As an infantry soldier I spent a lot of time sleeping in the great outdoors. Most of the time when we slept in the field we did so without any sort of a tent or anything like that, we simply laid on a mat we carried and covered up with a poncho liner. However, every once in a while we would get to build a hooch. To build a hooch you used a poncho, some tent stakes and bungee cords. When you built your hooch you had to build it strong enough to hold up to winds and rains that might come up in the night. Since our building materials weren’t the strongest materials in the world you had to be very careful how you built your hooch.
There were some things you had to do in order to build a hooch that would survive a storm. First you had to build it low to the ground. This not only gave the wind less to ‘grab’ on to, but it also made for a smaller silhouette that made it harder for the enemy to see it. Secondly, you had to tie it off in as many places as possible. There were 8 reinforced rings on the outer edges of the poncho that were perfect for this. Thirdly, you had to be sure and cinch the hood closed and tie it off slightly elevated from the rest of the poncho. This made sure rain didn’t run into the poncho through the hood and it made sure the poncho didn’t have to hold water.
To build a hooch that would survive the winds and rains took a bit of time. After you had built your hooch you would pull all your stuff in and go to bed. If a storm came up in the night the screams of those who were getting wet and chasing their poncho told us clearly who had taken the time to build their hooch correctly and who had cut corners so they could get a few extra minutes of sleep. One thing that was really interesting about this is that most of the hooches that didn’t make it looked okay on the outside. It wasn’t until the storms came that you could tell their hooch wasn’t built correctly.
There are a lot of Christians today that are a lot like those poorly built hooches. On the outside they look okay. They have homes, cars, possessions, family and really just about anything a person could want. By all appearances they are living the American dream. Despite their appearance, their stability is flimsy.
Their lack of stability is clearly seen when a storm comes into their lives. The upheaval the storm brings shatters the image of stability they are showing. This results in their family being torn apart or severely damaged. Peace and contentment become strangers. Many times this instability causes psychological problems and physical illness. The joy and victory that is supposed to characterize the Christian life is gone seemingly never to return.
Have you ever wondered why some Christians can go through tremendous trials and come through with amazing testimonies, a faith that is stronger than ever and deeper commitment to Christ than they’ve ever had, while others are nearly destroyed by their trial and crash in horrific defeat? It is because there is something wrong in the way they’ve built.
For further study read Luke 6:46-49.
What should we do if we call Jesus Lord?
Why did one house stand and the other house fall?
What are some of the storms that come into our lives?
What is the right foundation for our lives?This post was written by Rev Ross. For the original post, go to: http://stacyjross.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/built-to-last/
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
In your anger, do not sin. Ephesians 4:26
Living in relationship with other people means that we will experience seasons of anger. Anger is a normal human emotion. It is an unavoidable ingredient of any fellowship.
Unfortunately, for most of us, anger is a problem. We know that anger can lead to destructive behaviors. Some of us have been on the receiving end of verbal and physical attacks from an angry person. And some of us have lashed out at others with our anger. So we fear anger because we have seen the destruction which results when anger leads to sin. We have seen how anger can damage relationships and lead to loneliness.
But anger does not have to be destructive. We can be angry without harming others. Anger can, in fact, be a constructive force in our lives. Anger alerts us to the fact that something is not right. As a result, anger can protect us and energize us to take constructive action.
The fellowship we need in recovery cannot always be conflict-free fellowship. There will be times of anger. And that can be a good thing.
I am afraid of anger, Lord.
But I know it can't be avoided.
Help me to acknowledge my anger
rather than hide from it.
Help me to use it in ways that are not destructive.
Let it energize me to risk and change and grow.
Help me to learn to live constructively with my anger
Copyright Dale and Juanita Ryan
National Association for Christian Recovery
You played the game too when you were a kid. It was a terrifying game with fatal consequences. If you lost focus even for a split second then you were doomed. It is hard to imagine that we played games with such a high risk factor.
The game is simply explained. Walk and maintain your balance on a narrow beam, or appropriately placed landscaping without falling to your doom into the (gulp) alligators below. Some kids replace alligators with lava for increased difficulty.
In all honesty we adults know that the consequences were mere figments of our imagination. We certainly acted as if they were real….doing everything possible to not fall. It definitely required focus.
There are things we encounter daily that are distractions to us. Even the word “distraction” doesn’t really do them justice. These are things that, if we were to lose focus, we could fall. The long term consequences could be a negatively redirected life.
