‘Tis the Season—For Holiday Scams

Dark Scam

‘TIS THE SEASON—FOR HOLIDAY SCAMS

   Today I got a call from my son to warn me about some of the latest “scare-you-for-$” phone scams. Here are a few of the more popular:

   SCAM #1: Phone rings. “Hello, is this so-and-so?”

   “Yes.”

   “Ma’am, every year thousands of children will not have a Christmas this holiday season—no food, no presents, not even a candy cane. And with—”

   “Excuse me, but—”

   “No, excuse me—with your credit card gift of just $1000, you can help a—”

   “I know—a fat guy on a computer living in his mom’s basement. No thanks.” Click.

   SCAM #2: Phone rings again. “Hello, is this so-and-so?”

   “Yes.”

   “Do you have a son named _______?”

   “Yes.”

   “He’s been arrested (or in a car crash or mugged) and needs you to get a $500 money pak immediately… hurry… he’s suffering!”

   Can I just tell you? Your son does not need bail money or money for the ER or plane fare because he was mugged, drugged, and put on a plane to Bourogue. He’s fine.

   SCAM #3: Phone rings yet again. “Hello, is this so-and-so?”

   “Yes.”

   “This is (Your Power Company). You owe the company $1200 and we’re on our way over to shut off your power right now. However, if you send a money pak immediately, we won’t shut you down.” (Seriously, this is a real thing.)

   Well, you’re smarter than that so you say, “Uhm, that doesn’t sound right.” Then you hang up, Google the number for YPCo. and—funny thing—it’s the same number the guy called from. Even funnier thing: you talked to billing and it turns out you don’t owe YPC $1200. In fact, you don’t owe them a cent. Still, the guy calls back so you tell him that. He then informs you that he was calling from the corporate office in D.C. and you called the local YPC number and the local guys don’t have current billing info because there was a computer glitch that messed with their systems (although they don’t know that) and blah, blah, blah… So (says the guy) the bottom line is that you do too owe YPC $1200 and the crew is still coming to turn you off if you don’t pay. And then you’ll freeze to death. On Christmas.

   Now I know what you’re thinking: Who falls for those scams? Right?

   One of my relatives once fell for a well-established scam targeting older people and it cost him nearly a hundred thousand dollars. Every year, thousands of people are scammed which is why, every year, thieves make millions of dollars scamming them.

The art of the con—especially targeting older folks and especially this time of year—is really quite lucrative. And that’s because the scare tactics work.

   Another big money-maker for the criminals is that the big, bad IRS is going to freeze your bank account, notify your employer that you’re about to be a convicted felon, and sell your children into slavery if you don’t cough up your credit card number. Right now. NOW!! And the clock is ticking—every minute that you don’t pay adds interest and penalties and fees to the bill.

   But take a deep breath. If you haven’t yet heard, the IRS doesn’t make phone calls, they send letters. Lots of them, if need be, but they won’t be calling you—ever. So it’s okay to hang up on them.

   During this season of giving and good will, don’t let someone take advantage of you; don’t be the victim of a scam and don’t let your loved ones be, either. Granted, sometimes these criminals are stupid and their scams are so ridiculous that even my dog wouldn’t bite. But for every five stupid scams, there’s one that’s really good—too good. And hundreds of poor souls will fall for it and lose thousands of dollars—even hundreds of thousands. However, here’s the disclaimer: I am not saying that people shouldn’t give to those in need during the holidays (or any other time). What I am saying is that giving should be done to reputable organizations which will be responsible with your gift, seeing that it goes to the cause it was advertised to help. So go ahead and give—just not to anyone or any organization that you don’t know or that you didn’t personally call.

   This holiday season, if there’s one thing you have to remember, it’s this: Once you, yourself, voluntarily use your own credit card or give access to your bank account, you can’t then turn around and cry “fraud” to the bank or the credit card company and get your money back. It’s not fraud—you gave your money away. And it’s gone.

   So—when the scammers come calling, just hang up. If it really was your long-lost Uncle Scrooge, he’ll call back.

 

  

  

 

 

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Things I’ve Learned—And Not Always the Easy Way

