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Hope for Today is a monthly column written by Clint Decker. It is published online and in newspapers throughout the Great Plains. In it Clint shares a message of hope through the current events and trends of our day. This blog contains Clint's current and archived columns. HFT is a ministry of Great Awakenings, Inc. Learn more about Clint Decker and his ministry at www.greatawakenings.org.

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  • 12/01/15--07:30: Christmas: The War on Jesus
  • Every Christmas we do the “Holiday Hustle and Bustle Two-Step” and may experience the “Christmas Blues” along with a good mix of some “Christmas Family Conflict.”  But there is one more feature to the “most wonderful time of the year”, the war on Jesus.  Some may say the war on Christmas, but if we are honest, it is really about Jesus.


    "It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas . .  Mythicism’s in the Air” was the title of a column that caught my attention, written by Dr. John Dixon.  He is a professor at the University of Sydney teaching a class on the Historical Jesus. 

    Mythicism or the Jesus Myth is a teaching that advocates Jesus never existed.  The majority of religious scholars reject the legitimacy of their arguments since there is such wide spread consensus for His existence.  However, this arena of thought is growing in influence and fighting for an academic spot at the table.  During Christmas and Easter we often see these mythicist-driven attacks on Jesus. 

    When looking for evidence for the historical Jesus, eye witness accounts are the most valuable.  They are prized above second-hand testimonies, of which there are several in and outside of the Biblical record.  However, the only place that contains first-hand accounts of Jesus is the Bible itself. 

    Matthew wrote of meeting Jesus in third person saying, “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he rose and followed him” (Matt. 9:9).  Paul records his statement writing, “[Jesus] appeared to me also” (1 Cor. 15:8).  And Peter recounts his experience saying he was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet. 5:1).

    For centuries skeptics have put these eye witness accounts on the anvil of doubt. Yet examination after examination has proven their testimonies were reliable.

    There is another kind of testimony that also proves the existence of Jesus.  How do you explain the millions of people over the last 2,000 years who have given testimony of being transformed by Jesus?  Most have never met each other, lived in different centuries and on different continents and spoken different languages.  How could they have conspired together?  I argue that every soul who has been born again by the living Christ is a legitimate and definitive source of evidence that proves Jesus is real and alive!

    Come on, all doubters and skeptics!  Come to the empty manger, cross and tomb.  You will not find Him there but you can find Him on your knees when you cry out from the depths of your soul to know Him.  There you will see Him in all His glory and be able to give your own eye witness account.                   

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     Former Republican President George W. Bush stated less than three weeks after America was attacked in 2001 that “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That's not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.”  Current Democratic President, Barrak Obama, agrees along with many other elected officials.  Is it true?  Is Islam a religion of peace?

     I respectfully disagree.  Yes, the majority of Muslims are peaceful but Islam itself is not.  Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, declared that “Muslims must kill non-believers wherever they are unless they convert to Islam.”  Where does Mr. Gomaa and other scholars get such ideas?  Their teachings come from Islam’s sacred text and the example of its founder, the Prophet Muhammad.  The Quran says, “Slay them (the infidels) wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out, for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter” (2:191).  Some Muslim’s may choose a moderate approach and ignore this, others may counter it with an opposing Quran teaching, but others obey this command.     

    If someone is a non-Muslim, albeit an atheist, Christian, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist, and refuses to convert to Islam, they are an infidel and vulnerable to confrontation, especially if they live in an Islamic nation.  If someone abandons their Muslim faith, tries to evangelize Muslims, speaks out against Islam, or violates Islamic Sharia Law, their lives are at risk.      

    Islam itself, not fringe groups or leaders, provide the foundation for the appalling Islamic-motivated atrocities we have witnessed in breaking news stories.  It is just too wide spread to deny.  One expert found that since 9/11 there have been over 20,000 of these attacks, averaging about one every five hours, somewhere in the world.   

    The stark contrast between Christianity and Islam is found in Jesus’ own words when He stated that “In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  How did He overcome?  It was not done with a sword but with His cross.  He voluntarily laid His life down on that gruesome and torturous cross that others might live.  Then, He rose again showing His power over evil and death.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, His goodness and peace is available to all – Muslims, Jews, and people of any or no religion.  His kindness and compassion is heralded across the globe with His words “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).


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    Gambling is a worldwide activity that has been around for much of human history.  However, in modern times it has scaled like never before due to technology and public acceptance.  Elected officials see the financial benefit of gambling, making it more accessible, and the church has muted its opposition.     

      
    The gambling industry in partnership with government and business have conspired together to produce a masterful public relations strategy.  It promotes gambling as a fun recreational activity that also provides needed public funding for education or other worthy causes.     

    On the surface it all seems innocent, but at its core gambling is a wretched vice.  This evil is built on a flashy, well-orchestrated scheme of stealing.  Except, rather than doing it secretively, players willingly fork over their cash hand over fist.  They give the card dealer, the grocery store clerk or the online website their hard earned income in return for a false hope of a jackpot rarely seen.      

