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.


What is Your Greatest Passion? – Greatest Life Series Pt. 2

When you think of the word “passion”, what do you think of?  Do you think about the movie where two people have a “passionate moment”?  What about business?  Have you ever heard of someone pursuing their “passion” and being successful?  Now think of those who are in the news yelling and screaming about change.  Aren’t they described as being “passionate”?  In my opinion, the word “passion” is grossly overused and totally misunderstood.

Recently, I was speaking with someone regarding a situation where they upset me.  As loving as I could muster, at that time, I asked the individual several questions, asking them to explain their actions.  Their response to me was, “I can hear your passion.”  After think about this for a moment, I thought to myself, “This isn’t passion.  This is being pissed.”   If it was “passion”, my strong desire would have led me to do something that I would probably regret.  Luckily for everyone involved, we were able to come to an agreement that we would never agree.

The term “passion” is used for so many things.  When someone voices their anger, we call it passion.  When someone pursues their dreams, we call it passion.  When someone is in “love” or “lust”, we call that passion.

So what is passion?  In the simplest of terms, passion is an overwhelming desire that leads one to action.  This could be negative or positive action, but in all cases, the overwhelming desire leads to action.  What is your greatest passion?  What are you so excited about that it led you to action?  Not just saying words, but actual action?

In Scripture, we see a verse that so many people in our culture have become familiar with…

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.  That whoever believes in Him, will not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

Have you ever thought about this in detail?  Have you ever considered its implications?  If not, let me share some quick thoughts.

First, this verse says that “God so loved the world…”  In the Greek, the word “loved” translated from the word “agapos”.  We get the term “agape” or “unconditional” from this word.  It is a form of decided unconditional love.

Second, what did this “agape” love trigger?  “…that He gave His only Son.”  Did you catch it?  The God of the all creation unconditionally loved us so much that it led Him to action, to send His only Son.  God was so passionate about us, that it led him to act accordingly.  What’s even more mind blowing is this verse:

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from my Father.” – John 10:17-18

Isn’t that amazing?  After John wrote how much God passionately loved the world, Jesus confirms this with stating, “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  Jesus was so obedient to the Father, that He too passionately loved the world.  So much so, that He gave His life up for us.

Think of it this way.  God (Father) passionately loved us so much that He gave His Son (Jesus).  Jesus passionately loved the Father and the world that He gave His life up by his own willingness.  He wasn’t surprised to see Judas and the soldiers when they came for Him.  It wasn’t unexpected when they beat Him and cursed at Him.  He wasn’t surprised or shocked when He hung on the cross and suffered.  In fact, it was Jesus who asked the Father to forgive us, because we didn’t realize what we were doing.  Jesus was passionately in love with you and I.  His love led Him to action.

So, what is your greatest passion?

Maybe, you love your career so much that you work as much as you can.  Is it possibly your kids or spouse?  You desire to spend as much time with them that even your work schedule revolves around them?

Whatever, your “passion” is, may I suggest that if you are not passionate about Jesus Christ, you are not living your “greatest life”?  We all have dreams and goals.  We all want to achieve the best for our families.  We all desire to be the best, but without Christ, our lives won’t be the greatest they can be.

As I stated earlier, Jesus was so passionately in love with the Father and us, that He gave His life for us.  It is because of Christ and Christ alone, that we can go to the Father and worship.  It is because of Christ alone, that we can pray with confidence.

We call the time surrounding Easter, “The Passion of Christ”.  This proves that our understanding of what passion is, is correct at times.  Those who termed that time of the year understood that His love for us was so great, so real, it led Him to take action.

We didn’t deserve His passionate love and still don’t.  Yet, Christ in all His understanding decided to love us with action.  So what should our response be?

I don’t know about you, but for me, our response is logical.  We should respond to Christ by accepting His free gift of eternal life.  Then once we do that, He places a “passion” in us to serve the Father.  That “inserted free passion” allows us show the love of Christ to others through action.

“Faith without works, is dead.” – James 2:17

Are we acting in a way that shows the passionate love of Christ?  Do we say things that show others how passionately in love He is with them?  When we take this perspective of Christ’s passion for us, we see the world differently.  We see what others can be in Christ, rather than who they are.  We act in love toward others, caring for them in every way.  Not just those we like, but also to those who hate us.

