The Wall We Build

great-wall-of-china-with-cloudsOver the course of human history, man has devised many things to keep out that which might do harm. In early cultures it was a pile of brush around a campsite, or circled wagons in hostile territory. Log forts were raised up to protect soldiers, and stone-walled castles with motes were constructed to keep nobility and peasants safe.  But, the picture above is perhaps the greatest endeavor of all, to protect an entire country. This is the Great Wall of China, which was designed and built to keep out uncivilized, hostile, invading forces.

This amazing feat of engineering is 13,170.7 miles long. It took 2300 years to build using hundreds of millions of slave laborers. The Ming Dynasty was the last to work on it in 1644. It has a height that runs between 24 to 40 feet tall, and is wider enough to drive a truck on. It is made up of hundreds of millions of tons of stone, brick, sand and soil, all of which were transported by hand, to the build site. The stones and brick were all held together by glutenous rice flour. Large sections of this wall are now gone, because many homes, buildings and reservoirs in China were constructed using the material during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Today, 70,000 people a day visit the Great Wall, which is now considered a national treasure, and one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

The thing about any wall, is that it’s purpose for being put in place is usually a very good thing. However, over time, it’s function can be transformed into something entirely different. What I mean is, the Great Wall of China was built to protect the Chinese people, and keep them safe from any outside invasion. But, over time, that same wall became a barrier of isolation that kept the people from healthy interaction with the outside world. Once the attitude of the leaders changed, it no longer served it’s original purpose. Instead of protecting the people from evil, it became a self imposed barrier that held them all captive.

I say this because I see the same thing happen in the lives of many who name the Name of Christ. They start their walk in God with joy and enthusiasm, and in time, learn how important it is to put on the whole armor of God. That armor is an impenetrable barrier against every attack the enemy mounts against them. As they use, and trust that armor, they learn the benefit of keeping it in place. However, after being hurt, wounded, disappointed and disillusioned by the flaws of others, that armor inadvertently takes on a different role within us. In most cases, the wearer does not even recognize that such a transformation of vision has taken place.

Once this unhealthy mental metamorphosis happens, just like what happened with the Great wall of China, people will use and armor of their own making as a barrier to prevent others from ever hurting them again. Rather than using God’s armor for it’s intended purpose of fighting off attacks of the enemy, their own armor is now worn by the wounded, to protect them from being hurt by others. We actually isolate ourselves inside that armor, from the very ones we are supposed to be standing with, helping and in some cases, liberating.

The great tragedy of all this is a powerful truth God spoke to my heart several years ago. He showed me a picture of the Bride dressed in full armor. She was standing outside the Groom’s personal chamber, with an invitation to enter in. When she entered the room, the Groom said “drop your armor”, but because she felt safe within that armor, she just could not do it. Then He said to His Bride, “unless you drop your sword and banner, and remove the gauntlets, I can’t hold your hand. Unless you remove the helmet, you can’t place you head on My chest, and hear My heartbeat. Unless you remove the breast plate, I can’t see your beautiful form. Unless you set your shield aside, we can’t get close to each other. As long as your armor is on, you protect yourself from everyone, including Me. If you wear it in here, there can be no intimacy, no fresh revelation and no birthing will ever take place in your life as I intended.”

When God spoke this to me I was completely undone. In that moment I realized what I, and so many others,  have been doing. Those of us who have been hurt, betrayed, lied to and lied about by fellow Christians, have allowed those things to redirect our concept of the Armor of God. Instead of it protecting us from the fiery darts of the enemy, we use our idea of God’s armor to wall us off, and isolate us from the hurt other believers have caused us. Rather than forgive, release and pray for those who hurt us, we hold on to it, protect and preserve it behind the armor we created. In other words, we are using our image of God’s armor for something that was never His intention.

