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Authenticity = Totally Undisputed Credibility; The Difference Between Character and Reputation

images-4It is fascinating to me in our contemporary culture,  how easy it can be for an individual to foist a reputation that is based on very little true substance.

Our current society feasts on the fluff of evaporating charisma while it starves for the true grit and moral fiber that is needed to shape history.   It has become simpler and simpler to manufacture a reputation with little or no personal foundation to back it up.

At every venue in society–the media, politics and even in church– bigger than life personas grab center stage with very little conscience about their ability to back up their act.  Things that used to matter, like character, authenticity of heart and a call to serve others have fallen by the wayside and are being negligently overlooked.

In short, in my opinion, character is very different than reputation.  Below, in the remainder of this post, I have put together some quotes to stimulate thinking on the subject.  Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts about the differences you observe between character and reputation.

 

Do You Have Character or Reputation?

Reputation is seeming; character is being.

Reputation is manufactured; character is grown.

Reputation is your photograph; character is your face.

Reputation is what men say you are; character is what God knows you are.

Reputation is what you need to get a job; character is what you need to keep it.

Reputation is what comes over you from without; character is what rises up within.

Reputation is what you have when you come to town; character is what you have when you go away.

Reputation is what is chiseled on your tombstone; character is what the angels say about you before the throne of God.

Quote by Robert Stuart MacArthur, Quick Truths in Quaint Texts

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Beware Fall Fall-out, Shelter Needed from Death by Watching…

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As the temperatures descend and the evenings get chilly most of us move indoors.  Fall leaves fly and the center of family life changes from the backyard and the patio grill to the family room and the entertainment center.  It is a natural change but beware the subtle fall-out that fall may bring to your family nest.

Fall-out is a term that was invented in the nineteen-forties to describe a phenomenon connected to the after-math of a nuclear blast.  Fall-out is the word used for the slow descent of minute particles of toxic radio-active debris into the atmosphere. “Fall-out” expands outward from the site of an atomic explosion and becomes largely invisible, extremely poisonous and can lead to a slow-death for those who come in contact with it.  While the metaphor is admittedly a bit overstated, the sad truth is that the effects of a fall-winter-and-spring spent tied to an entertainment center, can produce its own version of a deadly fall-out—a deadly fall-out that leads to what can only be termed “life-decay.”

Today the number one form of leisure activity in the United States is T.V. watching.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation “American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television more than any other single activity other than sleeping.  By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching T.V.”  Former president George Bush on C-SPAN in an interview about American T.V. consumption stated, “They put an off button on the T.V. for a reason.  Turn it off…I don’t watch much T.V.  His wife Laura Bush an ex-librarian and reading advocate categorically stated, “Children cannot learn to read by watching television.  Television is just background noise and a distraction.”  Prominent voices seem to agree that too much T.V. watching is not a good thing.  

If the inordinate amount of wasted time spent by children and others watching were not enough there are other deleterious effects linked with excess T.V.  It should be pointed out that—for every hour spent in front of the tube—over fifteen minutes of that hour is spent solely in the viewing of advertising.  Commercials are the centerpiece of programming and are meant to penetrate our minds with thoughts of consumption, need and greed.  Jerry Mander, an expert on media and its effects on society explains, “While watching television, the viewer is not seeing the world as it is.  He or she is looking at a world created by advertising.  Television programs are put together with the conscious attitude of promoting a consumer society.  The fall-out of television advertising overload is a spirit-poisoning, self indulgent attitude that subtly begins to creep in and controls us.  The consequence for our society is an ever-expanding consumerism that keeps us all knowing exactly what we must obtain next if we are to be truly happy.

Consumerism isn’t the only kind of harmful fallout American families who are glued to the tube are susceptible to.  The harmful fallout from T.V. watching is not limited to the effects of overdosing on advertising.  In 2014, the number one type of T.V. programming was “Reality T.V.” a popular style of programming with its own set of dangers.  “Reality T.V.” is that genre of T.V. that has no real story, no content, it is just watching someone else experiencing some part of life while you sit back and voyeuristically observe.

Millions of people each night settle for living life vicariously through others while life passes them by.  They watch the loves, the losses, the adventures, the successes, of strangers on the small screen while experiencing little “true living” themselves.  Reality T.V. is a type of video entertainment fraught with serious fallout. We are on the verge of becoming a nation who “loves to watch” above all else.  We put on hold our emotional, our physical and our spiritual interactions—in order to spend hours watching—and the result is a numbing slow death to what it means to be human beings created in the image of God with a plan and a purpose.

This fall as you move indoors consider the invisible fall fall-out your family becomes vulnerable to as you face off with the entertainment center once again.  Pay attention to how much time you spend in front of screens—inactive and focused on “synthetic life” with its demands and absorptions.  As the leaves fall why not consider turning over a new leaf and make each hour of each day more productive and full of living and giving.  You may need to schedule some alternative activities to fill the vacuum left by fewer hours in front of the T.V.  Why not take a walk and talk to God, prepare a home cooked meal with the family and catch up on small talk, attend a small group fellowship with friends, go for a Starbuck’s with your spouse and have some “couples time”, or get creative and start that home improvement project you’ve been putting off.  Experience LIFE that’s what living is all about!

Contemplate the reality that we are all God’s workmanship created for a life time of living out good works that He has planned for us (see Eph. 2:10).  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to miss out on the abundant life God planned for me because I fell numb under the effects of video fall-out, a life-decaying—death—by watching.

 

 

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Christ’s Death the Ultimate Expression of the Love of God

God proved his love on the cross.

When Christ hung, and bled, and died it was God saying to the world—I love you.

Billy Graham

God sat in silence while the sins of the world were placed upon his Son. Was it right?

No. Was it fair? No. Was it love?

Yes. In a world of injustice, God once and for all tipped the scales in the favor of hope.

Max L. Lucado

What happened that Friday, Good Friday?

The Apostle’s Creed states it without embellishment: “He was crucified, dead, and buried.” After being tried and sentenced Jesus carried His own cross to Golgotha,

And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. John 19:17

Golgotha in Aramaic (The place of the skull) was probably called this because the hill with its stony barren top looked like a skull. The probable site of Golgotha was outside the city wall and not far from Herod’s palace—perhaps a thousand feet north/northeast of it. Roman custom placed crucifixions, and Jewish custom located stonings, outside towns rather than at their center

The sin offering always used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11-13).

For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people withHis own blood, suffered outside the gate.

Several stakes, at most about ten feet high, stood in Golgotha ready to be reused whenever executions occurred. The upright part of the cross (the stipe) was permanently mounted in the crucifixion area. The part that the victim carried was the cross bar, weighing in at 75 to 125 pounds. The cross bar would be balanced on the victim’s shoulders, and their arms would be tied to the crossbar. In this position, if the victim tripped or fell, they could not use their arms to break their fall, and they would likely fall face first into the ground.

The victim was escorted by a Roman guard (probably a centurion and several soldiers), who were responsible for guarding the victim until his death. One of the soldiers would display a sign with the crime written on it. Once the crucifixion area was reached, the victim would be offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh to act as a mild pain killer. The drink was a charitable service performed by an association of women in Jerusalem.  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. – Mark 15:23

The Crucifixion

The victim would then be nailed to the cross bar. The nails would be driven through the wrists, not through the palms, as these would not support the body weight. The cross bar would be raised and placed on the upright post, where the victim’s heels would be nailed to the post.

Once crucified, a victim would live for a period ranging from a few hours to a few days. How long he lived depended mostly on how severe the scourging was. If no one claimed the body, it would be left on the cross to be eaten by predatory animals. The family could, however, claim the body for burial. In this case, a Roman soldier would pierce the chest with a sword or spear to make sure the victim was dead.

What actually kills the victim of crucifixion?

The initial scourging would weaken the victim, cause massive blood loss, and probably induce shock. By the time the victim had carried the cross bar to the crucifixion area, he would be exhausted. Once up on the cross, the victim would have his body weight suspended by their arms. In this position, it is difficult to completely exhale. The victim could take shallow breaths for a while, but eventually would be forced to push himself up to take a full breath.  At this point three things happen:

The victim’s weight is now fully supported by his feet. The nails through the feet would be likely to hit two major nerves running through the area. The result would be excruciating pain in the legs.

The nails in the wrists would be likely to pierce the main nerve running through the arm. As the victim pushed up to breath, the wrists would rotate against the nail, irritating the nerves and causing intense pain in the arms. Some authorities also believe that the crucifixion position would dislocate the shoulder or elbow. Any movement would aggravate the pain from these injuries.

The wounds on the victim’s back from the scourging would push up against the rough part of the centerpiece. This would tend to re-open the wounds, leading to more pain and blood loss. This combination of pain would quickly force the victim to lower himself back down. Eventually, the victim would no longer be able to raise himself up and would suffocate. The shock from blood loss due to the scourging would hasten this process. In some cases, the victim’s legs were broken to “finish him off.” This would prevent the victim from being able to raise himself up and he would suffocate in a matter of minutes.

Before the scourging and crucifixion, Jesus was beaten by his guards, which would weaken him. In addition, he would have had no sleep that night, and walked back and forth from trial to trial.

His weakness is attested to in the gospel narritives.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Mark 15:21

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Matt 27:32

As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. – Luke 23:26

Typically, a prisoner carried his own cross to the crucifixion site. The fact that Simon was pressed into carrying Jesus’ cross suggests that Jesus was too weak to carry his own cross. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.

Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. – Mark 15:42-44  Since the Jewish Sabbath would begin at Sunset, it was important that the bodies not be left up, as Jewish law required that they be buried by the Sabbath. Note that Pilate is surprised that Jesus is already dead.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. – John 19:31-32

As mentioned earlier, breaking the legs of a crucified person would cause suffocation within minutes, because they would not be able to raise themselves up to breath. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. – John 19:33-34

Again, this was typical crucifixion practice — to stab the victim to make sure he was dead before releasing him to relatives. The “water” that John describes as flowing is probably serous pleural and pericardial fluid fluid that would build up from shock and blood loss. This fluid would tend to accumulate in the chest cavity and lungs.

