Category Archives: Uncategorized

Some Things You’re Just Not Supposed to Talk About.

Firestorm AzDude

SOME THINGS YOU’RE JUST NOT SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT.

   Did you know that hell doesn’t exist? I didn’t either but it’s on the internet. And apparently some pastor is preaching it, so it must be true. And who am I to argue with a pastor? I think his premise is that God is not that “mean”—he would never create such a horrific place. But, having been to Baltimore, I’m not so sure.

   Rhetoric aside—there is a hell. Unfortunately, I wish I were joking about the existence of pastors preaching that hell isn’t real but, sadly, that’s no lie; they’re out there.  Furthermore, the concept of hell is not the only foundational principle in scripture that they’ve decided needs a little makeover—there are many more. So, just for the sake argument (because—why not?), let’s see how well those revisions stand up to a little truth and common sense.

Hell—Yes or No?

   The fact is that there are a growing number of churches where the concept of hell has been banished from doctrine altogether based on the flawed assertion that because God is love, then he would never be capable of creating a place designed for the sole purpose of torturing poor, unsuspecting humanoids. If I may say—that contention makes about as much sense as AOC on a good day. Here’s why:

  • If there’s no hell, then Christ died to save us from—what?
  • The existence of hell does not negate God’s love for mankind. In fact, if He didn’t love people, why would he have endured any death for mankind much less the unreservedly horrific crucifixion he bore on the Cross?
  • On a personal note, just because I don’t let you into my house with mud on your shoes, doesn’t mean I don’t love you; you just have to lose the mud on your shoes and you’re in. Likewise, just because God doesn’t let you into his throne room with sin on your soul, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It does mean He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon sin” (Hab. 1:13); it does not mean He could just tolerate sin if He felt like it. Moreover, He did die so that you could be cleansed from sin. So then, if He can have no intimacy with sin, and if He died so that you could be cleansed of it, what more do you want from Him? But regardless, bottom line—his house, his rules.
The Word of God—Is It or Isn’t It?

   Another little pet rationalization made by those who don’t like what’s in the Bible is that it isn’t really God’s Word anyway so why do we have to do anything it says? You don’t. It’s a free country. Just remember that freedom of choice does not equate to freedom from consequences.

   Some years ago, in the midst of a particularly long and painful season of life, I experienced a crisis of faith in which I realized that if I were going to walk the difficult path God was asking me to walk, I needed to know that He was truly real. However, I knew I couldn’t be certain of that unless I really believed, beyond a doubt, that His Word had actually been written by Him and not “coauthored” or altered or made up entirely. In short, I asked Him to prove to me that He actually wrote the Bible. (Yep, I did that.) And He did prove it. Within one week, I heard the same teaching from Josh McDowell and Charles Stanley on the impossible mathematical odds of prophecy in the Bible coming to pass through sheer coincidence. Break it down:

  • First, the Bible contains three types of prophecy: predictions concerning the nation of Israel and the Jewish people; Old Testament predictions identifying the coming Messiah; and End-Time prophecy.
  • There are over 300 Messianic prophecies in the Bible and the odds of just eight of those 300 happening randomly by chance are one in 1023 (that’s a 1 followed by 23 zeroes).
  • The odds of the whole 300 happening through sheer chance are literally impossible to calculate.
  • No other holy book from any other religion contains prophecy validating its divine authorship.

The bottom line is that a person has to have more faith to believe that many prophecies could possibly have come to pass through random coincidence than simply to believe that there is truly a God who predicted those events in the Bible, thereby proving that He wrote his Word.

The “Good Person” Myth

   I used to believe that there was some cosmic scale in heaven and when we die, somehow God manages to pile our good deeds on one side of the scale and our bad deeds on the other, and whichever way the scales tipped would determine where we’d spend eternity. And let’s face it—unless we grew up in bubble wrap, we all thought that at some point. Moreover, just about every other religion bows to some version of the “good person” dogma. Reincarnation, for example, is the same deal except that you have unlimited lifetimes to straighten out your karma. (But did you ever wonder: If you’re really bad in your last life and come back as, say, a cockroach in the next, how do you work your way up from there? By being the best cockroach you can be?)

Here’s the problem with the “good person” argument: If we could be “good enough,” then Christ died for nothing.

   Think about it: If any of us could possibly be good enough to get into heaven without any supernatural intervention, then wouldn’t God just let us do it? Why would He have sent His son to suffer and die? After all, what parent would even consider sending their child to die in the first place, much less for someone who didn’t need it?

   So that must mean we do need it.

And… So What?

   We may not think that this whole concept of people twisting the truth of the Word is really all that prevalent and so it’s not really that big a deal—right?

   So wrong.

   Altering the truth of the Word of God equates to one thing: deception. And this deception is wide-spread and becoming more so every day. And that makes it a very big deal.