Teddy Bear Looking out of Window

THINGS I’VE LEARNED—AND NOT ALWAYS THE EASY WAY

  1. God uses and multiplies the thing that’s already in your hand.
  2. You can do the right thing with the wrong attitude and it counts—because you’re trying to do the right thing.
  3. “Foregiveness” means giving something before it’s deserved. That thing is mercy.
  4. Time is the most precious commodity we have. And the clock is always ticking.
  5. “Fear of success” is not a thing. Fear of losing success is a thing.
  6. It’s better to try and fail than to live with the regret of never even having tried.
  7. Instant success often leads to inevitable failure—because we haven’t learned to manage the instant success.
  8. God is way is smarter than me.
  9. Hardheadedness is not proof of courage. Faithfulness is proof of courage.
  10. There’s a huge difference between being “done” and being “finished”.
  11. A liar might tell the truth. We’ll just never know.
  12. If you’re pursuing your destiny, sooner or later you will hit a wall. Your options are to go around it, dig under it, or blow it up. Just don’t go home.
  13. God doesn’t do social promotion. If we don’t learn it the first time, we’ll just keep repeating the lesson—again… and again…
  14. Disappointment will make you bitter if you let it. Bitterness is the cancer of the soul.
  15. Toffee cookies are really good.
  16. There will always be people who have it better than you and people who have it  worse. Which you focus on will determine the kind of person you become. 
  17. If you do the most good that you can with what you already have, you’ll discover your destiny.
  18. Some days the dream just ain’t behavin’.
  19. Life is not fair. If it were, we’d all be dead.
  20. Common sense is not that common anymore.
  21. Opportunity is a gift to be handled with gratitude.
  22. Life “on the shelf” is usually prep time for life in the spotlight.
  23. You can’t out-give God. But try anyway.
  24. A heart of flesh cannot be forged apart from trial and anguish.
  25. Silence is necessary for anything to make sense.
  26. No seed, no harvest.
  27. Tea cures everything.
  28. Loneliness is part of the human condition. Emptiness is optional.
  29. What we hear ourselves say is usually what we get ourselves.
  30. Correction is not rejection.
  31. Eternity is the great equalizer.
  32. The end does not justify the means. Ask anyone in prison.
  33. Words are a double-edged sword.
  34. In the end, “good enough” is only someone’s opinion.
  35. Santa is real.      

 

 

 

Two Words That Will Change Everything

Old couple kissing

TWO WORDS THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING

   Recently I happened to see a teenager sitting at a table who was asked to get up and get a book. He never even looked up—he simply said, “Mom,” and mom, who was in another room, jumped up and hurried to get the book for him. I don’t recall that he even said “thank you”. Now, if I had to guess, I’d say that little scenario has been playing out for some time. And while I’d like to say it was rare, I can’t. We’ve all seen some version of the girl who sticks her hand out to dad and says, “Money.” There’s no real “please” involved or even if there is, it’s not really sincere. The expectation is that dad will fork over the money, no questions asked. And dad complies. Although he may have one question: “Is $25 enough?” (Probably not.)

   It’s so fun to be taken for granted, isn’t it? You’ve all probably experienced it at one time or another—having done a favor for or given to someone a few times and suddenly it becomes an expectation that your generosity will continue because—well, just because. That’s your function in life.

   Now I get the whole Christian thing about “not giving to get” and “going the extra mile” but we’re human, and when it becomes clear that another person is taking advantage of our kindness, it can sting. And that’s especially true when you’re really only trying to show love to someone and they’re just not getting the memo. It’s frustrating to say the least.

   But here’s the scary part: What if we’re one of those people? What if we’re the ones who don’t recognize the sacrifices being made for us by the people who care about us? Or even worse—what if we do know and we simply ignore them? What if we take for granted that those people who give us so much are just always going to be there because—well, why shouldn’t they? Husbands, wives, grandparents, children, friends, pastors, employers, co-workers—we don’t really need to say that we appreciate what they do—they’ll just know. Right?  Probably not. But here’s an even scarier thought: What if it’s not just people we take for granted? What if it’s God, too?

   I have to confess—more than once in the midst of worship, I’ve shifted into petition mode. Suddenly it goes from ministering to God’s heart and becomes about what I need. I drift from thanking the Lord for what He has given me and find myself asking for yet more.

But the fact is, God deserves our most sincere gratitude. And so do those who’ve been so kind to us.

   So what if this Thanksgiving, we went beyond the redundant verbal recitations of what we’re grateful for? What if we actually did something to demonstrate how thankful we are for that person, act of kindness or gift? Perhaps we could take a moment and write a “thank you” card or make that long-overdue phone call—one which really expresses our heartfelt appreciation and love for the people who’ve stood by us and helped us out? We all know someone to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. Why not pay it?   

   This Thanksgiving, let’s do the right thing and say a simple, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I can’t tell you what it’s meant to me.”

   I can tell you what it will mean to them.

The Thanksgiving Blues—Or Not…

Family Feud at Thanksgiving

THE THANKSGIVING BLUES—OR NOT…

   Ask a bunch of different people what Thanksgiving is all about and you’ll get a bunch of different answers:

   DAVID (the college kid): “It’s about the turkey! And the mashed potatoes and the green bean thingy…”

   GRANDMA: “No, no! It’s all about tradition. We always use the good china and make giblet stuffing—what?? You didn’t put the giblets in the stuffing?? But it’s tradition—oh, I feel faint…”

   DAVID: “… and the homemade cranberry sauce and the sweet potato casserole…”

   TINY TOM: “Thanksgiving is when Santa comes to the mall!”

   GRANDPA: “No, dang it! It’s all about football! And one of these years Detroit is going to win!”

   UNCLE MIKE (spitting adult beverage across the room): “Bahahahaha!”

   AUNT CLARA: “It’s about decorating for Christmas! We put the tree up and the lights on and the elves on the shelves—.”

   DAD: “It’s a vacation—five days off!”

   HALEY (9th grade diva): Sigh, followed by eye roll. “Don’t you people know anything? It’s all about shopping. Black Friday starts on Thursday and runs through Saturday and then takes a break till Cyber-Monday—except for the malls open on Sunday…”

   DAVID: “… and the pumpkin pie! And apple pie and pecan pie and chocolate pie—”

   GRANDMA: “I still feel faint… maybe a little eggnog with a wee nip… What?? It’s tradition!”