    This devilish vice has been destroying lives for centuries and now more than ever.  According to a Gambling treatment organization, over 80% of Americans have gambled on some level foolishly giving over $500 billion to these crafty thieves.  On top of that it costs our economy over $40 billion, which comes from credit losses to businesses due to a gamblers unpaid debt and for the expense of social services to get them help.  Additionally, gambling can lead to job loss, bankruptcy, fraud, depression, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse and much, much more.  Get the picture?  Every time I watch a TV add extolling the virtues of gambling I yell “It’s a lie!”  Ask any family member of someone who has a gambling problem if they think it is just a “harmless recreational activity that is for the good of the economy and jobs.” 

    The Scripture is spot on when it comes to gambling saying, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).  The love of money drives this evil and its misplaced love has caused people to wander away from their jobs, families and God. 

    Yes, our businesses and families need to make an income to survive, but let us do it with a moral conscience.  Do what is wise, right and good.  Start by turning to God for His help in providing answers where there is financial need, no matter if it is in the hundreds or millions of dollars.  Then let us patiently wait for His answer, turning from relying on our own wisdom.  Real hope is not found in dollars and cents but in Almighty God who is Creator and Owner of all.

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  • 03/01/16--08:46: The Day God Died . . .
  • The day God died. The statement itself sounds odd. How could God die? Is not that what makes God, God? Immorality? Yet, when we speak of the annual Easter celebration we are talking about remembering His death.        

    Jesus was considered by many of His followers to be God of heaven and earth in human flesh. Then He died a scandalous, torturous death. No doubt it left His followers confused and perplexed. How could someone who claimed to be God and did all sorts of miracles to verify it literally die before their very eyes?

    Every one of us is uniquely born for a purpose. Some totally miss it while others fulfill their destiny. Jesus was no different. Before His birth it was spoken that "he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This divine mission would bring hope to hundreds of thousands during His own generation and billions over the next two millennium. However, this mission had a high cost. It required Jesus willingly lay down His life under the most inhuman of circumstances. The provision for this forgiveness of the sins mandated it

    Sin is many things. It is the pride, selfishness and rebelliousness of a person’s heart. It shows itself in practical ways through lying, sexual immorality or unforgiveness. Ultimately, it is a darkness that lay in each heart human that required the greatest force in the universe to advance against it - Jesus and His cross.

    He humbly laid His life down on that cross and only He could have done it. As God Himself, He was sinless, perfect, without any fault. One sinner could not provide forgiveness for another sinner. Only a perfect man could provide forgiveness for an imperfect one. Jesus was humanity’s only hope. He lay Himself down to become mankind’s sin-bearer. He who was without sin willingly bore the sin of the world.

    God gave of Himself, for His own creation. Why did He go to such lengths? Love. He saw where the path of a self-righteous and wicked heart led. The destruction it created in this life and the eternal pain in led to in the next. Compelled by love God died . . . then rose again. Yes! He rose from the grave defeating the power of sin while securing forgiveness for all who call upon Him in belief and repentance. Let the greatest power in the universe sweep clean the darkness of your soul today and bring new life.    


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  • 04/05/16--08:58: The Weakness of Power
  • President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”  No matter if someone is a leading political official, the top of a successful company, or even a parent they all have something in common.  Their position comes with power.


    The need for responsible management of power is essential because it is in our human nature to use it for personal gain, and that is when self-preserving actions are taken to assert and retain it.  In the short term, these moves may bring success, however, in the long term they will bring destruction. 

    These scheming efforts result from a poisonous cocktail all power-hungry people drink. It is a potent mixture of pride, arrogance and selfishness along with a shot of greed.  Interestingly though, rather than securing their position with power moves, over time, it weakens it so what they have built will mercilessly be ripped from their fingers in embarrassment and shame.     

    Imagine if someone occupied a seat of power from the mindset of serving rather than receiving, humility rather than pride, generosity rather than greed?  What if they never operated out of a self-preservation motive?  What if they did what was right, good and just even if they knew it might cost them their position?

    There is an example of someone who did lead that way – Jesus.  In three years, He rose from an obscure carpenter to one of the most powerful and influential figures of His day.  Today, nearly 2,000 years later, His name is known worldwide and the movement He started, Christianity, numbers in the billions of followers. 

    Jesus made a startling statement that reveals His unique style of leadership, “For even the Son of Man [Jesus] came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). 

    What would happen to our world if people in positions of power led in the example of Jesus?  Imagine the difference it would make.  May those with great power exercise great responsibility.  May leaders choose to humble themselves before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, calling upon Him to change their hearts and thereby change the culture of the family, organization or nation they lead. 

