Living With Pythons

Through the Looking Glass

People make pets out of strange — and sometimes dangerous — creatures. While most of us are satisfied to keep dogs, cats, birds, or fish as pets, for some individuals, their tastes are a little more exotic. Many people have taken to making pets out of pigs, ferrets, lizards, tarantulas, and…

Snakes.

And in South Florida, that has become a rather big problem.

For many years, it was legal for people in the United States to own Burmese pythons as pets. While these snakes start off rather small and manageable, an adult Burmese python typically grows to a length of 12 feet, sometimes reaching 19 feet.

The problem with owning these pets — it is speculated — is that when these snakes grew too big for their owners to care for, the owners simply released them into the wild of the Florida Everglades. Once in the wild, these snake began to breed. Without a natural enemy capable of combating this species, these pythons not only began populating at an alarming rate, but subsequently began having a detrimental effect on indigenous species, native to the area. It is now estimated that the Burmese python population of South Florida is well in excess of 100,000, and climbing.

When we refuse to deal with sin in a way prescribed by God in His word, we are asking for trouble. We hold on to our “pet sins” until they are out of control, and too big for us to handle on our own. If we don’t deal with our sin appropriately, God assures us that…

He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

If we try to cover our sin, it will grow into a stronghold with the potential to destroy our walk with God, our relationships with others, and our testimony in the world. However, when we approach God in humility and repentance, our fellowship with Him is restored. As He promises in 1 John 1…

 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

So what are those things you think you are hiding from an all-seeing God?

Don’t fool yourself… that “pet” you are hiding will turn into a monster with the potential to consume everything that is important to you.

Just confess it to Him. Repent and turn it over to Him. Let Him lead you to a place of forgiveness and peace in His presence.

Finding Your Song

This is a wonderful sentiment by the late Maya Angelou…

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

imageOne has but to walk outdoors on a sunny day and listen to the sound of a chorus of birds to understand this thought. Even in the captivity of a small cage, a bird still has the ability to find its song. A friend once told me about taking a walk one day, and feeling the Spirit of God encouraging him to sing… to lift up a new song to Him as he strolled in God’s cathedral, the Great Outdoors. As he walked and began to sing, he noticed something interesting began to happen. He noticed the sound of creation getting louder and louder. As he found his song, creation itself joined in the chorus, and the birds in the numerous trees about him began to lift up their voices as well. After a time, he said he stopped singing, and something uncanny happened…

Many of the birds stopped singing as well, and the sound of creation slowly died away.

In Luke 19, we find this story…

Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: 

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

We are all given a song. For some, that song is sung in the midst of gratitude and thanksgiving; a song of grateful worship to God for His goodness and favor.

But for others, that song may be sung from a place of hardship and pain.

How do you sing for joy when you are watching a loved one slowly slip away because of Alzheimer’s Disease or ALS?

How do you sing with gladness when the diagnosis is cancer?

How do you worship when you are a parent standing over the grave of a child gone too early?

We sing, not because we have the answer, but because we have a song. We worship, not because we are good, but because He is Holy. We seek out His presence, not as an escape from the world we are in, but as a place of safety and refuge for our souls while we are on the journey through this life.

 An interesting thing about dementia patients is, even as they are losing their ability to remember friends and family members — as well as their ability to even talk — many still have the ability to recognize songs and sing or hum a tune.

There is something about the language of music that speaks to all of us on a spiritual level. We are all made for worship. God has put His song into our DNA, and pursuing an intimate relationship with Him in worship is the first step to finding your song. The Psalmist wrote…

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. ~ Psalm 104:33

He was determined to worship as long as he had breath in his lungs; no qualifier, no expectation.

Maybe when we get to the point of unconditional worship — when we are singing our song, not because we have an answer, but because we have a God-given song — we’ll find that, in that obedience, we will find the answers we are looking for in His presence.

It could also be that, by spending time in His presence, we’ll discover that knowing the answers will become less important than knowing Him.

The Value of Stillness

Through The Looking Glass2

With the success of his new movie, American Sniper, I thought I would share a little thought from director Clint Eastwood. He once conveyed this little anecdote…

“My old drama coach used to say, ‘Don’t just do something… stand there.’”

In our society today, we are addicted to noise. Everywhere we go, our auditory senses are being constantly assaulted to the point that, for most of us, silence makes us uncomfortable.

What is it about being still that bothers us so much?

What is it about silence that scares us to death?

In Psalms, God gives us a command…

“Be STILL… and know that I am God”. ~Psalm 46:10

Could it be that, in the silence of stillness, we face God on His terms? Is it that, without distractions, all of our mental “hiding places” are stripped away, and we have to be honest about our need for Him?

Are you looking for a fresh revelation of God in your life?

