Wednesday, December 18, 2013

You Are Worthy

            Phillip Yancey in his book Reaching for the Invisible God recounts this story.

            Rosemary had a rag doll.  It was her favorite doll and Rosemary went nowhere without it.  The doll went from new and clean to dirty and threadbare -- but it was the most precious of all of Rosemary’s possessions.  Like Linus and his blanket, Rosemary could not bear to face life without her rag doll.

            When Rosemary’s family moved from Scotland to America, each family member carefully
Like Linus and his blanket,
Rosemary could not bear to face life
without her rag doll.
selected what possessions to bring along.  Rosemary chose just one thing: her rag doll.  It did not get packed; it was to stay with her on the trip.  But things took a turn for the worse.  Somehow, in the airport, Rosemary misplaced her rag doll.
            The family began a search, retracing their steps.  “Rosemary, do you remember where you may have laid her down?”, was asked time and time again.  Skycaps, ticket agents and restroom attendants were all asked if they had seen a rag doll.  Rosemary became so distraught at the loss of the doll that the family considered postponing their flight.  Time was passing.  Nothing else mattered right now because Rosemary’s rag doll was missing.

            Finally the doll was located. As soon as it was placed in her arms Rosemary became calm.  Onlookers were wondering why an old doll had such value, why parents would run all over an airport and possibly postpone a flight because of a dirty threadbare rag doll.  In one sense they would have been right. The doll had no worth in itself; but it had much worth in the girl’s eyes.

            You see, some things are loved because they are worthy; some things are worthy because they are loved.  Gorgeous super-models, gifted athletes, brilliant scientist, priceless works of art, talented actors -- they are loved because of their inherent worth or ability.  But there are many things, like the rag doll, that have great worth, not because of some intrinsic value, but because they are loved. 

            That’s the way it is with God’s love, and I am thankful for that.  God’s love is not based on our worth; and honestly I am not worthy to be loved by God.  Before He entered my life I was filled with sin, and even now after walking with Him for over 35 years, I still sin, mess up, fall and fail -- yet I am still loved.  Some things are loved because they are worthy and some things are worthy because they are loved – you and I fit into the latter category.  St. Augustine said of God, “By loving the unlovable, You made me loveable.”

            In a nutshell that is the story of Jesus.  God loved people so much that He came to earth and was born of a virgin named Mary.  He loved people that were full of sin and fear, who were selfish and unloving, who had little if any value in themselves and because of the great love He had for all of us, He gave us eternal value.  He gave us worth.

            Some things are loved because they are worthy; some things are worthy because they are loved.  God loves you; you are worthy.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Is God Disappointed In Me?

From time to time (for me quite often) we fail to measure up to what God would have us to be and do.  These are the times that I feel like God is disappointed in me.  But recently I was challenged by something I read that God is not disappointed in me, He is disappointed for me.
God is not disappointed in me, He is
disappointed for me.

When I thought about that statement it made a lot of sense to me as a father.  I have three grown children.  As I watched each of them grow I could see so much potential.  Whether the potential was athletic, academic, social, musical, technical, leadership, spiritual they each had wonderful abilities and potential. 
But like all people, at times they failed to measure up to their potential.  It may have been because of fear, stubbornness, laziness, even rebellion and sin but in each case my disappointment was more about what they missed out on, or I was disappointed at the unnecessary pain they caused themselves.  I was disappointed for them not in them.  I felt pain because they did not measure up to what they could be.

That’s the way that God sees us when we fail to measure up because of fear, stubbornness, laziness, even rebellion and sin.  He feels pain because we could be more.  But He is not disappointed in us.  He never withholds His love and His mercy and grace.  But He is disappointed for us, desiring us to be what he sees we can be if we will obey and trust and rely on Him.

