Monday, May 26, 2008

Sacrifices

I hope everyone had a blessed weekend; as well as a day of remembrance today. But, just like any “holiday” it mustn’t simply be an annual ritual. The meaning behind holidays like these should be remembered year round; for the sacrifices continue and the memories of fallen heroes live on. And while one can never repay the ones who have sacrificed so much, we can honor them with our respect and most importantly, our prayers. Lift them up to Jesus and pray for safety, protection, and that every soldier has the assurance that if he should fall, he will see the glory of heaven.

When thinking about such great sacrifices, it just leaves me so awestruck because the great love that rests in the heart of someone so willing to lay down their life for another is so immeasurably incomprehensible to me. It’s hard to put into words my thanks and gratitude.

It’s also hard to bear the fact that there are those that don’t honor such sacrifices and just go on with their lives without recognizing the fact that they wouldn’t even be living if someone else had not died. Every soldier that has ever fought a war to defend our blessed freedom needn’t have died in vain, and neither should Jesus. We shouldn’t forget that ULTIMATE SACRIFICE!!! I was reminded of that as I read a blog from my friend Pastor Rick today. I encourage you to read it. Though, I warn you, he doesn’t sugarcoat things so read at your own risk of being offended. ;)

I pray that you will be moved to give thanks for all those that have given up so much for you. Thank God for the soliders, and for His Son. Thank God that we live in a blessed nation such as this, and pray for this country of ours as well!! In fact, here is a very special website I want to share with you: http://www.presidentialprayerteam.org/ As we all know, the future of our nation will take one turn or another come election time. Therefore, as we regularly pray for our leaders, let us also lift up this election and pray that we will have good God-fearing leaders in power. We live in a time where the moral fabric of our nation is unraveling, and if we elect wicked authorities, our nation will come apart at the seams. So please, visit the site, sign up, and pray!!

God bless all of you!! God bless our troops!! God bless America!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Getting Off Your Donkey

Today’s sermon came from the text of Luke 10:25-37. It’s the story of “the good Samaritan” that Jesus told in response to the greatest commandments and to being asked “who is my neighbor?” Jesus used the parable to illustrate the principle of loving God and others.

Chad delved deep into the details of this parable (which I recommend hearing for yourself when the sermon is uploaded on our church website). The man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead was in desperate need of help. However, no one seemed to be willing to come to his aid. Chad explained some of the reasons why the priest and Levite passed him by. Some of the reasons include the laws of that time. Touching, or coming near a dead body (if they assumed he was dead), wasn’t something they were permitted to do. Their SHADDOW wasn’t even allowed to fall on it or they would be “unclean.” So, that was one of the many reasons they “passed by on the other side.” They also may have been on their way to the temple to perform obligatory duties required of religious officials and therefore, couldn’t be “bothered.”

So, after being ignored by two people, a “good Samaritan” came along and showed mercy and compassion on the injured man. Chad said that the fact that Jesus used a Samaritan for the hero of the story likely would have caused a gasp in the crowd. And, the fact that he called the Samaritan “good” would have really made it a hard pill to swallow because Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along and had a great dislike for each other. Chad said that saying “good Samaritan” to them would be like saying “good terrorist” to us.

So, this presumed “enemy” took the time to stop and help a person in need. He had the characteristics of the agape love we’re all supposed to have; the selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love that is of God (and that IS God) because GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:16). Chad said that agape love is indiscriminate, bold, inconvenient, risky, time consuming, expensive, and even hurtful to one’s social status. We find all of those elements at work here:

Love is Indiscriminate

True love doesn’t discriminate. The Samaritan helped the man regardless of religion, race, personal opinions/judgments, etc. He didn’t let rules, prejudice, or hate get in the way. Unlike the other two, the Samaritan didn’t buy into any possible excuses for why he couldn’t help. He had mercy and compassion on the man; like we are supposed to have on all people, whether friend or foe (Matthew 5:43-48).

Love is BOLD and Risky

The injured man had been robbed, and the Samaritan had to be bold and courageous enough to possibly even risk his own life to help him . The whole thing could have been a trap; staged in order to entice a new victim. Though, even with all these possible dangers, love won out!! Love is worth the risk! Love others even when it doesn’t make sense!! (Though, I don’t think we should “throw caution to the wind.” Let the Holy Spirit be the discerning and deciding factor).