Living your greatest life, must include the passion of Christ.  Living your greatest life must include loving others like Christ loves us.  Living your greatest life must include a living, breathing, action packed life that displays the supernatural change that only God can do through Christ.  Live your greatest life and make Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior.  He passionately loves you.  What’s your action toward love going to be?

A Boy, a Coat and a Valuable Lesson (Starting Off Life Right – Pt.2)

Have you ever had a sibling that felt it was necessary to rat you out constantly?  What about a kid in school?  Has a co-worker ever told your boss things that makes you look bad?  Well, if so, then you will be able to relate to our next “Life Starter”, Joseph.

A bit of background first….

Joseph was one of twelve sons of Jacob.  He was the 2nd youngest, which means that Jacob was older when Joseph was born.  Eventually, all the sons of Jacob would one day be the “tribes of Israel”.  One day they would be the fulfillment of Abraham’s promise from God.  Unfortunately, Joseph needed to go through some things that seemed difficult.

As I was reading over the story of Joseph, there were a few things that came to mind.  First, Joseph is introduced to us as a “tattle-tale”.  We see that Joseph had ‘spoken badly about his brothers to his father’.  There is no reference as to why, so what I am about to say is strictly ‘opinion’.  I personally believe Joseph was not only immature, but felt that he could go further in life by telling on his brothers.  If not, he was at least not “street smart”.  Obviously, this would make his brothers angry.

Next, we see that Jacob favored Joseph over all his brothers.  In fact, Jacob made a special garment for Joseph.  It was the most beautiful of garments in that day.  No where does it say that Joseph didn’t want it or didn’t wear it.  Later in the story we see that Joseph wore the garment regularly.

Lastly, we see Joseph telling his brothers about two dreams he had.  He had told his brothers that they would one day bow down to him.  But we do not see where God told him to inform his brothers of this.  It was as if Joseph, having these dreams, understood what they were, but because of his immaturity, he decided to brag about them.

So what did his brothers eventually do?  Well, if you hated your sibling that much, what would you have done?  If you are like me, you would not talk with them, cut off all communication with them and regard them as non-existent.  However, Joseph’s brothers wanted to do more than that.  They wanted to kill Joseph.  If it wasn’t for the youngest brother, Benjamin, they would have.  However, Benjamin convinced them to fake Joseph’s death and sell him into slavery.

One day while Joseph was doing his chores, his father asked him to report what his brothers were doing.  Notice it doesn’t say rat out or talk badly, it was simply to be an update.  When Joseph arrived, the brothers jumped him, tore the garment that his father had made and threw Joseph into a pit.  They slaughtered a lamb, dipped the garment into the blood and sold Joseph to an Egyptian.  This is where I personally believe that Joseph started to understand what he had done.

Growing up in a church, I was always told that Joseph was simply being obedient to his father.  However, after reading this story more and more, I am convinced that Joseph didn’t start out life that great.  I also believe that it wasn’t until he was sold into slavery, that Joseph started to understand why all this “bad” stuff had happened.

Despite his rough beginning, Joseph ended his life on the right track.  While he was still young, he worked for a high Egyptian officer.  The officer’s wife wanted to commit adultery but Joseph wouldn’t have it.  Joseph understood that to commit adultery was not just a sin against himself and his boss, but it was a sin against God.  Unfortunately, Joseph ended up in prison because of lies the officer’s wife told.

While in prison, he was regarded highly by the guards and was put in charge of the inmates.  There were two other inmates that were there and were about to be released.  Joseph asked them to do him a favor and mention what had happened to him to the king.  But these two men forgot about Joseph.  It wasn’t until the king had a dream he couldn’t explain that one of them spoke up.

Over time, Joseph was released from prison and became the highest ranking officer (besides the king), in Egypt.  During Joseph’s reign, he was able to bring all of Egypt and his family through a famine. He also confronted his brothers and all was worked out between them.

Now think about this for a moment.  How many times do we go through horrific events only to ask, “God, why is this happening to me?”  I know I’ve asked that question.  What would happen if ‘bad things’ that happen to us were God’s way of preparing us for greater things in the future?  What if the bad was to be turned to good?  Isn’t that one of the promises of God.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and have been called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28 (NIV)

If ‘in all things’ means good or bad, then we see here that whether we face good times or bad times, God will work so that it will all turn out good and it will be because of His purpose, not ours.