What does His crucifixion mean for us.

If we believe in Him and trust in Him then our debt of sin is fully paid and the record of our sin is nailed to the Cross with Christ.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. Col. 2:13-14

If we believe in Him and trust in Him then those of us who were once far away from God can be brought near.  Nothing remains between God and us but an open door.

So brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ death.  We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us.  It leads through the curtain –Christ’s body. Hebrews 10:19-20

Take some time and speak to the LORD about your need for forgiveness and the removal of guilt over sin in your life.  Imagine the cross and take those charges you want destroyed once and for all and visualize them nailed there.  Jesus was crucified, dead and buried to eliminate the sins of the world that keep man separated from God.  Believe in what Jesus did for you, allow Him to take your sin, repent and follow Him as Lord and Savior and you will be reconciled with God.  That is the message of Good Friday.

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F.Y.I. Some Thanksgiving History

What is Thanksgiving all about?  Today, most families in our nation will hold some type of holiday gathering but the majority will not really spend any of that time doing the activity for which the day is intended.

What about you?  How do you spend this contemporary feast day?  Do you know the specifics of the origin of Thanksgiving?

During the reign of Elizabeth I, queen of England, a sect of Puritans separated from the new Protestant Church of England and after much persecution took refuge in the Netherlands. They finally determined that the ultimate answer to their search for a peaceful residence for their families was to immigrate to America.  On September 16, 1620, these Separatist “pilgrims” became part of a group numbering 102 men, women, and children who left Plymouth, England, for America on the Mayflower. On November 21, the Mayflower dropped anchor in the sheltered harbor off the site of present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts.

It was in this vicinity that the Puritans met up with Squanto, a Patuxet Native American. Squanto was a unique individual who had encountered Europeans as early as 1614 in what is now Massachusetts and had aided the English in their early exploration of the American continent. He learned the English language and served as a ships guide and interpreter for expeditions from Britain.  He had even survived a kidnapping at the hands of rogue Englishmen who had attempted to sell him as a slave.  Upon meeting up with the British Puritans he taught them how to catch eel and grow corn.  He also served as an interpreter for them and it is thought that without Squanto’s help none of the Puritans would have survived their first year in the New World.

As it was the first winter took a demanding toll of life on the Pilgrims and between the time of the landing in November and March of 1621, only 47 colonists survived the diseases they contracted on the ship and the adversity of the new continent.  After the first harvest was completed by the Plymouth colonists in 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer shared by all the colonists and neighboring Native Americans.

The same Governor Bradford of Massachusetts made the first “Thanksgiving Proclamation” three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth and declared.

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.  Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th of the year of our Lord 1623 and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock there to listen to ye pastor and render thanks giving to ye Almighty God for all His blessing.”

This proclamation instituted what would come to be the first Thanksgiving festival celebrated in the New World.  It was this early celebration of Thanksgiving by the British Puritan founders of our country that began the tradition of a November Thankgiving feast.  These historical events represent the origins of our current national holiday of Thanksgiving.

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The History of Halloween! Is It Really Something Christians Should Celebrate? And if so how?

History of HalloweenInformed Christians should understand the origins of Halloween as they assess their level of involvement in celebrating what is actually a “pagan” holiday.

According to Wikipedia,

Halloween is typically linked to the celtic festival of Samhain which is derived from Old Irish and means “summer’s end”. The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and the beginning of the “darker half”, and is sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year.”

The celebration has some elements of a festival of the dead. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honored and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.

Another common practice was, divination which often involved the use of food and drink.  The name ‘Halloween’ and many of its present-day traditions derive from the Old English era.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween

The Bible doesn’t speak directly about Halloween, but some biblical principles apply. One overriding principle is clear — all pagan practices should be avoided. Witchcraft, occult practices, sorcery, etc. are strictly forbidden in the Bible (Exodus 22:18; Acts 8:9-24; Acts 16, 19). It is obvious that a small child dressing up as a character to go trick or treating isn’t involving themselves directly with witchcraft but what are the boundaries that a responsible Christian parent should set up?

Parents, the decision is up to you, but do not proceed in your decision from a place of ignorance.

If you decide Halloween is something fun for your children, it is probably most important that they are kept far away from the evil aspects of Halloween. When believers participate in anything (even Halloween), their attitudes, dress, and behavior should glorify Christ.

Every year at Crossroads Church of Denver we offer a special alternative celebration for parents who are interested in allowing their children to dress up and go trick or treating in a controlled environment. This year the event we are offering is a Trunk or Treat Celebration.  The event is held in our parking lot and we encourage participants to dress up and decorate their open car trunks as a site for handing out candy to the kids. The children go from car to car collecting their treats and a great time is had by all.  The parking lot is well lit, safe and secure and participants are monitored (nothing evil or too scary allowed)!

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Ten Great Personal Benefits to Blogging

1.         Blogging allows you to meet interesting new people that you would not ordinarily meet and it is a great tool for introducing yourself to others.

2.         Blogging is a great way to get attention to the cause of Christ and share information about your personal mission.  In the last two years that I have had my blog I have averaged about 1,500 visitors a month to my blog and with each one I have had the chance to share insights about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My blog has greatly enhanced my personal ability to be a witness and share the testimony of my walk with Jesus Christ.

3. Blogging is a means of self documentation.  A blog helps you document many of the facets of your personal life.  It is a tool to help you express what you are experiencing, believing and feeling at a given point in time.  I value my blog because it is a valuable personal resource and an online record of my life that I can easily go back to and reference later.

4.         Blogging helps you leave a legacy. I write because I love writing and my blog will survive allowing my kid and grandkids to see a different side of me. I wouldn’t mind writing a book someday, but until then my blog is something I am proud of that is a compilation of my beliefs, experiences, thoughts and creativity.

5.         Blogging can be a team sport: you can get a lot of people in a community involved in blogging and when the interaction starts it can be really fun. Blogging is simple to do and doesn’t require a lot of technological genius to get started.  A great side benefit is that it is easily accessible to a wide range of people. When I started blogging I was not very computer savvy, but in no time at all I had learned the ropes and I was reaping the benefits.

6.         Blogging helps you become better at using words. Writing is much more comfortable than speaking for a lot of people.  When writing we can think without the pressure of  having “the immediate right words” to say.  The written word, plus current technology gives us the opportunity to go back and edit statements.  In my life the opportunity to undo and amend my thoughts before communicating them has been a big plus

7. Blogging is a vehicle that can be used to declare your personal dream or vision. What I blog tends to be a declaration of what I believe is the right attitude to have, the right way to behave or the right thing to do.  My posts reflect what I am dreaming of and the way I wish things were.  While writing is much easier than doing, recording things in an organized way is a definite step towards pin pointing and actualizing the dream that is in one’s heart.

8.         Blogging expands your personal horizons. Blogging not only allows you to share stories about your expertise, but it also gives you the opportunity to post photos, videos, and audios fairly easily and the creative options are endless. Blogging has given my readers a multimedia experience with me!

9.         Blogging gives you an audience of supporters and detractors. If your mission, dream or vision has a passionate edge to it, a blog has the ability to join you with supporters, which validates your cause.  And on the other hand a blog also supplies you with access to a pool of detractors giving them a place to voice their concerns and opinions. It is important to be in touch with supporters and detractors because this can only serve to hone your focus and sharpen your reasoning abilities and skills.

10.       Finally, blogging will cause you to have to learn more. It is a richer life when you are constantly on the lookout for more opportunities to learn, more insights to be gathered and more wisdom to be shared.

These are some of the reasons I blog.  How has blogging been beneficial to your life?  Please feel free to comment.

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What You Always Wanted to Know About Sabbath-rest but Were Afraid to Ask!

I took some much needed time off this week. It was a brief respite away from home and my daily grind but it yielded great benefits.

 

Given a few days away, I began the gradual unwinding process that is always needed and required for me to find true rest.

 

Today, I am back at home and I am much more in touch with my need for rejuvenation and restoration and the need for us all have to have Sabbath-rest for our souls.  As a result of contemplating the topic of rest, reminding myself of the basic info and doing a little research; I came up with the following post.

 

The Bible orders us to rest.  In fact—one of the “big ten” in terms of commandments is the charge “to remember the Sabbath rest and keep it holy.”

Ex 20:8-11, tells us, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

 

The root idea of Sabbath rest is simple.  It is as simple as the changing of seasons and as basic as the inhale-exhale process of breathing— living things were designed by God to flourish only with a pattern of regular rest and rejuvenation. 

 

The Bible specifies the need for one day of rest out of each seven day interval.  And a day in Scripture is always measured from one evening to the end of the following day-light period. Gen. 1:5 states, God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.  In accordance with this the Jewish Sabbath began in the evening and ran from sunset to sunset. 

 

Jewish tradition also dictated that the weekly “rest interlude” was always preceded by a time of preparation.  Beginning at 3 P.M. every Friday the faithful would prepare their food for the next day and perform all labors which were forbidden on the Sabbath and yet had to be done. Before sunset they would bathe and purify themselves, dress in their festive apparel, set their tables, and light their lamps.

 

The observance of the Sabbath always began with the Hebrew family partaking of the pre-prepared Sabbath meal followed by prayers and the compulsory call for the whole household to sleep.  The arrival of night and the opportunity to sleep was not only a necessity but symbolically it provided a natural relinquishment of control.  A good night’s sleep broke the cadence of work and set a rhythm for the entire Sabbath rest period. When we are sleeping, we cannot be working, we cannot direct anything, or control anything and we give ourselves temporarily over to God’s care.  A believer shuts his eyes and believes that the Lord will take care of him through the night.  Appropriately the first hours of Sabbath observance were spent sleeping.

 

Sabbath rest is a time that is supposed to be sanctified or set-apart for God’s use in our lives. However in our present day American culture few of us have really understood or appreciated the concept.  What we don’t seem to understand is the fact that Sabbath rest is not just discretionary free time.  It is not just a block of open time to be utilized as we see fit.  Sabbath rest in actuality is to be used in a deliberate manner for rest and restoration of body, soul and spirit.  And in remembering the Sabbath, we are to put aside work but we are also to put aside our own time agendas and even the act of creating.