Knowing that even though I have not measured up my Father is not disappointed in me makes it so much easier to relate to Him and come to Him in my brokenness.  I can come to someone who is disappointed for me and not in me.  That’s my Father and He is yours also.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pride Is Rising - Watch Out

I was challenged this week by something I read in the book, "Secrets of the Secret Place" by Bob Sorge.  He said, "Humility is the foundation of all prayer." and "Prayerlessness is the first sign of

I don't "feel" prideful. But my feelings are the
wrong criteria.

prideful independence."  Ouch!  I don't feel prideful, but Sorge is right.  My lack of prayer shows that pride is rising up in my life.  It doesn't matter that I don't "feel" prideful, my actions demonstrate that I can get by without God and that is pride.

Prayerlessness sneaks in so subtly. Busyness, obligations, ministry requirements and opportunities, interruptions, study time - weeks get full very quickly and prayer gets marginalized.  No big deal, right?  I'll pray more tomorrow and anyway God understands.  I don't deny that He does understand but do I understand what my prayerlessness is really saying?  It says I can get by without spending time with the Father.  It really is the first sign of prideful independence.

And so I lay aside some of those pressing things. I decide not to do that fun activity, Bejeweled Blitz. I lay them aside so I can spend some time with the Father reminding myself that I REALLY, REALLY do need Him.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Blessing or Curse of Friendships

I heard the following statements recently.  They have stayed with me and so I'm passing them on to you.
Friends will influence you for good or for bad,
so choose your friendships wisely.

When God wants to bless your life and future, how does He do it?  He sends people into your life.

When the devil wants to destroy your life and future, how does he do it?  He sends people into your life.
But don't forget, we are the ones who choose which people we will open the door of our heart to.  We also choose how far into our lives we will allow them to come.  God's blessing through friendship becomes our choice.  The devil's destruction through friendship becomes our choice.
Wisdom and discernment are needed with every relationship we have.  Our enemy is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devourer and one of his most effective tools is sending people to capture our hearts, our emotions, our imaginations and our very lives – messengers disguised as “angels of light” and wolves in sheep’s clothing is how the Bible describes people that he sends.  Watch out!

Friends will influence you for good or for bad, so choose your friendships wisely.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Self-Made Prison

An acquaintance of mine, Ben Madison, once told this story (names have been changed).  He was at an airport waiting for a connecting flight.  He noticed a man who seemed to be staring at him.  He ignored it but the man kept staring.  The man finally approached him and asked rather rudely if his name was Ben Madison.  My friend said he was and the man angrily proceeded to tell him that he had ruined his life and his family.  Ben was startled by not only the accusation, but by the man’s rage.
"I can't believe you don't remember me or what you did to us!"
Ben said, “Sir, I’m not certain that I know you, let alone ruined your life.”  At this the man was even more angered.  “My name is Dwight Ferguson.  I can’t believe you don’t remember me and what you did to us!”  Dwight went on to say that when Ben was the principal of a Christian school 11 years ago in another city, he had expelled Dwight’s son from the school. It hurt him and his wife deeply that their son would be expelled and he vowed never to forgiven Ben.  Someday he had hoped and prayed to run into Ben and let him know the years of pain he had endured in being so embarrassed by having a son expelled and how he had hated Ben all these years.  
That day had arrived and Dwight went on and on pouring his anger and pain on Ben.  He was drawing quite a few stares from onlookers.  Ben’s flight was finally called and he apologized to the man and quickly boarded his flight glad to be away for the man’s anger and ranting.
Ben thought and thought about this on the plane and vaguely remembered the incident that had taken place so many years ago.  Ben remembered that the boy had been a problem in the school and had been given a number of chances. However the incident that required the expulsion was clearly spelled out in the student handbook and was of the type that Ben had no choice but to expel him.
Ben went on and said something that has stuck with me.  He said that it really saddened him to think that for 11 years Dwight had been imprisoned by his own hatred and bitterness hoping for and wishing harm on Ben and waiting for the day that he could confront him.  But every day for 11 years Ben had never thought about the incident.
That is the power of unforgiveness.  It robs the person holding it.  It steals joy, peace, and sleep.  It eats away at our insides like an acid.  Yet the person we are holding unforgiveness and bitterness towards may not even remember us or the incident.  We are in prison and they are walking around free.
Ben said he was glad he always worked hard to forgive all who had ever offended or hurt him and he encouraged me to do the same.  It has stuck with me.  I never want to be in a self-made prison like Dwight was.  But I have to work on it.  Many things come my way that try to lodge in my heart and sometimes they succeed for a season.  But when I realize what I am doing, I choose to work through them and avoid putting myself in a self-made prison. 
It is said, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  I also recently heard it said, “When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free – yourself.”  Good words to ponder.
(This post was also submitted  to The Republic, Columbus Indiana's local newspaper and they recently ran it.)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Turn Off The Noise!

