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The Search for Significance by Robert McGee

This book was a recommended read before a Christian counseling session. I like the pattern this books takes, it talks a whole chapter to take about an issue that people have (such as guilt), then takes a whole chapter to talk about a principle of the Christian theology that counters it. This version also included a workbook in the back. Here are the items I underlined:

When Christ told His disciples, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32 KJV), He
was referring not only to an intellectual assent to the truth but also to the application of truth in the most basic issues of life: our goals, our motives, and our sense of self-worth.
Perhaps we want to be “good” Christians, and believing that good Christians don’t have problems, or feelings like ours, we deny the existence of our emotions.
Some of us have deep emotional and spiritual scars resulting from the neglect, abuse, and manipulation that often accompany living in a dysfunctional family (alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, absent father or mother, excessive anger, verbal and/or physical abuse, and so on), but all of us bear the effects of our own sinful nature and the imperfections of others.
Many of us mistakenly believe that God doesn’t want us to be honest about our lives. We think that He will be upset with us if we tell Him how we really feel. But the Scriptures tell us that God does not want us to be superficial in our relationship with Him, with others, or in our own lives. David wrote, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place” (Ps 51:6 NIV) The Lord desires truth and honesty at the deepest level and wants us to experience His love, forgiveness, and power in all areas of our lives. Experiencing His love does not mean that all of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors will be pleasant and pure. It means that we can be real, feeling pain and joy, love and anger, confidence and confusion. The Psalms give us tremendous insight about what it means to be honest with the Lord.
One reason for this spiritual and emotional inertia is a sense of hopelessness. For various reasons (family background, past experiences, poor modeling), we may have negative presumptions that determine our receptivity to love and truth. In some cases, God’s light may have revealed our pain and wall of defenses, but it may not yet have penetrated to our deepest thoughts and beliefs about ourselves.
I find it amazing to discover Christians who believe (at least intellectually) that value, purpose, and significance are unimportant to life. These individuals ususally have deadened themselves to their own feelings to the point that they have many relational problems they do not even recognize.
From life’s outset, we find ourselves on the prowl, searching to satisfy some inner, unexplained yearning. Our hunger causes us to search for people who will love us. Our desire for acceptance pressures us to perform to gain praise from others. We strive for success, driving our minds and bodies harder and further, hoping that because of our sweat and sacrifice others will appreciate us more.
Like falling on a jagged rock, these comments hurt deeply. Lisa began to doubt herself and wonder if she were capable of building a successful marriage and family. Feeling like a failure, she reasoned that perhaps she deserved a broken marriage; perhaps her problems with Brad were her fault and God was punishing her for her sins.
Their lives began to reflect that strange combination of hopelessness and compulsion.
John 10:10 also reminds us of how much God treasures His creation, in that Christ came so that men might experience abundant life. However, as Christians, we need to realize that this abundant life is lived in a real world filled with pain, rejection, and failure. Therefore, experiencing the abundant life God intends for us does not mean that our lives will be problem-free. On the contrary, life itself is a series of problems that often act as obstacles to our search for significance, and the abundant life is the experience of God’s love, forgiveness, and power in the midst of these problems.
However, it often seems that unsuspecting believers are the last to know this battle is occurring, and they don’t know that Christ has ultimately won the war. They are surprised and confused by difficulties, thinking that the Christian life is a playground, not a battlefield. As Christians, our fulfillment in this life depends not on our skills to avoid life’s problems but on our ability to apply God’s specific solutions to those problems. An accurate understanding of God’s truth is the first step toward discovering our significance and worth.
One of the tragic implications of this event is that man lost his secure status with God and began to struggle with feelings of arrogance, inadequacy, and despair, valuing the opinions of others more than the truth of God. This robbed man of his true self-worth and put him on a continual, but fruitless, search for significance through his success and the approval of others.