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  • 05/04/16--07:56: Jesus & the Value of a Woman
  • Among the nations of the world there are many that do not allow women to drive, own property or even vote.  Not to mention the global multi-billion dollar sex trafficking industry that traffics women 98% of the time.

    Despite where the world still is in its treatment of women, it has taken a tremendous leap forward in the last 100 years.  In America, their place and value is nothing like it was in 1850.  However, long before the establishment of the women’s suffrage movement they had a powerful advocate in the first century - Jesus.  Here are five ways in which He gave value and purpose to all women.   

    Defense.  Jesus had celebrity status easily gathering crowds in the thousands around Him.  They hung on His every word.  Through His platform of influence He defended women when society tried to demean and dismiss them.

    Challenging the status quo.  Jesus put His life and reputation on the line challenging the unjust ways in which women were treated during His day.  Though knowingly opposing cultural rules He became a voice for the voiceless.       

    Equality.  Jesus demonstrated that women were as equally valuable as men.  He saw no difference in a man’s worth over a woman’s.  Both were created and loved by God.   

    Compassion.   Jesus showed kindness toward women of all ranks in society - upper, middle and lower classes.  He offered peace, hope and freedom to all women who would choose to believe in Him with all their heart.

    Accountability.  Even though Jesus offered promise to women, He also called them to repentance.  He realized true freedom is not just found in changing laws or cultural ideals.  He offered liberation of the soul through forgiveness of sin.  When women are delivered from sin they receive a new mind and heart and a new future that lasts for eternity. 

    Jesus and those who follow His example offer a message to women around the world.  Those in abusive relationships, oppressive cultures and feeling on the fringe of society, can find worth in Christ.  While publicly standing against one woman’s accusers Jesus said to her “‘Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?’  She said, ‘No one, Lord.’  And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’” (John 8:10-11).  As Jesus championed this lady’s worth, He calls upon all men everywhere to honor the God-given value that women inherently posses.

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  • 06/07/16--11:17: God Loves Gays
  • June is the one year anniversary of the historic Supreme Court order to make same-sex marriage legal in the United States.  When we strip away the courtrooms, activist organizations and verbal arguments back and forth there are people at the heart of this decision.  Precious people, who are made in the image of God with priceless eternal souls. 


    The two main groups of people caught in all this are Christians and homosexuals.  I am in the Christian group and want to say two things to my neighbors and fellow citizens who are homosexuals.  First, as a follower of Jesus, I want to apologize on behalf of other believers who may have rejected and cursed you or talked to you with an attitude of self-righteousness.  They were wrong.  No excuses.  I hope you can forgive them for their foolishness.  Second, I want to say with deep sincerity, God loves you.  He loves every lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning person.

    Though less than 5% of our nation is practicing homosexuals, a super-majority are talking about this issue and many with deep-seated convictions.  This puts the LGBTQ community under the microscope, whether they want to be or not.  No doubt, with the positive coverage this movement has received over the last year, their numbers are likely growing.  Yet, with this affirming culture fostering a sense of freedom to explore one’s sexuality, there can be a downside. It can produce a sense of inner confusion and doubt. 

    Our Creator made us in His image, which means we were born with a natural instinct to seek and know Him.  However, we also were born with an inclination to live our lives our own way rather than God’s way.  This attitude, in effect, leads to inner guilt and shame producing a lack of peace, spiritual restlessness and inner turmoil.  It is the predictable effect of going against what we were made for.

    Homosexuality is a lifestyle that has been around for over 5,000 years of human history.  It also goes against God’s design.  For countless millennia God has been calling men and women out of this practice and giving them transformed lives.  He sent His Son Jesus to suffer, die and rise again to give them a new identity.  Not an identity based on gender or sexual practice, but one based on the person of Jesus Christ.  The Scripture says, “. . . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).  When a person surrenders their life wholly to Jesus, in turn they receive the purity, beauty and perfection of the Son of God poured into them.  Today, you have a choice.  Change your identity.  Turn to Jesus and let Him give you a new heart, new mind and a new future.

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  • 07/06/16--08:18: Global Moral Confusion
  • When we look at the news headlines any given week in America there is good reason to be concerned about the present state and future of our nation.  Where are we headed?  However, the concern does not stop just at our borders.  When we look at worldwide events the concern is the same. 


    The Pew Research Center conducted the survey, Global Views on Morality.  They selected eight topics deemed to be moral issues and asked people from 40 nations what they thought.  The survey was telling.  When the response categories “Approve” and “Not a Moral Issue” were combined, between 17% and 75% of the world’s population does not seem to have a problem with divorce, adultery, birth control and many other moral issues.   

    What makes this alarming is what scientists call the “critical mass”.  According to scientific data, it is believed that if 10% or more of a population strongly holds to an idea or belief it stands a chance at spreading to the majority. Since many moral issues have critical mass acceptance, the momentum of our moral trajectory for the future of the world is of legitimate concern.
      
