Facing the Bullies in our Life

Have you ever felt bullied? I don’t mean “picked on” once in a while but rather continual chastisement for whatever reason. This is a problem that I am all too familiar with. Fortunately, there is a way to handle bullies that will end their reign in our lives.

As a child, I had to endure the daily torment of others. It is as if children have a special sense of who is different and they pounce on them like a lion–devouring them. I was made fun of, chased on the playground, pursued nine long blocks home every day while insults were hurled at me. I was pummeled with rocks, beaten, humiliated, and laughed at. I had no way out and no one to protect me so I just dealt with it each day and quickly came to understand that I was never going to be worthy of friends. The summers were long and lonely, counting the days until I had to return to the daily torment.

This kind of behavior can certainly influence the way a person thinks and sees themselves later in life. It will often times drive them into a “self-medication” mode early in life and they soon spiral out of control. My heart aches daily for all the children in the schools that have to endure that same things that I had to as a child. My daughter often comes home and tells me how someone pushed her or made fun of her at school. It breaks my heart and “dad mode” kicks in and off to the school we go.

The Israelites were bullied by the Egyptians for over 400 years. They were enslaved and made to labor day and night. God, however, stood up for them. He protected His chosen people. He allowed it to happen in order to bring them to a point where He could work with them. Much like the potter with the clay.

Yet you Lord are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.    Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

Our Heavenly Father does this with us sometimes in order to bring us to a place where we are more “pliable.” Sometimes it is only in our times of true brokenness that we are able to be used for His will. As humans born into a sinful nature, it is easier for us to take control of our own lives rather than have the faith that is needed to allow God full control. But only by doing so can we ever experience God’s plan for us…and He does have one!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

So, Moses and Aaron were dispatched to bring God’s people out of Egypt. We all know the story of how God hardened the heart of the pharaoh and then rained down plagues on him and his people and was finally convinced to let them leave. Now by this time the Israelites numbered over 600,000. This number only reflects the men so in reality there were probably closer to 2-2.5 million people including women and children. They made up almost half of the population of Egypt during that time.

God marched the Israelites around the edge of the mountains and circled them back to encamp on the banks of the Red Sea. They were led by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. When they arrived at the Red Sea, they found that the pharaoh and his army were pursuing them and they became afraid. They began to complain to Moses about their situation.

Isn’t that just like us? We don’t get what we think we need or we are put in a situation that looks hopeless and we begin to complain. Remember that the Israelites were camped in an area that gave them no way out. They had mountains on two sides, the Red Sea on another, and the world’s greatest army coming after them. They were locked in with no way to escape.

The Israelites were so used to being bullied that their natural reaction was one of chaos. They were conditioned to think of themselves as less than a person and to believe that nothing good could come of their lives. They needed an intercession from God to make them believe that someone did find them to be more valuable than anything. They were a “chosen” people just like we are. Here is Moses’ response to their complaining:

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV)

Moses tells them to just relax and allow the Lord to do His work. “…you need only be still.” So the angel of the Lord and the cloud moved from in front of them to behind them coming in between them and the Egyptians. It must have taken a tremendous act of faith for the Israelites to “be still” in that situation. Faced with a regretful and hateful pharaoh and his army pursuing them to drive them back. But that is what is required of us in order for God to work in our lives…faith.

We need to remember that no matter how the devil tries to bully us, there is always someone on our side that will fight for us. God will protect us from whatever we face, if we only allow Him to do so. He will position himself between us and the problem. We have to give up complete control and allow His work to be done through us. Just as he used the Israelites situation to bring about belief, He can do the same in our lives. Only God can turn a negative into a positive!

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:28-30 (NIV)

Remember that bullies only have power and control in your life if you allow them to. Satan can only bully you if you allow him to. Stand strong and turn to your faith in God as your refuge. This world is only temporary and one day we will all be in the presence of our Deliverer to sing praises to His name. Don’t be bogged down with the things of this world but rather “be still.”

Dear Father, as I approach your Throne of Grace today, I want to thank you for looking out for me all those many years. I look back now and can see your plan unfolding. I thank you for your mercy and Your grace. Your love will endure forever and I look to that whenever I am feeling down about my life. I pray that you protect all those that are faced with bullies everyday and that you bestow upon them the peace that surpasses all understanding. I pray that you may reveal yourself to them and remind them to just be still and know you are God! I will continue to give you all the glory. Amen.