When we think about our faith life it is obvious that we cannot afford to lose focus. Our desire to know God more, and serve those around us is vital. The fact is, though, there are sometimes when we try to show off, get distracted or give up altogether. Many times we even discount the reality of our faith. This makes us fall. The good news (aptly named) is that grace puts us back on track. God’s grace gives us chances that we don’t deserve using resources we have no business taping into. For some reason, that still can’t be explain, He desires for us to access this gift.
Today, don’t lose heart….lean on grace and regain focus.
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. For the original post, go to: http://other-words.net/2013/12/01/avoiding-alligators/
Unfortunately, our time in Ecuador did not end as well as I wanted. I started hearing rumors among the missionary community that the pastor I worked with was abusive towards his wife. I couldn't believe it, he seemed like such a nice guy. He seemed to be kind and friendly. I had however noticed that his wife had bruises on her wrists at times.
I had some doubts about him before I heard these rumors. I knew that he kept a file on various people in the community as I came upon it accidentally one time in the church office. It was filled with comments and remarks about certain individuals and seemed kinda inappropriate coming from a pastor. Yet, I put it back and didn't say anything about it.
He also had several snakes he kept in his office that he had picked up from the Amazon while traveling back and forth there. I don't care for snakes but I don't think it's particularly unusual to have snakes for pets. What was strange, for me, was he would let them out and they would crawl around the office, often laying up on the window sill sunning themselves or chasing the many lizards that were available.
Thirdly, he didn't seem particularly friendly to Ecuadorians who would drop by the office. Some he would make fun of but usually he ushered them out of the office waiting area. I think that it was mainly because he hardly spoke Spanish, in spite of having lived there a number of years. That was really odd to me... Living in a country and not learning the language.
Finally, he told me about his Christmas sermon that he wrote. The subject was unusual, it was about how Satan was present during the birth of Christ. He told me that he wrote his sermon, almost automatically. He said that he put the pen in his hand and the words just seemed to flow out on to the paper, without him giving it much thought. I wondered what was the inspiration for the sermon.
Yet, I kept those four things to myself. I only talked to Karyn about them.
I finally decided that I needed to ask him about the rumors I was hearing about him being abusive. I was NOT accusing him. My mistake was that I should have confided in a board member and had a board member present when I spoke with him. As I told him what I heard, I could see him getting red in the face, his nostrils flared and his hands clenched. I thought he was going to hit me. He demanded that I tell him where I heard such horrible rumors and I told him that I wouldn't tell him but that I thought he deserved to know that people were saying such things about him.
I thought that was the end of it, I believed that possibly, those rumors weren't true. However, the next morning, my suspicions were confirmed. When I got to the office, he was standing at his office window laughing at an Ecuadorian woman who was going thru the church trash. He was laughing because all of a sudden, she jumped and ran off. I asked him what was so funny. He said, "I had to kill one of my snakes because he bit me and I had him in the trash there. She found it and it scared her. Being raised on a farm, I learned early that when something turns on you, you kill it." Then he had a big grin on his face. I left his office and went to my office to think about what just happened. The timing was unmistakable. I decided to write a letter to my missions board letting them know what was going on. In less than a week, I got a reply, "We think it's better you just come home."
When I told this pastor that my missions board was calling us back early, he said, "don't think that means that you can play. You still have a lot of people to see here. If you have an appointment or not, I want you sitting in that office." I protested as this was new behavior. Before, he said if I didn't have appointments, I could go home to Karyn and the boys. Yet, I did comply. It was difficult as we had to make plans to move back to the States and that required some coordination with Karyn and we needed to get rid of things in our apartment that we wouldn't take back with us. Nevertheless, because I'm married to such a capable spouse, we managed to successfully move and were gone within a month.
Once we got back in the States, I heard that he got transferred to another church in the US and there he experienced a divorce. I don't know the particulars and I was saddened to hear it. I was saddened because that showed that his marriage was troubled. If he could have confided in me, I could have possibly helped him save his marriage. I really liked his wife and his children and him. I can imagine that this divorce was very disruptive to his family and probably ended his career as an ordained minister. I haven't heard since the divorce what happened to him or his family but I still pray that God would move in his life so that he experiences true forgiveness and reconciliation.
BE A MAN.
