Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Handle Bullying for Adults and Children

Bullies will always be around.  So how do we deal with those who hurt others?
My boys and I met for "Dad's Discipleship" yesterday and Micah brought up the subject of bullies.

I have been the victim of bullying and often still have to deal with adults, who are typically more of social, mental, or spiritual bullies.

So let us dig into a couple of stories, and then a big curve ball.  Here are a few verses from the Scripture on bullying:

1. Elijah & the lads- 2 Kings 2:23-25
"From there Elisha went up to Bethel.  As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him.  'Get out of here, baldy!' they said, 'Get out of here, baldy!' He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord.  Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.  And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria."

These boys were verbally attacking the dignity of:
A. A person made in the image of God & very precious to God.
B. An elder (Lev. 19:32)
C. A prophet
D. A bald guy

Have you ever had someone attack your dignity?

At any rate, what was God's response here and how did that differ from how our culture handles abusive people today?
Notice God DIDN'T say, "Hurt people hurt people.  Perhaps their dad's were too busy to raise them correctly.  Boys, you know, they are mean.  Boys will be boys." These are all things I have heard from well meaning people, who seek to understand the bully.

No, God sent a couple bears to maul the boys.  In other words, God does not come to the defense of the abuser but to the abused.

Also notice that God had the bears attack 42 of the boys!  I doubt that all 42, in chorus, were saying this (if you've ever tried to organize 42 boys to do anything quickly, like teach a gym class, you know that this is most likely the case).  Some of these boys were mauled, guilty by association.  They should have refused to be a part of this.  They should of said, "C'mon guys, this isn't right."  Those who quietly stand while another is being abused is as guilty as the one doing the abusing.

If you find yourself in an office, or a place where someone is being verbally assaulted or attacked or hurt, YOU, the godly person, reflect the image of God & stop the assault.  Those times are not times to sit quitely by while someone, whom God loves, is destroyed.

You may get in trouble for this, but not with the Lord.

Defend the helpless and weak.

2. Shamgar & the Philistines- Judges 5:6, 3:31
Shamgar was a farmer during a very difficult time in Israel.  He was a Hebrew Redneck, probably driving a four wheel camel and listening to the twang of the harp.  I digress, here is the passage-

The context-
*Now for this discussion, I learned much of the context from Tony Evans' book, "Kingdom Man".  Take your boys through it.

"In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths."

Why do people make roads?  To travel.
Why would people not take the direct routes, and instead take the winding paths?  Well in that culture, this would only make sense if the roads were unsafe.  There were dangers on the public roads.  People were being robbed nasty bullies.

An example- when I was in high school, I was walking home one day after being suspended.  On my way home, while fuming, a peer rode alongside of me and started to rip into me verbally.  Well, I wasn't in the best of moods, so I grabbed the teen off of his bike, and threw him on the ground.  Then I continued on my way.
The problem with this was that he was the younger brother of one of the toughest fighters in school. The older brother, Jim, came up to me and said something to Liam Neeson in the movie, "Taken".  Jim said, "I will find you and I will kill you." Crud!  So what did I do,  knowing he was looking for me in the hallways?  I took the round about routes, cutting through the gym (and hoping he wasn't also cutting through the gym).

Back to the roads in Israel.  There were destructive people on the road!
Which brings us to our next verse-

"After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad.  He too saved Israel."

Ehud, the farmer, took an oxgoad.  He used what he had.
He killed 600 Philistines with this oxgoad and saved Israel.

Now let's think about this...did he go Chuck Norris and kill all 600 at once?  I doubt it.  More likely, here is how the situation went down-

Shamgar, laying in bed one night, "Ugh, I am sick of taking these winding roads.  My produce gets stall along the way. Something needs to be done with these nasty Philistines.  They are ruining people and destroying our nation."
Then he notices the oxgoad sitting in the corner & puts 2+2 together.  "Someone needs to do something about this..."
He gets up, still night, and spots 4-5 of the bullies on the road.  Shank.
The next day he sees a few more waiting to hurt someone...shank.

This goes on until the roads are safe to travel again.

Am I saying that you should get an oxgoad and take out a bully?  I am not saying that.

What I am saying is that I appreciate his passion to do something about the attacks. I appreciate that he didn't stand idly by while others were hurt.

I Illustrate-
My oldest son, Benjamin, saw a classmate of his assaulting another student. The student who was being assaulted is picked on very often.  Benjamin decided to stand up to the bully and defend the one who was being attacked.
When I was in Middle School, there was a classmate, named Tim, who was constantly picked on by other kids.  Now I am not very big (average), but one day, there was a big kid picking on Tim in the hallway, right outside my Science class.  Needless to say, a fire began to brew up within me.  A righteous, holy fire.  A fire to come to the defense of Tim.  So I ran out of the classroom, grabbed the bully with two hands, twisting his shirt, picking him up, and firmly placing him against a locker.  Then I told him in a firm, firey voice, "Leave him alone."  The bully acquiesced to my request.
I could go on with stories.

Notice how The Lord said that Shamgar saved Israel.  He didn't say, "Bad Shamgar, the Philistines are people too. And what gave you the right as a farmer to do something?  You are not a cop are you?"

I am afraid that God's people have twisted the words of Jesus, which we will discuss below, and have become so twisted that we actually run to the aid of bullies...leaving the victim to suck it up and love their enemies.

If someone is being bullied, you who are spiritual, come to their defense. Protect those who are being bullied. Even if it means you get hurt in the process.