We may start out life badly or make bad decisions, but God is able to take those bad situations and turn them around to profit the Kingdom.  When we see the kingdom growing because of our bad circumstances, we will be joyous through our trials.

Back in April, I watched a good friend of mine enter the Kingdom of God.  Prior to his death, we would pray with another friend of ours.  It was amazing to see my friend, who was in process of dying, turn to us and say, “It is okay for me to suffer now.  So long as others see Christ in it.”  He was only a Christian for a few years, but learned a lesson that most of us ‘older’ Christians haven’t learned…to trust Christ withe everything.

It was through my friend’s suffering that more people heard about Christ.  Until the day before he died, the visiting nurse had just started and in his pain he asked the nurse, “Do you know who Jesus is?”  She responded, “I’ve heard.”  His response was, “Then we need to talk.  We are going to have many discussions on Jesus.”

Until his last breath, he wanted others to know about Jesus.  This same nurse was there with us when he died.  As I cried as my friends feet, telling him that he did a great job and to let go, she sobbed not understanding what had just happened.  It was right after he took his last breath that I was able to share with her about the love of Christ.  In fact, at least 2 others asked about Christ because they saw something that was strange to them.  Even though we were saddened, we understood that one day we would see each other face to face, rejoicing in what God had done in our lives.

One day, I hope my life ends just as good as my friend’s and Joseph’s.  Our lives may not start out the way we want them to, but remember, it is not about us but about the Kingdom of God.  Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.

God bless and encourage someone today.

The Northern Frontier Experience (The Final Frontier)

In the last three blogs, I shared a fictional story of a father and his son.  The son wanted to discover new and exciting things.  The father started off skeptical but ended up discovering there was more to life than work.  In this last blog, of this series, I will share with you what Northern Frontier Camp means to me.

In 1974, my mom and dad answered the call of Christ and became disciples of the King.  They found a local church through a radio station my mom was listening to.  The name of the church is Bellerose Baptist Church in New York City.

While my parents started to attend this church and my dad was asked to help out in Christian Service Brigade.  He enjoyed working with the boys.  Sharing bible stories, making things out of wood and going camping.

I wanted to spend time with my dad, so from as far back as I can remember, I asked my dad if I could go with him.  On occasion, he would allow me to do the overnight camp out with them, but wouldn’t allow me to attend until the appropriate age of eight.

When I turned eight, I enjoyed spending time with other boys doing the things I had seen the other boys do.  Week after week, during the bible story time, I heard the message of Jesus.  I heard that Jesus loves me, that He died and rose again for me, but no matter how many times I heard this, my heart was just not into that “bible stuff”.  When an invitation to accept Christ came, I would raise my hand time after time.

My dad, being a wise man, told me that accepting Christ as Savior is a one time event.  So if I accepted Christ once, then that was all that was needed.  Being a hard-headed kid from  NYC, I  didn’t get it.

In the summer of 1979, my mom and dad asked me if I wanted to go to camp.  It sounded like a lot of fun so I agreed.  They paid for me to go to this camp called Northern Frontier Camp.  It was an all boys camp that had been started through the founder of Christian Service Brigade.

My parents dropped me off at a location, where a charter bus would take us to camp.  After six hours of traveling north, we arrived at the entrance.  Then after getting off the charter bus, an old diesel school bus would then take us the rest of the way.  The best part of the bus rides was the 3 mile off-road trip through the woods.  We would bounce around and laugh because this was no where like the city.

Year after year, I would go there for a week, have fun and enjoy every activity they provided.  From air rifle and archery to hiking and swimming, I enjoyed every summer there.

At night, we would have a camp fire where we would sing fun songs, do crazy acting out, see skits and finally listen to a message.  For the first couple of years, I would once again raise my hand to accept Christ.  (I told you I didn’t get it.)  I would then return home just for my parents to explain once again, that if I was a Christian, I didn’t need to do this year after year.

In one of those years, it had rained and we were listening to a special camp fire skit.  I remember it distinctly.  There was a few large sheets hung up that were separated by a pole.  A young man would come up and make believe he was knocking on the door.  The first young man said that he was good enough to enter because he didn’t lie or steal.  The voice on the other side said, “Walk through the left door”.  Almost immediately, he would enter through the left door and then scream in fear.

