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Resolutions

Well, it has been 378 days since I last opened one of these pages to share my thoughts with the world. 9072 hours (+/- 10) since I have taken the time to deliberately sit down and share what is going on in this head of mine. For the New Year, like everyone else, I have a resolution: to be more intentional about writing. I have been told that I sometimes have great insights that I should get down on paper so more people can read them, meditate on them, and perhaps adopt them. I also like the feedback. Agree or disagree, I always want feedback.

Now, on to today’s thoughts:

Over the next week or so, especially on NYE, there will be all kinds of talk about resolutions. People all over this country, perhaps the world, will talk about how they are going to do better next year, do more next year, lose weight next year, smile more, spend less, share often…whatever. Every year we hear the same talk. We say the same things ourselves. However, how often do we actually achieve that goal? How many people see their resolutions fall flat within a few weeks? How many made that gym commitment stretch all. the. way. to the summer only to give up? How many were able to smile and be charitable and kind and positive…right up until that first time they were running late to work and the (insert expletives of your choice) other drivers wouldn’t move fast enough? I would submit the following for your consideration:

A. Everyone’s resolutions fail. 100%.

B. They fail because they are poorly conceived and unsupported by reality.

Now, I’m sure someone is going to tell me that they have kept so-and-so resolution for years now. That’s great! I am truly happy for you! However, I am speaking in broader terms. I believe all resolutions fail. Mine have all failed. I try and try again, but they never hold true for very long. I think we are all in the same boat for a number of reasons. I think arrogance is one; we grossly overestimate our ability to commit to something. Clutter is yet another. Our lives are simply too cluttered and, I think, our brains cannot handle one more thing to remember. Poor conception is another problem in this resolution “game.” The person who overeats due to an emotional attachment or other psychological attachment is simply not going to have a great deal of success losing weight simply by saying, “I am going to lose weight this year.” Sorry. It. Will. Not. Happen. Ask me how I know. A person dealing with serious, deep-seated emotional hurt will not necessarily be able to “become a nicer/better/more positive person” just by saying so. The brain is far too complex for that. These kinds of head and heart problems do not appear to simply resolve themselves because we say they should. They require help, sometimes from professionals. At the very least, they require help from friends. I have heard it said that you should keep your goals a secret. I wholeheartedly and emphatically disagree. Sure, if you have an idea you are trying to patent, perhaps it is best to keep your circle of trust small. If you are trying to become a better person, the WORST thing you can do is keep your efforts and your struggle a secret. Tell someone. Tell everyone. Friends, trusted co-workers, family…let them know that you are working on something and need their help and input. It will most certainly be uncomfortable. I know. I am working with a personal trainer to get back in shape and it is hard to reach out and ask for help. Hell, my weight is a definite health concern and I STILL fought asking for help. Guys, find a circle that will support you, especially with prayer, as you take steps towards whatever goals you are trying to accomplish.

I will leave y’all with one final thought: if you try to achieve a goal and find that it is does not come to fruition, do not lose heart or hope; REJOICE-for in Christ, my dear brothers and sisters, you are a NEW CREATION! The old you is long, long gone.

Have a Happy and Blessed..and SAFE New Years, y’all!

 

Love and PeACE always in Him

 

<><

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What’s on my mind?

Please allow me to preface this by saying I am continually blessed by the people of my church. Here I have had the opportunity to experience compassion and witness a love for God and His children like I have never seen in this world. I look forward to worship. I need worship. By the time I get to church on Sunday morning, I feel wiped out. Depleted. I feel like I am running on fumes. So I look forward to being able to recharge in the presence of the Almighty King and His saints here on earth.

However…yes, there’s always a “but.”

However, lately I have been struggling. As many of you know, I had some job opportunities pop up and vanish, leaving me in a tight spot. While I am currently working, I feel like the words “scraping by” and “barely” and “past due” are going to be stuck in my vocabulary for the foreseeable future. Frankly. I have never enjoyed the financial management skills to prepare me for a loss of a job.

