Death of A Dream—Or Not?

House on Fire

THE DEATH OF A DREAM—OR NOT?

   The world is full of dead dreams. We’ve all had them—the degree we never managed to get, the business that never got started, the marriage that didn’t happen or failed, the ministry that got sidelined, the book deal that never materialized… the list could go on forever. And all around the world, millions are mourning their dead dreams as well. In the meantime, life goes on and we trudge forward, trying not to think about what we lost or never really had.

   Sound familiar?

   This is Easter week—a week during which, 2000 years ago, the dreams of many died an abrupt and bloody death. That’s because Jesus died. Jesus—the one who was supposed to save Israel from the cruel brutality of the Romans. The one who was supposed to get revenge for all of the vile and inhuman atrocities propagated by Roman rulers and soldiers: the horrific rapes of young Jewish virgins, the vicious slaughter of hundreds of babies, the oppressive and unbearable taxation of the Israelis, the horrendous crucifixion of Jewish “criminals,” the slavish orders given to ordinary people everyday… the never-ending terror that was life under Roman occupation. Jesus was supposed to end all that; he was supposed to establish his reign on earth and set right every wrong.

   He was supposed to make life worth living.

   I can only imagine the list that Peter and the disciples had for Jesus:

  1. Become King in the line of David and reign over the whole earth forever.
  2. Annihilate the Roman empire and punish every Roman soldier who’s ever abused any Jewish person. In fact, You should probably crucify them all.
  3. Restore all land stolen from the nation of Israel.
  4. Restore the Jewish temple to its former glory (and all of its treasure).
  5. Put each of us, Your faithful disciples, into positions of power and authority.
  6. Make Israel great again.  

   But that didn’t happen. Instead, Jesus died—and with his death, all of the dreams of all who had ever followed Him, hoping that He was the answer to their desperate prayers for salvation; those dreams all died, too. But what the people didn’t know—and what we often don’t know at the funeral of our own dreams—is that God had a much bigger plan for salvation than any of them could ever have imagined. It wasn’t just that God desired to save the Jewish nation from the hands of the Romans but His ultimate plan was to deliver all people from a much greater destroyer: SIN. And so Jesus shed His blood and died—and with His death, the Jewish people were not only delivered from the Romans, but also from themselves—from their own selfishness and greed and hatred and unforgiveness and prejudices and, and, and… And then, to demonstrate that an even greater dream had been fulfilled, Jesus rose from the dead and proved that He had also conquered DEATH.  

   How’s that for a dream fulfilled?  

   The salvation of man is a dream conceived in the heart of the Father—much more incomprehensible and vast than man could ever fathom. Even when Jesus told the disciples that He had to die, they didn’t get it. (We wouldn’t have either.) And they weren’t the first not to understand the scope of God’s plan; many in the Bible had dreams that they had yearned and pleaded for, decade after decade, and yet never saw come to pass—at least, not in the limited way they had hoped.

   Abraham, for example, begged God for a son to inherit his estate, to preserve the family line—year in and year out he pleaded. But then all hope withered; he and Sarah grew too old to have a child and the dream became cold and dead.  

   But God had a bigger plan for them: His dream was not simply to establish just another family line upon the earth but to establish a nation—one that would last forever. Could Abraham and Sarah ever have fathomed such a plan? No.

But it did require one thing before coming to pass: the death of their ordinary dream.

   Could Elizabeth, childless and disgraced, desperate for just one little baby, ever have imagined that God had a bigger dream for her: not just any baby but a prophet for the ages?  

   The Apostle Paul dreamed of spreading the gospel and for that, he braved extreme hardships: beatings, imprisonments, rejections by his own people, shipwrecks, murder attempts—all of which he was willing to endure to fulfill his vision of seeing people saved—in his time. Still, in the midst of those adversities, did he ever wonder whether his imminent death would bring a tragic end to the finite dream? But Paul did not die before God resurrected His own dream for Paul’s life: that Paul’s faithful letters would become the foundation of Scripture in the NT, impacting billions of people throughout all of history with the gospel. Never in his wildest dreams could Paul ever have imagined that his dream would be fulfilled that way.

   Maybe your dream has died. Or maybe it’s simply in the tomb right now, awaiting its transformation into the dream that God has for you. Maybe it’s a dream much more colossal then you could ever imagine—just a seed right now, buried in the ground, waiting to blow up into a gigantic oak.  

   Maybe your dream isn’t dead. Maybe it’s about to be called forth from the grave.

   Maybe it’s time.

