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Monday, July 3, 2017

How to Overcome Loneliness

According to experts in the field of human behavior, loneliness is at epidemic levels.  Millions are walking through this dark valley and every day the numbers are growing. 

It may seem odd as to how people could feel so lonely in our modern times.  With all the technology available it may seem like an impossibility.  But it is true.  Social media, television, movies on demand and having an ability to instantly connect with anyone anywhere does not remove the struggle.

I grew up as a Pastor’s kid and moved often.  My personal fight with loneliness came in my sophomore year of high school.  We moved again and I felt like I could not fit in to the new school in a new town.  I responded by withdrawing to my room.  My grades plummeted and my parents became deeply concerned. 

Here I was surrounded by people at school, church and my family, but overwhelmed by loneliness.  

By no means was my story unique.  Loneliness is a common human experience.  Why do we feel this way?  In an article from Time on this subject, it begins by saying “Humans were not designed to be solitary creatures.”  The author is partially right.  We were not created to live in isolation, but she does not identify who we were created by, which is important. 

All of us were created by God.  He made you and me.  Furthermore, the article did not clarify “solitary”.  Most writings on loneliness speak of isolation in regard to relationships with other people.  That is partially right too. 

Yes, God created human beings to live in relationship with other people . . . and with Him.  Here is a truth.  If we do not know God personally or have drifted in our relationship with Him then we have provided the foundation for loneliness to flourish.    

The first step toward victory begins with Him and understanding that He made us for a purpose.  The Scriptures say, “. . . everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7).  God made you to know Him and experience the wonder of His beauty and majesty.  It is there we are made whole and complete, where there is no loneliness, but abiding joy and peace. 

Only one thing keeps us from experiencing this – ourselves.  When we purposefully resist God, passively neglect Him, hurt others or put our needs above those around us, we open the door of our life to loneliness. 

Here is the good news though.  Jesus came to save us from ourselves.  Through His death and resurrection, He made a way for us to be made whole. 

Are you struggling with loneliness?  There is hope!  Take the step of knowing God and following Jesus Christ with all your heart.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fighting the Meth Demon

Recently, I was troubled as I watched a TV news story on the opioid drug problem. What I learned did not leave me. I thought about all the people I have reached out to in the 24 years I have been a Minister. Faces crossed my mind of many who were drug users. My eyes began to see how wide spread the drug issue is.

What I have learned is a major drug problem around the world has become the number one drug problem in my community, methamphetamine.  Ten years ago the largest drug bust in history took place when law enforcement seized $207 million dollars in cash in a meth raid. And six years ago worldwide seizers of meth increased by 73%. Additionally, the U.S. Sentencing Commission said that meth has produced more offenses than any other drug in 27 states.

The abuse of meth is at pandemic proportions. The other day someone asked me, “Why do people start using meth?” According to one article, the drug seems attractive on the surface by the good feelings it brings. Users feel an instant euphoria, followed by a long high, then feel more energy, extreme confidence, and strong sexual desires. There are many more reasons users are lured in.

It is one of the most dangerous street drugs because it sucks you in then destroys you. It is like a deadly parasite that takes your health, family, livelihood and gives nothing back.  It attacks you physically, rotting your teeth and can collapse your jaw.  Due to hallucinations of a crank bug on your skin, you scar yourself marring your appearance. It not only causes you to be a physical danger to yourself, but to everyone around you.

Every user has a heart problem, not from a medical standpoint but a spiritual one. It is deeper than drugs and something we all have in common. The Scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick . . .” (Jeremiah 17:9). Their heart problem is expressed through drugs, but yours might be shown through sexual immorality or unforgiveness.  Is there a solution to this?  Yes!  Jesus!

Jesus can heal, restore and forgive the sin and brokenness in the heart. He died and rose again from the dead to show us the power He has and what He can do. Let us bring the power of Jesus to every meth addict.

Where do we start? Prayer. Let the meth affected communities call out to Jesus on behalf of their precious sons and daughters. Let grandparents and parents cry out to Jesus for their kids.  Let users themselves look to Jesus for deliverance.

Together, let us say “Enough!” Let’s rise up and fall down on our knees. Let us bring the power of heaven to earth and see Jesus transform meth users into beautiful sons and daughters of a loving and mighty God.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Commencement Address for Every Graduate

This month millions of students will be graduating from high school and college.  The majority of these graduates will be teenagers and twenty-somethings.  They will have achieved a worthy and important milestone for themselves.  If I had a chance to speak at their graduations here are some life lessons I would love to pass along.       

Rejoice and celebrate your achievement.  So far you have invested 12 years, maybe 16 or even more to this point.  Do not let it slide by without enjoying the moment.  Celebrate!   