Teaching that man has meaning totally apart from God, humanism leaves morality, justice, and behavior to the discretion of “enlightened” man and encourages people to worship man and nature rather than God. Living without God’s divine truth, humanity sinks lower and lower in depravity, blindly following a philosophy that intends to heighten the dignity of man but instead lowers him to the level of animals.
If we base our worth solidly on the truths of God’s Word, then our behavior will often reflect His love, grace, and power. But if we base our worth on our abilities or the fickle approval of others, then our behavior will respect the insecurity, fear, and anger that come from such instability.
He understood the agony his wife had carried for so many years and lover her in spite of her past. It was Stacy who could not cope at this point. Unable to accept Ron’s forgiveness and knowing she had failed according to society’s standards, Stacy felt unworthy of his love. She refused to forgive herself and chose to leave her husband. In this case, Stacy fell victim to one of Satan’s most effective lies: Those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be blamed and condemned.
Perfectionists can be quite vulnerable to serious mood disorders and often anticipate rejection when they believe they haven’t met the standards they are trying so hard to attain. Therefore, perfectionists tend to react defensively to criticism and demand to be in control of most situations they encounter. Because they are usually more competent than most, perfectionists see nothing wrong with their compulsions. “I just like to see things done well,” they claim. There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with doing things well; the problem is that perfectionists usually base their self-worth on their ability to accomplish a goal. Therefore, failure is a thread and is totally unacceptable to them.
The focus of the Christian life should be on Christ, not on self-imposed regulations. Our experience of Christ’s lordship is dependent on our moment-by-moment attention to His instruction, not on our own regimented schedule.
Avoiding risks may seem comfortable, but it severely limits the scope of our creative self-expression, and service to God.
…the experience of many parents who have pleaded with a child to try harder, not realizing that the child cannot risk trying harder because he or she would then have no excuse if he or she failed.
If people believe they will fail, they have no reason to exert any effort. The pain they endure for their passivity seems relatively minor and acceptable compared to the agony of genuinely trying and failing.
There is nothing quite as miserable as being angry at yourself, having self-hatred. Unfortunately, your anger is not limited to yourself but it also directed toward God. This does nothing more than alienate, isolate, and destroy the potential hope that you could receive something from God. It is not that He is not prepared to help you. It is that your anger keeps you from receiving that help. As long as we operate according to Satan’s lies, we are susceptible to the fear of failure. Our personal experience of this fear is determined by the difference between our performance standards and our ability to meet those standards.
Either He really knows who you are or He doesn’t. Playing with words this way keeps us from experiencing the reality of who we are. It also dishonors who God is. The second question is, if you think of yourself differently than God thinks of you, who is mistaken, you or God? How often do we allow our minds to overrule what God says is true? Keep in mind, you were made by and for God. He has placed within you needs that only He can meet. If we try to have these needs met by another person or persons, we will end up frustrated, angry, and unfulfilled.
Some of us only know our faith as a series of rules or steps. In order for you to experience what Christ has provided through justification, you must receive it through your relationships with Him, not be performing some ritual.
As we grow in our understanding of His unconditional love and acceptance, we will be better able to grasp that His discipline is prompted by care, not cruelty. We will also be increasingly able to perceive the contrast between the joys of living for Christ and the destructive nature of sin.
In today’s society, we have lost the concept of doing something because it is the right thing to do. Instead, we do things in exchange for some reward or favor, or to avoid punishment.
We obey God because:
1) Christ’s love motivates us to live for Him
2) Sin is destructive and should be avoided.
3) Our Father lovingly disciplines us for wrongdoing.
4) His commands for us are good.
5) We will receive eternal rewards for obedience
6) He is worthy of our obedience
He longed for the approval of others and believed that by agreeing to their every wish he would win that approval.
Many people have admitted that their experimentation with drugs or sex is reaction to their need to belong.
“The deep need of a man is the need to overcome separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness.”
For the most part, our modern society has responded inadequately to rejection and loneliness. Our response has been outer-directed, meaning that we try to copy the customs, dress, ideas, and behavioral patterns of a particular group, allowing the consensus of the group to determine what is correct for us. But conforming to a group will not fully provide the security we are so desperately seeking.