Don’t just do something….

Stand there.

Stand still.

And listen for His voice.

 

Hope for a “Lost” Generation

MLK Lives QuoteOne has only to watch the news for a few minutes to realize we, as a “civilized people”, are in great peril. As the world focuses on the threats facing our world on a broad scale (terrorism, radical Islam, North Korea, Russia, etc.), the unravelling of the fabric of our society on a local level flies “under the radar.” The seeming collusion of a left-wing media and liberal Hollywood have created the “talking points” of what is acceptable and politically correct, and what will not be tolerated.

While cities like Detroit, St. Louis, and Memphis are besieged by violence, we are told that the greatest threat facing us is “climate change”.

While escalating terror attacks against our allies across the globe are marginalized by our leaders, accusations of racism and anti-police rhetoric are carelessly bandied about by those in authority – with deadly consequences.

While more and more over-reaching regulations are proposed in the name of “public safety,” common sense and “unpopular” laws have become the casualties of those who would try to fundamentally change the core Judeo-Christian values of our nation.

LL ArmThese actions do not take place without consequences — intentional or not. The underlying message being sent is that lives (black, white, or otherwise) don’t matter, that morality is subjective, and that, if one disagrees with certain laws, it is acceptable to ignore and/or violate those laws as long as “diversity” is the goal.

I – for one – have not given up on America. However, in order for us to see a brighter future, we must return to the faith of our past. The Church must draw a “line in the sand” and take a stand for truth and righteousness. It is time that we stop living cowed in the corner of society, and honestly, passionately, and intelligently speak life into this culture of decay and death. Here are a few common-sense ways we can start that conversation…

Stop mis-labeling the problem.

If a person goes into the hospital with all of the symptoms of appendicitis, referring to that person’s condition as an ear infection will do little to treat the problem, and could possibly cost them their life. When we fail to properly label what is wrong with society, we do nothing to cure its ills, and run the risk of doing irreparable damage to the conscience of our Nation. As believers, we stand on the unchangeable, living Word of God. In 1 Peter 3:14-16, the apostle Peter admonishes us…

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

Calling “sin” by its proper name is not politically correct in our society, but is necessary in diagnosing what is ailing us.

Abortion is not a “woman’s choice”… it’s sin.
Homosexuality is not an “alternate lifestyle”… it’s sin.
Adultery is not an “open lifestyle”… it’s sin.
Pornography is not “adult entertainment”… it’s sin.
Political corruption is not “the price of doing business”… it’s sin.

It’s not my label, or your label… it’s God’s definition. He made the rules, and He set the standards. As believers in Christ, we must be honest and faithful to His Word. However, we must also be sure to go beyond just pointing out the problems; we must share the reason for our hope, and offer a solution… the love of Jesus that has the power to change hearts, heal minds, and save souls.

Parents: Anyone can be your child’s friend; only YOU can be your child’s parent.

We have a generation rising that has the potential for either great good or great harm. While I do see good and decent young people being raised up, I also see a lot who are reckless, thoughtless, and out-of-control. There was recently a case in Texas of a 16-year old young man who got drunk, got behind the wheel of a pickup truck, and killed four people (also injuring two others). During his trial, a witness was put on the stand who testified that the boy was the victim of affluenza — which could be defined as “being the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits or boundaries.” This tragic story can be repeated over and over again… parents who set no boundaries for children who grow into young people with no concern for right and wrong, and no regard for the consequences of their thoughtless and careless acts.

Family mealIn Proverbs 22:6, we read…

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

That’s pretty good advice from the person considered to be the wisest man who ever lived. Parents need to stop delegating God-given responsibility of raising their children to schools, recreation centers, and churches, and start being the voices of wisdom, protection, instruction, and discipline that God intended them to be.

Church: Start being salt and light again.

Over these past many decades, the Church has become known more for what we are against than what we are for. In the ’50’s and ’60’s, we took stands against things like technology, only to later discover it was neither good nor evil, but actually had great value in the spreading of the Gospel. While the Cold War raged in the ’70’s, and we seemed on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, the Church was more concerned about the length of men’s hair, the length of women’s skirts, the “Ju-ju beat” in contemporary Christian music, and a plethora of other things that did little to bring souls into the Kingdom, and even less to open up a dialogue with a world on the fast-track to Hell. One thing (of many) I respect about Rev. Billy Graham, and now his son Franklin, is that, when confronted with a question about a social issue, political controversy, or cultural hot-topic, he always steers the conversation back to the Cross of Christ, and mankind’s need for a Savior.

