In Our Shoes

“Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”

Uncredited axiom

The old saying above might as well read, “Never judge anyone. Period.” Who among us has truly walked in someone else’s shoes? Who knows the inner thoughts and feelings of others or understands their experiences? Only ONE person qualifies to judge, and I’m not Him.

The Importance of Understanding

All of our interpersonal relationships hinge on our ability to understand one another. Having similar experiences or other things in common aid in that sense of impathy with friends and family. But much of our true understanding of others comes from an intentional effort on our part. We have to try to – figuratively – put ourselves “in the other person’s shoes.”

Failure to do this often results in a failure to effectively communicate, and the relationship will suffer. Husbands and wives, parents and children, and even the best of friends can be torn apart simply because they didn’t make the effort to really understand one another. This lack of true understanding creates barriers that can seem impossible to overcome.

God and Man

Before the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden – before Adam & Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world – the relationship between man and his Creator was great. They walked and talked together, and the man had a clear understanding of who God was. But that began to change when Adam & Eve sinned and were expelled from Eden.

From that point on, the close relationship with God was put at a distance because of sin, and the world was cursed. Everything became harder and took hard work and effort. No longer did man walk and talk alongside his Maker and have all his needs met. He could communicate with God in prayer, but it wasn’t the same as before, and the ways of the Lord weren’t as easy to understand anymore.

Repairing the Damage

Over time, sin’s claim on the world became stronger. Mankind had strayed so far from Godliness that God began to regret creating these wicked humans. But there was one man – Noah – and his family who caught the Lord’s favor. Noah was a good man, and God saw fit to spare his family from His wrath. He told Noah to build a great ark, a boat large enough to carry two of every animal. And after 120 years, with the ark finished, God sent the great flood to cover the entire earth.

No one but Noah and his family survived this flood. Through them, God would rebuild and replenish mankind. But the curse of sin still existed. So after a time, the hearts of men again became wicked. God’s plan hadn’t failed, however. This was only one part, and it was done to illustrate these things: God’s sovereignty, His holiness, and His desire to restore us to Himself.

But how could God restore that relationship He’d once shared with man? How could he make us understand His love for us? How could we ever come to know and grasp an understanding of the plan He had for us? There was a way to be made, and God had prepared the perfect solution. Our sin had wrecked the relationship, and that sin demanded a price be paid. Only one Person could buy our salvation and redeem us to the Father… The Son, Jesus.

Both God AND Man

God Himself had to come to earth as a human. The baby born to Mary and Joseph was God in the flesh. Jesus grew and experienced all the same joys, sadnesses, and temptations that everyone else did. He was both fully God and fully man. And though He lived in this sinful world like us, He never sinned. If He had sinned, He could never redeem us. His unblemished life was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The price that sin demanded was death, and Jesus endured that punishment for us.

Being fully man, Christ died. He willingly gave His life to save mankind – to restore us into right-standing with God. But being fully God, as well, He conquered death. He not only bought our salvation, but He also paved the way for us to have eternal life in Him! And before ascending to Heaven, Jesus promised that He would return again to take us to live there with Him forever. He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, and our relationship with God the Father was restored once and for all.

‘Tis the Season

During the Christmas season, we celebrate the first coming of Christ. But as Christians, we do so while keeping in mind the promise of His second coming. We rejoice that God loved us so much that He sent Jesus, who set aside His riches and the glory of Heaven to come walk among us – in our shoes. We are grateful for the price He paid, for the victory He afforded us over the grave, and for the gift of eternal life.

THIS is what Christmas means to me. How about you?

Gender Blender

Nowadays, we’re told that there are not just two genders – that sex and gender are not the same thing – that true gender identities are a social construct. It’s hard to keep up with all the “new” genders out there. And if you fail to refer to someone by a preferred pronoun, you may get accused of a hate crime. It’s all very confusing. How should we respond?

Self identity

In today’s society, people can apparently be whoever or whatever they choose. A man can identify as a woman, a woman can identify as a man, and some humans even identify as animals. There are those who identify as neither male nor female, non-binary, or literally whatever they want to call themselves. These new genders come with new pronouns, as well. And this so-called “progressive” society seems to have some pretty high expectations that we all must live by. Each new identity demands to be validated by everyone. You’d better call them by their gender-neutral or otherwise “special” pronouns, or else.

Now, if you are a traditional-thinking old fuddy-duddy like me, you still subscribe to the archaic idea that there are only two genders: male and female. But this notion is said to be silly, oppressive, and even downright intolerant by progressives. You can’t possibly be an enlightened and caring person if you still hold to those old-fashioned ideas of gender. Instead, you’re certain to be labeled with some word ending in the term “phobic.” Because, you know, you obviously fear them.

Gender Dysphoria

Okay, let’s put sarcasm aside. To be fair, many people go through one type of identity crisis or another. But gender confusion or uncertainty is especially unique. There can be several causes, and it’s not something to take lightly. All situations are not the same, and there is no quick fix. Unfortunately, some people immediately jump to a singular bold conclusion: I must be trapped in the wrong body!

Often, there are deeper issues going on. Most people have things about themselves that they don’t like. In our modern world, if you want to change your appearance, it’s easily achieved. Nip this, tuck that, change your face, change your body – all through a surgical procedure. And when you combine gender dysphoria with a general dislike for yourself, you get a recipe for making a really bad decision. Rather than a life-altering surgery, it’s likely more advisable to get some counseling.

There’s no shame in going to therapy, though you want to make sure the person is qualified and reputable. But making drastic changes to your body can affect you in ways you never imagined. And it doesn’t address the underlying issues at all. The attempt to “redefine” yourself might bring a sort of “honeymoon” period when you perceive that life is better, but it never lasts. Those issues of self-doubt or even self-loathing will return. And people who transition from one sex to another are far more likely to commit suicide.