A major source of weakness in my ability to
hear from God is that I don’t unplug,
I don’t turn off the noise or get
away from the distractions.
I am reading the book of Acts right now in my Bible reading plan and came across the passage in Acts 10 where Cornelius is praying at the ninth hour (3:00 PM) and is visited by an angel.  It occurred to me that in Acts 3 it said that Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour and that is when the man, lame from birth, was healed.

Later in Acts 10, Peter is on the roof of the house at the sixth hour (Noon) and receives the vision of the sheet and the unclean animals being lowered from heaven. The Lord speaks to him about what not to call unclean and this leads to the Gentiles receiving Jesus and being Baptized in the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit is first poured out at the third hour (9:00 AM).

Powerful miracles, powerful messages, powerful encounters with God and angels and all of them mention the time of day these took place.  My mind started looking for a pattern, the sixth hour, the ninth hour, or the third hour – was there something in common?  And then I saw it.  It was not the time of day; it was that in each of these instances the people had taken the time to separate themselves from the noise and busyness of life and pray. 

Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour – the hour of prayer.  Cornelius was praying at the ninth hour, Peter was on the rooftop at noon praying.  The group in Acts 2 was in the upper room several days after Jesus ascended into heaven.  It says in Acts 1 that they were devoting themselves to prayer.  They had set aside time for prayer.  The inference in the Scripture was that this was a pattern for each of these people; they often set time aside to be alone with God, and God visited them during these times.

A major source of weakness in my ability to hear from God is that I don’t unplug, I don’t turn off the noise or get away from the distractions.  And because I don’t, my mind and spirit do not easily connect with God.

We need to stop fooling ourselves that the devotions we have with our phone, computer, or tablet at our side are effective unless we really have them off, or unplugged from all of our aps. 

I am reading my Bible on my tablet and a message pops up at the top.  It is a text, email, or Facebook message from someone.  I see it.  It distracts me and so I switch from the Bible and respond.

I’m in prayer with my phone on my belt and I get the familiar chime or vibration that I have a text or email.  It distracts me.  I get the phone out to see what someone needs and I respond. 

I’m in prayer or I’m reading and I remember something that I wanted to check on the web.  So I get out my phone to look something up.  Then I see I have two aps that need updating and I have 10 Facebook notifications and I have a free spin for coins on my game and once again my focus is switched and I am distracted and I usually take care of all of these things (because they only take a minute and if I don’t take care of them now I’ll forget) and 10 or even 20 minutes later I get back to prayer or Bible reading.  Of course now I only have a couple of minutes left before my next appointment.  

Each time something like this happens I break the connection with the Word or with the Father in prayer. The connection that I may have had with the Father or His Word is gone.  Each distraction, each broken connection weakens my spiritual life.  But it is so subtle or to such a small degree that I don't really notice and so I don't make changes.  And I get spiritually weaker and weaker.

My concern is that as believers our devises are keeping us from hearing what the Lord is speaking because they are constantly a source of distraction.

Here is something I have discovered.  Sometimes God speaks to me when I am seeking him about a problem or issue. More often God speaks to me when I have taken time to quiet myself in prayer and Bible reading. These are usually the most powerful and insightful encounters but they are happening less and less because I have not taken the time to silence the noise in my life, to unplug from the distraction.