   The real truth is that however we think about these three concepts in this life—the authenticity of the Bible, the reality of hell, and the method by which we are saved from hell—these will affect how we live and how we teach others to live. And it will affect something else as well: our eternal destinies. Can we afford to get that wrong?

   Maybe it’s time we talk about it.

 

 

(pic by AzDude)

 

 

 

You Have the Right to Remain Silent—and to Speak Freely

The Constitution

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT—OR TO SPEAK FREELY.

   Every year some students come to my classroom with the idea that the United States is a horrific nation, that it is unfair, unjust, and essentially, that it’s the worst place on the planet to live. Other students have no idea whatsoever what this nation stands for, the rights and liberties that we have by virtue of The Constitution of the United States and, in fact, they barely know what The Constitution is. As for The Bill of Rights, that’s not even on their radar. So—we have some frank and honest discussions about what this nation stands for, the rights that we have, and the importance of defending and protecting those rights because if they are taken away, we won’t get them back. Virtually none of the students know these rights. Consequently, because the language of The Bill of Rights is so archaic, we spend some time breaking it down.

The United States of America is the only nation in the world that guarantees these rights to its citizens.

The Purpose of The Bill of Rights

   The Bill of Rights contains the first 10 Amendments to The Constitution. It spells out Americans’ rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion. It sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States. According to the National Archives, here is the breakdown of the rights that we have in this great nation:

The First Amendment
  • Contains the right to express ideas through speech and the press,
  • To assemble or gather with a group to protest or for other reasons,
  • To ask the government to fix problems,
  • To protect the right to religious beliefs and practices, and
  • To prevent the government from creating or favoring a religion.
The Second Amendment
  • Protects the right to keep (own) and bear arms (carry weapons).
The Third Amendment 
  • Prevents government from forcing homeowners to allow soldiers to use their homes. (Before the Revolutionary War, laws gave British soldiers the right to take over private homes.)
The Fourth Amendment 
  • Bars the government from unreasonable search and seizure of an individual or their private property. (The government must have a search warrant or grounds for arrest.)
The Fifth Amendment 
  • Provides several protections for people accused of crimes:
  • Serious criminal charges must be started by a grand jury,  
  • A person cannot be tried twice for the same offense (double jeopardy),
  • Property may not taken away without just compensation (fair payment),
  • People have the right against self-incrimination (testifying against themselves) and
  • People cannot be imprisoned without due process of law (fair procedures and trials).
The Sixth Amendment 
  • Provides additional protections to people accused of crimes:
  • The right to a speedy and public trial, trial by an impartial jury in criminal cases,
  • To be informed of criminal charges,
  • To be represented by a lawyer,
  • Witnesses must face the accused, and
  • The accused is allowed his or her own witnesses.
The Seventh Amendment 
  • Extends the right to a jury trial in Federal civil cases.
The Eighth Amendment 
  • Bars excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishment.
The Ninth Amendment 
  • Specific rights in The Constitution do not mean that people do not have other rights that have not been spelled out.
The Tenth Amendment 
  • The Federal Government only has those powers delegated in The Constitution. If a right is not listed, it belongs to the states or to the people.
The Truth

   I’m happy to report that by the time we finish decoding The Bill of Rights, students have a new appreciation for the United States. The fact is that America is the only nation in the world to guarantee these rights to its citizens. Millions of us will be forever grateful for the sacrifices made by our forefathers to give us this great document, but more than anything, I am grateful to the Lord for birthing this great nation 243 years ago today. So may I say—

Happy Birthday, America—and many, many more!!

 

Solar Eclipse: Don’t Blind Yourself (to the facts).

Eclipse Eye   Don’t think a solar eclipse can cause eye damage or even blindness? Neither did Lou Tomososki. But it did.

   During a partial solar eclipse in 1962, Tomososki was walking home from school with a friend when they spotted the moon sliding over the sun during the eclipse. They’d heard the warnings in school from a science teacher: “Do not look directly at the partial solar eclipse!” But, being teenagers, Tomososki and his friend figured that peeking at the eclipse for only a couple of seconds couldn’t hurt. Right?

   Wrong.

   Tomososki’s first indication of a problem was while watching the eclipse; he saw flashes of light before his eyes. He didn’t worry though. The flashes were so similar to a camera flashbulb’s that he didn’t think it was any big deal. But Tomososki later confirmed that he and his friend were both burned at the same time and both, to this day, have permanent eye damage.

   “We were just doing it [watching] for a short time,” he said. “I have a little blind spot in the center of my right eye.”

   Types of eye damage from watching an eclipse include loss of central vision (solar retinopathy), distorted vision, and altered color vision.

   PREVENT BLINDNESS (preventblindness.org), a highly respected resource for eye health professionals, is sounding the warning about looking directly at an eclipse, partial or otherwise. In an article entitled “Solar Eclipse and Your Eyes,” Prevent Blindness (PB) explains how our eyes are adversely affected by looking at a solar eclipse.

