Handle With Care

SL015-3People can be so reckless sometimes. We fly off the handle with our reactions, we are too careless with our words, and we are often out of touch with the ripple effect of our actions. We are all helping to carry others through life. Whether as a parent, teacher, mentor, friend, spouse, peer, coworker or simply a citizen, we are all part of others’ journeys through life. We will all impact the process. And we will all be impacted by others.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

When a package goes from postage to delivery, it will often go through many hands. It’ll be boxed, wrapped, stamped, sorted, driven, flown, shuffled, stacked, and more. Packages can go through a lot. Those with valuable contents are often marked fragile. When a handler sees that marking, they will be much more gentle, conscious, and intentional on how they treat that package. If only people could be given one of these marks. The truth of the matter is that we’ve all been given this mark.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Psalm 139:13-15 ESV

Upon conception, every living person is deemed with unmeasurable worth. Because we are so valuable, we are also fragile. Those made in God’s image should be handled with care and intentionality. Be careful about how you treat someone. Be thoughtful about the words you speak. Don’t overreact or overcorrect. Don’t be careless or abrasive. People are fragile. Even that 250-pound bodybuilder who can benchpress 350 pounds. Even that successful business executive. Even the millionaires and billionaires. From infancy to the end, people deserve dignity and love and to hear the message that they are of endless worth.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12 ESV

How are you helping those in your life get to their destination? Beat up and broken or cared for and loved? We can help how others treat us but we can always choose to be agents of love and peace in this fallen world.

God bless you brothers and sisters

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Enduring Love

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When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:15-19 (ESV

In this final chapter of my book, I share more about my own story. It breaks down into four phases of my short 36 years of life. Some phases are longer than others. Some are more enjoyable to share. Others shed a dark shadow on years of my life. My story is one of redemption and grace. I am far from perfect, and still have my battles, but I have experienced God’s love and mercy and it is forever changing me.

In John 21, Jesus is speaking with Peter. Peter is no man of perfection or superstar disciple. In fact, Peter’s journey is not all that different from ours. He was an ordinary man with a common profession. Peter, also called Simon Peter, was a fisherman along with his brother and father (Mark 4:18-19). He did not have years of theological studies prior to following Jesus, but when Christ called him, he went. Later in the story, Peter will be standing before the council, in trouble for preaching the name of Jesus. The men of the council observe two things: his lack of schooling and he’d been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Peter’s desire to walk with Jesus was all he needed to become a powerful witness for the gospel and that’s all we need too. That’s because the Holy Spirit turns ordinary people into emboldened disciples that can change the world.

This chapter details the life of Peter that we know from scripture and historical records. It all centers on that one conversation from John chapter 21. It’s a conversation that Jesus wants to have with each and every one of us. Come see how Jesus wants to draw you in with His love for you and invite you into a mission, a journey, a life’s purpose, that will fulfill your deepest needs.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 10:27-28 (ESV)

Get your copy online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble and join others who have been questioned by Christ!

Peace in Christ

Fear vs. Love

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Fear is one of the most basic human motivations. It drives stock markets and fuels wars. Its unruly energies can be used for great harm or channeled for great good. Professional boxers are often told fear is their friend. Fear can make them better fighters. It keeps them alert. It sensitizes their determination. In the same way, God can use our fears and make us better fighters for his cause. Whenever we are afraid, we have the potential to do the impossible. Why? That which is impossible in our own strength is made possible with God’s help. Fear makes us more likely to forsake our own resources and rely on God instead. In this way, extreme fear can lead to extreme faith.

The following is a story shared from Voice of the Martyrs.

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?

Psalm 27:1

LAOS: The unwritten code of the police was clear: If you catch the Khmu or other tribesmen converting to Christianity, arrest them. If you catch anyone evangelizing the tribesmen, kill him.

After “Lu” had been shackled at the hands and feet and shamefully marched through the village, the Communist police threw him in a pit. “We will let you go,” they said, “when one hundred Christians in your village renounce their conversion to Christianity.” But they were unable to find believers willing to turn their backs on Christ. Then tragedy struck the police. One officer’s son broke both legs in an accident. His other son became critically ill. The officer who had beaten and harassed new Christians suddenly died of a heart attack. Other officials fearfully pulled “Lu” from the pit and allowed him to return home. Government authorities were too frightened to take action against the Christians in the village after seeing what happened to their leader. Seeing God’s show of power, more Khmu became believers. Where there had been one hundred Christians, now there were seven hundred. They even sent Christians out to tell other villages about Jesus. While the Laotian authorities were controlled by their fear, the Christians in Southeast Asia overcame theirs.