Here is my appeal – turn off the noise, get unplugged.  God is speaking, we are not hearing Him because we are distracted and our minds and spirits cannot get in tune with His voice.  I am choosing to turn off the noise, to have my devotions with devises set aside or turned off.  It is what I need to do.

The days we live in require that I hear the voice of the Father so that I can obey the voice of my Father. My I challenge each one reading this to do the same.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Verify, Please Verify!

My mother recently gave me a prayer by Billy Graham.  It was entitled Billy Graham’s Prayer for Our Nation.  It was a pretty powerful prayer.  She had cut it out of a publication, probably a church bulletin, and kept it. She passed it on to me this past weekend when I had gone home for a visit.

I was going to post the prayer on Facebook and on my blog because I liked what was said in the prayer, but something didn’t feel right about it.  It just didn’t sound like Rev. Graham.  It wasn’t something that I could put my finger on, but I decided to do some checking.  
A quick Google search – Billy Graham’s Prayer for Our Nation - brought up lots of hits, and then I saw one for  If you aren’t familiar with, it is a site that investigates thousands of emails and Facebook posts that go around, verifying accuracy. 

And guess what, there was a Billy Graham’s Prayer for Our Nation.  But Billy had never prayed it.  It was also called Paul Harvey’s Prayer.  But Paul never prayed it either. 

So why does a church publish a prayer supposedly by Billy Graham in its bulletin? Because they didn’t verify.  I’m certain the pastor or secretary of the church received an email, Facebook or Instagram posting of the prayer and thought it was so good that they used it in their church’s bulletin.  No harm done, right?  I’m not so sure.  When a church, a teacher, a leader, a pastor or other professional prints, forwards, or sends something like this, it lends greater credibility and is more quickly passed on as true, because obviously a church or teacher or pastor or leader wouldn’t pass on something that wasn’t true. 

I’m certain that the church that published the prayer, that my mother cut out, got it from a source that they thought was reliable, and so they passed it on.  But nowadays every one of us needs to verify before we post or forward or tweet or print.  There is way, way too much stuff being passed around that is completely false, but the people forwarding, or posting never check because we assume someone did. 

Please don’t think that I am some kind of great guy because I checked before passing on that prayer.  I have passed on other things or used in a sermon a story or illustration that I either heard or read that I later found out was a total fabrication.  One was the story of the hitchhiker that turned out to be an angel.  The story goes that a man picks up a hitchhiker and as they are driving down the road, the hitchhiker states that Jesus was coming again real soon and then disappears.   

I had heard the story and used it in a sermon and I was considering using the story again.  This time I decided to check first, and lo and behold this story had been circulating in various forms for years and those who investigated could not find one person who had ever actually picked up a hitchhiking angel warning about the soon coming of Jesus.  Maybe it happened someplace at some time, but it could not be verified.  So I dropped the story from the sermon. 

Another was the story of the Houston, Texas police department putting out a pamphlet, “12 Steps to Raising a Juvenile Delinquent.”  I had read this in a book and was going to use it in a parenting message.  I couldn’t remember what book it was in, so I did a Google search.  I didn’t specifically go online to verify that the police department had published it.  I assumed they had since I had read it in a book.   

I found the “12 Steps” list easily online, but I also discovered that the Houston Police Department has been trying to distance itself from this for years.  They claimed, at that time, to have never issued a pamphlet like this and would never have done so.  I quickly dropped the illustration from my sermon even though it was great for the point I was trying to make. 

However in rechecking today on, the police department has changed the story again.  It seems that the story of a pamphlet supposedly from them has been going around since 1959.  They are now saying that it is possible that someone from their department may have actually come up with that list but did not claim authorship.  To read the entire story on this, click this link. 