With that in mind, as much as I love worship and the people I share it with on Sundays, I almost dread going to church. Those who know me know that I absolutely hate feeling helpless. The only thing I despise more than feeling helpless is feeling pitied. I almost dread going to worship because I know, after the service, some incredible, caring individual; someone I consider a friend will come up and ask me how I’m doing. Immediately, my brain searches for that mute button. I want to say,”I’m pissed off,” “I’m tired of struggling,” “I really don’t see what God is doing here,” “I wonder if HE is even listening to me.” All of these things cross my mind and it feels almost as though it takes physical effort to hold them back, Instead of being truly and completely honest, out comes “I’m getting by,” “Doing well, it’s great to see you!” “I’m still struggling, but I KNOW God will provide,” or some other cliche. As much as I desperately want to believe that, as much as I desperately know I NEED to believe that, I wonder if I truly do. As I sit here typing this, tears are welling up at the thought that my faith is so weak that it falters in the presence of what many would see as a minor inconvenience. And I am ashamed. I have traveled to countries where people go without running water. I have seen countries devastated by natural disaster. I have heard stories of people being killed for no other reason than their government didn’t approve of what they had to say. I’ve seen people recently didn’t just lose their job, but watched as a hurricane simply wiped their business off the map. In the broad scheme of life, my trials are so small and insignificant, but they feel so big and insurmountable.

Friends, I need prayer. I don’t care about the job. I’ll find another one. In the end, all earthly treasure will decay. This is hard for me. I hate feeling so helpless and broken. I hate having to mentally prepare myself to speak to absolutely well-meaning, loving people I consider friends. I hate being distracted in worship thinking about how to maneuver through the church lobby without being stopped for small talk. I hate hearing Satan saying “He doesn’t listen to your prayers.” I hate that “hate” comes up so many times in what surges through my mind during worship. So, please, pray for me. I need to see God’s light back in my life. I know He’s there. I know I’m saved. I know all of what He has done for me. I just feel like all of that knowledge has migrated from my heart into my head, I guess.

Thank you so much to all of you who go out of your way to check on me. I apologize if I come off terse or like I just want to escape the conversation, I’m truly scared on dumping all of this on people. I’ve always had to be the strong one. I hope y’all understand.

PeACE<><

Excuses

All apologies to the pretty brunette who is going to end up reading this, but I am so fed up with excuses.

Excuses about what? You may ask. Or not…Well…excuses about why we don’t heed the words of Christ when He tells us; “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40b) and “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20a.) And why do we do this? Love. Simple, pure, unadulterated love. Christ speaks of love over and over again. In John, He says; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35.)
To me, these words have always been simple, direct commands. Not commands in the sense of the law, mind you, but a sort of general orders for the Christian living. Christ was saying that His followers have care and concern for the needs of others, both on the temporal and eternal plains, thus we are to help meet the needs presently and also make them mindful of their eternal salvation.

That’s great, right? We all know this. All Christians know this because “the Bible tells me so,” right? So…why don’t we (I include myself as well) do it? Why do we whine and waffle and make up excuses instead of DOING? The answer is rather simple: sin and Satan. I will address that in another post, but I want to address the excuses first.

Here are some of the common excuses I hear about mission work/service/whatever:

I really want to help people, but I don’t know what to do

Really? I talked with a good friend about this over lunch yesterday a bit because it frustrates me so much. Anything is better than sitting around and doing nothing. My first answer is this: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=what+are+ways+to+serve+others  Beyond that: have a few bucks to spare? Give it to the homeless guy at the red light. Buy coffee for the man behind you. Spot a few bucks to that woman who is short on her grocery bill in front of you in line. These simple, inexpensive things are great ways to show love to someone in a tangible way. Will these things lead somebody to give their life over to Christ? I don’t know…maybe not, but it opens the door for further discussion. It may not necessarily start that conversation, but it goes a lot further than doing nothing. As Teddy Roosevelt said; “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” You will never be able to start those kinds of conversations without putting forth genuine, loving effort. For a list of more ideas, go to http://www.acts18.org

