Latest Issue

THE STATE OF CHURCH AND SEX


 


FEATURES

13 Five Fine-Tuning Tips for Your Finances
by Ruthven Philip /
Everyday course corrections and strategies to protect your bottom line.

14 Awkward Bedfellows
by C. Wesley Knight /
Why the Church must get cozy with human sexuality for our own good.

17 Who do men say that I AM?
by Dion and Dilyn Henry /
Fluid gender identity and sexual identity confuse the faithful. Here’s how to respond.

20 What does it mean when god doesn’t intervene?
by Claudia Marion Allen /
A woman from Bethlehem whose story causes us to ask that really hard question.

22 When Church Unfriended me
by Kimberly Bulgin /
Three ways to reconnect a powerless worship experience.

28 The best book you’ve never read
by Donald L. McPhaull /
Give the Bible a second look, a first read!

FAVORITES

4 ELEVATION
by Phillip McGuire Wesley /
Media That Takes You Higher

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford /
a choice in the matter

6 EYE ON THE TIMES
by Carl McRoy /
2018 conscience calendar

8 OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman /
revolutionize your diet

11 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver /
it’s our turn now

12 BOUNCE BACK
by Kim Login-Nowlin /
Shattered ministry

24 FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd /
NO LIMBO! NO PURGATORY!ion

26 THE EXPERIENCE
by Ellen G. White /
“I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS”

27 THE EXPERIENCE BIBLE STUDY
by Rashad Burden /
NEVER ALONE

30 POWER PLAYLIST
by Oral Semple /
FORGIVE THE WAY JESUS DID


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Giving Tuesday – Hope for the Forgotten

Giving Tuesday-Hope For The Forgotten

Giving Tuesday and our Hope For The Forgotten campaign for people who are incarcerated and their families. Together when can share something of lasting value, a message of ultimate mercy and justice. #GivingTuesday #messagemag

Posted by Message Magazine on Tuesday, November 27, 2018




Drama Files: Holiday Hues of Blue

Seems like the holiday season was just here, Bryon* thought to himself. He was divorced,  and was not looking forward to another holiday season alone.

Though successful in his work, and traveling extensively, this young man realized all of that failed to fill the emptiness in his life. Bryon decided to find a therapist to help him adjust to the “Holiday Blues.” He was feeling loneliness, confusion, hurt, and disappointment during this time.

Blue Christmas Without You

Byron also felt pain from the memories of his past because his wife would decorate the home so beautifully. They would do the family shopping together. 

Bryon always looked forward to his parents and siblings joining him every year for the holidays and experiencing the love of the festivities. He grew up with his parents and many siblings engaging with the gift sharing, singing and visiting his grandparents was so enjoyable. 

Impending Season of Joy

As the time approached year after year Byron would remain busy and focused on his work. When November approached his depression began to overwhelm him. Prior to his divorce, Julie, his ex-wife had moved out to an apartment 22 miles away. She never called, and never came back.

Thanksgiving would usually be the start of the blues, a time when it seems everyone cherished a thankful and forgiving spirit. Byron figured that if there was ever a time when Julie would reconsider and return home, it would be at the beginning of the holiday season. He thought that she would call, but she never did.

Emotionally it took Bryon a while to get past his pain. He could not wait for the holiday  season to pass. He would find himself staying away from the stores or office holiday gatherings. Often, he hid his pain as more of his coworkers and friends learned that he was divorced.

As a very kind man and private person, Byron reluctantly told his family that Julie left and filed for divorce. His parents wondered what happened to Julie was on several occasions, so he finally told them the truth. He told them that Julie left because she no longer loved him the way a wife should. She really just grabbed for straws, looking for a way to leave. 

Some Folks Like to Get Away

In many cases people experience the holiday blues due to the lack of finances, the loss of family members or friends,  divorce, relocation, loss of employment,  or just hardship. They watch while so many other people enjoy the luxury of shopping, eating out at nice restaurants, traveling, and leaving their cares behind. Holiday blues are a real stressors.

Reimagine and recast your holidays using these ideas: 

  1. Acknowledge your feelings about your pain. 
  2. Reach out to positive family and friends. 
  3. Be realistic about your station in life.  
  4. Set aside differences with those who have hurt you by forgiving them. 
  5. Forgive yourself and pray 
  6. Develop a budget and don’t deviate from it. 
  7. Don’t run into any ones arms because you are lonely. 
  8. Know your limitations 
  9. The holidays are not a license to indulge in substance abuse.
  10. Schedule a pre-holiday or holiday season counseling session. 