What’s my point, simple – verify before you post, forward, print, tweet or re-tweet.  As believers let’s not pass around stuff that sounds great, or brings tears to our eyes, or makes us mad if we haven’t verified the facts.  If you are a church, business or community leader it is more important that you verify.
Going back to the Billy Graham prayer; it is an actual prayer, not prayed by Billy Graham or Paul Harvey but by a Pastor from Kansas.  The reason the prayer rang a bell for me was that I remember the controversy that surrounded the prayer when it really was prayed before the Kansas House of Representatives by Rev. Joe White back in 1996.  It is a powerful prayer and some claim that Rev. White seemed to go beyond praying to meddling on the day he prayed it at the opening session of the Kansas House of Representatives.  Even Rev. White’s prayer was not totally his own but an adaptation of a prayer written in 1995 by Bob Russell, who offered it at the Kentucky Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Frankford.  I’ve printed the prayer here and also enclosed a link to for the complete story.  

Just remember all of you who have an online presence, and that is most of you, verify before you forward, or email, or re-tweet, or however else you pass on stuff.  It does take time, but at least we can be certain that the story, or quote or prayer is real. 

A Prayer For Repentance

Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance.
We know Your word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we’ve done.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values.
We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self- preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state.
Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will.  I ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. 



Saturday, September 7, 2013

Telling Children About Hell - Is It A Good Idea?

The knowledge of hell may just be a deterrent to activities
that would be physically, emotionally and spiritually
disastrous to us. 
“I was very depressed after my parents broke up.  I really thought about suicide, but I never tried.  I was afraid I would go to hell.”

That’s what a young 20 something man told me on a camping trip many years ago.  We were sharing about our lives as we were hiking one afternoon.  He told me about his teen years and the struggles that he had, especially with his father’s affair and then his parent’s divorce.  Depression became a constant companion and he even went through some professional counseling.

After he went to college he became a Christ follower through a campus ministry and his life was transformed.  As a child his family attended church regularly but neither of his parents had a personal relationship with Jesus.  Church for them was social and the thing that upstanding citizens in the community did.  It was also good for business as this was the church the business leaders of the community attended. He was taken to Sunday school and through the dedicated instruction of men and women; he learned some things about God and the afterlife.

I was surprising at the impact of what he learned about hell as a child, because his awareness of hell was the thing that kept him from taking his own life.  Because he didn’t take his own life God was finally able to get ahold of his life and transform him.  He went on and developed a passion for Jesus, for church, and for helping other young adults come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

There are many who struggle with talking about hell, especially to children, because of the possibility that it might frighten them.  Maybe we should rethink that.  The knowledge of hell may just be a deterrent to activities that would be physically, emotionally and spiritually disastrous to them.  There is a verse in the Old Testament book of Proverbs.  It says, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”  Proverbs 29:18  Let’s not be afraid to teach our children the truth about eternity, the truth about hell and the truth about what is necessary to avoid going there.

Also thank you dedicated Sunday School and children’s workers for your investment in the lives of children.  What you teach does get into their hearts.  You may not see the results now, but at least one man did not commit suicide and lived to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ because someone taught him about hell. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Children, Sex and Pornography

I was very saddened and disturbed by the following blog by Anne Marie Miller.   However I was not surprised by what it revealed.  I believe everything she says is true.  The reason that I believe it is I know myself.  If I was an older child or young teen today, I would be one of the people she speaks about. 
I was very interested in sex and sexuality as a child and especially as a teen.  I just didn’t have access to what children have easy and immediate access to today.  The small amount that I did view caused enough issues for me as a teen and young adult.  That lack of access probably saved me from a life addicted to pornography.  But who or what is out there to “save” our children and teens from the filth that is only a Google and Yahoo search away.
Read this article fully and then ask yourself how you can help your children or grandchildren navigate this technological world.  The one thing we all can and should do is pray.  Our enemy, Satan, does not care that they are children.  He will destroy anyone in anyway.

3 Things You Don't Know About Your Children and Sex

There are more students compulsively looking at pornography at younger ages and with greater
frequency than ever before.

Dear Parents,

Please allow me a quick moment to introduce myself before we go much further. My name is Anne Marie Miller. I’m thirty-three years old. I’m newly married to a wonderful man named Tim.  We don’t have any children yet, but we plan to. 