For some people living in post-modern nations, sharing the gospel may result in losing friends, not being invited places, being written up at work, being overlooked, and perhaps being ridiculed and given a nasty label. But it won’t result in death and imprisonment. Yet, fear still grips the believer. Fear of rejection. Fear of being different. Fear of what people will say. When we compare this with Lu’s story in Laos, it’s embarrassing that anyone would allow these minor inconveniences to prevent them from spreading the greatest news the world has ever heard. Fear is strong. But not as strong as love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18 ESV

Believer, we no longer need to fear anything. Not sickness, not persecution, not ridicule, not rejection, and not even death. Because we are perfectly loved and that love is our view of those who need to know Jesus. No matter how they respond, they need to know Jesus just as much as we did. We can’t keep this great love to ourselves, not even from those who reject it. Never forget that your courage and love could change someone’s life forever.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Be brave brothers and sisters, and go change the world!

 

 

Only One Label Matters

Dear Christian,

You are not a Republican, Democrat, or member of any of the third parties. You are not a conservative, liberal, authoritarian, or libertarian. You are not black, white, or of any race. You are not from the west or the east. You are not African, Asian, European, or American. You are a follower of Jesus. That is all, in all, and over all. And as a follower of Christ, you are part of a family made up people from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. The Biblical worldview does not include any one political platform and no racial creed. The words of Jesus are supreme. The spread of the gospel is all that matters. Name calling and label-making never saved a soul. Only the love of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the truth of the Bible can do that. For us, that is all the heartbeat of our life because we are His. And being His is the only label that matters.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Taming the Digital Tongue

Thanks to the technology revolution the tongue is not only physical, but it is also digital. Texting and social media are the main forms of communication in today’s modern society. It has allowed for rapid and frequent connection with friends and loved ones alike. The exchange of ideas has become as quick as a click. Along with all the good it has also brought on a new way of slandering, gossiping, and criticizing others, by saying things we’d never say in front of others.

Anyone who will gossip to you, will gossip about you.

Brothers and sisters, we need to rise above the text message bashing and gossiping. We need to be among those who speak life not the criticism of others. We have to stop talking bad about people behind their backs. We say we love, but with the same digital and physical tongues we tear others down. Unfortunately, I know followers of Jesus who are so sweet outwardly, but on a phone, with certain people, they reveal a totally different side of themselves. We really shouldn’t say anything about someone that we wouldn’t be willing to say directly to them. And we should only say things to people that are encouraging, truthful, and helpful.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians‬ ‭4:29‬ ESV

The world has enough criticism, hate, and slander. As believers, we need to be set apart from all that. Jesus knows our hearts and He can read our text messages and social media accounts. If our phones were open to the world to see, would they bring Jesus honor or shame?

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalms‬ ‭19:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Invitation of the King

Christianity is an active faith. One that stirs the heart into motion. It moves the believer towards a community of love, not just with friends and family, but with the despised and destitute also. For the Christian, family has no skin tone nor nationality. Shameful pasts can be erased in a moment and acceptance is found when a humble heart kneels at the foot of a cross. No one is unwelcome and no one is too dirty for the cleansing power of God’s grace. The Christian sees everyone as equal because he or she has come to terms with their own brokenness and need. We are all light years from God’s perfection, even the best among us. That is why God has invited us all to go to those whom the world has beaten down and rejected. Three things should always remain open for the Christian: their home, their arms, and their hands. The good and faithful servant reaps a harvest of love no matter where they find themselves and no matter the cost.

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.

Matthew‬ ‭25:34-36‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Jesus is waiting in every hurting heart and needy soul, to be loved by us; to be acknowledged and to be provided for however we can. Love that this pure and genuine is also boundless. Jesus is waiting.

Broken Over Brokenness

A few days ago I was driving home, like any other day, and spotted a man up ahead. As I got closer I noticed that he was begging for assistance. His sign said, “Anything Helps”. His clothes were haggard, equally matched by his warn, wrinkled, and sun-scorched skin. His appearance told a story and it must have been far from a fairytale. It was hard to tell the man’s age but I’m sure it was well past mine. Life plays tricks on a person’s age. Our experiences can make us look beyond or behind of our actual age. For this man, I have no doubt it was the first.