As Bryon continued his therapy we discussed how important it is to recognize things could be so much worse, so he decided to do his best to remain thankful. He also committed to remaining busy and seeking the company of positive and encouraging family and friends.

Find The Right Mix of People And Activities

During the therapeutic process it is vital to identify with people who have gone through similar experiences to help you mature by attending a support group. Despite what you are going through try to be a blessing to someone else by serving and visiting someone in the hospital, a homeless shelter or serve at soup kitchen.

Accept, believe, and embrace Roman’s 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called to his purpose.” By grasping this concept when you are experiencing the holiday blues, you remember that God knows your pain and offers you comfort through your situation. 

With another holiday approaching Bryon is learning  to remain focused on others. He is  thankful, and allowing God’s will to be done while defining his new purpose in life by giving back to others. He is beginning a new chapter in his life not just getting through the holiday blues, but adjusting and accepting to a new life. Bryon now ends each session with these words: “God can make my latter days better than my former days.”

*The names have been changed to protect the innocent. 




Giving Tuesday: Hope For the Forgotten

You’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but have you ever participated in Giving Tuesday?

What’s Giving Tuesday? Excellent question! In the midst of the holiday season, where so much of the activities in our society centers around material possessions, Giving Tuesday is a day to shift our focus onto how we can help others.

Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to donate towards a specific organization or fund that serves the community. Here at Message, we’re focusing our Giving Tuesday efforts on maxing out the campaign to send subscriptions to 100,000 incarcerated people or their families. This will help us reach the oft forgotten with the light of the gospel.

So far this year, we’ve helped thousands through this fund and have the goal of serving more. Go to www.messagemagazine.com/donate and help us reach our goal! God will bless you for it, and He’ll bless the reader!




Why Is There No Thanksgiving Music?

Grateful Hearts, Thankful Hearts Live Longer. Love Harder.

Tips and Tests for the “Grouch-ruts” Among Us.

Today I went in to a retail store and was immediately accosted with secular Christmas music. Now I don’t have anything against Christmas—or Christmas music for that matter. In fact, for the majority of the known world Christmas represents the birthday of the most important person I know and love: Jesus! (even if they don’t actually believe in, know, or love Him).

But I digress…

The Connection between “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday” & No Thanksgiving Music

My theory as to the reason why there are way more secular Christmas songs than Thanksgiving ones is basically because people are selfish…they like to get stuff! The more the better! And the songs remind them of the good, tingly feelings they get when they get stuff. Don’t believe me? Check out what the Apostle John said—or wrote–when he wisely observed:

“For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:16, NLT). Solomon (the wisest person in the history of the world—ever) wrote these saltily lamented these lines: “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content” (Ecclesiastes 1: 8, NLT).

It seems that not only is there Christmas music playing on the first day of November, but all the retail stores have all their Christmas promotions already going—some already even have something they’re calling Thanksgiving “Pre-Black Friday” promotions in full-swing! It seems that the retailers don’t want anybody to stop and think about how empty they are emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. They are making an all-out effort to squeeze the practice of thankfulness, thanksgiving and contentment out of our hearts and minds.

But why? Can the answer to this age-old question really be this easy? Simply put: people aren’t truly thankful because they aren’t truly contented.

Not More Stuff—But More Savior!

During this time of the year the world works very hard to erase the fact that Jesus is the owner, sustainer—and provider of all good things! We are tempted and tainted by slick advertising campaigns promising happiness, peace, and contentment is found in some store, rather than the Savior. However, God disagrees, and writing through the Apostle Paul he reminds us to keep our eyes focused on the truth with this stark reality check:

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:6-10, NLT).

What Matters Most

Again, the writer of Hebrews keeps us focused on what’s most important: “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5, NLT). The focus for the Christian is not more stuff to make us happy, but more Savior aka Jesus!

Finally, Jesus Himself put it about as plainly as can be:

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Matthew 6:30-33, MSG).

Mind the M.D.’s!

If what God says about stuff vs the Savior isn’t sufficient (and I certainly hope it is), secular science proves that thankfulness and gratitude is great for you—on Thanksgiving and all-year long. The brainiacs at Harvard Medical School write this: “Research (and common sense) suggests that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually lift the spirits, and it’s built right into the holiday — expressing gratitude.”*

Additionally, research shows that people who are regularly grateful as a daily life habit are:

  1. Happier
  2. Have more life satisfaction
  3. Have less disease (mental and physical)
  4. Live longer

So now that you know that you should be more grateful and give thanks, but honestly, you’re kind of a grouch-rut (in this world, it’s easy to be one). Well, take heart: God wouldn’t tell you to do something without giving you the process and the power to do it.