Jesus called us to be salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16…

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Do I think we should be like the world, and participate in sin for the sake of getting along and finding common ground? By no means. But we must be very careful in rightly-dividing the Word of God so as not to turn our personal preferences into God’s providence. We must let the world see the love of Christ in us, and be known for the God we love, Who changes lives, and not just be known for the petty and insignificant things we are against. Being a Christian will always put us at odds with a world that hates Him. However, the love of Christ in us — shown in practical ways — is what will silence the critics, bring healing and love to those who have lost all hope, and open the ears and hearts of the hungry, hurting, and desperate.

Remember that All Lives Matter.

All Lives MatterIn the wake of the tragic stories of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the mantra “Black Lives Matter” spread like wildfire. The fact is that ALL lives matter. But how can we say with any conviction that any lives matter when we have allowed the wholesale slaughter of the innocent in our nation? How can we be so hypocritical as to bemoan the tragic deaths of a handful of individuals when, from 1973 to January of 2014, estimates of the number of aborted children have topped 50 million? To put it into perspective, this would be the equivalent of wiping out the populations of the following states combined: Kentucky, Oregon, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, Utah, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.

We must stop sending these mixed messages. If all lives matter, then we must put an end to this hypocrisy by putting an end to the holocaust of abortion in our nation. Then, and only then, can we put a serious emphasis on the value of ALL lives, and begin to heal the racial and gender rifts that are tearing our nation apart.

 There was a popular show on television called “Lost“, in which the characters were survivors of a plane crash on a remote island. As the series progressed, however, the level of danger and peril grew, and the island was more than it appeared to be on the surface. As I look into our society, I see a generation that is lost in the deception of self-interest, unaware of an enemy that is operating below the surface, feeding the fires of an ideology and mindset that are putting us as a nation more and more at odds with a Holy God. It’s time for the Church to step up and be the voice of truth, compassion, and hope that our world is crying out for.Blessed

When Life’s Not Fair

Through The Looking Glass2

American comedian Groucho Marx once said…

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

We’re all familiar with the saying that “life is not fair”, and most of us have probably experienced that reality…

What is fair about working your whole life, only to find your retirement has vanished?

What is fair about training hard for a sport, only to suffer a career-ending injury?

What is fair about a loved one being killed by the carelessness of someone else on the highway?

But here is probably the greatest injustice of all…

What is fair about being the only sinless person to ever walk the face of the earth, yet having to die to save the guilty?

As Christians, Jesus made two promises we can cling to when times get hard:

Promise #1… “In this world you will have trouble”.

Promise #2… “I have overcome the world.”

The Enemy at the Gate

Landscape#1Some years ago on a large Kansas farm, a parent left a gate open while in a hurry to do a chore. The child that was playing in the fenced yard wandered off and was lost in the great wheat field. They searched for days and finally found the child dead from exposure. The parent cried out, “I left the gate open, I left the gate open.”

So, dads and moms, are you leaving the gates open for your children? In an attempt to be the “cool parent”, are you putting your kids in harm’s way in a culture that is decidedly not “kid friendly”? Has your desire to be your child’s “buddy” left them without a parent?

In a society where anything (and everything) goes, parents have to be more diligent than ever with regard to the safety and well-being of their children. There is an enemy waiting for the gate of love and protection to be left unattended. At every turn, whether on the street, in the classroom, or on the Internet, 21st century children are faced with peril and temptation. One has just to watch the news for a few minutes to hear stories about children being abused, neglected, abducted, or killed. With online porn, online predators, and sex trafficking being just a few of the dangers out there, it is enough to make you want to build a wall around your home, station armed-guards on the perimeter, and not let them leave until they are safely into their 30’s.

However, that’s not the way life works.
It’s also not the way God intended for the family to function.

God makes it clear in His word that He has better plans for us than that. In 1 Timothy 1:7, Paul writes…

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Living in fear and anxiety is living life in the absence of faith. We have been given a Spirit of “power, of love, and of a sound mind”… it is already at our disposal if we are children of the Most High. Operating as a Spirit-controlled family is how God wants you to live.

Do you want to know how to have a Spirit-controlled home? Do you want to know what steps you can take to put the enemy to flight in the life of your family? Do you want your home to be a habitation of the Holy Spirit… a habitation of peace, safety, and tranquility?

Last night, I shared my thoughts about how you and your family can function as a Spirit-controlled family. Click this link and join me now in the worship center of Abba’s House for this crucial word.

 

 

In the Shadow of Terror

Last week, terror attacks in the beautiful city of Paris, France brought to the forefront the fact that Islamic-driven terror is still alive and well in the world. With the deaths of over a dozen people in three days of attacks, Paris was left reeling, and leaders from around the globe converged on the city as a show of solidarity with the people of France. While shock and sadness still remain, some see this as yet another wake-up call in a battle against this destructive ideology. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and a city and nation in mourning.