 

  

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That Thing That Matters

Man with Tears

THAT THING THAT MATTERS  

   Today I looked around my classroom and my eye caught some words posted on my board: HAVE, DO, and ARE (grammar/vocab stuff). Those words got me thinking—are we defined by what we have, by what we do, or by what we are? And who defines us? Or—does it matter?

   It should matter because who defines us and as what shapes how we see ourselves, which, in turn, determines whether we believe we can fulfill our destinies—or not.

   So—are we defined by what we have?

   Do we have a car? What kind? New or not new? Pretty or not pretty? Luxury or basic? Don’t tell me people don’t “feel” a certain way when they buy a vehicle. Proud? Ashamed? Envious? Disappointed? And what about our clothes? Do we “feel” the same way when we’re wearing our finest suit or dress than when we’re dressed in casual clothes? And let’s not forget money. Lots or little? Savings in the bank or living paycheck-to-paycheck? Retirement pension? 401K? Or not? Do we feel secure or scared? Grateful or frustrated? Do we own a house? How big a house? Where is it located? Is it as nice as our neighbors’ houses? Or—do we not have a house?  Where we live often has something to do with how we think about ourselves. Not always, of course, but can we honestly say that nobody judges themselves of the basis of where they live? I know that once upon a time, I did…

   Are we defined by what we have?

   If so, let me mention a few of the best people history has ever known: Take Jesus, for example. He didn’t have much and what he did have, he lost. In the end, all he was left with were splinters and thorns. And there was Mother Teresa—I don’t know what she had before she moved to India but once there, she gave it all away. I could cite dozens of others but the point is that neither of these people let what they didn’t have keep them from fulfilling what they did have—a destiny.

   We are not defined by what we have.

   Are we defined by what we do?

   In a world where we’re pushed to “become something,” the world often defines for us what we “should” do. And that’s reinforced when we meet someone. Small talk usually includes a “So what do you do?” or “Where do you work?”

   Does it matter?

   Are we better people if we’re dentists rather than dental assistants? Do we have better character if we’re professors rather than teacher aides? Have we accomplished more in life if we’re the CEOs of corporations rather than small business owners? If we lose our credentials or our titles or our paychecks, are we lesser people?

   We are not defined by what we do.

   Let me repeat that—and not for those who don’t have the lucrative positions or incomes, but for those who might: We are not defined by our achievements. In other words, if we were to lose that position tomorrow, our circumstances might be different but we’re not—unless we define ourselves by what we do.

   I remember my father telling me that he’d once met one of the richest men in the country and that that man was one of the humblest, most down-to-earth people he’d ever met. Why? Because that man did not define himself by his money or position.

   Are we defined by what we “are”?

   There’s a question that haunts many: What are we? Are we rich or middle-class? Are we young or elderly? Are we married or never-married or divorced? Are we black or white or yellow or brown? In a world where we are increasingly defined by our outward appearances and/or statuses, those things can too often determine how we think we should think, behave and even react. To complicate the problem, the dawn of DNA testing has some people finding that they are not who or what they thought they were. But does DNA really define what we are—or are not? The culture, traditions, and values that we’d grown up with—are they all null and void if the DNA doesn’t line up?

   Can our DNA really disqualify us from belonging?

   And here’s the bigger question: What if (not like this could ever happen) we’re treated differently because of what we “are”; does that really make us different?

Are we more or less of a person because we’re rich or poor or married or single or black or white or tall or short or blue-collar or white-collar?

   The fact is—and this is so often repeated that it’s almost a cliché (sadly) —we’re all children of God. Period. It doesn’t matter whether there’s money in the bank account or whether there’s even a bank account at all; it doesn’t matter whether we have a low IQ or we’re Albert Enstein; it doesn’t even matter whether we have wrinkles or not (honest!). Our identity never changes. But if we allow it to change, if we’re swayed by the opinions and prejudices of others, then we’ll never fulfill the destiny that we’re called to tackle. Look at it this way: How we were created was designed to perfectly equip us to accomplish that one thing we were created to do.

   It’s not about what we have, what we do or what we are; if it’s about anything at all, it’s about the character we display. And that’s the one thing that transcends all races, all statuses, all ages, and all abilities. To paraphrase the great Martin Luther King, Jr.: We look forward to the day when we are not judged by the color of our skin—or (may I say) the ages of our bodies or the images in our mirrors or the bottom lines on our tax returns—but by the content of our characters.

   In defining ourselves, our character should be the one thing that determines what we have, what we do, and what we are.

   It’s all that matters.

 

Peacemaker—Or Peacekeeper?

ICBM IV

   PEACEMAKER—OR PEACEKEEPER?