Who is the biggest looser in all of this?  Well, to begin with, it is God! Any armor we put on that builds a wall between us and other Christians, even those who have hurt us, is also a barrier between us and the Lord. He wants us near Him, with nothing blocking His touch, or His view. “Whatsoever you do to even the least of these My brothers, you have done it unto Me”. The armor you put on between you and others, goes on between you and the Lord as well. Secondly, we also become big loosers in this scenario. Wearing our armor in His inner chamber only serves to keep us from the place of intimacy with God. There will be no vulnerability, no humility, no hearing of His heartbeat or touch of His hand. There will be no revelation of His word and no surrender to His will, if we are not willing to drop our armor in His Presence.

So, let me ask you the day’s big question. What are you wearing when He draws you into His presence? Do you feel the heaviness of a suit of armor? Do you hear the voices of past hurts clanking around behind it, in your moments of quietness with the Lord? If you do, then you will never be able to answer His call to come into the place of His inner chamber. You will forever be left standing and protecting yourself from everything, including him. Let me suggest that you do what the Chinese did. Why don’t you start to dismantle that wall, and use it build something good. Then, when you hear His voice to come, you will gladly shed your armor and enter the place He is longing for you to be.   Come my beloved. He is climbing over your wall.  He is calling!! Now is the time to drop your armor, and enter in.

The Lens We Use

hst-sm4 One of the most amazing, and expensive pieces of equipment in history, is the Hubble space telescope. It cost 1 billion dollars to build and several billion to keep in repair. It was launched into orbit on April 24, 1990, by the space shuttle Discovery, and deployed on April 25 of that same year. The first image it sent back to earth came on May 20, of the star cluster NGC 3532. These brilliant images opened up a whole new frontier in astronomy that was never before possible. However, Hubble has had numerous service missions to correct problems so it can keep sending back such breathtaking pictures.

It’s length is 43.5 feet, about the size of a large school bus . It’s weight at launch was about 24,000 pounds but today it weighs about 27,000 pounds, due to additional parts that have been added to repair it and enhance it’s abilities. It’s maximum diameter is 14 feet. It is in a low earth orbit at an altitude of 340 miles, and inclines at 28.5 degrees to the earth’s equator. It circles the earth every 95 minutes at a speed of 27,000 miles per hour.

It’s primary mirror has a diameter of 94.5 inches, and a weight of 1,825 pounds. It’s secondary mirror’s diameter is 12 inches and weights 27.4 pounds. In order to take images of distant, faint objects, Hubble must remain extremely steady and accurate. The telescope is able to lock onto a target without deviating more than 7/1000th of an arcsecond. That means it can only shift about the width of a human hair when seen at a distance of 1 mile.

The energy source for Hubble is the sun. It has two, 25-foot solar panels that produce about 5,500 watts of power. Energy is stored on board in 6 rechargeable, nickel-hydrogen batteries that are equal to about 22 car batteries. With this system, Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began, and astronomers using it’s data have published more than 15,000 scientific papers, making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built.

Hubble has traveled around the earth more than 4 billion miles but it has no thrusters to adjust it. To change it’s angle, it uses spinning wheels on board, rather than rocket fuel. It turns at about the speed of a minute hand on a clock, so it takes 15 minutes to turn 90 degrees. It has the pointing accuracy of .007 arcseconds, which means it could find and shine a laser on the center of a dime that is 200 miles away. It also can see astronomical objects with an angular size of 0.05 arcseconds. This is like looking from Washington DC and seeing a pair of fireflies in Tokyo, that are less than 10 feet apart. Hubble has actually peered back into the distant past of the universe, locating objects more than 13.4 billion light-years away from Earth.

Even with all the amazing technology on board, something happened to the Hubble telescope that scientists thought would end it’s mission. There was a flaw embedded in one of it’s mirrors that warped it’s field of vision, thus creating blurred images. That flaw rendered it almost useless because it was impossible to clearly focus the main mirror. After weeks of discussion, scientist came up with a solution, and a space shuttle crew was selected to implement it. In essence the telescope was fitted with a corrective lens. It was given a precision eye glass to overcome the issue…… and it worked! This was a simple, but elegant solution, to overcome what could have been a fatal flaw. This gave Hubble a new birth that has changed the scientific world.