Now this can be done on multiple levels.  You can give money to stop world bullies like Joseph Kony.  You can get involved in stopping human trafficking.  But, for this discussion, my primary purpose is to inspire you as you go to your office, school, or local Martin's Supermarket.

Doesn't Jesus teach us to love our enemies? Yes, yes he does.  Read Matthew 5:38-48 (NIV)-
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 

Yes, be willing to be taken advantage of.  Also, "eye for eye" was for Israel's legal system.  Jesus is clarifying that we are not to take personal revenge. 

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

What does this look like in life? The Mosaic Law gives us a great example in Exodus 23:4-
4 “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it."

The Law teaches love for enemies.  
We love our enemies by doing good to them and by praying for them. 

In the Middle East, Bedouin have great hospitality.  If even their enemy comes to their tent for help, they will help them.  Now they may kill them when they see their enemy walking around the wilderness, but if that enemy comes to them for help, they will certainly not cast that person out! 

Yes, treat enemies with dignity.  But BUT, this is not teaching that we just love abusive people who are attacking and destroying others!  

How to mix the proper amount of love + justice to make something beautiful, out of an ugly situation...a story-

When I was in high school, there was a bully named Dave.  The year of our confrontation, I weighed 152 (wrestlers will appreciate this) and Dave weighed 325....325 pounds!  More than twice my size.
Anyhow, for years he overwhelmed me.  Pinning me in a corner & demanding things.  Hitting me and trying to generally terrorize well as others.  Well, one day, I had that burning again.  I got sick of him bullying others and I got sick of being pinned in.  So, one day, in the gym locker room, he cornered me again & popped me in the face.  I returned with a strong haymaker which landed square on his right cheekbone (I am a lefty). He was speechless.  I told him, "Dave, if you keep treating people like this you will never have friends and you will never get married." He just stood there, looking slightly rejected.

From then on, he sat with me at my lunch table and no longer bullied me, nor did I see him abuse anyone else.  Praise God! Notice what I did:

1. I defended myself from an attack (had to)
2. I felt love for Dave & as a result gave him some life giving words
3. I gladly accepted his friendship (turn the other cheek)

Now that was some quick and effective counseling, probably from the Lord.  I could've probably gotten a ten day suspension for this, but love is greater than fearing some suspension.  

Let me bring this to verbal assault.  I think the same 3 steps can apply to that too.

Last, are you being bullied?  Don't stand for it.  You are to love your enemies, so don't let them get away with it.  Otherwise they will not only destroy others, they will destroy themselves as well.  Love your enemies enough to confront them.  Love others enough to defend them.

Are you watching someone get bullied?  Stand up for victims.  Fly to their side, even if it means you get hurt in the process.  Don't allow people to be ruined by the sin of others.  



Monday, November 11, 2013

God Leads the Korhorn's Into the Desert

Someone just asked me, "What do you want to do?"  Regarding our future.  Here is my response, as a follower of Jesus.

1. I want to be smack dab in the place the Lord wants me to be.

Psalm 37:4-7 "Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust him, and he will help you.  He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act."

He knows the future.  He knows the neighborhoods better.  He knows people's hearts & where people should be.  He determines where they are going to be anyhow.  So my main focus is to enjoy the journey he has me on.  I am content & am enjoying the journey.  I trust God will work out our best as we love Him.  I trust that he, who began a good work in the Korhorn family, will be faithful to complete it.

I don't want to run around fretting, worrying and panicking in fear.  In fact, I refuse to be afraid & I refuse to entertain worrying thoughts (which are many).  See Matt. 6:25-34...worry is the opposite of faith.

*I don't want to be like Israel in the wilderness, complaining, whining, and causing God a lot of grief.
*I don't want to be like Abram, who received God's word that he would be the father of many nations, but decided that the Lord was taking too he had sex with Hagar.

2. That being said, I am to look for a place where I can provide for my family, as if it were all up to me.  I will not wait around for God to cook us a meal.  I believe God wants us to work as if it all depended on us, but trust as if it all depends on Him.

1 Timothy 5:8 (NLT) 8 But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 (NLT)10 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

We are currently at a place where my job is not providing enough for our family of six to continue to live on. So I need to get a job, hopefully it will be at the place we think God has for us, but possibly it will have to be something intermediate.    

3. My desire is to do X, so I will head in that direction, trusting God to open and close doors.
(I don't want to say what X is because I don't want to manipulate anything). I believe that God wants me to do X also, and furthermore, has given us the desire to do X.  So I will pursue X with integrity.  But until then, we will joyfully wait until just the right time.

4. Regardless of what we do or where we end up.  We will be all about :
#1 Mark 12:29–31 (NLT)- Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

#2 Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)- And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So, in summary- 
We have our desires, but more importantly, we want to be wherever God wants us to be.
Wherever we are we will focus on loving God, loving people, and helping people know the Lord.
And it is my duty to love my family by providing for their well being.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jesus vs. Religion

Have you ever felt like your religion was dead?  Ever sensed that this whole God thing had to be better than what you have?

Consider this-
Romans 7:6, "Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit."

δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς ἐν καινότητι πνεύματος καὶ οὐ παλαιότητι γράμματος.(1)

Look at the word "new".  It is the Greek word- καινότητι
It is renewal, not simply an experience similar to the past, but a qualitatively different one. In the NT used in a moral sense, “in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4), meaning in a qualitatively new life with the indwelling of Christ.(2)  Quality of life is key here.

