The State of our Union

Every year, in the United States, our President offers the citizens an overview of the current state of our country.  It is called, “The State of the Union Address”.  During the President’s press conference, he offers information on our economic, educational and moral status with future action plans for our country.  The President offers up his confirmation about where we are and where we are going.  His positive or negative expressions and phrases give us a glimpse into the changes which he feels are necessary to progress into our positive future.  Typically, his message is one of hope and calls out the dismay of those who oppose us.  Despite the pomp and circumstance, the state of our union is far from where it was at our founding and light years away from where it needs to be.  We all know this, but do we know why?

When we look at our current state, we notice a few things:

  1. Actions and lifestyles once not acceptable in society are now publicly acceptable.
  2. Hypersensitivity to one’s feelings has increased exponentially.
  3. Opinions and thought processes are only correct if you agree with the opposing views.
  4. Facts have become farce and farce has become fact.
  5. A person’s worth is only valued by their social media status rather than by their intellect.

This list is not conclusive, it is just the obvious.  We can see the fruit of our choices in these areas.  We can see that the harvest of our thoughts and actions have produced, in us, an innate sense of insecurity and confusion.  Our society has gone from an educated euphoria to an uneducated disaster.  We value education, only when it agrees with our point of views.  Our compass of morality has been unhinged and is circling aimlessly to almost every theology and belief we hear.  We have become the adherer of wind, and go in the direction of dust, floating in our world with the hope that one day the breath of one person will direct and guide us to a life of success.  Our lives have become nothing more than a moment in time without an ultimate goal or standard.  We measure our lives by our success on social media rather than our accomplishments with our children.  This can be proven by our choices for the next President of the United States.

A couple of days ago, we witnessed history.  The number of viewers to the first Presidential debate exceeded any past debate ever watched by the public, almost matching the Super Bowl.  However, this debate shows us one very important fact…who our next President is, is a direct result of our moral inclination.  On one side, we have someone who has acknowledged mishap handling of secure documents (a crime for most of us) and known for changing her story over and over again.  On the other side, we have an egomaniac who has duped Americans with a cry for change, without any regard for professionalism or filtration.  Both candidates have also expressed their Christianity but have exhibited disregard for the very Person who they say they believe in.  In both cases, integrity is at an all-time low, division is at an all-time high and hatred is growing steadily toward people groups that believe and know (from historical documentation by our founders) that our inalienable rights are from an eternal, living God who requires us to live according to His moral standards.

I recently saw an advertisement for a person running for a government office representing New Jersey.  The ad stated that this individual was a racist because of his views on marriage.  As this person did not believe main stream media, he was labeled as someone who hates those who oppose traditional marriage between one man and one woman.  This very assumption caused my blood pressure to rise due to the frustration of what a racist is compared to one who believes a theology.

Now before you place judgment on what I am about to say, know this about me.  Once a month, I assist a pre-dominantly African-American church by preaching the Gospel.  We do not look at the color of our skin, but rather at our stance with God.  To be a racist, you have to proclaim that your “race”, aka skin color or culture, is superior to another.  You have to think and act that who you are is superior to everyone else.  This was the predominate proclamation of Adolf Hitler.  According to Adolf Hitler, only blonde hair and blue eye people, who were German, were the only ones worth anything.  He stated this while having brown hair.  His hypocrisy was outweighed by his ignorance and stupidity.

Today, we have individuals who have overthrown the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  They have enacted a proclamation that divides rather than unites.  From both sides we see the hatred growing causing division in our ranks.  We see riots and looting rather than peaceful demonstration.  We observe young men showing stupidity by taking pictures of their illegal weapons and posting them on the eternal database of social media.  Our culture has become so divided and so obsessed with getting our own way, that we have forgotten the proclamation of Jesus Christ:

“Go therefore, into all the world, making disciples from all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded them.”

I have watched Christians resolve themselves to their right of speech over their command from their Savior.  They have proclaimed hatred toward the establishment rather than shout out the Gospel in love.  We are not “living the life” intended by God as represented in Ephesians and Colossians but are killing our souls for the single purpose of getting our way.  We have forgotten that our actions as individuals which fuel the fire of hatred also creates inappropriate views of the entire church.  We need to remember that we are one body, by one Christ for one purpose, to lead others to the Savior, who loves them, even though they sin.

The only way our country will ever be saved, is by the blood of Jesus Christ washing over us.  We cannot and will not proceed with life, until we turn our hearts to Him in repentance.  However, this will not happen unless the Church turns from its wicked ways and repents of their sin, putting their earthly American rights over the responsibility of what God commanded us to do.