Need for Acceptance

All of us have basic emotional needs, and being accepted is at the top of the list. From the time we are children in need of parental acceptance to being adults and needing acceptance by our peers, this need is constant. But what happens when we are unable to accept ourselves? There is a feeling of desperation to be accepted by society, and if we don’t feel that we are liked by people, we don’t like ourselves. We’ll try to alter ourselves in many ways: hair color, eye color, piercings, tattoos, clothing, etc. When none of that works, depression sets in.

The dominoes continue to fall, and it leads to all sorts of emotional problems. Throw in a little confusion about your gender, and you become highly susceptible to whatever trends are currently promoted by society. They’ll encourage you to make a major life-changing decision, but they aren’t the one that decision will affect. They can’t know what you’re going through. Who could?

Finding Answers

The truth so many people overlook or choose to ignore is that there IS someone who understands everything you are going through. Yes, I’m talking about God. He understands every single aspect of your body, soul, and mind – because He created you. There is no one more qualified to help than Him. And your need for acceptance is something that He designed within you. It’s a need that He alone can fill.

As with pretty much everything, our Christian or Godly approach to individuals going through this should be one of love and concern for their well-being. Being viewed as simple-minded religious nuts doesn’t need to stop us from caring about and praying for them. How will they ever come to know the love of God and learn how He can help them feel accepted if they don’t get that from us? It is through God’s people that needs are met. If you get called a trans-phobe in the process, keep on showing them nothing but love.

Importance of Identity

Realize the importance of everyone’s identity. It’s part of that need for acceptance. But know that the key to gaining real acceptance for one’s self won’t be met through worldly means. God made us, so He holds all the answers we seek regarding finding out who we are. The important thing to learn is who we are IN HIM. But how do we do that?

First, we must accept who God is. He is Creator of all things. He made heaven and earth and all that we see, as well as all we can’t see. He carefully designed us right down to our DNA. And He is a loving God. He cares deeply for His creation…for us, His children. He is also a holy God. Sin is the thing that separated us from Him because sin cannot stand in the presence of our holy God. This is why He provided a path for our redemption. He sent Jesus as the perfect, sinless, sacrifice for our sins. Why? Because God loves us! Christ is the proof of that love. Why would He love a lowly, imperfect, sinner? That’s just God. That’s who He is!

Once we accept who God is, we accept His Son. Jesus, the one who lived a blameless life and paved the way for our salvation, is an extension of God’s love. The Bible tells us that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but He instead came to save us. Accepting who Jesus is -our Savior – is at the heart of our Christian walk. Without Him, all is lost and everything is meaningless. But WITH Him… We are loved, we are accepted, and we are able to once again stand in the presence of Almighty God!

After this, accepting ourselves becomes almost automatic. We have to accept that we are flawed human beings, born in sin, and in need of Jesus. Accept that we aren’t perfect. But also accept that, even in our imperfections, He has already accepted us and desires to make us new. That’s what Jesus does – He makes all things new. Through Him, we are made perfect. Through Him, we are more than conquerors. Through Him, we have been made heirs to the kingdom of God. That is who WE are. No matter what society or anyone else tells you, you are NOT a mistake.

Back to Genders

Part of accepting the things I just covered is accepting what God’s Word says. Those who think the scriptures can’t be reconciled with your gender confusion issues actually don’t want to accept His Word as true. But there is no confusion in what the Bible says about the matter.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27 [ESV]

Oversimplification? Nope, not really. There was a purpose in every single thing that God created. Likewise, there is a purpose for you. But remember, since the fall of man in the garden (when Adam and Eve sinned against God), imperfection entered the world. Before that, God had looked over all His creation and said that it was good. It was perfect until we (mankind, humans) ruined it. So we have to own up to those sins and imperfections, then accept that Jesus came to free us from those bonds – otherwise, our sins and imperfections will own us and enslave us.

Everyone has issues. Not all are the same, but we all have them. One person may have problems with anger. Another person might be struggling with an addiction. And, yes, others have deep emotional issues such as depression, self-loathing, and/or gender dysphoria. Each person’s struggle is unique, but none of them are bigger than our God can handle. We just need to avail ourselves to the help He offers. He wants to free us from our bonds, and He will when we let Him. He gave us free will, and He won’t force Himself on anyone. We have to WANT His help, and then ACCEPT that help.

Reaching Out

If you are someone who is going through this or a similar situation, you might ask, “How? How do I get God to help me?” You may have your doubts, but don’t let that stop you from talking to God. He loves you. His desire is to help you learn who you are supposed to be. He wants to show you His purpose for your life. So, put all your doubts aside, and pray this simple prayer:

God, I accept who You are. You are my Creator. I accept that I am an imperfect being. I need Your help. I accept Your Son, Jesus, as my Savior. I acknowledge that He took my sins and imperfections to the cross and bought my salvation there. And Lord, right now, I am asking you to take me and mold me into the person You made me to be. Help chip away all the areas of my life and personality and anything that doesn’t belong, and show me who I am in You. Please be patient with me, and help me stay in Your will. And may my life reflect You and Your love. In Jesus’ name, I pray… Amen.

New Creation

Now that you have accepted Christ and asked for God’s help, begin to seek His will for your life. You can do this by getting into the Word, the Bible, His instruction booklet for us all. If you’re afraid the scriptures are going to be too heavy and difficult to understand, put those doubts and fears aside. Start slow, and ask God to illuminate His Word to you. In other words, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. God wants you to understand His will for you, so He’s not gonna make it too tough.