   The Convair B-36—aka the “Peacemaker”—was a bomber used exclusively by the U.S. Air Force during the 1940’s and 50’s; it had an intercontinental range of 10,000 miles, an 87,200-pound bomb capacity, and was the first bomber capable of delivering any of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. In other words, with the “Peacemaker,” the United States could make peace around the world—one way or the other.

   On the flip side, the LGM-118 “Peacekeeper” was a land-based ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) used by the United States for the intent of shooting down any nukes launched against the U.S. (primarily by the then-USSR). The “Peacekeeper” was armed with a 300-kiloton warhead—a rather convincing deterrent to attack.

   The point is that the “Peacemaker” was an offensive weapon, and the “Peacekeeper” was a defensive weapon. The “Peacemaker” was designed to launch a first-strike attack against another nation for the purposes of offsetting a more destructive engagement, while the “Peacekeeper” would defend against a first-strike after a nuclear launch from another country.

   Now while the United States no longer employs these weapons, that’s not to say that there aren’t currently peacemakers and peacekeepers in the country today. The only difference is that these models aren’t bombers, they’re people.

   Let’s face it—sometimes making peace is messy. The fact that you have to make peace in the first place implies that something is out of alignment and that usually has to do with relationships—whether between people or nations. “Peacemaking,” by definition, requires that some person or group steps up and puts an end to a conflict already engaged, whereas “peacekeeping” simply endeavors to maintain a lack of conflict.

   Which is not to say that conflict is not happening.

   Is there “peace” when no one dares to speak because if he says the wrong thing or uses the wrong tone of voice, there’ll be hell to pay? Is there “peace” when some group has to be continually pacified, mollified, or coddled so they don’t pitch a fit, hurt someone or riot in the streets? Is there “peace” when all’s quiet in the kingdom but iron-clad tyranny lurks in the shadows?

   There is no peace where there is no peace of mind.

   The Apostle Paul said, “’The kingdom of God is… righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’” (Romans 14:17 NIV). Jesus said, “’From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force’” (Matt. 11:12 NASB).

   So which is it? Is the kingdom of God peaceful or violent? Who’s right—Paul or Jesus?

   They’re both right. True peace, “kingdom of God” peace, must be hard won and—make no mistake—the battle will be bloody. Sometimes bodies bleed, strewn across muddy battlefields littered with bullets and bayonets. More times, hearts hemorrhage at front door showdowns with tear-weary words: “Your home or your drugs (or rage or lies or…). Choose.”

   Sometimes peacemaking requires harsh change, heart-wrenching decisions, or grueling sacrifice.

   It’s the day the short, skinny kid stands up to the bully who’s been tormenting another—even though there’s a very real probability a public humiliation will be posted later for all the middle-school universe to savor.

   It’s the day the honest bread-winner visits his boss with the news that he can’t be a part of the latest company scheme to make a fraudulent buck—even if it costs him his job, his unemployment benefits, and his future recommendations.

   It’s the day the trembling wife with the carefully hidden bruises steps between her child and the man who’s about to hurt him and says, “Never again.”

   It’s the day a naked body hung impaled upon a cross by razor-sharp spikes, a body all splinters and blood—to liberate billions from the chains of eternal fire and torment.

   That’s peacemaking.

   Jesus said, “’Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matt. 5:9).

   At no time did the warrior Son of God ever call a summit and sit down with the devil to negotiate a peace treaty. Nor did the skinny kid, the honest bread-winner or the trembling wife. The fact is that peacemaking is not easy, it’s not fun, and it’s not popular. It is sometimes bloody, often terrifying, and always heart-shattering. But, in the end, it brings true “righteousness, peace, and joy”.

   Peacekeeping, on the other hand, is easier. That is, if one enjoys walking on eggshells, guarding toxic secrets, petting demons, and compromising one’s very soul. 

   Maybe it’s time to pick up your sword and make peace.       

 

 

 

 

 

“Destroyed for Lack of Knowledge”

2018 Evidence of God Conference III - Chris

   “DESTROYED FOR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE”

   “God can’t tell the future.”

   I blinked. Had I heard correctly? Was I dreaming? Or was a professor at a Christian college really standing up in front of several hundred people telling us that God was not omniscient?

   The spawn of Satan continued… “God can’t tell what’s going to happen ahead of time; he finds out when we do.”

   What???

   I looked around the auditorium but none of the other students at this fine institution of faith seemed bothered. To the contrary—they seemed quite impressed. This professor did, after all, have a “PhD” after his name. And who were we to question the almighty doctorate?

   “God!” I whispered, “Are you listening to this?? Do something!”