Another excuse I hear is:

I really feel this pull to talk about Jesus but I’m embarrassed
Embarrassed? Really?!? Talking about Jesus makes you uncomfortable? OF course it will!! It’s not normal. Christ’s message of salvation through His death and resurrection is abnormal. Paul said; “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23.) It doesn’t make sense to people. It sounds foolish. Why would a deity, if there is such a thing, send His Son to suffer not only through this mortal existence, but also a horrific, painful, and grotesque torture and death and the hands of His creation? For those who are truly mortified about speaking the Word of God in public, be reminded of Moses. He whined and complained to God about not having the right words and having a speech impediment, yet God enabled him and supported him as he freed the Israelites from Ramses. If you are just not a people person, look for anonymous-ish ways to tell others about God. The ideas listed above require face-to-face interaction, so try something else: buy someone’s food in a drive-thru. Fill the coin slots at a carwash or laundromat.

Another excuse is:

I feel like I could do more, but I don’t know where to start

I answered this one simply yesterday: if you think you aren’t doing enough, then do more. There are HUNDREDS of organizations that always need volunteers. There are MILLIONS of people who could use a little light in their lives. Sometimes a smile is enough. Sometimes it takes more. But never think that what you are doing already is insignificant. It is the work of God and He never fails and anything done to His glory is perfect in every way. Can’t afford to fly halfway around the world to work in a third world country? So what? Pray for those that can. Encourage them by helping with the behind-the-scenes work. Write them cards thanking them for their work. Pray that God blesses them as they bless others half a world away. Remember, we are all on the same team. We are, after all, members of the body of Christ and ” those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor”  (1 Corinthians 12:22-23a.) You see? None of us are insignificant and all have a role in Christ.

The excuse that gets me the most is:

I don’t think my gifts are useful for helping other people

I don’t care what your gifts are. I am not interested in what talents you have or don’t have or want or whatever. It doesn’t matter to me, or God, or anyone else. To say, however, that your gifts aren’t good enough to be used to glorify God discounts the ability of God. It is saying that He is unable to use you for His glory. Whether it is music or speaking or organization or just being good at grunt labor, it is a gift from God to be used for His glory. Talented musician? See if you can go play at a retirement center. Music has a great therapeutic value and will be appreciated. OCD much? Go help at your local church. See if there is any backlogged paperwork that needs straightening. Strong back and strong arms? Be that guy that stops and helps people on the roadside. Volunteer to pick up trash. Mow for the elderly in your community. There is ALWAYS something. You just have to do it.

Now…let me be clear: I am no expert. I am no stellar witness myself. I have my flaws and cracks and failures and they are out there for all to see. I am just passing on my thoughts to my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Until the next one,

 

PeACE!!
P.S. In the comments, I will post various other service-oriented organizations for those who are interested.

 

 

 

 

ˈa-pə-thē

What is apathy? Webster’s dictionary defines apathy like this

(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apathy):