The second young man said, “I am good enough because I helped an old lady across the street, attended church and even went to Christian Service Brigade”.  The voice on the other side said, “Walk through the left door”.  Again, he walked through and screamed.

Finally, a different young man came forward, knocked and said, “I am not good enough, but I know Jesus.”  He was allowed to enter the right door, where there was praise and worship.  I was scared beyond what I knew possible.  I feared hell.  I feared being lost forever.  I was just plain scared of life.  That night, when the opportunity came, I yet again asked Jesus into my heart.  However, I did it out of fear rather than need.

Over the next year, my sister had a dream and was terrified.  She told me that she dreamed I was in a dark place, hurting and screaming.  As young as we were, she begged me to accept Christ as my Savior.  I brushed her off, forgetting what I had just experienced months prior.

That summer, I went back to Northern Frontier Camp.  One night there was a campfire and someone gave the message of hope through Christ.  (Sound familiar?)  However, this night was different.  It wasn’t the weather or the lake.  It wasn’t the campfire.  It was me.  I knew something was wrong.  Something made me feel uncomfortable.

When the speaker finished his message, he asked anyone who wanted to know more, to stay back.  I decided to stay and asked some questions.  The counselor asked me if I wanted to accept Christ and I acknowledged that I needed Christ.  He led me in prayer, but this time there was no fear.  There was no normal night.  My emotions overwhelmed me.  I couldn’t hold back.  I wept and wept.  I asked Jesus to take over my life and He did with a vengeance.  It was at this moment in time that I knew I no longer needed to ask, because Jesus was there.

When I got home, I told my parents about my experience, but they didn’t believe me.  It wasn’t until they saw me witnessing to my friends that they understood that the experience I had that summer was different, very different.

Northern Frontier Camp has a special place in my heart.  I went there for almost a decade, have spent time with my father and sons there.  Every time I go, I learn more and more.  This camp allows me to go out of my comfort zone and experience the love of God in a different way every time.

If you are a dad or want your son to experience God in a whole new way, I encourage you to check out  Make time to spend a few days with your son in the wilderness where there are no distractions, only you, your son and God.  Because boys won’t just be boys.  Because boys will become men someday.

Who Do You Hang Out With (Thinking Challenge #3)

Over the past week, God has challenged my thinking a bit.  He has allowed circumstances, people and timing to play a small part in allowing me to question some things.

The idea that comes to mind is ‘who do you hang out with’?  Have you ever thought about this before?  Did you ever evaluate whether or not your friends are really your friends or just people that like you while you are on the mountain top?

Growing up in New York City, you are conditioned to think differently for different types of people.  Here is what I mean.  When you enter a subway station, if you are not texting or reading a paper, look around.  What is the first impression of who you see?

If you see someone who is unshaven, has dirty baggy clothes, smells a bit like a sewer and has a paper bag with a drink in it.  You would probably come to the assumption that this person was probably homeless.

What if you saw someone who had a suit on and had a newspaper under his arm.  He carries a briefcase and stands straight.  Looking at him, you would think he is some important executive at a Wall Street firm.

Now ask yourself this question.  Based on the information your brain just obtained, which one would you most likely talk to?  Which one would you reach out to and strike up a conversation?  If you are born and raised in NYC, like I was, you would either stand there and not talk to anyone or you might start a conversation with the suited person.

Did you know that the painted assumptions in your mind would be wrong?  The first man, who looked homeless, was actually a construction worker coming home from work.  He makes almost $100,000 per year.  The drink in his bag is a Redbull because he wanted to make sure he had enough energy to see his daughters dance without falling asleep.

The second man I mentioned was actually a con-artist.  He has a specific set of clothes, hoping to ask for money for his “hungry children” because he lost his job and was declined on the interview he had that day.  This man was actually a drug addict wanting to get his next fix.  He wanted people to feel sorry for him so that they would give him enough money to feed his habit.  His wife and kids left him and was soon to be homeless because he didn’t have enough money to pay the rent.

Now ask yourself this question, “Who did Jesus hang out with?”  Who did Jesus spend His time with?  Who did Jesus feel was valuable (not good) enough that He desired to love them?