Recall the people that helped you make it.  No man or woman is an island to him or herself.  Thank your parents.  Take time to understand the emotions they are experiencing, as their little boy or girl will soon be leaving home.  Thank your teachers and professors for their hard work.  Thank the friends who were always there.

Release the heartache connected with the journey.  Your celebration may be bittersweet.  Perhaps there is conflict within your family.  Maybe you have not fit in well with other students or carry a broken heart.  Whatever it is, you can choose to hold onto the pain or release it.  Vow to let go of the past when you receive your diploma and embrace a new future.   
Resolve to never give up.  There were challenges in reaching this day and there will be challenges tomorrow.  Researchers say that this year’s high school graduating class should be much higher because close to one-third of the students did not graduate.  And the college graduating class should be much higher because nearly 50% of those who started, never finished.   But, you did!  You overcame! 
Remember the Creator.  A wise old King once said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  It is very easy to forget God or to no longer believe He exists in the days of youth.  A sense of adventure, a desire to question, being at the peak of energy and strength, living for the moment and a feeling of independence can all lead there.  There are many benefits with youth, but some drawbacks too.  In the zeal for life, the tendency to live for self and forget God is a major one.  Yet, He has a way of keeping us in-check.  God has said there will be a day of reckoning, where we must stand before Him and give an account for how we have lived. 

With diploma in hand, consider there is one final commencement for us all.  Someday we will face Life’s Graduation and pass from earth into eternity.  Age is no indicator of when that graduation will come.  Each day prepares us for it.  Make the most of today, tomorrow and your future by becoming a follower of God’s only Son, Jesus.  Turn from your ways and seek His, the One who made you and knows you best. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Who’s The World’s Most Polarizing Figure?

I have had the privilege of being Guest Chaplain at the U.S. Senate and House of Representative as well as the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives. I took these opportunities, not to religiously grandstand, but to genuinely pray for the legislators before me and for my state and country. Only one time did I ever experience push-back. After reviewing my prayer, the Chaplain sent it back and suggested some changes. I did my best to honor him, but after the fourth revision, with great respect I finally said, "I understand the position you are in, but I must close my prayer with 'In the name of Jesus.'" Reluctantly, he permitted it.
 
The Chaplain was a good Christian, but concerned over the fallout he would receive. He knew that some legislators, because of their religious position, would be offended at the use of Jesus’ name.

David Limbaugh, who wrote the book Persecution, summed it up when he stated "Jesus is offensive." And Jesus Himself explained "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before . . . you" (John 15:18).

From the moment of His birth to the present, Jesus has consistently topped the Who's Who List for the world's most polarizing figure. On the one hand, every Sunday millions gather to worship and adore Him as Savior and Lord. And on the other, over 60 nations are imprisoning, killing or culturally ostracizing followers of Jesus.

What is so offensive? It is His name. Jesus, means Savior. He is a Savior from sin, and since no one can forgive sins but God, He is also deity. These two truths inflame His adversaries and cause His followers to worship Him.

The deeper reason for the offensiveness of Jesus is the sinfulness found in human hearts. Whether it is an individual, government or a religion, we all want to do life our way. We want to be in control, make our own choices and pursue our own path. That is sin. And if the affects of our sin rise to unbearable levels we mask it with work, addictions or trying to be a good person. Yes, we may acknowledge Jesus was a good teacher and person, but stop short of changing our ways for Him. In a sense, when He comes knocking we hold up a sign in our hearts that says "Resist!"

One day, love Him or hate Him, He will bring the whole world to its knees. The Scripture says, "God has highly exalted him . . . so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord . . ." (Philippians 2:9,10,11). Instead of raising up your defenses towards Jesus, consider humbling yourself and discovering His joy and peace.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Let the Protestors Voices be Heard

For much of human history, regardless of the chosen nation's political ideology, the human voice has never been silenced. From Russia and China to the United States and around the world – voices have risen up no matter the cost. As a minister of the gospel I have read the history books where Christians rose up against the religious establishment centuries ago. They became known as Protestants because they protested a series of religious injustices, and many were martyred for their stance.

In keeping with the human spirit to give voice to grievances, let those who oppose President Donald Trump's election and policies have their say. At the same time, the means by which these voices protest - I stand against.

The Bible says, “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy” (Proverbs 12:20). The spirit and culture of the Trump protests resemble nothing of peace, but rather the marks of evil. The torching of cars, breaking of windows in local businesses and hurling of bricks - is evil. The intimidation of children, physical assaulting of women and spewing of vulgar laced rants - is evil.

