Fresh Oil New Wine 2014 Healing Living It Out In Real Time The Big Event Through The Looking Glass

For Whom The Bell Tolls: Chico, Mork, and an Expendable Life

Looking Glass

One can hardly watch television, surf the internet, or drive down the street without seeing some form of advertising for the new movie The Expendables 3. A popular movie franchise that began in 2010, The Expendables movies feature casts of popular action stars (I hesitate to say, of “yesteryear”) including Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and many others. The premise is that this group of mercenaries are hired to do the dangerous jobs others can’t, for government agencies that “can’t be involved”, and should they fail in their quest, it’s an acceptable risk — after all — these guys are all “expendable”. Who’s going to miss them? They have no families, few friends, and no real “roots” to speak of.

While these movies may not delve deeply into the psychology of “expendability”, it poses and interesting question:

Who among us is expendable?

Is our value as an individual measured in awards, accolades, the number of Facebook “friends” we have, or the size of the contact list in our iPhones? Is our worth to society determined by our popularity, our job status, or the number of people who will or won’t miss us when we are gone?

A week ago today, we learned of the tragic suicide of actor Robin Williams, who had incredible success in his career. Yet, the success, the awards, and the love of so many people could not still the struggles within him.

In 1977, the young star of the popular television show Chico and the Man died from a self-inflicted, single gunshot wound to the head. While struggling with depression, drugs, and personal problems, Freddie Prinze (22) was at the height of his fame when he took his own life.

Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Considered by some to be one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, Hemingway committed suicide in 1961 after battling alcoholism and health problems for years.

So if these men (and many other celebrities like them) could not find peace and contentment in their vast successes — making the decision to end their own lives — what about the rest of us?

What makes us not expendable?

It’s simple… the words of Jesus. In Matthew 25, Jesus is talking to His disciples when He tells them a parable, and says to them…

… ‘I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ~ verses 35-40

“The least of these, My brethren.” Societal stature didn’t mean a hill of beans to Jesus. He placed GREAT value on the individual, and considered the way we treated those society considers “the least” as a personal statement of how we treat Him. He views each individual — each member of His creation — as a personal extension of Himself…

“… Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, My brethren, you did it to Me.”

Jesus sees the person inside. He sees the potential. He sees the diamond-in-the-rough. He sees the Kingdom-heir, just waiting to step into the promise and future available to all of us who put our trust in Him.

Maybe you have low self-esteem… Jesus says you are highly-esteemed.

Maybe you feel expendable at your job, an insignificant part of the corporate machine… Jesus sees you as an individual of great worth and value.

Maybe your family, friends, or church have made you feel insignificant and unimportant… If you had been the only one, Jesus still would have come to this earth to save you — He thinks you are THAT important.

So if you are looking for acceptance and significance, look no further than the open arms of Jesus. He is waiting for YOU.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

You are NOT expendable… You are loved.

Pastor Ron

America Fresh Oil New Wine 2014 Friendship Healing Living It Out In Real Time The Big Event The Life of Faith The Secret Place

When The Laughter Goes Silent

This week, our nation lost two greats in the entertainment industry. On Tuesday, iconic actress Lauren Bacall passed away at the age of 89 after reportedly suffering a major stroke. The wife of legendary actor Humphrey Bogart, Ms. Bacall appeared in dozens of movies and television shows. Having outlived her husband by over 50 years, she lived a long life beyond the grief of loss, and went on to be an award-winning actress, known for her cynical humor and her straightforward personality. She once said…

I figure if I have my health, can pay the rent, and I have my friends, I call it ‘content.’

Robin WilliamsBut while the news of Ms. Bacall’s death was being announced, the world was still reeling from the shock of the news, just the day before, of the death of actor Robin Williams. At the age of 63, leaving a loving family, devoted friends, and a successful career including several movies currently in production, Mr. Williams committed suicide in his home just outside of San Francisco. As the news was confirmed of the manner of his death, a collective “why???” went up from the general public. Known not just for his talent as both a funnyman and a dramatic actor, Mr. Williams was, by all accounts, a kind and generous person as well. Testimony after testimony — of family, friends, and complete strangers — over the past few days bears this out. Friends and co-workers went on talk shows and discussed what a kind person he was. Strangers on social media posted pictures from meeting him on the street, and talked about how gracious he was. An entertainment icon, an Academy Award-Winning actor, a genuine humanitarian (as evidenced by his multiple trips in support of our troops overseas, as well as work for charities like St. Judes Children’s Hospital)… what makes a person with that kind of success choose to end their own life?

A 2011 CDC report states that suicide is the #2 cause of death in Americans aged 15-34, and the #3 cause in adults ages 35-44. While no case is exactly the same, the reasons for suicide are often related to personal loss, depression, financial stress, and family issues. In the case of Mr. Williams, struggles with substance abuse, career issues, and severe depression were cited as possible contributing factors in his death.

So how do we go forward, as a society, and stem the tide of the plague of suicide in our nation? What can we as individuals and Christians do to stop this tragedy from touching those close to us, in our circles of influence?