1: lack of feeling or emotion : impassiveness
2: lack of interest or concern : indifference
I would define it as simply caring more about nothing than anything. I know that sounds a little redundant, but allow me to continue. Or not…you are free to navigate away 🙂
Apathy is an absolute disinterest in everything, or in some cases, a specific cause or…thing.  An example is being able to look at the stories on the news, truly heart-rending cases of pain and suffering, and not be moved at all. Apathy is driving by that homeless guy on the corner and not being bothered by a thought of compassion or charity.
Apathy is not hatred. Hatred shows some sense of interest. So does annoyance, disgust, boredom,etc. Those are emotions. Those can change.
I have always been interested in charity and in mission work, so maybe that colors my perspective of the apathetic. I simply cannot fathom looking at those people around the world that have less, far less, than even I do and not caring. Not wondering what I could do to help. I cannot understand the mindset of the man who looks at a homeless person and says to himself, “oh well.” I am infuriated by the person who hears of the tragic killings in Africa or the still-struggling Japanese, or even of the poverty in India and doesn’t register a single emotional response. I don’t get it. How can someone simply not care?
My next question is where does this come from? What makes a person feel, or not feel if you will, this way? How can someone simply not care about others?
Could it be their upbringing? Were they not raised to show or comprehend empathy? Is their life really so bad that they feel it overshadows the plight of anyone else and does not warrant their concern? Is it just a result of sociopathic tendencies?
-Maybe-
But…the only answer is our sinfulness. Our God is love, all-encompassing, complete, total, unimaginable LOVE. With love comes concern, a caring heart, compassion, all of these adverbs that are the polar opposite of apathy. So, it stands to reason (maybe) that our apathy, and we all deal with it somewhere, is a direct result of being sinful from birth. To some, that may make you feel even more hopeless, but fear not, Christ’s death and resurrection has bridged the gap between perfect and flawed, between spotless and filthy, between polished and tarnished, between heaven and hell, between infinity and the finite, between man and God. Because of that tortuous, humiliating death on Calvary, we are freed from sin. We are no longer forced to wear the chains of our imperfections. We are, in fact, “slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18b)
So…how do we combat apathy? Is it possible to be filled with compassion for our fellow man despite our “natural” inclination to just not care? Of course! Christ was very clear that He would be with us always as we go through this life. Christ is the epitome of caring. Time and time again, the Bible speaks of Christ being moved in His inmost being (the English word is “compassion”) for people. I am told that the Greek word literally translates to the feeling Christ had as “gut-wrenching.” Christ’s love for all made Him hurt…literally. So, it would stand to reason that He can instill this same love in us. Through Him, and Him alone, we can find the strength and power to overcome this part of our sinful nature. Christ tells us that all we have to do is ask and we will be blessed.
So…to end my rant, that is my prayer for you. That God molds and mends (y)our sinful, apathetic, disconnected heart that it may truly glorify Him above ALL things. Pray that He shows you His will and His way and gives you a heart that feels for people. His people. I also pray that this feeling goes beyond…feeling. I pray that it translates into action, that all my see your love….Christ’s love.
Until the next one–
PeACE!

I Bring This to You in Love

Murderers in Uganda. Drug cartels slaughtering border agents and public officials in Mexico. Aborted fetuses being used in product studies in the States. Japanese families still reeling from disaster. Families in New Orleans who STILL HAVEN’T RECOVERED from hurricanes. People debating whether or not infanticide should be legal. Rape. Murder. Assault because of one’s beliefs. Genocide.

This is our world from a cursory view of the internet and watching the morning news. I am sorry for the drudge report, but this is just sad. What in the world is going on in the world around us? It pains me to see it. It frustrates me that I am unable to just do something to stop ANY of it. It hurts that it feels like my prayers fall on deaf ears of a God too occupied with other things. And it INFURIATES ME to see so many people of faith, regardless of denomination, so SILENT on the issues at hand. Where are the great advocates of days past? Where are those who aren’t afraid to be ostracized, cast out, or ridiculed for taking a stand? I can tell you where: at home, in their climate-controlled bubbles, watching t.v. and eating nice hot meals while watching the whole world be torn apart on the news and posting b.s. hypothetical and impotent messages of “support” on Facebook. Sure, a Christian will be quick to vocalize their opinion on birth control, abortion, or gay marriage and vote to support that position, but they don’t seem to care about what I would call more pressing issues affecting the “least of these.”

“Least of these.” Ever heard those words? I’ve read them hundreds of times, both in private study and in classes. “Least of these…” I want you to focus on those words and who that is in your life. For reference, the “least of these” are mentioned by Christ in Matthew 25:31-46 when He is talking about His return. The basic premise is that we should treat the less fortunate, the beaten down, the hopeless, the helpless, the lost….EVERYONE as Christ. Not saying we should worship and adore them. No…we should make it our goal to make their life a little better. Not just by handing five dollars to a homeless guy, but by spending some time with him. Making him feel human again. Can you imagine how demoralizing it is to be homeless? To not be able to provide for your family? I can’t. I live a comfortable life. But I imagine it is awful. And I can imagine that a caring word shared over a meal (this is the important part) would do so much more than five bucks ever could. I mean, after all, the Apostle Paul told us that without love our gifts and abilities are little more than noisemakers and irritation (1 Cor. 13.) So…step out and help someone. It won’t hurt you.

