Author: john

A God of Second Chances

How many of you have made a mistake or two in your past. The ones that haunt me the most, even to this day, are my shortfalls I made in raising my kids.

My parents were my greatest influence for the first seven years of my child-rearing experience. They were very strict with my brother and I and we turned out OK, or so I thought. So I tried to replicate their strict disciplinary approach – and failed miserably.

My daughter was seven and her brothers much younger by the time I committed my life to Christ – and they had to endure my ever-changing style of child-rearing and disciplining that I was learning from the multitude of Christian advisors and trainers I sought guidance from. Each of those claimed to be experts – from parenting classes in my own Bible-centered church, to the Agape Training Center out in Plymouth, to Dr. Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio show that I listened to every day at noon, to a wide range of Christian books and magazine articles on the subject.

I recently thanked my daughter for my grandkids – because I see in them my second chance to get right what I messed up with my own kids.

How many of you are glad for second chances – or would love to have a second chance at making right a situation that you absolutely know you didn’t handle very well – or that you’d do a lot differently now that you’re a lot wiser?

  • Maybe, like myself, it’s your kids – you didn’t give them enough time, or you didn’t discipline them properly.
  • Or maybe it was a failed relationship.
  • Or maybe you did something embarrassing that cost you your good name.
  • Or maybe it was some dumb thing you did on a job that cost you financially, or the admiration and respect of your co-workers, or it cost you the job itself.

We’ve all messed up something (maybe a lot of things) in our past.

Thankfully the God we serve is a God of second chances.

I counsel a lot of men – men who’ve messed up in ways that most of us, not even our imaginations would take us down that road. And I haven’t met one man who wasn’t glad to meet that God of second chances, and let Him help them recover their lives and relationships.

In fact God is not only the God of second chances; He is the God of another chance. This is good news because most of us mess up the second chance as well, and we need a third and a fourth chance.

One of the amazing facets of God’s character is His incredible patience with us. Psalm 86 says it well: “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” And the prophet Micah says, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”

Thank goodness for the love, grace and patience of God.

The Bible is full of people who received second chances, and even third and fourth chances: Peter, Paul, David, Jonah, Samson. They and we are all trophies of God’s grace.

A lot of times we have a hard time looking for or accepting a second chance when it comes our way. In some strange way we don’t feel we deserve it – we have so much condemnation for our bad behavior – we feel we deserve being cast down. We feel people should hate us or not forgive what we did to hurt them. If you have that attitude, if you think you’re being courageous or holy or whatever – you’re not. You’re actually insulting God – you’re saying that Jesus’ pain and suffering so you could be forgiven and set free wasn’t good enough.

So just don’t do that! Get rid of that shame and guilt. God doesn’t want you to continue to hold onto it.

There’s no question that there are consequences for past bad behavior and bad decisions. King David lost the son born of the adulterous relationship he had with Bathsheba, and his kids were constantly fighting among themselves and competing for his attention. Samson was enslaved, tortured and even died all the while God was giving him his second chance at defending the people of Israel. Even the Apostle Paul I don’t believe ever fully recovered from the guilt he felt from persecuting, even killing Christians before his conversion – because he talked about it a lot.

Maybe your past bad behavior cost you something dear to you, like your marriage, or maybe it made your relationship with your kids more strained.

I was recently told about a deep-sea fishing expedition a dad took his two high-school-aged sons.  All morning long they fished and caught nothing except sunburn. Near lunchtime one of the boys got sea-sick and lost his breakfast over the side of the boat. The second son immediately followed suit. Suddenly this huge school of oceanic fish appeared out of nowhere, feeding unceremoniously upon their breakfast. Less than 10 minutes later, the entire boat caught their limit.

The lesson: they had fished all morning and all they got was sick. But once they were sick, all they got was fish.

Doesn’t that seem to be how God sometimes works? When we come to the end of ourselves, when we humbly acknowledge the mess we’ve landed ourselves in, God delights to pour out His glory in sudden and unpredictable ways.

God’s always offering us second chances – but He often expects us to take the initiative to seek them out. Many of the men I give spiritual counsel to have families in disarray – with kids who have had their minds poisoned by their spouse and other relatives – kids who have let their dads know they don’t want to have anything to do with them. I’ve encouraged the men to take it slow, but to maintain contact with their children – even if it only means sending them an occasional note letting them know they’re thinking about them and love and admire them. In many cases, that’s been enough to trigger more communication and a better relationship.