… rejection and guilt are only effective motivations as people are near us. This is why certain parental techniques of guilt motivation produce results only until the child matures and gains more freedom. With freedom, the child is able to remove himself or herself physically from the parents. Unrestrained, the child then can do as he or she pleases.

They may interact with others, and they may be considered socially adept because they know how to make friends easily; but their friends never really know them because they hide behind a wall of words, smiles, and activities. These people are usually quite lonely in the midst of all their so-called friends.
Can God accept a person who is unacceptable (because of sin) or does He have to make that person completely acceptable (through salvation) first?
Our unconditional acceptance in Christ is a profound, life-changing truth. Salvation is not simply a ticket to heaven. It is the beginning of dynamic new relationship with God.
Often, we look only to other believers rather than to Christ Himself. We learn to use the right Christian words, claim divine power and guidance, and organize programs, and yet so often, our spiritual facade lacks depth and substance. Our spiritual activities become human efforts lacking the real touch of the Master. In effect, we live a lie.
God intends for parents to model His character to their children.
Many of us, however, have not receive this parental model of God’s character. On an extremely wide spectrum, some of us have had relatively healthy relationships with our parents while other have experience various forms of neglect, condemnation, and manipulation. Still others have suffered the deeper wounds of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or abandonment. The greater the degree of dysfunction (or poor modeling) in a family, the greater the potential for emotional, spiritual, and relational wounds. Put another way, the poorer the parental modeling of God’s love, forgiveness, and power, the greater our difficulty in experiencing and applying these characteristics in our lives.
Those who have receive poor parental modeling need new models – loving Christian friends to experience the love and grace of God. Through His body of believers, God often provides us with models of His love so that our perception of His character can be slowly reshaped into one that is more accurate, resulting in a healthier relationship with Him. Then our deep emotional, spiritual, and relational wounds can begin to heal, and we can more fully experience God’s unconditional love. Some of us are already involved in strong relationships with people who are understanding and patient with us; some of us haven’t yet been able to cultivate relationships like these, and we are still looking.
We must first understand that while God often demonstrates His love and affirmation for us through believers and nonbelievers alike, His desire that our relationships with others will enable us to know Him more fully. His work through others, is, in part, to serve as a channel by which he can better understand His divine love and acceptance of us. Sadly, we are all prone to miss His message and mistake His messenger(s) as the source of our fulfillment. When this misperception is carried to an extreme, we can fall into emotional dependency…
Healthy relationships are turned outward rather than inward. Healthy relationships encourage individuality rather than conformity and are concerned with independence rather than emotional dependence. Healthy relations point one’s focus to the Lord and pleasing Him rather than toward the friendship and pleasing one another.
Pray that God will guide you to relationships that will encourage you to be honest, practice the truth of His Word, affirm you, and thereby help you develop an appropriate love for yourself and compel you to focus on Him as the gracious provide or your needs.
We tend to make two major errors when we punish others for their failures. The first is that we condemn people not only for genuine sin but also for their mistakes.
A second major error we often make by condemning others is believing that we are godly agents of condemnation.
We are correct in recognizing that sin is reprehensible and deserves condemnation, yet we have not been license by God to punish others for their sins.
Beginning with the eldest, all of the accusers walked away as they remembered their own sins (John 8:3-9). In light of their own sinfulness, they no longer saw fit to condemn the sins of another.
…if others are rude but never realized it because we passively accept their behavior in an attempt to avoid upsetting them, at least two things usually happen: We develop resentment toward them, and they never have to come to terms with their negative impact on others. They then miss an important opportunity to change, and we effectually prolong their hurtful behavior.
Because He is holy, God’s aversion to sin is manifested in righteous anger. However, God is not only righteously indignant about sin, He is also infinately loving. In His holiness, God condemns sin, but in the most awesome example of love the world has ever seen, He ordained that His Son would die to pay for our sins. God sacrificed the sinless, perfect Savior to turn away, to propitiate, His great wrath.
God the Father loves us with the love of a father, reaching to snatch us from harm. God the Son loves us with the love of a brother, layind down His life for us. [God the Holy Spirit loves us with the love of a friend, standing by our side and being with us through the situations of life.]
the Dake Study Bible, which lists 1,050 commandments to the Christian in the New Testament alone. Try putting that list on your refrigerator and condeming yourself every time you violate any one of the 1,050 commandments. This would be a sure way to love any sense of joy that God wants you to experience.
Revelation 12:11 – And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.
He needed someone he could talk to openly so that he could express his feelings without the fear of being rejected.