Gratitude: God’s Way

God shares a practical formula for effectively beating the thanklessness and a personal negativity problem. It’s laid out most clearly in the New Testament book of Philippians. The apostle Paul wrote this book to Christians—from jail. So if anybody knew about being thankless and focusing on the negative stuff in his life, it was Paul. In Philippians 4:4-8 he gives us the process for overcoming them (I’ll wait for you to read this on your own).

Let’s break the process down into separate steps:

  • Be glad (verses 4, 5). God wouldn’t tell us to be glad if it weren’t possible. Why can we be glad? Because we have a relationship with God
  • Be gentle with others (verse 5). When we get thankless, worried, and anxious, we tend to easily and quickly lose our cool. We treat others—especially the ones we love the most—rudely or impatiently. But Paul says that we should be gentle, especially when we’re being pressed by our own problems.
  • Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything (verse 6). Again Paul encourages us not to worry about anything, but to engage and strengthen our relationship with God. I find it interesting that here Paul invokes a standard and very effective psychological counseling principle of “replacement”: To eliminate a negative behavior, replace it with a positive one. The replacement principle is key when dealing with habitual or compulsive behavior. Translation: stop worrying and start praying!
  • With a thankful attitude, tell God the things you’re worried about (verse 6). God is your Father. He knows your heart and cares about the things you’re going through. He truly wants to know what you’re worried about, so go ahead and unload. He can take all your mess and heat. Paul first wants us to change our focus from ourselves to God. Additionally, I find it interesting that Paul qualifies how we should be sharing with God. Our attitude should be thankful—but many times we just have…an attitude.
  • Being connected to Christ through a real relationship will allow Him to bless us with peace that no one can understand (verse 7). This peace will control our hearts (our feelings) and our minds (our thoughts). In other words, God’s peace will take total control of us.
  • Keep being glad (verse 8). Basically, repeat step 1. Initially, you’ll have to work this process many times throughout the day…because you’re dealing with habitually compulsive behavior of selfishness and thanklessness. But take heart; it does work.

Paul then goes on in verses 10-20 to expound on how being thankful and contented changes our focus from one of self to Jesus. He summarizes this passage with these four verses: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. . . . And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 11-13, 19, NLT).

Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.

  1. Pray. People can use prayer to cultivate gratitude. God is waiting to hear from you—not just about what you want, but more importantly about how grateful you are for His salvation and for who He is.
  2. Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself more joyful and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you note or letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Don’t be cheap, but buy fancy stationary (yes, it’s still made). Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude note or letter a week.
  3. Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one, thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day from God and others.
  5. Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
  6. Meditate. Meditate daily upon the Word of God. Pick one Bible verse or passage and spend the day thinking about it and mentally allowing it to marinate your soul. Meditation is a powerful and effective spiritual practice that you can use, but, like prayer, it has to be cultivated to be effective. I suggest that you start with a specific chapter of the Bible.

A Parting Assignment

Now that you’ve learned the truth about why people around the world become crazy and more frenetic during this time of year, and God’s prescription for the solution, I’d like to challenge you to take time every day for the rest of November to read Psalm 118. Bible scholars call this specific Psalm “The Thanksgiving Psalm,” and rightly so. It’s an absolutely beautiful Psalm about what’s most important to the Christian about Thanksgiving. It is about giving God thanks for His immeasurable free gift of salvation to us. It expresses gratitude for a joyful life on this earth filled with power and purpose. And, finally, it expresses joy in the promise of eternal life spent with Him!

As you read it, take some time to talk to God about all the things you’re thankful for that day and once you begin to do this, you will begin a beautiful and powerful positive habit that will bring you peace, purpose, and joy all the months of your life, and not just on Thanksgiving.

I’d like to wish you all, not a ‘Happy Thanksgiving,” but in order to be happy, give God thanks.

*Accessed on November 7, 2018 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

 

Thanksgiving Songs. The Contenders. Listen In:

If you’re so inclined, check out and enjoy this collection of Thanksgiving songs that I’ve been able to find:

 

 




Drama Files: Sex And The Saved Single

Sex. Sexy. Sexiest. Man Alive, Am I The Only One Not Doing It?

Monique was a bright, outgoing, young lady, and her teachers and classmates loved her. She was popular, attractive, a great dance student, and very kindhearted all through high school.  After graduating from high school with honors it was now time to enter into college. Monique carried her pleasant personality with her. 