So don’t be afraid to take the initiative to reconnect with that person you may have hurt years ago, or been hurt by. Maybe your view of the situation is much worse than theirs.

I remember a number of years ago, the family and I joined some friends up in Lexington, Mich at their cottage for sailing and swimming. As we sat around we got to talking about old times; and someone brought up the names of a couple sisters that we had attended grade school with – and mentioned they owned a pie shop just outside of town. I immediately felt guilt rise up in my spirit, for a friend and I had spent most of our 8th grade teasing the girls about their physical appearance. Over the years that guilt would pop up every now and then; but I figured I’d never have the opportunity to ask their forgiveness. All of a sudden that opportunity was available to me. So I decided to take it. On our way home, we stopped outside the pie shop. Only one of the sisters was working when I entered. As I talked with her and mentioned the circumstances that had brought so much condemnation into my life over the years, I found she couldn’t even remember it. Still I asked and received her forgiveness, even though she didn’t feel I needed to.

No matter where you are, God is offering you a second chance. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve done it, no matter where you’ve wandered, God is saying, “If you allow Me, I’ll heal and restore. If you let Me.” That’s the key – to let Him. He’ll take the hurt of your bad decision and the accompanying shame and clean it up. The devil would love it if you remained isolated in your shame and condemnation all your life. Don’t give him that satisfaction.

But even if that’s not where you’re at today – Even if you’re totally at peace with your current relationship with God, with your family, with your church and your life in general, then God has a message for you too.

Each one of us needs to possess and exercise that same godly attitude of respect and tolerance when it comes to others in our society. And that’s not tolerance as society uses it today – which wants us to wink at sin and bad behavior. However, often when we become righteous Christians, we tend to forget our own youthful indiscretions and develop a “three strikes and you’re out” attitude toward others. Sometimes it’s toward our loved ones. But more often it’s toward strangers in the world, people we may not know personally, but whose behavior we find disgusting. But that attitude doesn’t represent God’s nature.

One thing that I always warn other Christians is: any behavior that you’re likely to vocally criticize another person about, be prepared to be tested in that area yourself. While you may not be personally tempted in that area, I guarantee someone that you are close to will be. And if they fall, I guarantee that your attitude toward them will be tested as well.

I’ve seen that in my own life with respect to attitudes of self-righteousness I once held toward people in so-called “alternate lifestyles.” Pray and be cautious with your judgments of others, and especially cautious with critical words that come out of your mouth. Trust me – you don’t want to be tested personally in these areas.

Don’t tune out the Message because of an imperfect Messenger

A couple weeks ago during chapel service at the Bible College where I’m an instructor, I came close to missing out on a word from God, all because of my superficial assessment of the messenger. I realized that time constraints were at least partly to blame for what I felt was a slip-shod presentation. After all, the man had barely twelve minutes to present a teaching that would have been difficult to follow had he been allotted much more than that. Unfortunately the man’s hand-out didn’t help matters much, for it was complicated, disjointed and even contained some reference errors. Though I didn’t vocalize my critical assessment of the teaching, I did so in my mind.

Yet barely five days later in a totally different setting, one of the men in our prayer group began to expound on the same subject, using the same three verses that made up the heart of the earlier message. To paraphrase Ephesians 1:3-5, “The Christian exists in a relation of rest, selected by God before the world was created, to be sacred, physically pure, morally blameless as a saint, adopted as His son.” This is my identity in Christ.

God got my attention. Over the next couple of days I found myself delving through the man’s handout as well as the deep recesses of my memory where I had shelved his utterances. I ultimately concluded that his teaching constituted an amazing revelation of truth. I’m so glad that God is omni-patient and omni-merciful with the likes of me. When I miss what He sends my way via one source, He doesn’t just leave me hanging out there to dry – but provides an alternate source to confirm and bring clarity to the message.