   “Exposing your eyes to the sun without proper eye protection during a solar eclipse can cause ‘eclipse blindness’ or retinal burns, also known as solar retinopathy. This exposure to the light can cause damage or even destroy cells in the retina (the back of the eye) that transmit what you see to the brain.”

   The article warns that eye damage can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to appear.

Many people who’ve glimpsed at an eclipse may think they’ve dodged a bullet if they don’t experience symptoms immediately.

   Other people may not realize they’ve damaged their sight because eclipse-related eye injuries occur without pain. Nevertheless, eye damage, including blindness, can be permanent.

   But it’s not just gazing up at the sky that can cause permanent damage. PB warns about other ways not to watch a solar eclipse.

Do not use a Smartphone: Think about it: We all have to line up a pic when we take a photo with any camera, including a phone. What we need to take seriously is that even those few seconds when we take a peek at the eclipse to frame the shot is enough time to do the damage. And it’s enough time to damage your phone as well.

Do not use a camera viewfinder: The optical viewfinder on a camera is no protection for your eyes, either. Why? It’s just glass. And it has nothing on that glass to protect your eyes from the rays coming through it. The fact is that looking at an eclipse through a viewfinder is essentially the exact same thing as staring at the eclipse, and it can cause the same kind of damage to your eyes.

Do not use unsafe filters: Many—too many—people think that some kind of filter will shield them from the dangerous sunrays. Not so. PB says that “…unless specifically designed for viewing a solar eclipse, no filter is safe to use with any optical device (telescopes, binoculars, etc). All color film, black-and-white film that contains no silver, photographic negatives with images on them (x-rays and snapshots), smoked glass, sunglasses (single or multiple pairs), photographic neutral density filters and polarizing filters are unsafe filters to watch a solar eclipse. Also, solar filters designed for eyepieces that come with inexpensive telescopes are also unsafe. All of these items can increase your risk of damaging your eyes.”

   In addition to the PB warnings, use common sense.

Do not rely on sunglasses. Note above that sunglasses are not deemed proper gear for viewing an eclipse; they simply cannot filter out the concentration of damaging rays that an eclipse throws down. And wearing more than one pair of sunglasses is not going to help, either. (That would be like wearing two pairs of socks when you go swimming instead of one because you don’t want your feet to get wet. It’s still not going to work.)

Do not look out of a window. Sunlight is, obviously, not deterred by windows. Unlike wind, rain, sleet or snow, simply being on the other side of the glass is not going to protect your eyes from the damage done by looking directly at an eclipse.

Do not forget your pets. Our pets’ eyes are as susceptible as ours to the damage caused by looking directly at a solar eclipse. Since we can’t tell them that, probably the wisest course of action is simply to keep them indoors.

Do not forget to warn and/or supervise your children. Experts say that children are at even greater risk of eye damage because protective barriers in their retinas are not yet fully formed. Make certain that children and teens understand all of the risks involved in watching a solar eclipse, specifically that they cannot rely on phones and/or sunglasses for protection.

   For more information on how to watch an eclipse with any degree of safety, visit preventblindness.org for a comprehensive list of safe viewing options. Remember: one unguarded moment can change your whole life.

   Lou Tomososki knows that.

  

 

  

 

 

 

Fear of Loneliness

Cracked Doll Face FREE

   I once heard about a man, a widower, who had met a woman on-line 40 years his junior from an overseas country, and she’d promised to marry him – sight unseen. Sound unlikely? Was. But the man believed so he sent her plane-ticket money to come to the United States. However, at the last minute, she couldn’t come; there’d been a car accident. (Don’t worry – she was okay!) The problem was that she hadn’t been able to change her plane ticket or to get a refund so she’d need more money for another plane ticket. Oh, almost forgot: her father had left her millions of dollars but the money was frozen in some foreign bank so she couldn’t get to it right that minute but when she did, she would be able to pay the man back. She promised.

   So the man sent her more money for another plane ticket. But then, at the last minute, the woman couldn’t come; she’d gotten really sick (or something). So – more money – because she was definitely still coming. After all, she loved him and wanted to marry him. She promised.

   Fast forward three years and the man was still sending money for plane tickets and other stuff so that, when all was said and finally done, he’d sent at least $100,000. He’d cashed in his retirement CD’s, stocks and bonds; run up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt from cash advances; refinanced his home and sent all of the equity he’d accrued; and sent part of his pensions every month. When the man died, he was many thousands in debt, banks had repossessed his home and car and – he’d still never met the woman. So why did he do it?

   He was lonely. Or rather, he was afraid of being lonely.

   Fear of loneliness.

The dehabilitating dread of being lonely has side-tracked, derailed, and train-wrecked more destinies than almost any other force on earth; people will go to extreme lengths to avoid the soul-sucking sentiment of loneliness.