Recently, I have been reading through 1 Kings and 2 Kings.  As I read this history of Israel and Judah, I noticed one main idea, when Israel and Judah forsook all the God commanded turmoil, division and hatred grew between them.  When they walked with God, peace and prosperity was at their doorstep.

At the same time, I also recognize the words of my Savior when he stated to His disciples, “They will hate you because of me.”  We, the Church, should not be hated because of our stance in the political world or in the actions of a sinful group, but instead, we need to be hated because of our love for people and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  When we embrace God and what He has commanded us to do, we will see peace and prosperity in our churches.  We will see others wanting to know more about Christ.  At the same time, as we minister to the hurting, the rest of the world will see this and become jealous of us, therefore hating us because of Christ.  Nowhere in Scripture does it read, “They will hate you because you stand up for a particular view on marriage or theology.”  It clearly reads, “They will hate you because of Me.”

We are to be one body, working toward a single goal given to us the Head, Jesus Christ.  If Jesus Christ is the Head, then it is He who thinks, He who see, He who hears, He who speaks.  We are simply part of His body.  Our opinions don’t count.  Our anger is irrelevant.  Our actions should speak His words and represent His thoughts, not our own.  When we put our American rights over our spiritual responsibility, it is called idolatry.  We have succumb to the same as Israel and Judah, idolizing our rights over our responsibility.  We need to wake up and repent and go back to God in humble tears asking Him to heal us.

“If my people call on My name and repent, I will heal them.”  This was a promise to Israel.  This is also a promise to us, the Church.  To save our country, we as one body, must repent and make God the only priority in our lives.  He is first.  All others come after.  We must never forget that Christ came to seek and save those that are lost.  He didn’t come to view His opinion.  He came to die.  He came to allow Himself to be sacrificed for us.  It is only because of Him that we are saved.

If we want our country to be saved and hold off judgment, we must, I plead with everyone, must repent.  Then and only then can we begin the process of healing to move forward in “living a life worthy of our calling” through Jesus Christ.  Only when we repent, as a Church, will we see the state of our union go toward morality and unity.  Until we repent, only confusion, division and hatred will increase.  Let’s not let this happen.  Let’s all repent and move toward the cross where our salvation first began.

God bless and encourage someone today.


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.

A Purpose in Remembrance

As I sit and ponder the various thoughts that flood my mind, I wonder how many of us are good at remembering things.  Do you remember the good times?  How about the bad times?  Do you remember your wedding day or the day you met your spouse?  Did you just remember the time your son or daughter scored that goal or hit that home run?  What is it that you remembered?  How many years have passed since that memory?  Did Facebook give you a reminder of a memory triggering an emotional reaction?

No matter how you seem to remember things, I believe our memories are a gift from God.  They are the tool in which He uses to remind us of His goodness, His kindness and His love for us.  It also reminds us of His sovereignty, His power and His sacrifice.  Our memories can remind us of where we came from, what molded us into who we are today.  However, if our memories go out of control, they can haunt us, trap us and even enslave us, paralyzing us into action and causing us pain and suffering.

God created memories.  Throughout Scripture, we read of God telling his people to remember through feasts, festivals and sacrifices.  Time and time again, we read about “Remember the Sabbath” in Exodus 20 and “Remember Lot’s wife”, in Luke 17.  Time and time again, we are to remember who God is and what He has done, remember where we came from and remember our purpose and calling in this life.

That is why we place so much emphasis on remembering.  The pictures we hang on our walls remind us of times of joy.  Videos remind us of times past and inflict various emotions.  We mourn for those who suffer from memory loss.  We feel for those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  At funerals we remember the good times with our past loved ones.  At birthday celebrations we remember the joy of childbirth.  We go out of way to ensure that we never forget.

In my last post, I mentioned that Colossians is a book of remembrance.  Contained within its pages are calls to remember where we came from, Who saved us, what our calling is and who is within our family.  During my study, I was reminded of another piece of Scripture that is chock full of memories, Exodus 20.

Most of us know that Exodus 20 contains the 10 Commandments.  The do’s and don’ts of Jew and Christian alike.  However, beyond the do’s and don’ts that we have all been taught, is the complexity of explaining a purpose in remembrance.  These do not simply bark orders to follow, but a calling to remember one thing, “Remember Who.”

Exodus 20 starts off like this…

“Then God spoke all these words, saying,”

First, God wants us to remember, it is He Who is speaking.  He is the one and only true God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth that is talking with them.  He is the “I AM” who is telling them about these commands.  It is not Moses or Aaron.  He is God.

