Sticks and Stones

Posted: January 7th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

the words we say mean somethingWe are taught as kids, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” And it makes sense, right? By repeating this mantra, mocking, jeering, and teasing are magically reduced to fairy dust and troll farts, never to harm you or another soul again.

The barrage of negative, condescending talk from others continues into our adult lives at work, home, and unfortunately even in the Church. And again “Sticks and Stones” runs through our minds, too childish to escape our lips.

But it’s a smokescreen. Why?

Because the words we say mean something. What is said to us and about us means something.

We build walls to keep people at a distance, but still the words cut. What was meant to be spell of protection from insult and injury becomes a mask. Words used as weapons slip past our defenses and we force a smile.

But it’s a ruse. Why?

Because the words we say mean something. What is said to us and about us means something.

And we too use those same harsh words at times. We relieve ourselves of responsibility by calling it sarcasm. Do you know what that word means? Is it something harsh, yet funny? No. The word means literally, “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt.”

But we’re “just saying,” right? Wrong. Why?

Because the words we say mean something. What we say to and about others, means something.

Is this a tongue lashing directed at you, my reader? Not intentionally. I wrote this for me, the guy who claims sarcasm as “just another service I offer free of charge.” It is for me when my wife Beth and I are exchanging words of disagreement or when I tease her in what I think is a playful manner. It’s for me when my kids disappoint me with their behavior (because God knows they couldn’t have learned it from me).

See, “In the beginning was the Word.” God didn’t wave a magic wand or splash enchanted dust to create the universe: He spoke. Maybe you are thinking, “But those were God’s words.” These are as well:

“The tongue has the power of life and death” Proverbs 18:21

“You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you;” Job 22:28

“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue breaks the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4

So let’s be mindful of what we say, remembering that, “Sticks and stones may break their bones, but careless words may wound their spirit.”


Emancipated, But Are You Free?

Posted: June 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: It Hurts So Good, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

freedom_shackles_chains_Few words have changed the course of American history like “emancipate.” It’s very utterance stirs images of black families being freed from bondage.

I can see entire families who have just received the news colliding in the middle of a field with crazed enthusiasm greater than the celebration pile at the end of a sports championship win. Decades of struggle, toil, and beatings finally come to an end. The fruit of their labor could now be their own.

But for some it was not so. When the Union won and President Lincoln enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, some slave owners were less than honest. Since slaves weren’t taught to read, some owners told their slaves not that they were free, but that it meant that they could no longer be sold to a new master. This was incredible news to them as it meant their families would no longer be split up and sold to other masters. They could all serve the one master together.

Some worked for years for their old masters before they found out that all along they were truly free to walk off the plantation and make their own way in life.

This Sunday at church, we sang the song “Break Every Chain” by Jesus Culture. The main words of the chorus are:

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain

In singing these words, I couldn’t help but think about the freedom that Jesus’ death and resurrection purchased for all mankind. However, a harsh master, the Father of Lies has intentionally misrepresented it to us – and some have believed him.

I cannot imagine what it was like to be a slave in the early years of our great country. The humiliation, degradation, and utter emotional and physical devastation that they underwent is unsurpassed in even my imagination.

But I do know what it means to be hopeless and a slave to sin. I know the weight of those chains well. I know what it means to serve the Master of Deception. The wounds of his whip and the scars of his shackles remain.

But when I put my faith in Christ, I am no longer a slave to sin. He gave me the right to walk away from sin and never serve its master again. But I fear so many times I look down and see my broken chains and loosed shackles and just stand there. Maybe it’s that after so many years of bondage I don’t know what freedom even means and the Father of lies says, “Yes Chris, you are free. You can be holy and still work for me on the side. You can raise your hands in worship to God on Sunday morning and lower His standards for you in worship to me on Sunday evening.”

Instead of running for the hills with my freedom papers in hand, I choose to stay and work for the same hard master. I believe my old, harsh master’s words over God’s.

Maybe it’s that I’ve restricted the definition of freedom as only a release from bondage and not also as the permission to move toward liberty. Is it possible that I’ve watered down the regenerating power of God in my life as only the power to abstain from sin and not as the authority to be righteous and holy.

Corporately, as a church, have we done the same and in so given ourselves, by an abuse of grace, a way to serve our old master? Have we manipulated freedom’s definition to hold tight to unholy habits that satisfy our flesh yet defile our spirits?

I know I’ve asked more questions than answered, but look hard at your life, and I will mine. We must look in the mirror and ask the hard questions and not be afraid of the answers. We must examine ourselves regularly to see if we are still in the faith, or out of it. And do so humbly allowing God to confront us where we are wrong and submit ourselves to His correction.