Many people want a religion, "Just give me the marching orders & I will do it."  Well, God gave us 613 marching orders & all it did was show us that we all fail miserably.  Leave me a comment if you want to have fun with this.
The fact is-rules are meant to be broken.  The Law (613) aroused in us a desire to break these rules.  We have, what Jewish people call, the "evil inclination" (יֵצֶר הַרַע).

Could it be that we want a list of rules, so we can compare ourselves to others?  So, when God comes to judge us, you can say, "You should accept me because I am not as bad as Joe over there." Or, "Certainly, I am no Adolph, surely I can get in the door."

Therefore God has given us something much greater, a much greater quality of life.  A life in which we can follow the better Law, the Law of the Spirit (aka The Law of Love). God has loosed the chains of the Law, and given us freedom, kicked out the hovering tutor, and has let us grow up to follow the Spirit.

What is the Law of the Spirit?  It is the Law of Love.  I am still in the midst of a four year study on the Law.  And in my observation, this Law of Love was always there, but people, being of flesh, missed it in the 613.  You can see it boldly in Deuteronomy 6, and in the Law explained in Exodus 23:1-6.  It is everyhere!  Abraham got it, Rahab the prostitute got it, David got it, and Jesus is this Law.

So, instead of looking to a cold religion & rules in order to appease God, run to Jesus, embrace Him & follow is greater ways, follow his Spirit.

Do you want new life to your religion?  Look to Jesus and walk a quality life, one lead by His Spirit.

Jeff, I know a lot of Christians who are very legalistic & are the most unloving people I have seen.  How can this be true?
Well, the focus here is Jesus.  Yes, there have been Crusades in the name of Jesus, abusive pastors in the name of Jesus, nasty parents & killjoys in the name of Jesus.  That is the problem, that is exactly what happens when people follow religion (even in Jesus' name), and leave following Jesus in the dust.  In addition, we don't follow people, we follow Jesus, keeping our eyes on Him, the author & perfecter of our faith.  Do Christians still sin?  Are some, you know whats?  Yes & yes.  But I, we need to focus on Jesus, and let him define what it means to be a Christian.  He is the author of the Law of Love.

(1) Aland, B., Aland, K., Black, M., Martini, C. M., Metzger, B. M., & Wikgren, A. (1993). The Greek New Testament (4th ed.) (420). Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies.
(2) Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dealing with Oxen Poop

My post on FB today- "Here is one of my shortcomings-one that I am working on & want to conquer. It has to do with this verse- Proverbs 14:4 (NLT)

'Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.'
May I learn to deal with the shtuff the oxen leave in the stall."

Here are some verses to help me:

1. Proverbs 14:4 (see above)

2. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)- "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  This means that there are times where we need to endure the poop of others.  
Endures- ὑπομένω (hupoménō)- it remains under, bears up under, suffers under.  

3. Galatians 5:22–25 (NLT)-"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives."

Patience- μακροθυμία (makrothumía)- Big wrath, big patience. In the Hebrew mind, God has a BIG nose, in which to draw deep breaths with us.  

My problem is that I like to let people know I am drawing deep breaths.  
I think I pride myself in not putting up with poop, or the poop of others.  In my flesh, it is a sign of strength.  "I ain't gonna put up with no crap from no one."  Well, according to Galatians 5, this is a mark of the flesh in me, something that needs to be MORTIFIED.  This passion needs to, I want it to, be crucified and die a slow, agonizing death.  So I can become more like Jesus, who did this:

Romans 5:8 (NLT)-"But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."

While I was full of bile, full of crap, God loved me (and still loves me, as I slowly die to sin and live for Jesus).  May I love others too, even when their breath, their actions, their lives smell like a dirty stall.  

Oh Father, I want to love people even when they are full of crap.  Even when they do not even have an acceptable level of crappiness.  Help me to rise above and be objective and to have your eyes towards others.  Help me to be strong in You and not in my flesh...having to prove how tough I am.  For you love me, even though I stink.  May I do the same to others.

Here is an ecard I just saw, that excites my flesh, but I am trying to beat this perspective.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Christian Marathon pt. 1

PART 1: HEBREWS 12:1-4

Title: The Christian Marathon
Scriptures: Hebrews 12:1-4, Philippians 3:7-14, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
1. A good runner is focused! Hebrews 12:1-4
2. A good runner perseveres! Philippians 3:7-14
3. A good runner runs to win! 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11:31-40

Anyone out there a Marathon Runner?  If you are a runner, or even if you aren’t a runner, there is an object in each marathon that causes a lot of stress & strikes fear in the mind of the runner.  This obstacle is typically between mile marker 18-20.  Just when a runner is running along, it will suddenly come out of no where, even upon skilled runners it will appear, right smack dab in the middle of the course.  This obstacle, is never seen by human eyes, yet it is there.  It is a large, brick wall.  The wall.  The notorious wall. This wall is the bane and ruin of many runners.  It is at this point, where the runners training, preparation, & stick-to-it-ness is really challenged.  Either they will break through this wall, or the wall will break them.

Well, you don’t have to be a runner to be able to relate to The Wall.  We all face them.  We all face a lot of them.  Places along the marathon of life, where there are seemingly impossible situations or circumstances.  Today, I want to start a series with you titled, “The Christian Marathon”  and encourage you with God’s word, kind of like Apollo Creed alongside Rocky, so you will be able to run your race with honor. And one day, cross the finish line, fall in the arms of Jesus and hear him say, “Well done my good, and faithful servant.  Welcome home. Get some rest.”