Perhaps there is some security in accepting ourselves as much less than we can become. That minimizes the risk of failure. Certainly, if we expect little from ourselves, we will seldom be disappointed!
Our past relationships may involve the intense pain of neglect, abuse, and manipulation, but if we do not begin the process of healing, we will be unable to experience the joy, challenge, and, yes, the potential for failure int he present.
Proverbs 16:25
Any change in our behavior requires a release from our old self-concept, which is often founded in failure and the expectations of others.
Our greatest obstacle to experiencing regeneration is that we don’t look different and sometimes we don’t act much differently. As we recognize the results of justification, reconciliation, and propitiation, we will find it much easier to hold to the fact that we have undergone regeneration.
But if the redemption we enjoy is complete, why do we so often fail to see the changes we long for in our lives? Why do we wrestle day after day with the same temptations, the same failings, and the same distractions we have always fought? Why can’t we break free and move on toward maturity?
Perhaps we fear that God can’t really accept us until we have spiritually matured or until “our problem” is removed. Perhaps we just want to feel better without having to struggle through the process of making major changes in our attitudes and behavior. Motivations such as these may be mixed with a genuine desire to honor the Lord, but it’s also possible that deep within us is a primary desire to glorify ourselves. When self-improvement, rather than Christ, becomes the center of our focus, our focus is displaced.
This inordinate preoccupation with self-improvement parallels our culture’s self-help and personal-enhancement movement  in many ways, Personal development is certainly not wrong, but it is misleading and can be very disappointing if we make it our preeminent goal. If it is our goal at all, it should be secondary. As we grasp the unconditional love, grace, and power of God, then honoring Christ will increasingly be our consuming passion. God wants us to have a health self-awareness and to analyze our lives periodically, but He does not want us to be preoccupied with ourselves. The only one worthy of our preoccupation is Christ, our sovereign Lord, who told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9)
The second problem with depending on our feelings occurs when we believe that our emotions are a primary means of God’s communication with us and are therefore signs from God that indicate His leading. The conclusion may compel us to make authoritative statements about God’s will (for both ourselves and others) that are based on little more than how we feel. As in the first extreme, the Scriptures may take a backseat as we sometimes justify foolish and even immoral acts by this false “leading from the Lord”.
We also need to develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading that goes beyond emotionalism. This sensitivity takes time to develop and is an awareness of His conviction of sin, what He wants us to say and do in certain situations, His prompting to share the gospel, and so forth. Discerning whether or not an impression is of God comes from three primary sources: the clear teaching of the Scriptures, previous experiences of learning, and the agreement of mature believers. If an impressions is from God, it will not violate biblical principles.
Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). As we respond to the love of Christ and trust His Spirit to fill us, these characteristics will become increasingly more evident in our lives. The filling of the Holy Spirit includes two major aspects: our purpose (to bring honor to Christ instead of to ourselves) and our resources (trusing in His love and power to accomplish results instead of trusting in our own wisdom and abilities).
Like Spencer, out own willingness to be filled with the Holy Spirit is a direct response to the magnificent truths centered in the cross and the resurrection of Christ and our participation in relationships in which we sense His love for us. We are deeply loved and completely forgiven by God, fully pleasing to God, totally accepted by God, and complete in Him.
When you have an infection, your body increases your body temperature. One of the uses of that mechanism is to alert you that you are sick. We would never take medication that would eliminate this process from occurring, as we could become deathly ill without knowing what was happening. However, many of us have a preoccupation with finding ways of avoiding all hurtful emotions through alcohol, drugs, or some form of activity that keeps us active and way from thinking about what is bothering us.
Situations -> Beliefs -> Thoughts -> Emotions -> Actions
Someone may have squeezed you once, and out of you may have come responses that were really ungodly, maybe even embarrassing. You blame another for your responses, but you have to understand that what came out of you is what was in you. Often, God allows us to undergo troubling circumstances so that we can see what is inside of us.
Playing softball is not necessarily destructive, but playing softball to avoid being at home with one’s family is.
It may seem odd to you that we would talk about confessing and repenting for being deceived. Confession means that we agree with God that what He says is correct.
Repentance meant that she was to turn from relying on these old false beliefs and begin to live by what God says is true.
Therefore, our model is to identify, confess, reject, and then replace.
The Father is busy in our lives even when we are unaware of His activities. He wants us to find freedom in this life. He is determined that we have a chance for this freedom. Although we will never experience absolute freedom this side of heaven, if we are willing to cooperate with His plan, we can experience much more than we could ever imagine. This will be a process. It will occur only as we are willing to go to a deeper level in our relationship with Him. There will be struggles and many failures along the way. However, the Father does not get tired of being there to bring us to victory. The only question is, Are we willing to go with Him?