I recommend you begin reading about the life of Jesus in the Gospels. The new testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called “parallel” writings because they all cover the same period of time. They are from four different perspectives, so you’ll be able to see how different people saw the same happenings. A lot of it will seem repetitious, but that will help you soak it in. As you read, take your time and let God speak His truths into you. You just might be surprised at how much you actually get from it.

From there, I would jump over to 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Why? Because these are examples of letters written (by the apostle Paul) to a specific church – a church with many people who, just like you, were relatively new to the Christian faith. And one of the most important truths for a new convert to remember is found in Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthian church…

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 [ESV]

That’s YOU! Once you have accepted Jesus, you are a new creation. Leave your past behind you. Your life is now made new in Him, and you can trust him to guide your steps. Don’t let satan steal away what God has given you – a new life! Continue to seek God’s will, read His word, and find yourself a church or Christian small group for support. There is great power and opportunity for growth in the company of other believers, so don’t cheat yourself out of that.

Final Thought

Don’t give in to the “gender blender” mentality. Don’t let yourself be bullied by society. Don’t let them decide what is best for your life. Trust God to show you who you are meant to be. Let His Word be your guide, and let it make you new and make you wise so that you can know for yourself what His will is.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2 [ESV]

You are not trapped in the wrong body. You are not a mistake. You are a child of God, created for a purpose. Claim your purpose today!

SUPPLEMENTAL READING: More and more regret gender reassignment surgery – https://bit.ly/35zVKxp

Inviting God’s Presence

As Christians, we must never forget why we worship. Not only does God deserve our praise and love and adoration, but it is of great benefit to us to do what He created us to do. There is power in praise and worship. That power changes everything. So it isn’t to be taken lightly, and simply going through the motions is never an option.

The Challenge

Praise God with a loud voice! Let the whole Earth shake, and let our praises reverberate outward and upward into the Heavens! When we do this, His Holy Spirit comes down. When we do this, Heaven invades the Earth. When we proclaim God’s praises as a single loud voice, He comes to dwell in our midst, and He inhabits our praises.

And when He comes, His glory comes with Him and shines all around. His Majesty and power fill His temple. Not just the building, but it enters and fills us – we are the temple of God! And when I say He fills us, I mean that in the most literal way. Because every nook and cranny of our being is filled, every dark corner is lit, and we overflow with His mighty power.

And this is when things get really good! Because when the power of an Almighty and infinite God touches the innermost part of finite man, something has to give. That’s when miracles happen. That’s when chains are broken, addictions and bad habits fall by the way side, battles are won, victory is secured, and lives are forever changed in Jesus’ name! This is where we need to be, in the presence of the Lord our God. That’s where sickness cannot abide, disease and deformity are healed, and even death is conquered.

If Heaven is dwelling with God, in His presence for eternity, then worshipping Him in spirit and truth here on Earth is as close to Heaven as this life gets. There’s no place I’d rather be than in the company of the Holy Spirit and fellow believers praising God. So let those praises rise among us now, and may we usher in the presence of our Lord! He is why we are here. Let’s show our love for Him by offering up our worship and the praise He is due.

Let it rise! Let praise arise, and our enemies be scattered. Welcome Jesus in this place – the mighty Warrior who has already defeated sin, hell, and the grave! Lift your voice in worship to the Name above every name – the mighty name of Jesus Christ!

This is where your personal battles are won, church. Surround yourself with the heavenly forces of God’s army right now. No weapon formed against you will prosper! Jesus fights our battles for us, and He DOES NOT LOSE…EVER. Praise Him right now for taking those flaming arrows for you, for taking the nails meant for you, for taking your punishment and leaving it on the cross, and for delivering you and placing your feet firmly on the rock.

The Prayer

With every breath we breathe, with every word we speak, with every song we sing, and with all that is within us… Lord, we want to worship You. We want to glorify You in everything we do. Let our hearts be broken for those things that break your heart, O God. And may we BE overflowing fountains of Your Love to the world for Your sake. We give ourselves as willing vessels to accomplish Your work and grow Your kingdom.

Let it be so, Lord. May our numbers increase, not for our sakes, but for Yours. That Your glory will be proclaimed by all, that every knee would bow, and that every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. And our loud praises will indeed shake the whole world, and Your Name will be magnified on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Lighting the Way

Does modern stage lighting in churches go too far? Are worship groups just “putting on a show” nowadays with concert-like effects?

Going Dark?

I recently came across an article that began with this quote:

“I honestly don’t understand why churches are choosing to have dark sanctuaries.”

GodVine article on Crosswalk.com
“Why Is the Church Going Dark?”

What they are referring to is how many modern churches sometimes use darker lighting in the main sanctuary and alternate lighting to illuminate the stage. And in the comment section of that post, there were a LOT of strong opinions about the topic. Genuinely, there are plenty of people who just don’t get it.

Among the varying points of view, several folks seemed to feel that it was “just a lot of theatrics.” Others added, “It’s like they’re putting on a show.” Similar comments seemed to exhibit a harsh judgmental attitude. Some even went as far as to suggest that it was “evil,” taking the term darkness much too literally.

Naturally, there were those who had a much more practical opinion of the topic. But the gist of the article itself seemed more negative than positive. Upon reading this, I felt the need to shine some much needed light on the subject – pun intended.

Unnecessary Theatrics?

I have spent all my life in church, and more than 35 years in audio-visual. Over the years, I have seen a lot of changes take place in church services – the way things are done, and how the gospel is presented. What I have learned during this time is that there is a single ever-present prevailing truth: While the message of Christ does not change, the methods for presenting that message are constantly changing.

Some people simply don’t like change. Personal preferences are going to vary, and that’s okay. But we need to be careful that we aren’t so stuck in our ways that we close ourselves off the possibility that there are indeed different ways to do things that are every bit as worthy. Is it really “unnecessary theatrics,” or simply a new way of enhancing the presentation of the gospel?