For the purpose of this letter, you need to know I’m a recovering addict. Pornography was my drug of choice.
I grew up in the church—the daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher man with a passion for learning the Bible. I was the honors student; the athlete; the girl who got along with everyone from the weird kids to the popular ones.
It was a good life. I was raised in a good home.
It was 1996, I was sixteen and the Internet was new. After my family moved from a sheltered, conservative life in west Texas to the ethnically and sexually diverse culture of Dallas/Fort Worth, I found myself lonely, curious and confused.
Because of the volatile combination of life circumstances: the drastic change of scenery when we moved, my dad’s depression, and a youth pastor who sexually abused me during my junior year of high school, I turned to the Internet for education. I didn’t know what certain words meant or if what the youth pastor was doing to me was good or bad, and I was too afraid to ask.
What started as an innocent pursuit of knowledge quickly escalated into a coping mechanism.
When I looked at pornography, I felt a feeling of love and safety—at least for a brief moment. But those brief moments of relief disappeared and I was left even more ashamed and confused than when I started. Pornography provided me both an emotional and a sexual release.
For five years I carried this secret. I was twenty-one when I finally opened up to a friend only because she opened up to me first about her struggle with sexual sin.
We began a path of healing in 2001, and for the last 12 years, although not a perfect journey, I can say with great confidence that God has set me free from that addiction and from the shame that followed. I returned to school to study the science behind addiction and family dynamics.
Over the last six years, I’ve had the opportunity to share my story in a variety of venues: thousands of college students, men, women and teens. This summer, I was invited to speak at several camps to both junior high and high school students, and it’s without exaggeration that I tell you with each year I counsel students, the numbers and the stories shock me more and more. 
There are more students compulsively looking at pornography at younger ages and with greater frequency than ever before. 
This summer, by a long stretch, was the “worst” in terms of what secrets I learned students carried. After my last night speaking at my last camp, I retreated to my room and collapsed on the bed face-first. Tim simply laid his hand on my back to comfort me.
I could not logically reconcile in my mind all the confessions I heard over the summer with the children who shared them.
While every story was unique in the details, in most situations, there were three common themes that kept surfacing. 
1. Google is the New Sex-Ed.
Remember the first time you, as a parent, saw pornography? Likely it was a friend’s parent who had a dirty magazine, or maybe you saw something somebody brought to school.
Now, when a student hears a word or phrase they don’t understand, they don’t ask you what it means (because they fear getting in trouble). They don’t ask their friends (because they fear being ashamed for not knowing).
They ask Google.
Google won’t judge them for not knowing.
Because of our short attention spans and desire for instant gratification, they don’t click the first link that shows up—they go straight to Google Images. In almost all of the stories I heard, this is how someone was first exposed to pornography—Google Image searching.
The average age of first exposure in my experience was nine years old.
2. If Your Child was Ever Molested, You Likely Don’t Know.
Another extremely common theme was children being inappropriately touched, often by close family members or friends.
When I was molested at sixteen, I didn’t tell a soul until I was in my twenties. I didn’t tell my own mother until I was twenty-eight.
The stigma and shame of being a victim, coupled with the trauma that happens with this experience, is confusing to a child of any age: Our systems weren’t made to process that event.
Many things keep children from confessing abuse: being told they’ve made it up or are exaggerating, being a disappointment, and in most cases, getting the other person in trouble.
While a child can look at pornography without being abused, children who have been molested, by and large, look at pornography and act out sexually. 
3. Your Child is Not the Exception. 
After speaking with a youth pastor at a camp, he said most parents live with the belief that their child is the exception. Your child is not.
The camps I went to this summer weren’t camps full of children on life’s fringes that one would stereotypically believe experience these traumatic events or have access to these inappropriate things.
You must throw your stereotypes aside.
Most of the children at these camps were middle-class, mostly churched students.
Let me give you a snapshot of a few things I heard from these students:
     They’ve sent X-rated photos of themselves to their classmates (or received them).
     They’ve exposed themselves to strangers on the Internet or through sexting.
     They’ve seen pornography. 
     They’ve read pornography. 
     They’ve watched pornography. 
     The girls compare their bodies to the ones they see in ads at the mall or of actresses, 
