Something Greater than 9/11

photo credit: cliff1066™ via photopin cc
photo credit: cliff1066™ via photopin cc

It happens every year when the anniversary of 9/11 rolls around. I find myself wishing that those violent and horrific terrorist attacks had never happened—not only for the lives lost but because of the negative changes that have come to our world as a result of that fateful day.

It’s not that the world was necessarily a nice place before September 11, 2001, but it has definitely been even less pleasant since. Overall, from my perspective, people are less friendly, more calloused, and more fearful. I know it makes me sound old, but there are definitely times when I wish that we could return to the days of yesteryear.

photo credit: diegofornero (destino2003) via photopin cc
photo credit: diegofornero (destino2003) via photopin cc

Still, I have come to the conclusion that nothing good ever comes from fretting over the negative changes in our world. Nothing. Those who fail to adapt to change will soon find themselves mired in misery. A friend recently told me about a study that found the one common theme between people who lived to a ripe old age was their ability to adapt to change. I haven’t taken the time to verify the study, but it makes sense. Trying to hold on to what once was has a tendency to sap the vitality from even the most vibrant of people.

Isn’t it ironic that the one group of people—Christians—who should be most adept at adjusting to change is usually the first to resist anything of the sort. In part, this is because we’ve seen such a moral decline in our culture over the past 50 years. Still, something deeper is at work. We often resist change due to our shortsightedness; we don’t realize that, in most cases, change equals opportunity.

Consider, for example, the sense of anxiety and security that so many people feel in our day. Can there be a better opportunity to point them toward our Rock, the One who provides peace and security in even the worst circumstances? What about the fact that so many people are unchurched? At least these folks aren’t beset by the religiosity that has plagued the church for so long.

photo credit: faungg's photo via photopin cc
photo credit: faungg’s photo via photopin cc

Greater still, overshadowing every negative change in our world is the reality that the kingdom of God is advancing on this earth, that the time of Christ is drawing near, that each passing day brings us closer to the full revelation of our eternal hope.

There’s something exciting happening that is easily missed by the casual observer. The kingdoms of man are crumbling while the kingdom of God draws near. The kingdom of God! It’s that one and only government that can produce a truly peace-filled society. This is not a time to shrink back in fear, or to fret over things that have been lost. This is a time to lift up our heads and open our eyes to the ripening harvest around us.

If I could rewind the clock and somehow stop the events of 9/11 from happening, I most certainly would. But I can’t. Thus, I am working to accepting the realities of this world while pursuing the greater reality of God’s kingdom. For the person who loves God and seeks good, change equals opportunity. Let’s not allow it to slip through our fingers!

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Facing a Giant? You’re Not Alone!

photo credit: Fried Dough via photopin cc
photo credit: Fried Dough via photopin cc

A very real problem for all of us is that we tend to profess a depth of faith in God that we do not actually possess. Faith is easy on the mountaintop. The battlefield trenches of life are an entirely different matter. A football team may spend a lot of time practicing in preparation for the first game of the season against their arch rivals, but it isn’t until they step onto the field of play that their true abilities become evident.

All too often, our version of the gospel speaks only of God’s forgiveness in light of our sinfulness, of the efficacy of grace as opposed to our impotent works, of the glories of heaven compared to the pain of this world. All of these things are true, but they fail to present a complete picture. We even go so far as to portray the Old Testament Promised Land as an image of heaven. Do we actually believe that we will have to drive enemies out of heaven? No, each of us has a promised land, a favorable destiny, in this world.

photo credit: Monica's Dad via photopin cc
photo credit: Monica’s Dad via photopin cc

Why is it that every promised land has its share of giants? Why, when we seek that which we believe to be good, must we face health problems, a lack of finances, and all sorts of opposition—not only from others but also from within ourselves? And why, tell me, must these issues loom so large? There are times when a few miniature giants would do me just fine!

We sometimes fail to grasp that God saves us in order to restore us to His image (Romans 8:29), and that His image is that of the ultimate overcomer. God’s goal is never to save us for a sweet eternity only, but to transform us into champions of the faith. By definition, a champion is a person who defeats all opponents; the more formidable the opposition, the greater the champion. You would be unimpressed if I told you that I once knocked out every kid in my son’s fourth-grade class in a boxing tournament. But, if you saw me wearing an Olympic gold medal (that I had actually earned), you would immediately think of greatness. Until we face and overcome genuine giants, we are not true champions in the arena of life.

