Sunday, December 25, 2011

5 Helpful Questions for Leadership by Mark Driscol

Whether you are in a business or a church, Pastor Mark poses five questions to help leaders focus their mindset before jumping into a situation. As always, he explores practical experiences and mistakes from his past that have helped him learn how to deal with projects or situations by asking these questions.

Are you coming in with the goal of saving?
Is it your job to solve?
Are you coming in to serve?
Is it your role to sympathize?
Is it time to surrender?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pain: The Departure of Weakness (Part 2_Final)

Beware of the False Lover
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps 30:5).

When a measured assault enters our life we often respond in two different ways. The pain caused by the assault drives us to a place of either embracing the pain or we embrace anything that will make us feel better. That becomes the entry door to a false lover. Men and women each seek to avoid pain in different ways. Larry Crabb has summarized these two unique strategies often used to avoid deep pain:

All of us are trapped by addiction to a desire for something less than God. For many women, that something less is relational control. "I will not be hurt again and I will not let people I love be hurt. I'll see to it that what I fear never happens again." They therefore live in terror of vulnerably presenting themselves to anyone and instead become determined managers of people. Their true femininity remains safely tucked away behind the walls of relational control.

More common in men is an addiction to non-relational control. "I will experience deep and consuming satisfaction without ever having to relate meaningfully with anyone." They keep things shallow and safe with family and friends and feel driven to experience a joy they never feel, a joy that only deep relating can provide. Their commitment is twofold: to never risk revealing inadequacy by drawing close to people and, without breaking that commitment, to feel powerful and alive. Power in business and illicit sex are favorite strategies for reaching that goal.

Many times we seek to deal with our pain through various forms of addictions designed to resolve the inner pain we feel. All addictions represent a counterfeit desire for genuine love and intimacy. We conclude these lesser desires are legitimate needs instead of band-aids of our fleshly soul. These addiction lovers become isolation chambers created for ourselves designed to mask our pain.

Every human being has a desire to be loved. When we do not feel loved because of some event in our lives we seek to reconcile this emotional pain. So, if you are fighting any kind of addiction--over control of people, sex, drugs, alcohol, workaholism, shopping, overeating--you are seeking to fill a void only God can fill.

Pain has a useful purpose in our lives. Facing it, rather than medicating it, allows us to move to a place of discovering a capacity for a different kind of joy. That is the purpose of pain. We must let inner pain do its work by experiencing it fully. It feels like a contradiction to actually embrace the pain, but it is the only remedy for moving past it so it can yield its purpose in our lives. Otherwise we will remain unaware of our deeper desire for God and be driven toward a false lover.

1 Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams, Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO 2001, p.95

Today God Is First (TGIF) devotional message, Copyright by Os Hillman, Marketplace Leaders.

Pain: The Departure of Weakness (Part 1)

Storms are inevitable

Many couples fail to anticipate the trials and problems they will inevitably face. Then, when the troubles do hit, many husbands and wives mistakenly turn against each other rather than turning together to God.

Part of the strategy for facing troubles is realizing that God allows difficulties in our lives for many reasons. I’m not saying He causes difficulties. I believe He allows them for many reasons, but difficulties do not mean something is wrong with your marriage. And God wants us to trust Him in the midst of these storms and to grow together as a couple.

Trials do not bring neutral results: They drive two people together or apart. The natural tendency is to go through a difficulty alone and not share it as a couple. The following are some principles we’ve learned:

1. Give your spouse the time and freedom to process trials differently from the way you do. The problems Barbara and I faced that year brought us to a crossroad: Would we share our difficulties with each other and give the other person room to process the problems? I remember feeling tempted to think that Barbara was silly for being so introspective during the months that followed her heart episode. I had to fight the urge to discount her emotions and say, “Snap out of it, Dear. Everything is going to be fine.” But Barbara wanted to share her fears with me. She needed me to listen. Men and women process suffering differently, so don’t try to make your spouse like you.

2. Realize that there will be a temptation to become self-focused and to withdraw from each other. The desire to pull away is greatest during these periods because it is very difficult for another person to carry your burden. As a result, you end up thinking the other person doesn’t understand, and the pain associated with that conclusion makes you want to pull back to safety.