As new leadership is beginning in our own halls of Congress, it is time for us to lift our voices and demand leadership on the subject of Islamic terrorism and jihad.

Over a year ago, I posted a blog entitled “The Buck Stops Here“, in which I talked about the infiltration of Islamic ideology in the highest levels of our own government, and some steps we can take to combat this enemy. I would like to share that blog once again today…

The Buck Stops Here

(Original post date: 10/2013)

Well, this seems to be the $17 trillion dollar question:

“What is going on in Washington?”

FlagIt is disturbing to witness the dismantling of our nation right before our eyes. What we are seeing taking place in Washington right now is nothing short of tragic. There is confusion, division, and unfortunately, deception.

LOTS of deception.

Mystery surrounds the “dismissal” of nearly 200 high-ranking military officers for reasons that range from “questionable” to “absurd”. Scandals continue to plague the NSA, the IRS, the State Department, the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and the White House. Questions go unanswered concerning the Benghazi attack, the mistreatment of our allies, and the assault on our Constitution. And as the inexcusable deception related to Obamacare is unfolding before our eyes, the influence and positioning of Muslims in seats of governmental power is slipping “under the radar”… unnoticed, unchecked, and unhindered.

To say “I am alarmed” by the Islamic infiltration of our government at some of the highest levels would be a gross understatement.

Consider, if you will, this case…

Many of you remember the moral scandal that brought down New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. What you may not know is that his wife Huma Mahmood Abedin, a Muslim, worked for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, serving as Deputy Chief of Staff. While Ms. Abedin was working for Hillary Clinton, she was simultaneously working for a journal promoting Islamic supremacist ideology founded by Al-Qaeda financier Abdullah Omar Nasseef. Her parents support and worked for the terrorist organization led by Sheik Yusuf-al-Qaradawi, the notorious Muslim Brotherhood jurist, who has issued fatwas calling for the killing of American military personnel and suicide bombings in Israel.

In light of these facts, how in the world did Huma Abedin get the kind of high-level security clearance she would have to have in order to work in the State Department, and with unfettered access to the Secretary of State of the United States of America?

Why has nothing been done about Muslim extremists? Why do the questions about Benghazi go unanswered? Why has this administration repeatedly and recklessly chosen to align itself with terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood – at the risk of irreparably damaging our relationship with our #1 Middle-Eastern ally, Israel?

After 9-11, one would think that a long, hard look would be taken before appointing anyone remotely tied to Islam to a high-level government post. However, this administration has chosen to openly welcome Islamists into the upper echelons of U.S. power. Consider these…

Arif Alikhan – Assistant Secretary for Policy Development for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Mohammed Elibiary – Homeland Security Adviser.

Rashad Hussain – Special Envoy to the (OIC) Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Salam al-Marayati – Obama Adviser and  founder of Muslim Public Affairs Council and its current executive director.

Imam Mohamed Magid – Obama’s Sharia Czar, Islamic Society of North America.

Eboo Patel – Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships.

So, what can we do? What must we do?

We must pray. We must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting for this nation to return to God. We must encourage our friends to do the same. This has gone far beyond “politics as usual”. This battle has long since crossed into the spiritual realm with the very soul of our nation at stake. We must heed the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14, humble ourselves before the Lord, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wickedness. Then, and only then, will we see the healing of our land.

We must stand for truth. We ARE still a nation under God. No amount of history revisionism can change our Judeo-Christian heritage and foundation. It is time for the church to once again be the church, and stop cowering in the corner of society, fearful of offending hand-picked, government-approved special interest groups dedicated to immorality, ungodliness, and the dumbing-down of Biblical values. It is time for the Billy Sundays, the D. L. Moodys, and the Jonathan Edwards of this generation to arise!

We must stand with Israel. While this administration has done its level best to marginalize and insult our best friend and closest ally in the Middle East, WE THE PEOPLE must never lose sight of the promise that God made to Abraham thousands of years ago when HE promised to “bless those that bless you.” We must pray for Israel, support it in any way we can, and never fail to hold accountable those in our government who fail to do so.

We must communicate with our representatives. It is high time that our elected officials be reminded that they are our representatives, not our rulers; that they were sent to the state house to serve the people, not to enslave the people. Whether Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Liberal, Conservative, or anywhere in between, these people must be held accountable for the decisions they make on behalf of the people, and understand that failure to act in the best interest of the people will result in their removal by the people.

buckstopsherefrontsmallPresident Harry S. Truman famously had a sign on his desk in the White House that read, “The Buck Stops Here”. It is time for our representatives to stop kicking the can of responsibility down the road to future generations and stand up for what is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4).

As I have said before, May America bless God once again!