.  They took his tattered and torn body and hung it on a criminals cross.  In all of this turmoil, in all of this strife, He still uttered these words as He looked toward heaven, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  How could I do no less?  How could I not forgive them?  Maybe they were on drugs.  Maybe they had been convinced that the criminal lifestyle was their only choice.  Either way, I was lost at one time.  I was violent in my younger days and yet in all of this, God still forgave me.  It was my responsibility to show them the love of God in the same way, by forgiving them.

Our tragedies are not there to make our lives easy or simple.  They are situations which are there to teach us valuable life lessons.  Sometimes we have placed ourselves into those tragedies by our bad decisions.  Other times, we are placed there by other individuals.  No matter how we enter into those tragedies, we need to realize there is a greater plan for our lives that we may not fully understand.  For me, I needed to be reminded of the valuable lesson of forgiveness.  In Matthew 18, Jesus taught this same lesson to his disciples:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?  Up to seven times?’  Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” – Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

Right after this, Jesus tells a story of a man who owed his master a lifetime of debt.  The master forgave him of his debt, yet when someone owed this same man a day’s wages, he became violent and refused to forgive the man of his debt.  At this, the master heard about the man and threw the man in jail because of his lack of compassion that was shared with him.

What I found astounding about this story is that Peter did not ask about forgiving strangers.  He asked about forgiving his own people, his brothers and sisters.  Yet Jesus shares a story about a master and a servant.  This leads me to believe that Peter and Jesus were on two very different pages.

I think Peter thought that he was asking a great question.  He probably thought to himself, “Well if I forgive my own people seven times for the same sin, then I must be a good person.”  Yet Jesus’ response was quite different.  Jesus responded “seventy-seven times”.  What Jesus was saying was, “I know you think you’re being a good person by forgiving seven times, but really you should forgive them every time.”   In some translations, they record Jesus’ response as “seventy times seven”.  Either way you look at it, Jesus wants us to forgive unconditionally and freely.

Not just that, but Peter thought his question was supposed to be for those he knew, his friends and family.  I’d like to think that Jesus was using His coaching expertise when He responded to Peter.  Instead of answering Peter’s question concerning his friends and family, he told him a story about a boss, his employee and a stranger.  Jesus wanted to let Peter know that it doesn’t matter whether you know the person or not.  It doesn’t matter if they are your employee or your boss.  It doesn’t matter if they are family, friend or stranger.  Forgiveness is to be given out to everyone.  No one is beyond forgiveness.

When the criminal, on a cross next to Jesus, repented and asked Jesus not to forget him, Jesus responded, “This day, you will be with me in paradise.”  In his last dying breaths, Jesus forgave a total stranger who deserved his punishment.  The criminal deserved to die for whatever he had done.  His punishment was just, yet in all of this Jesus still forgave him.  AMAZING!

Likewise, we need to forgive those who’ve wronged us.  We need to forgive them like Christ has forgiven us.  Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (NIV)  Jesus expects us to forgive each other.  We need not to hold any grudges.  Holding grudges will only lead to more pain and suffering.  Haven’t we suffered enough in our tragedy?  Haven’t our anxieties, our fears, our anger toward others been enough pain?  Then why not forgive?

To get us from a place of fear, anxiety and anger, we need to forgive.  Forgiveness is not a simple step we take, but is a lifestyle which Christ commands.  Forgiveness is how we view the other person in light of Christ.  Even if the person is unrepentant, our job is to see them as Christ desires for them with His forgiving heart.

This world is filled with people who refuse to forgive.  If you take a look at the news, you will find person after person who refuses to forgive others.  Our society is treading down a path of unforgiveness, so it is now our time to shine!

We not only need to forgive others because it was commanded, but we need to forgive others so that the light of Christ may shine!  Yes it is true that our situations may be tragic and life altering, but that doesn’t mean we can’t shine in this time of darkness.  The light of Christ can shine through the darkest of times in the darkest of places.  The light of Christ can show the world forgiveness is possible regardless of our past or current situation.

Yes forgiveness is hard but it is so worth it.  When you forgive others, you will have a peace you won’t be able to explain.  It took me a while to discover this.  Even after I left the hospital, I got so angry at times that I literally beat a tree with a baseball bat.  One year later, that same tree died.  I thought I killed it.  But yet again, God reminded me that forgiveness is necessary.  From that point forward I decided to see people in light of Christ.

We are all lost at some point in our lives, yet Christ saved us.  We all do something that is sinful and against all that Christ stands for, yet Christ forgave us.  We all think we are in control of our lives, but through our tragedies, Christ still guides us.  We all suffer in this life, yet Christ still reigns.