Remember, Jesus’ death was a contract. We’ve been emancipated. We are free, because whoever the Son sets free, is free indeed!


By the Word of Our Testimony

Posted: March 4th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

By the Word of Our TestimonyA few weeks ago I gave a friend a ride to Rochester, which is about a three hour drive. No, acquaintance is more accurate, though I believe now we are friends.

See, there’s only a few things one can do when stuck in a car for a few hours with another individual. You can listen to the radio, talk, or sleep. If you know me at all my only option is to talk.

So talk we did.

It started with the small chit-chat, “How’s it going?” Blah. Blah. Blah. But before long we were sharing our history with each other.

My friend is a single guy, and I’m a fourteen-year marriage veteran with five kids (number six due in three months!). He started asking me how I liked marriage and family life. With each question he drew wisdom out of me like buckets of water from a well. I told an almost perfect stranger about past failures and victories few people know. Before long he was telling me his story and what God had done in his life to make him the man he is today.

It was powerful.

Do I think what I said will make a long-term difference in his life and how he someday treats his wife? I hope so. I hope he avoids some of the pitfalls I fell into and that he develops the type of relationship that love stories are written about. I may never know.

One thing I do know is that God accomplished something in us. This past Sunday Peter Hopper shared at our church about the power of our testimony. When we open our mouths to speak, not only is the other person strengthened but so are we. We are better men, better Christians today because of that talk. We shared our lives, our testimonies of how God has dealt kindly with us despite our transgressions and in doing so broke some of the lies of the devil in our lives–that we are alone and no one can understand our struggles or has overcome them.

And I know it can’t just be me. I believe there’s something deep inside us all that longs to be seen by others. To be known.

Sharing our story with others is part of that. Anyone can love the “good” us, the façade we put on display when we pretend that everything is OK and we are perfect (or at least better than “so and so”). One of love’s greatest powers is knowing the good and the bad about a person and still loving him despite his failures.

Answer that call deep inside you and share your story with someone today. Heck, share it here. Not only will it bring victory into your life, it will bring it to theirs as well.

Revelation 12:11 ” And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (ESV, emphasis added)


Hand to the Plough by Sons of Korah

Posted: May 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Spirituality, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Ever hear a song that’s so deep it haunts you? Enter “Hand to the Plough” by Sons of Korah. It hurts so good. If you don’t care to listen to this acoustic version from their living room, at least read the lyrics which I put in under the video. Oh, and you’ll have to buy the actual CD if you want the song as I can’t find it digitally anywhere. I guess the Outback is still catching up.

If it hits you like it hit me, please share it on facebook, we could all use a little more conviction.

 

Lyrics:

You say that you’re following Jesus
But I don’t think you know what it means ‘
cause all I can see is
you with your dreams saying,
“Jesus, won’t you come follow me?”

He gave you His life He gave you His Spirit
He gave so that you could give too
He said, “Follow me! There’s work to be done”
and “the workers have always been few.”

You say that you’re following Jesus
So follow and no looking back.

Hand to the plough
I’m tired of your talking
there’s no time to lose;
are you trying to hide?
There’s wind in the sails
But you’re still in the harbour
While the millions are drowning outside.

You say that you’re following Jesus
But you’re giving me reason to doubt
You pray, “0 Lord bring in the
blind and the lost!”
But you never pray, “Lord send me out!”

The harvest is plenty
but the workers are few
And the reason could
be that the worker is you
So test all your dreams
Your goals and ambitions
Do you really believe that the gospel is true?

Hand to the plough
I’m tired of your talking
there’s no time to lose;
are you trying to hide?
There’s wind in the sails
But you’re still in the harbour
While the millions are
drowning outside. (twice)

Imagine you’re a doctor
sent away to the war
Sent by the General to tend to the
poor wounded soldiers
in the battle out there
But all you ever did there
was treat your own wounds
care for your comforts
never leaving the room to go out
to the battle outside

Hand to the plough
I’m tired of your talking
there’s no time to lose;
are you trying to hide?
There’s wind in the sails
But you’re still in the harbour
While the millions are drowning outside.

You say you’re alive
but I don’t see you living
you say you’re a servant
But I’ve never seen you serve.
O where are the faithful;
the Lord’s precious few?
O where are the workers?
Does anybody know?

Words and Music by Matthew Jacoby


My Favorite Chapter of the Bible – Psalm 27

Posted: February 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Simple enough.  This Psalm is by far my favorite chapter of the Bible.  It has strengthened and encouraged me in many ways.  What is your favorite verse or chapter?