After returning home with a degree in business, and accepting a new position within a major utility company, Monique met a very nice young man at a company function. They exchanged email addresses and soon thereafter, Monique and Jason were a couple. As they grew closer, after a year they began a sexual relationship. Neither one  was a Christians, nor, did either attend church services.  

One weekend Monique’s coworker invited her to church to hear her speak and Monique asked Jason to join them, but he had a meeting to attend. The Holy Spirit convicted Monique’s heart, and she really enjoyed the service.  She gave her life to Christ right there and then. Her excitement bubbled over, and she could not wait to tell Jason of her new found relationship with the Lord.

Jesus at The Center of It All

“I’m not interested in serving God or attending church,” Jason stated flatly in response to Monique’s “Good News.” He told her their relationship worked because they were not Christians.  She tried to explain it to him, and continued to pray and invite  him to church. But, after one month of refraining from sex and other things that contradicted her new beliefs, the couple decided to break up. Monique had decided not to have sex outside of marriage, and Jason was not going to accept that. 

Monique moved out and continued to work at the utility company while attending church every week. She never had any further interaction with Jason, but found peace in her new found faith and obedience to God. However, as time went on she met several nice, single young men at the church fellowships who were attracted to her. Each of them, at one point, tried to persuade her to have sex with them after a date.

She sought support through  Christian counseling regarding her choice to remain celibate. 

Nice Church Girls and Boys

“I can understand men in the world wanting sex before marriage,” she told me during one session. “But being in the church, knowing that this is a violation against God’s Word,” well, that was very disheartening and confusing.  These men hurt Monique by their actions and hypocrisy.

One even told her “It’s alright to have sex. We all have needs. We are in the church, and God will forgive us”. 

At that moment Monique shook her head, turned to him and replied: “Same dance, but different partner.”

As single Christians face many different temptations in their lives, it is important to remain focused on Christ, and His Holy Word.  That is where we find the profile of a holy life. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

Sex for Saved Singles?

Through my 36 years as a therapist and counselor, 85% of my single clients had sex before marriage by the age of 40. They concluded that almost all Americans have had sex before marriage.  Abstaining from sexual intercourse is not the norm in our culture.  Being sexual and sensual before marriage is the norm.

We are overwhelmed  with “ Bigger, Better, More,” in the headlines. And seemingly every product and program gets moved on the often successful philosophy that sex sells. Sexy images, videos, songs, hot topics on reality tv, and news about celebrities and their sexy lifestyles pervade the media and our minds. If you want to be part of the 15% you will have to know your redeemer Jesus for yourself and have an honest and open relationship with Him.

If you realize that you are in the 85%, it is not too late to turn to Christ. The Lord can and will restore you. He will help you remain single, and celibate. 

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it,” 1 Corinthians 10:13. 




Feverish Fear of The “Caravan”

An Old Story of The Hard Heartedness of An Ancient People And Their Pharaoh

It’s not just left-leaning writers, like Nicholas Kristof, who are attempting to diffuse the paranoia of an “invasion” of impoverished refugees. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith calmly and succinctly called out the fearmongering for what is. David Thornton of the unapologetically conservative website, The Resurgent) tried to disarm the disinformation campaign as well.

All three are in agreement that there’s no need for a massive troop build-up at the U.S.-Mexico border. Like its prequel in April, 2018, there’s not likely to be much of a caravan left by the time a few of them make the 1,000-mile trek on foot. There’s also no evidence of Middle-eastern terrorists masquerading as Central American migrants. But I guess brown is the new black and they all look alike, right?

Embed from Getty Images

Why is this feverish fear so contagious? It has politicians “concerned” about people exercising their right to vote. The civil rights’ era label of “outside agitators” has been pulled from the recycle bin to apply to voting rights activists. It has lawmakers wanting to revoke the citizenship of people born in this country. It has conspired to disenfranchise the Natives of this land from casting ballots.

 

Exodus of the West?

Could the book of Exodus give us a clue to what’s going on in the minds of some Americans, who consider themselves the Americans? Let’s consider the following excerpt:

Joseph and his brothers and all that generation died. The Israelites, however, were fruitful, increased greatly, multiplied, and became extremely strong, so that the land was filled with them.

Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power over Egypt. He said to his people, “Look at the Israelite people, more numerous and stronger than we are! Come, let’s deal wisely with them. Otherwise they will continue to multiply, and if a war breaks out, they will ally themselves with our enemies and fight against us and leave the country.”

