We’ve lied to the youth

“We can’t pray at school. They took prayer out of the schools.” Oh really? That is always my answer to that attitude. Really? We can’t pray in school? Do you know what prayer is? Since when can school faculty keep me from praying form my heart? Since when could “the man” read my thoughts? This whole God being taken out of the schools is a simple yet clever illusion. Who decided that God has been taken out of the schools? Exactly when did we buy into this pathetic lie?

My wording may sounds harsh, but I believe it needs to be harsh for the simple fact that we need a huge wakeup call. The only reason why God has been taken out of the schools is because we choose not to live a life dedicated to him in them. A school cannot stop you from praying. Now they may keep you from standing up on stage and proclaiming a long elegant prayer, but they cannot control how you interact with God throughout the day in the school. They cannot the thoughts that go through your mind. They cannot keep you from praying to God in your heart.

Why is this so important to understand? Because countless students have bought into the lie that we cannot pray in the schools, and I believe it is chiefly our own fault. We speak in woe about prayer being taken out of the school and how the end of the world is near. Cut it out. Just stop it. Stop letting Satan use your misery over the acts of atheists to spread a lie to the youth. You can pray in school! Is it in the way we may desire? No perhaps not, but we can pray all the same.

What does it mean to have God in the school? I ask because we often say that the world has taken God out of our schools. What do we mean by that? The teaching of evolution? The refrain from only teaching abstinence? The mockery from the atheist teacher when God is brought up? Scripture not being read in the classroom? What is it? What do we mean when we say we have taken God out of the schools?

Before I go on I do want to make this very clear statement. I believe when we rebel against God he does reach a point where he removes his hand of protection from us. We see examples of this all throughout Scripture. Sometimes God lets us go forward and receive what we crave form our flesh. And all the consequences that come with it. There is something to be said for needing God’s hand of protection and the helplessness when we lose it.

Having said that I still wonder what we mean when God has been taken out of the schools. Do Christian students and teachers still attend? If so then how can we say God is no longer in the schools? God is more than the teaching of creation and abstinence. He is more than reading some Scripture. He is more than giving a little prayer before eating a meal. Have our schools turned away from God in some ways? Absolutely. Has God been taken out of the schools. I should hope not because if He has then we are the biggest party to blame for it.

If God is not in the schools anymore it is because us believers have refrained from bringing him into it. We have kept him from being a part of our lives. We have shamefully hidden him form the world. We live in fear of others and keep quiet about our beliefs and convictions. We allow ourselves to be silenced, and thus have only ourselves to blame for the absence of God in the schools.

What if we stopped teaching children this lie though? What if we stopped living in misery by saying God is no longer in the schools and we are no longer allowed to pray? What if instead we taught our children how to make an impact through their very lives? What if we taught them how to bring God into the schools through their actions towards others? What if we taught them that resistance towards God does not mean He has left you? If God is with you, and you are in school then God is still in the school. I’m not saying schools have not turned away from God. No doubt we have some seriously messed up issues in them. However, saying these things instills a wrong image into our youth. It tells them that we have lost hope. It tells them that they need to go to school and live with the absence of God until they come home in the morning. It puts them on the defensive. It tells them to keep quiet until they can be back with those who simply agree with everything they think. It’s setting them up for a life of failure in this world.

To those in school I urge you to remember that prayer is still very much capable of happening in the schools. Don’t ignore God simply because us adults have told you the schools have somehow had the power to make you ignore God. You can bring God into your school. It start with the interaction with a single individual. If God is with you then He will be with you wherever you are. Don’t just take off the Christian hat when you go to school. Don’t live in secret of your faith. Delight in what you believe, and show the world what it is really all about.

Some thoughts on the Westboro cult

In the midst of all the information pouring in over the Connecticut shooting some of you may have heard about Westboro making plans to disturb the area with their hateful message. I think it is time to clear the air over a few things in regards to this organization.

