Voting Has a Direct Effect Upon Life In The Womb

28 01 2019

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

 

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

 

Your eyes saw my unformed body: all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  Psalm 139: 13-16

 

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

 

If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who guards your life know it?

 

Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?  Proverbs 24: 11, 12

 

Today we see the direct result of how we cast our votes.  Is your allegiance, is your passion to Jesus and the lives He created for life?  If the godly do not care, who will?  Thank you New York state elected officials for this reminder.

 

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

 

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.

 

Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  Psalm 127: 3-5

“Father, forgive us for this sin of selfishness and the sacrifice of innocent blood.”

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Are You Known More for What You Hate or By How You Love?

31 12 2018

I was speaking with a friend recently about a specific governmental department that I obviously did not have a good word for.  Later in a text message, I apologized for my negative expressions.  And here’s the reason for my apology: Holy Spirit.

 

While I was driving to my next appointment, I found myself being asked,“Do you want to be known for what you hate or for how you loved?” Then, in my mind I could hear a future conversation, “Yeah, Steve has no lost love for  ________.”  Not wanting that statement on anyone’s lips I asked for God’s forgiveness as well.

 

Social media is full of rants and raves.  People who would have never had a platform or a voice to express their strong views toward a political candidate, a boss or a former spouse or girlfriend can now take to the Internet and tear others apart for their beliefs.  We can quickly pick out what someone hates or strongly disagrees with, but are left wondering what is good in their world.  Are you more known for what you disagree with or for how you love, reach out and serve others regardless of how they believe or vote?

 

Someone has said that we often have only one opportunity to speak something life-giving, something godly or encouraging and we use that one opportunity to tear apart those who do not believe as we do.  Let’s work at changing that and become more like Jesus, who “…Was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent so he did not open his mouth.”

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong…

If I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor…but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind…it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…

Love never fails.

As we enter 2019, could God be challenging you as He has me? Will those you interact with, will those who read your social media posts, will those you work with and will your family hear about what and how you love or more about what you hate? We may have only one opportunity to say something kind, life-giving or loving. Let’s not miss that opportunity.





The Devastation of Abuse and Teaching Your Children Responsibility

22 10 2018

I would be devastated, overwhelmed and heart-broken if my daughter suffered any kind of abuse from anyone in any fashion.  I would give my life to make sure that did not happen. Further, I would be equally broken and horrified if one of my sons was falsely accused of abusing another. Having raised my children with very clear values and boundaries, I would believe them if they told me abuse occurred or did not occur.

Whether there is alleged abuse or alleged accusation, I appreciate that these kinds of things, brought out and into the light, bring awareness to very destructive behaviors.

We are told that one in four girls endure or suffer from some form of abuse or molestation, which is simply horrific.  But it is also true that one in five boys suffer the same.  Having been a social worker and marriage and family counselor for many years, I witnessed way too much devastation in lives of youth and of adults in both females and males.

I heard stories from young women who had been molested in their family barns, a place that should have been safe for them and I heard similar stories from young men.  One young man told me that his female high school English teacher while on school premises repeatedly forced him to engage in sexual intercourse.  His pain over this was evident years later.

We are responsible to teach our children truth and how destructive sex can be outside God’s boundary of marriage.  My wife and I shared I Timothy 5:1 and 2 with our children, “Treat younger men as brothers…and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”  Your children’s school teachers, politicians, Hollywood or any news media will not be teaching these verses; it is your/our job to establish these boundaries and life-giving values.

Today we hand our children a smart phone to stay in touch with us. At the same time, we must realize these hand-held devices are a computer and they accesses pornography which teaches just the opposite of the values we are attempting to instill.  Are you aware that Hollywood produces around 600 to 700 films per year while the pornography industry produces 13,000 films per year? Children are accessing some of the worst, most horrific sexual smut available for free on their phones each and every day.

In these times we are hard pressed to find any moral guidance coming from Washington DC, even as governmental leaders call for morality.  And Hollywood continually puts out sexually provocative films and then expects morality among its ranks.  You cannot have it both ways…sorry.

So let’s take responsibility for our own lives and the lives of our family.  We need to have a zero tolerance of pornography and sexually explicit movies and television.

No matter the ill in our society, God’s word has already spoken on the subject and given us the most safe, most protective and life-giving answers. It is that same book that mentions not lying, not stealing, not committing adultery, not coveting and not murdering.  This is not a call to fight or resist our government, our schools or even Hollywood, but it is a call to remember who our enemy actually is.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  (Ephesians 6: 12)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.(I Corinthians 10: 2)





The Redemption and Reentry of a Predator

10 09 2018

I had this question posed from last week’s blog, Signs of a Predator in Your Church, (and I’ll paraphrase here), “What about the reentry of a ‘predator’ to the church after experiencing redemption?”  It was a great question and calls for a follow-up answer because a major role of pastors/leadership in the local church is to protect its members.

Redemption means to be bought, paid for by another.  To redeem is to atone for a fault or mistake.  When one is redeemed by the cross they are repurchased, made right through Christ.  However, that redemption does not remove the consequences of one’s sin.  If someone is guilty of murder, goes to jail and then experiences true redemption, they will still be incarcerated and rightfully so. Salvation does not stop the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Keep in mind all of us needed redemption; none of us is or was without sin.

