Lest We Forget

July 4, 2019. 243 years ago, a group of men gathered, in secret, to forge ahead with actions that would end up costing many of them – literally – their fortunes and their lives. They did it in the name of freedom. Freedom from tyranny, freedom of religion, freedom to decide their own fates. Freedom to escape the rule of ‘class’. Were these men perfect? Far from it! Did they make mistakes? Absolutely! Yet they forged ahead, determined that their children and their children’s children and so on would have a place to live in freedom.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the People. No country, no nation before us was ever started with a Populous government! With all of the controversy over the Betsy Ross flag and Nike’s decision to pull their shoe that displayed it because it is a “slave” flag, let me refer to Article XIII of the Bill of Rights:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Was there slavery? Yes. It was in the form of both outright ownership of persons and indentured servitude. Was it against the Constitution? Yes, it was. Is it still occurring in the United States? Yes, I am sorry to say, although it is to a much lesser extent than in other countries. Our ancestors fought wars to prevent undue rule and unjust rule. The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War; WWI and WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afganistan, the Middle East….. We are still fighting over unjust practices and inhumane treatment. The Civil War wasn’t about slavery; it was about States rights!

What’s my point?

There will never be a perfect place to live on this earth, because humanity is flawed to the core. No man or woman is perfect, and we will all do and say offensive and stupid things. Bearing that in mind, and knowing that in these United States we are all responsible for ourselves, we are Blessed! What other country allows such blatant disrespect to it to flourish within it’s borders? Where else on earth can people publicly make fun of and disrespect their leader without experiencing dire consequences?

Since 1776, millions of men and women, United States citizens, have given everything for our freedom. There are currently hundreds, thousands, military personnel putting their lives on the line, every single day, for our freedom. Ditto for the Police officers, Sheriff departments, Border Patrol Agents, every type of Law Enforcement; all First Responders – Fire, EMT’s. Where else in the world do these freedoms and protections exist? Nowhere, to the extent of those in the United States.

It’s a day to be thankful. We can worship how and when we please, we can speak out – and act out – against our government in freedom.

GOD BLESS AMERICA.

https://www.puzzlewarehouse.com

Sadly, this jigsaw puzzle is no longer available.

The Well-Qualified Leader

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 CORINTHIANS 5:21 NASB

Leadership is critical both to the church and in business, and there isn’t a more well-qualified leader than Jesus Christ. He shows how a good leader leads by example. The scriptures are very clear in outlining what a good leader consists of, starting with servanthood: to be a good leader, you must first be a good servant. In 1 Peter, he writes to church leaders, but the instructions are equally applicable in business.

“…… Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as Lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” – 1 PETER 5:2‭-‬3 NASB

If a behavior is the standard for leaders, it will become the benchmark for everyone who follows that leader. We become like our leaders:

“A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” – LUKE 6:40 NASB

To be a good leader, their followers need to know who is in charge. Not control, because that is trying to force everyone into the same mold. In charge allows the leader to actually lead by example. A good leader also needs to recognize that the how may not be the same between each person, as long as the why is the same – and the end result is met. We have to know what our leaders should be like in order to hold them accountable, and a good leader should recognize and acknowlege the validity of the actions of their followers. They have to “live” with their people to recognize when there are issues and situations when their oversight is needed, and to know when it is not.

A good leader, regardless of their age, will have maturity, character, and wisdom. There’s no age limit to those traits! A good leader is one who is actively involved, who exercises oversight, and watchs that their people know how to follow. It’s as much attitude as knowlege. The best leaders are the ones who know and love the Good Shepherd, and who shepherd among their followers, and who are involved with other shepherd-leaders. A good leader is humble not haughty. They take the job seriously, but not themselves. They have a willingness and a passion for what they are doing. It isn’t just their job, an obligation. A good leader is exemplary, not domineering – remember our perfect leader, Jesus, the Son of Man, Who came to serve, not to be served; to be the OverSEER, not the OverLORD.

A well-qualified leader, a good leader, reaps the benefits and rewards of a job well done.

Image by https://www.modernservantleader.com/

The End Is Coming!