    Generally speaking, people may agree we are in a moral crisis.  However, when we drill down into the details, division surfaces.  One group believes the cultural acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle is a moral victory while another calls it a moral catastrophe.  And so it goes for other issues too.  Perhaps we are not so much dealing with a moral crisis as moral confusion. 

    The world has always faced this, but perhaps the scale and depth of depravity in our generation is like no other time. This rising tide of moral unrest and clarity can lead people to desperately search in random directions for inner peace, a cultural savior and answers to their deepest fears.  This can lead to troubling solutions making the situation even more distressing. 

    What we need is a true north on our global moral compass.  What is true north?  What should be our standard for right and wrong?  Where should we go to find meaning and purpose for our life?  Jesus!  He once said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  In Him is found everything.  When we abandon doing life our way and seek Him with a desperate heart we will find all we are searching for.  Jesus is what our world needs now more than ever. 

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    The clashes between police and black protestors have riveted the nation.  Young black men have lost their lives at the hands of police and police have lost their lives in retaliation.  As a result charges of racism have been thrown back and forth by supporters and opponents.  The word that comes to mind when I ponder all this is – division, and how unnecessary it is.          



    What good do protestors accomplish by cursing, yelling, throwing rocks, physical assaults and death threats?  Yes, they get the attention of the public, news media and lawmakers.  However, in the face of such lawlessness their cause has become blurred due to their egregious actions.  Furthermore, the character they have brought to the table to attain their goals has become marred. 


    Martin Luther King, Jr. was adamant about his use of peaceful means for change.  He once stated, “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”  Yes, his protests did have clashes with police but he did not provoke it with rude and crude means.  He maintained class and calmness in the face of unjust circumstances. 


    There is indeed a tragedy of epic proportions among the young black men of our American inner cities.  The situation they face should alarm all Americans no matter their color.  For an inner city black baby to grow up and graduate from high school is against many odds, then adding college, finding a career, getting married and having a family is even more rare.  Unfortunately, going to prison or getting shot from gang violence or police is all too common. 


    Does retaliating against police or the system help these young men?  I believe the answer starts with Jesus.  Through His suffering, death and resurrection overcame all the forces hell could assail at Him.  He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd” (John 10:10). 


    If protestors sought out inner city pastors and churches and together they cried out to God against the evil and injustices in their communities, what a difference that would make!  Through Jesus division can turn to unity, evil to good and hate to love.

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    One day as I was checking out from a store and visiting with the clerk about random things, he said to me “We are in trouble!” referring to world and national events.  He is not alone in his line of thinking.  Many people I visit with are very concerned about the state of our world no matter if they are religious or not. 


    Honestly, they have a reason to be.  The natural disasters America is experiencing with monumental flooding and raging fires is displacing tens of thousands and causing hundreds of millions in damages.  The death tolls our major cities are facing due to violence are higher than what our soldiers have faced on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The effect of political ideology and battles are reaching with devastating effects, to the smallest corners of our society.  Even so, in the face of this I have tremendous optimism. 

    First, I understand where all this craziness is coming from so it comes without alarm.  We live in a place where there is a God who is good, and a Devil who is evil.  These opposing forces naturally lead to ongoing spiritual battles that are revealed in our daily news headlines.  Jesus spoke of this when He said, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.  I came that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  The work of the thief produces chaos leading to pessimism, while the work of Jesus produces hope leading to optimism. 

    The reason I believe these are great days is because of Jesus’ resurrection centuries ago.  There is a common phrase in Christian circles that goes, “Because He lives, I live.”  This speaks of the victory Jesus won through His cross.  Leading up to His epic victory, evil and its allies threw every form of attack at Him.  When He was arrested, tried and sentenced to death - they rejoiced.  When He was tortured - they cheered.  When He was nailed to the cross and died - they rose in a spirit of achievement.  When He was buried - they celebrated. 

    Then three days later the tables were turned.  Suddenly, Jesus was revived!  He rose from the dead!  He walked victoriously out of His own tomb!  Evil cried out in anguish at His triumph.  He won!  Evil was defeated!  Evil no longer was the world’s Dictator.  People can now have optimism and hope in the face of violence and destruction.   

    Because He lives, so can we!  Because He overcame, so can we overcome!  Because He was victorious, so can we be victorious!  Because of Jesus’ resurrection, no matter the circumstances, there is ALWAYS a future and hope!  If we turn from our sin and place our trust fully in Jesus, His victory and hope will be ours.

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  • 10/04/16--09:32: Campaigning With Honor
  • Some historians view the Presidential Campaign of 1800, between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams as the origin of dirty American politics.  According to the Miller Center's research one newspaper gave a stern warning about a potential Jefferson Presidential Administration writing "Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes."  

    Religious leaders, 205 years after the Jefferson/Adams campaign, put out a statement calling for decency in politics saying that politicians, “ . . . should also use dialogue characterized by mutual respect, coolness, truthfulness, maturity, sobriety, and [have] the use of decent language.”  This was actually written about politicians from the African nation of Ghana. 