KidLead by Dr. Alan Nelson

There are few experiences more enjoyable in life than being well led, participating on a team or in an organization that works together with a shared vision toward a common goal.

Even defeat is less disappointing when it’s a part of a well-led team, just as victory is less satisfying when it is obtained amidst dissension, conflict, and dysfunction.
Most adults do not understand the difference between a young leader trying to explore his or her influence capabilities and typical, childish misbehavior. Leaders not given specific guidance often act out, causing friction in families, classrooms, athletic teams, and neighborhoods.
You’ll learn why teaching ethics in the context of leadership by the age of fourteen is so important. Moral psychologists believe that most character is in place before the teen years. Most cultures in history and the world have rites of passage into adulthood between the ages of twelve and fourteen. That leaves us a four-year window when ethical leadership training is most crucial. You’ll discover what this window is.
You’ll be able to show your child how to lead up and laterally. Very few books discuss this; most focus on “leading down.” Preteens and teens will need to utilize a different approach until adulthood or even middle age.
Your child can be a success in life whether or not he ever becomes a leader. Leadership may be the most overanalyzed and underutilized concept in America during the last few decades.
An aptitude is a fundamental wiring or orientation that gives us the ability to learn and develop a skill faster and outperform others in a specific area.
As with any other resource, parents and teachers are custodians for developing their children’s potential.
…being comfortable communicating is still different from being heard and heeded.
Even in their silence, leaders convey influence.
But everyday, scores of young leaders around the world duck into emotional closets in order to survive a world dominated by people who do not understand how to develop a young person with leadership wiring.
Just like adults, though, what children value most is having their voices heard.
Leaders, more than others, want to feel respected for what they bring to the table and acknowledge for their ideas. They need a safe place to express their gifts of influence, where they can grow in confidence and fail with dignity.
While all dads are men, not all men are dads.
Punishment discourages a child from expressing his or her basic personality. Discipline hones it so that it is appropriate.
When you intimidate with verbal threats or punish kids exhibiting outgoing creativity, you damage their leadership develop. When this happens with kids under age fourteen, you’ll usually find a child who becomes passive at home, wearing an emotional mask to survive around a parent. When this happens with youth over fourteen, you’ll usually have parent-child contention and ultimately rebellion in the home. The young leader can’t wait to exit the house and often does so as soon as possible with minimal looking back. Discipline, as opposed to punishment, has to do with self-awareness, self-control, and learning the reality of consequences.
Some misperceive academic excellence with leading.
Most programs calling themselves leadership are really more about parenting, community service, self-esteem, and character.
Strong, virtuous character is vital for effective, ethical leadership.
The goal is to develop leaders who are so grounded in good character that they don’t hesitate when making ethical choices while leading. Their inner compass directs them toward true north, so they consistently make decisions that bring value to others and benefit society as a whole.
Ultimately, you cannot separate who you are as a person from how you operate as a leader.
Remember, “pay” doesn’t necessarily mean money. Reward desired behavior.
See your child as a person who someone will someday hire, marry, and who will influence others.
That means we don’t see them as kids. We visualize them as future CEOs, presidents, community activists, and entrepreneurs.
Scores of miniscule regulations about eating, talking, cleaning, toys, television, and relationships are confusing. They can also turn kids into legalists who, when faced with situations without laws, will lack the ability to make ethical decisions. Leaders who learn rules over values are apt to finding loopholes and ways around rules that may get them and their organization into trouble as adults. Teach values and then help them identify situations where these come into play.
Even when followers don’t like a leader’s decision, they will respect the leader if they feel honored. Honor is vital to effectively confronting performance issues, differences in opinion, and personality conflicts.