   We’ve all experienced loneliness to some degree and, like a hot stove once touched, we know better than to go there ever again. So it is with loneliness: having gone one round with it, people, such as the man in the story, will often go to absolutely irrational – even insane – lengths not to have to feel lonely ever again. Thus, fear of loneliness is a cruel and devastating manipulator of behavior, the Grim Reaper of destinies.

   But what is it about the fear of loneliness that makes it so lethal?

   Fear of loneliness is insidious – an unconscious, instinctive fear. Often we don’t know that we’re running from loneliness when we do the things we do; we just react. If an abused spouse could articulate why she (or he) believes “it won’t happen again” when she knows darn well it will, most of the time, it’s the fear of being alone and lonely keeping the person in the relationship. Or how about the person who “settles” on marrying someone they know isn’t really “the one”? Fear of loneliness. People who cave to peer pressure because they want “to belong”? Fear of loneliness. Unfortunately, sad scenarios abound.

   Fear of loneliness often leads to avoidance behaviors. Many thousands of people, right now, fearing the pain of loneliness, are doing all they can to kill that terror: recreational drugs, pain killers, alcohol; even excessive partying or “risky” behaviors are evidence of fear of loneliness – anything to keep from feeling that feeling. The man in the story above even avoided the truth: the woman didn’t care about him, she was lying to him. He knew that. But his fear of being lonely was greater than his fear of being used or even impoverished.

   Fear of loneliness can cause us to hurt others. When we won’t let go of others because we’re afraid of being lonely, we can end up hurting not just ourselves but them. For example, there comes a time when parents have to face an “empty nest”; it’s time for the kids to move out and fulfill their own destinies: go to college, get a job, get married. But what if parents won’t let go? What if they manipulate their children into staying? Their fear of loneliness will impact their children’s futures. And it won’t be for the good.

   So how can we escape the deadly fear of loneliness?

Thing #1: Admit the problem. If we’re afraid of being lonely, then we need to look that fear in the face and admit that it’s there. If we do not, if we try to close our eyes to our fear of loneliness, it won’t just go away because we ignore it; that fear will drive us. Period.

Thing #2: Don’t be ashamed. By definition, being lonely means either that we are physically separated from others or kept emotionally at arms’ length by family and/or friends. For the record, being alone doesn’t always equate to loneliness and, conversely, one can be lonely in the midst of a crowd. That said, whatever the circumstances resulting in loneliness, in their midst we can often default to this thought: “What’s wrong with me that no one wants to talk to me [or spend time with me or date me or marry me – fill in the blank]?” When being alone feels like rejection to us, then shame is born. But if we take a moment to recognize that loneliness is part of the human condition and not simply a deficit in us, then that shame will dissipate. We are not, by far, the first to be lonely and we will not be the last.

Thing #3: Times of preparation are often lonely. If you know anything about the Bible, you know that King David, as a child, spent several years alone, shepherding sheep (a most despised occupation, btw) and then, as a young man, 16 years running and hiding in caves while Saul plotted to kill him. Was he lonely? You bet. But it was necessary loneliness – years of preparation by God. And Moses – 40 years alone in the desert. Granted, he got married but no one could really have understood where he came from and the life he’d run from; he was very much emotionally lonely. Preparation. Lesson? For the sake of your destiny, do not run from those times when God will put you by yourself to teach you what you can only learn in a lonely season.

   Do not fear it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Mission? Just Have Fun.

polar-bear-plunge

         Recently, I read an article on the importance of laughter and having fun, and the impact these can have on our health, our emotions, our relationships, and ultimately, of course, our destinies.

         Frankly, I’d never really given it that much thought.

         However, when I did, I realized that I, for one, had become so bogged down in the daily stresses of life that I was in danger of becoming, well – a Grinch. But don’t laugh – you have, too. After all, since last year, we’ve been bombarded with the whole presidential election and all its associated frills. And let’s face it – multitudes of people are still in recovery (or therapy): they love Trump, they hate Trump; recounting the votes, recounting the recount, and the count of the electoral votes and no doubt the inevitable recount of those. Then the Russians hacked us? Or they didn’t hack us?  Add to that the usual financial and family drama, not to mention all of the holiday decorating and baking and then the shopping – whom to get for and what to get for whom? Then you have to wrap it all.

(As of this writing – minus three days before Christmas – I have not wrapped thing one…).

         Add to that on-line ordering deadlines (who’s shipping for free again??) and mailing deadlines and, frankly, there’s not a lot to giggle about.

         But there should be.