    All nations across the span of time have regular ongoing issues with ugliness in political campaigns.  It goes farther back then 1800 though.  Its origin goes back to a pivotal historical event in the Garden of Eden. 

    Why is there, and will there always be, this ugliness?  One word sums it up – power.  Everyone wants to be the top dog and with it comes unrivaled influence, riches, fame and the ability to shape the future and be remembered in history.       

    If I could get an audience with the two main candidates for President here are three suggestions I would offer in their pursuit of this seat of great power.       

    1 – Have honor in your name.  Some good advice is given in the Bible, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).  Already your names “Clinton” and “Trump” have developed a reputation.  The rest of the campaign and election will continue to shape those.  Conduct yourself in such a way that future generations of your family (not the public) will be proud of that name. 

    2- Be compelled by your own vision for the good of America and not by vision of others.  Running for President can bring out the leaches.  Despite people pushing and pulling from all directions, remain true to that vision. 

    3 – Bring God into the central working of your life and campaign on a private level, not in front of the cameras.  Seek God's wisdom in His Scriptures and through His faithful followers in your daily responsibilities. 

    No one can completely control what others say and do, but we can control one person, ourselves.  In pursuit of the highest office in the land and for the sake of personal conscience, win or lose, may our candidates aspire to a legacy of honor.    

     

    © Chrisdorney | Dreamstime.com - US Presidential Election 2016 Photo

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  • 11/01/16--07:59: America’s Only Answer
  • When we look at the state of America through the lens of news headlines it is not very buoyant.  And if our news sources supposedly reflect the true nature of our country then I must say they are only getting half the story.      

    Typically, alongside the daily bad news they report stories about efforts to turn our country around through elections, new laws, religion, education, conferences, summits, awareness campaigns, improved research and analysis, healthcare, poverty relief, volunteerism, social justice and much more.  Yet, America continues to decline and the world with it.  All these attempts are good things.  They have made pockets of progress and been a genuine help.  However, they are lacking and temporal at best.  The Scriptures give us the answer saying, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Jesus is the person in which America’s future rests.  When we leave Him out of our efforts for change we do so to our peril.   

    Prayer is one practical way in which we can bring Jesus into the middle of our nation’s woes.  Prayer in His name can do the impossible.  People are seeing this and during 2016 our national prayer life has grown exponentially.  This year we have seen news worthy movements of prayer that have largely been ignored by most of America’s top news outlets.  Here are the ones I am aware of:  Azusa Now; United Cry; Burlington, North Carolina revival; Harvest America; Decision America Tour; West Virginia revival; The 8-8-8 God Speaking Initiative; Together 2016; The Gathering and Cry Out.  I am confident there are more.  It is no stretch to say these events have reached millions in America and across the world.  Though unconnected they have four things that unite them.  1) The United States is in a moral and spiritual decline.  2)  The rate of decline is a cause for serious alarm.  3)  There is only one solution – Jesus.  4)  We must seek Jesus in prayer and go announce Him anew boarder to boarder.

    These gatherings are producing large swaths of people, scattered all across the nation, to call upon Jesus.  They are calling out for His intervention into the lives of individuals, and for the soul of America.  It is a historic time.

    The news headlines are only telling half the story of the state of our union.  It is a time to believe and persevere.  Press onward!  Join the movement.  Gather together with others and cry out to Jesus for revival in the land.  He is our answer.  Turn to Him and see Him act.          

     
    © Anthonyheflin | Dreamstime.com - Cross And American Flag At Sunset Photo


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  • 12/06/16--08:44: Looking For a King
  • On the eve of history’s first Christmas, the Jewish people were filled with centuries of hope, rooted in the prophecies of their religious writings.  Hope that one day a King would rise up from among them to deliver their people from the occupation of the Romans.  All the non-Jewish people in the world did not have such a hope.  If they faced a similar oppressive government, all they had to rest on was their own efforts at forging change.  In a sense, for all the world, it was truly the dark ages.  Outside of an inward hope or personal heroism, how would the darkness of the nations be turned to light?

    In approximately 4 B.C. a divine earthquake caused a split right down the middle of human history – the birth of Jesus Christ.  It was like the rising of the sun that meant a new day, a new era for mankind.   

    The Jewish prophet Isaiah, 700 years earlier, foretold about the coming of a Messiah who would become the hope of all nations.  Isaiah wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

    As Jesus grew up and settled into His heaven-sent role, the public responded and a movement was built around Him that evolved into a revolution of sorts.  However, His followers became disillusioned at His messaging.  He was not becoming the national Savior they envisioned. 

    He told the crowds His purpose was to “seek and save the lost”.  He said if they wanted to follow Him they must “deny themselves”, meaning give up pursuing their agenda and take up God’s.  All this was much different then what they expected. 