How often do we tune out a potentially important message because, even before the messenger speaks, we place a presumptive value on what’s likely to come out of their mouth based on something we think we know or have heard others tell us about the messenger, or just because we have a hard time identifying with him or her? I think we do it a lot more than we’re willing to admit, and much more than we even recognize. An elder in a church might opine that the young visiting minister doesn’t have the maturity to teach him anything; while the young congregant may be just as biased against a senior, “whose time has passed him by” and isn’t hip to the latest methods and gadgets.

If we truly believe God’s Word, we have to acknowledge that at times He’s used donkeys, plants and even inanimate objects to get His people’s attention and reveal knowledge. He can surely use the least of us to communicate to His Church, regardless of our individual failings. But only those who are open will receive that truth and become His voice to convey that truth to those within our own sphere of influence.

Another’s Shoes

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In one of my favorite parables, Jesus contrasts the humility of a corrupt tax collector who pleaded for mercy before God, with that of a self-righteousness religious leader who was so obsessed with his own virtue that he failed to recognize his own need for repentance. (Luke 18:9-14)  I have never had trouble seeing the hypocrisy of the self-righteous man in that parable, and yet I have often failed to recognize my own insensitivity to some very real trials faced by others born into or whom life’s circumstances have cast into a social and cultural maze.

The leadership of my local church often high-fives the breadth of the racial, ethnic, generational, sociological and cultural diversity displayed within our congregation. However, I’m convinced that the numbers are few, for those of us who could be fairly described as adequately prepared for, and understanding and accepting of the vast rainbow of traits and backgrounds and attitudes implicit in such a gathering of unique personalities.

God woke me to this reality during a recent men’s group meeting in which the conversation diverted from the spiritual to the social and political. In the past I’ve noted that whenever we keep the conversation to Biblical principles, we’re almost uniformly in agreement and peace reigns. But when we stray into social and political discussions, the air gets thick and the tension grows. On this particular occasion several men began to exuberantly share their personal and varied opinions and feelings – emotions and opinions and attitudes that clearly evolved from their widely diverse upbringing and skin color and associated negative experiences. As the temperature rose, a friend tried his best to defuse the situation with the phrase, “Everyone has their problems and trials;” instead it came close to triggering an explosion.

That was the moment the Lord chose to speak to my personal insensitivity. I knew I needed to repent and to ask forgiveness of my brothers. The atmosphere changed; and though the discussion continued, a calm settled over our group.

Some might insist that social and political discussions are distractions from the intent of a “prayer group.” I disagree. God is concerned and wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. The subjects that tend to drive wedges between the races, between ethnicities, between the generations, and the social levels and the various cultural communities, all need to be addressed in a respectful way. We’ll never be able to walk in the other’s shoes; but we must try to be sensitive to the stories and histories that define our brothers’ and sisters’ uniqueness. And when we fail in this area we need to be “man-enough” to ask their forgiveness.

You can’t handle the Truth

This past Saturday I attended a luncheon where a young friend spoke. His message began with a reference to a Jack Nicholson line from the 1992 movie A Few Good Men. In response to the defense lawyer’s demand “I want the truth!” USMC Colonel Jessup shouts. “You can’t handle the truth!”

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Nearly twenty-nine centuries have passed since the Biblical events chosen as Dave’s reference point for the message, yet its veracity is in evidence every day. Men and women still have a problem with accepting truth when it doesn’t confirm their hopes and plans, doesn’t align with their personal beliefs and lifestyles and suggests an unwanted change in course.

In the 22nd chapter of 1 Kings we see the kings of Israel and Judah contemplating the wisdom of forming an alliance to retake Ramoth-Gilead from the Syrians who had conquered it a few years earlier. The evil King Ahab brings out his band of four hundred so-called prophets who he can always rely on to “foretell” exactly what he wants to hear – in this case, that the Lord would give them victory. The good King Jehoshaphat however senses something isn’t kosher and asks, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire.”

The king of Israel grumpily responds that there is just one other man, Micaiah by name, whom he hates, because he always prophesies evil against him. In other words, the man speaks the truth – the real word of the Lord. King Jehoshaphat insists that they bring Micaiah to Samaria so he can make inquiry of him. While a messenger is sent to bring back the true prophet, the others keep speaking words of encouragement and triumph, hoping to dissuade Jehoshaphat from listening to their rival when he arrives.