First, was a tax collector named Matthew.  His job was to collect taxes for Rome.  However, when he would try to collect the taxes, he would determine an increase and force people to pay.  He would then pay Rome what they wanted and kept the rest.  He had the backing of Roman soldiers, so his own people despised him.  They felt that not only was he ripping them off, but that he sided with Rome as well.  His profession was the most hated in his time.  Jesus hung out with a thief.

Next, was James and John.  Their nicknames were the sons of thunder.  Why?  Because they had major anger issues.  They were also highly competitive and their mother babied them to the point that even she asked Jesus a question for them.  Jesus hung out with the bad attitude, angry and highly competitive brothers.

Lastly, was Simon the Zealot.  In Jesus’ day, Rome had control over Israel, however, there was a temporary peace in the land due to an uprising that happened just before Jesus was born.  A group of people, called zealots, had gone out of their way to kill Roman soldiers in order to free Israel.  They felt that violence was the only way to free Israel and finally throw off the chains of Rome.  In essence, they were terrorists.  Jesus hung out with Simon, who was a terrorist.

Obviously, there were more like, the woman at the well, who had been married and divorced several times and was living with someone outside the covenant of marriage.  There was also those who were sick and dirty beggars who couldn’t provide for themselves.  In our day, they may be called homeless or welfare recipients.  Jesus even hung out with prostitutes and sinners!

No matter how you look at it, Jesus didn’t hang out with the ‘church’ crowd.  He didn’t hang out with the pastor, elders and the crowd that came to church every Sunday.  He didn’t hang out with the executives or the highly regarded.  Jesus wanted to hang out with those who needed Him, who needed to be loved.

Jesus has challenged my thinking this week.  Do I look at people as God’s creation or outcasts of society?  Do I look at people in love and feel their pain or do I silence the screams for help from their voice?

Today, I want you to evaluate who you hang out with and ask yourself this one question, “Would they be someone who Jesus hung out with, who needs to hear about Jesus’ love and sacrifice?”  If you can’t honestly answer this, I challenge you to think of someone who needs help that doesn’t look like you and I and needs to know about the love of Jesus.

God bless and think today.

I Might Be Joyous, But I’m Not Happy!

In our culture today, many times we equate happiness with joy.  We have this tendency to think that if someone says they’re joyous, their also happy.  However, is this true or can someone be joyous and NOT be happy?

Personally, I have heard sermons where someone says, “I might be joyous, but I’m not happy!”  They explain that joy is a state of mind, while happiness is just a feeling.  Typically, you hear, “Jesus will give you joy, but He doesn’t promise happiness”.  This is one point that I strongly disagree.

The definition of joy is “a deep emotion of pleasure, gladness” and “a thing that causes delight”. So if joy is a deep emotion, does this mean it is equal to happiness?  Well, if we look at this definition, we must also look at the word emotion.

An emotion is “an intense mental feeling, as love or hate”. So what does this all mean?  Joy is something that is so intense and ingrained within us that it cannot be changed.  This deep emotion of pleasure and gladness is so deep and intense that it becomes part of who we are.  So then, what is happiness?

Happiness can be defined as “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment”.  To be happy means that you are showing a sense of pleasure or contentment.  It is like you are opening a birthday present as a child.  You jump up and down, rip open the box and find the one thing you always wanted.  You then react by saying, “Thank you” with a smile that goes from ear to ear.

So the question remains, can someone be joyous and not be happy?  Paul wrote the following to the Galatians (5:22-23 ESV):

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Paul told the Galatians that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy, but did you notice the progression?  First comes love.  Then joy.  Once you love, you then have joy.  Once you have joy, there is a peace that enters.  Once a peace enters then you become patient.  Once patience takes control, you become more kind.  When you become kind, you do good things.  When goodness takes over, then you become faithful.  Once faithfulness overtakes you, then you become gentle.  Once gentleness comes over you, you become self-controlled.  None of these can happen unless the Holy Spirit is in control in your life.  You don’t do this alone, but with the Spirit of God alone.

Logically, ask yourself this question.  If I love and have joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, then why wouldn’t I be happy?

