Hidden in the Shadow(s)


Deuteronomy 11:19 New International Version (NIV)

19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

There are many times in our lives, where God teaches us something about Himself that is profound yet very simple.  It is in these profoundly simplistic moments, that God them turns to us and tells us to teach our children about these lessons.  Today, I received one of those lessons and am passing this along to you (as well as my children).

One of the hardest things we can do as human beings is give our love, our life to our pets.  Why would this be considered hard?  Well, we see this helpless creature looking at us with big eyes and unconditional love.  Our hearts are moved by this and we adopt them.  Over time, we learn that this pet needs to be trained.  Many sleep nights are spent comforting this new addition, giving them the love, attention and discipline they need to become productive members of our family.  They learn the necessity of either using a wee-wee pad, litter box or the outdoors for their bathroom needs.  They learn to share their toys and play in a way that is beneficial to both human and pet alike.

As time goes on, we experience the joy and frustration of helping an animal who can’t communicate the way we do.  We guess and what the animal may be asking for.  We discipline them when they do something like bit or scratch the furniture.  We care for them, we love them and in return, they love us with an unconditional love.

However, in the last days of their lives, we also have to make that most hideous call…whether to allow them to pass on or not.  This decision is never an easy one.  The pet has become a member of the family.  They have experienced joy and happiness, sickness and health and yet, they continue to love you all the more and in return, you love them all the more.

Today, I had to make that hard decision.  But I also get to share with you the joys and lessons learned from my first cat, Shadow.

About a decade ago, my wife was putting out the garbage.  She opened the garbage can and out jumped this black cat.  Although my wife learned she was allergic to cats, she felt compassion on her and wanted to do something.  She got bread, made some small wads of bread balls and tossed them to her.

When I came home, I learned about this but was very hesitant as I was taught, “once you begin feeding the cat, they keep coming back.”  Instead of forgetting she was there, we decided to pursue her.  Shadow didn’t want to come near to us.  She hid in the shadows of the bushes.  This was why we called her Shadow.  She was scared.  She didn’t know who she could trust.  She had no intentions on pursuing a relationship with us.  But we had intentions on having a relationship with her.  We chose her to be our first pet.  And because we chose her, we pursued that relationship with her.  Which leads me to my first lesson from God….  We didn’t pursue or choose God.  It was God who chose and pursued us.

Just as we decided to pursue her, God decided to pursue us first.  In Ephesians 1 we read, “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”  In Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a lost sheep and how the shepherd goes out to look for it.  In John, Jesus then claims, “I am the good shepherd.”  It is Jesus who pursues the sheep.  It is Jesus who chose us.

Just as Shadow was terrified of us, we too can be terrified when Jesus pursues us.  What is He like?  Will He do things that hurt me?  Will He actually take care of me?  It is then that Jesus throws us the small balls of bread…His Word.  We smell His Word.  We play with His Word.  But it isn’t until we ingest His Word that we feel the nourishment He wants to give to us.

Well, Shadow continued to hide in the shadow of the bushes.  But after weeks of throwing her food, we began to lay the food down at the bottom of our stoop.  We could sit on the stoop, while she fed on the nourishment we provided.  As she ate, we could talk to her.  Tell her that everything was going to be okay.  Allow her to get used to our voices.  We never forced ourselves on her, we just patiently waited for her to begin to trust us.  Why would she trust us?  Because we cared for her.

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”  Peter also writes, “…cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.”  We love because God loved us first.  Even though we are scared, we can trust Him and place all of life’s worries on Him because He cares for us.  Just as we never forced ourselves on Shadow, God never, and I mean never, forces Himself on us.  He shows us He loves us by giving us a little nourishment and talking with us, even though we are scared of Him.

Well, after a while, Shadow disappeared.  We were concerned, but realized that maybe God just wanted us to learn these two lessons so that we can share the Gospel easier and softer with others.  About a month later, I opened the door to leave and viola…there was Shadow.  What had happened to her?  Where did she go?  Did someone else take care of her?  We had no idea until one of our neighbors saw us with her and said, “You have the mama cat?”  Whaaaaat?