Our response to our personal giants reveals the true depths of our faith. The fact that we have sufficient faith in one area of life does not necessarily mean that we trust God in all areas. When fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, and bitterness take root in our hearts, they indicate areas in which our faith is shallow. Thus, every giant is in a sense tailor-made to help us grow in these areas. Am I saying that God is responsible for raising opposition against us? Not necessarily! Our fallen world provides more than enough difficult challenges to our faith. I do know, however, that our loving Father will use even the largest obstacles for His sovereign purposes.

Like the ten doubting spies of Numbers 13, many of us tend to view our giants as signs that God has abandoned us. Very few have the heart of a Joshua or a Caleb. Later in time, only the shepherd boy David stood up against the Philistine champion Goliath, while Saul and all of his mighty men cowered in fear.

photo credit: saturn ♄ via photopin cc
photo credit: saturn ♄ via photopin cc

How we respond to our giants will impact, not only our lives, but also the generations that follow. Sadly, David had to face Goliath only because Joshua’s generation failed to completely destroy their generation of behemoths. We can only imagine how Anak’s descendants tormented the nation of Israel for 400 years until a shepherd boy with David’s faith happened along. And not only did the kid fell that monster of a man, he used Goliath’s own sword to finish the job. God loves to show off by transforming our greatest weaknesses into our greatest strengths!

(This post is based on the content of my new book, Champions in the Wilderness, which is now available for sale through Amazon. Also, when our new SfMe Media website goes live, our blog posts will be switched our new ministry website, searchforme.info and this blog site will be phased out. You can subscribe to by entering your email in the subscribe panel on the right-hand side of the new website.)

The Boston Marathon Attack: Another Wakeup Call?

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I don’t think that there is such a thing as a pleasant sounding alarm. Even elevator music has an obnoxious feel if it serves to wake me from my slumber, forcing me to face the difficulties that may lie ahead. The wear marks on any snooze button stand as evidence of this reality. How we give that snooze button a workout as we repeatedly slip in and out of slumber!

Worse than a pleasant sounding wake up call, is one that may seem to be disturbing in its own right. For example, a loud funeral dirge in the morning will not contribute to anybody’s happiness. A rude awakening can be considered the worst kind.

I am of the opinion that the church in the U.S. has been asleep for many years now. Collectively speaking, our primary concern has been more about our own comfort and happiness than about the necessary advance of God’s kingdom. Horrendous events such as happened at the Boston Marathon seem to provide rude, but only temporary, awakenings from our slumber. After an onslaught of social media calls for prayer, we will seek a return to the status quo as quickly as we can.

Looking back on the tragedy of  9/11, many Christian leaders felt that it would be a defining moment for the U.S. church as people flocked to houses of worship. Less than a year later, however, life was pretty much back to normal, albeit a little less comfortable. The overall levels of anxiety and depression have probably increased since that time, but not enough to compel us to any type of meaningful action.

photo credit: gnuckx via photopin cc
photo credit: gnuckx via photopin cc

What we fail to accept is the fact that bombings such as the one at the Boston Marathon take place on a regular basis across the globe. And in many cases, medical care for the victims is grossly inadequate. Are the lives of these people any less valuable in the eyes of God simply because they are somewhere over there?  Yet, for reasons both just and self-centered, we mostly choose to turn a blind eye to what happens outside of our sphere.

The problem with our isolationist mindset is that evil is never content to stay in its home territory. Evil is active and alive; it will never rest until it achieves total domination. The church’s slumber will give evil free permission to advance, and when she finally awakens, the threat will be upon her very doorstep.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

If I see this correctly, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil will only increase in number in the coming years. Already, we are becoming fearful and hardened—far from the qualities of a free society or a vibrant church. Our answers, however, lie not in fear, mistrust, or bitterness, but in faith and love. This isn’t rocket science. Momentary changes mean nothing. By necessity, active faith and passionate love must become a way of life for those who profess the name of Christ. May we pray with all of our broken hearts for those affected by the Boston marathon–and may we continue to pray (and labor) for the kingdom of God to be realized all over the world.