Pledge of Allegiance by Steven Davey

I picked this book up at a book swap at my church. It was actually written by a pastor and seminary president at one of the largest churches in town that is only about 2 miles from my current church. As a fan of history, particularly the effect of Christian on the history of the United States, I picked it up. It talks about what the Christians role in goverment should be in a very short and concise format. I really enjoyed it, here are the parts I underlined:
I will never forget my former professor Howard Hendricks saying in class on day, “In every generation, the church at large has missed the mark somewhere.” He then pointed his finger at us and asked, “Do you know where it is missing the mark today?”
The separation of church and state has become the separation of state from the church; the separation of state from God.
Greater than the degradation of society’s fall from grace into ever-increasing evil is the distraction of the church and the diversion of the church’s resources, manpower, and objectives.
Have we forgotten that our relationship to society is not to reform it, but to redeem it – one person at a time? Have we forgotten, in our power push for moral activism, that a man with good morals will die and go to hell as quickly as a man with bad morals?
The mission, energy, and investment of the church was not then, and is not now, to clean up the evils of society; the mission of the church is to evangelize society. Imagine if homosexuality was illegal; abortion was outlawed; sexual relations outside of marriage were unacceptable; prayer was back in the classroom, and the Ten Commandments were re-hung in the courtrooms. Would more people be going to heaven? Would the mission of the church be accomplished?
…the church at large has forgotten the nature of our battle. We are sweating over good things, but over the wrong cause.
That is the problem with the distraction of the church today. It has bought the logic that if we can just keep sodomy illegal, we will have own a victory; but that depends on how you determine victory. Victory is not changing the behavior of our culture unless we have first changes its belief about who Jesus Chris is and how He alone transforms. Spiritual transformation does not happen from the outside in, but from the inside out.
We must remember that when Paul wrote to the Roman believes there was no record of any Christian on the Roman senate. There was no Christian political lobby; no watchdog committee to make sure that the interests of the Christians were being addressed. There were no courts where false accusations against Christians could be resolved. In fact, when the barbarians sacked Rome, the Romans decided that it was the Christian’s fault and persecution intensified. When Paul wrote the book of Romans, he made no reference, much less encouragement, to overthrow Nero. Instead, he wrote a text of Scripture that must have confounded them by its clear declarations.
The Christian is to obey the civil laws of government, regardless of that government’s response to the gospel.
A moral government or nation is not necessary to have a thriving church.
It is time for the church to get back to the business of being the church. That does not mean a Christian cannot be involved in politics anymore than a Christian cannot be involved in building computers. If that is the arena God has called you into – like Daniel of old – raise your voice for the glory of God in that administration.
A moral government is not necessary for the church to fulfill its mission.
The root of our cultural decay is first and foremost spiritual; we must attack the root of this corrupt tree. Our greatest challenge is theological, not political and cultural.
The church as a whole, and Christians as individuals were never given the charge from God to halt or even diminish the evil practices in their societies.
What could we do if every Christian truly believes that they were called to their specific city, at this specific time, in this specific generation to deliver to every person the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Do not misunderstand, we should vote. I believe with Daniel Webster that, “Whatever makes good Christians, makes them good citizens.”
Notice the contrast between good and evil. Even when the government refuses to acknowledge God, they unintentionally represent the character of God by punishing evil and rewarding good.
The only valid basis for moral law is a previously existing morality. No matter where you go in the world, stealing or damaging your neighbor’s possessions is considered wrong. God ordained government to reflect His moral law; His attributes of justice, equity, impartiality, righteousness, and honesty. That means government must be concerned with moral issues because laws are based on the moral perfection of God. However, this is not the same as saying the government can develop morality in its citizens. It can prescribe penalties. I can enforce them and perhaps, restrain evil. But it cannot change the people involved. The only thing that changes people is the power of God working through the gospel. The solution for an immoral society is not more law. Mankind has already developed thousands of laws to try and uphold ten commandments. No, the solution is not more government – it is the gospel.
quoting Cal Thomas – “For Christians, the vision of worldly power [and influence] is not a calling, but a distraction. It is a temptation that Jesus Christ Himself rejected, not because it was dangerous, but because it was trivial, compared with His mission.”
quoting C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity – “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next…It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this world. Aim at heaven and you will get  earth ‘thrown in’. Aim at earth and you will get neither. In the same way we shall never save civilisation [sic] as long as civilisation [sic] is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.”
It is a flawed belief that because America began with the acknowledgment of a Creator and a respect for the Bible, it is somehow guaranteed favored status with God. It is equally flawed to believe that to protect America is paramount to protecting God; to defend America is the same as defending Christ’s causes. And the belief that to keep America from embracing secularism, humanism, and liberalism is God’s plan. This view binds the hope of the Christian to a voting booth.
The political leaders of our day may fear Christian pastors and ministry leaders, but not because we are righteous or because we are willing to speak the truth regardless of political correctness in our culture or our congregation. Christian leaders today are not fear for their prayers, they are feared because they have an ability to deliver the votes. Voting power has replaced preaching power and praying power. As a result, what the church is saying and what our world is hearing, is the message that prayer is not effective enough, the gospel is not powerful enough, discipleship is not fast enough – it might have been God’s idea in the first century, but it is out of date in the twenty-first century.
The world, ever since the fall, has been in a such a state of corruption and depravity, that without the powerful obstacle presented by civil government to the selfish and malignant passions of men, it would be better to live among the beasts of the forest than in human society. As soon as its restraints are removed, man shows himself in his real character.
You may think high taxes are a new problem, but the tax system of Paul’s democratic society was certainly frustrating to the first-century believer. In its final years, the Roman Empire deteriorated into a huge welfare state in which the working class supported more and more people who did not work. It was also not unusual for Roman officials to use tax revenue to support pagan religious activities throughout the empire.
One of the unfortunate things in the pluralistic quagmire of our culture is the continual attempt to dampen the clear testimony of political leaders. Unfortunately, many political figures give in. Suddenly, any talk of belief in Jesus Christ becomes “faith in God.” Salvation is neutered to “my strong belief in God.” My hope is that Christians will retain their clear mission in whatever field of service they pursue. They are Christians first, and politicians, doctors, students, mechanics, secretaries, and lawyers second.
If anyone had the right to encourage believers to stop paying taxes, it was the Apostle Paul; for it would be those taxes which would ultimately subsidize the games, where Christians would pay the ultimate sacrifice. Yet, knwoing full well the wickedness of the government, he commanded believers to pay their taxes.
We are not called by God to curse the darkness. We are called to simply shine…and the darker our culture, the brighter our light.
Do the sinners in our culture believe they are the enemy of the church? I believe so! Paul would encourage us to so live that our unbelieving world is graced by our holy lives, startled by our gracious response to injury, and mystified by our loving reproach of sin.
God hasn’t abandoned America anymore than He abandoned the land of the Ninevites. At the very height of their immorality and wickedness, God has plans for them through a prophet by the name of Jonah.
It’s a lot easier to pray for my congressman to make the right decision that it is to help my next door neighbor understand the claims of Christ. In fact, it’s easier to talk of national sin, than deal with personal sin.