First of all, we need to open our eyes. As believers in Christ, we make it a point to say that “we are in the world, but not of it”. For many, however, being “not of it” tends to make us mentally disconnect from what is going on around us. Although He came as the King of Heaven, Jesus was keenly aware of the pain and suffering going on around Him. Jesus reached out to the needs in the world as He encountered them: He fed the hungry, He healed the sick, He raised the dead. He ministered to the big crowds, but He also dealt with people one-on-one, sometime in the secretive dead-of-night (see John 3 – story of Nicodemus). Just as Jesus did, we must take notice of those around us, and be proactive when confronted with need. It is the example of Jesus that offers hope to those in need of it.

We must listen without judging. One person’s minor irritation is another person’s major crisis. Without the knowledge of where another person has been, we cannot assume to know exactly what they are feeling. So many times, we want to give advice without knowing all of the facts. Take the time to listen — REALLY LISTEN — to what someone is saying, and make it a point to listen, not just to what they are saying, but to how they are saying it. Learn to read between the lines. Love, manifested in genuine concern, has a way of bringing pain to the surface.

A friend of mine had a brother who committed suicide when he was younger. He shared with me that, while he knew his brother was having some problems, he didn’t know to what extent. As it turned out, there was more going on in his brother’s life than he knew, because he would share one thing with one person, and another with someone else. It wasn’t until after he passed away that friends and family members put all the pieces together, and began to comprehend the extent of his sorrow and pain. Take the time to sit down, share a cup of coffee (or 10), and just listen. Sometimes, that very act lets a person in pain know that they are not alone. Sometimes, a soft touch and kind word can give that person the resolve to live another day. Former talk-show host Phil Donahue once made a very true observation…

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Finally, we must see people for who they are. We are all unique creations of the Creator. We all have extreme value in the eyes of God. We are all challenged in different areas, and the problem of depression is no less real than diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. Sometimes depression can be the result of wrong choices we make in everyday life. Sometimes, it can be the result of a chemical imbalance. As a minister who has dealt for years in Spiritual Warfare, I know that some types of depression are demonic at their root, whether handed down through generations (generational curses), or demonic doors of depression that are opened through one’s own actions. Regardless of the reason and just like any disease, depression (and mental illness) must be properly diagnosed in order to be dealt with. Individuals suffering from depression must know they have people who love them standing beside them, caring and not critical. They must be encouraged to get the help they need, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual (or oftentimes, a combination).

I encourage all of you reading this today: Be the light of the love of Jesus in another person’s life. Love the misunderstood. Reach out to the “unlovable”. Learn to recognize pain in the eyes of those around you. If someone needs to talk, be that ear. If they need to cry, be that shoulder. If they need more help than you can give, be that companion that accompanies them to the pastor or counselor who can help. Make it a point to make every person you come into contact with know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that they are not alone in this world.

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.” ~ Robin Williams

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Upsize Your Future to God-Sized

Across the WaterAccording to the World Health Organization, by the year 2020, the number 2 disease in the world will be depression. Worse than that, suicide will be in the top 5 causes of death worldwide.

In his wonderful book, Moving Beyond Depression, Dr. Greg Jartz cites four stages of this debilitating affliction:

  • Loss of the ability to experience joy.
  • Loss of hope.
  • Sense of no positive future.
  • An attitude of “what’s the use?” “Why carry on?”

All of this leads to an atmosphere of negativity and negative self-talk which manifests itself in anger, fear, guilt, and shame.

Now, I would go a step further and add one more thing to Dr. Jartz’s list: Demonic oppression. Fear, anger, guilt, and shame are normal emotions that, given the opportunity to linger (ie: dwelling on them) will become spiritual strongholds of wrong thinking, inviting demonic pressure. After all:

  • Anger drains optimism.
  • Fear steals hope.
  • Shame and guilt crush joy.

Overcoming this paralysis of hopelessness requires a change of mind and heart – a paradigm shift.

For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Get Rid of Stinking Thinking

Moving from heaviness to hope requires a choice… your choice. Albert Einstein once said that “Significant problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.” Make a decision to tear down the strongholds of wrong thinking, evict the agents of darkness, and upsize to God-sized… GOD IS BIGGER THAN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES!!!!

Evaluate Your Situation Honestly

Only the truth will set you free. We find in the above verse a promise… God has a plan for your life!

However, the context of this verse is interesting. The people are already in captivity. God may not take you out of your circumstances, but may choose to bless you in the midst of them!

Get The Basic Stuff Right

We have to recognize that the plans of God are not fanciful schemes. In the case of the people Jeremiah was talking to, God didn’t hit them in the head with a gold brick. Sometimes, the resources and answers are not immediate. Instead, God’s desire for us may be to affect change where we are. That may mean to settle in, build homes, start businesses, grow families, and be positive influences in the places where God puts us. Just do the normal, everyday stuff with all of your heart, and watch what God can do. Do it with gusto, and expect to prosper where you are (even if it is in a place of governmental hostility and oppression).

Claim A God-Sized Future

We may not always see the end result of the promise, but God’s promises about our future is multi-generational. We may not see the prophetic word fulfilled, but our children and grandchildren can!

So what should you do to claim the future God has for you?

  • Make God’s promise your plan.
  • Make prayer a priority.
  • Make the pursuit of God’s Presence a Holy passion.
  • Realize that God’s Presence is the Pathway to Prosperity.

Friend, you have a God-sized future waiting for you! Take hold of His promises today!