On a number of occasions, I go through a state of “depression”, where I don’t look happy, don’t care what others think and go into “my own little cave”.  As I am there, I feel lonely, sad and helpless.  Usually, I don’t read or write, except that which I have to for work.  I don’t ask others how they are doing and don’t want others to ask me.  I slowly go down into the dark, deep cavern hoping that no one will find me.  However, it is also at those moments (or days) that God reaches down from heaven, stretches out His hands and asks for a hug.  Then as a father holds his hurting child, He hold me, whispering, “Life isn’t always good, but remember how much I have done for you”.

Although, I try to fight, He holds me tighter and tighter.  He continues to whisper how much he loves me.  He tells me that I am special and meant to do things no other human being can do.  He tells me that even though I am “feeling” horrible emotions, He still loves me and will never leave me.  It is in those moments, that my heart begins to race, my breath becomes short and tears shed from my eyes.  Sometimes, my body shakes because of the intense understanding that I am not worthy, but God still loves me.  I cry and cry because God sees me through the eyes of Jesus.

Once I mentally come to that realization, a feeling of contentment and inexpressible joy enter my heart and mind, which results in the expression of being happy.  You see, joy is not just a state of mind, but who we are in Christ.  If we are not happy with life, then we must ask ourselves, are we joyous?  If we are not joyous, then we must ask ourselves, do we love Christ?

Remember, we love Christ, because He first loved us.  When we love Christ, he gives us joy.  When we have joy, then we have the “peace that passes all understanding”.  Once peace enters, we become more patient with others.  When we become more patient, we are show our kindness to others.  When we express kindness, we understand that what God is doing is good.  Once we understand how good God is, we dedicate ourselves to Him, becoming faithful to His Kingdom, desiring for others to come along with us.  When we desire others to come into the Kingdom, we are gentle with others.  Finally, when we become gentle, we realize that God is doing something beyond what we can do, so we give ourselves to be controlled by God, allowing Him to continue His work in us.

So, when Christians are not gentle, kind or patient with others, then we must ask ourselves, “do we remember what God did for us?”  We must examine our lives and ask God to change us from the inside out.

In this century, the ‘bride of Christ’ can become the most influential body, this world has ever seen.  Cultures will change.  Countries will change.  People will desire to seek God, simply because we have allowed God to give us what we cannot do on our own.

We cannot be joyous and not be happy.  If we allow joy to enter our lives, then happiness is the expression of that joy.  Be joyful in the Lord and show others how much He loves them as well.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Grace’s Journey…(Mature Subject Matter)

The following is the journey of my friend Grace.  Please take time to read her story.  She has asked that her story be heard as it is one of….just read it and find out!!!

I was born on August 8, 1948. My twin sister was born ten minutes later. My mother was delighted to have given birth to twins, but was very upset when she saw my sister. She asked the doctor why one baby was strong and healthy, and the second baby was weak and frail. The doctor explained simply that “the baby on top had eaten all the food and left none for her twin sister.” My mother accepted this information, and slowly developed a silent resentment toward me. When I became five or six years old, I began to notice I was not treated the same as my sister. My childhood was not especially a happy one. I was made to feel guilty and responsible. I could never figure out why Mother seemed to always disapprove of me. During this time I developed the habit of day dreaming. I would escape my unhappiness and pretend I had a wonderful life somewhere else.

My mother accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior when we were two years old. Our home changed, for now we went to church, we learned to pray and love Jesus. We felt that we grew up with Him in our home. Unfortunately, my mother’s attitude toward me did not change, needless to say my habit of day dreaming continued. When I was still young, I attended a summer Vacation Bible School. A missionary from South America told us the story of how Jesus had died on the cross for our sins. How, if we asked Him into our hearts, He would forgive us, and make us His very own! The missionary asked us to get down on our knees and pray. I remember feeling a great desire to belong to Jesus. I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins, and make me His own. I immediately felt this joy fill my heart, and I knew He had answered my prayer, from that time on I lived knowing I was His girl. I began to read my Bible every night, and talking to Him was as easy as breathing! He has never left my side, and I have never left His. Yet, my habit of day dreaming continued.

When it came time to fall in love and get married, I asked the Lord for a husband! I thought I had found the right guy, but he turned out to be wrong. I realized God knew what was best for His girl! I promised the Lord I would not date anyone, unless He would provide him for me! Sure enough, God provided a wonderful husband and we are now married forty two years! Yet, my habit of day dreaming continued.