Don’t allow your tragedies to stop you from forgiving others.  Don’t allow the anger, fear or anxiety to define your future.  Allow Christ to show you that you are worth the effort and in return show others they are worth the effort by forgiving them.  Forgiveness happens when we give up our anger, fear or anxieties to Christ and in return, He teaches us how to forgive those who have tragically harmed us.

Remember, you and I survived and lived to forgive.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Creator of the Eclipse


There is something about watching the wonders of the heavens that makes mankind realize how small we really are.

Today, across the United States, we had the extreme privilege of watching a solar eclipse.  For some it was a glimpse of how God has placed order on the universe.  For others, it was a totality of awe and wonder.  No matter how we may have experienced this event, one thing is for sure, there is order to our universe.

I remember in 1979 when I first experienced what a solar eclipse was like.  Our teacher had each of us create a shoebox pinhole viewer.  We watched as the bright small dot, became encompassed by the darkness of the moon.  It wasn’t a total eclipse but it began my interest and love of nature and the heavens.

As I watched today, I thought of Psalm 8.  As a nation, we looked up to the heavens and applauded in amazement as God’s creation did exactly what it was commanded to do on this very day.  No longer did we ask about racism.  No longer did we fear the terrorist.  No longer did we wonder what the Republican or Democrat was standing for.  No longer did we focus on our fears, anxieties or problems.  We focused on God’s creation, thereby focusing our attention on what He was doing at that very moment.

When we focus on our problems, we take our eyes off of the heavens.  When we focus on our anxieties, we no longer look up and wonder what God is doing.  When we focus on what God is doing, we forget about our problems.  When we focus on God and His creation, we realize that our problems are a mere flash of existence that doesn’t even make a dent in the view of eternity.

For 2 minutes today, each of us made a conscience decision to look up to the heavens, forget about our problems and re-focus our attention to the Creator of the Eclipse.  Read Psalm 8 and exclaim, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

God bless and encourage someone today.

*Psalm 8[a]

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name(A) in all the earth!

You have set your glory(B)
in the heavens.(C)
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold(D) against your enemies,
to silence the foe(E) and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,(F)
the work of your fingers,(G)
the moon and the stars,(H)
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?[c](I)

You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e](J)
and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.(K)
You made them rulers(L) over the works of your hands;(M)
you put everything under their[g] feet:(N)
all flocks and herds,(O)
and the animals of the wild,(P)
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,(Q)
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!(R)

*Taken from the NIV

The Disrespect of Our Disillusion


Tom sat with his head in his open, sweaty hands.  How could he have done this?  What prevailed inside his mind that would allow him to do such a heinous act?  He decided to pour a drink to calm his nerves.  He got up and opened the oldest bottle of scotch he could find.  As he poured himself a double shot, the bottle chattered against the glass.  His hands could not stay still.  His mind raced with thoughts of anger toward himself.  “How could you have done this”, he thought.  “What was it that brought you this far away from reality?”

In the other room, a young lady walked in with a smile on her face and his shirt on her torso.  She graced herself over, grabbed the glass from his hand and took a sip of the scotch.  A kiss from her was placed on his cheek with these words, “That was really special”.  He tried to muster a smile, but could not as he knew he betrayed his love, his wife and the woman before him wasn’t her.

Every decision we make, every word we speak and every thought we think, has a consequence.  Whether good or bad, every action, work or thought has a reaction, a consequence.  We may not see it at the time, but be rest assured, a consequence is there, ready to peak it’s head, like a viper when it is about to strike.

Recently, I have been an observer of social media and news agencies.  I have cautiously not opened myself to a specific political view, social movement or radical divide.  Day by day, I have seen many people, good people, begin the process of drawing a hypothetical line in the sand declaring where they stand and what they believe.  Whether it is about which political candidate you like or whomever lives matter, many of us are going out of our way to declare what we believe to be the truth.  We have been convinced of our reality no matter how disillusioned we are.

This disillusionment has caused us to become a divided nation.  A nation where all conflicting  testimonies are correct, truth has become irrelevant and division among people groups are growing at a rapid pace.  Conflict is on the rise while love is declining into extinction.  All over the news and social media we see the results of this lack of love and increase of hatred and rebellion.  Many have taken to the street to protest in ways that breaks out in violence, fist shaking and gnashing of our teeth.  So how did we get here?  What caused us to be in this global predicament?  Was it a specific people group, ideology or is it human nature to destroy oneself?