         After I read about how some famous and undeniably successful people incorporated humor into their daily lives, I began to think that it might be way past time to give it a shot. After all, if Thomas Edison could keep a whole journal full of jokes, and if Albert Einstein could ultimately conclude that the keys to life were “simplicity, fantasy, and play,” then it occurred to me that I had better take this whole “fun” thing just a little more seriously. So – I began by doing what all responsible, diligent adults do in order to organize their time and maximize their efforts: I made a list…

25 Spontaneous Ways to Have Fun

  • Tickle someone (preferably someone you know).
  • Play a practical joke. Anonymous is better.
  • Have a pillow fight. Use feather pillows.
  • Wear a button-down shirt – backwards.
  • Watch What About Bob?  Laugh.
  • Watch  P.S. I Love You.  Cry.
  • Make a snow angel. (If you live south of the Mason-Dixon, do a cartwheel.) Outside.
  • Eat cake for supper.
  • Make up continuing stories. (Yes, like a soap opera.)
  • Pretend to be someone else – just not a police officer, a doctor, or a lawyer. Felonies are not fun.
  • Write a funny poem. It has to rhyme.
  • Make green eggs and ham. Eat it.
  • Text a (clean) joke to someone.
  • Sing “Santa Baby”.
  • Give someone a coloring book. Color together.
  • Wave at strangers while in the car.
  • Try doing whatever a one-year-old can do. (Good luck with that.)
  • Make up a brunette joke.
  • Start a “funniest thing you’ve ever heard” conversation.
  • Wear two different shoes and see if anyone notices. Make one of them heels.
  • Play “Patty Cake” with a child (or adult – I don’t care).
  • Make stupid faces when you eat brussel sprouts. It’s not hard.
  • Play Monopoly and build on single lots.
  • Stand someone on his/her head – or your own if s/he objects.
  • Count your blessings.  
  • Smile.                                                                                                                

10 Things Not to Do (They will not make you laugh.)

  • Host a party involving an order form
  • Join a Polar Bear swim
  • Clean toilets (for fun)
  • “See dead people”
  • Fly the friendly skies
  • Tell a nun to “get a life”
  • Co-sign a loan
  • Take a Playstation from a child.
  • Go to the hairdresser’s and say, “Whatever you think!”
  • Offer to pay the fine to the police officer who pulls you over for speeding.

DISCLAIMER: Not responsible if you do the “Don’t’s”.

Now – have a very Merry Christmas and a Fun New Year   

 

 

The Drama Games

no-drama-ii

Have you ever noticed that “drama” rhymes with “trauma”? Well it does. And is it possible to indulge in a little drama without creating trauma – for someone? Probably not. But there are people who simply can’t seem to function without a little drama fix somewhere, sometime, somehow during their day. And it just wouldn’t be half as much fun for them if they weren’t able to pull you into it. So – you have to ask yourself: “Am I being shipwrecked by someone else’s antics or – just as importantly – are my goals and visions?”

The truth is that in order to be harmed by someone else’s drama, trauma, crisis-du-jour, atomic meltdown, and/or apocalypse, you have to be sucked into some type of emotional manipulation – and that doesn’t happen by accident. Most continuous drama exhibitions are by design, at the very least to get attention and to the extreme, to exhort some sort of payment from the victim of the drama. As in, “If I don’t get ‘my way’ (whatever that might mean), I’m going to die!”

The unspoken message: “And it’ll be your fault!”

Listen – we’re all victims of giving in to drama once in a while and if the truth be told, we might even be the perpetrators of a little action of our own now and then (mostly “then”). Drama can range from a pouting lower lip or a few tears on the sly to a full-blown emotional or physical assault. But if the “drama” that we’re being subjected to is too regular, abusive or both, then there’s a much bigger problem afoot. That much trauma could actually mean one of two things is happening: either the drama entity has zeroed in on an “enabler” or, if their distress is real, then that entity is in much more need of mental help then we can possibly give. There are several reasons for drama:

Attention-needy people. Sometimes, due to insecurities of their own, people simply need to be the center of attention. Depending on what kind of attention they need, this might be your problem or not. If the demand is simply an annoyance, give them their cookie and move on. If the demand for attention hinders or threatens your own ability to function, it obviously has to be dealt with. Parents, pastors, teachers, employers all have to deal with folks in various degrees of the “I-need-attention-and-I-need-it-now” syndrome. Funny thing about attention-needy folks, though – their drama tends to vaporize when their audience vanishes.

Incompetent people. Much drama can ensue when people discover their lack of ability in some area or another – and especially when others discover it for them. This drama generally manifests in terms of error cover-ups which might include excuse-making, lying, defensive outbursts of anger, and/or meltdowns involving lots of tears and sobbing. If people are blessing you with these types of behaviors, it’s probably because they have to answer to you as their employer or coach or teacher or in some other capacity in which you’re in authority over them. What happens to them in these circumstances depends on them. If they’re at all interested in improving their skills so that the drama stops, then invest. If not, a little tough love might be in order. Or a pink slip.