What I am tired of. What really burns me up. What will really send me on a tirade of epic proportions. Is Christians who don’t back up their words with actions. Yes, they may be saved and that’s all fine and good for them, but what are they doing to expand God’s glorious kingdom? I am not here to judge, and I apologize if my tone shifts that way, but I am fed up with being associated with a bunch of luke-warm, , of which I am the worst (1 Tim. 1:15)mealy-mouthed, back-sliders who are SCARED to get out and help someone because of what someone else might think. Why is that so important? Why would you rather have a dead faith (James 2:14-26) than stand up for something so important? Why? I ask myself this question because I, too, have been convicted of my grievous sins of omission. I am pained by the memories of failed attempts, over-looked opportunities, averted glances, and lame excuses that come to mind when I ask myself what I have done for “the least of these.”

Now, then, I ask: What do we do? What does the body of Christ do about this? We have all heard the song “If We are the Body” by Casting Crowns. Many of us have probably sang along and thought “I’m gonna do something about this…I’m gonna be an active, useful part of this body” and then done absolutely nothing. I understand. I HAVE TOO. But the song raises the ultimate question to me: if I am the Bible-believing, Christ-centered, Gospel-sharing Christian I claim to be, why am I allowing opportunities to help others pass me by? I honestly don’t know. If you feel the same as I do, do as I do; ask…no, beg…no, PLEAD with God to open you up to a realistic view of your heart. BEG Him to show you who you really are. And then IMPLORE Him to change you and bend you and mold you to His will alone. Ask Him to break your heart for the things that break His. Ask Him for eyes like His and ask that he send His Spirit ahead of you to seek out those who need YOUR help. This is key: do not be frustrated by trying to cram yourself into another’s mold-do what God has called YOU, and you alone, to do. Ask Him to help you deliver yourself as Romans 12:1 says,  as a “living sacrifice” to Him.

And pray for the whole body of Christ. Set aside denominational or congregational prejudices, because they help nothing. After all, ” a house that is divided cannot stand (Mark 3:25.)” Strive to help your fellow man, Christian or not. But also take time to work on you. Spend time in prayer, devotion, whatever…read the Bible from cover to cover and truly ABSORB God’s message. And PRAY. When you are done with that, pray some more…and then again…”pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17.)” And pray for me. As I write this, I am challenging myself. It will be hard and there will be pain, but all good things in life are worth the fight.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I know my words may have come off a little harsh. I know I probably offended or upset a few. Understand that was not my intent. I am just as guilty as everyone else, but I have decided my silence will be no more. I bring my message, though with a little bit of anger, totally in love.

I leave you in PeACE and pray for you continually, my dear Christian family.

In Christ Alone,

Doug <><

Why I hate religion…

So…this video has been making its rounds on Facebook and I am finally inclined to provide my opinion on it in a little bit more depth.

First off, the kid is spot on in a lot of areas. In general, the church, or people in it, do and say things to make themselves appear better than they are despite being sinful and wicked and truly in need of a Savior. To an outsider, these people appear shallow and judgmental and, above all, hypocritical.

Second, “religion” does not, under any circumstance equal “Christianity” or “faith” or anything else. Religion, according to Webster’s Dictionary is about the institution, the rules, etc. It has nothing to do with the heart. When the actor in this video says that Jesus came to abolish religion, it is most certainly true by this definition. Christ wanted the religious “elite” of His time to get real and stop being fake believers. They worshiped God with their mouths and with their outward actions, but their faith inside was DEAD. Truly, this is what Christ came to remove from the world.