Having accepted a counseling assignment for two years in a South American country, I met an interesting man. In his broken English, he confessed, "I like dirty women."
This man was a gynecologist, very educated and finally coming to the realization that he had a terrible problem. In English, dirty can mean several things. However, in Spanish, he was very clear. He used the word, "sucia." "Sucia" means physically dirty, unwashed. He continued with other clear words, "Indigenas, indias, mujeres sucias..." Translated, those words mean, "indigenous, indians, dirty women..." He was talking about a people group that were indigenous in that area: women from the Quechua people. These people are typically considered lower class by those who don't have indian blood.
Being educated and of Spanish descent, he considered himself to be superior to these people. That was his quandary. "Why do I like dirty women? I'm not attracted to pure blood women." He went on to explain that he would sexually use some of his patients, but only the Quechua women. He felt an attraction to women that he was not supposed to be attracted to, kinda like forbidden fruit. He soothed his conscience by believing that he was only having sex with women who were beneath his station in life. These people were essentially worthless in his mind.
He would trade his gynecological services for sexual favors with his patients. He found that many times, he would not be refused because these women were poor and did not feel good about themselves. "They couldn't say no because no one thinks they are attractive. I flatter them..."
So, you can see this man has a terrible sin problem. Actually, more than one. Just to name a few: 1) prejudice, 2) sexism, 3) racism, 4) elitism, 5) compulsions, 6) fornication, etc... Just plain sinfulness.
As his story unfolded, he also revealed that he was addicted to marijuana, alcohol and painkillers. Being a physician, he had no difficulty affording and obtaining these substances, especially when he would trade his gynecological services for these substances.
He was raised in an environment with a very strong mother and a father who had abandoned him. As we delved further into his upbringing, he noted that he was brought into sex early when his mother paid for a prostitute "to teach him how to be a man" as his father wasn't doing a good job at raising him. He recalled his first sexual encounter at age eight with repeated exposure, at his mother's insistence, until he left for college at age sixteen.
In spite of his medical and financial success, this man knew that he was doomed. "My soul is on the way to hell..." Fortunately, this gentleman was receptive to God's working in his life. He came for help because he had heard that hell was a place that he did not want to go. As I was unable to follow this man due to not being around long enough to help him, I was able to hand him off to a pastor. This pastor told him about God's redemptive power and discipled him. He became very much like Zaccheus. He repented of his sinful behavior and attempted to make restitution as best he could.
This man's story teaches us that we are not doomed by the sins of our parents, doomed because we had a bad upbringing or doomed because we have abused people. There is always room for God's offer of salvation. It is never too late to do the right thing.
Is your life like this man's? Or do you think that he is beneath you?
In what kind of sin do you find yourself involved?
It is never too late to do the right thing.
If God can change this man, he can change you.
How bout it?
BE A MAN.
In 1992-1993 we were missionaries in Ecuador. I have worshiped with people from many different cultures and have enjoyed the different ways that Christians engage in worship. I remember one service in Esmeraldas that had a very African flavor to it and another in Guayaquil that was a tropical, Latin mix. I thoroughly enjoyed both and could tell that these were ernest Christians who REALLY enjoyed worship.
On another occasion we went to Riobamba to a church high in the Andes mountains. What I experienced there was quite different. We had traveled there to visit some people from America that were on a work trip to the area and wanted to make some friends. We had eaten supper together with them and the Quechua folk of that church. When we went to worship, we were fortunate to have a teen choir lead us in worship. The worship was more formal and the singing was in a very nasally, high voice. It was in the Quechua language so I had difficulty understanding what they were singing.
I was young, proud and had my wife and kids with me. After the service one of the Americans came over to me and we were talking about the service. I said something about the service that I shouldn't have said. I said, "that music was gross!" It popped out and I didn't take it back. I was instantly convicted but was too stiff-necked to listen to God's Holy Spirit's chastening. After all, I was the missionary, they were just people visiting.
I have thought about my bad comment over the years, trying to analyze why I would say something like that. Now, I know that one of the tricks that Satan uses is to keep reminding Christians of their faults and sins to keep them feeling condemned and ineffective. I have been forgiven for my statement and my attitude and when I think about what I said, I still get a twinge of guilt but then I am reminded that was in the past and forgiven.
I recognized that I had in my mind certain ways that I approved of how worship was to be done. This third church, in Riobamba, stretched me and didn't fit my preconceived notions. I was clearly wrong. I have prayed that the young American that I talked to (I have no recollection who he was) would not remember my insensitivity but the good things of his time in Ecuador.