 

Many people miss the importance of taking into consideration the Sabbath that God Himself modeled for us.  God initiated Sabbath rest first and foremost by resting from creating.  In Gen 2:3 we are told “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  If God needed to rest after creation how much more do we also need to be re-created after our creating? Working wears us out and creating pulls from our pool of resources and literally empties us out!  We do not have unlimited resources as God does and as humans beings our finite resources are limited and must be restored.  We cannot be creative, fruitful, and productive or reach our long term potential without Sabbath rest.

 

One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping in contemporary life is leisure.  Leisure competes with the concept of Sabbath and is what Sabbath-rest tends to become when we don’t know how to sanctify our time.  The definition of leisure is “vacant time without occupation to be used at one’s will.”  Leisure is an attempt at Sabbath rest without any focus on the sacred aspects.  One author has rightly stated that “the Golden Rule of Sabbath Rest is to cease from what is necessary and instead embrace God and what truly gives life!”

 

Some present day believer’s may bristle under the call to Sabbath rest because they believe it to be an antiquated Old Testament ritual. The necessity of rest however is not just an Old Testament pronouncement; the need for rest is emphasized throughout the entire Bible.

 

Jesus promised that knowledge of Him would bring rest for the soul. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matt 11:28-30 (NKJV).  And He insisted that his disciples should rest. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31 (NIV)

 

The Bible proclaims that a pattern of sanctified rest is a vital and needed practice because it supplies us body, soul and spirit with what is needed to survive and thrive as humans.  The Bible teaches that rest it is an important vehicle for “making contact with God.  God tells Moses in Exodus 33 that rest and His presence go hand in hand, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Psalm 46:10 states clearly, Be still, and know that I am God.   The central nature of rest is underlined for us in psalm 23.  In the familiar psalm David speaks of the Good Shepherd’s dogged determination to make his beloved sheep rest, He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; Psalms 23:2-3 (NKJV)

 

Rest is a physical reminder that we are not in control of everything and that at the end of the day; we are not the ones who have the power to hold it all together.  After all, ultimately managing things—being in control– is God’s job and we need to remind ourselves of that regularly (say at least once a week).  During busy times it’s easy to be distracted from our relationship with God and treat our work as if it is our God.  We must not however fall prey to work-worship for very long.   If we make work our God we can in an incredibly short time find ourselves reaping some very serious consequences. 

 

Work-worship has the ability to take an incredible toll on a human being and can jeopardize our physical, emotional and spiritual health.  As Christians living in this incredibly stressful era we must repent and hear the clarion call back to one of the most basic principles of life and give God the time that is due Him. When we practice sanctified rest we focus back on God and allow Him to restore us—and that is a very good and necessary thing.

 

What are the culprits in your life that keep you from realizing the divinely ordained benefits of Sabbath rest?  Have you fallen victim to inserting leisure into the place of Sabbath rest in your weekly routine?  What is your opinion about the priority you believe Sabbath rest should play in the lives of contemporary believers?  Please feel free to reply to these questions or any other question this post spurs in your mind.  As always any comments are encouraged and welcomed!

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Meek and Humble Christians, What a Concept!

peanuts-book[1]At times I grow weary of the way Christians posture themselves with one another.  

Sometimes it seems to me that the main objective of evangelicalism has degraded to being all about “correctness.”

Rather than shining forth the characteristics of Christ and being a beacon of love, peace, mercy and humility to each other and to a hurting world; I find that more and more Christians are consumed with being “right.”  

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be known for pride, arrogance and condescension.  I want to follow Jesus and to be his ambassador to those around me.  Today my prayer is Lord make me like you one who is “meek and lowly of heart.”

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matt 11:28-30 (KJV)

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Passing on Wisdom: The Art of Mentoring

 

Throughout history, training in the areas of marital life, childbearing, mothering and homemaking have always been lessons best passed on through one-on-one relationships.  Generation to generation, the most important of life’s skills have been passed on informally in the context of community.  “True wisdom” has continued down a chain linking older to younger and more experienced to less experienced for millennia. The term given to this life-driven kind of guidance is mentoring. 

      

           What is a Mentor?

 

 

The English word “mentor” has ancient origins; it is derived from Homer’s Odyssey.  In this Greek classic, Odysseus goes off to war and turns the guidance of his son, Telemachus, over to his friend, Mentor.  With his father gone, the boy is “mentored” by Mentor in the paths of life.  In the Bible, we see mentoring as the major means of educating women. Naomi takes on the guidance of her daughter-in-law, Ruth, Mordecai is a voice into the life of Esther and Elizabeth serves as a mentor to Mary.  The basis of the relationship is that the mentor has authority in the mentee’s life.  Due to this responsibility of speaking into the life of another, a mentor is usually a rare type of person. Mentors are individuals of unimpeachable credibility whose advice rings true. They are people whose past achievements back up their counsel and whose diverse experiences are what qualify them.  The accomplishments of the mentor should correspond with the area that she is mentoring in. For example, if you are a mentor for mothers, it is more important that you have raised a houseful of healthy children than that you possess a college degree. 

 

Why is Experience the key?

 

 

Experience is the key to mentoring because mentors base their life-shaping instructions on their real life experiences rather than the teaching of empirical knowledge.  The mentor imparts what she’s learned through sharing stories, anecdotes and experiences, not through covering materials or working through a curriculum. Mentoring requires an intimate relationship characterized by vulnerability and spontaneity.

During mentoring, training occurs in a free-flowing informal exchange.  Mentoring takes place through conversation and hearty dialogue rather than monologue. A mentor is not a college professor in front of a classroom surrounded by students taking notes. Mentoring is less formal than teaching and more about the individual being mentored than the information that is being exchanged. It is because of this unique characteristic of mentoring that the mentor must check any personal agenda at the door. 

 

 No-Agenda required!

 

 

In short, mentoring is not about one person living their life through another person.  Serving as a mentor is not about creating a mini-you. The mentee is a unique individual with unique talents and abilities who is following their own God-ordained course in life.  An overriding theme inmentoring is the intention to help someone help themselves. Wise mentors recognize that their guidance is most appreciated when it’s specifically asked for.  They offer up plenty of possible suggestions to their mentees without requiring a specific course of action.  They refrain as much as possible from telling their mentee what to do.  It is as if the mentor and mentee are driving down the road of life together.  The mentee is the one in the driver’s seat and the mentor is riding shot gun.  The mentor’s job is to ride along offering up advice and warning the driver about approaching bumps and turns but the mentor never takes the steering wheel and begins driving the car herself.

   

 

What about Trust?

 

 

A solid mentor-mentee relationship is rooted in trust.  Trust has to be established from the beginning of the relationship and must deepen over time.  In a successful mentoring relationship a strong alliance will be built.  The mentee trusts that the mentor is on her side. The overall atmosphere of the relationship should be one of mutual sharing and caring. The mentor must be willing to give the valuable gift of their time to the mentee and it can never be a “don’t call me, I’ll call you,” arrangement.  The mentor makes herself available as needed within reasonable limits.  The best mentoring takes place in ordinary life settings where mentor and mentee have casual and regular exposure to one another.  In these life settings, the mentor can come along side the mentee as she tackles the normal obstacles of life.  

  

          Where do “life’s Obstacles” fit in?  

 

 

Learning how to overcome obstacles is one of the most important lessons mentors can pass on.  Obstacles in life create a learning curve and cause the mentee to be more open to receiving new input.  Obstacles make for teachable moments. The crisis makes any help the mentor is bringing even more meaningful and useful.  Mentors tap into their own experience banks for examples of how they confronted similar obstacles.  Tackling tough situations together is what bonds and cements a solid mentoring relationship.

       

       When is “Real” mentoring taking place?    

 

 

The atmosphere of the mentoring relationship is relaxed and real. An intimate mentor-mentee relationship necessitates genuine sharing of insights, observations and suggestions.  Mentors offer an objective ear but they also offer real accountability.  They are not meant to be syrupy-sweet cheerleaders offering only affirmation, or speaking only what their protégé wants to hear.  Mentors give feedback on performance and offer opinions and confrontation when it is called for.  A good mentor can share hard things with as much openness as easy things.

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Demonstrating Spiritual Maturity Through Our Emotions

One of the most incredible parts of existing as a human being is coming to grips with the fact that we were created in the very image of God. 

 

As creations made expressly in His image He gave us a mind, will and emotions. 

 

We have the ability to think, to feel and to make choices. 

 

Francis Schaffer said, “…as God is a person He thinks, feels and acts: so I am a person who thinks, feels and acts.  Yet despite the reality that we were created to be all three intellectual, emotional and volitional in nature, many Christians today have emphasized the mind and the will to the exclusion of the emotions. 

 

This prejudice regarding the superiority of the mind is demonstrated in the current stream of evangelical thinking.  Among most evangelical Christians, the mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to acquire facts and store biblical knowledge.  Many church systems perpetuate the idea that the more biblical truth you can cram into your brain the more spiritually mature you are.  This is a fallacy. 

 

While knowledge of the Scriptures is important, spiritual maturity comes through transformation of the whole person.  It involves applying the Scripture in order to be conformed to Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

The Bible is clear that the basic way to know whether a person is a Christian or not is not to assess how much a person knows but to look at how a person lives.  It is not only important that one think rightly one must also act rightly.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is clearly an emotion, so evidently the expression of emotion in a believer’s life is also a vitally important part of Christian maturity. 

 

Throughout the Bible, we see God expressing His emotions.  In the Old Testament, for example, one thing we are graphically taught is that God can be pleased and made happy and that God can also be displeased and moved to anger. 

 

In the New Testament, God’s emotional repertoire is definitely expanded.  We see Jesus as God incarnate expressing the entire myriad of human emotions.  He feels love, compassion, joy, fear, sorrow, grief, discouragement, frustration, hurt, loneliness and anger.  In fact, just like us, He experiences every emotion on the map and yet He does it all without sin.