1. They are not a church. Never compare me to these folks and what they believe. We are polar opposites on everything. They may call themselves a Baptist church, but as far as I have seen they show how exactly not to be a Christian church. If your sole view of Christianity is from this cult, then scrap all you know about Christianity. Westboro is as much a Christian church as an elephant is a duck because he is wearing a duck costume made by a four year old that has never even seen a duck before.

2. Westboro cult fails at separating sin and the sinner and winds up hating all that is on this earth. We should hate and detest sin, but what Westboro does is hate God’s creation. I don’t like throwing around the word hate. When I say I hate sin I literally mean I hate it with every fiber of my being, or at least try to. However, I refrain from hatred over the individual. I fear for them, I care for them, and I pity them, but I will never hate them.

3. God loves us. If he didn’t then he never would have died for us. So when this cult carries signs like, “God hates homosexuals” I know they are not from God. God wants us to get out of our sinful lifestyle yes, but He loves us. He grieves over those caught in murder, theft, lying, pornography, and all the other things. He hates that sin has taken over our lives, but He loves us and thus did something about the problem. Honestly, we are celebrating his birth. Does the Christmas story sound like a God of hate to you?

4. Don’t call them a church. This may seem nitpicky and even harsh to some, but don’t go along with the media reports in calling them a church. You don’t get to be part of God’s church because you give yourself that title. They are a cult. I don’t use that term to provoke them or speak poorly of them, but to simply speak in true facts. The world associates me with people like them, and I will not indulge in that.

5. God is grieved over the sin of westboro just like he is over our sin. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure he is ticked that these folks are dragging his name through the mud. Easily some of the most vile and untruthful statements about God have been uttered by this cult who claims to worship him. However, if any of them were to repent of their sins and seek God as their real Lord and savior then God would accept them into His kingdom.

6. This means we must be grieved over this cult. Honestly, the flesh in me wants to throw them under the bus, and call them every name in the book I can think of, but that would be sin. Wishing them ill would be wrong. Responding to their hatred with hatred only puts me in their camp. Ouch. That may be a harsh wakeup call for some of you. Hating the westboro cult puts you on the same level as them. Wishing them pain and suffering makes you like them when they laugh at those who they believe are going to hell. Wishing for them to get what they deserve needs to be a realization that we also deserve the same punishment as them. Yes they are a cult. Yes they should not be referred to as a church, but they need God’s salvation as much as anyone else.

So for those who think Westboro is Christianity I urge you to realize that is not the case. They give us a bad name, and have no standing with us. They are living delusional lives under some very corrupt motivations. For my fellow believers I encourage you not to lash out with the same hatred. Otherwise you may find afterwards that the world has reason to view you exactly as they view this cult.

Things to remember as we process the shooting in CT

Today’s shooting is…. hard to swallow. There are no amount of words in any language that can perfectly depict the evil that was witnessed by the world today. We look at something like this and try to make sense out of it. We wonder why such evil continues to roam this earth in order to cause destruction. There is something extra despicable about taking the life of a child. It feels as though evil takes the most innocent thing that can exist in this world and tarnish it beyond repair. Not only has this forever altered those who died, but for the children who went through this hell, and make no mistake, for them this was a living hell today.

I have rewritten this post over and over again. In the end I only have a few simple things to be reminding us on during this tragedy.

1. Pray. Pray for the families of those killed. Pray for the children who witnessed such evil. Pray for others who have the same urge to do something so evil as this gunman did. Pray for the souls Satan has in his grasp into deceiving them that life is chaos and the only thing to do is embrace its anarchy. Pray for the family of the gunman. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving that you were not the one who drove yourself to pull the trigger.

2. Remember we live in a world with sin. I don’t know how anyone could look at what happened today and say that sin does not exist. Seeing this tells us there is a clear problem in the world. Something deep inside of us even says that this is not how it is supposed to be. I hate that we still live in such a cursed world. It saddens me that we still must see such evil. There is no real answer to this. I don’t know why God continues to wait. All I know is that I need to continue to wait on the Lord.