   HALEY: “… then Cyber Monday runs till April…”

   TINY TOM: “It’s about Santa Claus!”

   MOM: “Thanksgiving is all about family…”

   In our culture today, the common mantra is that Thanksgiving is “all about family”. But it’s not. Nor is it about the hundred other things it’s morphed into: football, shopping, stuffing ourselves silly or gearing up for Christmas. It’s about one thing—giving thanks to God for all He’s blessed us with. It’s about gratitude for all those things we take for granted—things that so many people in other countries would give their right arms for: peace, safety, food, shelter, heat and hot water, free education. Here’s what I thank God for everyday: a home—warm and safe. Food to eat that we don’t have to hunt or plead for. Clean water to drink that we don’t have to walk miles to get every day. And then there’s the country we live in—the United States of America—the greatest country in the world. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s paradise compared to some of the countries I’ve lived in and visited as an ex-military brat. I thank God for our freedoms: we worship as we like, we can live or travel anywhere we choose, we can vote and have a voice in our government, and we have the right to speak freely and even to protest our government officials. And I can tell you—that doesn’t happen in a lot of countries.

   It’s really eye-opening to think about how different our lives would be if we didn’t have those  things.

There will always be those who have more than we have and those who have less than we have. Which we focus on will determine whether we’re  grateful or bitter.

   Around the holidays, it might be difficult to find anything to feel thankful for. Maybe we don’t have family or maybe ours is not exactly the flawless family we see so much of on television. Consequently, we can fall for the myth that everyone else has a “perfect” holiday and so we’re left to suffer the soul-splintering pain of what we don’t have. As a result, any feelings of gratitude are often overshadowed by the grief of loneliness or other losses—and that grief can be devastating.

   But what if we took a moment to look at everything we do have? As I tell my sons and students, there are always going to be those who have more than we have and those who have less than we have. Which we focus on will determine whether we’re grateful or bitter. Whether we have a happy life or a miserable one depends on one thing: our attitude. It’s a choice.

   Choose gratitude—and have a happy Thanksgiving.

 

  

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

                   

      

  

  

  

  

Your God Moment.

Road-Pier in Fog

YOUR GOD MOMENT.

   One night many years ago, I was praying and pleading with God for the salvation of a loved one. (I’ll call him Ben.) I’d been doing this for more than a year and suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, the Lord said to me, “Ask me for anything in the whole world you want.” Now this was quite a shock because the God (I thought) I knew just didn’t give that kind of a blank check. Still, within less than a nano-second, a couple of possibilities stampeded through my mind. But—which to pick? It basically boiled down to one of two things—should I ask for Ben’s salvation because he needed it so much? Or should I ask for my mom whom doctors had warned “might” have a very serious problem? I was torn. There could be grave consequences if I made the wrong choice, but I came to this conclusion (and don’t think it was easy): Since my mom already knew the Lord, the worst case scenario for her would be to go to heaven. (It would be the rest of us who would suffer.) Worst case scenario for Ben would be that he’d most definitely go elsewhere.

   “Lord,” I cried, “I don’t want Ben to go to hell!”

   “You got it,” the Lord said.

   “But God,” I asked (still not quite sure what was happening), “what if I’d asked you for a Porsche or something?”

   “I knew you wouldn’t ask for anything outside of My will.”

   And that was the end of the conversation. (True story.)

   Now you might be thinking that I only thought I’d heard God say that. I get that. However, in order for any of us to be able to imagine something, we first have to be able to conceive that thing as a possibility in the first place. However, in my wildest imagination, I’d never dreamed it was even remotely possible that God would make an offer like that—to anyone. Well, maybe to Mother Teresa but she hadn’t been in the room. But as for me? It wasn’t even on my radar.

   So—would God really say that?

   Yes.

   It’s strange how sometimes we don’t see things in the Bible—even when they’re right under our noses. It was sometime later that I was reading the Word and noticed that Jesus made a similar offer to people—and more than once. In Luke, a blind beggar called out to Jesus, “’Son of David, have mercy on me.’” Jesus’ response?

   “’What do you want me to do for you?’” (18:41).

   Implicit in that question is the idea that Jesus was willing to give the man whatever he was about to ask for. Otherwise, what would be the point of Jesus even asking that question? So He could say, “Oh, no—thought you wanted something else. Sorry, you can’t have that.” Of course, being Jesus, He already knew that the man was going to ask for healing, and He knew He was going to give it to him. So then, what was the point of Jesus asking the question if He already knew what the man was going to ask?

   So that he—and we—could hear Jesus ask it.

   Jesus wants us to know that which we don’t dare to think: that He would actually give us anything our hearts desire. And why? Because we’re His and because He loves us.

   But what if we misuse God’s unfathomable grace? Is His offer permission for us to run amok with any old request? No. Nowhere in Jesus’ question, “What can I do for you?” is the implication that we can ask to burn down the house and it’ll be done for us. What the Word does say is that God will give us our heart’s desires—after we first “delight ourselves in the Lord” (Ps, 37:4). It’s an offer God makes when He discerns that we can “handle” the request. The truth is that when we “delight ourselves in the Lord,” we become so changed that whatever our hearts’ desires turn out to be, they’ll be pleasing to Him and in line with His will.