Third, the actor speaks about the church having lavish houses of worship while not feeding the poor. I can agree with this point to a certain extent as well. I have seen churches so concerned with building a new sanctuary while neglecting the poor outside its walls. However, I have the fortune of being a member of a church that did both. We have a beautiful facility and regularly send missionaries, both locally and around the globe, in order to share the word of Christ.

Essentially, this gentleman is partially right. Actually, he is totally right if he is basing this off of his experiences in life. We cannot discount one man’s feelings about religion simply because “that’s not how my church does it.” Do I agree with him 100%? Absolutely not!  I have been blessed to not be exposed to so much negativity in the church. We have our problems, that’s for sure, but I cannot wrap my mind around the church or belief system that has hurt this man so much.

That brings me to my final point: I have been DISGUSTED by the stance taken by some of the religious on Facebook and elsewhere. Instead of loving this man and trying to understand, many have taken to railing against his position, calling him a “fool,” “uneducated” and flat-out wrong. To be frank, I find that position to be most ignorant. How can someone be wrong when sharing their experiences? I would also submit that those most offended our the most convicted. I mean, why would someone be so upset about the video unless they felt they were being called out? To be very honest, the actor was right (based on responses) when he said Christians don’t back up their words with actions. The same Christians who “believe” that we should be “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) are the ones insulting this guy and making him out to a liar and a crackpot.

The moral of the story: When somebody doesn’t agree with you on the basis of your faith and gives a laundry list of negatives as reasons, do not denigrate their opinion. Find out why. Try to understand. Most of all, SHOW THEM LOVE.

PeACE<><

It’s a new dawn…

Well…today, Friday the 13th, marks the end of my first week as a DCE intern. So far, I have noticed a few things about this job:

 

1. I love it. I have a lot of freedom to do what I want and I find that I am genuinely interested in my work.

2. I hate it. I am not accustomed to desk work and I really feel like I am wasting time when I just sit at my desk, peruse social media sites, make phone calls, or burn through To-Do lists.

3. I have noticed a change in me. I have never been one to talk about my religion, but this past week has put me in a position to openly speak on my beliefs in a number of places. These brief conversations are what I find most important.

            a. I spoke at some length with a homosexual man at Hasting’s about Christianity, religion, and philosophy. He brought up some points that still resonate with me now. It was interesting to get that perspective on religion and religious people. I invited him to come check out our services on Sunday.

            b. I spoke in depth with the young lady that rung up my purchases at Family Christian. She is an active member of another local church, but is interested in checking Trinity out as well. More exciting news.

            c. I spoke with an older gentleman about what I did while at the grocery store. He praised our (the church’s) effort in trying to reach the youth of today as he felt they are totally lost and wandering around.

 

Now…I realize this post isn’t terribly insightful and is more or less a list of facts and otherwise boring events throughout my week, but I think it sends a clear message to us as Christians: You never know when God will put someone in front of you who needs to hear about Him. Always be ready. I am not talking about making sure you have a handful of “salvation tracts” available or having a spare pocket Bible on hand or even having an immense amount of Scripture memorized to share. Now, these are all good things, so do not mistake what I am saying. But being prepared is more than that. Being prepared involves willingness. It involves a level of commitment. It involves a plan of action. What I mean is this: be ready, at all times, to carry on a potentially SOUL-SAVING conversation with anyone you meet. Know your material, but also know that you will lose people if you check your cell phone or look around nervously while engaged in conversation. Know that a person may need to hear more law or Gospel than you are accustomed to sharing. Know your AUDIENCE that they may know your Savior. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready to defend our faith but to do so with gentleness and respect. This, to me, is more important than being able to quote Scripture ad nauseum. 

Ordinarily, I would have avoided these conversations and tried to extricate myself from the situations, but I did not. I felt compelled to stay and discuss even when I was tempted to make up excuses to leave. Instead, I followed the lead of the Holy Spirit and let him speak through me. I hope and pray that we all do the same.

In closing, keep strong in prayer and Bible study and in faith that you may be ready for when God puts you on a collision course with His lost sheep.

I pray God’s richest blessings on you, this day and always.

 

PeACE<><