Love is Inconvenient, Time Consuming, and Expensive

The Samaritan probably had other plans for the day, but he took the time to be “bothered” by someone else’s needs. In order to help, he had to stop, get off of his donkey, and go to the man. He took time to bandage and mend his wounds. Then, he put the man on his donkey and took him to an inn to take care of him further. That takes a lot of time, energy, and effort!! He had to come out of his comfort zone and give of himself in order to help. He even paid for all the expenses involved with the man’s care!!

Love Hurts One’s Social Status

Associating with people that we, or society, deems as “lesser” will hurt our position in the world’s eyes. It’s for that very reason that some refrain from loving/helping because of the fear of “what will people think of me if I‘m seen with him/her?” Both the priest and the Levite have a good rung on the social status ladder. They couldn’t be bothered with the poor victimized man and likely had higher business to attend to. Besides, they couldn’t “break the law” to be around, or even seen near, a possible dead body. Though, in Matthew 5:20, Jesus said: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Love goes beyond rules and laws. That’s why Jesus didn’t mind reaching out to the tax-collectors, prostitutes, and other “sinners” that everyone was prohibited from associating with. Therefore, Jesus’ “social status” was tarnished in the eyes of some because he dared to love the unlovable and broke their rules of etiquette. Loving God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (and loving your neighbor as yourself) are the greatest commandments. They go above any “don’t eat this…don‘t touch that…..don’t associate with…” kinds of things. Mercy and compassion overrules them all, and that is why the Samaritan helped and the others didn’t. He knew that his “neighbor” was ANYONE in need. That principle outweighed anyone’s opinion of him for helping someone possibly considered “lesser.”

So, who are you going to “get off your donkey” for? What opportunities do you have to agape love someone? How will you contribute to God’s Kingdom on Earth? Our communities, and our very lives, will be transformed by the every day opportunities that are acted upon by every day people willing to love and help their neighbors in need. Chad said that to the degree in which we embrace the essence of agape love will be the degree in which we have transformation. Can you imagine if everyone just started doing everything in an agape way? It would start a chain reaction, like the ones in these TV ads. I don’t know if you have seen them before, but I just love them because they beautifully show that even in small ways, a person can and will make an impact!! (Click here and here to watch!!).

In addition to those videos, I would also like to share one that the church showed us today. It is a video of Michael W. Smith advocating for Compassion; a child sponsorship program. At church, it was mentioned that statistically, 1 in 100 will sponsor a child in need. 1 in 100?!! That’s 1%!! Come on!! We can do better than that people!! Let’s have the “each one, reach one” mentality!! Let’s not shy away from the pleading little faces because we’re too afraid that we’ll be convicted to help (which we should be!!). ;) Have the guts to look at this video and consider sponsorship (and if you already do sponsor a child, GOD BLESS YOU!). We are a blessed and abundant nation, can‘t we share the wealth? Can’t everyone help AT LEAST ONE CHILD in the name of Jesus?? If we all did that, we would reduce and eliminate poverty DRASTICALLY!!

So…….did those videos motivate you to love and help your “neighbors”? I know that there’s a lot of food for thought in this blog, but hopefully, it will speak to your heart as much as it has spoken to mine. Today’s sermon is already having a transforming impact and chain reaction. I know this for sure, because it has already affected me and other brothers and sisters at church today!

I pray that we’ll all love others the agape way by first getting connected with God (who IS agape love!!). When we know, share, and display that love from God, others will see and experience Him. John 13:35 says: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” It’s not hard to start loving; just do what Chad said and “start from where you’ve been.” Give to others what you have been given! Be part of someone else’s testimony by sharing yours!! You never know what impact you are going to have on someone! Make the most of every opportunity God places before you; even if it’s as simple as helping someone in your own home!!

God bless you all!! I agape love all of you!!! OXOXO

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Where's The Beef" In The Caspian Sandwich?