 

We are Commissioned

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”          (Matthew 28:19-20)

I want to take a few moments today to look at the Great Commission. I think that most of us know this and probably many by heart. This is when Jesus commanded His disciples to go out into the world and make disciples. So what does that look like in today’s world?

First I think we need to look at a very key word, “GO.” Jesus did not tell His disciples to just “kick back here, sit in the shade of a camel and wait for them to come to you.” No He told them to “go and make disciples.” It is much easier today than it was 2000 years ago. We don’t have to track miles across the desert to the next town. Instead we can simply post on social media and…voila…done. But there is something to be said about the journey and not just the destination.

I have seen many churches over the years that have either lost sight of this or were not sure how to make it happen. I mean no judgment. Please do not misunderstand me. This is simply my impression after long talks with boards, pastors, deacons, and laypeople. I think that many interpret this as a call to go out and make new Christians. Although that is what we are called to do, this goes beyond that. We pay our tithe so that someone else can go do it. Missions is a very important part of ministry, but we were not called to be timid.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline (II Timothy 1:7)

We do indeed need to seek out the lost and show them that their lives need not be so empty. That there is more for them than what this world can offer. We lead others to know the love that we ourselves know and experience everyday in our lives. We lead by example and by the Word of the Spirit through us. We do not lead others to know Christ as their personal savior so that we can have the recognition, but rather so that God can be glorified!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Discipleship is such a key part of Christianity. I remember when I first became a Christian. I thought to myself, “now what?” What was expected of me? What tools was I going to need in order to make this stick? Discipleship is more than just leading someone to Christ, giving them a bible, and then saying “Read this. Tylenol for headaches–Mydol for any cramps. Let me know if you have any questions.” We are expected to pull that new Christian along side of us and journey with them through the darkness to find the Light.

In a book entitled, One Conversation at a Time, D. Michael Henderson reminds me that we just need to follow the example of Jesus. How did He do it? “…one discussion, one conversation, one heart-to-heart discussion at a time” (Henderson, 6). Jesus walked across the land during His ministry on earth and spread the Good News one conversation at a time. Think about how many people He came in contact with on a daily basis. How many posts do we make on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? How many of those reflect the true nature of God in our lives?

What are we willing to do for those that have come to know Christ? How do we lead them? We are all responsible for them. A word of encouragement or even praying for them daily. Being a new Christian in today’s world is not easy. We are bombarded daily by ads and pop-ups that tell us we can have more. Remember when Jesus was tempted three times? Was He not offered the world by one that could not deliver? We have to protect those that are in our lives from this same temptation.

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”   (John 17:15)

You need only to look to the news to see how twisted the world is. Satan may be loose now, but we know in the end he will be thrown into the lake of fire and he is trying to take as many with him as he can. The question is, what are we willing to do about it? Why do you think Christ sent the twelve out into the world to make disciples? How did they know how to do that? They watched Jesus Himself do it with them. They had an awesome example. What example will you set today?

Dear Father, I thank you for your awesome mercy and grace. I thank you for all that you have protected me from over the years and for all those that you have set in my path to guide me where I needed to be. I ask now that you use Your words here today to touch someone’s life in a profound way. In a way that they may have no denying the power of the Cross. I humbly ask that you use me how You may so that your kingdom may be glorified! Be with each person that reads these words that they may be encouraged as I was in writing them. I will continue to give you all the glory! Amen.

Complacency-Lukewarm Christianity in Today’s World

 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelations 3:15-16

I have had several conversations with people over the last several days regarding Disney’s decision to include a “gay scene” in their cartoons and movies. While most are taking a stand against it, others are “going with the flow” or accepting it as what is necessary. Since when is sin “necessary?” Just curious. Did I miss the memo?

During a conversation I recently had, we were discussing how many theaters were pulling the new movie. I mentioned how Disney was going to have a hard time making its money back from production if it was pulled and boycotted. They then said, “Oh well. That’s just the way the world is headed.” I was taken back coming from someone that attends church regularly and even teaches the children of that church. I am not sitting in judgment here so please do not misunderstand me. That is a conversation for this person and God…not me. But it made me think about how complacent we have become both as Christians and as a people.