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 PETER 4:7‭-‬11 NASB

How many times has the end of the world been predicted? Hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands? Over the centuries, many leaders have convinced their followers that Jesus is returning at a certain time and a certain date. The Jehovah Witnesses have predicted at least 5 different dates, and we are still here. Nostradamus predicted 1999 (Still here). Google “end-of-the-world predictions” – it’s interesting to me that so many people seem to want the world to simply go away. Matthew, Luke, and John all recorded Jesus saying that no one would know when He was to return.

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. …. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” – MATTHEW 24:42‭, ‬44 NASB

Peter wrote 1 Peter 4 as a guide of how to live in the end times; to live in the knowledge that our Lord is coming to see us at some point, and to take care of His people as if we expect Him now. In the Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis, as Aslan prepares to leave Lucy he tells her he will return soon. I love her reply, because it is what we all want to ask: “What do you call “soon”?”

Are we living our lives like Jesus will return “soon”? Like there is no tomorrow? It is especially important as Christians to keep sound judgement and a clear head – don’t succumb to the panic of the end times. (Remember Y2K?) One way to avoid the panic is through a dedicated prayer life – sustained and energized, aware of the immenence of Christ. We have the only Love that can be stretched and strained to the max, but will never reach a breaking point, because it is a unique Love that comes only from the Father.

We need to be more fervent in our love of others, and let our love cover their sins…. not condoning the sins, but not broadcasting or highlighting and exposing them. We can be gracious putting up with other’s weaknesses – because we have so many weaknesses ourselves! Less isolation of ourselves, because hospitality is sharing the message that “you matter to me.” Finally, using our spiritual gifts shouldn’t be hard for us, because it will be natural act and will serve other people.

The end is coming. Just don’t get too excited about putting a time or date on it. Only the Father knows when it will be.

Sex = Sin???

In a word: No. God created sex as a beautiful expression of love between a man and a woman ….. in the right context.

“Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:18‭-‬20 NLT

Sexual sin. That’s a tough subject. Sex….. we can’t even get a consensus of what that means anymore. If you ask a teenage today to define sex, I think you’ll get a different definition than if you ask someone in their 40’s and up. Sexual sin is much more than the physical act of intercourse between a man and a woman, and there are quite a few scriptures addressing it as immorality and sexual sin. Hear what Matthew recorded Jesus saying about it:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery’ (Exodus 20:14); but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – MATTHEW 5:27-28 NASB

According to JESUS, Who is the ultimate authority, just thinking the lustful thought is the same as actually following through with the physical act. The way I read the scriptures, there is only one way that sexual activity is correct and sanctioned by our Creator LORD, and that is two-fold: between a man and a woman, and within the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is a promise between a man and woman and God. It doesn’t have to take place in a church or place of worship, and it doesn’t have to be a ceremony ‘performed’ by a cleric. I believe that as long as it is properly witnessed and the committment of both the man and the woman is entered into whole-heartedly, it is as binding as any church or government ceremony….. and I believe God honors those committments. Anyone who is married, however they decide to commit, is bound to their spouse ‘until death’ and needs to honor that by being faithful in mind, heart, and body.

Sexual sin affects much more than just the one committing it. Whether it is ‘just’ mental or you follow through with a physical act, because you desire someone other than your spouse, it affects your actions towards both the object(s) of your lust and your spouse. If you aren’t married, it still affects you and any other party involved. You may think you have it covered and it’s a secret, but I promise you, everything – everything – will come to light sooner or later. Lust compromises your heart and your emotions, making simple things difficult. It’s a lie. A whole Pandora’s Box is opened: consequences follow wrongs. You may ‘get away with it’ the first time, or the 20th time….. or so you think.

Pray about it. If you find yourself attracted to someone, give serious thought and prayer to the matter. Go to someone you trust and talk about it. We have each other to lean on. Even the Apostles struggled with sin! Paul writes:

“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” – ROMANS 7:19 NASB (Read all of verses 14-25)

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” – JAMES 5:16 NASB

By the way, for anyone who wants to play the “but I’ve fallen out of love with my spouse and I ‘love’ this new person …….” As Col. Potter on Mash used to say, “Beaver biscuits!” LOVE is a choice. If you have “fallen out of love” then you’d best climb up that ladder and get back into it. Just my ‘2 cents’ on love…..