So they put foremen over the Israelites to oppress them with hard labor. As a result they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread. As a result the Egyptians loathed the Israelites, and they made the Israelites serve rigorously. (Ex. 1:6-13, NET)

Deliberate Disinformation

Let’s dissect a couple of things here. First, this king had a case of selective memory and strategic forgetfulness. How is it that he could know about a foreign people living in his land, but not know how they got there and where they came from? He referred to this rapidly growing demographic as Israelites, in other words, the offspring of Israel. Doesn’t referring to them as Israelites beg the question, Who was Israel and how did his offspring come to reside in Egypt?

The truth is, this king didn’t want to know about Joseph’s role in making Egypt great. Pharaoh wanted to deny or diminish any people or accomplishments that would credit outside agitators with meaningful progress to Egyptian science, politics, economics. To borrow from Rage Against the Machine’s “No Shelter,” this king’s agenda was for everyone to see through…

 

[Egyptian] eyes, [Egyptian] eyes

View the world through [Eyptian] eyes

Bury the past, rob us blind

And leave nothing behind!

 

It’s much like American amnesia regarding people like Peter Salem, Paul Cuffe, Benjamin Banneker, Charles Drew, Garrett Morgan, Alice Ball, Dorothy Vaughan, Patricia Bath, or Michelle Alexander. Hebrews in Egypt could’ve identified with Public Enemy’s line, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps.

Irrational Anxiety

Not only was there deliberate disinformation going on, there was also irrational anxiety. As Proverbs 28:1 says, “A wicked person flees when no one is chasing him” (NET). Why would this pharaoh imagine that a people whose ancestors had helped Egypt prosper during a catastrophic famine join ranks with a foreign army? Could it have been the unrestrained greed and unresolved guilt of the Egyptian leaders that aroused their fears of the Hebrews? Did his legacy of subjugating others to get ahead make him dread his chickens coming home to roost?

Embed from Getty Images

Pharaoh’s ignorance and fear led to increasingly oppressive policies. The harsher the Egyptians treated the Israelites, the more they despised and feared them. What the pharaoh and his followers didn’t realize is that retribution wouldn’t come by the hands of the Hebrews themselves. God’s hand would hold His cup of wrath to their lips until the last drop of His indignation was swallowed. The more pharaoh hardened his heart against human cries for mercy and Divine calls for justice, the fuller the bitter cup of vengeance became.

Siphon Up – Trickle Down

Pharaoh could have saved his empire and family a lot of devastation by humbling himself before God and changing his ways. However, it seems almost impossible for rich, powerful bullies to repent. They fear that if they repent, then they might have to repay (Luke 19:1-10). Such people are rare as a camel walking through the eye of a needle. Most prefer to keep siphoning up surpluses, while stingily allowing droplets of sustenance to trickle down.

Just as ancient Egypt had its chance, 21st century pharaohs have their chance to reverse course and be agents of reconciliation, peace, and prosperity for the people under their authority. However, Revelation lets us know that just as with Egypt, worldly powers in the last days are filling up God’s cup of wrath by serving themselves at the people’s expense. Soon a global series of plagues will eclipse the severity of Egypt’s tribulation.

 

Exorcising the Demonic Forces of Fear

As in Exodus 12, there is a way for the people of God to escape, and it’s not by colonizing the moon or Mars. Jesus is our Passover Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world (1 Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29). This Lamb dedicated Himself to be our sacrifice before the world even began (Revelations 13:8). However, our profession of faith in Him has to be more than meeting under a steeple or having cross tattoos and jewelry (Matthew 7:21-23).

Faith in Jesus means walking in the light of truth and love with Him (1 John 1:6-7). As we walk with Jesus, He infuses us with a love that casts out fear and brings us into fellowship with others we wouldn’t normally gravitate to (1 John 2:6-11 and 4:18). Instead of seeking to take the life of others, Jesus’ love moves us to live sacrificially for their benefit (1 John 3:16-17, Romans 12:1). Living out the gospel in this manner gives us confidence, rather than fear, when judgment comes (Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 25:31-46). It also give us peace of mind in this life (2 Timothy 1:7).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




What’s Really At-Stake with Our Border Crisis

How What We Tolerate Regarding The Treatment of Migrant Men, Women and Children Can Determine The Fate of Other Vulnerable Populations

Children pulled mercilessly from the warm embrace of their mothers. Children locked behind chain link fences. Children staring at the cameras, their piercing eyes revealing a haunting sense of hopelessness.