We live in a world where we are bombarded daily that we need to be tolerant and accepting of others. I accept all people for who they are but I do not have to believe in their actions. We should not be afraid to speak out against the sin. Jesus taught tolerance and love yet confronted evil everywhere He went. He went up against the Pharisees precisely because what they stood for was wrong and in the end, He was persecuted for it. Should we not at least be prepared to do the same? Love the sinner…hate the sin.

Complacency is precisely why the “world is headed” the way it is! Have we so watered down our beliefs that they have become lukewarm like the church at Laodicea? John warned them against spiritual indifference and called for courage under persecution. Christ is calling us to be warriors for Him. We as Christians need to rise up and say enough is enough…take a stand for Christ and stop being so afraid of confrontation that we allow the world to be what it is.

Where will your seed fall?

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word;  but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:15-19

Keeping the Faith When You Feel Lost

Each morning I get up, shower and shave, feed the dogs, the fish, and Taz , our guinea pig. I try to remove all distractions that get in my way of communing with God. I read my devotional, spend time in prayer and meditation and then the madness begins. Getting the kid dressed and off to school on-time, fighting traffic to get to work, dealing with subordinates that are challenging, and yet I still manage to keep my head above water. All the while battling the growing impatience in my life.

The truth is I fight with the same things everyone else does daily. I fight the urge to have road rage, to yell my head off because someone did not use a turn signal, to get frustrated with someone that I have shown the correct way to do things at least a dozen times, and the list goes on. Let’s face it. It is difficult to keep your sanity in today’s world.

I am thankful that I serve a God of compassion, mercy, and grace. It is during these times that I try to let Him shine through me and my actions. I am not always able to do it, but that is when the God’s forgiveness and mercy comes in. He has promised time and time again that He would not allow me to go through this life alone. In Isaiah He said,

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

Throughout all of this, perhaps like some of you, I still feel lost every day. I feel as though I am just wandering around aimlessly waiting for God to show me what He has in store for me. This is by far the greatest test of patience for me. Some days I feel as though I am going to explode with all that is in me. All the ideas I have for outreach, the overwhelming need to help others that are oppressed, the empathy that I must endure for those that are suffering, and the desire to disciple those that have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior so that they do not get lost again. When will God give me an outlet?

Each day I pray that He will use me to be a light in someone’s darkness, to show someone how Jesus can be the life preserver in their chaotic life. Even now as I sit here and write this, I am filled with sadness that I have no outlet. I try to fight back the tears that are welling up in my eyes thinking of all the lost opportunities. Does this mean I have lost my faith? Have I lost faith that God will use me or perhaps that He already has and I just do not know it? It makes my head hurt to think about it.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. I Corinthians 12:12

The good news is that God has a plan. Not a plan for me to fail, but rather one for me to prosper. That is a promise I can stand upon. One that all of us can stand upon. At those times when we are feeling the lowest and the devil has managed to give us a spirit of fear, anxiety, and timidity, we must remember that God does not make empty promises. He would not waste a gift of the Spirit on us without a plan to use it. That brings me joy to know that when the time is right, He will reveal to me what He would have me to do. Although I do not know His plan, I can believe that He has one and that we all work for the glorification of Christ in and through our actions and thoughts.

Dear Father, I thank you for the opportunity to come into your presence this morning. I think you for the opportunity to speak my heart in the hopes that it may give someone else the hope they need to continue on. I pray that you use this as you may and that you use me as you may…in Your time. When you are ready…so am I. Thank you dear Father for being my light in the darkness and for saving me from the world in which I lived. I give you all the praise and glory forever. Amen

 

Are My Prayers Heard?

Where do we find God? Where is He when we need Him most? Is He near? Why can’t I feel Him? Does He not hear me anymore? These are questions I think every Christian asks at some point or another. Perhaps you have been asking these very questions? Are you going through a rough patch and wondering where God is? Good news…..He is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Since the Word of God is infallible, that is a promise you can stand on! But perhaps we are just not recognizing Him when He answers our prayers. Are our prayers pure in heart or motivated by selfishness? If you are praying for God’s will to be done and you mean it in your heart, then they are pure. God hears the prayers of the righteous man.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b

I believe that we get so caught up in the details that we lose track of the fact that God will deliver. We go into it with expectations and that is all we can see. When we pray for patience, perhaps God puts someone in our path to test our patience in order to teach us patience. Perhaps you have prayed for God to use you but cannot seem to find out how. Maybe he has been putting that same homeless man outside of your office building or on the same corner day after day to teach us outreach. The truth is we never really know what God has in plan for us but we need to remember that he is never late and he hears our prayers.