Desperate people. People exhibiting “desperate drama” behaviors might actually pose a threat to themselves and/or others. It might not even be too dramatic to say that “threatening” might be too innocuous a word; perhaps “dangerous” might be a better description. People who are desperate are generally feeling as though they have no control over a relationship or situation and are therefore desperate to get that control. And while “drama” might describe this person’s behavior, the actual danger they pose could well be more serious: they could endanger themselves – in order to control you. On the other hand, you could be the target of rage, possessiveness, or some type of payback for not caving to desperate-drama manipulation: financial ruin, damage to one’s reputation, even stalking could be extreme examples of someone seeking control of a situation. These folks need a reality check and chances are, if you’re the target, you should not probably be the one to provide it. At this point, your local law enforcement officer might be a really wise option. So would an Order of Protection.

Drama is never fun and can be a bit of a detriment to one’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Moreover, someone else’s drama exhibitions can damage or even completely shipwreck your own goals, dreams and visions if you get caught up in their nonsense. That’s not to say, of course, that you should not try to help others who need it but – you know the difference between drama and the real thing. The main difference is that real trauma almost always has a resolution. Drama-trauma never does.

 Know a drama queen or other royal entity? It’s time to banish them from Court.

 

 

 

Playing the Odds.

bible

How do we know that the Bible is truly the Word of God?

That has to be the foundational question in all of Christianity.  After all, if people don’t believe that the Bible truly is God’s word and divinely inspired, then it would follow that we can’t use Scripture as a foundation for proof of the reality of God or the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Right?

Several years ago, I came to this conclusion as I found myself facing what I can only call a crisis of faith. Life had wound up and slapped me upside the head (as it sometimes does), and I came to the realization that, if I really wanted to do things God’s way in this dilemma, it was going to cost me a lot.  Therefore, I had to be certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I were going to choose to do things according to Biblical principle, then those principles had better be true. 

But I wasn’t certain of that.

That’s when it hit me: I actually had some doubt as to whether the Word of God was really that – God’s word. So – I confessed that to God, and asked Him to give me some proof as to whether He really had written the Bible and, by extension – I guess I was really asking Him to prove to me that He even really existed.   After all, I reasoned, there are lots of religions in the world, and every person in every one of them believes that his or her beliefs are the “real thing.”  That wouldn’t be so disturbing if those beliefs were similar in nature but many of them are diametrically opposed to one another so – which one was real??  They couldn’t all be the truth . . .

As I confronted God about my confusion and asked Him to prove His reality to me (that takes nerve, thinking back . . .), I was really rather surprised when He did – and quickly.

Within a week, the Lord showed me that Biblical prophecy is the evidence that the Bible was indeed written by God. 

First, the Lord showed me that there are three different kinds of prophecy in the Bible: prophecy concerning the Jewish people, Messianic prophecy, and end-time prophecy. There are literally hundreds of these different kinds of prophecy embedded into the Word of God; in fact, there are over 300 Messianic prophecies alone in the Bible. 

For example, some of the prophecies concerning the Jewish people include their various exiles, captivities, and dispersions around the world. Others reveal what would happen to specific people such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Nebuchadnezzar, Samuel, Sampson, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Peter, Paul, Mary, John the Baptist, the disciples James and John, and Judas Iscariot.  Each of these people had prophecies given to them which predicted what would happen to them and/or their children in the future. 

In addition, there is Messianic prophecy, which is a description of who the Messiah would be and what He would do so that the Jewish people would recognize Him when He came. Some of these prophecies include where the Messiah would be born, what He would do during His life and ministry here on earth, how He would be received and treated by people, and how He would die and yes, rise again.

The last kind of prophecy, commonly called “End-Time” prophecy, is found primarily in the books of Daniel, Zachariah, Revelation, Matthew 24 and Mark 13. These prophecies predict all kinds of events that are to take place before the return of Jesus, including the return of the Jewish people to the nation of Israel, the rise of a one-world economy and of a one-world ruler, a world-wide increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters, and a devastating war which pretty much levels the planet. 

The point is that the odds of even a few of these prophecies coming to pass by chance are literally impossible.   For example, attorney and former atheist Josh McDowell calculated that the odds of just eight of the 300 Messianic prophecies about Jesus coming to pass through sheer coincidence (and more than eight already have) are a whopping 1023   – ten to the 23rd power (a ten followed by 23 zeroes). 

I don’t know if there’s even a name for that number. 

The bottom line is that a person has to have more faith to believe that it’s even possible for those kinds of odds to happen through sheer and random chance than simply to admit that there is a God and that the Bible was written by Him. Who else would be capable of predicting that many things and doing it accurately? 

I was convinced.

Of course, anyone can fact-check these prophecies and calculate the odds for themselves (if you can count that high). The point is that proof of God and His divine inspiration of the Bible is there for all people to see. 

That is – if they really want to see it.