        and keep those images hidden on their phone (or iPod, or whatever device they have)
        so they can try to imitate them. 
     They question their sexuality. 
     They’ve masturbated. 
     They know exactly where and in what movies sex scenes are shown and they watch
        them for sexual gratification. 
     They’ve had a homosexual experience. 
     And they’re terrified to tell you. 
(Update: The focus of this article is on the conversation, not the action; though as parents, you need to be aware of the fact that young children are experiencing these things. I feel the need to clarify that none of these actions make someone a “bad” person. While this specific list does contain things many people with a Christian background consider to be sin, it is lack of communication that makes this dangerous at this age. Most of us go through exploratory phases before sexual phases: a three-year-old masturbating because he knows it feels good and a seventeen-year-old masturbating to porn for a sexual release are two different things. If your child is uninformed or uneducated about things they need to know based on what is appropriate for their age and sexual development, regardless of your beliefs, it leads to shame and self-doubt.) 
But maybe you’re right. Maybe your child is the exception. I would argue, at this juncture in life, being the exception is as equally dangerous. 
At the end of every session I presented, I intentionally and clearly directed students to ask me or another leader if they didn’t understand or know what a certain word meant. “Do not go to the Internet and look it up.” 
Sure enough, there is always the child who stays behind until everyone leaves and quietly asks what the word “porn” means or if God is angry because that boy or girl from down the street told them it was OK for them to touch them “down there.” There is the child in the back row who leans over to his friend and asks, “What does molest mean?” and the other boy shrugs.
This summer, I am beyond grateful that mature, God-fearing adults were available to answer those questions with grace and tact and maturity; that we were in a setting that was safe for questions and confessions. It was entirely appropriate. Not every child gets that opportunity. Most won’t. Most will find out from the Internet or from a peer who isn’t equipped to provide the correct answer in the correct context.
As the summer camp season ends, I feel a shift in my heart.
For the last six years, I’ve felt a calling to share with students how God has set me free from the shame and actions of my past, and that they aren’t alone (because they truly believe they are). One college dean referred to me as “the grenade we’re tossing into our student body to get the conversation of sex started” because they realized how sweeping these topics under the rug caused their students to live trapped and addicted and ashamed. I will continue sharing my testimony in that capacity as long as there is a student in front of me that needs to hear it.
However, I am more aware now than ever before in my ministry of how little parents know about what’s happening. And because I’m not a parent, I feel terribly inadequate in telling you this.
But I can’t not tell you.
After seeing the innocence in the eyes of ten-year-olds who’ve carried secrets nobody, let alone a child, should carry; after hearing some of the most horrific accounts from students I’ve ever heard this year; I cannot go one more day without pleading with you to open up and have these difficult conversations with your children.
Would you prefer your son or daughter learn what a “fetish” is from you or from searching Google Images? Talk to them about abuse and, yes, even trafficking.
Just this month, I met a relative of a girl whose own mother was selling her body from the time she was five until now, when she’s sixteen. This was not in some drug-infested ghetto. It was in a very upscale town in a very upscale state known for its nature and beauty and summer houses.
Your children need to know.
If not for them, maybe for a friend. Maybe they can help bring context or see warning signs.
Ask them what they know.
Ask them what they’ve done.
Ask them what’s been done to them.
Show grace and love. Stay far away from judgment and condemnation. If you feel ill equipped, ask a pastor or counselor for help. If you hear an answer you didn’t expect and your first instinct is to dismiss it—don’t.
Find a counselor. Look for resources. Continue following up.
If you struggle with this (and let’s admit it, statistically, a lot of us do), get help too.
Do the right thing, the hard thing, for the sake of your children. If we don’t do this now, I am terrified of how the enemy will continue stealing hope and joy from our youngest generation, and how they’ll be paralyzed to advance the Kingdom of God as they mature.
We cannot let this happen on our watch.
*Specific details that could identify children have been changed in such a way that it does not affect the story and only protects the children. Mandatory Reporters reported confessions that involved abuse or neglect or situations that indicated a child was in any type of danger by using proper state laws and procedures. 
  Anne Marie Miller lives with her husband, Tim Miller, in Franklin, Tennessee, where she learns and plays and writes.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wrestling to Comprehend God’s Incredible Love