Prayer thanking God for His encouraging words.

Book & Look
Hebrews 12:1–4 (NLT)
1.The runner’s setting
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,
-Remember the people from last time I was here?  The ones sawn in two, murdered because of their trust in Jesus?  This is our crowd.  These are our examples, our inspirations, our fans who cheer us on and yell, “Go.  Go.  Go. It is worth it.  It is so worth it.”

2. The runner’s presentation
let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.
-I picture here a runner, at the gate.  Removing the warm up pants, the jacket, the headphones, and preparing to slim down, to get rid of all unnecessary weight so they can run their best.
-I also picture a conversation I had with a patient, who is a police officer.  He told me that the police love people who wear saggy pants. It is so easy to catch them.

Q: What slows you down from running for Jesus?  What creates drag to your pace?
Q: What sin do you hold on to that is slowing you down from running your race? 
Q: Luke 14:16-20. These made excuses of why they couldn’t follow Jesus. What excuses do you hold onto, that keep you from running? Most people are accustomed to comfort.  They want peace here (which is a good thing, right?) But God has called us to stand up, get out of the bleachers, get over your sins & yourself & run.  So let’s get over excuses & run. Go for it.

3. The runner’s pace
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
-I don’t know if God has set before you a short race here on earth, or a long race here on earth.  But what I do know is that God has set your race before you & he wants you, he enables you to run it well. 
-prokeimenon -present, MIDDLE/PASSIVE, participle.  The race is not one of our making, it is the race that is set before us.  God has set this path before us, for our good. For our best.
-upomonhv- endurance, to remain under, to bear up under, persevere, be patient. And there are at times during every runner’s race, where we will need to remember this word. 

So how do we do this?  How do we endure when we face the walls in life?

4. The runner’s focus
2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
-The 100yd. dash in Cadets-my focus, my dad
-Trypho the Jew accuses us of likening Jesus a Greek champion of the Pantheon.[1]
-Jesus is our focus (ie dream of me preaching at Moody), he is our example on how to run, he initiates & even helps us run the race.

Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

So, Christian, how is your race? Are you focused, are you running lite?
-Eric Liddell, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”[2]

Christian, the gun has sounded.  God has called you to run.  So run! Yes there will be walls.  Yes there are temptations & difficulties ahead.  But we have a great champion & helper, who will never leave our side.  It is time for us to step up & get going, running in such a way that as we run, we, like Eric Liddell, can feel God’s pleasure and one day, when we run into His arms, will hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

[1] Martyr, Justin, “Dialogue With Trypho”, 2nd century AD.
[2] Chariots of Fire

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

God's Message to the Catholic Church....and everyone else.

I have heard people say that all Catholics are going to Hell.  People have said that I am a person who believes that all Catholics are going to Hell.  Being baptized Catholic, I want to say that I disagree with this.

I have a heart for the Catholic people & believe that God loves them very much.  I know many Catholic people who are born again/saved/children of God, & are more engaged in the Cause of Christ than many Protestant people.

That being said, there will be Catholics, Baptists, E-Freers, and just about every other group in Hell.  There will also be many from many different backgrounds in Heaven. The then is, how can you know which one you will be?

God has opened wide the gates to life, that all who come to the gate (Jesus) may enter.  Here are some verses from the Bible that the Catholic Church follows.  It teaches us how a Catholic, or Baptist, Muslim, Hindu, or anyone else can be saved.  It teaches us the ways of Jesus.

Here are several verses from the Holy Bible:
1. Jesus taught this in Galilee, "The Kingdom of God is here!  Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!" (St. Mark 1:15)
2. Jesus taught this in Jerusalem, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.  There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him.  But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God's one and only Son."  (St. John 3:16-18)
3. St. Paul & St. Silas taught a Roman jailer that you should "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your whole household." (Acts 16:31)
4. Jesus taught St. Thomas & the apostles, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man can come to the Father except through me." (St. John 14:6)

So how can we Catholics or anyone else be saved?  Put our hope for salvation in the Lord Jesus, and then walk in His ways.  There is assurance of salvation in this.  And know that he who perseveres to the end WILL BE SAVED.  So be of good cheer and know that if you have Jesus, you have life.

Jesus is the gate.  The big question is: Do you have Him?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to Pray Like David

Lord’s Day, Sept. 8, 2013
How to Pray Like David
Psalms 13

This blog is best served printed, with a cup of coffee.

Do you know how to pray?  I mean to really pray?  Do you know how to pray like David, the man after God’s own heart? 
1. When I was a child, I was in a Bible study once when the leader asked us how to pray.  They asked, should we pray on our knees with our hands lifted toward heaven/should we pray with our hands folded and our eyes closed?  I excitedly raised my hand and said, “Like this…” and got on my knees and lifted my arms and eyes toward heaven.  The leader reprimanded me with a quick, firm, “No.  You fold your hands and close your eyes.” 
2. When I was at Bible College I was praying in class, with a Messianic Jewish professor.  During the prayer I peeked.  I opened my eyes and was shocked to see the prof praying with his eyes wide open and staring right at me.  I immediately bowed my head, folded my hands & shut my eyes tight….just like the old Bible Study leader said, so I wouldn’t get in trouble in class.

So how do you pray? 
Recently, I told you of a lady at work I was trying to share Jesus with.  Well, guess what?  She accepted Jesus!!!  About a week before she got fired.
 Now comes the hard part.  And that is to make sure she grows in Jesus.   Well, she texted me this message the other day, “I wish I knew how to do it (pray) right but mine sounds like mumbling through tears.”