 

Emotions despite the judgments many of us might make about them are neither negative nor positive.  They are neutral.  What we do with emotions is what causes the positive or negative impact on our lives.  How we express them determines the constructive or destructive quality of that emotion.

 

What separates Jesus and His expressions of emotions from our expressions of emotions, is that Jesus felt emotions and always expressed them appropriately and without sin.  Jesus’ most common description of himself was, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” 

 

The choice of the adjective meek is an interesting preference of descriptors. Meek is one of the great Greek ethical words and was a word charged with meaning for the first hearers.  It is an understatement to say that it does not have the same meaning today in our culture as it did in the culture of the original recipients.  While meekness in the culture extant at the time Jesus walked the earth described a person who had every instinct, every impulse, every passion and every emotion under control, the term has been downgraded in our society to mean gentle.

 

Use of the word “meek” today conjures up images of Casper Milktoast.  Meekness in the first century however, was attached to images of strength.  Meek meant power put under control.  Now it has come to mean the opposite “powerlessness”.  In Jesus’ time, meek was commonly used to describe an animal which had been trained to obey the word of command from his master. It was used to describe a horse which had learned to answer perfectly to the reins.

 

Meekness as an attribute said something very admirable about our Lord.  It said that although Jesus had all the resources to be all-powerful He chose to express himself as a person under restraint.  He expressed His personality, His emotions appropriately, always keeping His impulses and passions in check.  He was meek. 

 

As we desire to come into conformity with the nature of our Lord it also falls to Christians to cultivate meekness in their own lives.  We are to experience the full gamut of emotions that God created us to experience in his image, yet we should demonstrate true spiritual maturity and like Jesus exercise control over our emotions. 

 

Jesus expressed righteous anger in the temple when He cast out the money-changers.  He chose to overturn their tables and run them out of the place.  It should be realized however, that He could have struck them dead on the spot, summoned angels from heaven to destroy the place or caused an earthquake to level the temple. He demonstrated control.  He exhibited the appropriate emotion with the appropriate force for that circumstance. 

 

In conclusion, emotions are a valid part of each of us created in God’s image.  As Christians, we should never deny, ignore or even downplay the emotional part of us.   True spiritual maturity involves being conformed to the image of Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

Christ expressed a wide variety of emotions in His life, yet always in appropriate ways at appropriate times. That should also be our goal.  We need to be truthful as we express the emotions that are inside of us; that’s what makes us human beings made in the image of God. The key is that as Christians, we must strive to communicate our emotions in proper God-honoring ways.

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Changes Are Needed in Evangelism in America–Let Your Light So Shine Before Men

Linus’ buddy the little blonde girl may have had good results as an evangelist by hitting people over the head to get them to change their religious stance.  But in the current climate of religious change in our country; it is doubtful that hitting someone over the headwith your lunch box or even your version of the truth for that matter–will yield much fruit.

Preaching the gospel is getting far more difficult in our county where resistance to Christianity is spreading.  The old tactics of competitive evangelism –“my truth is better than your truth”– are simply not as effective as they once were. 

Many are calling for change in the predominant style of evangelism; a change that couples sharing gospel truths with demonstrations of Christ’s love and relationship in an impacting way.  In a post-modern America that is increasingly antagonistic to Christianity–just arguing for our version of the truth is frightfully anemic.

America is no longer a Christian nation.

President Barack Obama recently stated at a press conference in Turkey that “as Americans we no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation.”  This quote was startling to many people but in reality it was just Obama giving voice to the inevitable trend that is showing up everywhere — Christianity is no longer as popular or influential as it once was.

Obama’s comment came as a reinforcement of a published cover article for Newsweek magazine. The article entitled “The Decline and Fall of Christian America” discussed the shift in the religious identifications of the United States and claimed that according to polls done in recent years things look pretty dismal for Christianity. 

The article pointed out that the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen over 10 percentage points since 2000, and meanwhile the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation at all has nearly doubled in the same amount of time.

While such statistics may seem jolting to some, Christianity’s slipping image is in actuality old news.  In 2007, in a book entitled unChristian, Barna group president David Kinnaman, began revealing statistics about the spiraling downward popularity of Christianity. 

His research showed that: a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society.  While today, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.

Kinnaman also illustrated that Christians seem aware of the shift in people’s perceptions of “the faith.”  Barna polls showing: that 91% of the nation’s evangelical Christians believe that “Americans are becoming more and more hostile and negative toward Christianity.”  The author, Kinnaman writes,

“Some Christians fear the changing reputation of Christianity and it certainly represents an uncomfortable future. Yet, rather than being defensive or dismissive, we should learn from critics, especially those young Christians who are expressing consternation about the state of faith in America.

Jesus told us to expect hostility and negative reactions. That is certainly nothing new. But the issue is what we do with it. Is it a chance to defend yourself and demand your rights? Or is it an opportunity to show people grace and truth?

In order to deal with the vanishing common ground between Christians and those outside the faith, Kinnaman and many others such as John Piper, Mark Devers, Francis Chan and Rick Warren to name a few are all calling for changes in our evangelistic methodology.

What these best selling Christian authors are saying is that Christians need to begin to deal realistically with the pessimistic and skeptical views that those outside of Christian circles possess and that we need to take measures to change their view of Christians.

It seems to be a consensus that when we set out to evangelize in American society today, we must take into account the expanding hostile environment that surrounds us and have strategies to counter act the negativity. While it is true that none of us are perfect, our lives should lend credence to and speak well of the gospel we are preaching.  And our interactions with others should be the confirming echo of our witness for Jesus Christ.

 

It is taught throughout Scripture that our lives are meant to be God’s best advertisement in our community and that Christians corporately need to begin living that way.  Jesus Himself taught,

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

 

And the Apostle Paul reiterated the same emphasis on lifestyle and relational evangelism in the epistles.

 

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.  Philippians 2:14-15

 

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. Col 4:5-6 (NLT)

 

Real Christianity is an attractive thing when it is lived out and we as Christians need to take heed to that and begin to demonstrate it in the communities in which we live. Christian evangelism today needs to be a lot more about demonstrations of  Christian love, faith, relationship and the power of God to change lives and a lot less about correctness and aggressively assaulting the other guy’s truth before you have earned the right to speak.

 

We need to learn from the advice of the Apostle Paul who in the first century was also operating in a culture that was antagonistic and suspicious of Christianity.  David Kinnaman has pointed out and I agree that Paul’s exhortation to “live wisely among those who are not Christians’ and to ‘let your conversation be gracious and effective,” (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT) is perfect counsel to committed Christians in America today. 

 

Let’s put away our “I’ll hit you over the head with the truth” techniques of old and begin sharing the truth clothed in Christlike love, integrity and authenticity the way Jesus did and maybe then they will listen to our truth.

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Thou Shalt Not Commit Blog Fraud

In this so-called “post-modern” world one of the big buzz words repeated again and again is authenticity. 

 

Post-moderns want to be authentic and call for those around them to be authentic as well.

 

If you are foggy about the exact definitions of these terms, let me refresh your memory.

 

authentic: adjective — not false or copied; genuine; real.

authenticity: noun — the quality of being authentic; to have totally undisputed credibility. 

 

The problem that I see with the overuse of these buzz words is a blatant temptation to be hypocritical.  We have a generation that is calling for authenticity in a world that is beset with opportunity for all-out fakery.  

 

In this 21st century social milieu—in a world increasingly defined by the internet and the possibility of faceless, voiceless communication; authenticity is vanishing.  Social networking sites such as: Facebook, My Space and Twitter and information brokering systems like blogs deliver the temptation to be anything but authentic. Occasions to be fake, fraudulent and a counterfeit are offered in a plethora of ways everywhere online.

 

The young country music artist Brad Paisley expertly summed up the reality of blog deception in a song he entitled “Online”.  In the tune he tells the story of a “mama’s boy” turned “poser” online. 

 

I work down at the Pizza Pit
And I drive an old Hyundai
I still live with my mom and dad
I’m 5 foot 3 and overweight
I’m a scifi fanatic
A mild asthmatic
And I’ve never been to second base
But there’s whole ‘nother me
That you need to see
Go checkout MySpace

 

‘Cause online I’m out in Hollywood
I’m 6 foot 5 and I look damn good
I drive a Maserati
I’m a black-belt in karate
And I love a good glass of wine
It turns girls on that I’m mysterious
I tell them I don’t want nothing serious
‘Cause even on a slow day
I could have a three way
Chat with two women at one time

I’m so much cooler online
So much cooler online

 

We may think such unashamed hypocrisy is rare but the news in the blog world reveals the opposite– in actuality–blog fraud is rampant.  Online “posing” is on the rise and it is not always as harmless as it seems. Recently, the U.S. chapter of the IT Service Management Forum filed a defamation lawsuit against its former executive director, alleging that he tried to discredit the group via blog comments posted under a fictitious female name.  It is the first such case to get to court but if the man accused loses he will pay “big” money in damages.

 

In another example of blog fraud, the online community had been wondering for a long time about the “real” identity of the anonymous blog author of “OffAgain-OnAgain Boy”.  The web-log which featured a graphic exposé of the life of an IT support manager was attracting a hefty readership and many questions.  As a result a newspaper investigation was launched to solve the mystery surrounding the anonymous blogger’s identity and they hit pay dirt.  The paper soon revealed that that the writer did not actually work in the IT industry at all but was in fact a £3,000 per night prostitute.  Online reports revealed that “the stories of late night sessions spent identifying the cause of widespread spreadsheet corruption, and the details of three hour meetings debating the merits of Windows upgrades were pure fantasy.

 

Recently in an example closer to home, on a blog authored by a Christian skeptic named Daniel Florien another case of blog fraud was exposed.  Florien revealed in a post called “Pastor caught lying for Jesus” that a Christian minister was in fact on his blog fraudulently posing as an atheist.  The lying pastor falsified comments in which he attempted to make a supposed atheist contributor look like a total immoral idiot. 