In verse 2 we then read:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Second, we are to remember Who saved us.  He is the Lord your God, not the Lord their God.  God is our God.  He is our Creator.  He is our Savior.  He is and always will be the “Lord your God”.  So why is this so important?

He reminds Israel what He did for them, “…who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  In Israel’s minds, it was Moses who brought them out of Egypt.  They grimaced and groaned to Moses and Aaron about how good they had it in Egypt.  However, what they forgot about was the harsh slavery, the horrific oppression they were under and their crying out to God for freedom.  They remembered the food but forgot Who provided for them.

Isn’t that just like us?  Don’t we remember the wrong things?  We all have a tendency to remember the circumstance rather than the Creator.  We remember what we think is good and forget the good that God has done for us.  We forget that it was God who saved us from our slavery to sin.  We forget that it was God who sent His Son to die for us, even though we didn’t deserve it.  We forget that God promised us that Christ will return and save us from this dying and sinful world.  Simply put, we don’t remember the right things.  When our memories focus on things, other than God Himself, we fall into sin.  We fall into a thought process of pride and selfishness which causes us to reject God and His purpose for us.

Lastly, God’s expectation of this reality is our reaction to remembering Who He is.  Let me clarify this a bit.  Here is how I like to read the rest of this passage….

Vs 3 – As you remember Who saved you, you shall not have any other gods before Me.

Vs 4 – As you remember that I saved you from slavery, you shall not make for yourself any likeness of anything that will replace Me.

Vs 7 – As you remember that I protected you from the plagues of Egypt, you shall not take My name in vain.

Vs 8 – As you remember that I rested on the 7th day, so shall you.

Vs 12 – As you remember that I am your Father, honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land that I am giving to you.

Vs 13 – As you remember that I created you, therefore, do not murder.

Vs 14 – As you remember that I allowed Israel to increase in Egypt, you shall not commit adultery.

Vs 15 – As you remember that I provided for you in Egypt, you shall not steal.

Vs 16 – As you remember that Moses was a witness to your cry in Egypt and I heard you and freed you, you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Vs 17 – As you remember that I give you what you need and desire, you shall not covet any of your neighbor’s belongings or wife.

We have a purpose in remembering.  Our ability to remember should focus us on the purpose that God has for us.  In all circumstances we need to remember Who freed us from the bondage of sin, who freed us from the hand of slavery and in remembering this, our actions should match our memories.

If our memories lead us to strife, anguish and anxiety, then our memories do not have the right focus.  Instead of saying, “Oh I remember the pain…”, say, “I remember how God sustained me through the pain….”  If our focus is on remembering the circumstance then our reaction is strife, anger and anxiety.  If our focus is on remembering who God is and what He has done for us, then our reaction will be to worship and glorify Him.

There is a purpose in our remembering.  Remembering should lead us to worship.  Remembering should lead us to a desire to learn more about Him.  Remembering should bring us to the point where we bow down, cry out to Him and ask Him what His purposes for our lives are.  Remembering is our way of refocusing on the One who saved us and freed us from the bondage of sin.

How are you remembering the Lord today?  What did He do to sustain you, lead you or save you from your past?  If you can’t think of a time where God saved you, then re-evaluate your life and ask God to show Himself to you.  He has freed you through Jesus Christ.  You are free because He made you free.

May God remind you of how He is working in your life and share that with someone who may be struggling.  God bless and encourage someone today.

A Call to Remember

An old wise man once told me, “In life never forget where you came from or where you have been.  One day your memory will not be the same.  Before you know it, it’ll be the second thing to go.”  I asked, “So what was the first thing to go?   His response was, “Funny, I don’t remember.”

Although this was a funny story there is some truth to it.  In life, there will come a day where our memories of places, people and possessions will fade into the darkeness of time.  Some of us may even have the unfortunate experience of dimensia or alzheimers disease shredding our minds into a mixed soup of chaos.  However, no matter what this life may bring, no matter how good or bad you may have it, there is one area we all need to adhere to.  That is a call to remember.

In Scripture, God calls His people to remember things.  In Exodus 20, God says to remember that He is the God who brought Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.  In Leviticus and  Deuteronomy, God places festivals, sacrifices and traditions in order for His people to remember where they came from, what their history is and what their future holds.  For Israel, it was and still is a command to remember.