   In the story of Esther, she went before King Xerxes to make a request. Now, being queen, that shouldn’t have been a problem but as court etiquette goes, one doesn’t just appear before a king without an invite—such audacity could be a capital offense. Nevertheless, Queen Esther was desperate and approached the king without a summons. Of course, that was scandalous and shocking to the court because essentially what Esther did in appearing before the king without permission was to disrespect the king’s rules. And since King Xerxes’ first wife had been disgraced and dis-appointed as queen for disrespecting an order from the king, the power-hungry nobles of Xerxes’ court were probably watching very closely to see whether the king would show weakness by allowing a “mere” woman to dishonor him (again) or whether he would show strength and put her in her place. And what did the king do? Not only did he hold out to Esther the royal scepter (which, in king-land means “I spare your life”) but he also said to her the unthinkable: “’What is it you desire, Esther? I will give you up to half my kingdom.’”

   Now there’s a man who loves his wife.

   Jesus loves us the same way. I wish I’d known that all those years ago because then I would have understood another thing, too. I would have understood that I could have asked the Lord for both of my heart’s desires: Ben’s salvation and my mother’s healing. I wouldn’t have had to choose between the two. But I didn’t know because I really didn’t understand just how much God loves me and how great His mercy is.

   When your moment comes, don’t doubt it—don’t stand around wondering if it’s really God. It is. In that moment when the heavens open up and God says, “Ask me for anything in the whole world you want,” know one thing: You. Are. Loved. In that moment, the royal scepter is being held out to you, inviting you to come boldly to the throne of grace and to make your petition to the Lord of all creation.

   In that moment, God is waiting—for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wall

The Wall IITHE WALL  

   This week, I hit a wall. I had a huge disappointment in terms of a goal I’d been working toward for months—and frankly, it was crushing. I questioned everything I thought I knew about anything: what I was doing, what I was supposed to be doing, what God wanted me doing—or didn’t want me doing. Now I find myself at a crossroads: to continue or not to continue—that is the question. In seeking the answer, I returned to what I know. Here’s what I know…

   Sometime, somewhere, we’ll encounter some massive roadblock. I will. You will. There will be a point in the pursuit of your goals during which something goes wrong or people say you can’t do that thing or you feel overwhelmed with the scope of the task or you simply get tired of working, working, working and waiting for something to break your way. You’ll run into adversity or out of money, resources, time, energy—even faith.

    Welcome to “The Wall”.

   The Wall is any seemingly insurmountable obstacle, which, by definition, simply means “game over”. So the question then becomes—then what? Is the game over? Is the dream dead? Was the vision only a mirage? Is our very destiny teetering on the precipice of doom? Maybe.

   But before you throw in the proverbial towel, it’s time to hit the War Room. Now, I’m not talking about the war room in the movie War Room—although stopping by that room to pray is highly recommended. But no, I’m talking about your other war room – the one which every military general has, the one in which your strategy is conceived, planned, and from there, implemented.  It’s the room in which you “map the dream,” “plan the work and then work the plan” and, sometimes, “go back to the drawing board”.

Everybody who’s ever achieved his destiny has a “War Room”.

   Don’t have a war room? Maybe you do. War rooms go by other names, too: board rooms, conference rooms, “think tank” rooms—all places where people meet to brainstorm, “hash out,” and make decisions regarding ideas, problems/solutions, and tactics. Chances are very good that you have one at work or even at home. It’s where the dream/vision/goal is tracked, nurtured and, if necessary, revised, repackaged, remarketed and re-released.

   But mostly, the war room is the place where you go when you need to fight through and you need the resources to help you to fight through. It’s where you come up with a strategy to get around The Wall—somehow, some way: climb over it, dig under it, tunnel through it or, my personal favorite, blow it up.

    So what’s a war room like? Well, if you’ve ever seen one, there are maps all over the room – lots of them. That’s because winning a war requires taking territory and maps are essential for determining which territories you already possess and which you want to possess. In terms of our dreams and visions, a map then would be the equivalent of a vision board or a goal chart. What are our goals? Which ones have we already achieved? Which ones do we want to achieve? These goals need to be clearly articulated and clearly visible.

   Sometimes the best way to depict a goal is through a picture. Some people, in pursuing their fitness goals, post pics of people who have the waistline or muscle mass they want to have. Or someone who’s trying to save money toward a goal might post a picture of a car or house or vacation spot. Someone working toward a career goal might post a picture of someone doing the job she wants or even (you’ll think I’m so shallow) the salary she’ll earn. Use pictures or statistics or words to illustrate your goals – just make them visible.

   Next you need a plan: how, specifically, will you achieve your goal? In our school district, I’m part of a team which designs and implements what we call, appropriately enough, our district-wide “Strategic Plan.” We meet in a conference room and everything. But the point is we create a plan with goals, steps for meeting those goals, and a timeframe within which those goals should be met. We meet occasionally to evaluate and, if necessary, tweak the plan.