     Romans 5:7-9 “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

     Wrapping our human minds around the love of God is so difficult.  Even with the pictures and demonstrations of His love expressed in Scripture, it is still difficult.  Last Sunday I attempted to show one way God communicates His feelings of love for us by telling us stories that we can relate to.  If you were unable to listen to the message, please follow this link to the audio message  "Biblical Pictures Of God's Love".
     In preparing to preach any message there is often far more materiel that I have studied or run across that there just isn’t enough time to include.  That happened with this message.
     This video was produced to express how much God loves us, through a modern illustration of the story of Hosea.  Since there wasn’t adequate time to show it as a part of the message, I’m including it in this blog.  I hope that it helps all of us understand the love of the Father for His rebellious children.  Until next time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Forgiveness - Some Additional Thoughts

It's tough to forgive.  If it is easy for you the offence probably wasn't that deep.  Because for all of us, whether we follow Jesus Christ or not, it is tough to forgive those who betray, abuse, neglect, spread lies and gossip, etc. 

If you attended service this past weekend I spoke on the topic of forgiveness.  I appreciate the number of you who have communicated with me about how much Sunday's message ministered to you.  If you were unable to be here, you can follow this link to the message which is entitled Forgiveness - It's About Taking Care Of Your Heart.
Today's post is just to encourage you to keep on forgiving.  “70 times 7” for me is often for the same offence.  I can remember being betrayed by a couple in another church.  They embarrassed me and the church, they said things that were untrue or a half truth, and they presented themselves as models of spirituality.  And it hurt each and every time I saw them or heard someone talk about them.  And every time it happened, the thoughts returned, the feelings returned and I had to go through the process of forgiveness once again.
Then God took me one step deeper, he asked me to "bless" them. "What do you mean bless them?", was my response.  "I want you to pray a blessing over their marriage and over their lives."  WHAT? Wasn’t it enough for me to forgive! I certainly did not want to pray blessing upon them.  I did not want them to have a great marriage; I wanted their marriage to be hard.  I did not want them to have financial success; I wanted them to suffer.  I suffered and my family suffered because of them and I didn't want them to be blessed.  And I knew that if I blessed them and prayed for their good, God would answer that prayer and bless them.  NO, they don't deserve that!
But the Holy Spirit reminded me of Luke 6:27-28 “. . . Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." And then Romans 12:14 "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." 
Forgiveness was hard but praying blessing upon people who hurt me deeply, that was even harder.
To be honest I resisted for quite a while, but the Holy Spirit was persistent and I did want to obey and so I started to pray, "Bless _________ and ______________.  May their marriage and family prosper.  May they be blessed financially and have success in serving you."  There were no positive feelings behind those early prayers.  I did it strictly out of obedience.  Sometimes it felt like I had to literally force the words to form on my lips and speak them, which was something else the Lord had me do.  I couldn't just think prayers of blessing, I had to speak them out load and I had to use the names of the individuals in the prayers. 
And guess what, my heart began to gain additional freedom.  There was the freedom that came with forgiveness, but this was different.  The pain and the wound began to break off of me.  The feelings of hurt and betrayal lessened and now no longer have any influence in my life.  I can think of this couple and there are no negative feelings. 
They never did apologize.  They probably didn't think they did anything wrong - but it doesn't matter.  The process of forgiveness and then speaking and praying blessing over them was for me.  I needed to be free.  Lewis Smedes said, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."