Now, that I was grown up and married I realized I had a problem. I did not like to face confrontations or problems with people. I avoided all unpleasantness with a smile even though my insides would churn. I was always well dressed, attractive, and smiling! I would go to my comfortable, now well established habit of day dreaming, but now it had changed. It had become a dark and dirty thing! When reading my Bible, Second Corinthians 10:5 would haunt me! This scripture would follow me around! The Word of God says: “…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” I began to realize my comfortable habit since childhood had become dangerous and sinful. It began to take control of me! I could no longer control when I would start or end. This fantasy life took a life of it’s own! I began to get frightened and even more when I realized the Lord was speaking. The Word of God was saying, “bring every thought to the obedience of Christ! Stop, what you are doing! I began having trouble concentrating on prayer and reading my Bible. Yet, I could not give it up!

On November of 1973, I received my first “wake up” call. Early in the morning, once a month an exterminator would come to each apartment in our building to spray. My sleeping two year old daughter was in her crib, and I was recovering from just having had a miscarriage. We had so much wanted to have a second baby. Well, the man dressed as an exterminator was no exterminator! He was a violent, crazed rapist who threatened to kill us both. I had a moment to flee the apartment, but could not take my baby. I instead chose to face him. The next half hour or so where a nightmare I have never forgotten. When he was ready to leave, I felt him lift a heavy can and try to smash it against my head. I prayed and committed my life to God and pleaded for my baby’s safety. I felt him slowly lower the can and and walk out of the apartment without touching my child. But, not before threatening to come and kill me, if I told anyone what he had done. Well, after coming home from the hospital that night, I asked the Lord, “how am I going to live with the memory of what has happened?” His answer came back quickly, ‘You must forgive him, pray for him, and as you pray for him, in return you will receive emotional healing. This was a hard thing to do, but I prayed “Lord, I cannot do this in my strength. I want to obey you Lord, but You will need to help me. Well, not only did I pray for this man, but I prayed for him for fifteen years until the Lord told me to stop. Now, I pray for anyone in his family or bloodline that they may receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. When I asked the Lord, “How was I going to live with this ugly memory?” Again, His response was quick. His answer was found in Second Corinthians 12:9 “…and He said to me My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…” The memory of that experience was softened by the touch and grace of God. There is no bitterness, or anger, as I forgave the healing came! I have had countless opportunities through out many years, to share the mercy and love of God with sexually abused or rape survivors. Yet, I continued in my fantasy life.

The second “wake up” call came when I was in my early forties. The Lord began to speak to me of my “will” and living a completely surrendered life to Him. He had all of me, except for that dirty little secret which now controlled me. I now began to sense a demonic presence bothering me and strange things happening at night. I could not tell anyone not even my husband. I realized my disobedience to the Lord had opened a dark door in my life. I began to pray as hard as I could, “Lord, forgive me, help me, I can’t fight this thing on my own! It has become bigger than me! Help, please help me!”

Dear friend, I want you to understand one thing up to this point; I regularly attended church, read the Bible, prayed, was a Sunday school teacher, served in the Women’s Ministry, and we were considered a very popular couple in the church. No one suspected the turmoil I was living under, who would believe me? I was always the pretty, smiling lady, but secret sins act like a cancer which eats you up! Do you have secret sins?

During this time, I began to experience abnormal pain and bleeding in my body. I went to a GYN doctor who examined me for a long time. He finally looked at me and said, “I believe you have cancer in your uterus. You owe it to yourself to get the best help you can get.” After leaving the doctor’s office, I remember looking up to the sky and praying, “Lord, I have known you all my life, and I know you can heal me.” I suddenly had a feeling God was going to do something which was going to surprise me! A few days later, my husband Bob, and I went to a GYN oncologist. After a very long examination with different instruments, the doctor confirmed the cancer diagnosis given by the first doctor. He said, “I have seen the cancer cells in your cervix, but I need to perform a procedure in order to determine what kind of cancer you have, and how I’m going to treat it.” I was immediately scheduled to go for surgery.