For the Church, we also have a call to rememberance.  On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He broke bread and poured wine and told the disciples, “Do this in rememberance of Me.”  This is not simply a tradition filled with solemness and gratitude, but rather a tool from the Almighty to us for the sole purpose of remembering what Christ did for us on the cross.  It is a time for His church to remember that Jesus gave His life for us, so that we can have a relationship with God the Father for all eternity.

Currently, I am working on sermon series called, “Do you remember?”  It is based on Paul’s letter to Colossae where Paul reminds them of these four things:

1.  Remember where you came from

2.  Remember who rescued you.

3.  Remember who you are becoming

4.  Remember who your family is

Throughout this letter, Paul reminds us about who we once were, lost in our sins, lost for eternity, dirty, filthy and blind.  Then he graciously reminds us that it was Christ who saved us from ourselves and eternal judgment. From there he explains who we are becoming and what we need to do.  Finally, he reminds us that our little congregation is part of a bigger body within the body of Christ and we have a purpose in our existence.

Isn’t it great to know that no matter how small or large your church may be, you have a purpose?  No matter where you are or what you are doing, you are a tool to bring the Gospel to find the lost sheep of Christ.  Ultimately, it is Christ who calls, it is He who finds but it is us He uses.  He created us for a purpose.  He created us to be used for His Kingdom.  He created us and loves us so much that He decided to leave glory, come down to earth, live a suffering life and die a horrible death for the sole purpose of bringing us into His eternity.  All He asks us to do is to share His story in our lives and to do that we need to remember.

I am sure there are many times we want to forget something or someone or situation.  Consider this.  What if God allowed those times to be used to mold you and shape you into the tool He needs you to be.  For me it was getting hit over the head with a hammer in the middle of the night over 20 years ago  If it wasn’t for that incident, I would have never remembered that I needed forgiveness and how to forgive others.  I wouldn’t have known the struggles of being paralyzed and the necessity of learning how to walk and write again.  If it wasn’t for that time, the man in the bed next to me wouldn’t have accepted Christ as Savior.  It was the time of struggle that caused me to remember that God is in control.

What is it that you need to remember?  How has your life shaped up until now?  If you don’t know Christ, then meet Him.  Talk with Him.  Tell Him how you feel, how angry or lost you are.  He is right there with you waiting for you to open the door of your life and invite Him in.  

If you already know Christ, then what is it that He wants you to remember?  Is there something in your life that can help someone else?  Is it possible, that your struggles, sickness and experiences were meant to be used to bring someone to the foot of the Cross of Christ?  Do you think it is possible that you are being shaped and used as a tool to enhance the Church so that a lost world can see how much God loves them?

No matter what you are feeling today, remember, this life is just the beginning.  There is a life after this one and it is waiting for you.  If you don’t know Christ it is a life of being alone and lost for eternity.  For those who know Christ, it is a life of being with the Savior who paid a price for your life.

Remember something positive about your life and thank God for it.  Then remember something that He has done in you and ask Him to use it for His Kingdom, for His Glory and for His Purpose.  If you want to know more about who Christ is please let me know.  I will be more than happy to introduce you to Him and the love that waits for you.  

God bless and encourage someone today.

The Battle of Life

It has been almost 1 ½ years since my last post.  I would like to first apologize to you.  You are who keeps me going.  When I sit and contemplate how to write on a particular topic, I think of you and ask, “What do they want to hear?  What must they hear?  How can I communicate that effectively?  Is it for the glory of God?”  For not thinking of you the past year or so…I am truly sorry.

As I look at the statistics from this site, I am encouraged that many people have been reading what was on my heart.  My prayer is that God will use this for His glory.  I write for Him.  Although you are very important to me, He is the One who placed this calling on my heart and He is the One I aim to please.

For many years now, I have been living and hiding in the shadow of lies.  My life began to spiral downward a number of years ago.  I cannot specifically call out a date when it began, but I do know that for the past decade or so, I believed these lies.

Both physical and mental stress conjured a planting of weeds that choke the life out of individuals.  Life activities were so burdensome, my physical body began to break.  Stress overcame my mind, fear settled in its place and grew into anxiety and stress.   So much so, that I had gained almost 30lbs during that time and could not face the outside world.  I hid this from most, but internally I have been struggling just to keep it together.  After a recent “discussion” with my wife, I decided to pursue the causes which led me to believe the lies.

Here are the several lies that I believed:

  • If I’m not part of the conversation, they must be talking about me.
  • I don’t need to seek help.
  • You can never feel safe.
  • You can never be satisfied, content yes, satisfied no.
  • You have to be strong. Your family needs you to be strong.
  • Sleep is not completely necessary.
  • You can’t relax, there is too much to accomplish.
  • You can’t travel too far, you might get sick on the way.
  • You can control 98% of what happens.