Even the messenger himself, when he reaches Micaiah and explains the situation to him, encourages the prophet to not create waves. Because he knows neither king can handle the truth, so it would be best for the prophet to just repeat the false prophets’ words that all will go well if they attacked the Syrians. And for some strange reason Micaiah goes along with this recommendation, and the first words out of his mouth are as the messenger suggested.

But Jehoshaphat sees through the man and demands the truth, just like Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee played by Tom Cruise. At which the prophet announces that the Lord’s command is that Judah should return to its land in peace – otherwise the results will be disastrous for them all. Not only will they get their butts whipped, but King Ahab will not return from the battle alive. He also cautions that the false prophets are actually agents of a lying spirit sent to deceive and destroy Ahab.

Nevertheless, both kings ignore the truth and proceed to advance on Ramoth-Gilead. And the battle turns out exactly as prophesied; for though Ahab and Jehoshaphat trade royal garments, the Syrians let Jehoshaphat survive, but slay Ahab. His blood flows into the chariot, and when his body is returned to Samaria for burial; even “the dogs lick up his blood while the harlots bathe,” in accordance with an earlier prophesy.

So here we are, not in the 9th century BC, but in 2016 and the theme of the saga continues for all to witness across social media and in the news multiple times each day. Everyone claims they desire and are seeking the truth. Yet it’s human nature to shut one’s ears to the words of all but those who relieve the itching and who confirm that what one does and what one believes is well and good. So what such a self-deceived person claims they have is truth – is really just their own vile heart declaring their own righteousness through the words of confused and deceived friends and so-called “experts.”

The deceived turn the volume off to anyone who professes to have a word from God to help them. All too many just can’t handle the truth. When the truth demands an action that would require them to reverse course in their lifestyles and in their belief systems, they just get angry and continue to march forward toward their own demise.

It’s a sad destiny with an even unhappier eternal end. People are offered a chance to turn and walk toward God; instead they slink out of the room and head for home and their disillusioned belief that what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

Hate is a Heart Thing

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 Our society seems obsessed with hate and tries to legislate it away, with laws against hate speech, hate crimes, you name it. This tactic only fills up prisons and cemeteries, because it fails to address the root of the problem. Hate is a heart thing and the only One who can heal a hate-filled heart is the One who created that heart in the first place. God created each heart, intending that it be filled with His pure goodness; but in this messy world we have a tendency to fill it with whatever “seems right in our own eyes,” and that’s rarely goodness and right thinking.

People use a lot of excuses to justify hate: racial inequity, denial of rights, ethnic and nationalistic history of injustice, sexual, physical, verbal or emotional abuse, offensive words, unjust loss of property, position or reputation, even religious doctrine can become a justification for the hatred that creeps into or floods our hearts. But no human justification for hate will ever be validated by the One True God – for the simple reason that God sacrificed His Son and allowed His Blood to be spilled for each one of us – and He did it while we were pretty rotten individuals not worthy of His supreme sacrifice.

Some (especially “religious” people) try to cover up their hate-filled hearts with distractive behavior and deceptive appearances: like good works, false smiles, church attendance, or involvement in “causes.” But hate is such a destructive force that it cannot be covered up for very long. It will eventually show forth its serpent fangs. The Bible explains that whatever is in the heart will be displayed in our words and in our actions. It will even show forth in our eyes, which are the entrances to our soul.

Hate and Love cannot co-exist – for hate will distract from and ultimately destroy other relationships, both in the natural and spiritual realms. I see this every time I minister to a man whose marriage is struggling or whose children have abandoned him. More often than not we discover that at the core of his problem is a past hurt (be it a childhood molestation, a parental abandonment, a prior unfaithful spouse, or a physical beating by an authority figure such as a teacher or police officer) the memory of which continues to rip apart the man’s soul and every subsequent relationship.

Jesus correlated hatred with the physical act of murder and said the only cure for the hater was forgiveness of the offender. “For how can you say you love God who you do not see, when you hate your brother who you do see?” and told people to not even consider offering a gift to God until after they went to the other and reconciled with him. And it’s not just our spiritual relationship with the Almighty that suffers, but every relationship we have – until we are set free from hate.