3. Pity that captive, hate the captor. It is easy to want to have hatred towards this man who did such evil. My heart breaks that a man was so troubled that he did this. I cannot begin to imagine what one must have gone through to reach such a breaking point.

4. Remember now more than ever why we celebrate. Yes we saw evil today, but God is still our salvation. The only thing worth hoping for in this world is over the birth of our savior.

5. Its ok to not have the answers. Many of us will face the rebukes of those who use an incident like this to proclaim there is no God because surely a loving God would never allow this to happen. It may be easy to say God has a plan in all of this (which is true). It is easy to say He loves us so much that we have a choice to rebel against Him. However, there is a time and a place. People will be angry about this and feel the need to grieve. Let them release some of that grief.

6. Pray for Christ to return quickly. The prophets waited in anticipation for the first coming of the Messiah. They were anxiously waiting because they understood the desperate need for a savior. I think we need to have that same earnest passion to see the return of Christ.

7. Do good while we wait. Last night before this incident I was meditating on the common argument made by people against God. They talk about how there is so much evil in the world and the world is such a messed up place. I notice they rarely try and do anything about it though. I urge you all to cast back the darkness by shedding a little light into this world. Our jerk reaction is to cry out against the evil which we should. This was an evil act. Rarely do we ever get passed the crying out into a phase where we try and replace what is evil with some hope and joy. The world needs it now more than ever.

In the end I leave you with this song.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’

When the mountains have disappeared

I hear it often, “How do I get back to that mountain top experience in my faith?” We experience those mountain tops during intense times of spiritual growth. Sometimes it is through a camp or retreat. Sometimes it is from an event going on in our life. Sometimes we have just had a really solid streak in our devotionals and feel like we are learning more than we could ever have imagined. We love being on top of the mountain. Sooner or later that experience fades. The adrenalin wears down. Life gets in the way. Tragedy strikes. The camps are over. Scripture reading seems tedious. The well is all dried up. Unfortunately, rather than confronting these valleys we scramble to find that mountain top even if it means trying to desperately climb back up the mountain we just came down from. In the process we experience stagnation. Rather than pushing through the valley we stand in the middle of it waiting for a new mountain to magically appear.

It’s a sad reality in our walk on this earth. We will face hardship. We will be confronted with discouragement. We wills sometimes feel distant from God. It is inevitable. If mountains exist then the bottom of those mountains must also exist. We hate leaving the mountain. We hate journeying through emptiness. Rather than pressing on we give in and practically wait to die.

Valleys are crucial in our walk with Christ. We will go through deserts when it appears all hope is lost. Those experiences appear to be torture in the moment, but often lead to intense enlightenment if we confront it properly. The single greatest mistake a Christian in a valley makes is looking for a new mountain rather than asking why they have been placed in the valley. What does God want me to learn here? What truth do I need to grasp? Thus we must travel through the desert.

We do not do that though. We sit and demand God to bring us to a new mountain. We expect to be on an emotional high. We wait until that next church camp or retreat. We wait for that next big blessing in life. We give up on reading God’s word until we feel the hunger to do so. In essence we stop loving and pursuing God in the desert.

Where does this leave us? Sitting in a desert meant to be crossed as we starve to death. I fear the average Christian simply mountain top jumps. We come alive only in this moment where we feel we are at the peak of our faith. We would much rather sit in the valley of the shadow of death rather than walk through it. We starve ourselves between the mountain tops and gorge ourselves on those moments all the while forgetting their bigger purpose. The mountain tops have a few very simple purposes.

They are a time of celebration. Celebrate and delight in all you are learning in your walk. Be thankful to God for his provision and blessings. Rejoice in who He is and delight in that time you have.

They are a time for us to hunger for what lies beyond this life. When I am at my peak I find even that is unable to satisfy the hunger I have to be with my creator. It gives me a small glimpse of what to look forward to. It is a glimpse of life where valleys are no longer part of the journey because they are no longer a necessity. This leads into their last purpose.