For further reading and study: Matthew 5:31-32; 15:19; 19:9; Mark 7:21-22; John 8:41; Acts 15:20; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:1,11; 6:9,18-19; 7:2-5, 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4; Revelations 21:8

MY Plans 🙊🙉🙈

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” – JAMES 4:13‭-‬16 NASB

Ah yes. I had great plans for my life. Yep….. I had great plans for my life. From high school to college, where I would graduate with a degree in Art (not education, mind you, just Art.) While at college, my plan was to meet “the” guy who would love me and protect me and support me, for the rest of my life. Problem was, instead of allowing God to lead, I became impatient (who, me??), and began making choices and decisions based on emotion and human want. If you’ve been following me for long, you know that hasn’t worked out too well. The guy I picked, the Prince of my dreams, turned out to be more the Prince of my nightmares. I was determined not to fail, though, so I stuck it out for eight long years of lies, cheating, and physical and emotional abuse.

Did I learn from that experience to lean on God, and rely more on His Will and less on mine? Of course not! I was on a roll! I picked another “Prince” to rescue me…… only it turned out that I was the one needing rescue, again, because I was right back in the same situation. I learned from that one, right? Oh, no, of course not. So I tried again, and again, and again. (My ‘picker’ was obviously broken!) I have to keep doing the same things over and over again, determined to get it right on my own, without outside help from other people or from God. That’s the definition of insanity, by the way.

You know how you hear from men who have been through divorce that their ex’s got “everything,” kids, house, car, child support, alimony? Somehow, I kept getting stuck giving them all those things!

I can blame the men, and I can blame God, for my situation in life, but ultimately it all falls on me and my poor choices. James said it perfectly:

“You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

I’m slow and late to acknowlege it, but it is absolutely true. What the future holds, I have no idea. The only thing I know is that I have to rely on the Lord and do my best to understand His Will for my life. Sounds simple; difficult for some of us to accept and do!! A line from an old tv show pops into my mind, and it probably should be one I repeat to myself more often. From Hogan’s Heros, whenever things spiraled out of control, Sgt. Schultz would say “I know nothing!” Only instead of waiting until after things go wrong, I need to say it first – and then listen to God! He knows everything. Amen!

Listen to Mandisa “I’m Just Unfinished”

Stuck In The Muck and Mire

“But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” – LUKE 22:21‭-‬22‭, ‬40 NASB

When I turned on the radio this morning, and a new song by Matthew West was playing. It’s called “Unplanned.” I was unplanned. My 2 younger sisters and my younger brother were unplanned. Should we then not be allowed to live? How many of you, my wonderful readers, were unplanned by your birth parents? I can’t hear the song without being brought to tears. What a slap in the face of the Creator it is each time an unwanted, unplanned baby is destroyed! We betray our Lord with each abortion that is performed. I supported the abortion industry for years until I realized exactly what I was supporting. I wasn’t supporting women’s rights, I was supporting a massive industry that was all about money. As a society, we are stuck in the muck and the mire of political correctness, in which there is very little that is correct.

“…. behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table…..”

That hand was my hand. Betraying the God of the Universe; betraying His Son, and putting His life on the line, just as we put the life of every single innocent baby on the line with each abortion performed. Jesus had to bear that sin on the cross!

Charles Spurgeon, one the greatest evangelists to ever live, said this, “for those claiming to be Christians, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper will also deceive you, if you rest your salvation on them; when you are near death you will find them too frail to be supports to bear the weight of an immortal soul’s eternal interests. It will be worthless when you lie dying, if your conscience prompts you to say, “I went to church or to prayer meetings so many times a week.” You will find it a poor dressing to your soul’s wounds to be able to say, “I made a profession of godliness.” Oh, your facade will all be torn away from you by the rough hand of the skeleton called “Death”; you will need a real Savior, vital godliness, true regeneration, not baptismal regeneration; you will need Christ, not sacraments; and nothing short of this will do “at the end.”