Such were the heart-wrenching images that sparked national outrage over a zero-tolerance immigration policy ripping families apart. For many Americans – regardless of political, racial or religious affiliation – it crossed an invisible boundary.

But as we protest, as we march, as we peacefully petition our government denouncing oppression in our name, it is not just the lives of the innocent victims at stake – but also the very soul of our nation.

Vulnerable People

Swapna Reddy is co-director of the New York-based Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), which provides pro-bono legal services to unaccompanied minors in deportation proceedings. She said the number of children trapped in the U.S. legal system has increased significantly since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy, audaciously quoting scripture as justification. The children, mostly from Central American countries, range in age from toddlers to teenagers.

“Basically, what we’re doing is we’re pretty much attacking a very vulnerable population,” said Reddy in an interview with Message. “We’ve started down a treacherous road with our immigration policies and are starting to do things that were unthinkable just a few years ago.”

Reddy said the Trump administration’s family-separation policy sets a precedent that could negatively impact other groups in the future.

“And so, while it’s immigrants now as a sort of targeted and vulnerable population,” she said, “ I think this certainly could be looked at in the future as the beginning of, perhaps, targeting other groups who are particularly vulnerable and don’t necessarily have the same protections as others do.”

Biblical Morality and Immigration

The Rev. David Vásquez-Levy serves as president of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California – a multi-denominational seminary and center for social justice. He describes the zero-tolerance policy as “a pivotal moral issue for us as a nation.”

“Though a country of immigrants, the United States has a history of cruelty toward various groups of people, millions of them brought to America by way of slave ships,” Vásquez-Levy said. He likened the plight of immigrant children being separated from their parents to the pain that African American and Native American families endured in previous generations.

“For us as a society with so much power, affluence and resources, to use such force against families and children, it has drawn attention to what’s happening more broadly with our immigration practices,” he said. “What it does is it dehumanizes a particular group, and that’s resonating for us in various communities.”

People on The Move

Vásquez-Levy believes Christians, in particular, should be outraged by the government’s anti-immigrant posture. He considers it an affront to Scripture, which calls on people of faith to embrace foreigners in their midst.

How do we balance Biblical precedent with the today’s tough immigration interests without compromising?

“When you think about Biblical stories, most of them are about people on the move,” he said. “People moving because of hope and promise, like Abraham and Sarah, pursuing a dream with nothing but trust. Because of that, one of the most common commandments in the Bible is about protecting the stranger and remembering that we were strangers ourselves in Egypt.”

The story of the Israelites in bondage – another migration story – contains many similarities to what immigrant families in the U.S. and across the globe are experiencing today, he said.
“Joseph is in Egypt as a famine developed in the land of Canaan,” he said. “Then his family comes into Egypt. They settle, and the Book of Genesis talks about how good it was that they settled and then they grew and they were strong.”

Compounding Injury

K. Drew Devenport is an immigrant attorney and adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law. He said recent immigration policies could have a chilling effect on the idea of America as a melting pot and a country that embraces all cultures and ideas.

“This country is founded on the principle and belief that you could come here, realize your dreams and live in a free society,” he said. “And now we’re seeing it become more conservative and restrictive.”

Reddy, of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, said children who flee bad circumstances come to the U.S. with an intense amount of trauma.

“First, they’re traumatized by whatever caused them to leave the country, traveling hundreds and thousands of miles,” she said. “Then, there’s the journey itself, which is dangerous and scary. And, now, they’re separated from their parents in the United States, which just compounds the trauma.”

Stay Focused on Needs

Reddy said she has been heartened by the incredible and sustained response of Americans of all backgrounds who stood up on behalf of children caught in the system.

“A lot of times people’s attention turn quickly to other issues,” she said. “But what’s amazing is that this has been going on now for a few months at this point, and people are still pushing back. I think it’s a very good sign that these are ideals that many Americans hold dear no matter who they are or where they were born. They are fighting to keep them intact.”

Yet, it’s important to stay vigilant, holding government accountable at all levels, she said. She recommends contacting members of Congress to make sure they’re on the right side of the issue and continuing to protest against anti-immigrant policies that victimize the most vulnerable in society.

“We’re not saying that all of these children are eligible to stay in the United States,” she said. “But we are saying that they all should have a fair chance to make their case for U.S. protection so we as country are not sending children back into grave harm or even, potentially, death. And that’s what our asylum laws uphold.”




Got Guilt?

Put away destructive guilty feelings; grow with productive guilty feelings.