Just like the mirror on the Hubble space telescope, things can also get embedded in our emotions and our life, that initially go undetected. Problems can happen to the best of us, that warp our field of vision. Once the damage is done, we will see life, and those around us, from a broken, unhealthy perspective. Sin, harsh words, emotional hurts, and mistakes that are made, get embedded deep within us. These things permanently change our field of vision and how we view everyday life. Once that happens, even the most innocent comment or action of another, will be viewed through that flawed lens, and that changes everything.

Clarity and joy are gone, and life in general takes on a dark tone. We become critical, and swamped by raw emotions, we feel like a victim of uncaring actions, and this translates within us as personal rejection. The end result is always the same. Broken people feel they must guard and protect themselves from abuse, and stay alert as they wait for the next point of rejection to come. If left uncorrected, this becomes a slippery slope that pulls them, and those around them, into a downward spiral of self destruction. Once that cyclic pattern is set in place, it is impossible to get things back into focus so we can see beyond it.

Fortunately, there is a corrective lens for this condition. But, just like the Hubble telescope lens, it will take the intervention of other things to put it in place. First of all we must reject the spirit of rejection that has gripped our life, and we must fight the tendency to think negatively. Focus your mind on the things that are good. Secondly, we must fall back in love with the Lord, and feed upon His word. Nothing brings things into focus like renewing your first love with God. Finally we must be open and honest about the fact that what we are believing is NOT the truth.

Counselors will tell you that emotionally based assumptions are always fueled by the incorrect personal expectations of those who have been wounded. It does not matter if that wound came from their own foolish actions, or the unkind actions of others. Once that lens is in place, it is a set up for yet another arrow of rejection to pierce the heart. That process will continue to cycle around until the issue is faced, the perceived wrong is forgiven, and a choice is made to change what we think. When that happens, just like the Hubble telescope, we will also begin to function in the amazing ways our designer always intended.

As we approach Christmas, perhaps it is time for you to get your life and emotions back into focus. Embrace the life you have, but also recognize that the life you have may not be all that was intended. If there is room for healing, if things have been out of focus, this is the perfect time to get it right. Christmas celebrates the gift of Jesus that God gave to man. He was on a mission to put our corrective lens in place, and He did! Now He wants to heal your heart and emotions, and bring you into clear focus as well. God wants to give you a new birth into a better life through His son, Jesus. My question is, do you want it? The answer you give at this very moment, will determine the life you have, and life eternal that is yet to come.

We celebrate Christmas, because God the Father gave us a gift, which is His Son Jesus. Now, we also have the privilege of celebrating Christmas as He intended. We now can give our best gift, which is ourselves, back to God. Why not have a real Christmas this year? Give your life to Jesus and discover what healing and forgiveness is all about. He will give you the joy you want, the peace you desire, and the life of focus you have always needed. All you have to do is ask, and it’s freely yours. Merry Christmas!!!!!

The Unbalanced Life

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The older I get the more I realize how unbalanced parts of my life have been. What I mean is, from the time I was a small boy, I have never done anything in a half-hearted way. No matter what, I have either been all in, or not in at all. In some seasons of life this has served me well, and at other times it has caused me to jump into catastrophic situations that could have been avoided. Fortunately, the gains have out weighed the losses, but it has not always been a pleasant ride for me or those who go with me. Living an unbalanced life is not the best way to go.

One example that comes to mind was the time I had done research on the stock market and decided to take $5,000 from my teacher’s retirement and invest it on a “call” of December crude oil. I knew the market was going to go up in the cold weather so this was a sure thing in my mind. The stock broker I used over the phone, Ginny, was happy to place my order. The next day she called me to say my $5,000 was now $7,850 as I had made a gain of $3,100 over night, minus her $250 commission. Without thinking, I told her to reinvest it, and began making plans for what I would do with all the money I was about to make.