   But what if you hit The Wall—what then? First and foremost – define the problem. What is it, how serious is it, who’s involved and who or what might be impacted? Next, what are all of the potential consequences of the problem? Go to worse-case scenarios: what happens if? And don’t skip any of them. Odd as it sounds, I like this step; I like mapping out all of the potential problems with a vision and/or the ways that a dream could fail. Why? Because it’s really true that the fear of the unknown is scarier than the actual reality. In other words, in identifying the ways something could go wrong, we often find that the worst-case scenarios aren’t as bad as we might have imagined. And, as importantly, it gives us a chance to plan strategies “just in case” the worst happens.

   For example, what if we own a business and we run short of money to keep it going? Brainstorm: What are worst-case scenarios? Would we have to close up shop? Would failure mean bankruptcy? What are the possible ways to get more money? Loans or investors or partnerships? What’s the game plan if we can’t get more those ways? Cut backs on products/services or staff? A raise in prices on products/services? Point? Don’t wait until you hit The Wall to try to solve the problem—especially if pre-consideration of potential problems might prevent them.

   Does all of those “presupposing” make you a worrywart or pessimist? Not necessarily—unless after considering what might happen, you walk around expecting it to happen. For example, before I bought any stocks (not that I have a lot), I considered the possibility that, given the market’s history, it might crash before I retire (someday). Does that mean I expect it to crash; do I go to bed scared at night? No. It simply means I haven’t invested more than I can afford to lose.

    “Acceptable risk”—another war room strategy: What can you afford to lose without resulting in total failure or ruin? Think resources: money, time, energy? Are relationships or health at risk, etc.?

    All of these considerations are why we need a war room to offset The Wall. Obstacles will happen. Even Jesus said tribulation would come. So get ready for it.

   What’s going down when you and The Wall collide? Will it be you—or the wall?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born For Glory

Vil Son PhotoBORN FOR GLORY

   Yesterday I left for work at the usual time—and hit every red light for thirty miles and trailed every pokey driver between all of them. I could feel the heat rising. And in the fog of frustration, I may or may not have had a few spontaneous thoughts…

   “Really? Buses have to sit for five whole minutes at every empty train track they come to??”

   “Sure. Cut in front of me and slow down. I have all day.”

“That light saw me coming and turned red on purpose…”

   “Please! Pick a lane—any lane…”

   “Look up the word ‘yield’.”

   Now, I don’t remember praying for patience, so I had a little sidebar with God. “This can’t be a coincidence so what’s going on, please?” His response?

   “Pick up your crown, sit down with me, and engage like the royalty you are.”

   Oh… right… We’re seated above the circumstances, not under them; we don’t react to  situations, we command them; we don’t surrender in fear of defeat, we battle from a position of victory.

   We rule.

   Is that presumptuous to think? Is it a sin to say? Is it blasphemous to live? Not according to the Word.  We’re seated with Christ. We co-reign with him. We will judge angels. But when we have a difficult day or season or life, it’s easy to lose sight of that. Or maybe we simply don’t know that. But the Word is clear: We’re royalty. And why?

   Because we’re sons and daughters of the King.

   Maybe you’re in the midst of a really horrific season in life. Maybe your whole life has been one long, uphill fight. Maybe you’ve been enduring a years-long crisis or a soul-shattering tragedy. Or maybe you’ve failed or messed up so badly that you’ve mangled your entire life.

But here’s the thing: you are not defined by who you are, what you’ve done or what you’ve been through.

   You have a purpose and a destiny from the Lord; there’s a reason He created you, and He wants you to discover that purpose and fulfill it.

   Now granted, you have to know the Lord to discern His purpose, but even many Christians don’t know why they were born and now they’re just trying to “get through” life.

   NO. You were born for glory.

   You were born to rule this world, to overcome evil, and to ease pain. You were born to expose the darkness, to share the truth, and to spread hope. You were born to encourage, to defend, and to decree. And how do you do all of these things?

   You dare to dream.

   Your dreams and visions are the road signs pointing to your destiny. And perhaps the thing you were created to do will be different than what I was created do—or maybe it will be similar—but it’ll be yours. No one else ever will bring to that thing what only you can.

   Maybe that business is already out there. But God wouldn’t have called you to do it if it didn’t need to be done your way with all of your talent and life experience. And multiply this principle by a hundred other things: pastoring a church, teaching a class, caring for a loved one, raising a difficult child, running for office, working as a manager or a car mechanic or a salesperson, writing a song or painting a mural—no one else’s heart will ever touch that thing the way yours will.

   A friend recently told me he wanted to write a book but the topic had already been done—and done again. And many times, as writers, we hear that; a tiny voice whispers, “Someone beat you to it—don’t even bother.” But I’m here to tell you: That book—your book—has not been written. Maybe the topic has been addressed a dozen times but your life experience and your knowledge and your insights have not. That’s why publishers ask what books are similar to yours and what’s unique about yours—because there will always be something new that you have to bring to the table.

   Here’s the truth: You were born to take that territory and possess that mountain. You were made to rule and reign in the land you’ve been appointed to. You were made for so much more than the box or label that you or others have assigned to you.

   You were born for glory.

   And all you have to do to walk in your royalty is to believe that that’s your destiny.

   It’s time to rule.

  

 

 

 

 

“Angels of Light”—Or Not…?

Full Moon Castle“ANGELS OF LIGHT”—OR NOT…?