I heard a great sermon last night about commitment. It was powerful and truly stirred my soul. Have I been committing to the wrong things in life? I am committed to allow God to use me however He sees fit and with that comes the knowledge that it could be absolutely anything. He could choose for me to be homeless tomorrow or to be jobless. Whatever it is I have to accept as His plan and be joyful. That’s not easy sometimes because, let’s face it, we are human.

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18

When Jesus walked the earth, he did not avoid those that were in need but instead went to them. They were broken and He met them and made them whole. He has and will continue to do the same for us. He promised to never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy  31:6) which means that no matter where we are or what we are facing He is there with us facing it too. We may not always know when He is answering prayer for us, but we can pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and He will give it to us. Remember that just because you may be going through a rough time, does not mean that God is not answering your prayer. He just may not be answering it the way you want Him to.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

Dear Father, Thank you for this opportunity that you have given me to share what you have put in my heart. I ask that you may use this to reach someone that is struggling. Let Your words be a light in their darkness. I pray that you also teach me how to be more in tune with what you are providing for me when you answer my prayers. I may not always get what I want but I always get what I need. Thank you for your son Jesus and the stripes that healed me. Amen.

Where’s my Identity?

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

What is “identity?” The dictionary says: “condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that distinguish or identify a person or thing.” What distinguishes you from say, your neighbor? Well, one could say it’s our physical characteristics or perhaps the way the neurons fire in the brain which dictates the way we think or act. Quite frankly, I have asked myself this question for years. Who am I?

Where do we find our identities? Do we find them in how much money we make? What car or truck we drive? Where we work? What our attendance was at church last week? Are we looking for it in worldly places or heavenly places?

As a child, I had a very lonely existence. I never had anyone to play with and the kids all made fun of me. I was that one kid in school every single year that was shunned, picked on, made fun of, beaten, chased, and humiliated. Yep…I was “that” guy. I often sat in my room and talked to myself so that I would not be so lonely. I dreamt of what I would become and how I would never make anyone feel the way I felt.

I was raised in the Nazarene church. My father ran the bus ministry and sat on the board, my mother was treasurer, I participated in all the activities because this was the only place that did not make me feel like less than a person. At a young age, I gave my life to Christ. Finally, someone that loved me for who I was without condemnation! The problem was there was no discipleship so it quickly faded and I allowed the oppression of the world to overcome me. I could not believe that a God of love would allow me to feel the pain I felt inside so I ran from God.

By the age of 15, I was smoking, drinking, and doing more drugs than most people do in a lifetime. Every day was a day of self-medication. I was stealing anything I could get my hands on to feed my habit. This continued all throughout my teenage years. Daily doses of “medication” kept me so numb that I would not have to feel the pain that was building inside of me. I desperately searched for my identity.

I spent time in satanic worship. Practicing the dark arts, casting my spells, praying. Satanism teaches that if you want something you just go out and get it regardless of who you step on in the process. “Death to the weakling, wealth to the strong!” You lie, cheat, steal—whatever the cost and you will find true happiness. This is who I wanted to be. The guy that didn’t take any crap from anyone ANYMORE! But Satan is the great deceiver so I soon found myself more desperate than ever to have friends and be loved.

I moved to Florida at 18. My oldest brother had offered to get me a place to stay and a job so off I went on another adventure to find myself. My roommate was an alcoholic and would often come home, bust in my door and beat me because there was a dish in the sink or because he had no one else to show power over. I felt as though I deserved it. This was no different than what I left behind so it must be the way things are supposed to be. He was my brother’s best friend so I could not say anything. He wouldn’t have believed me anyway even the bruises would not have convinced him. I soon found crack cocaine to numb the pain.

The addiction was horrible. Spending every dollar to get a fix and then breaking into people’s homes to steal what I could to feed the habit. I was able to medicate away the pain and despair. The hurt, loneliness, and self-loathing were no more.