Now it is 2013 and I am miles aways and 20 years away from that event. I have worshiped in several other cultures and other churches and have come to believe that I have put away such preconceptions. I no longer have the feeling that a certain style of worship is gross. I have matured. I have become more Christlike.
But have I? Have I really progressed?
I was recently at a worship service where we were lead by a worship team that had a decidedly "country" flavor to it. Part way thru this experience, I excused myself. As I walked past the sound booth, a friend asked me, "how do you like the worship team?" I said, "I am not a fan of country music..." I felt instant conviction, very similar to how I felt in Riobamba when I ignored the Holy Spirit. I immediately followed it with, "but I see that others are worshiping and the team is really doing a good job, so I can't complain. I'm trying to worship too."
OK. That was a bit better.
Then I was reminded of a statement, I don't know where I heard it, that says, "If your life is divided up between what you like and don't like and you just do what you like & avoid what you don't like, you're gonna have a miserable existence." That statement is sooooo true. I close myself up to God's ability to work in my life if I just simply become opinionated about everything and complain/avoid things I don't care for.
So, I'm trying, I'm improving, I'm getting better, my intent is improving, my heart's getting into it....
but I still have a long way to go...
BE A MAN.
I was with him in the hospital. This missionary had been hospitalized for anxiety. "I don't know what's wrong with me, I can't stop worrying and shaking. My insides just feel like they are made of jello."
This missionary had been on the mission field for several years and had much success at bringing the gospel to an indigenous people in a country in South America. However, now, he was having emotional issues that have taken him out of his ministry. We discussed his past, his calling, his mission and he was truly a remarkable man. We discussed his spiritual life and all seemed in place, with one exception: he had been cursed by the local "bruja". This witch had performed a ceremony to bring down Christ's influence among "her people." Her home was within site of the church that had been established in this community. He had seen her performing her "brujeria" during one of his sermons in his church.
Somehow, this witch's "power" had gotten to him and he began to worry, doubting God's ability to protect him from such brujeria. We prayed at every session asking God to protect him and show us what He wanted us to do. One time, while praying, the missionary stopped praying and yelled, "that is it!" A big smile spread across his face and he said, "I now know what's been going on!" He proceeded to tell me he had heard a cryptic story that a few of the church members told him about a "service" that the bruja held just outside the church in the middle of the nite. From that point on, the missionary became stronger and much less anxious. He began to talk about "taking the church back from the witch." Within less than two weeks after his epiphany, he was discharged and returned to his mission field.
About a month later, I received a terrific letter of explanation and testimony from this missionary. Evidently, what had happened, when he returned to the church, he told his congregation about his feelings about this bruja and told them he was determined to not let her win this spiritual battle. During prayer with his congregation, it was revealed to them that they should dig in the dirt of the northwest corner, just outside the church. Several members and the missionary went outside and started digging. After a bit, they found a talisman buried there. One of the members, who used to be into brujeria identified the object as something used to curse people. The missionary promptly continued the service where the talisman was burned in a fire. In his letter, he proceeded to tell me how he felt as if there was a new freedom in the church after that.
However, what was most interesting, is that he wrote me, "I was foolish to believe that satan had any power over me and the church. I was fighting to defeat the devil and I had no need to do so. A talisman is just that, a talisman. It has no power and no ability to hurt me. I learned from that experience that I didn't need to fight, I just needed to relax and let God fight for me. I was being a missionary under my own power. Now, Jesus is running this mission field."
This story was a real faith builder for me and I hope it is for you. We don't need to fear, we need to trust God and count on His faithfulness. Satan can't do anything except try to intimidate and scare. His power lies in his ability to spread fear and doubt. Satan is full of bluster and bluff and has no power over us. As long as we stay connected to God's Holy Spirit, we are victorious.
BE A MAN.
It was kind of a surreal experience.... We had just arrived at our mission in Quito and here I was less than 48 hours later standing at the graveside of a man I didn't know and hadn't even met.
I watched as the gravedigger dug the grave by hand. He would occasionally stop and put his chin on top of the shovel and seem interested in what was going on as he rested. There was hardly anybody there. Just the man's wife, a couple of other people, the pastor, myself and the Ecuadorian gravedigger. Being one of the few English speaking churches in town, the widow called the pastor with whom I served on staff and asked that he do the funeral. I was there as support.