Psalm 27 (NIV)

Of David.

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.


URGENT:Prayers needed for missionary family in Philippines!

Posted: November 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Last night, there was a massacre of people, including women in the Philippines.  The LA Times picked up the story and are reporting at least 30 people dead.  One of the men where I work is close friends with a missionary family there, and here is the email .  Please PLEASE pray for God’s protection for them!  Please pray for the families of those who died, and please pray for those Muslim families to come to the knowledge and belief in Christ so His glory will be known!

Dear praying friends,

We are used to sporadic and senseless violence in the areas where we work.  Last week when I drove to spend time with our underground believers I found out about a looming, politically related conflict between two warring clans in the same Muslim people group.  This morning the unthinkable happened.  To lessen a potentially violent reaction to a candidacy registration, some delegates from one clan sent their women representatives with the hope that the other side wouldn’t harm the ladies.  This morning at approximately 9:30 am, one clan ambushed and kidnapped a contingent of over 40 people on their way to the capitol of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.  No one survived.  The women were raped and beheaded and were members of a prominent and powerful family.  Lawyers, family members, body guards and media personnel were also massacred.

This is only a few kilometers from where we have our oldest and most established ministry!  Presently our staff are hunkered down at our school with my orders to evacuate as soon as possible.  The problem is that it is night and no one can travel safely after dark.  Hopefully there will be public transportation available tomorrow or one of our staff in a nearby city will try to run the gauntlet and pick them up.

For those of you who don’t live here it may be hard to understand the gravity of this situation.  In the culture where this happened revenge is considered a virtue.  Everyone expects an indiscriminate and unprecedented blood bath.  This is worse than the wars and kidnap threats we have endured in the past.  Much, Much worse.

This effects everything.  Our school will probably have to shut down for the rest of the school year.  No parents will send their children to school when by virtue of them being a distant relative of one of the clans become targets of a blood feud.

PLEASE PRAY FOR THE SAFETY OF THE PGC STAFF AND THE BELIEVERS FROM THIS CULTURE!

PLEASE PRAY FOR WISDOM TO MAKE WISE DECISIONS THAT ARE MOST EFFECTIVE FOR THE SAFETY OF THE PEOPLE AND MINISTRIES WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR.

PLEASE PRAY THAT JUSTICE WILL BE DELIVERED TO THE GUILTY (EVERYONE KNOWS WHO IS BEHIND IT) AND THAT THE INNOCENT WILL BE PROTECTED.

Thank you for standing with us,

Tom


Help! I’m Drowning!

Posted: November 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »
drowning_man_by_the_psycrothic

©2008-2009 ~the-psycrothic

When I was a kid, our family went to Watercountry USA in Willamsburg, VA as part of our vacation.  It was an amazing place full of incredible water rides.  One in particular really got my attention, the wave pool.  It looked like a football field of yellow donuts with people popping out where the jelly should have been.  People were screaming as the waves threw them around and people were being tossed in every direction.

I had to get in on the fun, so I hijacked an empty tube. Well, by hijacked, I mean I jumped as far as I could to try and reach one.  I missed.  What had before appeared to be an awesome time turned into terror as the field of happy faced yellow donuts morphed into a suffocating yellow blanket filled with angry, thrashing legs.

Panic set in as I tried to reach the surface, but I could not escape my prison, and my lungs began to burn.  It’s crazy, but everything became peaceful, and I felt OK.  At that moment, someone pulled me out of the water.  I don’t know who, and I don’t know how, but he did.

And I was safe.  I was saved.  I was coughing a bit, and my lungs still burned, but I was no longer in my desperate, life-threatening situation.  And it felt wonderful.  I still smile, because I never saw the guy who helped me.

Now I think about the world we live in, and how it too is in a desperate place.  It is lost, and searching for some sign of hope; a hand to reach and pull it out of the sea it is drowning in.  They are trying to scream for help, but the water muffles their cries and fills their lungs.  And I look at my life and see that God wants me to be the hand, He wants me to pull as many out water as I can.  And it hurts, because I’m standing at the edge of the pool with my hands in my pockets, thinking of what a great time I am having just being alive.

Church, we need to reach out.  There is a world drowning, and we are to be His hands.  God, that I would be like C.T. Studd and “…run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”

(sorry mom and dad, should have told you when it happened, instead of 23 years after the fact)


Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist ?!

Posted: October 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

This is a recent story from the Barna Group, which does extensive studies on Christianity.  My reaction is , “What are we doing wrong that professing Christians do not believe Satan or the Holy Spirit are REAL?”