With that, what would be our response to this repentant one?  It is said that it takes a lifetime to create a sexual predator. What that means is they perhaps have a history of being abused and abusing.  There is most certainly a not so good background preceding the life of a predator.  And there are a lot of factors to consider, but through the love of Christ we are welcoming to the saint and the sinner.  We do not judge their heart, but hope for the ongoing completing work of salvation to wholly change a life.  First Corinthians six is very clear and concise when it says, “And that is what some of you were (the sexually immoral).  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  It does not get any clearer than that.

Please remember not all abuse is the same, however.  Some is accomplished without ever touching the victim through exhibitionism or voyeurism. There are presently over 550,000 registered sex offenders in the Unites States.

Does this mean as the church we have an open arms policy and immediate access to our teens and children’s ministries?  Does this mean we pose no boundaries or period of caution for the one that struggled with this sin?  It clearly does not.  So, here are some suggestions when dealing with this person and their reentry into the local church. (Note: By the way, there are 600,000 persons who leave prison every year.  A reentry program for your church is something to consider.)

A few considerations

  1. You are not looking to enable an abuser in any way or further traumatize a victim. So we err on the side of caution and not on the side of mercy.
  2. At the risk of sounding harsh, if you are dealing with a registered sex offender, then in all humility and an attitude of, “If not for the grace of God there go I,” the congregation needs to be aware and the former offender should give permission to make this known. It does not need to be a public announcement, but every family should receive an email or some form of communication.  In this effort, you are protecting the whole and not just the one or two.
  3. Often the one who has been incarcerated enters a “reentry program” before reentry into society at large. Create a reentry program with clear boundaries, e.g., counseling, close accountability, Internet watch programs, close supervision in church activities and certainly no access to minors (which means no activities, no transportation and no children’s church functions unless it involves their biological children). Create boundaries in the spirit of love and not in a spirit of retribution.  (Suggestion: Designate a reentry person and assign them to this member.)
  4. Be clear on these person’s probation boundaries/terms. If this individual was arrested for their crimes and convicted, they will have probation/parole guidelines to follow and will most assuredly be on Megan’s List.  They will have a public record of criminal convictions.  Obtain this record and be informed.  Discuss their attendance to your church with their parole officer to be sure it falls within allowable guidelines.  (It’s not a bad idea to receive written permission from the PO that this person can attend your church.)
  5. This person normally spent years learning how to “groom” and “grooming” victims in that it became a lifestyle of action and thought. Time to heal, time to rebuild foundations and time to learn another way of thinking and acting is crucial.  Be aware of the propensity of the offender to be a reoffender.
  6. Be assured of ongoing counseling and one-on-one accountability in this person’s life. Depending on the level of their crime, it is not too far-reaching to have their designate reentry person with them at all times when on your church property.
  7. A violation of these guidelines will result in immediate action taken to remove this person from the fellowship.
  8. Know your states laws when it comes to sex offenders. For example, in Iowa it is illegal for a convicted sex offender to be on any school premises or public libraries.

Clinical psychologist, Anna Salter, wrote a helpful book titled, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders.  In that book she said, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people cannot reliably tell who is lying.  Many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Rachel Denhollander, the attorney who summoned her personal faith in her trial of her abuser, Larry Nassar said, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.”

Jesus set a man free from his bondage and then that same man begged Jesus to get into the boat with Him and His disciples. Our Lord’s response to him was, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…” (Mark 5: 19). Jesus might have been creating a boundary for further healing for this man as he left his sin-filled life and reentered his community.





Signs of a Predator in Your Church

4 09 2018

In light of recent news articles about sexual abuse coming out of Pennsylvania, I thought it appropriate to consider this subject in brief.

I sat in my counseling office with a counselee and her mentor (on more than one occasion) who was telling me about her years of growing up in a conservative church environment and how she was repeatedly sexually molested.  Some of the stories made my stomach ache and with others I found myself getting angry: angry at parents who didn’t believe their son or daughter, angry at youth leaders who did not address the danger, angry at church pastors and leaders that kept secrets and provided cover-up and, of course, angry at abusers.

Sex offenders will take years to infiltrate a place to carry out their sociopathic behavior.  They will slowly and methodically work on building relationships so they are trusted and believed.  Sex offenders’ scope out their victims, finding the one(s) whom they believe they can dominate.  They feel entitled to do what they do because they see their victims as persons who desire to be dominated, need to be dominated.  They take their time to target persons who need them for some reason, making them even more vulnerable.