The story of this man's life ended sadly. He was a very successful American businessman who had visited Ecuador frequently and ended up buying some lucrative property in Quito so that he could retire. He had quite a nest egg. His goal in life was to retire with his wife at this property in Quito and live a life of ease and luxury.
What was interesting was that this man and his wife arrived in Quito about the same time my wife and I had arrived. We may have even been on the same airplane. What he hadn't considered, as he grew older, was that his health wasn't as good as it had been in the past. Quito has an elevation of over 9,000 feet (btw - Denver has an elevation of just over 5,000 feet) above sea level. People who visit Quito often come down with Soroche (altitude sickness). The symptoms are very similar to carbon monoxide poisoning. The stress of the Soroche that he was experiencing taxed his body and his heart stopped working.
So, here we have a man who saved his whole life, gathered quite a bit of money and bought some nice property in Quito so that he could retire, and within 48 hours of achieving his goal, he died. From what his wife described, it also appeared that he died without knowing Jesus as his Savior.
Jesus talked about this. He said, "Now what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?"
Jesus, who taught a parable about a man who amassed fortune and trusted in himself, said, "You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?"
Having a goal is not bad in and of itself. However, if your goal excludes God and is just to please yourself, know that you may never reach it. If you do, it won't last forever.
Then there is reward or payment.
Yet, if you have a goal and it includes God and pleasing Him, you WILL reach it.
"Don't store up treasure on earth..."
Make heaven your goal.
BE A MAN
If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.
It is easy to judge other people. Judgmentalism and blame come naturally to us. Other people's faults and failures are not difficult to identify. Many of us can remember a time in our lives when throwing the first stone was not just easy - it was what we thought good Christians were supposed to do.
One of the most dramatic changes which takes place early in the recovery process is an increase in self-awareness. We begin to see patterns in our own lives that need changing. We see our own self destructive tendencies. We see how we have brought pain to others. As these insights dawn on us, we begin to lay down our stones.
Of course, as our self-awareness increases, many of us attempt to refocus the blame and judgmentalism from others onto ourselves. We can blame and judge ourselves as ruthlessly as we may once have blamed and judged others. But it's not really progress in recovery to give up throwing stones. . and then start banging our heads against a stone wall.
Judgmentalism and blame are not helpful in recovery. What makes recovery possible is when increased self-awareness leads to an increased capacity to experience forgiveness. Gradually we learn to accept forgiveness from God and others. We receive mercy. As a result, we begin to treat ourselves and others with mercy.
It is increased self-awareness and the humility which self-awareness makes possible that are the soil in which true community can grow. When we accept ourselves as humans even though we struggle and sometimes fail, we can become far more gentle with ourselves and with others.
Lord, you know how quick I have been to throw stones.
Thank you for the self awareness that has allowed me to see more clearly that
I am not without sin.
I know that I am in need of forgiveness.
Give me the courage to accept your forgiveness and mercy
and in this way begin to live in true community
Copyright Dale and Juanita Ryan
National Association for Christian Recovery
Henry Ford was a genius in his time. He had the ability to maximize efficiency through the use of the assembly line in the production of consumer vehicles. He was able to employ a lot of people and the number of cars that came out of the factory was staggering…unheard of in that day.
His idea was simple. If each person was trained to do one thing that contributed to the whole, then each person could perfect their seemingly mundane skill. If you would have been an autoworker in the early 1900′s you may have had times in which your skill would have seemed meaningless to you. Perhaps you would only install headlights or tighten a bolt, but if you were sick one day, the work would not get done, and production would slow down. Each worker was extremely valuable.
So, let’s say that a particular factory produced 100,000 cars in a year. This would have been impressive in the early days, but what if none of these cars had actually left the factory? The skills of the workers would have been wasted, and the workspace would have been cluttered. The company would need to build bigger warehouses to store all of the cars being produced and eventually the corporation would dissolve due to the fact that the product never left the building.
My point? The Church must do more than just sit in the pews and soak up information. God has given every believer special abilities and the mere act of worship is meant to not only praise God but to infuse passion for His work into His creation.
Religious assemblies should translate into efficient assembly lines.
Get out of the factory and bring the gospel to the world.This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. For the original post, go to: http://other-words.net/2013/11/22/assembly-lines/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.