3. Respond to trials by embracing God’s perspective of suffering together as a couple. The couples who learn the art of facing storms together by seeking God’s perspective can develop a sweet and robust spiritual oneness. As we struggled with our trials, Barbara and I learned a principle for handling problems: “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It isn’t a simplistic excuse to put your head in the sand and ignore reality. On the contrary, I believe when we give thanks in all things, we express faith in a God who knows what He’s doing and can be trusted.

4. Remember that your spouse is never your enemy. Realize that your struggle is not against your spouse; resist the urge to punish or think that he or she is the problem. Your spouse is your intimate ally, a fellow burden bearer who is there to encourage you as you go through a difficult time.

5. If the burden or suffering persists, seek outside help. If you feel you are slipping off in a deep ditch as a couple, don’t wait until you have all four wheels stuck before you seek help. Find godly counsel by calling your mentoring couple, your pastor, or a biblical counselor to gain outside perspective.

...[Learn] that suffering is common to all marriages. The way in which you respond to it will determine whether your marriage flourishes or flounders.

Adapted from Starting Your Marriage Right, © Dennis and Barbara Rainey, 2000, Thomas Nelson Publisher.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Bad Apple (Great Application)

Bad Apples

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
1 Corinthians 15:33

One of my favorite object lessons in the sixth-grade Sunday School class I taught for many years was the “bad apples” demonstration. During a class at the beginning of the year, I brought some apples with me into the room—a beautiful, shiny red one that I called a “good apple” and a couple of others that looked nice but had at least one bruise.

“These two apples with the bruises represent a couple of buddies you really shouldn’t spend time with in junior high,” I would say. “They have a dark side to them—a compromised area of their lives. This good apple represents you, a nice Christian teenager but one who doesn’t see any problem with bruised apples. ‘These are my buddies,’ the good apple says.

“So these three apples are going to hang out together for a few months. We’ll check on them at the end of the year and see what happens.” Then I would put the apples together in a plastic bag and place them in the closet.

Several of the students would become curious over the next few months about what had happened to our little “buddies,” but I wouldn’t return the bag until the last class of the year. Then I’d read the verse we’re focusing on today—about bad company and its impact on good morals.

It never failed, of course. Nine months of hang time always took a toll on the good apple. The identity of all three apples had long been lost. All that was left was sort of a gross, discolored, mushy apple soup.

The buddies our children spend time with will inevitably influence them, either for good or for bad. That’s why parents need to be fruit inspectors, helping their kids spot the bad apples and encouraging their kids to build friendships with the good ones.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tears, Onions and Marriage

One of my favorites from the Rainey’s. The Gospel is the only silver bullet against the strife that haunts many of our marriages. Be blessed.