   Did you know that 40% of Christians believe in psychics? (Protestant—38%, Evangelical—33%, Catholic—46%) Are you aware that one in three (29%) Christians believes in reincarnation (P—26%, E—19%, C—36%)? And did you know that 26% of Christians believe that spiritual energy can be located in physical objects (think mountains and trees) (P—32%, E—24%, C—47%). The bottom line? Six in ten (61%) Christians hold at least one New Age belief (Pew Research Center, “Facts In the Numbers,” October 1, 2018).

   The problem is that not one of these New Age or occult beliefs is, in any way, shape or form, compatible with the Bible or any doctrine or principle in it. But why should we care? After all, we should be tolerant of the beliefs of others, including Christians—right?

   Wrong. Very wrong.

“UNDER COVER OF LIGHT—Occult, New Age and False Religions,” Sunday, October 21st at 10 am, Cornerstone Community Fellowship, 7793 Brewerton Road, Cicero—JOIN US!

   The Bible is very clear about occult activity and our participation in it. In fact, God says, “I will oppose anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists [spirit guides, psychics] to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people” (Lev. 20:6).

   That’s pretty explicit. My concern here: No one I know, Christian or otherwise, wants to have their destiny opposed by God. Yet He will—He said so. And do you really want that? Do you really want all of your years of dreaming and planning to go up in smoke? Do you really intend for all of your blood, sweat and tears to be wasted? Do you actually want to see all those nights of burning the midnight oil evaporate into thin air? Or worse?

   Do you want to fail?

   Many people don’t believe God means what he says in his word. The ironic thing is that some Christians stand on his word for the things they need to fulfill their destinies and then discount his word when they don’t like what it says.

   Did you know that that kind of picking and choosing from the Bible is a mainstream New Age belief?

   Of course the main objection when people hear what God says about occult activity is always some version of “but what’s the big deal with checking out a psychic or having a séance or playing around with tarot cards or Ouija boards? It’s all just fun and games; no one gets hurt.”

   You get hurt. The word “occult” means “hidden”. And occult activity is hidden by Satan expressly for the purpose of destruction—yours. In fact, his goal is right there on the printed page: “’The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…’” (John 10:10). And it’s so much easier for him to do that when we cooperate with him and engage in the occult. But we do that because the primary strategy Satan uses to destroy us is deception.

   The fact is, you’re not the exception to his little agenda; none of us are. It doesn’t matter whether we know the occult is Satan’s territory or we don’t. Satan doesn’t say, “Oh, well, you didn’t know I intend to destroy you, so I won’t. Go ahead and play.” Sorry. Nor does it matter whether we visit a psychic, chant a mantra, participate in “past life regression,” or talk to grandma through a séance—we’re treading on territory patrolled by demons. (Btw—if anyone shows up at the little get-together with grandma, we need to be aware that it’s not grandma. It’s what’s called a “familiar spirit”—a demon who appears as someone we know so that we’ll engage with it.)  

   Deception.

   “Spirit guides” are another entity to stay away from. In fact, run from. I used to know a psychic—a spirit guide— who’s job it was to contact spirits from the “other side” and give advice based on what the “spirits” would tell her. But the advice was not helpful; in fact, it was destructive. But all part of the plan. However, she was a “nice” person—she didn’t look like a Satanist or anything—so people believed her.

   To their peril.

   “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness…” (II Cor. 11:14-15).

   Deception.

   I know, I know. You’d be able to tell if you were being deceived. But that’s the tricky part about deception—you really can’t tell.

   As to reincarnation, that’s another lie from the pit of well, you know where. How do I know? Think about it—if we could all go to heaven just by coming back until we “get it right,” then Christ really wasted his time on the cross, didn’t he? I mean, if we could be saved from the fiery pit any other way, then we wouldn’t need a Savior, would we? It’s not rocket science.

   It is deception.

   “But,” (you say), “what about Harry Potter and Casper the Friendly Ghost and the Ghost Whisperer and the Good Witch—they’re all good people, they’re all nice.” They are but can I just tell you? There is no such thing as a “friendly” ghost; a “ghost whisperer” is simply another name for a spiritist/psychic/spirit guide; and God didn’t differentiate in the Bible between “good” or “bad” witches. What he did say was, “Now a man or a woman who is a medium or spiritist shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20:27).

   Now, why would God say that? That just sounds mean. But God has a reason for being so unequivocal about witchcraft. He says, “’Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God’” (Lev. 19:31). The fact is this: God is prohibiting occult activity for our sakes; it “defiles” us. That means it makes us “polluted,” “unclean,” even “foul” (Strong’s). And a holy God and his Holy Spirit cannot commune with us if we are polluted by the enemy.

   Let’s face it: the desire to engage in the occult, the “hidden,” is intriguing. There’s a mystery about it; people want to know more about the secret spirit realm. That’s the lure.

   Deception.

   The truth is, there’s nothing mysterious about the occult if we read our Bibles. God fuels all that is holy, and Satan fuels all that is evil. God works out in the open, the light, and Satan works in the hidden, the darkness. God will tell you the truth so that you can choose who or what you want to follow, and Satan will deceive you so that you don’t understand who or what evil you’re “choosing”. God will never override your free will, and Satan will destroy your free will. God brings freedom, and Satan brings bondage.