If you truly want to follow the logic that suggests all that lighting stuff is just not necessary, fine. Let’s go down that road for a moment. Do we NEED a sound system? Do we really NEED instruments? Do we even NEED to have a building? No. We don’t have to have any of those things in order to meet together, worship God, and listen to the preaching of the Word. So, why don’t we just get rid of ALL that unnecessary stuff?

Using Gifts and Tools

Perhaps the better question is, why do we USE those things? Well, having a building is helpful because it gets people out of the elements and weather, and we can control the temperature in a building. Okay, that’s obviously a comfort thing. Nothing wrong with being comfortable while we worship, right?

Instruments add to the worship. The Bible says to play skillfully on the harp and the lyre, and to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Playing all kinds of instruments is also how some people who might not be able to sing can offer up beautiful worship to God. Musical talent, as well as vocal talent, is a gift from our Creator. No reason why we ought not USE these talents in our praise to Him, right?

Now that we have a building and instruments, another tool we might naturally come to use would be a sound system. The acoustics vary in different kinds of rooms, and a sanctuary pretty much begs to have a good sound system in order to evenly distribute a discernible mix of the voices and the instruments. No problems with that, right?

Most people would agree that these are legitimate reasons for using all these things. They enhance the experience in many ways. The building offers a controllable atmosphere and comfort. The instruments provide music which is used to make the worship better. And the audio system helps everyone hear clearly the lyrics and message being delivered. So, what about that lighting?

What Lighting Adds

As my church’s AV Director, I have trained many people. One of the first things I make clear to them is a very simple concept: Our job is to enhance the service by striving to excel at eliminating distractions and help keep people’s focus where it should be. We never want to BE a distraction, and I explain to trainees how to avoid that.

I tell them that what we do in that AV booth is very important. We have a unique ability to make everyone’s church experience either better or worse. From sound, to lighting, to visual presentations on screen, everything has a purpose. If we do our jobs well, no one should really notice. But if we mess up, everyone will notice.

So, how do we enhance the church service with strategic lighting? I’m glad you asked. Among other things, one reason to darken the main sanctuary lights and illuminate a certain part of the stage is to help eliminate distractions and focus people’s attention on the person speaking. This is similar to why a theater will darken the lights over the audience to keep people from being distracted by those around them and focus their attention on the movie screen.

Now I hear some in the peanut gallery yelling, “Aha! See? Theatrics! We don’t need that in church!” If that’s you, I think you missed the point. I DID say it’s similar to what’s done in a theater, so let’s go ahead and call it theatrics for the moment. My point was the WHY. And WHY it works for a theater is the same reason it works for church. I just went through a laundry list of reasons why things that might not be necessary certainly do enhance a church service. No, we might not NEED the lighting aspect, but that doesn’t make it unusable. It’s a valuable tool, and I’m of the opinion that we ought to be using every available tool at our disposal for God’s purposes.

Opinions or Judgments?

I understand that there are going to be plenty of people who disagree with me about this. Some just hold the opinion that using lighting in this way is man’s attempt at manipulating the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t need man’s help. But I maintain that every gift, talent, or ability we have is from God. That includes the knowledge we possess and the technology we’ve developed. These things are not inherently evil. When utilized for God’s purposes, we can accomplish great things for the Kingdom. It’s not about the Spirit needing our help, but about offering all we have to be used for Him. And while God doesn’t NEED man, He chooses to USE man for His glory.

It’s fine for people to have opinions that differ. But let’s make sure our opinions aren’t being treated as a standard of right and wrong. If you have scoffed at a church for using “concert lighting” or for seemingly “putting on a show,” I would challenge you to back up and take a 30,000 foot view. See if it’s being used as a positive to enhance the service, much like a sound system. What’s the motivation behind it, really? And don’t just assume you know. That’s not just an opinion anymore – that’s a judgment.

While there may indeed be some out there who are just trying to “be like the world” to attract people to the church, I seriously doubt that’s the intention of most. As an AV Director and one who has served as such in church for decades, I can honestly tell you that putting on a show is furthest from my mind. I want everything I do at church to direct people’s attention AWAY from ME and onto Jesus! The last thing I want is people looking at me as the example to follow. I’m not at all worthy of that, but Jesus definitely is.

Let’s stop being so critical of each other in the church that it chases people away. We’re supposed to be witnesses, not judges. So use all your gifts and tools for Christ, and let’s keep lighting the way for others.

Man Up

Yeah, this one is directed mainly at the guys. We have a serious problem with laying our issues off on others in regard to the carnal nature. Are we so weak that we are blaming women for being attractive and stimulating our hormones? Have we given up on the concept of self-control?

SERIOUS QUESTION: When you see this in church (or anywhere for that matter), where’s your mind, fellas?

Inappropriate Attire

I’ve heard this issue come up in the church on several occasions. As I recall, it arose in my church’s congregation a few years back. A person or group of people told someone in private after the service that they thought someone on stage was wearing inappropriate attire. Not ratty clothes, not irreverent t-shirts, but some female singer had on a dress that was a little “too short.” Some men commented that it was distracting for them. “We’re still men, after all,” they said.

Hold up, guys. Are we maybe projecting our short-comings as men onto people who aren’t at fault? Are we seriously going to blame an attractive woman for how we respond to seeing a little bit of leg? Is it truly inappropriate attire, or is it our inappropriate response? Should we start requiring them to wear hijabs and covering everything like Muslim women because we can’t control our own flesh?

Recognizing a Problem

Now, I don’t want to seem completely unsympathetic to a very real issue among many men today. There is indeed a problem in modern society with men being addicted to pornography. No one wants to talk about it, let alone acknowledge that it exists. It’s an embarrassing topic that most people avoid. There’s an inherent shame that’s involved among guys who struggle with it. It’s the dark secret they hide from their wives and families.