I was still on a journey to find myself and moved to Arizona where I found the New Age movement. This is the thinking that man is divine and is therefore able to create his own reality. Reincarnation, transcendental meditation, crystal enlightenment—I tried them all. This allowed me to create my own world in which I was the center not God who had abandoned me so many years before. Along with this came meth amphetamines. I would sleep and eat only one day a week which gave me more time to devote to the pursuit of my happiness.

There was one person in my life that I actually thought was my friend who betrayed me with the woman I thought I loved. Oh, that old familiar pain was back. There it was. I knew it was just a matter of time since, after all, I was never truly meant to be happy anyway. I moved back to Iowa and exchanged the meth for alcohol. I would go out every night and drink myself to the point that I could not remember my own name and then climb in my car and drive home just to wake in the morning, pour myself a drink and go to work. I had to make the pain go away!

I remember one day sitting on my couch with a gun in my mouth just wanting the pain to go away when all of a sudden I felt the arms of Jesus wrap around me and tell me that it would be okay. I remembered His loving touch and the warmth of my heart. But I still could not commit. I still ran from God. But He did not give up. He placed someone in my path and soon I was married and we found our way back to church.

I still remember the day as though it were yesterday. The pastor was Gary White at the Bethel Heights Church of the Nazarene. He was preaching about turning our all over to Him and allowing Him to work in our lives. There it was! God met me at my point of brokenness and saved me! Praise be to God!!

So, where does all this tie into the title? I searched for many years for an identity. I looked for it through a straw, at the bottom of a bottle, and even in the darkness. But it wasn’t until I found Christ that I truly discovered who I was–a child of God!

When God calls us to Him, he changes us through the Holy Spirit which He promised. This Holy Spirit helps us to find the person that we were meant to be. He bestows gifts of the Spirit upon us to help us on our journey. The journey starts with a commitment to serve Christ. Who else do you know that would allow themselves to be beaten, humiliated, spat upon, nailed to a cross, and die for YOU?? He did all this so that we would no longer have to worry about who we are because we are children of God.

Dear Father, I thank you for the opportunity to share this message with someone today. It’s a message of hope and not despair; of love and not loneliness. I ask that if anyone that may read this is in need that they may seek you out for only in you can we ever truly be made whole and fulfill our purpose. Thank you for all that you have given to me and for it all I will forever give you the praise and glory. Amen.

 

 

God is not Dead

Look around you to see God’s work!

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

I am not sure where to start so let me just say…GOD IS NOT DEAD! I was sitting alone in my office wondering what I would name this blog when Newsboys came on Pandora and God just spoke to me. Next thing you know; here I am.

I have been looking for an outlet for my thoughts for some time. I have been using Facebook but quite frankly, I am afraid that people will soon begin to click on “unfollow this person” and it will all be for nothing. All I want is for God to be able to use me in some small way to touch the life of someone, somewhere, sometime. I will probably never know whom I have touched or how it has impacted His kingdom, but impact His kingdom it will. I have faith that He will use me in some way to get His message out.

A little information about me…(my testimony will come in time) I am 51 years old and have a beautiful supportive wife named Merilee. We have been together now for 15 years and my only regret is that we did not meet earlier in life. We have five wonderful children; Jonathan who is 27, Curran is 24, Alex is 22, Lily is 19, and Faith is 10 going on 20. She has grown up in a house full of teenagers so let’s just say that she come fully equipped with attitude.

We are currently attending Grace Pointe church in Conway, AR. It is a wonderful church filled with more loving people than I could ever deserve. They never stifle the Spirit and I have seen wonderful things happen here in the short time that we have been attending. God is definitely moving there and I see a great revival on its way!!

I graduated from Nazarene Bible College in 2013 with a degree in Pastoral Ministries but have been struggling the last several years as to where and how to use it. This has been a real struggle for me since I know He called me to full-time ministry yet here I sit with no real direction as to how to use it for His kingdom. I can only continue to pray and believe that He will reveal himself to me in His time. For we all know that God is rarely early…never late…and always on-time.

Dear Father in Heaven. Thank you for this opportunity to be able to express your words through my thoughts here. I pray that you will bless these words and bless the receiver that they may find comfort in you and that Your will be done here. Amen.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,    (Ephesians 3:20)