Are we merely claiming to be Christians, the Christians Charles Spurgeon talks about, resting our ‘Christianity’ on an outward show of rituals and attendance, or have we put Jesus in our hearts and our consciousness? Are we listening to our Lord apeak in our lives? I am a massive failure at hearing God in my life. Many times, I hear Him and then I do what I decide to do. I know one thing: I do not want to continue to be that hand on the table betraying my Lord! Abortion – or rather, the opposition of it – may not be your ‘sword’, but I believe it should be in every Christian’s arsenal.

Please hear this: There is forgiveness for having an abortion, or for having facilitated one (or hundreds). That doesn’t mean it’s okay to sweep our participation under the rug, so to speak. I am grateful I didn’t have an abortion, even though I was not prepared in any way to raise a baby*. I was blessed beyond measure that a family member was there to step in and adopt my child, and I know that there are hundreds of Christ-followers who would give almost anything to be able to have those unplanned, unwanted, babies. (*I wanted my baby, but was emotionally, physically, and financially unable to care for the child…. and the father was even more ill-equiped than I.)

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” – PSALMS 139:13‭-‬16 NASB

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” – ISAIAH 53:4‭-‬7 NASB

Jesus bore the weight of every single child lost through abortion. Like Him, they are lambs, and we are the sheep that are silent. We will do well to immitate Him. As Peter tells us,

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit ….. ” – 1 PETER 3:8‭-‬9‭, 12,18 NASB

Matthew West announced this song on Twitter with the following message, “As long as my God holds the world in His hands, I know there’s no such thing as Unplanned. Watch the music video for Unplanned from the @UnplannedMovie at the link below. https://t.co/hsd7HT0ruT pic.twitter.com/yg1bU2L3WN

Oh I don’t believe in accidents
Miracles, they don’t just happen by chance
As long as my God holds the world in his hands
I know that there’s no such thing as unplanned

Lead Me

Lead me, for I can’t do this alone.

Sanctus Real sings this in the song, “Lead Me.” It’s something I say to God every day because life is hard, and I can’t do it alone. None of us can. We think we can; we can ‘shoulder through the pain’, we can ‘pull ourselves up by the bootstraps’, we can ‘think positive’ and adopt an ‘I can do it’ mentality, but how successful are we – really – when we are truly alone? Without family or friends, without any spiritual or emotional support, where would you be?

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd

A Psalm of David

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil or harm, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – PSALMS 23:1‭-‬6 NASB

There are many ‘successful’ people who are without a Saviour out in the world, but at what cost to themselves? Money and power on earth are only meaningful temporarily. They can’t buy us into eternity, and they can’t bring us any kind of lasting peace or companionship. The wealthiest people I’ve met in my life are also the most miserable people I have ever known. Having millions of dollars (and I am being literal here) didn’t provide them with the thing they truly craved: real love, and real friendships. What I saw was immense paranoia that someone would ‘take advantage of them’, and I saw it taking place with those people the wealthy had surrounded themselves with to ‘protect’ themselves. They were unable to accept that someone might care for them just for themselves, making themselves absolutely reject anyone reaching out to them in real friendship; lonely, isolated and alone, while surrounded by people. Immensely saddening situation, especially knowing that it is their choice to live that way. Immune to the Gospel, because that would require trusting someone outside of themselves. Keeping too busy in the whirlwind of social life to face reality.

Successful, rich, abjectly lonely, and miserable.

I won’t deny that it would feel so good not to wonder how to stretch a too limited income to cover expenses, and to be able to write a check (not a ‘rubber’ one!!) to pay bills as they come in…… but I have someone, my Saviour, Who loves me regardless of my socio-economic standing. He loves me no matter how I look, how I dress, or whether my address is trendy enough. He loves me through my down times and my up times. His Name is JESUS.

I am blessed to have a family and friends who love me, too. It’s something that many people don’t have, and I know what a blessing it is. That’s the thing about Jesus – He loves you and is reaching out for you, even now. He wants you to understand what it’s like to know you are loved and cared for! Do you know? Have you realized yet that what He is offering is total, absolute, and completely without any strings? Free, a gift for the taking, waiting for you to accept it?