This plague of porn is more prevalent today because of modern technology. A man doesn’t have to go looking for it any longer. It’s constantly fed into our computers and smart phones and tablets. The advent of click-bait and the like is such that one inadvertent tap on a touch screen can instantly open up a sexually explicit site. The enemy has gotten really sneaky about thrusting garbage in our faces, and lots of men have fallen prey to it.

As leaders in the church, we do need to be wise about the issue. Anyone who holds a position of leadership – whether it’s a teacher or a worship leader or whatever – must guard against saying or doing things that might (even accidentally) lead someone astray. Modest attire on stage is definitely a wise choice, and there’s no argument about that. But as men of God, WE also must own up to our own faults.

What’s Really to Blame?

The young woman in the photo is wearing a dress that hits just below the thigh and right above the knee. Ask yourself why this is so distracting to you. I understand the struggles we have with our carnal nature. I’m well aware of the problem many men have with pornography. But calling this particular dress inappropriate just because of how we respond to the visual stimulus is a bit of a weak argument.

If we are content to blame a woman for being attractive rather than holding ourselves accountable for our own fleshly response to her, then we are being unfair and morally lazy. Worse yet, this allows an oppressive spirit to gain a foothold in our church. And that’s a door we don’t need to open.

While acknowledging church leadership’s responsibility to help guard against these problems by implementing certain standards for those in leadership roles, we must also acknowledge that this is a sinful nature issue. It’s not a crutch we men should allow ourselves to keep. What if you’re not in church? What if you see an attractive woman in revealing clothes at the grocery store? Are you guilty of indulging your carnal imagination in public, only seeing it as a problem when you’re in God’s house? At some point, guys, we gotta man up.

Being Men of God

There is something deeper going on, dudes. If you are easily distracted by an attractive woman to the point that it causes you to have these kinds of fleshly feelings, the problem is in YOU. Own it, and pray about it. As men of God, we have to assume responsibility for our own sinful tendencies. And projecting our skewed sense of “appropriateness” on others is condescending and completely un-Christian. Further, it plays right into the hands of the enemy. Don’t fall for this trick, guys, which satan will use to divide and destroy the church.

Should we have standards? Yes, of course. And we certainly do. But what we must guard against is allowing our personal issues to dictate terms for other people. This is exactly why the world doesn’t want to hear our witness. They see us as coming from a position of being self-righteous and trying to force them to fall in line with our sense of morality.

What Should Be Our Attitude?

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;

15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5 [NKJV]

Men – We are no longer to regard people according to the flesh. We are supposed to be a new creation in Christ. If we’re still succumbing to the flesh, WE are the ones who need to seek God’s help in this. Yes, that means we have to stop using the excuse that “we’re still men” like a crutch. Yes, we’re human. Yes, we have flaws. We aren’t perfect yet. But we are allowing God to perfect us, aren’t we? Self-control is still within the realm of possibility, right? If we are letting Christ guide us, anything is possible!

This is about our own spiritual maturity, not so-and-so’s dress. It’s about us still drinking milk when we should already be eating solid food. We gotta stop blaming others for OUR faults, gentlemen. It’s time to grow up, man up, and kick this bad habit to the curb. No more excuses!

One Final Thought

Did this rebuke seem a bit harsh to you? If so, just imagine how harsh it might seem to the young woman on stage who’s only intent was to sacrifice her time and talent to give praise to God. Suppose she’s rebuked for her attire. How well do you really think that will go? The Bible tells us that we need to be wise as serpents but gentle as doves. (Matthew 10:16) Recognize this situation as a trap of the enemy, and treat it accordingly.

God Knows

“Every situation that comes our way has no choice but to bend itself to His will.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to see beyond our immediate circumstances. In the midst of a trial, or in the face of some unforseen situation, we often have a hard time grasping the big picture. In times like these, we can even forget that God is still in control. When something tests your faith, how do you respond?

The Father’s Blessings

I have been so blessed by God. He has taken care of me and brought me through some truly trying times. Personal stuggles, relational struggles, divorce, finances, health issues, you name it… God has never once let me down or failed to come through for me in my hour of need.

When you spend so much time on the mountain tops, however, you can sometimes forget what the valleys were like. Then something happens, and BOOM – you find yourself in a valley again. Questions come to mind: Why is this happening? Is there something else I need to learn through this trial? Am I being punished? Lord, what happened!?!

Do I Have Your Attention?

Now, I do NOT believe that God sends bad things our way. No, the scriptures tell us that He loves us and always wants the best for us. But that doesn’t mean that life will constantly be all puppies and rainbows. Jesus assured His disciples that “in this world, you WILL HAVE TROUBLES.” That’s not exactly the kind of promise we like to hear, is it? But then, He followed that statement with this one: “But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” And through Him, we are overcomers, as well.

Admittedly, though, it does seem to be in those times of trouble that we spend the most time talking with God. It’s almost like our attention is elsewhere when everything is going hunky dory, but as soon as things go off the rails, we start crying out to Him. Shouldn’t He have our undivided attention at ALL times? Ought we not be praising God in every circumstance?

Remembering God’s Plans

So when hard times befall us, what is our first reaction? I’ll be honest. More times than not, my immediate response tends to be “Oh CRAP!” Remembering all the times that God came through for me in the past isn’t usually the first place my mind goes. Yeah, I know in my heart that God is still there and He still loves me. But in the moment the proverbial crap hits the fan, that reality is where my vision is focussed.