 

He wrote, “What’s wrong with killing babies? I see no problem with it. I have enough mouths to feed. I don’t get the argument and I am an atheist. Since I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in anything characterized as good, bad / right, wrong. So, what’s the big deal?”

 

At first Florien reported that he was shocked that anyone could say things like that and then he realized that he was dealing with a “fundie” in disguise, a sheep in wolves clothing. He had done some digging and realized that the deceiver was using a variety of names on his blog. 

 

Florien states, “In a few hours, he (the poser) went from apologizing for our past dealings with slimy lying Christians, to suggesting it’s okay to abuse women, kill neighbors, and slaughter children under the guise of atheism. So I banned him. I found what he did to be disgusting. It would be like me pretending to me multiple Christians on a Christian blog, asserting there’s nothing wrong with raping women and killing children because God commands it in the Bible.”

 

I probably would not agree with Florien on many subjects but on this one we are in accord—I cannot tolerate liars.  It is disgusting when people practice this kind of lack of character and authenticity.  Such posers are guilty of fraud and it is particularly repulsive when this kind of activity comes from a Christian minister.

 

In my opinion it is one thing to use a moniker or hide behind an avatar but it is another to falsify comments, pose as someone you are not, or dream up blog content. I like blogging and interacting anonymously on line as much as the next person but at times there is obviously a fine line between “blog fun and games” and lying. We must remind ourselves as we are tempted by blog fraud –the ninth commandment still unequivocally states–“thou shalt not lie.” 

 

In conclusion, I believe if we in this post modern world are going to preach about the necessity of being “authentic” we better practice “authenticity.”  And for those of us who are Christians if we are true adherents to our faith we should obviously practice what we preach as well. 

We, who so vehemently stand for advancing the Truth, should (duh) tell the truth. We need to be as aware of lying on line as we would be if we were doing it face to face. As we conduct our online relationships and become citizens of the worldwide internet community let’s strive to raise the moral bar rather than trampling all over it. Let’s hold one another accountable to a standard of truthfulness and spread the word –“thou shalt not commit blog fraud.” 

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Pray That They Might Follow Jesus Despite the Fray.

According to Dictionary.com the definition of fray is:

 

1. a fight, battle, or skirmish

2. a noisy quarrel or brawl.

 

Today for better or for worse those who are choosing to come to Jesus in America must do so in the midst of a spiritual fray.

 

With heightening societal opposition it is no longer as easy as it once was to stand up and choose to become a follower of Jesus. Currently people, especially young people must run a gauntlet of cultural antagonism toward Christianity in order to come to Christ.

 

 

The celebration of Resurrection Day 2009 is right around the corner and in my life this provokes an opportunity to pray. I am prompted to call out to God for the people who will hear the claims of Christ as they are brought forth in churches throughout our nation this weekend.

 

I see a need for a great harvest for the Kingdom of God and I am praying that people will be able to tune out the din and the fray that the world supplies and come to Jesus in spite of it all.

 

 

Jesus had similar sentiments early in the week before his crucifixion. He was growing mournful over those who were rejecting Him. In John 12:37, we are told… But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him.

 

Jesus had been faithful; He had done the Father’s bidding and fulfilled the Messianic duties God had put before Him. He had performed great miracles and yet the majority of the people were choosing not to believe and a growing resistance was resulting.

 

Later in the same chapter we are given one of the reasons why, Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).

 

 

Many in Israel were choosing not to become followers because they feared losing their reputations among those who were in power. They feared man more than God and they did not want to face the ultimate rejection that belief in Jesus would cost them.

 

 

In verse 44 of chapter twelve we are told, Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.

For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life.” John 12:37-49 (NKJV)

 

 

These words in John 12:44-49 are the last comments of Jesus Christ in a public setting before his arrest. From that point on we know from the gospel accounts that He went into hiding. He withdrew to prepare Himself for His impending death.

 

 

The distressing truth was that, in spite of all the clear evidence that was presented to them, the majority of the nation Israel simply would not believe. They had heard the message and seen the miracles, and they still would not confess that Jesus was their Messiah.

 

 

It is a sad reality that when people start to resist the light of Christ, something begins to change within them. And it is even sadder that concerning such people it is eventually true that it becomes almost impossible for them to believe.

 

The Scripture teaches that it is a serious thing to treat God’s truth lightly, because people can miss their opportunity to be saved. Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.” Quite simply, it is important that people respond when they hear the truth because there is no guarantee that they might ever get a second chance.

 

Amongst the nation Israel at the time of Christ there were those who would not believe, and there were those who would not openly confess Christ even though they had believed. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea belonged to this group of secret followers. They were two examples of individuals who were unable to pay the price of open acknowledgement, but who eventually came out and confessed Jesus.

 

This insight is encouraging as we consider the many around us in this day and age who have heard the message of the gospel and appear to approve but seem reticent to follow Jesus.

 

Could it be that they also want to believe but are being hindered because of their own fear of what man will say or do? Are they being hindered because of the societal voices that are ringing so loudly in their ears?

 

As you pray for the salvation of those who do not know Jesus—among your friends and relatives this season; pray for them wisely.

 

Realize that many people neglect responding to the truth simply because of the fear of man and the possible rejection it will cost them. As you pray for those you love pray specifically that those fears would be shown for what they are and be broken around the lives of your family and friends.

 

It is much better to fear God and go to heaven than to fear men and the rejection of men and go to hell! Jesus did not come to judge; as He points out in this passage–He came to save. But if the sinners will not trust in the Savior, their own choices will spell judgment.

 

 

Through failing to come to Jesus and trusting in the salvation that he offers the sinner who does not believe is actually passing judgment on himself. Jesus never refuses to bring anyone to salvation and eternal life but people often refuse Him and by doing so they choose their own consequences.

 

 Countless people in the U.S. today are like the unbelievers of Israel in the time of Jesus. Because of the freedom of religion we have in the U.S. many have received a clear presentation of Christ and in fact the majority have heard it again and again. Many American citizens are like the inhabitants of Jerusalem so long ago in that they have had the opportunity to see it all and hear it all. And like the unbelievers of Jesus time they are also hearing the threatening and mocking accusations of the current culture sounding off in the background.

 

 

Seekers are being forced to deal with the noise and the spiritual competitive brawl that the societal status quo who oppose Christ provide. In post Christian America people now know that they will have to pay a price in terms of reputation in order to become associated with Christ. Christianity is no longer as popular as it once was and the church has a spotted and soiled status at best.

 

For the first time in decades there are clear and present mounting societal barriers in our country to all those who would seek to call Jesus their own.

 

But Christians can not just sit back and whine and moan. What we must keep in mind is that these barriers are not insurmountable, we must remember that they can be overcome. We are not the first generation seeking to share Christ in a hostile environment but with that said what may be required of us is a commitment to pray. It may take prayer, prayer and more prayer to see our loved one’s successfully birthed into the Kingdom of God.

 

 

I would exhort you to pray with commitment and wisdom for the unbelievers you know. Pray that the unsaved would hear the clarion call of Jesus’ invitation to eternal life rising above all the background societal flack and noise. And pray that those you know who are in the process of being drawn will be like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who persevered and finally found the courage to cross over to being true disciples–despite the fray.

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Jesus is all about relationship–Are you willing to go there?

Making contact with God and maintaining a meaningful relationship with Him is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. The primary purpose for Jesus’ mission to this planet was to pay the way for reconciliation of relationship between God and humankind.  The capability of people to make unhindered and lasting contact with God was a high ticket item for Jesus—He gave his life for it.

 

When Jesus walked this earth He vehemently condemned the religion without relationship he found amongst the Jews. At every opportunity He openly opposed the empty faith of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees who were the professional religionists of the time were not in the least bit concerned with “How can I seek to know God?” They had long before degenerated to an obsession with “How can I look good for God?” They were preoccupied with image, reputation and prideful practice and Jesus had little patience for their self-focused religion. It is not surprising that God Incarnate could not tolerate their brand of “man-centered worship.” With righteous indignation Jesus took on the Pharisees again and again.  And at every encounter with “all authority” He turned the tables on them. His teachings redefined God the Father and true religion and it upset their status quo.

 

The early church was also infiltrated by “man centered religion.” In the third chapter of Revelation, Jesus rebukes the church of the Laodiceans for their self-focused ways, “…you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  He chastised them in the strongest terms to repent and refocus their lives.  In the end, His prescription for this ailing church was short and sweet—make contact with your God again.  Get your focus off yourself and connect with Me.  He unashamedly held out the invitation to relationship… Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

 

As believers we all have the option of distancing ourselves from the God who loves us. It is within our power to rudely keep Jesus on the other side of the door of our heart knocking while we are otherwise occupied.  Many Christians today have become “Neo-Pharisees,” a breed who flock to church to put on a good show.  They dutifully practice the external intellectual elements of bible study, go through the motions of worship and make eloquent prayers.  But just like the Pharisees it is all to be seen by men.  On the inside they are making little real relational contact with the transforming power of the “Living God” and as a result they are actually starving, miserable, and perishing souls. 

 

Why do people who once said “yes” to Jesus, do such things?  Because down deep they want a God of their own making, a God who obeys them, making them look and feel good at all times.  They want a God who gives precedence to their priorities.  The problem is Jesus doesn’t work that way. When Jesus comes into a heart to intimately dine with its owner He requires a few things.  Unfortunately, in the eyes of many wanna-be disciples the requirements he deems necessary are so inconvenient.  Dying to self, dealing with sin, changing attitudes and behaviors and receiving God’s directions for your life can at times be “not fun.”  Uninformed Christians do not always like the initial aftermath that making contact with God brings.  So they pull back, shut the door, and let Jesus keep on knocking.  They are unwilling disciples.  They are followers who have not counted the cost that a vital relationship with the Creator of the Universe rings up.           