   And God did do something—just not what I expected. He said, “Ask him a question.”

   “Who? Me?” I looked around. No one else seemed to be having this conversation. It was beginning to dawn on me that perhaps this was about to become one of those cans of worms that you wished you had never opened. I think I squinted. “What question?”

   God told me. I sighed. “Professor,” I called out (from my customary refuge in the back of the hall), “can I ask you something?”

   He stopped and peered in my direction. “What?”

   “Do you believe the Bible prophets were able to tell the future?”

   “Yeah, of course.”

   “So they can and God can’t?”

   Professor PhD was not happy. The next thing I knew I had been challenged to a debate to happen in a few short hours in a very public forum. I hardly knew what had hit me. I only knew that I had a very, very bad feeling about it. It seemed hardly likely that this prof would challenge me to a debate he wasn’t certain he could win. I suppose I could have declined, but that didn’t occur to me till later.

   I got slaughtered.

   And I was crushed. I had never before encountered someone who could twist a Bible verse like that person could, and all I could think was that I’d only made it worse. All of those impressionable students who had been so deceived with his original lies about God would now be doubly convinced he was right. After all, he’d won. Only now, looking back, I realize he didn’t win—I’d lost. And all because I didn’t know how to respond to the challenges thrown around by skeptics and atheists. Here are some of the most common:

   “If evolution is not true, then where did all of those almost-human fossil bones come from?”

   “Jesus Christ was not really God; he was just a ‘higher-intelligence being’.”

   “Hell is not an actual place; it’s simply a state of mind.”

   “God wouldn’t really exclude people from heaven just because they worship in a different religion. All roads lead to heaven—one faith is as good as another.”

   “Every religion believes in reincarnation—even Christianity.”

   “Science and the Bible are simply not compatible.”

   Do any of these claims make you uneasy—even the tiniest bit? Maybe they’ve kept you from believing in God, or maybe, in the depths of some dark night, they haunt you, causing you to wonder—

   What if…?

   Discover the truth about deliberate deceptions surrounding evolution, creation, the “Big Bang,” parapsychology, the occult and the New Age at the upcoming EVIDENCE OF GOD: “Equipping the Saints” Conference in Baldwinsville, New York on March 24th. Learn how deception has crept into our colleges and culture, blending lies with truth—often in the name of “science”—and discover how to defend your faith from these subtle counterfeits. And most importantly, find out what deceptive strategies are being planned next. The fact is that we cannot guard against danger that we don’t know about.

   Do not become the next victim “destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

 

For conference registration details, see the bottom of the flyer (above). For information on speaker Christopher Rupe, co-author of Contested Bones, visit his website at back2genesis.org.

   Sponsored by New Heart Ministries, Baldwinsville, New York.     

  

  

Memo to My Children: I Will Never Be Your Maid.

Maid vs. ServantMEMO TO MY CHILDREN: I WILL NEVER BE YOUR MAID.

   Because I love you, I will never be your maid. A maid will always pick up your filthy socks and underwear, wipe up the hair you left all over the bathroom, and clean up your grungy bedroom. A servant will never pick up your filthy socks or underwear, wipe up the hair you left all over the bathroom or clean up your grungy bedroom—unless you’re too sick to DIY, you’re working and I’m not, or you’re dying.  This is because…

   A maid enables. A servant teaches.

   A maid works 9a-5p, M-F, no nights, no weekends, no holidays. A servant works 24/7, no exceptions.

   A maid murmurs and complains while working for you. A servant thanks God and prays for you while working.

   A maid doesn’t care who you hang with—as long as they don’t get mud on the carpet. A servant cares very much who you hang with and doesn’t care if they get mud on the carpet.  (You’ll clean it up later.)

   A maid doesn’t do homework, windows or change dirty diapers. A servant doesn’t do homework either (but will help you with it), supervises you while you do the windows, and won’t change your diapers either—after you’re fully potty trained.

   A maid responds to orders, demands, and commands. A servant does not respond to orders, demands or commands—at least, not in the way you’d like.

   A maid works because she has to. A servant works because she wants to

   A maid works to get paid something. A servant works to honor someone.

   A maid gets compensated with cash. A servant gets compensated with a hug.

   A maid will never do more than the Union allows. A servant will do whatever unity requires.

   A maid believes you’re worth a paycheck. A servant believes no paycheck could ever equal your worth.

   A maid quits when you get unreasonable. A servant never, never, never quits on you. 

   Period.

   So, my beloved children, because I love you so much, I will never be your maid—but I’ll always be your servant. 

                                                                                                      Love, Mom