    Jesus' focus was the hearts and souls of mankind.  He purposed to deliver them from the bondage of sin and lead them to spiritual freedom.  He came to govern the lives of precious souls, not a nation. 

    Still today, the world is looking to political leaders and government for societal change.  And if that does not satisfy they escape into entertainment, addiction or self-determination.  The lesson of Christmas teaches us that real and lasting hope is found in one place, Jesus.  He brings us spiritual freedom, where we no longer have to be a slave to our sin.  This kind of freedom the world longs for and it can only be found in the Christ child.

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    This year an estimated 139 million Americans will do some type of New Year’s resolution.  That is about half of our nation.  By June, 92% will have failed, leaving only 8% to celebrate victory.     

     
    A resolution is a statement of purpose backed up with an initial resolve to make a change like “I make a resolution to lose 25 pounds this year.”  They typically cover areas like our health, finances or relationships. 
     
    Why do we do them, especially if the majority of us fall short?  Likely, it is something deeper than the resolution itself.  One driver could be a lack of satisfaction.  When someone looks at different areas of their life, they might not like what they see.  As a result, they might think “If I can just get this mountain of debt paid off I’ll be able to breathe”, while another says to themselves, “If we can just turn our marriage around that’ll make all the difference.”     
     
    With that in mind, consider this statement from author and motivational speaker, Stephen Shapiro.  After reviewing the data from a major research project he said, “People who achieve their resolutions every year are NO happier than those who do not set resolutions or who are unsuccessful in achieving them.”       
     
    Wow!  What a mind blowing finding.  What is the deeper motivation in setting your resolution or goal?  Is the focus just to lose the weight or do you think it will bring greater happiness or satisfaction to your life?  Consider this - if we believe that working hard on the outside of our lives is going to change the inside, we will be sadly disappointed.   
     
    When we achieve what we set out for, yes, we will be happy for a moment or a brief season of time, but then it will wear off.  Eventually we will be right back where we started.  Honestly, are the changes you want deeper than just your health, finances or relationships?   
     
    The Scriptures say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12).  This is saying, “I am going to look for happiness here and there, but when I get there I find it is only a vapor – emptiness.” 

    Where do we find the answers to the deep things of the heart and soul?  Where do we find meaning, happiness and satisfaction?  They are found in Jesus.  In Him we will find all we need. You will get temporary happiness in your resolutions, but you will find lasting peace through Jesus.                      

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    I believe in the importance and power of prayer.  Very few times in my life have I had someone refuse it.  Mostly, whether they were religious or not they seemed to welcome prayer.  Elected officials are among those.  I have heard of some who were extremely grateful that people were praying for them.  During President Obama’s administration I was one of probably hundreds of thousands that regularly prayed for him.  I plan to do the same for President Trump as well. 



    While reading my Bible I came across a story that highlighted the value of prayer at the highest levels of government.  It took place in the transition of power from David, King of Israel, to his son Solomon who would succeed him.  In the midst of this, King David offered a public prayer for his country.


    He prayed for his people saying to God, “. . . direct their hearts toward you” (1 Chronicles 29:18).  The old, wise King knew who was really over the affairs of his country – God.  Therefore, he prayed that the affections of the people would first and foremost be toward Him.  This is something we can learn from.  If our hearts are bent chiefly toward a political party or ideology then we are on a crooked path to an eventual downfall.  However, if we fix our eyes straight ahead and walk according to God’s purposes, the foundation of our nation will be made secure.     


    He also prayed for the new King saying to God, “. . . may he keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all” (1 Chronicles 29:19).  Again, the experienced King knew who was the author of blessing and cursing on his nation – God.  And He knew how to remain in a healthy relationship with Him and how to follow His counsel in governing.  He knew all these answers were found in the Scriptures and prayed the next King, his son, would give himself to knowing and following God through His Word.


    As the seasoned King prayed, he was aware of the price of neglect.  He knew that each person, his son and the entire nation, could choose to do as they wished.  As a result, he warned them not to abandon God and go their own way.  For the price would be great for his country if they did. 


    Join me in praying for our new President.  As we do, let us also commit ourselves afresh toward God.  May our hearts be fixed on Him.  Additionally, let us pray that President Trump will know God personally and walk in accordance with His holy Word for the welfare of his own soul and our nation. 


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    For much of human history, regardless of the chosen nation's political ideology, the human voice has never been silenced. From Russia and China to the United States and around the world – voices have risen up no matter the cost. As a minister of the gospel I have read the history books where Christians rose up against the religious establishment centuries ago. They became known as Protestants because they protested a series of religious injustices, and many were martyred for their stance.



    In keeping with the human spirit to give voice to grievances, let those who oppose President Donald Trump's election and policies have their say. At the same time, the means by which these voices protest - I stand against.