I was giddy with excitement, and even thought about taking an early retirement. I had it all figured out. I would simply sit at my computer, watch my assets grow, and be a day trader on the market. This was the easiest money I had ever made, and I wondered why so many people I knew were not doing it. Naturally my next step was to jump into penny stocks, so I began to research them. I picked a few that seem promising, based on what I knew of the economy, and by using the Scott Trade platform, I built a small portfolio of stocks with about $50 invested. To my great joy, within a few weeks my $50 was turned into over $500.

I am sure you have already figured out that my unbalanced, ignorant enthusiasm soon went into in a radical nose dive. I became obsessed with market conditions, and had to check my stocks all day long. I could hardly keep my mind on teaching, could not sleep, and reading my Bible was almost impossible. Oh, I prayed alright! “Lord, what stock should I pick now?” “Lord, give me the stock symbol for the next big jumper”. I even prayed with Ginny over the phone, so God would give her the wisdom to know what commodity to pick next. Yes, I was a full-blown Christian nut case, dragging God with me, and wanting Him to bless something He had never called me to do.

What was the outcome? My spiritual life went down the toilet, and so did my finances. Down, down, down went the market, and with it my money was gone as well. Ginny and Scott Trade all made their commissions, and I finally pulled out when I had $500 left in my account. When the check came in the mail, I heard the Lord say, “And there is My tithe on the $5000 you pulled from your retirement”. That Sunday I put the Lords tithe in the offering, apologized for wasting what He had trusted me to hold, and fought to move past the urge to give it one more try. What is in my account since that time? I own 40 shares of penny stock worth a grand total of 8 cents! A grim reminder of what can happen when we have an unbalanced approach and go into something God has not intended for our life.

What about you? Where are the places that may be a bit unbalanced in your life? You know what I am talking about. They are the things that rule your decision making, because they always happen. It might be emotionalism that over rules your common sense. It could be work, or time management, relationships or selfish ambition. It might be refusing to serve where you know there is a need, or serving in a place of need, but doing it with a bad attitude. Perhaps it is the endless desire to be recognized, or the need to always be right. Whatever is out of balance in your life, whatever rules your emotions and brings your actions to a place of excess, that thing must be surrendered to God.

The point is, balanced people are healthy because they have learned how to live life with enthusiasm and passion, but they are not blinded to the consequences of the uncontrolled areas still present in them. They have counted the cost of personal decisions, and never sugar-coat the mistakes they have made. These are people who consider honesty an absolute necessity, and they stay focused on what is most important, no matter what distraction or criticism may come. Their life is influenced by what is biblically right and true, rather than the misguided, emotional responses of others. People in this place are on their way to a very fruitful, peace-filled, and godly life.

So the question is, what kind of person are you? What kind of atmosphere do you create when you interact with those around you? Do you unlock divine possibilities, peace and anticipation for the goodness of God? Or, do you unleash apprehension and concern because you bring some answers, but people are always left wondering what kind of mess you will also bring with you? The one living a balanced life deposits nothing but blessing, and the rich presence of God. The unbalanced life deposits a mixed bag of uncertainty, and answers that must be pick out of the confused, emotional rubble that has been left behind.

Evaluate your life on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 means there’s a major problem because people are unsure what you will leave behind. 10 means your are perfectly balance and others know when you come you always leave a blessing. Evaluate each of the following:

1. healthy personal relationships ________

2. good time management ________

3. emotional stability in every situation ________

4. godly character under stress or rejection ________

5. clear spiritual insight of Scripture ________

6. walk in humility when I am falsely accused ________

7. no need for recognition & validation ________

8. the peace of God is on me ________

9. the presence of God comes with me ________

10. people feel safe under my care ________

Put your total score here: _____________ (100 is a mature well balanced life.)

If you dare, go ask 10 people from different backgrounds, who know you, to anonymously and honestly evaluate you using the same chart. How closely their total score reflects yours, will tell you a great deal about how well balanced you actually are.