More Secrets for Permanent Weight Loss!

Photo by Don Hankins (CC by 2.0)

The world around us, which promises so much, isn’t making any significant deposits into my joy account these days. In fact, it’s been quite a drain recently. I suppose that much of it is linked to the economy and, of course, the continually rising price of fuel. Just when the economic outlook begins to brighten, chaos erupts in the Middle East, creating an unnerving sense of instability all across the globe.

But this isn’t all we’re dealing with! Consider the following: Massive federal debt with extreme partisanship and no viable solutions. Local and state governments struggling to stay afloat. The gap between rich and poor continuing to widen. Global warming and natural disasters. New diseases and ineffective antibiotics. Continued moral decay in all facets of society. The collapse of the nuclear family. Increased violence. A broken educational system. A declining Church.

The mention of each issue (and they are brought up continually) gives the feel of yet another weight being piled upon our already strained shoulders. Add on other concerns and the burden can at times seem unbearable.

A primary problem is that these are burdens we were never meant to carry—at least not in the form of worry or anxiety.

Isaiah prophesied of the coming of Christ: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders . . . .” Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)

This is really good news, but it does bring some questions to light. I mean, if you look at the state of our world, it may not seem like He knows what He is doing. This is where our understanding of the kingdom of God is crucial.

While I don’t believe that God directly controls all that takes place in this world, He does reign, ultimately steering even negative forces toward His sovereign purposes.

Photo by mira66 (CC By 2.0)A huge problem arises, however, when humans try to usurp God’s authority by seeking to control their own lives and all that’s around them. The sad state of our world is due to man’s quest for control and independence from God. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are doing when we carry the weight of the world on our backs. We’re trying to shoulder burdens that only God can bear. (Herein lies the power and beauty of the Lord’s Prayer)

The result of our independence? Pain. Frustration. Worry. Anxiety. Exhaustion. A withering faith.

“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world [Or age ] and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22 (NAS)

Christ is speaking here of Christians—people who willingly receive God’s word. Ouch!

So how do we shed the weight of unnecessary burdens? Some choose the road of irresponsibility, developing an “I don’t care” attitude. This approach, however, is totally inconsistent with God’s heart.

1 Peter 5 is a chapter well worth reading in its entirety, but I’ll just quote verses 6 & 7: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (NASB)

Surrender control of your concerns to God.

Pray for Him to work in each particular situation.

Believe that He will do awesome things according to His good will.

You may feel lighter already but the secret is learning to do this as a way of life!

Say Good-bye to Weedville!

In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) Jesus spoke of four types of responses people have in receiving the life of God’s word. Some have become hardened from being trampled by the world—they understand nothing. Others receive the word with excitement, but lack the depth of resolve to stand the rigors of opposition. The most favored are those who bear varying degrees of fruit in honoring God. But unfortunately it’s the third group that I believe most accurately portrays the church at large in the U.S.

Photo by alvimann - http://mrg.bz/YOP1d1

I prefer the way that the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) renders this passage:

“Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

This age certainly has a lot to concern us! In many ways we are experiencing the decline of a civilization, but God’s kingdom is growing and advancing. If we focus on the decline, we’ll be blind to the advance.

All of the negative news of our day can easily have the cumulative effect of increasingly burdening our hearts. But we weren’t made to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders! If we’re not careful, we’ll be sucked into the mire of fear and discouragement.

Weeds and thorns are natural. I can tell you that much from my 20+ years of gardening.

By ladyheart - http://mrg.bz/yG9Fl3

Invariably they will squeeze out the good stuff unless we are diligent to pull them up by the roots.

With all that is happening in our world, worry is the most natural thing that we can do. But natural isn’t always good and in this case it can be deadly.

Our world is not spinning out of control. God reigns! He undoubtedly has a plan—and a darn good one at that! By God’s grace I want to continue to turn my back on my old, natural ways and continue to press forward as I learn to see His hand and to trust Him in the midst of so much craziness. I, for one, am ready to stay good-bye to Weedville!