Both Christian and Atheist, Buddhist and Islamic, Jew and Greek, have bought into this disillusionment, making each other vulnerable to prejudice and exposure.  We all have allowed our society to fall into an illness that can be likened to terminal cancer.  If we do not turn away from what we have become, we will ultimately bring ourselves into the chasm of death and be buried in the annals of history lost.

Unfortunately, most will exclude this writing as nothing more than someone who is disgruntled or upset with others behaviors without looking at themselves.  Let me make this disclaimer.  What I am bringing up has nothing to do with you or someone else.  It has to do with us.  We are the problem.  All of us are feeding the beast of this culture.  We all are to blame.  No matter our background, no matter our skin color, no matter who we think we are, we are all to blame, including me.

History has shown that when a nation is divided, then that same nation falls at the hands of others not of the same mindset.  Our own history shows how divided we were but the declaration of United We Stand was the war cry for change.  Today that war cry has gone unheard and ignored.  We have become the nightmare of countries and the falsehood of hatred.   Change is inevitable but it doesn’t have to be negative.  A positive change can happen, but it cannot start with us.  It cannot start with any other person from any other nation.  It can only happen when we reserve ourselves to allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform our lives.

“…we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit,[b] as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth…” – Colossians 1:4-6 (NKJV)

It is the Gospel that changes lives.  It is the Gospel that bears fruit in our lives.  Only the Gospel can change our hearts and minds to unity and progress.  Because we have forsaken the Gospel, we have forsaken our Creator.  Because we have forsaken the Gospel, our lives are deteriorating into the very pit of Hell.  We have allowed sin to overtake our lives and become our slave master.  We have forsaken the freedom of loving others the way Jesus Christ loves us.  So what is sin compared to salvation in Jesus Christ?

Sin is the chain maker.  Salvation is the chain breaker.  Sin binds us to things.  Salvation frees us.  Sin tells us we are worthless.  Salvation tells us we are worth more than we realize.  Sin leads to death.  Salvation leads to life eternal.

No matter how you feel about society, no matter how you feel about the current social, economic or political environment, sin is the reason we are where we are today.  It has been used by Satan to ensure that our lives are chained to the slavery and division.  Sin has placed in our hearts that some lives matter while others do not.  Sin has told us that one person is a liar and the other is a scam artist.  Sin informed us that one group of people are to blame for the ills of our society.  Let me make sure I am very clear.  Satan is using our sinful lives to bind us, destroy us and ultimately convince us to reject our Creator.

In the words of the famous theologian Francis Schaeffer “How then shall we live?”

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will [i]behave properly toward outsiders and [j]not be in any need.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

“19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” – Matthew 28:19-20

These two passages show us what our lives are really about.  These passages show us that our goal is to live a quiet life, mind our own business and work with our hands.  We are to be productive, kind, loving and ready to serve others.  We are to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ by our testimony.  We are to make disciples, not division.  We are to do the work that has been commanded to us.  Did you notice that?  Both of these were commanded.  They were not suggestions.  These are things we are to do.

What I will say next is for those who claim to the servants of Jesus Christ….

WAKE UP CHURCH!  We are not doing what God has commanded us to do.  We do not love others when we bash our government leaders and others via social media.  We are not living how God commanded us to live when we shout from the mountain top about our rights and forget to love those who are lost.  We are living in sin if we do not do the things commanded us.

Our goal in this life is to spread the love of Jesus Christ and make disciples.  That’s it!  We may have the “American right” to speak our peace, but is that the way Jesus handled it?  He didn’t go after the political leaders, he went after those who claimed to be His.  He toppled the tables and drove the money changers away because they had no respect for where God’s people gathered.  He didn’t go after the Roman government or voice his discontent with Caesar.  He simply served others, drew people to Himself, showed them compassion and reprimanded the religious leaders who were enslaving their own people with rules and regulations.

The good news about all of this, is we still have time to turn to God.  We NEED to turn back to God and repent of our lack of love.  We NEED to repent of our sin of division and disrespect.  This country CANNOT change unless Jesus Christ is involved and this country CANNOT change unless WE (the Church) repent of our sin and change how we do things.

If we (the Church) do not change, our country will run the high risk of extinction.  The United States is not mentioned in Scripture nor is it implied.  The United States is not the center of this world but God has used us to further His Gospel all over the world.  His Gospel is the center of all creation, not us.

I hope you understand the tears I shed for us.  I pray that we all change our current travels on the wide path (which leads to destruction) and turn toward the narrow path (which leads to life eternal).  Only Jesus Christ and His Gospel will change us.  Please join me in repenting of our sin and making a positive difference by refraining from passionate division and disrespect.

May God have mercy and grace on us as we all seek to change the direction of this country toward Him.  God bless and encourage someone today.