Do you know that unwinnable “Whack a Mole” game at your local kids’ pizza place—the one where the machine pops up plastic moles and your mission is to beat them back down as fast as they pop up? Conflicts in marriage are like that game; they keep popping up even when you don’t want to play anymore.
A week ago, my husband and I were in another unwanted skirmish in our marriage. Same topic, same emotions, round gazillion!
I’ve been disappointed many times that our issues are not resolved cleanly. They aren’t black and white.
Over the decades of our marriage, our repeated disagreements have settled into several categories: parenting values, decision making, money, sex, and travel. Victory, a conditional one, was declared in only one of these: parenting … and that was simply because time ran out. The others demand ongoing engagement.
Your own recurring marital battles may be over finances, in-laws, jobs or other situations. No two marriages battle the same combination of issues. Yet there are similar patterns.
The “we’re traveling too much” conflict was the one that caught us once again last week.
My husband’s mother affectionately called her son a “road runner” after the cute cartoon character that was off in a flash everywhere he went. I thought it was sweet. I should have paid attention to the truth she was speaking.
Not that it would have changed my decision to marry him. But his road-runner enthusiasm for travel, adventure, discovery, and conquering enemy territory has caused more ongoing stress and conflict in our marriage than any of the other areas I mentioned earlier. (By the way, I love to be home.)
Our recent conflict began when I realized we were over-committed. Again. Somehow the schedule monster had eaten up more days than we realized and suddenly we were facing the enemy of miscommunication with no escape. Feelings of mistrust, lack of protection, lack of support, and anxiety resurfaced as we confronted the fact that I need more time at home than he does, but he needs me to go with him, and support him, and do life with him. Neither is wrong. It’s what we do with the clash of those colossal differences that matters.
Like peeling an onion
At the core of this conflict, and at the core of any other recurring conflict, is fear. For me it’s fear that I am not really valued for what is important to me. If I perceive that Dennis is constantly scheduling us to the brink, pushing me to my limits, then I come to believe he hasn’t heard me, that he doesn’t get it, and therefore that he doesn’t love me. At the same time, if I refuse to adapt, to grow, to risk the stress of following him, then he perceives that I haven’t heard what he needs, that I don’t get it, and therefore I don’t really care about him as a person.
It’s like peeling the layers of an onion, rather than declaring victory. Each time we clash over this issue, and others, we are in different circumstances in our lives. I needed margins for different reasons twenty years ago when I was parenting full time. He needed my partnership for different reasons, too. Each conversation can peel another layer off our individual coverings so that we can see ourselves and our spouse more clearly than we did before. Our perceptions of ourselves and of each other are vastly flawed. We forget that most of the time.
So while I don’t believe we declared victory this time, that we’ll never argue or disagree over travel ever again, I do believe we peeled away another layer. I see more clearly that I need to work on my attitude about following my husband, that I need to rejoice that my husband wants me with him, and that I should trust God with this situation that He has given me for my good.
During a recent snow storm, our office building closed for the day. Dennis and I decided to enjoy every minute of the glittering snow-covered day, so we donned our winter gear and went hiking in the woods. On the way back, which was all uphill, I paused to catch my breath. As we stood there panting, my husband said to me, “I’m not going to push you anymore.” It had nothing to do with the travel issues, but I realized in that promise that he heard my words to him. He allowed me to be who I was in that moment—needing a pause in the action when he didn’t.
Next time you are chopping an onion, remember that those layers represent more than a pungent cooking ingredient. To the one who perseveres in marriage, each layer pulled back takes you closer to the heart. Though often accompanied by tears, as happens with onions, the progress made is satisfying.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Forgiveness: What it all comes down to.

[Forgiveness] James MacDonald flicks the LED on to Matthew 6:14-15. Forgiveness/Unforgiveness is an important issue in my life and what is taught in the following is irradiant to the grave importance of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an option and if left to partial obedience, unforgiveness will mess you up. Read on and if you are convicted - repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.Matthew 6:14-15

“Let's start with this most obvious lesson...we must choose to forgive. Forgiveness is a decision I'm making. In Matthew 6:14–15 Jesus said, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, (don’t miss this) if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

"Now, sometimes a passage of scripture seems complicated as soon as you read it. That's not the case when we realize what Matthew 6:14–15 says. Jesus’ words are stunningly clear. Read them again above.

Do you get it? I mean, those are pretty serious verses! Not hard to understand - just hard to undertake. You read them and think, "that’s gonna leave a mark! I’m going to have to look again at how forgiving I am." That's nothing you want to be messing around about, or sort-of getting it right. The verses aren’t complicated - but they will definitely complicate your life if you are an un-forgiving person!

And it's not saying that you get saved by forgiving. It is saying that people who really are saved are forgiving people, increasingly so. Not perfectly, not entirely, but increasingly we are more and more forgiving. As the love of Christ penetrates our hearts more and more deeply and more and more genuinely, we just become more forgiving people. Forgiveness is one of the expected bi-products of genuine salvation.

You ought to be the most forgiving person that you work with. Out of all the people, when they talk about you, they're like, "Man, he's not a guy who holds grudges. He's just not someone who finds fault." "She doesn't try to make people pay, she just lets it go. She just moves on. She's not petty." "He's not a scorekeeper. He's just not like that. He's forgiving, that's what he is." That's what people ought to be saying about you. The more you get to know Jesus, the more it ought to be true in your life that you choose forgiveness."

James MacDonald

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Crystal-Clear Reason for Living

Objectifying the "Glory of God" often becomes extremely obscure and sometimes turns into a stumbling block for many. What many studiously diligent Christians and scholars discover is actually crystal-clear and even more awe-inspiring and motivation to draw closer to God.

The following from John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life offers just that lucidity your faith needs to grow closer and perhaps understand God more fully:

The Bible is crystal-clear: God created us for his glory. Thus says the Lord, "Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory" (Isaiah 43:6-7). Life is wasted when we do not live for the glory of God. And I mean all of life. It is all for his glory. That is why the Bible gets down into the details of eating and drinking. "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). We waste our lives when we do not weave God into our eating and drinking and every other part by enjoying and displaying him.