As it turned out, Shadow was pregnant and had four kittens.  The vet who lived on our block had taken her after she gave birth and took care of all of her medical conditions.  What the vet didn’t realize was that he just answered a prayer of mine.  You see, I had prayed that if Shadow was to be our cat, that somehow, He would have to take care of all that we cannot take care of financially.  Everything we had prayed for was covered.

This was the third lesson we learned.  God takes care of us, not just partially, but fully.  Everything.  All of it.  Every last worry.   God takes care of it all.  This was why Peter was so confident when he said, “cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.”  Peter knew that God would take care of it all.  Just as the vet covered all of the debt we could not handle, Jesus covered all of our debt with His death on the cross and resurrection.  We could never repay the debt we owed to God, therefore, Jesus covered our debt…all of our debt by sacrificing Himself for us.

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” – John 10:17-18

Jesus gave His life up.  How much love did that take?  I know I don’t even come close to that much love.  But because He first loved us, He allowed His death to happen.  And because He has so much love for us, He died for us but He also rose for us as well.  Jesus took care of what needed to be done fully.

There have been so many lessons we’ve learned from Shadow.  It was in this light that when the decision to allow her to pass on came today, I didn’t take it lightly.  I wept.  I had just asked God, last night to give me the knowledge and wisdom necessary to make the hard decision, if it were to come.  Today, God made it very easy.  When the vet called me, she let me know that there was a mass behind her one eye, masses in her lungs and possibly more throughout her body.  The doctor told me that although Shadow never complained about the pain, there was evidence that she was in pain.  Therefore, with great comfort, I gave her the task of allowing Shadow’s life to end peacefully.  It was then that my final Shadow lesson came…  When our time comes for our lives to end, how will we go out?

Will we trust the God, who has cared for us fully, to end our lives the way He sees fit?  Will we just stay silent, never complaining about our pain and suffering, knowing the One who takes care of us can fully make that decision based on what is best for us?

Shadow can never be replaced.  She was my first pet, my first cat and my first furry friend that gave me a great insight as to the mind of God and how He operates.

I hope you find comfort in this.  I hope that you will trust God for the hard times.  Share God’s lessons with your children.  Share them with others, that they may take comfort in them.

When our time comes for us to move from this world into the next, how will we respond?  Maybe, we can respond like Shadow….loving our Caretaker, never complaining about our pain but always trusting that our Caretaker will make the BEST decisions for us.

God bless and encourage someone today.

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No Child is a Mistake


I have prayed about this.  I have struggled with my thoughts about how to approach this subject.  To the best of my ability, I am trying to be more encouraging however, my thoughts toward this subject are solid and I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that they are correct.  I just pray that as you read further, you will understand that this subject matter is a “slap in the face” towards God and His message of Hope in Jesus Christ.

In the year 2000, the former video rental store, Blockbuster, was given an opportunity by another company to expand Blockbuster to online video renting.  Blockbuster laughed at the opportunity and a short time later, the company Netflix became one of the largest online video rental sources of our time.  I am sure that those within the Blockbuster management team didn’t laugh after their company closed and saw Netflix thrive in this new venture.  What a mistake by Blockbuster.

In life, we all make mistakes.  We say things we shouldn’t say.  We forget to do things we should do.  We do things we shouldn’t.  We make mistakes.  We don’t mean to make those mistakes but we do.  Throughout our entire lives, we will make mistakes.  Maybe not the same ones over and over again, but at the very least we will make mistakes one time to learn from them.

As a child, I was taught that even though we make mistakes, we still must suffer the consequences of our mistakes.  As I got older, I was taught that even though we may make mistakes, there is a God who loves us, who cares for us and who wants to forgive us of those mistakes.  However, even though I may be forgiven, I still will suffer the consequences to the decisions I have made, even if it was a mistake.