What we have to remind ourselves is that God has a plan. Every situation that comes our way has no choice but to bend itself to His will. If we love the Lord and are called according to His purpose, the Bible says that “everything works together” for our good. That’s a guarantee straight from God, and we know that His promises are “YES” and “AMEN!”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV]

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is:

I’ve been in rough situations on numerous occasions, and God has never failed me. Most recently, the trial that came my way was made easier by earlier provision. Let me explain…

This past week, I learned rather suddenly that the company I worked for was going to have to lay off about a dozen employees – including myself. As of the end of the week, I became unemployed. Any other time in my life, this would have been cause for immediate concern. My stress level would have shot up quickly, and my anxiety would have been through the roof! But, no. Not this time. Why?

Was it because I hated my job anyway? Nope, I actually LOVED that job and my employers. I will miss them dearly. Okay, so was it because I immediately remembered that God was in control and that He wasn’t about to start letting me down now? Not really. As stated previously, regardless of how strong I may think my faith is, remembering His goodness and His promises isn’t always my brain’s first reaction. So then, how come I wasn’t freaking out and worried about where my next paycheck was going to come from?

Before any of this happened, God had used yet another negative circumstance for my good. About a year ago, I was rear-ended in traffic and had to miss a month of work. I had to see a physical therapist for a few months, and I endured a great amount of pain. Because of this, in the months that followed, I ended up receiving a monetary settlement that was a bit more than I expected. God helped me make some good decisions with that money so that it more than covered my expenses.

As a result, I still had a modest financial cushion saved up. So when this unexpected job loss arose, God had already made sure I was covered. He knew ahead of time what my need was going to be. Through His mercy, He saw fit to spare me the stress and anxiety that normally comes with losing a great job like this one. Though I was certainly disappointed when this happened, I knew He had already taken care of me.

Nothing Catches God By Surprise

Of course, not every trial that comes along is as easy to handle as this one. But that’s kind of the point. Even when we don’t see the tough times coming, God knows all about it. Sometimes, He’ll prepare you beforehand so that you’re ready. Other times, He’ll equip you in that moment. Regardless, we must remember that HE IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL. He loves us, and He will never let us down!

What ever your situation is right now, no matter what it is that you’re going through, you have a Heavenly Father that wants to intervene on your behalf. He desires to take you into His arms and comfort you in the midst of loss, and to provide for you that which you need. Trust in the God who loves, the God who is able, and He will take care of you…always.

Privileged?

Has anyone recently told you to “check your privilege”? Our society is inundated today with all sorts of so-called progressive ideas, and the notion that certain groups of people are inherently privileged is fairly new. But is it true, or is it just another made-up form of class-warfare?

Haves and Have-Nots

There have always been those who have more of something than others. Some people have more money, or more talent, or seemingly more intelligence. Others might have more charisma, or more exciting jobs, or even the type of lifestyle that can make people jealous of them. But none of these things necessarily qualify as an actual privilege.

It’s possible that the one who seems to have more options in life worked really hard to achieve that goal. Not to say that everyone else was just lazy, but there are many factors that can account for the presumed failure of some and the apparent success of others. People are different. They have different circumstances, and the deck often seems to be stacked against some of them.

Types of Privilege

According to modern society, there are several kinds of “privileged” people. If you are a man, many believe that you inherently benefit from male privilege. They say that, simply because you are male, you enjoy certain benefits that women never have and never can because of an established anti-female bias. But is this true?

We’ll come back to that, but let’s look at another example… If you are white, caucasian, Anglo-Saxon, or however you want to describe your pale-skinned ethnicity, then there are those who claim that you benefit from white privilege. Yes, just because you’re white, you enjoy certain benefits that other people don’t and can’t due to an established bias against them. Is this one true?

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

While it’s true that, at one time in our nation’s history, women did not have equality in many ways with men, we have made some enormous improvements since then. The women’s suffrage movement helped garner support of enough men to win ladies the right to vote. And let’s not dismiss the MEN who argued on the side of those women. Today, women can serve in the military, or as Supreme Court Justices, or could even be elected president.

But wait! There’s still the matter of the pay-gap between men and women, right? Well, there IS an argument about a supposed “pay-gap” by some. However, that argument falls apart when you factor in the types of jobs that most men choose to work and the types of jobs that most women choose to work. Do that, and there IS NO PAY-GAP. “Equal pay for equal work” has been around for a very long time now.

Civil Rights Achievements

The same thing can be said for people of color. During the formative years of America’s history, huge strides had to be made to correct the mistakes of our past. And what many people don’t know is that a large portion of the (white) men who framed the Constitution actually had a distaste for slavery because of their Christian faith.

Even while they were pressured (both by time and by other delegates) to structure the founding document in a way that didn’t restrict or do away with slavery outright, they still succeeded in providing a path to citizenship for slaves in the future. By using certain wording to describe the God-given equality of man and rights to freedom, they believed – once their war for independence was won – they’d be in a better position to address the issue of slavery.

It wasn’t a perfect solution to the problem by any means, but it seemed to be the necessary step to take at the time. And the path to freedom for those slaves took longer than anyone hoped. It took a bold stand by a future president to end slavery in America, and a not so civil war, as well. Since then, more hard fought victories were won for black Americans.

Today, a man or woman of color can achieve anything. Some may still argue, but despite the backward notions of a few bigots, you can’t deny that many of our elected leaders are black, Hispanic, and Asian. We’ve even had a black president.

Is there still racism? Yes, although not nearly as much as some folks would have you believe. America isn’t perfect. But she is beautiful, diverse, and YES – great! So let’s talk about real privilege…

American Privilege

I woke up this morning and realized something that shocked me. I…am privileged. Yes, ME. No, not because I’m male. And not because I’m white. I’m privileged because… I. Am. An American.