Sitting down, head in hands, the gentleman sharing with me had no idea how he could ever move beyond the carnage. He caused a lot of pain by his lapses in judgement. While it was so long ago, he still struggled with the lingering effects of a mistake.

He went to church. The man served on the deacon board, was active in Bible study, had a loving family, and what he felt was a growing, dynamic relationship with God. But like clockwork these recurring feelings of guilt shrouded him in a cloud of despair. He struggled, fighting back tears as he re-lived the details which plagued his dreams, consumed his prayers. He knew he was overcompensating in his generosity to dispel the pain of his past. Listening to his struggle, I connected in many ways to the growing remorse that painfully came from the re-telling of his story.

Blameworthy

If I were to be honest, I had been there before, and maybe so have you. We’ve been at the meeting place of disappointment and disgust in ourselves for the mistakes. The feelings, whether warranted or not, true or untrue, that cause us to replay in our minds past failures, misguided actions, or choices that turned out less than ideal.

Guilt can be associated with remorse that we feel as a result of doing or thinking something that we feel is wrong. Webster’s Dictionary has a variety of definitions I can appreciate: “the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously; feelings of deserving blame for offenses.”

The Dictionary of Psychology published by the American Psychological Association contends that guilt is a “self-conscious emotion characterized by a painful appraisal of having done (or thought) something that is wrong and often by a readiness to take action designed to undo or mitigate this wrong.”

Moving Cycle of Guilt

Guilt is a very powerful, yet complex response. It is action-oriented and prompts us cognitively or emotionally do something in response to how we think or how we feel. It can be real, based on actual events or derived from some false perception of our actions that if we really thought about it, could be traced to our inner misguided voices which heighten our sensitivity to the lies we tell ourselves.

Guilt is not just associated with doing wrong. There are some of us who feel guilty for the right things that we do. For instance, placing an aging relative in a nursing home because they cannot take care of themselves.

Self-Condemnation

The conscious plays a selective role which, Thomas Aquinas, the early church philosopher, suggests is a compass that either accuses or excuses our behavior. Because of the selectiveness of the conscience we can perceive even right actions that harm others indirectly, as being worthy of our self-condemnation.

Productive guilt drives us to repent, make recompense for our wrongs. But punitive guilt forces us to internalize our struggles and can oftentimes lead to shame. Shame is allowing the guilt to grow to the point that it moves from what we do; to who we are. We go from making mistakes to being defined by them to the point that we become our mistakes.

Get-Rid-of-Guilt Plan

  • Make guilt useful.

    Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning suggests that we can utilize guilt as a motivating factor in making ourselves better individuals. He states that “you are responsible for overcoming guilt, by growing beyond yourself.” What he is alluding to is the power within each of us to rise above the negative self-talk and constant beating up of ourselves to do something productive with the mistakes we have made.

 

  • Allow guilt to teach you.

    Your past does not define you. No matter what you have done, as long as you are still alive you can find forgiveness and recompense. God is far more concerned with who you are becoming than who you have been. Past mistakes can teach us, but also serve to help us teach others. The beauty of the scars from our past is the ability to point to them as we share our story with others to help them avoid where we have been.

 

  • Take responsibility, but don’t beat yourself up.

    Accept that you made a mistake and resist the seduction to think that you are so special that you can be the only other perfect person (other than Jesus) to walk the face of the earth. Mistakes are a part of the human condition.

 

  • Challenge your negative thoughts and feelings.

    Determine the source of your guilt. Is the guilt you are feeling truthful, or are you feeling guilty based off some misconception? Are you having persistent feelings of sadness, isolation, anxiety, depression? If those feelings are tied to your perception of your mistakes, it is time to do some serious introspection.

 

  • Accept that you are forgiven.

    Stop beating yourself up and thinking that you deserve to die or to suffer for your mistakes. Someone has already done that for you. In Grace for the Afflicted, Matthew Stanford contends that guilt can be used as a demonic accusation that can lead us to call into question the validity of the word of God.It can prompt us to read the promises of the Bible that tell us “as far as the east is from the west, so far He has removed our transgressions from us“ (Psalm 103:12), or “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:19) as fanciful tales. Guilt can cause us to take the word of God which unequivocally assures us that we are forgiven for our past mistakes, our present ones, and the future ones as a lie, and can cause us to forever feel that we stand accused even for those things for which we have ardently sought forgiveness.

 

  • Let go.