    The Bible says, “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy” (Proverbs 12:20). The spirit and culture of the Trump protests resemble nothing of peace, but rather the marks of evil. The torching of cars, breaking of windows in local businesses and hurling of bricks - is evil. The intimidation of children, physical assaulting of women and spewing of vulgar laced rants - is evil.


    Voices of opposition and criticism are not evil. They are helpful, providing needed checks and balances among those who hold positions of power. However, when the message of opposition is cloaked in immoral, wicked and inhumane conduct, it becomes evil and should be condemned and delegitimized.


    The late Dr. Saul Alinski, author of the highly influential Rules for Radicals, wrote “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.” Alinski's values are no doubt having an influence on the shadow-like leaders behind these dangerous protests. These tactics are the embodiment of evil, resembling nothing of peace.


    Yes, these methods will win some battles in the short-term, but in the long-term they will lose the war. Their cause wields the weapons of evil, unknowingly stepping into a spiritual battle with God. It goes way beyond political parties, people or institutions. Evil's greatest foe is God and He always wins.


    What do you stand against? What are you opposing? Let your voice be heard, but avoid using evil means to call attention to it. Rather, seek just, moral and peaceful methods to advance your cause. Additionally, lay your conviction before God. He is the ultimate whistle blower and standard of truth. Follow His wisdom through His Word in pursuit of justice.


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    I have had the privilege of being Guest Chaplain at the U.S. Senate and House of Representative as well as the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives. I took these opportunities, not to religiously grandstand, but to genuinely pray for the legislators before me and for my state and country. Only one time did I ever experience push-back. After reviewing my prayer, the Chaplain sent it back and suggested some changes. I did my best to honor him, but after the fourth revision, with great respect I finally said, "I understand the position you are in, but I must close my prayer with 'In the name of Jesus.'" Reluctantly, he permitted it.
     
    The Chaplain was a good Christian, but concerned over the fallout he would receive. He knew that some legislators, because of their religious position, would be offended at the use of Jesus’ name.

    David Limbaugh, who wrote the book Persecution, summed it up when he stated "Jesus is offensive." And Jesus Himself explained "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before . . . you" (John 15:18).

    From the moment of His birth to the present, Jesus has consistently topped the Who's Who List for the world's most polarizing figure. On the one hand, every Sunday millions gather to worship and adore Him as Savior and Lord. And on the other, over 60 nations are imprisoning, killing or culturally ostracizing followers of Jesus.

    What is so offensive? It is His name. Jesus, means Savior. He is a Savior from sin, and since no one can forgive sins but God, He is also deity. These two truths inflame His adversaries and cause His followers to worship Him.

    The deeper reason for the offensiveness of Jesus is the sinfulness found in human hearts. Whether it is an individual, government or a religion, we all want to do life our way. We want to be in control, make our own choices and pursue our own path. That is sin. And if the affects of our sin rise to unbearable levels we mask it with work, addictions or trying to be a good person. Yes, we may acknowledge Jesus was a good teacher and person, but stop short of changing our ways for Him. In a sense, when He comes knocking we hold up a sign in our hearts that says "Resist!"

    One day, love Him or hate Him, He will bring the whole world to its knees. The Scripture says, "God has highly exalted him . . . so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord . . ." (Philippians 2:9,10,11). Instead of raising up your defenses towards Jesus, consider humbling yourself and discovering His joy and peace.

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    This month millionsof students will be graduating from high school and college.  The majority of these graduates will be teenagers and twenty-somethings.  They will have achieved a worthy and important milestone for themselves.  If I had a chance to speak at their graduations here are some life lessons I would love to pass along.       



    Rejoice and celebrate your achievement.  So far you have invested 12 years, maybe 16 or even more to this point.  Do not let it slide by without enjoying the moment.  Celebrate!   


    Recall the people that helped you make it.  No man or woman is an island to him or herself.  Thank your parents.  Take time to understand the emotions they are experiencing, as their little boy or girl will soon be leaving home.  Thank your teachers and professors for their hard work.  Thank the friends who were always there.



    Release the heartache connected with the journey.  Your celebration may be bittersweet.  Perhaps there is conflict within your family.  Maybe you have not fit in well with other students or carry a broken heart.  Whatever it is, you can choose to hold onto the pain or release it.  Vow to let go of the past when you receive your diploma and embrace a new future.   
    Resolve to never give up.  There were challenges in reaching this day and there will be challenges tomorrow.  Researchers say that this year’s high school graduating class should be much higher because close to one-third of the students did not graduate.  And the college graduating class should be much higher because nearly 50% of those who started, never finished.   But, you did!  You overcame! 

    Remember the Creator.  A wise old King once said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  It is very easy to forget God or to no longer believe He exists in the days of youth.  A sense of adventure, a desire to question, being at the peak of energy and strength, living for the moment and a feeling of independence can all lead there.  There are many benefits with youth, but some drawbacks too.  In the zeal for life, the tendency to live for self and forget God is a major one.  Yet, He has a way of keeping us in-check.  God has said there will be a day of reckoning, where we must stand before Him and give an account for how we have lived. 