 

 

Prayer Wreckers

Man in DespairWe all spend a lot of time and energy praying for all kinds of things – and some of those prayers are urgent, desperate prayers. But what if we’re sabotaging our own prayers? What if we’re doing something, even unconsciously, to negate them? Would we want to know that? Why wouldn’t we?

In my last post, “Ten Ways to Blow Up Your Destiny,” I introduced three things that will shipwreck our prayers. Today, I want to discuss the rest of the principles that we should know in order to not sideline our prayers.

Thing #1: Put God first. In other words, we cannot and should not put our dreams, visions or destinies before God. Jesus tells His followers, ‘”Your heavenly Father already knows all of your needs . . . Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well . . .’” (Matt. 6:33). Our “needs” are not just categorized as physical needs; we need all kinds of intervention for all kinds of things. No matter – same principle applies: the big “if-then” – if we put God first, then we get whatever we might need. Period.

Thing #2: Unconfessed sin. David proved that after he sinned with Bathsheba, lied about it, and then killed her husband, Uriah, to cover it up. Now, if anyone should have their prayers tuned out by God, it would be someone who’d done all of those things. But David repented of his sin (with a little persuasion from the prophet, Nathan). David pleaded to God: “’Don’t keep looking at my sin. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit in me . . .’” (LB, Ps. 51:9-10). After David confessed his sin, God was able to interact with him again. Remember, Habakkuk says to God, “’Your eyes are too pure [even] to look on evil; you cannot tolerate sin’” (1:13). “Tolerate” is a little mild for the translation. The KJ version says, “’You cannot [even] look on sin’”.  And the word “cannot” in all translations means “cannot”. It doesn’t mean “might not” or “can-if-He-wants-to-but-just-doesn’t-want-to”. God is not able even to look at sin, much less have fellowship with someone in it (thus the reason Christ died – but that’s another post entirely). So – unconfessed sin = unanswered prayers.

Thing #3: Wrong response to authority. We see this principle in Paul’s warning to children to submit to and obey their parents and they’ll be blessed. Why? Because their parents are the authority over children. If they will submit to authority, then they will be blessed. But that warning about authority applies to all of us, not simply children.

And why does God feel so strongly about submission that He ties conditions to responses to authority? Because societies fall apart when people begin to blow off authorities.

(Watched the news lately?) So God has built into His principles the condition that if we submit to authority, then we will be blessed. And aren’t all answered prayers considered blessings? I know mine are.

Thing #4: Pride.  This is another no-no if we’d like our prayers answered. We all know pride is bad – no surprise there. For example, take Naaman who came to the prophet Elisha to petition (pray) for healing from leprosy. When Elisha told Naaman to go and dip in the Jordan River some times, Naaman thought that was ridiculous and refused. His pride got in the way. Consequently, he didn’t have his prayer for healing answered until he decided to humble himself and take a dip. Then his prayer was answered. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).

Thing #5: “Evil speech.”  Our words can be another problem if you’d like your prayers answered. Gossip, slander, accusation, arguing, lying, complaining – all of these can hinder prayers. Now, thank God for his mercy because who hasn’t, at the very least, complained? But for those who continue in these things without repentance, their prayers won’t accomplish much. Isaiah warns, “’If you do away with the pointing finger [accusation] and malicious talk . . . then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday [revelation]. The Lord will guide you always [direction]; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land [provision] and will strengthen your frame [healing] . . .’” (58:9-11, interpretations mine). Peter says, “’If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and keep your lips from telling lies’” (3:9).

Thing #6: Have faith in God, not in faith itself.  It’s not up to us to manufacture our faith and moreover, “having faith” is not about how much faith we have, it’s about whether or not we trust God. Why is this important? Two reasons: first, sometimes we treat faith like heaven’s money; if we just get enough of it, we can cash it in for whatever we want. Doesn’t work that way. Second, the essence of faith is the question: “Do I trust God – whether or not He answers my prayers the way I want Him to?” That’s vastly different than “Okay, God, here’s how much faith I have so here’s how I want You to answer my prayer.” Faith is not cash, and God is not a vending machine. If we think so, I think I can predict that our prayers won’t be very effective.

Next post I’ll finish this up; there are three more principles for praying effectively and, if disregarded, will negate our prayers. In the meantime, lest we become overwhelmed with all of the ways we can shipwreck our prayers, let’s simply remember to begin our prayers with a sincere, “Lord, I’m sorry for . . .”

 

The Destiny Killer.

The Oath           I recently re-read a book called The Oath by Frank Peretti. It came out several years ago and it’s long, but it’s definitely worth the time.

            If you’re not familiar with Peretti, he writes spiritual warfare thrillers and in this particular book, he tackles the issue of sin and personifies it as a dragon that devours those who dabble in it. All very interesting and scriptural, but that’s not the part that struck me.

            In the story, Peretti illustrates how sin actually changes people’s hearts by causing their hearts to ooze black goo as they dabble and sink into their particular sin – whatever that might be. But captivating as that might sound, still not the part that struck me.