   God has come to bring you life, and Satan has come to bring you death. That’s all.

   “’When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?’” (Is. 8:19).

   Do you want to know what your future destiny holds? Ask God, he’ll tell you. But one thing I can tell you: What your destiny holds depends upon whom you’re following.

   Choose wisely.

The “A” Words: Authority and Accountability

Riot IV

THE “A” WORDS: AUTHORITY AND ACCOUNTABILTY

   Let’s face it—even wolves have an authority structure. The Alpha dog is the one who keeps the others in line. If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be a pack, there’d be chaos. And we see lines of authority all throughout nature. There’s a “pecking order” in the barn; the geese follow a particular goose; rams butt heads to find out who’s in charge; and I’m pretty sure lions have some sort of show down to determine the Big Cat. (I did see The Lion King.) Even families in nature have a structure; all the little duckies follow the mommy duck in a no-nonsense line. Lion cubs get swatted into order, and I’ve never seen a calf or colt bucking the bull or stallion.

   Unfortunately, not so among humans—in families or in society. The result? Chaos in families and in society. The parenting trend in our culture over the last several decades has been to allow children to “rule the roost” (which, by the way, would never happen in the henhouse). We’ve all seen parents who are too intimidated by their children to stand up to their naughty behavior. This means that the authority structure in the home has broken down, and therefore, children (in these homes) are not taught even to acknowledge authority much less respect it. This then translates into meltdowns in our classrooms, workplaces, churches, courts, and even the streets of our nation; without respect for authority, it’s difficult (impossible?) to contain people who are not getting their way, much less to accomplish anything productive.

   So how do we offset this? There’s only one way: We have to recognize and comply with the need for both authority and accountability. And if that recognition does not begin with us, it has no hope of spreading to anyone else.

   But does submitting to authority and accountability mean that we subject ourselves to horrific abuse by those who wield their authority like Attila the Hun? Does it mean that, like browbeaten doormats, we silently quake in fear in the wake of bad leadership? Does it mean the return of slavitude and the breakdown of civil society?

   No.

There’s a time and a place to address abuses by authority, but it’s not by burning, looting, accosting, and assaulting those in charge. There are means of protest which do not erode or decimate a nation.

   So—what can we do to preserve civility on our turf?

   Suggestion #1: At least consider respecting authority. Granted, some people don’t deserve the positions of authority they hold, but instead of starting with the assumption that all authority is corrupt or incompetent, how about we at least wait until they prove that before we accuse them of it? In fact, why not begin with the opposite perspective—that all authority deserves to be respected? For example, let’s just assume that policemen and women have our backs and deserve to be respected for—what again? Oh, right—risking their very lives to protect—us. And ditto with the military; let’s not assume they’re all evil warmongers but rather selfless people who love their country and—us. Not to mention pastors—it’s actually possible that they do have better things to do all day on Sunday than the care and feeding of clueless sheep. (Wait—did I say Sunday? I meant Sunday through Saturday…) And let’s not forget teachers. Let’s just pretend for a moment that they’re not just in it for the big bucks and summers off and that they might actually like a kidlet or two. Besides, who doesn’t love arguing with teenagers for a living? Every. Single. Day. Almost.

   Suggestion #2: Consider being accountable. I know, I know—there’s a medieval concept. After all, being accountable to anyone would certainly imperil all our freedoms and rights as homo-sapiens. Right? But when you think about it, is it really such a horrific idea—especially if there is no one else to speak into our lives with just the right blend of wisdom, truth, and love? We’re usually blind to our own faults or we would’ve already dealt with them, so what’s wrong with getting another perspective? (And if we prefer to ignore our faults, then there’s a reason for accountability.) If we have an accountability partner, we can make character adjustments a lot sooner rather than later; we can get another viewpoint on potential decisions; or we can simply have that rock-in-a-storm to talk us off the ledge when we think the world is ending.

   Being accountable doesn’t mean we’re signing up to be raked over the brimstone every time we have a little chat with our partner. It can actually be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And the Bible does say that “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17) and that “two are better than one…” (Ecc. 4:9-12).

   Seriously, King David would never have become king if he had not continued to honor King Saul’s position as king even though Saul was trying to kill him. David said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Far be it from me to touch God’s anointed.” Granted, I know better than many that sometimes it’s not easy or even safe to respect the authority we’re under, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it—at least from a distance. Can we not at least pray for those in authority, if nothing else? Can we not at least be polite, even if we don’t have the greatest parent/boss/political representative, etc.?

   Respecting authority does not mean that we always agree with those in authority, nor does submitting to accountability mean that we’re relinquishing our free will if we choose to listen to someone wiser than we are. One thing I do know: If more people in our society were willing to do those two simple things, everything would change.

   Unity would happen.

 

  

Kingdom vs. Democracy

Crown-Constitution

KINGDOM VS. DEMOCRACY

   Living in a democracy is far different than living in a kingdom. Agreed? In a democratic republic, we vote in our leaders and, if we don’t like them, we vote them out. Simple. However, in a true kingdom (without a parliament), people have no say in who rules; whoever occupies the royal cradle is who they end up subject to. Sometimes that works out. Nevertheless, given human nature, most of the time, not. (You know what they say: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) Still, subjects of a monarchy are often at an advantage when they become Christians. Why? Because they view Christ as a king and not an elected official.