There are so many people who cannot claim this. They may live in less fortunate conditions, they may live in socialist or communist countries, or they might even been born into servitude somewhere in the world where slavery still thrives. They may be persecuted for their religious beliefs, or their government might try to run every aspect of their lives. They may truly live in the worst of poverty because their dictatorship greedily confiscates all the wealth. They may go to sleep on the ground rather than a bed, hungry rather than with a full stomach, and have little to nothing to look forward to tomorrow.

There isn’t a female American of voting age that isn’t allowed to vote. There’s not a single black American alive today who was born into slavery. Even where poverty exists in this country, there is opportunity for those who are more fortunate to lend a helping hand to someone in need – provided the more fortunate also has been instilled with a sense of morality and courtesy.

America is still “the land of opportunity,” and that opportunity is afforded to us all. While some argue that opportunities to better oneself are only enjoyed by a lucky few, I strongly disagree. I’ve seen people from the poorest of backgrounds work hard and achieve the loftiest of goals. I know it’s possible. And those who really BELIEVE they can accomplish anything are usually the ones who DO.

The Bottem Line

So if this is true, then what’s up with all the allegations of “privilege?” Often times, when someone is losing an argument, that person must childishly invent a disqualifyer to use against the opposition. Like, “your opinion doesn’t count because you’re a man.” How is that not sexist? Or, “you just don’t understand because you’re white.” There is nothing at all constructive about such statements.

These claims are an extention of the victimhood mentality. If I can just point my finger at someone and call them privileged, it’s the same as claiming victim status for myself. And as we all know, here in America, so-called victims are the ones who end up with the real perks… Which then makes them the privileged ones. Irony?

I’m a victim of something, so I should get special – uhmm – consideration. HA, you mean special PRIVILEGES?! And the fact is, people in this country have it better than anyone else on the planet, and yet too many think they are entitled to so much more.

Again, I don’t mean to downplay people who have real needs. Those of us who can help the genuinely needy SHOULD help them. This is about the victimhood mentality and its pervasiveness in our society. Saying I’m somehow privileged just because I’m a white male is ridiculous, and it’s insulting to you who say it. In so doing, you are downplaying your own potential and essentially saying that you are somehow incapable by comparison. You’re basically saying that I’m better than you, and there’s nothing you can do to change it because you were just dealt a bad hand. Please.

Biblical Perspective

“But I have an unfair disadvantage!” Try telling that to Job. Things were going great for a while. He had a family, livestock, riches, and good health. Then one after another, it was all taken from him. He lost everything. Even his health was failing. He had painful, oozing sores due to disease, and the few friends that he had left gave him the worst advice of all time.

“Dude, you really should just go ahead and curse your God – who is OBVIOUSLY not concerned with you at all anymore – and die.

Did Job say, “Y’all are right. I’m a victim of enormously unfair circumstances here! I’ve been faithful to God. I’ve been a good man, a good husband, a good father… All for what? Just to see everything taken from me? I really need to give God an ear full about this! I deserve better!”?

No, he didn’t say any of that. In spite of his situation, he knew what manner of man he truly was, and he knew that his God had not forgotten about him. Job rebuked them and said, “No! I will NOT be a victim. No matter what my circumstances now, I know my God is faithful, and in His time, He will deliver me! I will stand firmly in my faith, and I will accept what God says is best for me in my life – or if He so chooses, in my death.”

[That’s the Gospel according to Stace right there – my own paraphrase, so don’t go trying to figure out what translation of the Bible that was. Y’all go read it for yourself.]

And what happened as a direct result of Job’s faith and his refusal to be a victim? God restored him in every way. His health, his wealth, everything. He had it better than ever before. That was his story, and it can be yours.

As Americans, we are ALL privileged to a large extent. Never downplay THAT by assuming some victim status for yourself. And as Christians, all-the-more, we are not victims or failures or anything less than OVERCOMERS! We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus! Because of what He did on the cross, we share the greatest privilege of all… A holy inheritance… The gift of salvation and eternal life. So think on that for a while.

Think you’re a victim? Check your privilege!

TRUTH IS…

Great summation of “truth.” Check out this offering from my brother’s blog site…

The STANdard

Truth is.
It never needs any embellishment. It needs nothing added, subtracted or a modification of any kind. It is impossible to strengthen its position. Truth stands on its own; it stands always. It is that which is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is the author of all that is pure and good. To modify it in any way no matter the motivation effectively turns it… into a lie. *

It is Truth. It doesn’t change; it changes us. The presentation of that Truth can take on many forms. Jesus was a master educator, and he used parables about things and ideas the people of his day could easily relate to in order to present Truth. Most importantly, he demonstrated it with his behavior, his life and works. He walked consistently with his talk and demonstrated the mercy, grace and forgiveness that the Father readily wanted to shower…

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Sheep and Goats (a Bible study)

As we dive into this passage of scripture, I want to draw the distinction between “those on the King’s right” and “those on the King’s left.” The symbolism used here is an obvious contrast of people who will be welcomed into heaven and others who will be forever cursed to an eternity in hell.

Matthew 25:31-46 [NIV]

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.

32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

RIGHT vs. LEFT

The position on the right hand of a king is a place of honor, a place often reserved for the righteous and mighty. Why are the “sheep” in good standing with the king while the “goats” are not? We’ll get to that shortly…

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?

39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

UNDERSTANDING THE SYMBOLISM

Sheep are generally utilized in scripture to represent followers of Christ. We are called His sheep and He our Shepherd. And Jesus Himself is known as the Lamb of God, and the Lamb that was slain for the forgiveness of our sins.

In contrast, the image of the goat is often used to represent the dark or evil one – satan, the devil. Or, as in this passage, the goats represent those who followed after the sinful nature – and so, followed the devil and his ways.

And what does the king say to these “goats?”

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,

43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

BEING SHEEP, NOT GOATS

The difference is clear. When that day comes and He separates the sheep from the goats, we want to find ourselves on His right and not His left. We want to hear Him say “Well done” rather than “Depart from me!”