Voices of opposition and criticism are not evil. They are helpful, providing needed checks and balances among those who hold positions of power. However, when the message of opposition is cloaked in immoral, wicked and inhumane conduct, it becomes evil and should be condemned and delegitimized.

The late Dr. Saul Alinski, author of the highly influential Rules for Radicals, wrote “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.” Alinski's values are no doubt having an influence on the shadow-like leaders behind these dangerous protests. These tactics are the embodiment of evil, resembling nothing of peace.

Yes, these methods will win some battles in the short-term, but in the long-term they will lose the war. Their cause wields the weapons of evil, unknowingly stepping into a spiritual battle with God. It goes way beyond political parties, people or institutions. Evil's greatest foe is God and He always wins.

What do you stand against? What are you opposing? Let your voice be heard, but avoid using evil means to call attention to it. Rather, seek just, moral and peaceful methods to advance your cause. Additionally, lay your conviction before God. He is the ultimate whistle blower and standard of truth. Follow His wisdom through His Word in pursuit of justice.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Praying For Our New President

I believe in the importance and power of prayer.  Very few times in my life have I had someone refuse it.  Mostly, whether they were religious or not they seemed to welcome prayer.  Elected officials are among those.  I have heard of some who were extremely grateful that people were praying for them.  During President Obama’s administration I was one of probably hundreds of thousands that regularly prayed for him.  I plan to do the same for President Trump as well. 

While reading my Bible I came across a story that highlighted the value of prayer at the highest levels of government.  It took place in the transition of power from David, King of Israel, to his son Solomon who would succeed him.  In the midst of this, King David offered a public prayer for his country.

He prayed for his people saying to God, “. . . direct their hearts toward you” (1 Chronicles 29:18).  The old, wise King knew who was really over the affairs of his country – God.  Therefore, he prayed that the affections of the people would first and foremost be toward Him.  This is something we can learn from.  If our hearts are bent chiefly toward a political party or ideology then we are on a crooked path to an eventual downfall.  However, if we fix our eyes straight ahead and walk according to God’s purposes, the foundation of our nation will be made secure.     

He also prayed for the new King saying to God, “. . . may he keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all” (1 Chronicles 29:19).  Again, the experienced King knew who was the author of blessing and cursing on his nation – God.  And He knew how to remain in a healthy relationship with Him and how to follow His counsel in governing.  He knew all these answers were found in the Scriptures and prayed the next King, his son, would give himself to knowing and following God through His Word.

As the seasoned King prayed, he was aware of the price of neglect.  He knew that each person, his son and the entire nation, could choose to do as they wished.  As a result, he warned them not to abandon God and go their own way.  For the price would be great for his country if they did. 

Join me in praying for our new President.  As we do, let us also commit ourselves afresh toward God.  May our hearts be fixed on Him.  Additionally, let us pray that President Trump will know God personally and walk in accordance with His holy Word for the welfare of his own soul and our nation. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Finding Happiness in a New Year

This year an estimated 139 million Americans will do some type of New Year’s resolution.  That is about half of our nation.  By June, 92% will have failed, leaving only 8% to celebrate victory.     
 
A resolution is a statement of purpose backed up with an initial resolve to make a change like “I make a resolution to lose 25 pounds this year.”  They typically cover areas like our health, finances or relationships. 
 
Why do we do them, especially if the majority of us fall short?  Likely, it is something deeper than the resolution itself.  One driver could be a lack of satisfaction.  When someone looks at different areas of their life, they might not like what they see.  As a result, they might think “If I can just get this mountain of debt paid off I’ll be able to breathe”, while another says to themselves, “If we can just turn our marriage around that’ll make all the difference.”     
 
With that in mind, consider this statement from author and motivational speaker, Stephen Shapiro.  After reviewing the data from a major research project he said, “People who achieve their resolutions every year are NO happier than those who do not set resolutions or who are unsuccessful in achieving them.”       
 
Wow!  What a mind blowing finding.  What is the deeper motivation in setting your resolution or goal?  Is the focus just to lose the weight or do you think it will bring greater happiness or satisfaction to your life?  Consider this - if we believe that working hard on the outside of our lives is going to change the inside, we will be sadly disappointed.   
 
When we achieve what we set out for, yes, we will be happy for a moment or a brief season of time, but then it will wear off.  Eventually we will be right back where we started.  Honestly, are the changes you want deeper than just your health, finances or relationships?   
 
The Scriptures say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12).  This is saying, “I am going to look for happiness here and there, but when I get there I find it is only a vapor – emptiness.” 

Where do we find the answers to the deep things of the heart and soul?  Where do we find meaning, happiness and satisfaction?  They are found in Jesus.  In Him we will find all we need. You will get temporary happiness in your resolutions, but you will find lasting peace through Jesus.