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.

 

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Morality, Homosexuality and the Christian


Morality can be defined as “a system or doctrine that defines right and wrong behavior”.  It is a way society defines what they deem is right and wrong.  The problem is when society goes against what you believe is right and wrong.  How do you handle this?  How can we, as individuals, clearly and positively affect society when what society is telling us is right, we know to be wrong?

Before we can understand how to handle this, we need to first understand the dichotomy of right and wrong.  This process is a fairly simple one.  In order to judge whether someone is right or wrong, we first need to understand what right and wrong are.  For someone to be ‘right’, logic states there must be a proven basis of fact.  From the facts we see positive evidence.  Then the evidence points to a rule or law.  The ‘right’ person must be able to prove that what they say or believe is factual or true.  Once the factual evidence has been given and compared to the rule or law, we can then say, “That person was right”.  But what about ‘wrong’?

The word ‘wrong’ can be defined as “a violation of what is right”.  It is the process of clearly stating the opposite of what factual evidence states.  For us to say someone is ‘wrong’, we must know what is right and then evaluate and measure the implied ‘wrong’ act.  When the measuring has been completed, if it goes against the factual evidence, then we say, “That person is wrong”.  Basically, we first must have a basis of belief that allows us to measure the difference between right and wrong.  However, can everybody be right?  Can everybody be wrong?

In our society’s recent history, there has been a thought process that everyone has the ‘right’ to be right.  It sounds like a good statement, but think about it for a moment.  If everyone has the ‘right’ to be right, then what would define who was wrong?  If everyone was right, then we wouldn’t need laws to govern our land.  We wouldn’t need to have prisons to contain those who stole or murdered.  We wouldn’t need to judge drug dealers or sex offenders.  If everyone had the ‘right’ to be right, then even those who think in opposition to us would be right….right?

If this sounds ridiculous to you, ask yourself why this is the case?  When you evaluate the last paragraph of questions against your basis of rules, you clearly judge that not everyone can be right.  You say to yourself, “The person who stole was wrong” or “The sex offender need to be in jail”.  Why?  The laws of our land have rules regarding these things.  We have laws against stealing, lying and sexual perversion.  These laws are considered to be ‘right and just’.  As a country we have a set of rules that every citizen must abide by.  If we rebel against these rules of right and wrong, we also suffer the negative consequences of our behavior.  So, why the recent ruckus about right vs. wrong?

Let’s look at homosexuality and homosexual marriage.  In the political realm, we have seen both sides of the coin.  We have those who back homosexual marriage and those who don’t.  We see everyone taking sides, wanting to be known for being the person who takes the stand for what they believe is right.  They feel that if they back one way or the other, they can get the votes they need for election.  So why is this country in such turmoil regarding this subject?

The turmoil regarding homosexual marriage, is largely in part to our historical heritage.  Unlike the current media misnomer, our country was actually founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs.  We know this because of our Constitution.  It mentions that all people are made in God’s image and have the right to worship as they see fit.  This clearly shows that our founding fathers believed in God and His laws.  Although they believed that the ‘church’ should not rule the land, they still believed in the truth of the Bible.  They showed this by also showing how our government is formed and what their responsibilities are in the Constitution.  So if this historical evidence and truth are so evident, it only makes sense that the topic of homosexual marriage is such a heated one.

Our problem begins with the dichotomy of who is right in this situation and who is wrong.  The person who is for homosexual marriage feels there needs to be a separation of church and state, while the person who is against it, says it is against God’s will.  As both of these views are diametrically opposed, how do we resolve the differences here?

We need to go back to what the issue really is.  The issue here is a group of people, who feel that homosexuality is natural, feel that their rights have been violated.  They feel heterosexuals are against this because of religious beliefs and should not have say as they are too religious.  As they see this as truth, the homosexual community has done everything in their power to convince the government and the people that they are right.  They have had marches and news conferences to tell others that they have to have this “right”.  Unfortunately, when they speak about this issue, they almost always state that Christians are to blame for the ‘homo-phobia’.  So they infuse the media with hate speech toward Christians.  They claim intolerance, yet they are intolerant of Christian beliefs.  They attempt to influence education in order to teach an ‘alternative lifestyle’ that most people feel is inappropriate for children to hear about.  They write books for younger children and expect the education system to teach children about two mommies or two daddies.  Yet in all this, when abstinence is taught, they are in such an uproar that you would think the end of the world is near!

As a citizen of the United States, I must ask myself, what did our forefathers mean by what they wrote?  How would they interpret their document in these times?  Would Abraham Lincoln be for or against homosexuality and homosexual marriage?  Would he take a stand for a sexual preference?  Based on his own words, I would determine that he would in fact be against homosexuality and homosexual marriage.  Why?  Simply put, he believed in God and what the Bible teaches.

“My friend has said to me that I am a poor hand to quote Scripture. I will try it again, however. It is said in one of the admonitions of the Lord, ‘As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.’ The Savior, I suppose, did not expect that any human creature could be perfect as the Father in Heaven; but He said, ‘As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.’ He set that up as a standard, and he who did most towards reaching that standard, attained the highest degree of moral perfection. So I say in relation to the principle that all men are created equal, let it be as nearly reached as we can.’” – Abraham Lincoln, July 10 1858.