    With diploma in hand, consider there is one final commencement for us all.  Someday we will face Life’s Graduation and pass from earth into eternity.  Age is no indicator of when that graduation will come.  Each day prepares us for it.  Make the most of today, tomorrow and your future by becoming a follower of God’s only Son, Jesus.  Turn from your ways and seek His, the One who made you and knows you best. 


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  • 06/06/17--07:29: Fighting the Meth Demon
  • Recently, I was troubled as I watched a TV news story on the opioid drug problem. What I learned did not leave me. I thought about all the people I have reached out to in the 24 years I have been a Minister. Faces crossed my mind of many who were drug users. My eyes began to see how wide spread the drug issue is.



    What I have learned is a major drug problem around the world has become the number one drug problem in my community, methamphetamine.  Ten years ago the largest drug bust in history took place when law enforcement seized $207 million dollars in cash in a meth raid. And six years ago worldwide seizers of meth increased by 73%. Additionally, the U.S. Sentencing Commission said that meth has produced more offenses than any other drug in 27 states.


    The abuse of meth is at pandemic proportions. The other day someone asked me, “Why do people start using meth?” According to one article, the drug seems attractive on the surface by the good feelings it brings. Users feel an instant euphoria, followed by a long high, then feel more energy, extreme confidence, and strong sexual desires. There are many more reasons users are lured in.



    It is one of the most dangerous street drugs because it sucks you in then destroys you. It is like a deadly parasite that takes your health, family, livelihood and gives nothing back.  It attacks you physically, rotting your teeth and can collapse your jaw.  Due to hallucinations of a crank bug on your skin, you scar yourself marring your appearance. It not only causes you to be a physical danger to yourself, but to everyone around you.


    Every user has a heart problem, not from a medical standpoint but a spiritual one. It is deeper than drugs and something we all have in common. The Scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick . . .” (Jeremiah 17:9). Their heart problem is expressed through drugs, but yours might be shown through sexual immorality or unforgiveness.  Is there a solution to this?  Yes!  Jesus!


    Jesus can heal, restore and forgive the sin and brokenness in the heart. He died and rose again from the dead to show us the power He has and what He can do. Let us bring the power of Jesus to every meth addict.


    Where do we start? Prayer. Let the meth affected communities call out to Jesus on behalf of their precious sons and daughters. Let grandparents and parents cry out to Jesus for their kids.  Let users themselves look to Jesus for deliverance.


    Together, let us say “Enough!” Let’s rise up and fall down on our knees. Let us bring the power of heaven to earth and see Jesus transform meth users into beautiful sons and daughters of a loving and mighty God.

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  • 07/03/17--13:21: How to Overcome Loneliness
  • According to experts in the field of human behavior, loneliness is at epidemic levels.  Millions are walking through this dark valley and every day the numbers are growing. 



    It may seem odd as to how people could feel so lonely in our modern times.  With all the technology available it may seem like an impossibility.  But it is true.  Social media, television, movies on demand and having an ability to instantly connect with anyone anywhere does not remove the struggle.


    I grew up as a Pastor’s kid and moved often.  My personal fight with loneliness came in my sophomore year of high school.  We moved again and I felt like I could not fit in to the new school in a new town.  I responded by withdrawing to my room.  My grades plummeted and my parents became deeply concerned. 


    Here I was surrounded by people at school, church and my family, but overwhelmed by loneliness.  


    By no means was my story unique.  Loneliness is a common human experience.  Why do we feel this way?  In an article from Time on this subject, it begins by saying “Humans were not designed to be solitary creatures.”  The author is partially right.  We were not created to live in isolation, but she does not identify who we were created by, which is important. 


    All of us were created by God.  He made you and me.  Furthermore, the article did not clarify “solitary”.  Most writings on loneliness speak of isolation in regard to relationships with other people.  That is partially right too. 


    Yes, God created human beings to live in relationship with other people . . . and with Him.  Here is a truth.  If we do not know God personally or have drifted in our relationship with Him then we have provided the foundation for loneliness to flourish.    


    The first step toward victory begins with Him and understanding that He made us for a purpose.  The Scriptures say, “. . . everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7).  God made you to know Him and experience the wonder of His beauty and majesty.  It is there we are made whole and complete, where there is no loneliness, but abiding joy and peace. 


    Only one thing keeps us from experiencing this – ourselves.  When we purposefully resist God, passively neglect Him, hurt others or put our needs above those around us, we open the door of our life to loneliness. 


    Here is the good news though.  Jesus came to save us from ourselves.  Through His death and resurrection, He made a way for us to be made whole. 


    Are you struggling with loneliness?  There is hope!  Take the step of knowing God and following Jesus Christ with all your heart.


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