I’ve had a high level of empathy for the downtrodden for most of my adult life, especially since developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. But for some reason, this particular occasion made me want to burst into tears. This man appeared broken by life. I know, I know, some readers may be thinking that we can rise above life’s circumstances and don’t have to allow them to break us. I would agree that we always have a choice on how we react to everything in life. But I also believe that we don’t all have the same resources to help in the time of need. I’ve been very fortunate to have the life that I’ve had. I had a good home life with two parents who were present in my life. I’ve always had a handful of friends. I have a great church family now. My wife and kids are amazing. Life, while difficult at times, is pretty easy to make my way through because I’m surrounded by so many great people.  That’s not the case for many people in this world. I’ve never known poverty, except for when I was in college. But that wasn’t actually poverty as most of the world experiences it. Yes, I’ve faced some of the worst things that life can deal a person, but I’ve always had those loving people help walk with me. I’m guessing, for this man, that was not the case.

I don’t know the man’s story. I wish I would have had a chance to talk to him. Caught in the wave of fast-moving traffic in a crazy busy thoroughfare, I had no opportunity to pull over. I only wish that he had been in different part of town. He’s been on my mind ever since that day and I’m hoping that I get another chance to run into him. I can’t help but think of the fact that he has to have a mom and dad somewhere. If not now, then at some point he did. Who knows if that too isn’t a sad story. Being a father of two little girls, I can’t help but think of them being in this man’s shoes. How could any father allow his child to grow up and become homeless? What has gone wrong in this man’s relationships? Does he have anyone who loves him? Does anyone know that his life has come to this? Have people tried to help him but at no avail? I was heartbroken.

Many people look at the homeless and see nothing but dirty clothes and a begar who will probably waste their money on alcohol. Sadly, I think that’s how most people see them. Coming from someone who has spent a lot of time with homeless people over the last six years, I can tell you that they are so much more than that. They are the culmination of a sad tale. I am fully aware that many of them choose to remain where they are but a lot plays into that. Things like fear, rejections, not knowing a way out, being surrounded by apathy, accepting a view of themselves that many portray to them, and being caught in a downward cycle. I’ve seen some come out of it, but sadly, most do not.

A few months ago at one of the local parks, I spotted a new sign that read, “don’t help the homeless”. It’s part of a new city campaign aimed at stopping individuals from giving handouts to homeless people. I understand the motive. They want people to push them to go to assistance organizations rather than depend on aid at the micro level. That sounds great, except, it won’t work, and in essence, it’s absolutely heartless. These are broken people…very broken people. They need help now. Immediate, short-term, and long-term help. Ever hear the slogan, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime”? Well, to teach a man to fish, you have to buy him a fishing pole, tackle, bait, and invest the time in their life to help them learn. Most people I know want to pass the buck along to someone else. They want to complain about “those people loitering in the park” yet they won’t go out of their way to show them some love. If there’s one thing that broken people need, it’s love. Judgment never helped anyone break free from anything.

I will be quick to admit that most of the time the homeless reek of booze and tobacco. They can also be very crude. Some of the people I meet with today, I’ve been hanging out with in parks for the last six years. But they are created in God’s image just the same as I am. For that reason alone, they deserve the same love as anyone else. They don’t deserve to be overlooked and cast aside. They’ve probably been treated that way most of their lives. We can either be one more voice of love and truth, or we can add to the resounding negativity and hate that gets thrown at them day after day.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

I want to be more broken for the broken in this world. Homeless or not, there are so many people around me that need my love and compassion. I don’t want the people in my life to have the same story as the man on the side of the road in the busy intersection. I want to do everything I can to speak life and hope into the lives of my family, my friends, my students, and my community. I don’t know what happened in this man’s story but I do know the stories of well over a hundred homeless people I’ve met over the last six years, and they are not filled with life and hope. If a third of the world claims to be followers of Jesus, how could that be? How can there be so many desperate hurting people filling our parks and intersections with cardboard signs? Lord, forgive us for all the times we’ve scowled and turned our heads. Lord, forgive us for ever thinking we were better than them. Lord, forgive us for not acting out the love we say is inside us. I count myself among the multitudes who need to do more, love more, and give more because my King gave everything.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (The Message)