Hate and Fear are kindred spirits. Most of the time we experience fear of a person or situation, we feel the need to either avoid or destroy the person(s) who we perceive as the source of our fear. And that’s where hate comes in. But the real source of both fear and hate is spiritual, not natural – it’s the kingdom of darkness – that simply manifests in and through a human’s bad behavior. The Word of God identifies each of these as spirits and He tells us “Your battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies.” Regarding fear, we’re specifically told, “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.” This principle applies to the spirit of hate as well.

And it’s not just our relationships that suffer – it’s everything good that we put our hands to. Hate destroys the hater physically, emotionally, attitudinally, and spiritually. Hate is counter-productive – it interferes with a person becoming the best we can be. It keeps us from producing something of value, from using our talents fully, and from accomplishing our goals and dreams.

Fortunately a hate-filled heart can be healed – but only by allowing God and godly people to intervene. It’s the rare individual who is being spiritually harassed by the enemy who will seek God’s help directly. More often than not, when they finally recognize that they’re in trouble and have nowhere else to turn, they will reach out to one who they perceive is a godly person or a Christian ministry or a church for help. Hopefully the one they reach out to will recognize their authority in Christ over the power of darkness, or is wise enough to redirect them to another who does. My local church in Sterling Heights, Michigan actually prays for “the hardest cases” to find their way to us – for we know our authority and have seen many broken people set free from this heart problem we call hate.

Your Life Matters

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Everyone wants to “make a difference” in their brief time on this earth. This is true of the intensely spiritual person – but it’s also true of the one who doesn’t acknowledge any form of supernatural realm. Every person who has ever come to me for counsel has exposed that, at the root of their problem is a delusion that their life doesn’t matter. Either they’ve been told this by an insensitive parent or other authority figure, or significant circumstances in life have driven them to that conclusion.

This weekend a young man in his late twenties shared with our church the challenges in his life that nearly destroyed him. Though he grew up in a home with a praying mama, there was so much turmoil in the household and an abusive father that he concluded early in life that he didn’t matter. His friends became people who had similar low self-esteem and they introduced him to the drug culture. It eventually led to a dark night in a vacant field in Detroit where two acquaintances put ten 45 caliber shells into his body and left him to die.

For the first time in a long time Gary called out to God for help. He was somehow able to muster enough strength to crawl out of the field, where a bystander found him and called 911. In spite of losing 83% of his blood (well beyond anything medically possible for a human being to live), and enduring several operations which removed or repaired vital organs, he would survive. Yet months later after he was released, he was still home-bound and emotionally worse off than ever – since he couldn’t see how he’d ever be able to improve his lot in life.

But through the personal ministry of some church friends and an associate pastor who led Gary to forgive those who had hurt him in the past and to renounce the spiritual forces that had deceived him into believing he was worthless, he was totally set free to understand that he could make a difference within his sphere of influence. It’s been a long haul, but now this young man has part-time employment, has recently returned from a mission trip to Rwanda and is sharing his story to encourage others whom life has likewise challenged and stepped all over.

It’s interesting, because this same message was given at our People for Jesus meeting this Saturday by Dr’s Jerry and Sherill. When the Holy Spirit reinforces a message it gets my attention. God clearly wants His people to know how He values each one of us and has included us in His grand plan. But sometimes we get so self-absorbed in the circumstances of life that often don’t play fair – that we lose sight of the big picture and our part in it.

The enemy of God of course wants to keep us down and distracted with our problems. Sometimes we need each other to get us out of these doldrums. God’s power and love and mercy and grace are not restricted by anything you’ve been through, whatever discouraging words you’ve been subjected to, whatever hurts you’ve experienced. It’s important, even necessary, to forgive those who have hurt you – and forgive yourself. And renounce the bad behaviors you’ve been subjected to or have been involved in – and declare them dead to you. You may even need special ministry like Gary received, to get fully set free to do God’s bidding – so don’t be ashamed to seek it. We’re here to help each other.

Whatever your age or physical or emotional state, know that God holds you in high esteem and has a job for you. You just need to find out what it is. Until you know for sure, just serve others as the opportunities present themselves – and you’ll be surprised as other doors open for you. This is an exciting life – and we live in an exciting time in history.

Are we to understand the mind of God?