What does it mean to glorify God? It may get a dangerous twist if we are not careful. Glorify is like the word beautify. But beautify usually means "make something more beautiful than it is," improve its beauty. That is emphatically not what we mean by glorify in relation to God. God cannot be made more glorious or more beautiful than he is. He cannot be improved, "nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything" (Acts 17:25). Glorify does not mean add more glory to God.

[Glorify] is more like the word magnify. But here too we can go wrong. Magnify has two distinct meanings. in relation to God, one is worship and one is wickedness. You can magnify like a telescope or like a microscope. When you magnify like a microscope, you make something tiny look bigger than it is. A dust mite can look like a monster. Pretending to magnify God like that is wickedness [(because you're assuming God is tiny)]. But when you magnify like a telescope, you make something unimaginably great look like what it really is. With the Hubble Space Telescope, pinprick galaxies in the sky are revealed for the billion-star giants that they are. Magnifying God like that is worship [(because you know he is huge and you want to understand him)].

We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. In that night sky of this world God appears to most people, if at all, like a pinprick of light in a heaven of darkness. But he created us and called us to make him look like what he really is.

This is what it means to be created in the image of God. We are meant to image forth in the world what he is really like.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Soccer Gods

"You shall have no other gods before Me."
Exodus 20:3

Some people thought I was the best soccer player ever. After leading my brand new high-school and club soccer team to back-to-back appearances in the play off and semi-final game--never as a winner--I earned an invitation to the coveted Olympic Development Program (ODP) and Alabama College Showcase that would solidify a soccer scholarship to any soccer powerhouse in the nation.

Had I pursued this course I would have been well on my way to living my childhood dream. For as long as I could remember, soccer had been the focus of my life and often, my salvation. And now it was paying me back. Big time.

But strangely, just as I was reaching the pinnacle of athletic success, I slipped into an unexpected funk. I felt uncharacteristically empty and purposeless. After all my sacrifice, after all the incredible achievements (small in God's eyes and at this point, mine too), I couldn't seem to shake free from whatever was oppressing me.

Months passed without me being able to draw up enough energy for a single workout, as opposed to my previous era of five hour a day workouts.

On several afternoons, I summoned the strength to pick up a basketball and take a few shots on the goal. Within a my matter of minutes, discouraged by my lack of precision, I put the ball away for a long time. The very thing I had once hoped to be my ticket to success had eaten me alive.

Idols can do that, you know. There's nothing wrong with soccer--or business or music or writing or entertainment or decorating--but when something becomes the focus of all your dreams and attention and energy, it becomes an idol in your life. For all intents and purposes, you begin worshiping it instead of God.

Nothing can satisfy us like God. And nothing should replace Him in our affections.

The following thoughts often caution my idolistic/idealistic intentions: How many false gods could you name in your life today? What are you hoping they'll do for you?

I pray for Abba to protect my heart from being deceived and to give you and me an overwhelming desire to worship Him and Him only.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Yes, Jesus is the man...

Jesus was fully man and fully God: at birth; at baptism; at death:

1 John 5:5-12
"This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with water only, but with the water and with the blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness because the Spirit is the truth, for there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and the three are in agreement. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."

There is a group of people that claim to be the witnesses of God, they even call themselves Jehovah's Witnesses. And they claim to be propagating the truth that God wants revealed. They claim to be echoing the witnesses of God. But the truth that God once revealed, the true witness of God is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate. And the so-called Jehovah's Witnesses are liars because they deny the very thing to which God gives in the New Testament, summed up in the text I just read. The Jehovah's Witness religious movement says that Jesus may be called "a" god, small "g," but not THE God.