What would you say to her?  This is a huge question!  How do you teach someone how to pray?  What would your response have
Mine was, “Perfect job then. God wants a relationship, not a religion.  So when you pray, be yourself.  Share your heart.  But pray with thanksgiving because it’ll help lift your spirits.”

So how do you pray?  How do you pray like the man after God’s own heart?  A champion in prayer? How do you pray in such a way that you grab Heaven and bring it down to earth?

 Well let's eavesdrop into a conversation between David and God.  This is a Psalm I call the wrestler’s psalm, because in it, you don’t see much religious piousness.  You see a real man, going through a really hard time, dealing with the real God.  Let’s dig into it together-

Psalm 13 (NLT) –The Wrestler’s Psalm
For the choir director: A psalm of David. –David’s “Prayer Journal”

A.  David’s Complaint- God, where are you?
1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

What do we observe here?
Observation #1. David is clearly sharing his heart to God. 
See also
A) -Hosea 7:14 (NASB95)
14 And they do not cry to Me from their heart When they wail on their beds; For the sake of grain and new wine they assemble themselves, They turn away from Me.

B) -Matthew 6:7-13 – Don’t babble.  God knows what you need.  Just pray.

C) Jacob wrestled with God until God blessed Him.  Israel means to wrestle/contend with God.
D) -God doesn’t want our religion, He wants a relationship.  He has adopted us, we are His children, and He has given us the right to call Him our Father.
E) These people weren’t rude, they were real with God.
Is your prayer stiff/can you open up and be real with God?  Remember, he wants a relationship.

Observation #2. David is moving in great faith.  It takes faith to speak out to God.  To be vulnerable & trust the character of God. 
-Jesus did it, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  “Father, if possible take this cup…”

Observation #3. David is in pain, and the godless are winning. David is in anguish over his situation.
Isn’t the Christian life supposed to be easy?  What about all this talk about “Victorious Living”?  Don’t a lot of tv preachers preach prosperity, the more faith you have, the better life will be?  Don’t they teach that faith is rewarded with riches & health?
Because you are a Christian/child of God/beneficiary of God’s blessings does NOT mean that life will be easy.  Jesus tells us this (Jn.16:33), “In this world you will have trouble.” There will be times in our lives where we will struggle.   (Hebrews 11:35-38) If I can be so bold, at least sometimes God brings pain in order to mature us, and help us to share in the sufferings of Jesus.

B. David’s Request- God, turn and answer me!  Restore me!
3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. 4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

His prayer was very specific & David had an expectation that God would answer.
*Our family has a prayer book, in which we write down specific requests/needs and how God has met those needs. 
*In my Prayer Journal, I use a red pen to write down the date the Lord answers my prayers & sometimes how it happened.
One promise in Scripture is Jesus’ teaching Matthew 6:25-33. God cares for His people.  Therefore, we can pray with the confidence of David. 
Another promise is Hebrews 4:16, we can boldly approach God, like a child boldly approaches his dad. 
*Ellie, our 2 year old, is all about food.  She will come up to me sometimes, hold my face & say, “Daddy, come here, I have to show you something.” She has a relationship where she can boldly come to me & ask me things.  God wants us to feel free to do the same.

C. David remembers God’s character
5 But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. 6 I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.
We can boldly approach God, share our heart with Him.  But…
As I told my friend, we should pray with thanksgiving.  Now sometimes our  circumstances make this hard. 

Imagine praying, “God, thank you for letting that team slaughter us!”
“Father, I am thankful that my child failing at school.”
“Thank you that I got fired today.”
“Thank you for bullies, who teach me to be humble.”

David rejoices here, not that He is struggling but for God’s character.  Yes there are times where we will be thankful for things.  But there are other times where we can at least be thankful for God’s character.
Notice what David does at the end of his request.

Notice #1- David remembers God’s unfailing love & decides to trust God through this circumstance too.
Notice #2- David remembers God’s past rescuing of David & chooses to praise God.
Notice #3- David remembers how God has been good to him so far & it moves him to sing.

So, how is your prayer walk?  Is it a list of needs that leave you more depressed than when you first started praying? Isn’t it freeing to know that we don’t have to be eloquent or a pastor in order to pray well?  Isn’t it refreshing to know that we can be real with God?  That, through trust in Jesus, we have a Father that we can run too & share our desires?  And to remember what God has done in our prayer will keep us from going into the rabbit hole of depression & despair.

So how do you start?   Here are 8 Brainstorms to help you pray.
1. Read David’s prayer journal-the Psalms & continue to observe how he communicated with God.
2. Buy a Prayer Journal & write down your requests (remembering to write down the answers).
*Bill Hybles need for a PJ.
3.  Commit to always thank God for something before you say amen.
-Make it a pattern to not let your feet touch the ground in the morning until you thank God for the day & lay any burdens before Him.
-End each day on your knees.  Not letting your head hit the pillow, until your knees have hit the floor.
-Like David did in Psalm 13, make it a pattern to always end prayer on a high note, thanking God for His character & for Jesus.
-Don’t stop your prayer until you thank God for at least one thing.  It will keep you from depression & from being spoiled.
4. -Prayer=talking to God.  Although it can be fancy or poetic, it doesn’t have to be.  Like Nike, just do it.
- Quit thinking about it and just do it!  It doesn’t matter how long you pray.  Just do it.  It doesn’t matter where you pray. Just do it. 
5. The next time life starts to overwhelm you, call a PT Prayer Timeout. 
-The next time you are angry at your kids or the boss or that driver from Michigan.
-Tama Times- Instead of complaining, gossiping, or slandering another or God.  Go to God & share with Him your burdens.
6. Be expectant.  This is an old prayer skill. -Learn to expect God to answer your prayers, as you seek Him and His kingdom.  Maybe make a prayer log with a column that says, “Answered”.  –Micah 7:7 As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.”
7. 1 minute focus prayers.  In your mind picture the person/need you are praying for as if they are laid before God.  Then bask them/it in prayer for a full minute.
8. When you pray, picture Jesus sitting there next to you.  He is.