Testing Religious Truth   I have a FaceBook friend who has a large diverse following which he constantly challenges with political, social and religious issues. The other day he shared a “testimony” in which someone claimed their child was healed from autism. He simply added “I think that was nice of God.” The faith crowd of course replied with “Amens” and confirmations of the goodness of God, while the unbelievers and even some Christian brethren responded with various degrees of cynicism and sarcasm, often asking hard questions like, “If this is true, then why doesn’t God heal all autistic people?”

Such questions are hard but still valid. The hard-to-understand issues never bothered Jesus. In fact, He raised many of these issues Himself to test the religious leaders of His time. Take for example His words early in His ministry: “many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

The implication of His words so enraged these men that they tried to throw Him off a cliff. Was their reaction based on a misunderstanding of why God hadn’t intervened on the part of their predecessors? No! They knew exactly what Jesus meant. He was drawing a comparison between that former rebellious time in their history and their current rejection of Jesus’ message. The inference was that “outsiders” would once again be the recipients of God’s blessings in lieu of His “chosen people” if they didn’t set down their pride and humbly turn back to Him.

But not every valid “God question” has such an obvious answer. We cannot even say that a rebellious person will never experience God’s blessings; for elsewhere the Bible says that God allows His rain to fall on the land of both the righteous and the unrighteous. If we fully understood the inner-workings of the mind of God we’d be gods ourselves, which we definitely are not. We are only called to seek out an understanding of the nature of God to the extent he has shared it with us in the Bible and in the world around us, for the purpose of relating that understanding to the ones He puts in our individual paths.

God has revealed to us His written promises, but He also has allowed us to experience His grace and mercy. That’s why He often puts those who have been set free from drugs and alcohol into the lives of those still struggling with addiction. That’s why He puts the former porn addict or prostitute in front of a person still dealing with sexual misbehaviors. That’s why God frequently puts me, who once had a strong religious spirit, into the path of another of like background; or praying for the healing of the person with spine or heart and blood issues, ailments I was once miraculously healed of.

So why doesn’t God reverse the effects of autism throughout the world? Why doesn’t He do the same for every case of childhood cancer? I could hypothesize an answer based on scripture and verse – but I’d be wrong more times than not. And those few times I reasoned correctly, I’d still be stoned (metaphorically) by a large segment of the religious and non-religious world around me.

There are some things I don’t think we’re meant to know – because God alone is sovereign. We’re just to believe His promises, execute the action plan He’s set before us and trust that all things will ultimately work together for the good of those who love Him and who are called by Him.

Complaining about a depraved culture solves nothing

People use social media for a variety of purposes, from sharing family adventures, to selling products and ideas, to venting about politics and social issues. While each person has the freedom to do whatever they like with their personal FaceBook page, sometimes we need to be reminded that there’s a better way. One of the foolish things I see much too often are posts complaining about liberal bias in the media, our leftish education system, the depravity of society, you name it. Crying about unfairness or bad behavior solves nothing. I know, because I’ve been just as guilty in this regard as the next person.

I think the majority feels frustrated with the moral decline we witness every day, and our apparent ineffectiveness to slow it down, much less turn it around. Most of us have children and grandchildren and we have nightmares of them wending their way through the garbage pit that our post-modern culture is spewing out – so we cry foul – perhaps hoping some warrior will step forward to their and our rescue. But it ain’t gonna happen that way folks!

Each one of us has a part to play in the rescue of our culture and our kin. In spite of scriptural warnings that the world would “wax worse and worse,” my generation never anticipated how morally corrupt our society would become, and so soon – so we didn’t adequately prepare our offspring. Now we’re in catch-up mode. Fortunately, at the same time as we face a daily attack on our traditions and morals, God has raised up a number of wise men and women to help us. So we have at our technological fingertips a number of tools to combat those attacks and to prepare our young folks for the challenges they’re going to face as they proceed through each phase of their growth and education, into adulthood.

As a starter, let me recommend an article by Stand to Reason’s student impact director, Brett Kunkle entitled A Practical Plan to Equip the Next Generation. It’s at:

 As Kunkle explains in his intro, growing up in a Christian home, a family committed to the local church, coming to Christ at five and baptized at six, the model teenage youth group kid, a student leader and a ministry intern, even committing his life to full-time vocational ministry before graduating – none of this prepared him for the serious intellectual challenges awaiting him or the barrage of moral challenges from an increasingly secular culture. His freshman college Philosophy 101 instructor systematically dismantled the Christianity he grew up with, in class and in front of everyone. And sadly that’s the story for the majority of our Christian kids and explains why the Church continues to hemorrhage its youth out the doors once they experience the outside world.