What began as a method to “run away”, turned into a method of coping, to a habit which led me to anxiety, stress and fear.  Almost a decade ago, my body began to shake on the right side.  It was then diagnosed as focal seizures because of the brain damage I sustained during a past injury.

During that time, my mind raced toward every possible scenario.  What if I have Parkinson’s?  What would happen to my family once I’m gone?  How would we survive once I was fully disabled?  This led to images of my wife and children at the funeral home, sobbing, wishing I was around.  It became an obsession that ruined how I felt about life.  After being diagnosed with focal seizures (and not Parkinson’s), I ignored the previous thoughts, and began living once again.

About 7 years ago, I started a friendship with a man who began attending my local church.  He befriended my two boys and my wife and we began the “new life” journey with him.  Even though he was about my father’s age, he insisted that I mentor him in the faith.  What a privilege!

My friend, Peter began to grow.  His faith grew to a point, where he was sharing about his conversion with others.  Unfortunately, Peter also lived a very different life, we only found out about later on.  His wife, Charlotte, had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  She had gotten to a point, where she needed 24 hour care.  After she was admitted into the nursing home, Peter lived there.  He would sleep in his car and take care of his wife from opening until closing.  It was there that he heard the Gospel and found the Savior.

Soon after her death, Peter began to notice changes in his body.  It was then he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  As soon as the diagnosis came, I knew, in my heart, he wouldn’t last long.  However, Peter had a different outlook.  Since he found Christ in the nursing home ministry, he decided to share the Gospel at a local bakery.  Many times, he would sit, sipping his coffee, praying that God would lead someone to him.  Inevitably, Go d would allow someone to sit as his table that had the same story he had.  He would share the Gospel and many that heard, would admit they need Christ and began their journeys.

In what is a very short period of time, he could no longer bear the pain of the cancer and began morphine.  On Saturday night, March 31st 2012, Peter asked me why he saw crosses on the wall.  He described them as innumerable bright crosses.  I realized it may be the morphine and responded that I didn’t know.   On Sunday morning April 1st, 2012, I received a phone call telling me to say my goodbyes.  I ran down to his apartment, watched him sit in his chair, unresponsive.  I knelt by his side, held his hand and began quoting Scripture.  Telling him to go home and hear the Savior’s words, “Well done.”  With the Elders and Pastor of our church, we watched him take his last breath and leave the presence of this world only to enter the arms of the Savior.  Without realizing it, this event would be the catapult for my fear and anxiety.  (Even as I write this, my hands are shaking so much, that I am glad auto correct is on.)

I thought to myself, I could handle this.  My friend went from death to life.  What was so bad about that?  However, deep inside, I was crushed in my heart because I had never seen a person die before.  Even one of my close friends asked me if I was feeling well because apparently, I looked like death was coming for me next.  Physically I felt fine.  Mentally, I buried the event.

More recently, my wife was so “persistent” in telling me that something was wrong with me that I decided to go to a new doctor in order to bury her claims.  I was diagnosed with stress.  My focal seizures had been misdiagnosed.  For the past decade, my body negatively responded to the stress that I placed myself under.  This was exasperated by my friends passing.

Now I am in the process of seeking help, looking to heaven and pleading with God to take this away.  My therapy is to write, to share my battle and struggle with anxiety and stress with you.    The calling I had been given so long ago, is now the vehicle to my current fight.  I feel like Jonah who fled the opposite direction God told him to go.  Like Jonah, I was thrown overboard into the storm.  The waves crashed, the thunder sounded, the wind blew.  My lungs filled with water and just as I thought death was at my door, God sent me my giant fish, writing for Him.  Now I am in the process of healing and soon will be able to write the stories I long to share.  My desire is to show Christ, alive and risen in these stories.  Short and fictional as they may be, I want to share how Christ can change lives.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Driving, Dopiness and Diapers – The Greatest Life Series Part 4

There is an old Jewish saying that goes something like this, “Man makes his plans and God laughs”.  Many times our lives feel like this.  We create our short and long term plans.  What will we do in five years?  What about ten years?  How many children will we have?  Where do we want to live?  What will we do when we retire?  Will we be able to retire?  We dream, plan and purpose ourselves toward whatever goals we have for ourselves and our families.