You got it.  Now get at it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke: Great Beats but...

Alright, I have to give my opinion on this song.  One thing that is frustrating is when there is a song with a great beat BUT the lyrics are terrible.

This song is such a song.  It has a hook that is sharp.
BUT from being derogatory to women by referring to females as B*&%#$s to casual sex, outside of the context of marriage, to the nastiness of talking about sex publically makes this song an inappropriate song choice for those trying to be a Philippians 4 type of person.

Wish the song was clean but not going to let it be used by the Adversary to blur my lines.  It is against my goals in life, which is to follow Jesus.  But dang, those are some good beats. Gonna skip this one & stick to other songs I like. (Plus, in about a month, this song will be old & overplayed...not gonna jump in the mud for a month of lure).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Praying in Fear vs. Praying in Faith

I am reading a book by Tony Evans called, "Kingdom Man".  In the current chapter he has been talking about perspective.  Specifically David's perspective vs. Israel's perspective regarding Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  A key verse, a key turning point in the life of Goliath came in verse 23.  Unknown to him, someone different was in the crowd that morning, someone who walked by faith.  Someone who would eventually kill him. Here is what the verse says.  But read it by stressing the first and second words.  Watch what happens-
"Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel."

Read it again.  And consider what was about to happen to Goliath.  One man made a key difference.  Everything was about to change, nothing would ever be the same again for Israel, Saul, David, Goliath & all the Philistines.

Tony Evans said, "Men, never let the size of your giant determine the size of your God."  David saw the giant mocking the Lord.  David saw this 8' something man and saw that he was not under God's covering of protection (see circumcision).  David was anxious to move out in faith.

So it got me thinking, what are my giants?
What are things that eclipse God?
Here is one- I dropped my kids off at school today, for their first day.  But it wasn't a normal first day of school.  I just sent them to a Christian school.  Now you may say, "Good choice, I am sure they will be fine." But I know that I am not sending them to Heaven.  Sin and sinful people are even at Christian schools.  My fear, my giant is that they will hook up with knuckleheads, that they will have expectations of Christians that are not realistic and that unmet expectations will harden their hearts to Jesus.

So guess what?  I was up at 2:30 this morning praying for them.  Now I could have prayed one of two ways. Either out of fear, or out of faith. Here is how the flow of my prayer time went:
1. Prayed out of fear, laying my concerns before the Lord.
But I had to transition, otherwise I would have remained fearful and in anxiety.  So I had to move to another stage.  I thought, "I don't know the outcome or what will happen, but I do know God's character." So, number two...
2. Prayed out of faith, trusting God to answer prayer & to do what is good for my kids.
I thanked God for His faithfulness, His character and rested in the evidence of His direction in our lives.
(Now before you mistakenly think I am too spiritual, this has taken me about seven years to get back to praying in faith.  My difficult experience at my last post & in Israel really made praying in trust a struggle. I think the Israel trip rewired something in me that has taken years to rewire again. But hey, I am getting there).
3. Thought and prayed over 1 Corinthians 7:14, "For the Christian wife (and husband) brings holiness to the marriage.  Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy."  The children in my house are set apart to God, they are committed to God.  So I asked God to be faithful...which is not hard for Him.
4. I changed the picture in my mind.  Instead of thinking the worst, I decided to think of the good outcomes, the blessings that could happen.  Hey, I don't know what the end game of sending them to Granger Christian School will be, so why default to the negative?  Might as well trust God & see the good things God will probably do.  He honors faithfulness, kind of like He did with David.  For all he knew the giant could have certainly beat him. The odds were against David-from a human point of view. But David didn't latch onto this unknown perspective/reality. Instead he saw what God could do in and through him.

To give some quick pithy sayings to summarize my experience:
A. Why see the glass as half empty when you can see it half full?
B. Better to dream and it not happen than to nightmare and it does happen.
C. We don't know the outcomes, but we do know God's character.
D. David often moved from fear to faith in his prayers (see the Psalms).
E. Don't let fear become so big that it eclipses God.
F. Is there any giant too big for God?
G. God honors faithfulness.
H. Children in a Christian home, are set apart to God.
I. God is faithful.
J. God is faithful.  He cares for birds & flowers, how much more will He care for you?

Anyhow, that is my story and my thoughts from this morning.  Praise God!  He is good.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Parenting & Fear

Fear can creep in like a cancer, stealing your vitality in life & oxidizing your galvanization of being honorable in your parenting.
I have been noticing this fear creeping into my life, just like I have seen it in the lives of countless other parents that I have counseled through the years.  You can see it on the "Kids First" license plates in Indiana.  You see it at the late night drunken parties with mom being the drunkest of them all (my former neighbors).  You see it in the anger that children harbor when they don't get their way.  You see it in the stress of parents who feel they need to keep their child happy. A great movie where you see this fear is in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.  Watch how the parents respond to their children's folly.  Fear, fear fear.  I see this fear all over the place.