Unfortunately, our society doesn’t believe that we need to suffer the consequences to our mistakes.  Our society has proven over and over again, that they believe we can make mistakes and bury them.  The current government shutdown is proof of that.  Both Democrats and Republicans in Washington D.C. have voiced their distain over each other’s position on border security.  Yet despite both sides not budging on what they want, over 800,000 people are either working without pay or have been asked to stay home.  Meanwhile, members of Congress (both House and Senate) continue to get paid because it is listed to do so in the Constitution.  Therefore, as our citizens suffer the consequences of Washington’s disagreements, those who are making the decisions continue to get paid and believe that they will not suffer consequences as well.  Why?  Because they continue to be re-elected.

Although I have friends and family that are majorly affected by the current government shutdown, there is another subject that needs more attention and the current liberal media refuses to give light to it and continually denies the consequences of it…abortion.

Recently, New York State Legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have passed a revision to a law concerning women’s rights in relation to abortion and contraception.  I have read over the revised law and have concluded that the majority of this revision is mainly about abortion rights and little to do with contraception.  (You may want to read it for yourself and see if you come to the same conclusion.)

Why this is so important is not the fact that it was passed but the lack of recognition to the consequences of passing that law.  In the past, the law stated that an abortion could not be done once the baby was 24-weeks (in utero) or older.  It also stated that there were consequences, including jail time for those who were caught taking part in abortions once this time frame past.  Now, the revised law says that those who are qualified to do abortions (not just doctors) can do so past the 24-week deadline and no further timeframe was given.  This basically means that whomever, New York State deems worthy to do abortions can do so up to delivery.  As long as the baby is in utero, they can do their horrific and barbaric procedure.  And they can do this so long as they deem the mother and / or baby are at risk of death.  Hold that thought for a moment.

In addition, New York State Legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo also removed any and all reference to potential jail time to anyone who executes abortions.  All security a woman had in the decision making process has been taken away.  Here is why….

Let’s say a couple meets in a bar one night.  They have a few drinks and decide to get to know each other a little bit more.  One thing leads to another and viola…a one-night stand.  A couple of months later, the woman begins getting sick.  She goes to the doctor to find out she’s pregnant.  She breaks down in tears and wonders what her options are.  Her doctor says one option is to have an abortion.  However, she isn’t sure what she wants to do.  After a couple more months, the same woman gets into a car accident and enters a coma.  A week or so later, the woman wakes up and notices something is wrong, she no longer feels her baby moving.  She asks what happened and the doctor says that he had to abort the baby because her health was in danger.  Although, this is a made up story, the consequence of the revised abortion law would allow this to happen, even if the mother does not know about it.  The wording states…

§ 2599-BB. ABORTION.  1.  A HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER LICENSED, CERTIFIED, OR AUTHORIZED UNDER TITLE EIGHT OF THE EDUCATION LAW, ACTING WITHIN HIS OR HER LAWFUL SCOPE OF PRACTICE, MAY PERFORM AN ABORTION WHEN, ACCORDING TO THE PRACTITIONER’S REASONABLE AND GOOD FAITH PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT BASED ON THE FACTS OF THE PATIENT’S CASE: THE PATIENT IS WITHIN TWENTY-FOUR WEEKS FROM THE COMMENCEMENT OF PREGNANCY, OR THERE IS AN ABSENCE OF FETAL VIABILITY, OR THE ABORTION IS NECESSARY TO PROTECT THEPATIENT’S LIFE OR HEALTH.

Again, in most cases, the woman is making the decision on this, but now New York State has allowed others to make that decision for the woman if the “health care practitioner” deems it necessary.  Not only has the time-frame been removed but also the consequences of executing an abortion.

Now, I am not shocked by this decision, but I am obviously bothered by it.  I am not shocked because New York State government officials have proven their loyalty and devotion to sin.  They have openly and proudly displayed their satisfaction to rebelling against God.  In fact, the Empire State Building will be lit pink in order to commemorate this momentous evil occasion.  They are proudly wearing the badge of sin and shame.  They no longer hide their sin but place it in the open forum of daily living.  But why does this matter?  Why should we be concerned about this open display of sin?