They say He is mighty but not the Almighty.
They say He was created by Jehovah, He is not a member of the Trinity, there is no Trinity.
Elohim, which is a plural word, means plural in majesty, not in person.
They say that the Son during His pre-human state was really an angel by the name of Michael.
They further say that the Son did not even possess immortality. He was created and created to die.
They teach that when Christ was born of Mary, He ceased being a spirit person all together and became nothing more than a human being. The Jesus that walked on earth had only one nature and that was the nature of a man. He was a perfect man, the
equivalent of Adam before the Fall.
The Jehovah's Witnesses also teach that Jesus became, or took on, the role of Messiah when He was baptized.
It was there that God made this human being His spiritual Son. And so He was first a created angel, then a created man, and finally the spiritual Son.
The Jehovah's Witnesses deny that Jesus physically, literally arose from the dead. He was not raised as a human son, He was only raised as an immortal spirit, His body never came back to life. In fact, once He had sacrificed His body, they say, He could never get it back.
Judge Rutherford, the demon-inspired man who invented the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, said that the body of Jesus was disposed of and God who knows where it is will bring it back and put it on exhibit in some millennial museum.
They say Christ once a mortal angel, then a mortal man, and finally an immortal spirit will live on forever as a spirit being.

And from the way their writings are understood, has regained the original name of Michael. He is back enjoying angelic life.
Well you can see from this mish-mash that these people are not Jehovah's witnesses.
They are not witnesses of the true God.
They do not echo God's witness.
They do not echo God's testimony concerning His Son.
They are liars and they are representatives of the father of lies, they are the devil's witnesses.

And they have many old heresies reframed in their system, very old heresies that come from ancient Gnosticism. This kind of stuff lies behind what John says. This is part of the developing of Gnosticism. We've seen how they believe that spirit was good and matter was evil, and so they denied the full doctrine of the incarnation that God, the good Spirit, could ever take up permanent residence in a human being, was unacceptable to the dualism of their thinking. They did allow the Christ's Spirit to come down at the baptism, stay awhile and then go away. They could not involve God in flesh in any permanent way and certainly not in the sufferings of death.

They thought that at the baptism this divine Christ descended, came into the man Jesus who was simply human...this is part of what the Jehovah's Witnesses say today...they think that the Christ's Spirit came into Him in the imagery of the dove and then for a few years Jesus brought the message of God to man. And then the Christ's Spirit departed and only the man was crucified.

So deity, whatever form of deity it was, what ever form of Spirit being it was, left Him before the cross. And so His death on the cross was not a God/Man death, it was not a death that atoned for our sins at all. It was just another man dying another death. And the best we can draw out of Jesus is from His baptism until His Christ's Spirit left Him to follow the ethical teachings that He gave us.

They destroy because they despise the efficacious substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Any heresy, any heresy that tampers with the death of Christ, the blood of Christ as God bearing the sins of men is satanic. John points that out in chapter 2 of this epistle. "He Himself, Jesus Christ the righteous, is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world." And then again as I read earlier in 4:10, "He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

He came not just to teach us good things and then die as another man, He came to offer Himself as an atoning sacrifice, satisfying God for us. And so, John says this one who came, Jesus Christ, was simultaneously from His birth to His death and forevermore the man Jesus and God. Syrinthis(???) who came up with this, I guess, originally and his followers are dead. Their creed is no factor today. But all who deny the incarnation, all who deny the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ whether totally or partially, all who pervert that great truth are heretics undermining the basis of our salvation. If Christ did not take His divine nature to the cross, He cannot reconcile us to God. If He wasn't fully God He could not and did not conquer sin or death for us. "But He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Some help from Pastor John MacArthur helps in clarifying God's Witness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Road to Chaplainhood

Here we go again. We begin yet another season of family separation as I prepare to head out to pre-deployment training at the National Training Center (NTC), in Fort Irwin California. We reunite in February, until the end of March, when the unit's deployment begins. It is a sad time every time separation is necessary.
Shifting gears, we've shared with you our desire culminating to Army Chaplaincy. We are continuing to work through the processes necessary to achieve our calling especially as we will need to transition out of Active Duty to University. There is quite a bit of leg work required but we are almost there. It is an exciting time and we are doing as much as we can to ensure a first time selection. However, it is not guaranteed but we rest all things in the hand of The Lord.
We petition your prayers for the three of us to remain diligent in growing and maturing and serving. Thelma continues to excel in being a spouse and mother as well as employee. At home, Noah receives his basic tutelage in music, reading, soccer, coolness and the basics of Scripture, as he prepares for kindergarten this year. Thelma continues to work for her company, Ready Mortgage Corporation doing what she does best, accounting. In addition to that she's able to help out with our dear friends' mission organization, Amiela. She also is completing her Accounting degree and CPA.
Our plate is full and our cup runneth over. We are excited for this year and all our anticipations. We will keep you informed on how we progress. Thanks for reading and praying.