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

Click on the heading to go to the article…

Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist

altApril 10, 2009

A new nationwide survey of adults’ spiritual beliefs, conducted by The Barna Group, suggests that Americans who consider themselves to be Christian have a diverse set of beliefs – but many of those beliefs are contradictory or, at least, inconsistent.

The survey explored beliefs about spiritual beings, the influence of faith on their life, views of the Bible, and reactions to faiths other than their own.


Views on Spiritual Beings

The Barna survey asked questions about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Satan, and demons.

All 1,871 self-described Christians were asked about their perception of God. In total, three-quarters (78%) said he is the “all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the universe who rules the world today.” The remaining one-quarter chose other descriptions of God – depictions that are not consistent with biblical teaching (e.g., everyone is god, god refers to the realization of human potential, etc.).

For the other survey items a four-point opinion scale was used to measure people’s reactions to statements about each spiritual entity.

Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat. The remaining 8% were not sure what they believe about the existence of Satan.


Promises, Promises

Posted: September 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: My Thoughts, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

NeverGiveUpPromises. As kids, we are taught that promises are to be taken seriously, and so we grow up trying our hardest to keep them.  Maybe it’s because we remember a promise being made to us by a parent or friend that ended up being broken, or maybe we try hard to keep them to avoid causing others disappointment. Maybe it just goes back to “Let your ‘Yes’ be yes, and your ‘No’ be no.” (Matt. 5:37)

I think sometimes that we only say “I promise” to the easy stuff.  “I promise, I’ll take out the trash before I leave.” “Tomorrow we’ll go the park, I promise!”  You know, the incidentals.  If the promise isn’t kept, it’s not a big deal.  Maybe that is where our problem started, because it seems today that promises don’t mean much at all.

Maybe the best example is that of the politicians. They make all sorts of promises to get elected, and a majority never come to fruition.  Part of that may be it is not in their sole power to deliver on them, to which I say, “Don’t make a promise you can’t keep.”  To others, I would say, “Don’t make promises you never intend on keeping.”  Either way, it really is setting a bad example.

Maybe more disheartening the example that 50+% of married adults (even Christian adults) make: “Til death do us part.”

I know, I know, crap happens, people “fall” in and out of love.  People change. People fight. People cheat.  The fact remains, a promise was made.  It’s one of the most important promises we can make, yet it is taken so lightly by so many.  If you think I am being harsh, I am, but please keep reading.

I ask a question.  Would you keep a promise, if it meant someone else being uncomfortable?

Like,  “I promise not to smoke any more.”  The chances are, if you make this promise, you will be grumpy for awhile, I know, I have been around plenty of people trying to quit.  But I have patience and tolerate them, because in the end, them keeping their promise is better for their health.  If fact, in their hardship, I even encourage them to keep this promise.

Now, would you keep your promise if it meant hurting someone’s feelings?

Scenario. “I will help you move next weekend.” Here, a promise is made to help someone, but on that day, your kids are not feeling well and your spouse asks you to stay home and help out.  What do you do? Well, you feel sympathetic toward your spouse and children, and you know it may hurt their feelings, and maybe they feel they are not number one for a few hours, but you go and help your friend move.  Why? Because your word is your word, and it sucks sometimes, but you do it.

Moving along, do you keep the promise when it causes harm to yourself?

“I promise to protect my family.”  A robber breaks in, and without hesitation, a man or woman will do whatever necessary to protect their loved ones, even if it costs them their life.  Makes sense right?  One of the most costly to follow through on, but we do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do.

Now the difficult one: Would you keep a promise if it cost the life of your child? I know someone who did.

A man was promised that a nation would be made from his offspring, but to follow through on it, his own child had to die.  The promise was made by God, to Abram, at the cost of Jesus’ life.  Not only did God follow through on the promise, He made the promise knowing what it would cost.

Now I challenge myself and you to keep our word.  Make your yes, yes, and your no, no; especially when it comes to your marriage.  We make mistakes, I know, I have made plenty, but we can’t give up.  I doubt very highly that keeping the promise “Til death do us part” will cost us the physical lives of our children, but it is killing generations in many different ways (broken homes, broken relationships, bitterness, even hatred being passed around like Halloween candy all in the name of “What’s best for the kids” translates to “what is best for me.”).

It’s not easy sometimes, but it’s worth it.  It’s work a lot of the time, but it’s worth it.


To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain

Posted: September 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

This is a great bit of audio.  Here is the video from youtube, or if you like, you can follow the link and download the mp3.

Words that hurt so good: “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” John 16:2

Romans 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.   Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.   For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,   Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Download Now! To live is Christ, to die is gain (compilation) by Compilations