First, God destroys those who are open and proud of their sin.  Sodom, Gomorrah, Babylon, Persians…all of these empires were proud to display their sin in the light.  History has taught us that each of these empires fell not because of economic problems or natural causes, rather they were destroyed because of their open display of sin.

Both Sodom and Gomorrah were known to be violent towards women and outsiders.  In Genesis 19, you can read about how the men of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to have sex with “men” who came to tell Lot to leave or be destroyed.  Here is what the angels said to Lot…

“For we are about to destroy this city completely.  The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it.” – Genesis 19:13 (NLT)

 “God will turn the sins of evil people back on them.  He will destroy them for their sins.  The Lord our God will destroy them.” – Psalm 94:23

There will come a time when God decides that the sin of a nation is so great that He will send for something or someone to destroy it.  Fortunately for us, that time has not yet come.  For if that time had come, this article would not have been written.

Okay, now that we have an understanding of what God does to those who are open and proud of their sin, what does God also say about children?

“Children are a gift from the Lord; for they are a reward from Him.” – Psalm 127:3

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” – Matthew 19:14

And what about those children who are not yet born?

“You guided my conception and formed me in the womb.” – Job 10:10

When Mary’s cousin, who was pregnant with John the Baptist saw Mary, she said, “When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.” – Luke 1:44

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139:13

God views life from the point of conception.  It is God who guides the man and woman to marriage.  It is God who guides the sperm to meet the egg.  It is God who personally molds and makes the baby into the image He chooses.  The baby, both in utero and after birth are a gift from God.  So let’s look at this from a slightly different viewpoint…

If God sees life beginning at conception, then abortion rebels against God by saying conception doesn’t matter.

If God forms the baby, then abortion must destroy the very creation God is actively doing, therefore, it is murder.

If God has declared that He is intimately involved in creating children, then abortion actively defies God by showing distain towards His creation.

You see, abortion is more than what the world is telling us.  The world says it’s about women’s rights.  God says it’s about life He creates.  The world says that a child is not a child until delivery.  God clearly says that life begins at conception.  The world says they are proud to do what they want, when they want and how they want and without consequences.  God says that He will one day get fed up with our sin and destroy us as He sees fit.

My plea with you today, is this…please, please, please, stop this madness and repent.  Vote for those who will stand for what God stands for.  Voice your distain towards openly sinful practices and flaunting but do it in the most loving way possible.

Continue to stand for what is right.  Continue to vote in the right way.  Continue to plea with God to hold off His judgement against those who openly defy Him.  Continue to pray for our leaders and especially those in New York for their salvation, for their minds to be opened to what God says about life and for them to see the coming judgement upon all of us, if this behavior continues.

I do not know how or when God will decide to say, “Enough is enough”.  All I know is that in the meantime, I will continue to share the love and hope of life in Jesus Christ as long as there is breath in my lungs.

It is time for us Christians to stand together.  It is time for us Christians to show our rulers that God’s law is much higher than their laws.  It is time for us Christians to get out from behind our church walls and meeting places and enter into the political realm.  As long as we keep God first in our lives and do what He calls us to do, we will not hear the trumpets of judgement, rather we will hear the soft voice of God say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Come and enter into my rest.”

That is what I desire to hear one day.  If God is for us, who cares who is against us.  He will protect us, He will save us and we will live with Him forever.  We need to stand for those who cannot.  We need to feed those who are hungry.  We are to clothe those who need clothing.  This is the action of the Christian which shows the world how loving and patient God is.  It is acting upon our faith that shows the world that God is in control and He desires to have a relationship with us.

I am praying for the New York Legislature and Governor.  I am praying that one day soon; God will touch their hearts so that they become His children and see life the way He sees it…beginning at conception, precious in this world, and eternal with Him.  Will you join me?  Will you act in a way that is worthy of our calling?  I pray that you do what God has called you to do.  Don’t delay.  God won’t delay His judgement forever.

God bless and encourage someone today.

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.

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.