What is this fear?  It is the fear of a broken relationship with our children. I want to dig into this a little bit because this fear is a threat. It threatens to usurp our role as a parent AND it threatens to remove love of our child and replace it with something that may seem motivated by love, but in the long run will destroy our children.  So let's get this fear in check, so we don't destroy our kids in the long-run.

Proverbs 22:15
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; 
   The rod of discipline will remove it far from him." (1)

אִוֶּלֶת קְשׁוּרָה בְלֶב־נָעַר שֵׁבֶט מוּסָר יַרְחִיקֶנָּה מִמֶּנּוּ׃

"Foolishness is in the heart of a child, but the staff of discipline will drive it far from him."
Picture this- A child with little monsters of all sorts living inside of him.  Little purple in green monsters, shaggy, with sharp teeth and round eyes.  Wiley little things that fill the child, the teens mind with a lot of goofy ideas.  Here are some of the goofy things I have seen kids get in their mind:
1. To smart off to mom.
2. To talk with a phony accent when addressing parents.
3. To decide that it would be okay to talk inappropriately to women & call them terrible things.
4. To destroy things and call it "fun".
5. To put chemicals in their bodies and call it "no big deal".
6. To degrade someone & then say, "I was only joking...jeeeze!"
7. To decide to talk to their parents & elders in some valley girl swag, which is really a way to disrespect them.
8. To not be thankful when given something or some sort of privilege, take advantage of that privilege, and then get mad when held accountable.
9. To mumble under their breath when they are made to delay gratification...another sign of defiance of authority.
10. To dress like a ho & then get
mad at parents when they tell you they don't want you to dress like a ho.  And then they defend themselves by saying all their friends also dress like hos, therefore it should be okay to dress like one too.  And then get mad at the parents because they don't want you to look like a ho, attract guys who like hos.  I better stop this rant.
11. To wear pants that reveal your underwear, because it is trendy...which was also trendy among homosexual male prostitutes in the prison system (the origin of this trend).  Then do it anyhow behind their parents back.

I will stop there.  Hopefully your kids are reading this too.

Anyhow, back to this issue of fear.  And back to the shaggy monsters.
So the parent picks up the staff, a shepherd's staff.  On one end is a hook, to bring your child close.  The rest of it is a stick, to beat off those little monsters.  To drive them far from your children, because their heart is full of these (thanks Adam).

1. How do we beat off these little monsters?  With discipline.  According to the passage.
2. Does this have to be PHYSICAL discipline?  
Maybe. I wish I could say "yes" and make it clear, but perhaps this is dependent on the particular child.  At it's core, discipline is there to redirect and educate your child through strategic punishment.  Discipline is not suppose to be enjoyable for the child.
3. What do you do if the teen is stronger than you?  
How do you drive out the continual creeping monsters then? Well hopefully you addressed the respect issue when they were a tot.  But, not all of this were at that point early on & perhaps some have screwed up a bit in their parenting.  A good rewording of this question may then be, how do you start shepherding in the teen years?  I would say, by doing it.  And by helping the child understand the value of roles...namely you are the authority in the house, and the parent.  Which is a God given authority/rule.  By loving your child through tender times & through hearing out their point of view.
4. But what if my disciplining results in my child distancing himself/herself from me? 
This is a big fear.  What is our role and parents?  Is it to make our children like us and to enjoy decades of family get togethers?  Though we wish this to be true and would certainly be grieved if this didn't happen, our child is so important that we dare not settle for this.  This is a self-centered endeavor.

5. What is the role of parents?
We need to memorize our role.  That is to
train up our child to know the Lord in a nurturing, shepherding manner.
The Bible also says that he who refuses to discipline their child actually hates him (Prov. 7:24).
Will our children get mad at us when we are using the "rod"?  Yes.

Ephesians 6:4
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord." 
This is a great verse on what it is and what it is not.
It IS to training them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
It is NOT to do it in a harsh, overwhelming manner. Discipline?  Yes.  Dominate? No. This can be very difficult for some.  I think it helps to remember that we are never at war against our children but FOR our children (see Ephesians 6).  Boy this is tough at times.  Especially when we are self-centered. Shepherding a person is like shepherding sheep.  They are prone to wander & prone to follow the crowd (Oh God, keep my kids from the wrong heard & help me have the courage to remove my kid from the wrong heard if I need to).  Anyhow, shepherding a person is like shepherding sheep.  If you beat them & overwhelm them, what good is that?  A shepherd is gentle but firm when needed.

Let's look at the bright side...
what if we follow the Lord and it works?  What if we were to faithfully live out our role as parents & our kids loved us?  Will there be battles?  Heck ya.  As long as we live in this fallen world, with fallen people, there will be battles & we will screw up often.  Battling for the soul of our child/teen is a normal, good part of life.  We will not make them happy at times.  But what if they DO turn out respectful, god fearing, Jesus following, caring adults?  What if our diligence and being willing to go to battle for them resulted in them eventually coming to their senses?  Will they do it otherwise?  Will they know the fear of the Lord if we live in fear of them?

Better to stand before God and hear, "Well done." than to live with self-centered fear of what may or may not happen.

Oh adults, let's put aside fear and refresh our understanding of what our role as parents is.  May we drive the little fuzzy monsters away with our shepherding rod, so our child does not come to ruin.