When I was younger, I watched a television show called “The A-Team”.  It was a program of wrongly accused, on-the-run military convicts who fought for the side of good, while trying to discover why they were framed for their crimes.  The leader, Hannibal Smith, made the plans for his team in each episode.  In almost every episode, when his plans worked, he lit a cigar, smiled and said, “I love it when a plan comes together.”  Decidedly, when our plans work out to our benefit, we light our figurate cigar, smile, pat ourselves on the back and say, “I love it when my plan works out.”  But what about those who make plans and it doesn’t work out for them?

This past year has been one gigantic roller coaster ride, filled with ups and downs.  Some have been fun, while others not so much.  I have experienced the gamut from exhilarating joy to unspeakable sorrow.  If ever there was a year to make me think and reflect on life, this was that year.

Over the past year, I had been making plans for various things.  I desired to start planning to vacation with my wife for a couple of days in Bermuda for our 20th wedding anniversary next year.  I also had begun making plans on what will happen when I retire.  How would we live?  Where would we live?  How would this affect our boys?  The plans I was making were simple, to live our lives quietly doing the things we want to do while living a relaxed life.  Sounds good, right?  Well, God decided to laugh at my plans.

This year was a time of bewilderment, excitement and fear.  Bewilderment because my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  Excitement because my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  Fear because my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  Why would God allow this?  What about my plans for retirement?  How about my plans for our 20th anniversary?  How would this fit together?  It seemed all of my plans had just been whisked away, erased from the “book of my future”.

You see, my family is what some would call “older”.  My eldest, is sixteen and is a junior in high school.  He has been asking me when he will be taking his driving permit test.  He is eager to get out there and discover what the world is like.  (Very much like me when I was his age.)  To him, it doesn’t matter if we have the budget for another car, he just wants to drive so that he will “be free” from being in the house all the time.

My 2nd child is eleven getting ready to enter junior high school.  He is discovering the joys of being involved in his school.  At the same time, he also does things that boggle the human mind.  His mind is being pulled in many directions so he has a tendency to “forget” his chores or homework.  Things we tell him will be forgotten almost instantaneously.  What is ironic about this is that his friends are the exact same way.  It’s like aliens came down, sucked out all the gray matter between their ears and placed an auto erase function for when a parent speaks.  I call this the “dopey” stage of life.

With all of this going on, God decided it was time for another child to enter our world.  We had found out last year that my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  I had noticed that my wife had a bizarre craving, lemons.  She had always loved making lemon water, but this time was different.  One evening, she had cut a lemon in half and started to enjoy the juices directly from the fruit.  This automatically triggered a question because she had this same behavior when she was pregnant with our eldest son.  A few nights later, at 4:oo A.M., my wife took a pregnancy test and found out she was pregnant.

This wasn’t in our plans.  We had our two boys and life was going well for us.  Now what was going to happen?  (Isn’t that a funny question?  We are raising 2 boys and yet, I asked myself this very question.  It’s not like I don’t know how to change a diaper…)  Not only were we dealing with the challenges of being a parent of a teenager and the dopiness of a pre-teen, but now, we were going to lose sleep and have to deal with this all over again.  On March 13, 2014, our third son was born.  Let the diaper changing begin…..again!

With all of this happening at once, my mindset wasn’t quite right.  I had looked at my present and based on a future that had not occurred yet.  My past was set, my present known and my future a complete mystery.  This placed in me a very uncomfortable feeling.  For those that know me personally, they know that I like control.  I love the rush of planning and executing those plans.  The exhilaration of seeing my plans coming to fruition cannot be completely explained in words.  I am a control freak.  I despise the unknown, especially the unknown future.

My mind had become not only confused but anxiety ridden.  “I’m a lot older than when the other two were born.  How are we going to survive this?  How are we going to be able to afford the diapers and formula?”  These questions riddled my mind and boggled my senses.  I had allowed my fears and anxiety to overtake the realization that we had done this twice before.  This was familiar ground.  Why was I so confused and anxious?  The answer was simple.  I allowed the sin called “pride” into my life.

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (NASB)

1 John 2:16 says, “For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.” (NIV)

Little did I realize that pride had snuck its way into my life and the trail of destruction it brings was coming.  The questions I had raised were not real.  I had looked at my circumstances, my dreams and goals and decided that life was chaotic and order-less.  Because pride entered my mind, my body and spirit followed.  I let my devotions and prayer time lack.  I concentrated on my fears rather than my Father.

As fear and anxiety was trying to control me, I was reminded of these two passages which clearly show that God is in control and knows what He is doing:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

“’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11

Was God going to let me down?  No.  Was God going to forget me?  Certainly not.  Was God going to supply all my needs as He sees them?  Absolutely and a resounding yes.  The proof of this is what happened in the months to come before my wife gave birth.