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the expression, “where’s the beef?” It is an expression my Dad says I always liked to repeat when I was young Apparently, I had gotten it off of a commercial and enjoyed saying it over and over again until my parents were thoroughly annoyed! LOL
Well, now, I am hoping to annoy the makers of “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” as I rightfully ask, “WHERE’S THE BEEF?!!” For MONTHS I anticipated the release of the new movie, and much to my dismay (and several other Narnia/C.S. Lewis fans) they barbarically ripped the guts out of the original brilliant story, which was filled with spiritual wisdom and concepts. They totally changed, rearranged, and re-invented an awe-inspiring masterpiece!! Why? That’s the question that I, other reviewers, and even PluggedIn Online (a ministry of Focus on the Family) are pondering/discussing.

The last movie (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) was adequately done. So, what went wrong with this one? Granted, movies are never the same as the books. I fully expected for a few things to be omitted or changed, but not for the jewels and treasures of the story to be so horribly watered down and even disregarded!! It was disappointing to say the least!! What they did was give us a bland sandwich of nutritionally stripped white enriched bread with only a bit of meat the size of a half-dollar inbetween the slices! There was scarcely any substance at all!!

So, what started out as a good company (Walden Media) has obviously been corrupted by partnering with Disney and learning their ways. Over the years, Disney’s quality has declined and become nothing more than peddling sub-standard entertainment full of distasteful bathroom humor and sight gags, violence, innuendos, and godless agendas. So, “you are who you hang out with” and now, Walden Media is now showing the effects of what happens when you shake hands with the now liberal and corrupt Mickey Mouse, so to speak.

This NINO of a movie, (Narnia in name only) is filled with dramatic war sequences more than anything; something of which isn’t heavily concentrated on in the book. Sure, there were a few battles (one of which they did accurately portray) but they also added some of their own. And to think, they could have saved so much money on all the costly effects, extras, and choreography if they just did it the way C.S. Lewis had written it!! But, spend money to make money right? That was clearly their focus. They made it “Hollywood” and cared nothing for the true essence of the story. How can they expect to profit if they dishonor the principles and character on which the stories of Narnia are centered on? Instead of the thought-provoking, wisdom filled moments we read about with Lucy, Aslan, Caspian, and all the others, we are fed countless images of violence and battles.

Should we take what we can get? After all, seeing the movie might very well indeed inspire others to read the originals (as it did with me when I seen the first movie). And, the movie did have SOME original elements to it. And, one particular thing that they added did carry some spiritual weight and that was when they showed the witch being “called up” to come back and take control. While waiting to be freed, she spoke to Peter and tried to lure him by telling him that he knew he couldn’t do it on his own. Well, just like Satan, she was twisting the truth. While of course he couldn’t do things on his own, it wasn’t the aid of the witch that he should have been seeking. It was something he fully realized once Edmund smashed the glass and put an end to that nonsense and Peter once again saw the carving of Aslan on the wall behind the broken glass. Most definitely he couldn’t do things on his own; none of us can. We all need “Aslan” (meaning Jesus - that’s who Aslan represents).

So, if for the sake of these precious few eye-opening moments, I will recommend this movie. However, if you want the real “meat” of the story, read the book!! In fact, read ALL SEVEN of the books in the series!! I guarantee you, it will be a wonderful experience!! It TRULY enriched my life and touched my heart in ways I never dreamed. And, I was pleasantly surprised at how deep things were and that things I learned from the book helped me to understand the mind of Christ better. It’s hard to explain, but I will try to at a later date. It was my intention to read the books all over again, take notes, and then blog about them. I started on it, but never completed it yet. It’s yet another “unfinished blog project” of mine. ;) LOL Though, I do hope to work on that sometime soon (though how “soon” is still to be determined). Until then, read them for yourselves! Not only is it entertaining, but it is thought provoking and beautiful!! The books are short and I read all of them, in order, in less than two weeks!! They are about 200 pages per book. You won’t be able to put them down!!

My greatest hope is that those making these movies (and yes, they are going to make all of the books into movies!) will hear the words of those who appreciate the beauty and integrity of the original stories. I would hope that they will learn from their mistakes and that the next movie will be truer to the essence. Don’t underestimate your audience!! You don’t have to jazz it up and pump it full of glitz and violence, like every other run-of-the-mill movie out there, in order for your movie to sell!! Stick with the story, and you’ll earn enough to keep making more!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I Wish I Hadn't Read This....