Oh Lord, help us to get off the couch & into the battle for this upcoming generation.

1. New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Pr 22:15). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
2. The Hebrew Bible: Andersen-Forbes Analyzed Text. 2008 (Pr 22:15). Logos Bible Software.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2007).
3. Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed.) (Eph 6:4). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Modern Day Untouchables

This is one of my "work through a verse" for devos this morning.  Thank God for Logos!  I can study the cultural words & know the intricacies of culture and language, being careful not to look too deeply.

Verse- Acts 10:28, "But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as IMPURE or UNCLEAN."

Thoughts rolling around in my mind-
1. Peter (Jew) is talking to Cornelius (Gentile).  
In the Jewish culture, a Jew was not to go into a Gentile dwelling because they would defile themselves.  Because the gentiles were dirty.  they didn't follow the ceremonial laws, they didn't sit under the Oral Traditions, and they didn't have the Law, to guide their lives.

2. Does this mean that people are all holy spiritually?  No. But one is not defiled by being with Gentiles, or even eating their foods, pork, food sacrificed to idols, etc...

3. Impure (koinon)- common, defiled, specifically ritually unacceptable.  Unclean (akathartos)-a without kathairo clean...without being cleaned or uncleaned to be presented to God or to be legally clean according to the Jewish legal system (aka The Law).  

The teaching- Do not consider any person as ceremonially unclean, unacceptable, or defiled.  God loves people and NOW anyone who believes in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name (no matter how "defiled" they are).  (Acts 10:43)

Reminds me of this song, an oldie but goodie-
Listen to these lyrics.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Controversial: Giving & Tithing

There is one thing about the church, that I hear Sunday after Sunday that bugs me.  And now that I am on break from being a pastor, I can say it freely :-)  It is regarding the "Tithes & Offerings".

Acts 4:32, "All the believers were united in heart and mind.  And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had."

Here is my controversial point, then I will explain- Tithing is not required in the Church.
1. Tithe means 10%.
2. Tithe in the Old Testament was approx. a 30% tax.
3. A tithe is not taught for the church today, though the early Jewish Christians did pay the tithe, toward the Temple and for the Levites.  However, the Temple is not around today, so there is no tithe to give.

What bugs me is that this is taught as a spiritual discipline or principle.  I believe this is taught out of fear.  Fear that if people weren't pressured to tithe, that they would stop giving & the pastor wouldn't get paid.  The building would be lost.  And the missionaries wouldn't be supported.

Formal Objection #1:  But Jeff, in order for the church to have pastors & secretaries & support missionaries & have a building, it needs money.

Response: I fully agree.
1. 1 Corinthians 16. But consider the church & the weekly collection for the church in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16).  These believers collected money, not for their own church, but for the believers in Jerusalem who had severe need. The Corinthians were meeting the needs of others.  Sending it to the capital of Israel, to the Christians there, so they could live.
2. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, God loves a cheerful giver.  Will a believer gladly give to help the Kingdom advance?  I certainly hope so.  I like to do this.  This is what we see in Acts 4:32.
3. Acts 4:32, the believers sold their houses to help others, and met any need they would see.  They completely cared for one another...which is greater than the tithe, because it is motivated by compassion/love.  Greed only existed in Ananias & his wife...look what happened to them.
4. Bottom line is, hey, if you want a pastor to shepherd the flock, a building to meet together in, a secretary to help the pastor so he can focus on shepherding, praying and preaching.  If you want a youth pastor to support you as you raise your kids to know the Lord.  If you want missionaries to give their life and advance the kingdom.  If you want a music director to focus on discipling musicians, to pray & develop our celebration time...then you need to give.  They just can't serve you and not eat, or live in a house, or drive a car.  It takes give if you think these things are noble and worthy.

Bad Jeff- I was recently at a church who had plenty of money and a fat savings account.  I didn't give to that church because it had no need.  Instead I gave to other Christians, like my friend Dan, who is planting a church in Wisconsin to save Packers fans.  Or like my buddy Jon, who is in Indonesia, bringing Jesus to the gentiles there.  Or Tama/Sarah, who are adopting children.  And will no doubt tell these children about Jesus.
If the church ever got to the point of struggling, I would gladly give to support it.  I would even downsize my house to help.

So the next time the plate is passed in celebration, consider this.  That you are giving to help the Kingdom advance, and you are generous to help other believers thrive, not because you HAVE to.

Freedom to it internal or external?

Here is a thought I had from devos this morning:
Freedom to speak God's word does not come from the authorities but from God pouring out His Spirit into our hearts, so we don't lose heart.

() Consider Acts 4:29-31
"And nowLordtake note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence",
And when they had prayed, the place where * they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

The word "confidence" & "boldness" is the Greek word parresias. It means to speak openly, freely, plainly, boldly, confidently.  This is a conjunction of pas & reo- reo means to "pour forth".  

In this context, the believers were praying in the face of persecution from the Jewish religious authorities.  Here is the scene of their prayer meeting: 
1. The believers prayed together for the ability to speak the word of God.
2. God filled them with the Holy Spirit.
3. They began to speak God's word openly.

Questions: Did the Jewish authority cease to exist at this moment?  Then what changed?  
The Holy Spirit filled these believers afresh & they went out, without fear, into their culture.

Oh Father, help me to freely speak your word, so that I may help others come to know Jesus.  May my life, today, be an inspiration.  Let people see my good works and glorify You.