So stop the complaining and start doing whatever is necessary to prepare your kids and grandkids and other people’s kids to defeat the enemy’s advances on their minds and spirits. Stop sulking about your own mistakes and failures – learn from those mistakes and share them honestly with the ones you most love. If you of the older generation blew it with your own kids, turn them over to God; then start anew with your grandkids – study and share what you learn. It’s never too late to turn things around.

How Credible is the Prophetic Today?

Tattered US Flag   How do you feel about the operation of the prophetic in the Church today? As a Biblical ministry I accept it; but I tend to be a bit more skeptical when I hear someone claim they’ve received a divine word foretelling a specific future event. Such was my attitude when a former co-worker friend emailed me an audio interview by a Christian website of a previously unknown “prophet” concerning a purported five-year-old revelation about the 2016 Election. While I felt I owed it to my friend to at least listen to the premise of the prophesy, I expected to reject it well before its conclusion. Instead, at about the fifteen minute mark of the interview, I was reminded of a “vision” that a church friend of mine claimed he received while attending a 1997 Promise Keepers conference on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

I heard my church friend describe his ’97 experience first in 2008 and a few times thereafter. In this “vision” (a term I use loosely) he described being transported into the spirit realm where the hubbub of the thousands of men around him was briefly blocked out so he could clearly hear the audible voice of God. And that voice said, in essence: “I have not forgotten the United States, neither its missionary works nor its global generosity. For this reason America’s best days are yet ahead.” As America’s economy, morality and global influence have steadily declined over the past decade, my propensity to accept such an incredible word as divine revelation has followed a similar path. Many times I’ve asked myself, “How could America’s best days ever be ahead? If anything, the signs seem to indicate that judgment of our nation is at hand.”

 Yet, as I listened to this ten-year-medically-homebound and previously unknown retired firefighter named Mark Taylor discuss with TRU News founder Rick Wiles the 2011 “revelation,” I sensed that God was connecting the dots between the various messages He’s been revealing to His people across this great nation – to give us hope in very trying times.  I encourage you to make the effort to listen with an open mind to at least the first half of this hour-long interview.

As I reminded some FaceBook friends a couple days ago, I’m sure that the people of Israel were similarly skeptical when advised that the most likely candidates to be used by God for their nation’s restoration at their respective times in history were the worldly King Cyrus or the loud and boisterous King Nebuchadnezzar. And yet!!!

Let NO Offense determine YOUR Attitude

   One who is offended by another’s assessment of their life choices indicates a degree of insecurity in those choices. In contrast, anyone who is truly confident in their choices and beliefs, their conscience will insulate from even the harshest of words. A snapshot of my life reveals a series of career and life choices that many in modern culture, the media and even my old circle of friends today publicly revile: lawyer, government employee, executive in the military-industrial complex, political and social conservative and Christian. I’ve been unfriended occasionally on social media, but have never unfriended anyone. I feel that every individual deserves respect and a fair hearing on their beliefs, if they choose to share them.

But we live in a society that’s much different than the one I knew as a child and young man. My home was a safe place – but the outside world (my neighborhood, my school, my places of employment) all were jungles that I had to learn to deal with or be labeled a mama’s boy. Today society tries to over-protect young people (with the odd exception of the most innocent of all, the unborn child), and demands the creation of “safe zones,” castigating anyone who violates those zones. The result: a society of new entrants into the adult population easily offended and unable to deal with even the most basic of challenges that life will inevitably throw their way.

This is evidenced every day across social media. The adult world is not as nurturing as the one that protected these young people in the classroom, so when they freely express their views about life in the public domain, expecting others will agree with them, they get a rude awakening. Few know how to respectfully respond to those who hold contrary opinions nor how to deal with even the most modest critiques of their own life choices and beliefs.

Whatever a person’s beliefs and choices, if sincerely held, there’s no reason to be offended by another who professes a contrary opinion, and there’s no need to justify yours to them – though plenty of valid reasons to explain them.