    We cannot move forward and hold on at the same time. In order for us to be free from the guilt we carry, we have to let it go. The pathway to being able to let go of the condemnation and barrage of self-criticism, is truthfulness and honesty, which leads me to my last suggestion…

 

  • Seek help.

    There is nothing wrong with going to talk to someone who can keep your confidence about your thoughts, feelings or actions. Suffering in silence is one of the most unproductive things you can do. Talk to a counselor, pastor, or even a friend. Negative feelings grow when we keep them hidden, but there is something about bringing our darkness to the light that makes the burdens lighter that we carry because we are able to share them with someone else.

 




Five Teachings Your Family Needs for Spiritual Preparedness

Our greatest responsibility as parents has and will always be to spiritually prepare each child, based on their age, gender, temperament, strengths and weaknesses, personalities and gifts, for the soon coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Talk about Blended Family

We have a somewhat unique family. We were born in the mid to late 1960’s so we’re classified as “Baby Boomers” or “Generation Xers.” Our first two children who happen to be girls, ages 32 and 20 are considered “Millennials” or “Generation Y,” and last but not least, our 14-year-old daughter and 10- year-old son represent “Generation Z” or the “New Silent” generation. Our family is well represented, generationally speaking.

In the midst of the changing and dare we say tense political climate, influences by social media, peer pressure, and the simple emotional and developmental changes that each of our children experiences, we have had to be very deliberate and intentional in bringing awareness to them of the fact that earth is still only temporary and there is a life after this one worth living for.

We will share with you five lessons that God has given us to prepare our children to be candidates for Heaven and we hope these points will help you too.

Whether you’re a single mom or dad, or are a two-parent household, or a grandparent, or just simply you on your own, trying to make sense of this world we live in, we are still family!

1. Get To Know Who Made You.

You were created by God! Talk to Him through prayer. Matthew 6:9-13 teaches us the Lord’s prayer and how to talk to God.

Study Him. The entire Bible comprises factual accounts of people connected to the beginning, middle, and end of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, and all that will occur when He returns. 2 Timothy 2:15 encourages us to study God’s word because knowledge of our Creator removes shame and gives confidence in a world with so many conflicting traditions, messages and changes.

Henry Blackaby wrote in his best selling book, Experiencing God, “The Bible is God’s word to you. The Holy Spirit honors and uses God’s word in speaking to you. The Scriptures will be your source of authority for faith and practice. You cannot depend on human traditions, your experience, or the experience of others to be accurate authorities on God’s will and ways. Experience and tradition must always be examined against the teaching of Scriptures.”

2. Understand Who You Are.

Psalms 139:14 says, “I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” When you were made by the Creator, you received genetic traits from your parents and grandparents. Learn and understand your temperament, and your inherited strengths, as well as your inherited weaknesses. Don’t make excuses for your weaknesses, but give them to God daily. A great book that speaks more on this is, The Spirit-Controlled Temperament, by Tim LaHaye.

3. Develop Your Spiritual Gifts Daily.

God has given every child of His spiritual gifts to fulfil our purpose for being on this earth. Only what you do for Christ matters, so it is important that your decisions are driven by your spiritual gifts (Read 1 Corinthians 15:58 and 1 Corinthians 12:5-7).
Here is a great website to find out your spiritual gifts within a few minutes, and there’s even a version of the inventory for youth–www.spiritualgiftstest.com.

4. Understand That There Is Both Good and Evil In This World.

From the beginning there was good. God made Heaven and Earth. (Read Genesis 1.) But just as real and as good that God is, there is also evil that began by one who was once a beautiful and gifted angel in heaven. His rebellion, got him thrown out of Heaven down to this earth, along with a third of heaven’s angels. Satan—as he is called—makes it his mission to turn everyone against God. When this world comes to an end, the Bible tells us that Satan will lose, be permanently destroyed. No more evil, death, or sorrow will exist.
Stay close to God and you will be able to discern good from evil. You will not be confused by the mixed messages you will see and hear about God’s plan for the family and eternity (Revelation 12 and Ephesians 6:12).

5. God’s Love Is Bigger Than Your Mistakes.

Absolutely nothing can separate you from God’s love. “[I] am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing that you have said or done will stop God from loving you.

You do not have to live in the shame or guilt of the mistakes you have made or may make. God sent His Son Jesus who paid the price for those sins. He did this long before you were born and would sin. His love knows no end!

Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby, in the flesh, to show us His love in human form so we could see a real life example of God’s love on Earth. Jesus is the way to the God the Father, so if you study the life of Jesus Christ, you will understand God more and more, and will grow to love Him more and more!