 

The problem is many are also guilty of not measuring the benefits that making contact with Jesus can bring.  Jesus promises to come into your soul and dine with you.  He wants to share a feast and He’s bringing the provisions. Come and dine, come and drink, come and rest—are all very familiar invitations that our Savior issues.  He wants to satisfy the true deep needs of our souls.  He is not concerned with the “bling” or the status of this world.  As our maker he wants to meet our real needs and come to us in ways that truly satiate the hunger and thirst of our inner being.  All the great saints of the Bible were accomplished at making contact with God.  Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, Mary of Bethany and John to name a few majored in friendship with God.  They recognized the benefits relating on a regular basis with the God of the Universe could bring.

 

If you’re going to be a Christian making contact with God is not optional. It is mandatory.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are willing to open the door of your heart to Jesus on a regular basis.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are ready to deal with the internal issues, the issues of the heart that Jesus deems important.  Realize that He wants to make contact with you and that if you let Him in He will bring His life transforming power to meet the deep needs of your soul.  Realize that by His power He is willing to change you from the inside out.  God has the power to affect your life beyond all your expectations and in ways you could not even dream of. 

 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man

 The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1Cor. 2:9

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Please feel free to share any effective tools that you have utilized to help you stay in contact and build relationship with the Lord? How do you remain true to your commitment to make Him number one in your life?

Do you know Christians who are all about religion and yet seem unaware of relationship and intimacy with God?  How does the “pharisee” routine look in 21st century churches.  Share your experiences and please feel free to vent!  

 

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Vision 2009 – A Vision for a Church God Can Grow

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In 2008 according to pollster George Barna it became evident that Christianity’s image is indeed slipping among the younger generation.  In an article entitled A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity” Barna speaks of the book, entitled unChristian, by David Kinnaman, and an accompanying study that revealed startling facts about the under thirty age group. 

 

The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations at the same stage of life.  In fact, the investigation uncovered a steep negative downward spiral in young people’s overall attitude toward Christianity. 

 

A decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.

 

To add to these findings it has also come to light that society is being far from subtle in their expression of hostility toward Christianity. Barna’s research shows that Christians are acutely aware of the shift in people’s perceptions of their faith: 91% of the nation’s evangelical Christians believe that “Americans are becoming more and more hostile and negative toward Christianity.”

 

Taking facts like these into consideration it brings a serious tone to the topic of praying for new vision and life for “the Church” in 2009.  We need to be falling on our faces before God and asking for a transformed church that God can grow in the 21st century.  And in my opinion we must pray for breakthroughs in reaching an expanding unchurched generation of young people who are hostile to the Christian faith. 

 

It becomes helpful to think about the characteristics we need to pray to see demonstrated in the Church in order to see it become desirable.  We are not the first Christian generation to face a society that is hostile toward the Christian faith.  But in order to change minds and hearts about “our faith” we must demonstrate a “life of faith” that people will want to try and to be a part of.  Reflect with me on the type of Church that God engineered to reach the world for Christ in the first century.

 

 

A Reflection on the characteristics of a “Church God can grow” from Acts 2:42-47 NKJV.

 

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

 

 

1.         42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

 

It was a learning Church.

It was a fellowshipping Church

It was a praying Church.

 

 

2.         43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

 

It was a reverent Church full of respect for God and His ways.

It was a Church where God-things happened. 

 

If we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God–more of God’s presence and power is bound to be demonstrated. More of God’s presence among us would occur if we had faith and believed that together—we and God could see supernatural things happen.

 

 

3.         44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

 

It was a sharing Church; these early Christians had an intense feeling of responsibility for each other and were willing to go to great lengths to care for the poor among them.

 

 

4.         46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple,

 

It was a worshipping Church; they never forgot to visit God’s house.

 

Things can happen when we come together. God’s Spirit moves upon his worshipping people.

 

 

5.        and breaking bread from house to house,

           they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,

 

It was a happy Church; gladness was there and they were simple in heart they were easily satisfied and not preoccupied with what they did not have.

 

 

6.         47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

 

It was an attractive Church

filled with people others could not help liking.

 

The phrase having favor with all the people is also translated in other versions as “having the goodwill of all the people.”  In reference to the original language this phrase was written in it is important to realize that there are two Greek words for good. Agathos simply describes a thing as good but kalos (the term used here) means that a thing is not only good but looks good; it has a universal attractiveness about it.

 

Real Christianity is an attractive thing. There are so many people who are good but their goodness is tainted by a streak of hardness or self-righteousness. The early Church was not only ethically good but also visibly good.

 

As we enter the New Year 2009, let’s pray that the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ could once again be in all aspects a church that God can grow.  Pray especially for Crossroads Church of Denver that we could embody the characteristics of the early church identified in Acts 2:42-47.

 

Happy New Year,

Maryellen Stipe

 

Please feel free to add your comments and reflections regarding prayer and new vision for the Church (either the church-at-large or specifically Crossroads Church of Denver) in 2009.

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A Call To Give Thanks

 Thanksgiving by definition means to express gratitude towards God. Thanksgiving was central to the Jewish faith and an essential part of worship according to the Old Testament.  It was offered generally by the Jews in response to God’s concrete acts in history but sacrifice and offerings were also to be given continually out of a grateful heart.

 

In the Old Testament it is taught that thanksgiving should never be given grudgingly but always with a generous and willing heart. In Judeo-Christian tradition it is the duty of the faithful to express thankfulness to God for His constant love, care, provision and mercy. The praises of His people were considered the most valuable sacrifice of all, more pleasing to Him than the blood of animals.

 

I will  I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better       

than   than an ox or bull, which has horns and hooves.  Ps 69:30-31 (NKJV)

 

      The Old Testament Law called for constant and continual thanks to be offered before the Lord.  In the eras of the Jewish Tabernacle and Temple certain Levites were appointed to give continual praise and thanks to God. 

 

He appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the Ark by giving constant praise and thanks to the Lord God of Israel and by asking for his blessings upon his people. (1Chronicles 16:4, tlb)

 

In the New Testament believers are also taught that praise and thanksgiving should be a regular part of our routine

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1Thes 5:16-18 (NKJV)

 

It is good to make thankfulness a habitual part of our worship of God and to bless Him regularly with the expressive and spontaneous fruit of our lips.

 

It is good to say thank you to the Lord, to sing praises to the God who is above all gods.  Every morning tell him, “Thank you for your kindness,” and every evening rejoice in all his faithfulness.  Sing his praises, accompanied by music from the harp and lute and lyre.  You have done so much for me, O Lord. No wonder I am glad! I sing for joy.  O Lord, what miracles you do! And how deep are your thoughts!  Psalms 92:1-5 (TLB)

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The Jewish Roots of a Thanksgiving Feast

The Pilgrim Separatists who settled at Plymouth Massachusetts and celebrated the first American Thanksgiving feast were Christians but the precedent for thanksgiving feasts traces back to the Old Testament and Judeo-Christian roots. 

The tradition of thanksgiving feasts began with the Jewish people thousands of years ago.  In the Old Testament God commanded the Jews to participate in a feast to celebrate the in-gathering of the harvest each year. 

The purpose for celebrating the feast was two fold.  First the feast day was meant to be a time of thanksgiving for all.  And second the celebration was designed to impact the children of the nation with teachable moments where truths and knowledge of significant spiritual events of Jewish history could be passed on.  The Word of God instructed the Jews about the importance of spending time with their children and teaching them to love God and His ways. 

 

In Deut. 6:4-9 it says,“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

 

The celebration of the Feast of In-gathering or Tabernacles was very participatory in nature.  It was a week–long festival from the 15th to 21st of Tishri, which marked the completion of the whole harvest by the ingathering of the grapes. Because this was the time when everyone went out into the vineyards for their “communal working holiday” and lived in tents, it was an excellent time to remember the religious lessons of the forty years when the whole nation had lived in tents between their sojourn in Egypt and the possession of Canaan (Leviticus 23:34–36; 39–44; Deuteronomy 16:13–15).  At the end of the agricultural year in the land to which God had brought them, thanksgiving was expected to be shown and appropriately celebrated (Exodus 23:16; 34:22).   

 

By New Testament times the celebration of the feast of the In-gathering or Tabernacles was a spectacular ritual. Tents made of palm leaves were placed on rooftops, in courtyards, and in gardens, and people lived in them for the week.  Two priestly processions left the Temple each morning; one went to collect leafy boughs, and the other went to the Pool of Siloam. When the priests returned there was a procession round the altar (once around for the first six days of the festival and seven times on the last day — a reminder of the ritual at Jericho, Joshua 6:3–4) and a tabernacle, or booth, was made for the altar itself. The water was poured out on the Temple steps so that it would flow down and out through the Temple to the world outside, and so indicate the way that the Jewish faith would satisfy the world. During the festival four large candelabra were set up in the Court of the Women, Everyone in Jerusalem could see the light, and there was music and dancing beneath with flaming torches. The light symbolized the revelation and truth of the Jewish faith.

 

The Feast of In-gathering or Tabernacles was meant and designed from beginning to end to be atime of supplying teachable moments, building memories, facilitating family unity and expressing community.  The celebration involved participation by every member of the society. Males and females, the young and the old were expected to be active in the festivities.  For centuries sociologists have marveled at the fact that the Jews could keep their national identity after losing their homeland.  But it has been theorized that it was exactly the institution of such thick traditions as those involved in the celebration of thanksgiving that enabled the Jews to hold together throughout years without a land of their own.

 

Christians have never been required by the New Testament to recognize the Old Testament feasts. But as Christians today it is important to realize that all the previous works of God toward his people were leading to His greatest work of all on the cross.  Christians are asked by the Lord Jesus Himself to remember the cross and the celebration of Communion is in itself a thanksgiving feast complete with the reminder to do it in remembrance of Him.  A great addition to the celebration of our national Thanksgiving holiday is to celebrate Communion together as a family.  In this way we make the holiday uniquely Christian in its context and it gives us a participatory lesson which teaches our children about the central focus of the Christian faith.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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It’s November, let’s turn our hearts toward Thanksgiving

Tomorrow no matter what the outcome of our National election may be the reality is–life will still go on–and it will still be November 2008. 