They prepare us for the next valley. A valley where the growth may be slower, harder, and more painful, but just as necessary and just as valuable. Imagine how much we miss in our walk with Christ when all we do in the valley is sit, wait, and starve. When God is ready for you to reach the next mountain top you will get there. In the meantime take heart, press forward, and learn the lesson of the valley.

What do I do when I sin?

Failure can lead us down a dangerous road. Failure against temptation can be the most devastating of all. There is always so much discussion about how to keep from sinning. Books are written about resisting temptation. Sermons are preached on how to live a Godly life. There is that nagging issue though. No matter how hard we try we still sin sometimes. What then? What do we do when we have sinned? I’m not sure why it is not talked about very often. Perhaps people fear it gives off the idea that we expect to sin therefore we will go ahead and give into sin. Perhaps we think it endorses sinning. We try and avoid the old “sin now and ask for forgiveness later”.

We do sin though. That is a problem. What is an even bigger problem is there are so many who do not know what to do once they have sinned. They become lost and go astray like a sheep who wanders from its shepherd. We make a bad situation even worse. We become overrun with guilt and hide our face from God. We cannot bear to face him because we feel dirty.

There are some things I want you to remember when you sin.

1. God will still forgive you. Believers will sin against God. Is it wrong? Yes. Should we be ashamed of sin? Yes. Should we hate it? Yes. However, we must remember that God will still forgive us of our sin. We are not defined by our mistakes. We no longer need to go on living in that sin. We are not enslaved to it any longer. Satan hates that we have been freed from his captivity, and will try anything he can to trick us into feeling as though we are in chains again. One way is by convincing us that God loves us less when we sin, and will not forgive us for it.

2. You need to repent of your sin. It is more than just acknowledging your sin. You need to confess it, and turn away from it. Too often we live in the guilt of the past rather than with a confessed tongue of the future. We must confess our sins to God, and I even encourage confessing to a brother or sister in Christ.

3. Don’t hide from God. It is a natural instinct. We want to avoid Him when we fail. We do not want to face the guilt and shame of answering to Him when we have sinned. This is one way how sin divides us from God. Sin encourages us to run from God in fear. We are afraid of the consequences. We are afraid to face our guilt. However, without facing God we can never receive healing. Healing form sin requires the need to be purified by fire.

4. Don’t withdraw from loved ones. When we struggle with a sin we often feel naked. We feel as though anyone could see right through us. Don’t withdraw from those who care about you when you sin. Satan is an accuser and wants to get us alone when we have sinned. He wants us to feel as though we are stuck in darkness.

5. Go forth and sin no more. Don’t keep returning to that sin. Don’t live in it. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t live in its past. Don’t make it part of your future. Ignoring these other points will lead you on a path to living in that sin. Hiding from God will require you to fill the void with sin. Failing to repent will keep you from having a broken heart towards the sin. Hiding form loved ones takes away all your accountability on avoiding that sin. Failure to acknowledge God’s forgiveness makes you lose all hope to fight against temptation. If you believe you are damaged goods then you will act like damaged goods.

6. Most importantly remember that you are still loved. I was loved in the midst of my sin, and that realization made all the difference in the world. I want you to know today that you are still loved no matter your past.

Live Second journey: A Second from beginning to end.

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Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.- Proverbs 30:7-9

Sometimes we approach God as if he doesn’t care about our personal lives. We ask him for world peace or the universal spread of his fame but forget to ask him for next week’s groceries. We ask him for the right president but not for the electric bill. The danger with this is we start to think that we paid the bills and that we earned the groceries. Our wealth makes us forget our God. Make it a habit instead to ask him for your needs and to praise him when he provides. – Live Second 58

We have reached the end of this little adventure. I hope you all have been blessed with what I have learned. I hope this has sparked some interest for you all to look into this book that has changed me for the better. Today’s truth in this reading has been beyond encouraging for me.