So where do we go from here?  As the topic of homosexual marriage and Christianity are diametrically opposed to each other, this will never get resolved.  Unfortunately, as those in the government take stands for homosexual marriage, they also take another stand against Christianity.  When they take this stand, they inevitably take away the rights of Christians.  We can see this in our schools, in media and in private religious hospitals.

As a devout American citizen, who is also a Christian, I have to be against homosexual marriage.  Jesus spoke against homosexual lifestyles and the Bible clearly teaches against it in several locations.  If I were to take a stand with homosexuals regarding homosexual marriage, I could not call myself a Christian, as the term Christian means “a follower of Christ”.  Am I saying that anyone who is for homosexual marriage cannot call themselves Christians?  No.  However, I am saying that if you are a Christian and are for homosexual marriage, then you must re-evaluate your stand and beliefs.  If you want to call yourself a Christian, then you must believe what Christ says.

As this issue is debated, remember that it is not about the person, but about the lifestyle.  We should never hate the individual, but we are allowed to hate the sin.  We need to love the individual and show our love toward them by reaching out and helping them, praying for them and talking calmly with them.  We need to show the love of Christ and avoid any speech that may be seen as hate-filled or derogatory.

However, with this is a call to all people who call themselves Christians.  Encourage your children to pray in school.  Encourage your children to ask questions regarding evolution.  Ask your government official to stop the insanity when it comes to binding religious freedom.  This is the United States of America and we were founded on the government not legislating how we are allowed to worship.

Be proud of Who you believe in and share when you want and where you want.  If the homosexual community can march about their choices, then so can we!  Stand up, love people and show them the love of Jesus Christ.  It is only then we will be tools to change the world.

God Bless and encourage someone today.

The Reality of Our Faith


In this current series, I have been sharing ideas regarding our current rights as Americans and the faith we hold dear.  The Constitutions foundation and the fact that Jesus came to “seek and save those that are lost” are the foundations we live by in this country.  Today, I will share with you a story that is common outside of the United States, but is becoming more and more evident in the days to come.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has recently been convicted of sharing his faith in Iran.  According to several news sources, the Iranian government has given Pastor Nadarkhani the death sentence for his alleged crimes against Islam.  Pastor Nadarkhani is an example of a peaceful living man, sharing his faith with friends and family only to be killed for his faith.

During the recent trials of Pastor Nadarkhani, he was asked to renounce his faith in Christ.  His response was simple yet profound.  I don’t know the entire quote, but I believe it went something like this, “How can I renounce the truth that I know?”  The judges told him, “Because it is the faith of your fathers.”  Pastor Nadarkhani’s response was gentle and true.  He told the judges that he cannot renounce what he knows to be true.

We don’t hear of these stories often in the news, but it shows us some simple explanations of how the Christian faith is viewed around the world.  According to Jesus, he said, “All men will hate you because of me.” (Luke 21:17 NIV1984)  The reality of our world is that most people will hate Christians just because they believe in Jesus.  Jesus clearly stated that we are to be “light” and “salt” to the earth.  What does this mean?

To be light is to expose what is hidden in the dark.  In recent days, I have found that the people who owned my house before me did things that were kept hidden in the dark.  I found old concrete, moldy sheetrock, old copper pipes and much other trash that was hidden behind walls.  It was only found because I exposed the wall, and placed a light onto it.  I have found walls that needed to be secured and incorrectly installed electric.  In this scenario, I was a light unto my own house.  The same holds true of Christians.  When we enter a room and start a relationship, the very nature of our being exposes what others have been trying to hide.  Jesus shines through us in order to expose the sin and bring that person to Himself.

At the same time we are to be salt.  Except for the excessive use of salt, salt is used to enhance the flavor of what it is being added to.  It is to bring delight and excitement, but it is also to bring thirst.  We are to make others thirsty for Christ so that He can quench that thirst.  We are to be delightful and exciting, not boring and angry.  Our lives are to reflect a sense of interest and curiosity for the sole purpose of leading them to Christ.

The result of our living peaceful, delightful, light exposing lives is hatred.  People don’t want to see what is in their lives.  I know I don’t’.  Pastor Nadarkhani is doing just that.  From what we know of him, he is delightful, respectful and peaceful.  He is fulfilling for his life the life Christ has for him.  Is this about Pastor Nadarkhani?  Do a degree, but it is more of an alarm going off to wake us up to this reality.  Most people don’t love Jesus, they only love what they can hide.

Pastor Nadarkhani is not hiding, nor is he hiding the love of Christ from others.  When confronted by the religious leaders of his nation, he told them the truth of his faith.  If you want to share how you feel about this situation, there are various places you can go to in order to help.  You can visit www. aclj.org and sign a petition that will allow them to assist freeing Pastor Nadarkhani.  You can also write to your Senator or Congressperson to let them know you stand by Pastor Nadarkhani and would like to see him freed.

You can also pray for either the Iranian government to change their minds or to allow the chains to fall off of Pastor Nadarkhani like the disciples experienced.  God can do anything He chooses.  If He allows this Pastor to face death, then God will take care of his family.  If He is freed, then the Word of God can continue to go out into the entire world.  Whatever the outcome, God is in control.

Remember, just because we live in a free society doesn’t mean that we too won’t face this one day.  Pray and support Pastor Nadarkhani and pray that our country doesn’t go down this same path.  God bless and encourage someone today.