Regardless of who wins and who loses we will be approximately three weeks off from the celebration of Thanksgiving and it will be a holiday that many of us will desperately need in the aftermath of all the political hoopla. 

In response to my need to get past the “election” and on to normalcy I have written the first in a three part series of special posts for the month of November on the topic of Thanksgiving.  Please give it a read!   

Part 1– F.Y.I.–The History of Thanksgiving

What is Thanksgiving all about?  In approximately three weeks time we will all have a day off of work and celebrate a national holiday called Thanksgiving.  Most families in our nation will hold some type of holiday gathering but the majority will not really spend any of that time doing the activity for which the day is intended.

 

What about you?  How do you spend this contemporary feast day?  Do you know the specifics of the origin of Thanksgiving?

 

During the reign of Elizabeth I, queen of England, a sect of Puritans separated from the new Protestant Church of England and after much persecution took refuge in the Netherlands. They finally determined that the ultimate answer to their search for a peaceful residence for their families was to immigrate to America.  On September 16, 1620, these Separatist “pilgrims” became part of a group numbering 102 men, women, and children who left Plymouth, England, for America on the Mayflower. On November 21, the Mayflower dropped anchor in the sheltered harbor off the site of present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts.

 

It was in this vicinity that the Puritans met up with Squanto, a Patuxet Native American. Squanto was a unique individual who had encountered Europeans as early as 1614 in what is now Massachusetts and had aided the English in their early exploration of the American continent. He learned the English language and served as a ships guide and interpreter for expeditions from Britain.  He had even survived a kidnapping at the hands of rogue Englishmen who had attempted to sell him as a slave.  Upon meeting up with the British Puritans he taught them how to catch eel and grow corn.  He also served as an interpreter for them and it is thought that without Squanto’s help none of the Puritans would have survived their first year in the New World.  

 

As it was the first winter took a demanding toll of life on the Pilgrims and between the time of the landing in November and March of 1621, only 47 colonists survived the diseases they contracted on the ship and the adversity of the new continent.  After the first harvest was completed by the Plymouth colonists in 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer shared by all the colonists and neighboring Native Americans.

 

The same Governor Bradford of Massachusetts made the first “Thanksgiving Proclamation” three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth and declared. 

 

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.  Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th of the year of our Lord 1623 and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock there to listen to ye pastor and render thanks giving to ye Almighty God for all His blessing.”

 

This proclamation instituted what would come to be the first Thanksgiving festival celebrated in the New World.  It was this early celebration of Thanksgiving by the British Puritan founders of our country that began the tradition of a November Thankgiving feast.  These historical events represent the origins of our current national holiday of Thanksgiving.

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Sarah Palin Calls for Intercession Believing God Will Do the “Right Thing for America”

While many are accusing Sarah Palin of arrogance and religious fanaticism, I view Sarah as the ultimate woman of faith.  She is calling for prayer believing that in the end God will listen and what is right for America will happen on Nov. 4.  Please heed Sarahs call to action and pray!

CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby reported today:

In an interview posted online Wednesday, Sarah Palin told Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” that she is confident God will do “the right thing for America” on Nov. 4.

Dobson asked the vice presidential hopeful if she is concerned about John McCain’s sagging poll numbers, but Palin stressed that she was “not discouraged at all.”

“To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder,” she told the influential Christian leader, whose radio show reaches millions of listeners daily. “And it also strengthens my faith because I know at the end of the day putting this in God’s hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4.”

Dobson praised Palin’s opposition to abortion rights, to which the governor affirmed that she is “hardcore pro-life.”

She said giving birth to her son Trig, who has Down syndrome, has given her the opportunity “to be walking the walk and not just talking the talk” in her long-standing opposition to abortion.

She also thanked her supporters — including Dobson, who said he and his wife were asking “for God’s intervention” on election day — for their prayers of support.

“It is that intercession that is so needed,” she said. “And so greatly appreciated. And I can feel it too, Dr. Dobson. I can feel the power of prayer, and that strength that is provided through our prayer warriors across this nation. And I so appreciate it.”

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/10/22/palin-god-will-do-the-right-thing-on-election-day/

          http://www.citizenlink.org/clspecialalert/A000008476.cfm

 

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Sarah Palin―more than just a pretty face―the perfect VP for McCain.

On this blog we have had numerous comments questioning Sarah Palin’s ability to fulfill the role of vice president.  There is a tendency to want to compare her to Obama who is obviously running for president.  President and vice president are two distinctly different job descriptions and it is my opinion that Sarah Palin will have no problem more than adequately fulfilling the requirements of the office of VP.  I also believe that VP is a role well suited to a woman and that is what this post is all about.   

 

What does the Vice President do anyway?

 

According to the Constitution the role of vice president only involves two specific things beyond the general role of supporting and serving as a strengthening agent for the president.

 

1).  The Vice President of the United States is the first person in the presidential line of succession, becoming the new President of the United States upon the death, resignation, or removal of the president.

 

2) The vice president serves as the President of the Senate, and may break tie votes in that chamber.  The Constitution goes on to say, regarding the vice president, “He or she may be assigned additional duties by the president but, as the Constitution assigns no executive powers to the vice president, in performing such duties he or she acts only as an agent of the president.”

 

With this in mind, Sarah Palin’s job description as VP (aside from being around in case John dies and breaking the occasional tie) will be what John McCain needs her job description to be.

Walter Mondale, who is now 80 years old, is known for serving as the 42nd vice president of the U.S. under Jimmy Carter.  He is also known for being the first presidential candidate to choose a female running mate. Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro to run along side him is his presidential bid in 1984.  Mr. Mondale understands the VEEP job well and was recently asked to weigh in on McCain’s choice of Palin. Mondale stated that a key question that would determine whether she was suited for the job or not would be to determine what role John McCain would have her in; he stated “ask John McCain how he sees Palin strengthening him in the role of President?” 

John McCain has answered this question clearly, in Minnesota at the RNC he told audiences he would make Palin, “the public face of the country’s drive for energy independence”; a job Sarah Palin is more than prepared for.  According to McCain’s website “As Governor, Palin is chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multi-state government agency that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment. She also serves as chair of the National Governors Association Natural Resources Committee, which is charged with pursuing legislation to ensure federal policy in the areas of energy, environmental protection and natural resource management. 

Jerry Bowyer, a respected economist and contributing editor on CNBC said of Palin, Sarah knows the oil industry inside and out. She can back McCain in the defense of drilling, transporting and refining oil. Who knows drilling and the issues surrounding it better than the governor of Alaska?

The second role John McCain is expecting his running mate to fulfill was also made clear at the time of her nomination.  At the RNC McCain said he wanted Sarah Palin to continue developing her reputation as a government reformer. Later on the television show “The View” John McCain said “Sarah Palin is good for the country because of her reformer credentials, she will reform spending for lawmakers’ pet projects.” Palin is also extremely well equipped for this role.  She defeated incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski of Alaska, before winning the governor’s seat in 2002 and ethics was the centerpiece of her campaign.  

In reference to Sarah’s role as a reformer, Clark Judge, who wrote speeches for President Ronald Reagan and now heads the White House Writers Group, a Washington public affairs company, said “No political figure in the US has more experience in taking on privilege and vested interests than Sarah Palin.”

In summary, the vice presidential job description becomes what the president desires it to be and Palin is a great choice because she meets McCain’s specifications and needs and meets them to a “T”.  Tim Shipman a reporter for the Sunday Telegraph in St. Paul Minnesota aptly reported on McCain’s ideas and strategies surrounding Palin’s nomination and nominations for his cabinet. 

On Sept 10th, Shipman wrote “Finding a substantial role for Mrs Palin is just one of Mr McCain’s plans for government. Campaign officials say that Joe Lieberman, the independent democrat… has been promised a job in Mr McCain’s cabinet. Mr Lieberman is pencilled in to become Secretary of State or Defence Secretary in what insiders say will be a “government of national unity on foreign affairs”.  Mr McCain has been seriously considering naming senior cabinet posts before the election, to emphasise the breadth and experience of his team and demonstrate that he plans to reach across the political aisle.  

In short, McCain’s choice of Palin was not a spur of the moment move based on her charisma value—or the “hottie” factor.  McCain has strategically thought through a team that he feels can support him well.  Sarah Palin just happens to be the key member of that team and is actually a perfect choice for vice president considering what McCain needs.  Even in regard to the age question, in my opinion Sarah is a perfect balance for McCain, she brings a youthful exuberance to the ticket while at the same time matching McCain’s reputation as a “maverick” and a reformer at every juncture.

Finally, perhaps the greatest asset Palin brings to the Republican ticket at this time is her gender. 

In reviewing a recent poll of “women only” done by the Lifetime channel some definite turn-arounds–indicative of who women will be voting for in November–became evident.  Bringing Ms. Palin to the Republican ticket has been a very galvanizing factor for the McCain campaign in terms of their posture with women,” said pollster Kellyanne Conway, for the Lifetime Network. Ms. Conway also reported, “more women will vote than men this fall – as has happened in every presidential election since 1964 – and they  will be a deciding factor. Less than two months ago, Mr. McCain was trailing Mr. Obama significantly among women, and now they are now pretty much neck and neck.” Among women who had supported Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries, this poll showed now 72 percent have swung to Mr. Obama and a strong 20 percent have changed sides to join Mr. McCain.

What is the reason for this turn-around and desertion to the other side by so many female democrats? It is quite simple many women in the Democratic Party feel betrayed and dismissed by Obama. They went for Hillary in huge numbers and the democrats didn’t hear there cries for female representation.  Sarah Palin on ABC news said she thinks Barack Obama regrets not making Hillary Rodham Clinton his running mate, off the cuff she told Charles Gibson, “I think he’s regretting not picking her now.”  In contrast McCain choosing a female running mate at this time was nothing short of genius on his part. 

I believe many women have realized that they would like to see female representation as part of the Executive branch of this government sooner rather than later.  Some of the evangelicals that are taking a look at Palin because of her pro-life stance may have difficulty with a woman as VP of our nation.  But personally, I am one Christian commentator who has no problem with the second highest office in the land being held by a female and I equally have no difficulty squaring this with my biblical beliefs. 