            The striking part struck me because it was real – unlike a dragon flying around eating people or hearts oozing black goo. The part that impacted me was what happens to people after the goo appears and before the goo signals the dragon to come and eat the people.

            What happens between those two very allegorical things is that the people stop caring that they’re sinning.

            Somewhere between the time a person’s skin begins to exhibit a rash-type of stain over the heart and the time that the heart actually begins to gush black goo, the person becomes aware of his or her sin; often before that happens, they aren’t even aware that they’re doing anything wrong. Or, if they are aware, they’re content to have rationalized their sin for a long period of time. Regardless, once they become aware, they can then either confess their sin (spoiler alert: most don’t) or they can cease to care that they’re sinning and begin to blame anyone who dares to try to warn them that serious peril is about to ensue.

          Back to the dragon. We’re all familiar with scriptural references to the devil as a dragon and we know, again from scripture, that his goal is “to devour” anyone he can. But we don’t often think of the actual sin itself as the dragon which devours. We are told that sin can destroy us, but sometimes we have the idea that that destruction is defined by spending an eternity in hell. But what if it means something more?

What if the actual destruction is in going from caring to not caring?

          You’ve heard the warning “don’t pet that sin”. The implication is that we can dabble in sin until we think we’re in danger of being trapped and then pull back in time – no harm, no foul. But what if the trap is not the addiction itself, or the anger problem, or the gossiping, or the fill-in-the-blank? What if the death trap is the actual lack of caring anymore whether we get caught in the sin or not?

            How terrifying is that?

            Why am I going on about sin today? I don’t know – just a book I read that made me think. And what does this have to do with a blog that primarily expounds on principles of success to help in achieving dreams and visions? Not much – if you don’t think that whatever can shipwreck a soul can also shipwreck a destiny.

            Not to worry. Just a thought.

Honing Your Vision

purpose
POST BY STACEY LACIK

With all that’s going on the world, it’s good to take a moment and reflect on why having a purpose in life is so important. Without a vision and a plan, it’s all too easy to wander and waste time, and from the looks of it, we don’t have a lot of time to waste. The things that are happening at home and abroad speak to the fact that the world as we know it is quickly coming to an end.

 

These world events are going to separate those who are serious about their faith from those who just want to avoid the Highway to Hell. To say that we love God, but refuse to live His principles out in our daily lives is to take the Lord’s name in vain. (Many believe that this phrase refers to cursing, or swearing, but what it is actually referring to is the shallow, half-hearted [lukewarm] professing of Christ without the whole-hearted consecration of the person). There will be no reward for those who don’t take this seriously;  those who squander the time and resources they have at hand. We are all guilty of this:  heading out into our days with a vague sense of what we want to accomplish, but with no set plan for actually making it happen. Eight hours later we’re wondering where the time went – where our money went. These are our resources. We all get [roughly] twenty-four hours to spend. How we invest it is a measure of both our character and our values. How we invest it after professing Christ as Lord is supposed to let the world know that we are different.

Becoming a Christian requires a complete re-orienting of your life. We’re not to be chasing the cultural icons of success – luxury automobiles, granite counter tops, designer labels. We’re called to be a diligent and sober-minded people. This isn’t condemnation for those who have nice homes, and cars, and can afford expensive vacations, but it is a reminder that if you have them, hold them loosely. It doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your life, or have times of fun and relaxation with your family. But there’s a time for that, and then there’s a time to rise up, pick up your tools, and go to work. To abandon the relentless pursuit of “the end-time transfer of wealth” and fight for our faith;  for our families, and the people in our communities. We forget that God measures wealth in souls, and He measures us by our concern for the eternal end of those souls. We don’t love our neighbors because we don’t see them. We’re too distracted.

God sees this. As He sits in the heavens and looks over the ways of mankind, the good and evil together, all working out a purpose larger than any we can come up with in our meager attempts to live a “purpose-driven life”. He sees us. Worrying and scurrying to buy up and hoard the things that make us happy for a moment, but leave us feeling empty in the end. Forgetting, while we do so, to actually look at the people waiting on us;  the cashier behind the counter, or the teller at the bank. We’re not seeing people.

In the pursuit of your vision; your goals and your dreams, don’t forget to love the people around you, who matter more to God than anything we can put in our shopping carts. True success cannot be measured in dollar signs and buildings. These things won’t last. They are a means to an end, and they do serve our purpose, but that purpose has to ultimately be about reaching people before it’s too late.

Success is the progressive realization of God’s purpose for my life. (Source unknown)

Be serious about this. Time is running out. Take the time this week to figure out what your role in this end-time scenario is, and write it down. Write your vision on the actual pages of your planner. In fact, as you fill in your weekly or monthly calendar, or make your list of Things to Do Today, pray and ask God if these are the things you should actually be doing. Then pick up your tools and get to work.