This is one of those things you wish you hadn't read. However, I am one of the many pro-life bloggers that American Life League sends their media releases to. So, as hard as it is to stomach, I am posting the latest news from ALL. I can't bear to even describe it to you, so you'll just have to read it for yourself. It's just one of the many things that I am tired of hearing, because it shouldn't be something we have to live with and read about. Maybe one day, we won't have to. I pray that it's soon!!! I pray that someday, all life will be valued and protected. I pray that those who have been lied to, violated, and robbed of the lives craddled in their wombs will have complete and total healing and restoration and that others will be spared from having to endure the pain and grief they have endured. I pray that soon, I won't have to read/hear stories like this and of women who tell me, "I wish I had known....no one told me.....etc." May we all pray for that day to come!!

MORE DEAD BABIES FOUND IN MICHIGAN DUMPSTERS

WASHINGTON, D.C. (08 May 2008) – Shortly after the gruesome discovery of aborted babies in a dumpster behind Dr. Alberto Hodari's Womancare abortion facility in early March, Citizens for a Pro-Life Society discovered the mutilated bodies of aborted babies in another dumpster at Women's Advisory Clinic in Livonia, Michigan, owned by Dr. Reginald Sharpe.

"It is indeed representative of the evil times in which we live that we must stop and take time to grieve the loss of children whose parents clearly believed they were disposable in much the same way that rotting garbage would be," said Brown "America is losing her soul."

The bodies of at least six aborted babies were discovered in trash bags containing McDonald's food wrappers, Olive Garden crackers, medical records and bloody medical waste. Following an April 30 investigation by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Sharpe received only a warning and no fines, as was the case with Hodari.

"Dr. Monica Miller's most recent discovery is not only bone chilling, but a somber reminder of the total disregard for the rights of those human beings who have not yet been born," said Judie Brown, president of American Life League. "We are told that the bodies of the babies found behind Reginald Sharpe's abortion facility are legally defined as mere biohazardous waste and are thus treated as such. After all, that is the law."

Earlier this week, Bishop John Quinn of the Detroit diocese offered a funeral Mass for the 25 aborted babies found behind Hodari's facility in Lathrup Village. "We are grateful to Bishop Quinn for giving these babies the dignity and respect they were denied when they were tossed in the trash," said Brown. "We pray that the remains of these most recent victims will be treated with equal respect."

American Life League was cofounded in 1979 by Judie Brown. It is the largest grassroots Catholic pro-life organization in the United States and is committed to the protection of all innocent human beings from the moment of creation to natural death. For more information or media inquiries, please contact Michael Hichborn at 540.659.7900.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Citizens for a Pro-Life Society: "More Aborted babies Found in Dumpster" (07 May 2008)http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vd3d3LnByb2xpZmVzb2NpZXR5LmNvbS9kaXNwbGF5cGFnZXMvcGFnZXMvaG9tZS5hc3B4

PRO-LIFE pulse: Another MI Abortionist Trashes Babies in Dumpster (07 May 2008)http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vd3d3LmppbGxzdGFuZWsuY29tL2FyY2hpdmVzLzIwMDgvMDUvYnJlYWtpbmdfbmV3c19hLmh0bWxtb3Jl

Catholic News Agency: "Bishop Quinn to hold memorial Mass for 25 aborted babies" (03 May 2008)http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vY2F0aG9saWNuZXdzYWdlbmN5LmNvbS9uZXcucGhwP249MTI1Mzk=

Reuters: "ALL: Throw Babies in Dumpster, Get a Slap on the Wrist???" (27 March 2008)http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vd3d3LnJldXRlcnMuY29tL2FydGljbGUvcHJlc3NSZWxlYXNlL2lkVVMxNTMzNDErMjctTWFyLTIwMDgrUFJOMjAwODAzMjc=

American Life League: "Worthless Bodies in a Wicked World: Hodari Pays No Price" (27 March 2008)http://www.all.org/article_printerfriendly.php?id=11340&PHPSESSID=f06470a2e092654b9b8e89517fe2b09e

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Restoring Oasis

Today, Craig Cortright shared an awesome message with us prior to the baptism of several people. I just love watching baptisms, and the messages connected with them always speak to my heart.

Craig related the baptisms to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). We all go through “fiery furnaces” in our lives and God is with us through it all! We are never alone!! God never leaves us or forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He walks through the fires with us, just like He did with the three men in the story. So, fear not!! He loves us and we belong to Him, and He’s always by our side helping us walk through our hardships (Isaiah 43).