Women along side men in a complementary role in leadership can be found throughout Scripture.  Deborah worked with the Hebrew general Barak (not to be confused with Obama) to set the Jews free from oppression in the Old Testament book of Judges.  In the biblical narritive the text calls Deborah, “a mother over Israel.”  She is referred to as that because she did not try to lead as a man she led as the woman God had called her to be.  I believe that Sarah Palin also knows how to lead along side men with grace and sophistication and that she will lead as God has called her and positioned her to lead. Time will demonstrate that Sarah Palin was indeed a wise choice as running mate for John McCain and as I have avowed in other posts on this blog there is no doubt in my mind that Sarah Palin will prove to be the ideal female leader “for such a time as this.” 

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Sarah Palin, a candidate “for such a time as this.”

I am the proud grandmother of a granddaughter named Avery Grace who will be one year old this month.  My granddaughter is a very active one year old, beautiful in all ways, who also has Down Syndrome.  Because of Avery’s developmental disability you can imagine that I was very interested when I heard that the republican candidate for vice president Sarah Palin also has an infant son with Down Syndrome.  To say the least this gave me a new interest in the youthful candidate and caused me to make a point of listening to her acceptance speech. I anticipated that she might speak about her baby boy and I was not disappointed.    

 

When Sarah Palin introduced Trig alongside her other children at the RNC she said, “We were so blessed in April; Todd and I welcomed our littlest one into the world, a perfectly beautiful baby boy named Trig.”  Children, she said, with special needs inspire a special love. To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message for you. For years, you have sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.”

 

Sarah Palin in a few short sentences had grabbed my heart and my hopes and tears came to my eyes.  I have to admit however that it was my emotions she had touched first and I had not yet had a chance to contemplate the gravity of her statements.  The next day as I perused the blogs to see what other viewers thought about Sarah, I came upon this quote, from Dr. Mark Mosert.  Mosert, a long time Christian advocate for those with disabilities explained:

 

Last night, “Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin put both her supporters and detractors on notice that people with disabilities would no longer be ignored in civic life.

 

Palin chose not to genetically discriminate against her unborn Down Syndrome child, Trig.  She chose to show him off (proud mom that she is) along with her other children.

 

She faced the camera squarely and said what no other politician on either side of the aisle has, so far, been willing or able to say:  That all people with disabilities matter, that they will no longer be ignored.  That they have a rightful and unmistakable place at the table of civic life.  That they are, before anything else, Americans.” 

 

My heart was lifted by Mosert’s optimistic interpretation of Sarah’s message.  In Mosert’s opinion the now VP candidate’s words represented sentiments that the families of those with disabilities could rally around.  Palin was choosing to actively acknowledge the value of people like Avery and her son Trig in a society that has tolerated aborting 90% of all in-utero babies diagnosed with Downs.  I tucked Mosert’s words away with Palin’s in my always hopeful grandmother’s heart and thought to myself “Thank God for Sarah Palin.”

 

Then on Sunday I was working the women’s ministry counter in our church lobby and I became aware of a young man passing me by.  It was Brandon, a young DS man from our congregation and as he strolled by he shot me a huge smile and an elated thumbs up, “I’m voting for McCain” he told me with pride. 

 

At this point his dad caught my eye and told me “Sarah Palin has given us all a good reason for getting politically active.”  Brandon’s dad nodded in affirmation at his son and said, “Brandon’s over eighteen and he gets to vote.”  “Yeah,” said Brandon “I’m an American.”  And with that, father and son were gone and I suddenly found my heart pounding.  I couldn’t help but think she’s like Queen Esther. “For such a time as this,” this young hockey mom from Alaska is gaining a platform to stand up for the rights of those with special needs not only that they might live but that they might be considered worthwhile contributors to our nation.” 

 

Whatever your politics, take note, Sarah Palin is engendering the confidence of a whole population of people and their families.  She is inspiring the hopes of a group who have desperately needed an advocate for years and her role is not being taken lightly.  I am only one grandmother from Colorado and I cannot guarantee who will win this election.  But I can tell you one thing: I am hopeful that regardless of who wins, our country will become a better place because of the light Sarah Palin has shed on all people with disabilities.  It is my hope that in the future citizens like Brandon, Avery and Trig will be recognized not only for the value they bring to society but acknowledged as an important part of the fabric of this great nation.

 

Note from Author:  Obviously the nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president has impacted my world and caused a reaction on many levels of my being.  How has this unexpected and controversial nominee caused an impression on your world?  How has she touched your heart? How has she caused you to think, differently perhaps?  How has she touched your life?  What hopes do you have tied to this influential woman?  Please comment.

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Sacred Places of the Heart

 

Throughout God’s Word a recurring metaphor becomes evident; faithful believers are likened to travelers or pilgrims on the road of life.  Psalm 84:5 declares, Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.  A pilgrimage is a long journey to a sacred place, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

The idea of pilgrimage is introduced in Genesis. God reveals himself to Abram and requires of him that he leave his homeland and go to another land of God’s bidding.  Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Gen 12:1-3 (NKJV).  Why did God call Abram out from his familiar surroundings? God knew he needed to be removed from old friends and situations that might hinder his full obedience to Him and that his departure would provide a definite step of faith.  God has, throughout the centuries, required his people to come out from among the world and to be separate.  We are special people with a special destination – heaven – and as Christians we are all pilgrims. We have realized that this world is not our home and we have started our trek to “our Father’s house.” 

 

 

Hebrews 11 gives a long list of Bible characters and explains, All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it and they agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Heb 11:13-16 (NLT). According to this passage, all the faithful characters listed shared a common understanding that they were pilgrims, sojourners, travelers and nomads—human beings just visiting this planet on their way to their true and promised habitation.

 

 

In reading the accounts in the Bible of the lives of the many pilgrims that have come before us, it is clear that life’s journey is almost never a simple excursion.  Instead the path God provides is almost always a circuitous expedition over extremely adventurous territory.  As Christian sojourners our hearts are on the road that leads to heaven and God, but the places of the heart we must visit on the way offer unique and varied challenges. 

 

 

As we traverse this foreign land we can be assured of many side trips to “spiritual locations” along the way.  Like required stations or stopovers along life’s journey, there appear to be compulsory sites we must all experience.  Many places of the heart described in the Bible have geographical titles that tie them to a metaphorical map of life’s journey.  Similarly to our predecessors who followed the Lord through literal deserts and valleys and like those who climbed actual mountains in order to be obedient, those on “spiritual” pilgrimages also take visits to places both uncertain and sublime. 

 

 

Visits to the desert, the valley, the high seas, the fruitful places and the mountaintops are among those sacred places that we all have an opportunity to discover.  They are inevitable sites of the soul that God’s itinerary almost always dictates and has in store.  The Bible provides rich symbolism to be researched and understood about each of these sacred stopovers that are so common to God’s people.  Much can be gleaned as we interpret the imagery of Scripture and apply the wisdom and experiences of other pilgrims who encountered these sites along the way. 

The desert or wilderness is an arid expanse of land that is unsettled, usually used as pasture for animals and is suitable only for the nomadic lifestyle. A sojourn in the desert or wilderness in the Bible is associated with seasons of temptation, solitude, persecution and barrenness.

The valley is a tract of low lying land between mountains. The valleys of ancient Palestine were mostly dry, rocky, glorified riverbeds where occasional torrents caused flash floods during the winter.  In Scripture, the valley symbolized low times of affliction, pain and vulnerability.

 The mountains of the mid-east are known for their stark appearance. They have no great forests on their slopes and are instead characterized by cliffs, crags and rock overhangs. The mountains symbolized strength and steadfastness.  They depicted God’s power and were the backdrops of great spiritual events and revelations.

The sea refers to the Mediterranean and the Jews had a natural tendency to shrink away from the sea. Traversing the sea was associated with great danger, little control and constant fear.  To pass through the “deep” was symbolic of passing through a time of heavy affliction wrought with tossing waves and storms.

Fruitful places or gardens in biblical times were usually walled enclosures, in which there were paths that led among the trees and foliage.  An individual could rest among arbors decked with aromatic blossoms and enjoy the effect. Gardens were used as sacred places and fruitful gardens symbolized prosperity.

 

We can look into the lives of Scripture’s pilgrims, compare notes on their journeys and learn from their successes and failures. The question becomes “how did those who came before navigate their course through life and how will I navigate mine?” Peter in his epistle warns Christians, “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you… 1 Peter 1:17-19 (NLT)

The apostle Peter believed that we should be wise and fear the Lord because of the lessons others had learned during the times of their pilgrimage. We should pay attention and realize we are also foreigners on a sojourn paid for through the precious blood of our Savior.  I agree with Peter and I would add we should not be accidental tourists along life’s path because each place we are fortunate enough to visit has a beauty and a lesson of its own. I think what we often fail to realize is that each place is actually a meeting place with our God and a site to be savored and walked through with Him.  Each of the sacred places of the heart, even the difficult places, give us an opportunity to grow closer with Him and to know Him in deeper and more intimate ways. 

 

Fellow pilgrims, October 17-19, 2008, the Women at Crossroads are heading to Winter Park for what we hope will be a life-changing women’s conference.  Grab your backpack and your Bible, because spending a weekend adding to your understanding of Sacred Places of the Heart is bound to impact your relationship with God in countless beneficial ways. 

 

  

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Has your prayer life taken a turn for the better?

What benefits have you experienced during our recent season of prayer at Crossroads? 

For the past eight weeks we have seen a large number of the women at Crossroads commit to improving their prayer lives.  Women have been attending the Wednesday night service and or Thursday night Bible Study and or Friday morning Bible Study and have been participating in what has amounted to a “great prayer experiment” on the part of our church.  Now we want to measure the results. 

How have you benefitted personally or seen others benefitted as a result of our recent season of prayer?  Have you had prayers answered?  Have you developed a habit of more effective prayer?  These are the questions on the floor, please respond to this thread and let us know you are out there.

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