   Of course, your average American Christian would argue that point; the party line (whichever party) is, “We know Jesus is King!” Maybe. We even sing songs to that effect. But still, knowing it and acting on it are two different things entirely.

   Now, to be sure, it’s not our fault that we don’t know the difference between a kingdom and a democracy. Moreover, those of us in said democracy believe that we have the advantage over a kingdom. After all, all we know of kings is that tyrant King George back in the day who taxed our tea without a thought as to what we’d drink with our crumpets. Or mad King Ludwig of German fame—proof positive that you can’t impeach a king. Or King Herod, the murderer, or King Henry the VIII, the adulterer/murderer, or King Louie XIV, the oblivious—and on and on it goes. (King Arthur, of course, was the exception, but alas… that was long ago…)

   The point is this: much of the confusion for Christians is that we give lip service to the idea that we are the subjects of Christ the King but, having little understanding of the difference between a kingdom and a democracy, in our ignorance, we presume much. So—here’s a little primer on the differences:

   Thing #1: Leaders. In a democracy, we elect our leaders, and those not directly elected to their positions are appointed by elected officials. This means that virtually all of our leaders in the United States are subject to We the People. In a democracy, our leaders serve us. In a kingdom, on the other hand, leaders are members of a monarchy who are born to their positions, not elected; therefore, they are not subject to any of the people. Rather, the people exist to serve the king. In terms of the Kingdom of God, this translates to this:

Christ is our king, not our president. As such, He is not subject to We the People nor can He be voted out. Period.

   Is that fair? To those raised in a democracy to whom everything is about “rights,” maybe not. Which brings me to…

   Thing #2: “Rights” and “Fairness.” In short, in a democracy, we have some rights. In a kingdom, we don’t. End of story. And unless and until the king decides we do have some, that will never change. Therefore, as to the above quandary regarding whether it’s “fair” that a king can’t be voted out, doesn’t matter. A kingdom concerns itself not in least with what’s fair to you or me. “Fairness,” in a kingdom, is not a doctrine. This is not to say, however, that all kings are ruthless or unfair. Christ is not, fortunately for us. Although, if He chose to be, that would be fair because “fairness,” in a kingdom, is defined entirely by what the king believes is fair. And there is no discussion about that nor is there any filibustering. In a kingdom, one protests the king’s view of fairness to one’s own peril.

   Thing #3: Laws. Kingdom laws are determined the same way as kingdom “rights” and “fairness;” the king is the one who determines what the laws are and he then decrees them. Furthermore, once a king establishes a law, no one, including the king himself, can negate the law. In the Bible, we have the (unfortunate) example of King Xerxes who carelessly decreed a law that the Jewish people could be slaughtered by whoever wanted to on March 7th of some year. However, when confronted with what a stupid idea that was, even he couldn’t cancel the law; the best he could do was to issue a new decree which would give the Jewish people permission to fight back. In the Bible, God says that His Word—His laws—are established “forever”. They will never change. In a democracy, on the other hand, laws can be protested, amended and even revoked.

   This particular difference between a kingdom and a democracy is the one which causes the most confusion and anger among Christians.

Some in the body of Christ think that if they don’t like a law or principle in the Word of God, they have the right to protest and/or ignore it entirely. Not so.

   In a kingdom, the only real freedom we have is whether to obey the laws of the king or not. However, the consequence for disobeying the laws is always punishment, and there is no appealing that.

   Thing #4: Subjects. In a democracy, We the People are called “citizens” because we are all equal members of a civil society (at least in theory). In a kingdom, people are called “subjects” because they are subject to the king, meaning that they are, essentially, at the mercy of the king. Hopefully, the king is merciful.

   Among the king’s subjects are his “gentlemen-in-waiting” and, for a queen, “ladies-in-waiting”. These are the king’s and queen’s closest confidants, his/her best friends, and the ones most influential to the monarch. However, this does not mean that these nobles are equal to the king or queen; they are appointed by the monarch and can be dis-appointed as well. Their job is to “wait” upon the king or queen.

   In terms of the Kingdom of God, we are Christ’s gentlemen and ladies-in-waiting. However, we are more than that; we are co-heirs with Christ; we rule and reign with Him. However—and this is key—we still wait upon Him. He is still the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and we exist for His delight.

   I love the tale of King Arthur because I believe he is a visible type of Christ. (History suggests he was a real Roman commander-turned-king who reigned in England, establishing Christianity, in the pagan days of the druids.) He ruled over his kingdom but he had elevated his knights to a “round table”—an outrageous concept in his day. In other words, they had equal input into his decisions. And while he had the final decision, he listened to them. They were his companions and best friends and he loved them. He was, like Christ, a benevolent king who ruled in the best interests of his subjects and friends.

   In the Kingdom of God, the enigma is this: we serve in total subjectivity to Christ the King. Yet, because of who He is—a loving and benevolent king—He has chosen to elevate us to a higher position than we could ever achieve in a democracy. We are His co-heirs, His companions, His very friends.  

   And we are the most privileged of people to be so.

 

 

 

DRIVE YOUR VISION.