As we had decided not to have any more children, we had gotten rid of everything.  Crib, gone.  Clothes, donated.  Toys, trash.  We thought to ourselves, we don’t need these anymore so why keep them.  The only item that we did not get rid of was a stroller that we had bought when my eldest son was born.  Again, fear and pride tried to take over.  This time, I refused them access to my life.  God was in control and knows what He is doing.

Before my wife went into labor, she was surprised with a baby shower.  This was the first time she was actually surprised.  (Every other time, she figured things out.)  Out of that party, all our needs were met.  We were supplied with diapers, formula, clothes and any other baby item you can think of.  In fact, we were overwhelmed with the assortment of baby items we were given.

It has been nine months since Nathan was born and all of our needs continue to be met.  Formula and diapers have been fully paid for.  God is so good to us and He showed us that time does not matter for Him.  When He says He is going to do something great, He does it and overflows our life cup with His blessings.

Our lives are not our own.  We set goals, dream of our future, but ultimately God is in control and what His plans are for us are better than the ones we create.  To have our “greatest life”, we need to submit to His authority, ask for His goals for us and live the lives He has determined in advance for us to live.  His plans are there to enhance our lives, not hurt them.  His goal is to share His Son with the world.  What is better than watching someone come to the realization that they are a sinner, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ?  The greater the sinner, the greater the worshipper once saved!

Don’t do what I did.  Learn from my mistakes and errors.  Pride led me to be a control freak which led me to fear and anxiety.  Salvation led me to the cross which led me to eternal life, joy and peace.  As a sinner saved by Jesus Christ, I am still prone to allow pride to take over.  However, our minds are renewed by reading Scripture and spending time with our God and Father.  This then will lead us to be able to say to pride, “Away from me Satan.”

Concentrate on the cross and life will be filled with joy and happiness even within the trials and tribulations.  This life is temporary and short.  Why waste our time worrying about the future?  Let’s all set our eyes on Christ and what He has done.  His work is eternal, ours temporal.  His promises are right and true.  Our words are filled with sin and pride.  When we focus on what Christ has done and what He has planned for us, we will forsake our own thoughts, goals and dreams and take His on.  Once we do that, life becomes an adventure instead of a burden.  Make a decision today not to worry about “Driving, Dopiness and Diapers”.  Allow your thinking to focus on our “Daddy” who loves and cares for us, even when we decide to sin.  He knows what He is doing.  He did create the entire universe.  I think He has a handle on our problems.

God bless and encourage someone today.

What is Your Greatest Victory? – Greatest Life Series Pt. 3

Sounds like an odd question, doesn’t it?  Most times, when we look at the term “victory”, we equate it to war.  During WWII, on May 8, 1945, the Allies declared victory over the Nazi regime and declared that day to be known as VE Day.

However, as I ask this question, what is your greatest victory, I am not asking if you served in the military and had victories over the physical enemy.  I am asking, what is your greatest victory, in reference to the internal battles and struggles you and I face every day.

How many times have you attempted to overcome something in your life that is controlling?  For some it is reoccurring sinful behavior.  For others it may be eating based purely on emotion.  Yet for some it may be fighting a depression battle inside you.  No matter the internal struggle, we all face some sort of daily battle that we need to overcome.

One day, I was looking in the mirror and didn’t like what I was seeing.  I saw a person that didn’t look anything like I remember.  In my younger days, I was thin, physically fit and had a risk-taking attitude.  Now, I saw an overweight, out of shape (other than round) and defeated man.  No more pep in my step.  No risk taking.  I had become exactly what I swore I wouldn’t become.

As time went by, depression set in and my walk with the Lord suffered, greatly.  I stopped reading and seeking out the Lord daily.  I ate over 3,000 calories a day and most of it was junk.  No vegetables or fruits for weeks at a time.  This cycle continued for some time.  My old sinful behavior began to creep back into my life.  Now I really hated what I had become.

My wife and kids could see the changes.  Regularly, I would be asked if I was alright.  My answer was always “yes” but internally I wanted to scream, “Hell no!  I’m not okay!  Leave me to be alone!!!!”  One evening, my wife asked me if the gym at work was open.  I told her yes and then she said, “You were happier when you were exercising.  Go to the gym at work and start.”  I was very hesitant.  We had a new baby in the house and we weren’t sleeping.  She continued to gently remind me of how I was when we were younger when I was weight lifting.