The Shawshank Story

So AMC, the television network,  is doing “We Can’t Get Enough Shawshank” – Shawshank Redemption back-to-back-to-back at 8 PM and 11 PM 4 nights in a row. Being a fan of the movie, and usually sitting at my computer at night, I set it in the background.  After seeing it for the 3rd time in 2 days, even in the background, you see things you never saw before. What I saw this time that I hadn’t seen before was that almost immediately after something that create an opportunity for hope, Andy Dufresne endures something else that creates an opportunity for despair.  When he first realized that he could tunnel through the wall and the following day asks Red for a Rita Hayworth poster, he takes the beating from the Sisters that puts him in the hospital for a month. Immediately after getting the delivery of books and the check from the state legislature, he is sent to the hole for playing the music over the loud speaker and locking himself in the office. Immediately after learning of Tommy’s conversation with Elmo Blatch that would prove his innocence, he mouths off to the warden and gets sent to the hole again.

Right in the title, Shawshank Redemption is a story of hope and in the end, of redemption, but for Andy, hope had to rest in the immediacy of the moment, because the next moment it would be gone.  After he was sent to prison, I would assume that the majority of his life was made of moments that would create despair instead of hope, but he managed to maintain hope. He had hope for release, hope of exoneration, and spread hope to others through helping others get their educations. His hope was not defined by his overall situation, but by those single moments where he had reason to believe that his situation would one day be better. I don’t think many people understand hope like Andy did, I think most people have hope when they measure the balance of the good moments against the bad. If there are more good moments, they have hope, if there are more bad moments, they don’t have it. But Andy is able to rest and remain hopeful on single moments.

This reminds me of the story of David in 1 Samuel 17:34, when David is first challenged by Saul on whether he will be able to fight Goliath, he mentions specific instances of when he was able to fight off a lion or a bear while he was tending his father’s sheep. You’ll notice he didn’t mention whether things were “going his way”, and being the youngest of many brothers, I doubt things went his way very often. To find real hope, I think we need to look in David’s examples and in Andy’s, regardless of the balance of the way things are going in our life, our hope needs to rest on those single moments where things went right.

9/17/2011 UPDATE: I happened to be watching the movie again today and noticed that Andy’s rock hammer cutout in his bible started at the first page of the book of Exodus. For those of you not biblically inclined, the book of Exodus is primarily about how the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and got to the promised land – lots of parallels there.

Snake Oil of the 21st Century

Now that the internet is getting older, and storage space is cheaper, I am disturbed by how much old information is still out there and being referenced, particularly in regards to research. Was reading an article today about how teens use the internet, and by the 2nd paragraph I was thinking, this is wrong, this isn’t focusing on the right things, their perspective is wrong. I finally get so frustrated, I look up the date of publishing, it was 5 years ago, no wonder, but it was linked from a current article.

When new information was hard to come by, bad information was predicated easily if the source appeared to be legitimate, think of the snake oil salesman of the late 1800s, and the doctors of the 20th century who claimed that nicotine actually had health benefits. I am a little bit disturbed that even now, in our age of instant information, that bad information and bad perspectives can continue to be persist, when new information is instantly available.
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People don’t think like this anymore…

After John Adams was selected as ambassador to France, his wife wrote to the congressman who selected him “And can I, sir, consent to be separated form him whom my heart esteeems above all earthly things, and for an unlimited time? My life will be continued scene of anxiety and apprehension, and must I cheerfully comply with the demand of my county?”