Jesus is our source for helping us wander through the wilderness of life. Jesus is our living water and He restores and refreshes us. Craig effectively described the difference between “living water” and “dead water.” He said the Jews knew exactly what both of those terms were. Living water described the pure, fresh, and good water that one got from a waterfall, stream, or pure source. Dead water was water that came from stagnant pools, ponds, or even cisterns. Craig said that they used to have a cistern as his house when he was young. It was water collected in a large cement hole that came from the rain water collected from the spout. Isn’t that nice? Can you imagine drinking or bathing in such water? Craig said that sometimes when it hadn’t rained in a while, and the water wasn’t so fresh, there would be “things” growing in it. He said his Dad even had to fish a dead rat out of it one time. How lovely!!

Craig explained the concepts of living and dead water so all of us could understand what God was saying when He was using those terms in Jeremiah 2:11-13: “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

As evidenced by the scriptures, living and dead water was a metaphor used to describe one’s relationship with God. Living water is God’s substance and provision and dead water is the cheap substitutes of this world. Craig showed us a quote of John MacArthur’s that describes what Jesus’ living water is: “Salvation in all its fullness, and the ability and desire to live an obedient life that glorifies God.” I like that quote, particularly the first few words that affirm that living water is “salvation in all its fullness.” Jesus said that He wanted us to have an abundant and full life, and that comes from the living water that He provides. If we live on nothing but dead water from cisterns, how full is our life going to be? Do we really think that gunky, stagnant, dead water is going to satisfy us? Who in their right mind would choose that water over pure, fresh, clean, and thirst quenching water?

Sadly, many of us drink that cistern water. We do it because we are “looking for an earthly need to provide a spiritual need.” It’s much like the situation of the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus. Five husbands hadn’t fulfilled her deepest need, and Jesus knew that. No person or thing could possibly fulfill and satisfy her in the way she was most longing for. That is why Jesus offered her His living water (John 4:10).

We are all guilty of turning to things other than God to fulfill our deepest needs. Craig said there is a “restlessness” and that word really resonated with me. There is a “restlessness” when you aren’t satisfied, content, and at peace. That is why we all must spend time in our own private oasis of living water with Jesus. This world is a wilderness and all around us are temptations for “dead water.” But, refreshment and restoration is what we really need.

Thinking about that concept reminds me of something my friend Phil once told me. Phil loves to ride his bicycle for long distances, and of course, that’s a monumental accomplishment - not everyone can ride twenty miles or more at a time!! He said that he often eats salads because the nutrients in them strengthen and replenish what he has lost. Phil understands he needs to renew his strength after such long expenditures. He doesn‘t foolishly think that he can just keep riding long distances like that without proper nutrition and rest.

That’s the mentality we all need to have. If we are to keep going on in this journey of life, we need to replenish our strength and nourish ourselves!! Where does our strength come from? Our strength comes from God, our oasis!! Spend time in the cool of the pool resting and relaxing. Drink up the living water and let it nourish the depths of your soul!! Let the peace and wisdom that Jesus brings to you restore you with the strength you need to keep trekking on the path of life!! Forsake the cisterns of dead water and pass them by!! Go to the pure source!!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Important FYI's

I just have a few FYI’s to pass along…….

First off, today is the National Day of Prayer. I know there are events going on everywhere around the nation. So, find an event near you and participate or at the very least, just take some extra time to pray…..for this nation, for family and friends, everything!! Let’s all pray together and let them rise up to heaven!!

Tomorrow is the next call for life. PLEASE, get involved with that!! Just a few minutes a month, ONCE A MONTH!! Simple enough isn’t it? AND, it can and will make a difference!!

I am also honored to announce that the YouTube video I uploaded for pro-life t-shirt day on Tuesday has gotten over 100 hits so far. In addition to that, Rock for Life/American Life League is featuring it on their YouTube channel as well as their website. Here is the video from YouTube that they placed on their channel. Also, here is the link to the video on the American Life League home page (or by clicking here as well). It’s truly a blessing to be able to spread the word and hopefully, this short little video will make an impact!! That’s what I am praying for!!
Well, that’s about all I have to say!! God bless you all!!