I didn’t know what to do.  I knew I needed to do something.  One night, my youngest son looked at me with his big beautiful eyes, smiled and cooed at me.  As I looked into his eyes, I saw life.  Not just him being alive, but real life.  Bright eyed, risk taking and eternal life eyes.  His eyes told me a story that I had forgotten.  Children are risk takers.  They don’t care what others think.  They’ll ask, “Hey why are you so fat?”  Mainly out of curiosity, but we correct them because we feel it’s rude to ask that.

When I was young, I loved climbing.  I would climb garage roofs, high fences and trees.  At around 5 years old, I had climbed one of the trees in front of our apartment.  The top of the tree was higher than the two-story complex.  (I only know that because I wanted to see over the buildings and climbed to the top).  One afternoon, my dad came home from work.  I saw him pull up and as he started to walk to the door, I shouted out, “Hi dad!”

“Where are you?” he asked.

“Up here.  Look”, I exclaimed.

As my father looked up all he could see was my little hand sticking out, waving at him.  Later he told me how scared he was that I was going to slip off and plummet violently to my death.  However, for me, this was normal.  I had done this several times before.  Even on windy days, I climbed to the top and swayed along with the tree.

This reminder that came from my baby boy’s eyes, allowed the voice of God to ask me a simple question, “Are you happy?”  Immediately, I answered, “No.”  Then I heard, “Then give up trying and start being mine again.”  A profound reminder that I wasn’t my own.  Jesus Christ had purchased my life with a price, his life.

I made a conscience decision that night to change.  I wasn’t going to try and become someone else.  I wanted to be me, the one who God designed with His own hands.  For too long was I trying to become someone I am not meant to be.

Since then, changes have been made to accommodate a renewed life.  Exercise, daily prayer and Scripture reading are now part of my regular routine.  Do I still miss a day here or there?  Sure.  But instead of allowing that to bring depression back into my life, I learn from it and make the necessary changes.

Was I victorious?  Some may say I was, but I believe that the victory doesn’t belong to me.  I have learned that the battle I face is not mine, yet I still face it.  So what are we to do?

Psalm 44:5-7

Through you we push back our enemies;

Through your name we trample our foes.

I put no trust in my bow,

my sword does not give me victory;

But you give us victory over our enemies,

you put our adversaries to shame.

This psalm shows us exactly what we are to do in the various battles we face.  First, we act as God leads.  If He tells us to do something, we do it.  Second, we go into situations with the full understanding and acceptance that He is battling for us, even though we are doing the work.  We need not struggle in our battles.  Our battles are fought by the Creator of the Universe, God Himself!  Third, we are not to take pride in our earthly abilities.  We are not to trust any device or skill.  We may be good at what we do, but He gave us that ability.  We didn’t earn it.  He gave it.  Lastly, victory is right around the corner and when it happens, you will see God overcome.

Too many times, did I try to be victorious over things that I could not control.  Too many times, did I promise not to do what I should not, only to fall flat on my face.  Too many times, did I work and work and work only to find my abilities were insufficient to overcome the surrounding circumstances.  For too long, did I think, “I can do this” only to realize that I can’t.

As Christians in the United States, we are told that we can do anything.  We can’t.  We are taught to go after our dreams and goals and they will succeed, yet to find only disappointment and depression knocking at our door.

Don’t be upset with this concept.  It goes against everything that I heard growing up.  I even find myself telling my boys, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”  Unfortunately, this is not true.  Many times we hear the following bible verse:

”I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

We equate this verse many times to success in this life.  But what is the real context here?

Paul is thanking the Philippian church for their gifts to his ministry.  He mentions that he has lived with “plenty” and “in want”.  Paul saw times of physical wealth and times of poverty.  He knew what both were like.  In this context, he states that he can do all things through Christ.  This means that no matter the situation, whether good or bad, we can handle it through Christ.

I want to be sure that you are encouraged.  Remember when I spoke about all the struggles we face daily and how when we act to change them, we face depression and disappointment many times?  Well, if we are in God’s will for our lives, no matter the circumstance, He will give us what we need to get through it.  He will be the victor and we will benefit from His victories.

You and I are His.  John 10:29 says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”  Isn’t that reassuring?  Because you and I are God’s no circumstance, no person, no spiritual being can take us away from God.  We are special because God says we are.  Our salvation is secure in Him.

Our greatest victory really isn’t ours.  It is God’s.  So to answer the original question “What is your greatest victory?”  My answer would be this, “My greatest victory doesn’t matter.  I benefit from the One who is the victor in every situation and circumstance.  God is my victor.”

God bless and encourage someone today.