Not What You Expected

Image:In July of 1969, the United States achieved the dream of landing a man on the moon. Neal Armstrong’s fame was assured when he was picked to be the first man to ever set foot on that celestial body. After traveling through 250,000 miles of empty space, He landed the LEM, nick-named “The Eagle”, with only 15 seconds of fuel remaining. When he stepped on the moon’s surface, His first words were, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. These 11 words are now recorded in the history books of the world. What is not recorded in those same history books is the debate scientists had about the moon itself. There was a great deal of concern that the lunar surface would prevent anyone from actually landing there at all.

There was speculation regarding massive boulders being in the way, since there is no erosional activity, caused by wind and water, like there is on earth. There was concern about radiation pockets on the surface from rocks that had been blasted by meteorite impacts. There was fear about deadly solar wind in the event the sun went through an unexpected time of solar flare activity. Most of all, scientists were convinced that the surface of the moon had to be covered with many feet of fine dust.  That dust would have been swept up and collected on the surface over the millions, or even billions of years, of the moon’s existence. The fact is, there was no plan in place if something went wrong. The men knew they could very well die up there, if anything unexpected happened.

Of all the events that occurred, two things really set the scientists into a frenzy. Both of these things flew in the face of every theory they had, and there has never been a clear explanation as to why these were not what they expected. The first was the lack of dust on the moon’s surface. There was only about an inch of fine, cement-like powder, not the feet that had been anticipated. This reality suggests that the moon must only be ten, or at the most twenty thousand years old. That posed a massive problem for everyone who believed in an “old earth” theory. Creationists saw it as one more proof of Biblical truth, while evolutionists, who refused to consider any alternative, became silent and never brought it up again.

The second thing that caught everyone off guard happened when the LEM was jettisoned from the command module, and set on a path to crash land on the moon. Sensors were left on the moon’s surface to record the impact. The vibration would indicate what kind of rock structure was under the surface. However, upon impact the recording equipment picked up a vibration that no one dreamed possible. It bounced and echoed for many hours around the interior of the moon. The only thing on earth that comes close to that kind of vibrational activity is the structure of a bell. In other words, by these readings, the moon had to be a hollow ball, not a solid mass, and it stunned the scientific community into silence. This was not at all what they had expected.

 What about you? How do you respond when something comes up that you did not expect? Some people become defensive and begin to fight their way out. Others become silent, withdraw and protect what’s theirs. The benefit you get from any new discovery really hangs upon how quickly you are willing to embrace, and assimilate, what you have learned. If you fight things because they don’t prove what you already believe, it means you are not open to new ideas. Like it or not, you are a dinosaur that will soon be facing extinction, because you are not willing to change. However, if you view that new information with excitement, you are one step closer to adapting and being made better, so you can thrive in the change that is about to come.

The point being made here is quite simple.  We will either embrace what comes, and thrive in a time of unexpected change, or we will hold-fast to what we already know, and die. That choice is up to each of us, and we must choose well, or we will find ourselves left behind. If you have been struggling with something that is not what you expected, perhaps it is time to step back and get your bearings in what is going on. You might not be able to change the situation, but you can change your response to it.

You begin this process by relaxing, looking at the options that are available, and setting your course towards what will benefit you the most. You are never a helpless victim, but you may be caught off guard once in a while. Take a moment to catch your breath and use what has happened to your advantage. Regroup if you must, reevaluate as you can and recover the state of composure God says you have if you will rest in Him. So, when things are not what you expected, it’s not the end of the world. If you will take a moment to process things correctly, you may discover that they are exactly what you need to get ready for the unexpected change that is just around the corner.