Here are some signs to look for:

  1. They do not make themselves stand out or act creepy. They work hard at looking and exhibiting “normal.”  They work a normal job and live in a normal neighborhood.
  2. They are giving extra, special, generous and consistent attention to a victim they have targeted. They are charmers and gift givers.
  3. They will create an environment of need. They desire the victim to need them for some specific reasons.  This gives them power and control to manipulate.
  4. They play on emotions and will sulk, become “depressed,” express words of rejection, play the victim and could even threaten self harm all in an effort to take advantage of their victim and receive their pity.
  5. They lie a lot.They lie about where they have been, what they have been doing, what they’re thinking and almost everything else in an attempt to give their victims what they think they desire to hear or need.
  6. They will be steadily pushing boundaries. There will be suggestions of behavior that crosses boundaries that will lead to unwanted actions.
  7. They will disempower their victim by expressing love in an attempt to isolate and move away from other trusted relationships.
  8. Eventually, as the victim becomes more uncomfortable, the predator becomes more aggressive and even violent because they are feeling desperate.

We don’t spot them because they blend in and we’re not naturally looking for a predator.  In fact, most of us can’t even relate to such evil.  With the signs above you can watch out for your children within your extended family, your neighborhood, your child’s school, sports activities and yes, your local church.

 

Psalm 55: 21 says, “His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.”





Praying For and Adjusting to the Slightly Imperfect

5 03 2018

Our family often had the nations around our table as our children grew up. We loved the cultural examples each one brought to us. I remember in particular a couple from Zimbabwe who we invited from a local college for Thanksgiving. In the middle of the meal the wife told us, “You throw away the best parts of the turkey.” We all had a great laugh because we do not eat the head, liver or the feet of a turkey. But we desired our children to know and understand that every life is valuable to God and His design for them. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of nations and nations represent people.

Proverbs 12 tells us, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” What does your tongue bring to those around you, your co-workers and your acquaintances?  I am personally challenged by my thoughts (not often spoken, but still thought) that do not think the best of others or those thoughts which do not give those different from me the benefit of the doubt.  To have the privilege of traveling the world and to experience different cultures is enlightening, while at the same time difficult to not think comparatively, i.e., my culture vs. their culture.

I can remember being invited to a wedding in Central America that was to begin at 11:00 AM.  My wife and I were there and ready for the ceremony to begin at ten minutes before eleven o’clock.  The funny thing was, no one else was there other than a few people who were setting up.  I had my wife recheck the invitation and sure enough it said 11:00 AM.  The wedding actually began sometime after noon.  It was our introduction to a significant cultural difference.  It wasn’t wrong, just different.  Our North American mindsets needed to be desensitized so that we could accept the cultural norms of another nation.

How creative of God…warm cultures, cold cultures, on time cultures, fashionably late cultures, brash and bold cultures…all to His honor and glory,  All cultures representing differing characteristics and attributes of the nature of a loving Father. Did you know the word nations is found in the Bible 564 times? In the book of Revelation, chapter 21 reveals, “The glory and the honor of the nations will be brought into it [The New Jerusalem].”  The nations will be represented in that new city.

Thank you, Lord, for Your patience with us, our lack of understanding and proverbial comparisons. How You love the nations!

 

 

 

 





Five Powerful Responses to Our Government Leaders

12 02 2018

Politicians can be an especially difficult bunch due to their near truths or outright lies, placating, patronizing, cover-ups, political correctness and bottom line desire of being reelected.  You rarely know who is telling the truth today.  You especially rarely know the full truth because of a press that now also includes “fake news.”  Further, the news outlets often only report what will support their causes and their politicians.  It is why I love inside reports from Christian leaders I am acquainted with (throughout the world) who are in the know about so much of what is truthfully happening around the world.

It is the unshakable kingdom of God we serve first and foremost, not this world’s shakable kingdom.  It is this eternal kingdom that should draw the most passion from us in order to fulfill Matthew 28 in every nation of the world.  So, yes, I care about politics, but I also know how very shallow, surface, selfish and incorrect it can be at times.  It’s a challenge to not be distracted by the shakable kingdoms of this world.

It is easy to get on a bandwagon and rant and react, especially with the access of social media today. It is harder to find the truth, pray, search the scriptures and locate a godly response to these matters.  The latter takes a lot more time, more listening, more humility and less of a desire to be right.  It is good to remind ourselves Jesus lived in troubled times with a very ungodly government and ungodly religious system.

I know I am not a perfect example of this, but I am growing and desiring more grace for such situations. I desire to be a truth giver/teller that brings life and love with it. In an attempt to share with you God’s word on the matter of government, here are five key responses toward our governmental leaders:

 

  1. I urge, then first of all that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (I Tim 2: 1-4)

 

  1. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.  (I Peter 2:17)

 

  1. Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Rom 13:1)

 

  1. The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.  (Proverbs 21:1)

 

  1. Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.  (Titus 3: 1 – 2)

 

As Christ followers, we have a long way to go to do more listening, considering, growing and developing.  But there are many undeniable written words from God that do not and will not change with culture.  We are called to influence culture with Biblical truth. While our opinion may be valuable to some, it will not supernaturally change a life.

We are to be known by our love.  Love is not accepting everything that comes down the pike as a, “That’s OK if it works for you,” but loving even when we disagree strongly.  There is an inordinate amount of I John 2:1-8 going on in the world today, i.e., claiming to know God and to love Him, but unwilling to obey Him and His word because of its inconvenience to personal sin or cultural belief.

Let us be reminded of the “rulers” that we are actually struggling against as Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”








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