On day two I told you all about a crisis for my wife and I. Her grandmother whom she was close to had passed away. We were hallway across the country from her family, but we knew we needed to go. All we could do was pray for God’s provision. We had no real way to afford to get out there for such a difficult time. We had a five week old and no way to fly out to be with her grieving family. Prayer for God’s provision as all we had. God provided.

A dear friend who had been blessed by God wished to use that blessing for others. He selflessly wished to pay for our tickets to go out and be with my wife’s family. We were overwhelmed, and at truth I was hesitant to accept it. It felt uncomfortable receiving such a great gift from a close friend. I was overcome with emotion over what he did. He grasped what I have been grasping through this journey. I told him to keep the money for himself. He told me it was not his money to begin with. God has ownership of everything we believe we have.

I may not be a successful business man. I may not be wealthy. I make mistakes in my ministry. I make mistakes with my family. I am a flawed individual who at times feels he has little to show for his efforts, but I am rich in Christ. I am rich in the loved ones he has surrounded me with. This still begs the question. Why do I only turn to him for the grand issues? Paying of the bills is his provision as well. Food on the table is meant to be thanked by more than a meager blessing of the food. Safety in travels is not something you wish luck on. Every good thing is from God.

In the end this week fit pretty well with the mold of my blog. After all, I set out to right this blog as a man who desired to be dependent in every area of his life. This includes my finances. I had no way to provide for an emotional need my family had, but I did know I could turn to the one who was my provider. My question as we have ended this journey is a simple one. What blessings in your life have you taken for granted and placed as your own personal success? Even the small things you count as being done based on your own ability show weakness in a surrendered life to God. Live Second is about the giving of the whole person and al that he is. He is second in every aspect of his life. Set aside all that you are for the one who is the way, the truth, and the life.

Delighting in the Lord’s provision

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Everyone comes naked form their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. – Ecclesiastes 5:15

“Enjoy present wealth. Enjoy work. Enjoy food and good weather, happy moments and quiet afternoons. But enjoy it not as the destination but as the rest stop along the way, as a glimpse of heaven and a coming inheritance.” – Live Second 57

Enjoy what God has given you. A simply enough lesson, but one with such complex balance that it can be easy to fall off the path at a moment’s notice. So much struck me as I went through this day and meditated on what I was learning from it. For starters I realized the need to have emphasis on enjoying what God has given me. These are not simply things to enjoy because I feel I have earned them. These are precious gifts from God. Laughter with family, a good book, an enjoyable movie, spending time with my wife, playing with my son. All of these are things that have been given to me. They were not brought about simply through my hard work in life.

These thing are also not what I should strive to live for. They are good things, and are good to be valued. God delights when I delight in His blessings, but in the end I will leave all of these things behind. None of this will matter for me as an individual in an eternal perspective. They are blessings to remind me of the joy that waits for me at the other end of this world.

If God can give me such wonderful blessings, and bring me a measure of joy in such a dark, bleak, and spiteful world, then just imagine the unending joy that waits for us in an afterlife where there will be no more pain or tears. It is such a simple concept with such richness in its truth.

I am blessed by God for two reasons. One is to be a blessing upon others. When I am filled with joy I strive to help others experience that joy. My mind goes form the enjoyment of this world into an eternal perspective for others. The other is to delight in what waits for me after my last breath. Men hunger for wealth and success in this world for the sole purpose of gaining more of it. They make money in order to make more money. Blessings from God are to be enjoyed. By catching small glimpses of His kingdom and makes me homesick for where I really belong.

What does this mean for real success in my life? Real success is not to be found in my wealth. It is not to be found in how many students I have in my ministry. It is not to be found in how perfect my family looks to the world. No, success is to be found in enjoying everything God has given me which means enjoying every moment of life. It means soaking it all in. Our journey with this is nearly at an end. I have saved what I believe is the best for last. It is the lesson that snuck up on me when I least expected it. Until then I beg you to simply do this. Find a loved one, give them a hug, and bask in what Godly success is. Bask in catching a glimpse of heaven. Hold tight to that and have a heart for those who have not realized this very simple, but rich truth.