But to an untrained eye, sheep and goats look quite similar. And too often, people may look at us (Christians) and see little or no difference in us and your average everyday worldly non-believers. How can we make that distinction clear to everyone?

In John 10, Jesus says:

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—
15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

One sure way to stand apart from the world is to live like a people known to Jesus. This means following His commands and doing what we ought. Further down in this chapter, He adds:

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

If we know His voice and listen only to Him, our actions will proclaim loudly to everyone that we belong to Jesus. In fact, sheep can only be led by the voice they recognize as that of their shepherd. Other voices are ignored. We can take a lesson from this.

THE VOICE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

When we are tuned in to the voice of Christ, no other frequencies overlap. If satan tries to lead us astray while our receivers are tuned into Jesus, the enemy will only register as static. A little fine tuning (through prayer and praise), and that static is gone.

How do we stay tuned in to the right station? Through study and meditation on the Word of God. The more we spend time with Jesus, studying His teachings and learning His ways, the easier it will be to recognize His voice and distinguish it from the background noise generated by the devil.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Put all of this together now – knowing the Lord’s voice, following His commands – and where will it lead us? Every opportunity He brings us to show His love and be a blessing to others will offer us a chance to demonstrate that we are His.

The Bible gives us the blueprint for being like Jesus to the world around us. Follow His example, and you will be a Kingdom Hero. Go back to our original scripture in Matthew 25:

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Meeting the needs of people He puts in your path – whether it’s feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, or whatever – this is the mark of a Kingdom Hero. And that’s just the kind of person a king would have at his right hand in a place of honor. Where will YOU be? On His right, or on His left?

In a world full of goats, I’d much rather be a sheep.

Owning Our Faith

There are a lot of misconceptions about Christianity. We have allowed our faith to be hijacked by those who seek to misrepresent it. We have to be clear witnesses, in no uncertain terms, and set the record straight.

What Happened to Christianity?

The process started long ago. When the serpent tempted Eve (and Adam) with the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he countered God’s own warning with words and reasoning to the contrary. God said they would die, but the serpent (or satan) said that just wasn’t true. They listened to the wrong voice and disobeyed God’s words.

Today, the enemy is still doing all he can to turn people away from the Word of God. This process has utilized worldly arguments that are successful at influencing people who aren’t fully versed in what scripture says or in what Jesus taught. Each argument seems convincing enough to pull these unrooted Christians away from the truth, and from their very faith.

A Falling Away…

There have been a number of Christians who have fallen away from the faith, but the most lethal targets the enemy chooses are those in positions of leadership and influence.

Recently, two well-known Christian leaders announced that they had left the faith. Joshua Harris, a former pastor and author, said he no longer calls himself a Christian and that he now vocally supports the LGBTQ community. A similar announcement was made even more recently by Marty Sampson, a Hillsong United worship leader.

Worldly arguments have proven highly effective with these influential people, and their influences can cause even more to fall away.

Recognizing the False Arguments

While it’s a sad fact that this is happening, we should neither be surprised nor disheartened. Satan has been at this for millennia, and he’s gotten quite crafty at it. The Bible speaks of a “falling away,” so we have to guard our hearts and stay rooted in the Word of God in order to recognize all the clever tricks of the enemy.

Each of these worldly arguments tries to either make sin okay somehow or make it seem unloving and judgmental for us to call it sin. Embedded within this notion is the false belief that Christianity stands in judgment of sinners. If we are truly like Christ, then we are to be friends of sinners – but that doesn’t mean that we condone sin.

The enemy has succeeded in making people think that believing what the Bible says about sin is the same thing as judging. Perhaps some so-called Christians (yes, even some of us) have been guilty of judging others, but the Bible clearly tells us NOT to do that. I can believe homosexuality is wrong (because the Bible says so) without judging gays. There IS a big difference. Indeed, I can be their friend!

In fact, what I tell people when witnessing, I can’t judge anyone for their sins without judging myself. I have my own struggles with sin, and I’m not better than anyone else. The Bible says that, by the same manner that I judge someone else, I will be judged. Because of my belief in the Word of God, I can neither condone sin nor condemn anyone for it. That’s just not my place. God alone will stand in judgment of us all.

Many Refuse to Hear

We must also understand that there are those who simply won’t listen, either due to preconceived ideas of our faith or because of an unwillingness to submit to Godly principles. For such people, we can only do so much. In many cases, prayer might be our sole resort for them.

[Warning against falling away] We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!

Hebrews 5:11-12 [NIV]

Some of the hardest people to reach for the Kingdom can be those who previously called themselves Christians. These people often think they already know all there is to know about Christianity. They once believed, but only in a shallow sense. That belief was not rooted deeply in the truth, or it would not have been so easily uprooted.

Standing Firm in the Faith

Once we learn to recognize the tricks and false arguments of the enemy, and keeping ourselves deeply rooted in God’s Word, with humble hearts full of love and grace, we must stand firmly in what we believe. But we have to KNOW what believe first. Correcting the false notions about our faith is dependent upon us knowing the truth.

You can’t witness effectively to someone who thinks you either have already judged them or hate them. Often, that’s the first misconception we have to tackle. They need to know that we love them and don’t consider ourselves to be better than them. Make it clear that you don’t want to be their judge, but their friend. This should be obvious in both your words and your actions or behavior toward them.

Too often, our Christian faith gets hijacked and misrepresented to the world. Satan wants everyone to think we are against them rather than for them. We have a responsibility as Christians to correct these false ideas and set the record straight. We have to own our faith, knowing exactly what we believe and standing firmly in it. Otherwise, we may be uprooted ourselves and fall away or be deceived by worldly views.