They decided that Abigail should remain in the United States, but decided that their 10 year old son John Quincy Adams should go “for acquiring useful knowledge and virtue, such as will render you… an honor to your country, and a blessing to your parents.”  This was in winter of 1777-1778, leaving from Boston, and since there was a war going on, they had to sneak onto a navy vessel to be escorted to France, and the journey would be expected to take as much as 8 weeks.

People just don’t think like this anymore…
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“Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are” by Alex and Brett Harris with Elisa Stanford

“Start Here” is the follow-up on “Do Hard Things”, which Alex and Brett Harris released in 2008.  “Do Hard Things” described a teenage rebellion against low expectations. It tried to explain to teens, particularly Christian teens, how society had come to expect so little of them, but when we look to history, and looked to what God has called them to be, that they are able to break this self-fulfilling prophecy of low expections.  As teenagers began to break free of these low expectations and began to “Do Hard Things”, they faced a variety of obstacles and had trouble knowing where to start.
“Start Here” is great how-to guide and how to overcome obstacles and offers many practical suggestions on what to do – taking the first step, putting an idea into actin, handling change, keeping God in focus, perseverance, moving against the crowd, and how to finish strong.

Here are the things I highlighted as I read:

God often passes over the person with grand, me-focused plans in favor of the own who has a heart to love others, to trust Him, and to do the small things for their own sake.

If we say we want to do hard things for God, but we’re not satisfied with pursuing excellence where He has placed us (at home, at school, and at work) it’s likely that we’re reallly more interested in getting glory for ourselves than in getting glory for Him.

Faithfulness in one season prepares us to step into the next season with strength.

In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Keep in mind that your parents might want to see you grow in other areas before you do the hard thing you have in mind. For instance, they might be most concerned with how messy your room is, your attitude when helping with household chores, and the way you interact with the siblings. They might say that you are not ready for a new project until you have made progress in these other areas or shown how you can follow thorugh on a small project. There is wisdom (and love) in such an assessment.

If you’re going to be a true Gideon, you’ll need about three hundred buddies to help you.

It must grieve the Lord that so little is expected of His children.

Attention gives us the opportunity to humbly say thanks and then point people back to the One who made us, sustains us, and gives us everything we have (see Colossians 1:15-20). It also gives us the opportunity to tell people our true goal.

Deflect that praise to Christ, not to appear humble, but to be humble. You are chosen by God, and also targeted by Satan.

the history of David is not about what David did for God, but about what God did for David!

When we forget that God is a person, we ask questions we’d never think twice about if we were talking about our best friend or someone we love. This question is a good example of that. When we thinka bout what it looks like to make God the most important thing in our lives, we get confused. But how would we answer that question if we were talking about another person — someone we admired and respected more than anyone else?
We’d want to know everything about him– his likes and dislikes, what makes him happy, what makes him sad. Nothing would seem too insignificant to us.
We’d want to find out what he thought about things. His opinion would be more influential than everyone else’s combined.
We’d want to learn what he loves, and we would come to love the same things.
As we went through out day-to-day lives, he would be on our minds. As we made decisions about what to wear, what to buy, and how to spend our time, we’d think about what he would do. We’d make decisions we believed would please him.
We wouldn’t just try to fit him into our lifestyle and schedule. Instead, we’d look forward to experiencing life with him. We would make changes in our schedule so we could spend more time together. We would be honored if he asked us to be part of what he was doing. In fact, we would drop what we were working on to join him in his work.
Because we admire him, we would want people to identify us with him. We would want to represent him accurately so other people would get to know him as well.
Doesn’t this seem like a natural response to liking and admiring someone? Of course, the catch is that if we go to the extreme in treating a human friend like this, we’re in danger of idolizing him. But this is how we’re supposed to relate to God. It’s how we bring Him glory as we do hard things.

We want to be world changers, but we all have days when we don’t want to do what it takes to change things.

the joy and the fulfillment that come from doing what God has called us to do are a hundred times better than a trip to the mall or a night at the movies could ever be.

I found that being vulnerable with my Savior was the only thing that could start the healing process in my life.

“The equation was simple,” John says. “They would get a team of young people with creativity and passion who were willing to listen to them and respect their experience, and we got a team of very knowledgeable men who would be patient with us and overlook our sometimes embarassing levels of ingorance.”

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