Time to pray! Time to fast! Time to seek the Lord, with desperation! I began to pray, “Lord, even if you don’t choose to heal me, please deliver me, please set me free of this demonic stronghold in my life! I want to feel your power in my life!” When I was praying, I suddenly began to see a moving picture in my mind. I stood very still, and I began to see myself in the past. It was like a video of myself during different stages in my life. The pictures showed how I had always thought of myself as better than any one else. After all, I never went out to bars, never had affairs (never mind, my fantasy life was a sewer), never drank or smoked, etc. When a so called “worldly girl” came into the church, I would turn up my nose at her! The video continued and I heard the word self-righteous, prideful, arrogant, sin, sin, sin!!! I could do nothing, but cry and feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit deep in my heart. I had no strength, no will to deny what the Lord was saying to me. My heart told me the video was all true. I had been that person, and I sincerely humbled myself on the floor before the Lord and begged for forgiveness. I had loved the Lord with all my heart, but had never suspected such sin hiding inside of me! I cried and cried and begged for forgiveness how ashamed I felt. I threw myself on the mercy of God. I looked down next to my knees where I had laid my Bible. It had fallen opened to Second Chronicles 33: 12, 13 and I read, “Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the god of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication…” In my heart, I knew God was speaking to me through His Word. He had heard me! I continued to cry, ask forgiveness, and agreed with Him that everything He said, and showed me was absolutely true! I had been a very self-righeous, prideful women, always pretending to be what I was not! My eyes fell on the open Bible again, and this time it was on Second Chronicles 34: 27, “Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord.” I began to weep and I heard the still small voice of my God speak to me, “Because you have humbled yourself before Me, I am going to heal you.” I then felt a warmth come and cover my lower abdomen, and it remained for several minutes. I knew in my heart that I had been healed. Several days later I went to have the procedure done by the GYN oncologist. When he came out of the surgery room he told me, “I looked and looked as far as I could go, but there is no trace of cancer in you.” After this day, the Lord gave me Isaiah 48:10, 11 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace, of afflliction, for My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; for how should My name be profaned? and I will not give My glory to another.” I give glory and honor to the Lord, God of heaven and earth for He is worthy! Praise His name!

Now, it gets even better! I continued to pray and fast. “Lord, I need deliverance! I need to be free of this thing that has gotten a hold of me! This sick fantasy life which started out in my childhood as an innocent comfort, but turned into something dark, dirty and demonic! I wanted to face life with its challenges, and with God’s help I could be an overcomer! Again. I heard the still small voice of God, “Grace…say ” I rebuke you Satan, get out of here, I command you to leave and never come back!” I said those words, and when I did, I felt a sudden clearing in my mind, a weight lifted off my heard. It felt as though I had been wearing a hat that was too tight It was quickly taken off my head.

Now, you may not understand this next part, but it happened just as I’m writing it down today. I was on my knees, with my hands upraised, thanking the Lord, when all of a sudden, I felt a warm thick liquid poured over my head. It ran slowly down my head, to my shoulders, my knees, all the way down to my feet. When it reached my feet, it was poured on my head again. Three times I felt this wonderful healing oil come over me. I describe it like a warm oil, because I don’t know how else to describe it! My life was changed forever. I have never had a problem with my thought life ever again. This experience I share with you friend, did not only touch my emotions and body, but my inner man as well. I began to fill my mind with the Word of God, and to apply it daily to my life. I have learned that God loves me too much, to allow disobedience and sin, to destroy my life, after all I am His girl!

Isaiah 61: 1-3 states, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn in Zion, to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Dear friend, the Lord has fulfilled this scripture in my life. I was a captive to something which took control of my mind and the Lord set me free, my “brokenhearted” childhood was healed by His love for me, the ugliness of the rape has become “beauty for ashes,” now I share with women of rape/sexual abuse, that Jesus Christ enables us to forgive and receive healing. In Christ Jesus you don’t have to remain a victim. I have a deep joy in my heart that the world cannot take away, because the Lord has promised to make me a “tree of righteousness” that I may give witness to others of His great love, grace and mercy. All of this is possible through the Cross of Jesus Christ.

I have shared this story with you, because I want you to know that God knows and understands the deep hidden secrets of your life. He continues to love you as you are. Don’t fight your secrect demons alone. Jesus Christ can help you, save you, just as He has done for me. If you do not know Him today, open your heart to Him. He is ready to step into your life today!

God bess you.