When November Comes

 

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Today is November 1st, and in the Adirondacks, when November comes, it means several things. First of all, it means hunting season is in full swing. People are trying to fill freezers with fresh meat for the winter months that are just ahead. There have already been great preparations with the garden harvest, that now over-flows root cellars and pantries. Filled canning jars line storage shelves, and wood  has been split to dry, and piled high. Rich stews are slowly cooking in oven-warmed kitchens, and loaves of steaming bread are placed on cooling racks.

November is a month of dramatic changes, where the world has gone from brilliant splashes of October color, to gray twigs rattling in a cold, north wind. Pale sunlight streams down to highlight the last brown and yellow leaves of birch, beach and ash trees, as they fall to their final winter resting place. It is a month where we pause to think, and remember, and ponder the good things of our past, and look forward to the joy of Thanksgiving. The food and family, that have not yet found their voice, will do so soon enough!

In many ways, November cements the years together for me. It is the culmination of what has been, and the anticipation of what is yet to come. It is the nostalgic glue of years gone by, where half-remembered stories of family history, are told once again to another generation. It is prayer with friends and family, around a Thanksgiving table that is heaped with roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, cranberry sauce, orange-cranberry stuffing, and apple and pumpkin pies. It is hot spiced apple cider, sipped from warm mugs, on evenings when the first snow flakes fall to the ground.

It is a month were the precious time we have together, around the table, restores ancient family ties, builds new memories and  reconnects old friends. Most of all, November is the month were I am drawn closer and closer to the One who loves me. All the food, the family, and the friends I enjoy, serve to remind me of how it all comes from God. He is the author of every good and perfect gift. Each mouth-full of food, or explosion of laughter, echoes His endless affection for me. The mouth-watering aroma of a fresh baked apple pie, just pulled from the oven, opens me to the delight of thanking God in a  new and deeper way.

If November causes you to struggle with thoughts of the snow that is about to come, or dark, cold morning drives to work, perhaps you may need to re-frame how you think about it. In fact, all of life can easily be re-framed, but where you focus your attention plays a very important role in that process. Focus on what goes wrong, and that’s exactly what you will see. Focus on what might go wrong , and you will become the agent of your own undoing. However, good changes begin when you begin to give thanks, and I mean give thanks in everything, not for everything! There is power in what God says about this, and it is quite a shock for most people. The point is, Scripture says a thankful heart pleases God, and it creates a thankful life, and this is what unlocks the potential in us all.

This November, take a moment when friends and family are gathered around your Thanksgiving table, and really give thanks for what you see. Look into the faces, hear the stories, embrace the laughter and savor every moment as a treasured memory. Don’t be in such a hurry to get to what’s next. Slow down, and enjoy the time you have, like you were savoring a rare wine. If you do, it will fill your heart with joy, and be a source of great blessing to you, and the generations that follow. This can be yours simply because you learned to enjoy the life you see all around you, when November comes.

It Has All Been Worth It

42641656_10156815740173675_915971161068666880_nFall colors in the Adirondack Mountains and the Green Mountains of Vermont are unmatched in beauty by any other place in the United States. The Fall panorama can simply be breath-taking, in so many ways. We have friends who own a plane, and this time of year they often fly over the “High Peaks” region of upstate New York to snap pictures of the landscape that seems almost unearthly. The colors can be so brilliant that it is hard to take it all in.

I was thinking of this as I drove my motorcycle over a few back roads last week. It was a very cold, clear morning but I wanted to take one more ride before taking my bike in for winter repairs. I crested a hill, and there before me was an incredible view. The mountains were a brilliant blaze of colors that no earthly artist could have ever painted. There was liquid orange, and pale pink, splashes of flame red, and a patchwork of every color of the rainbow imaginable. All I could do was pull over, turn off the engine, and in the silence, stare with awe-struck wonder. The rich earthy smells, blue Jays calling in the distance, and the ocean of colors that spread out before me, was beyond description. I was half shivering from the cold, but had to admit when I saw this view, “it has all been worth it”!

As I enjoyed this magnificent artistry, it hit me that all of this beauty was the result of two things. The first was cold temperatures, and the second was dwindling daylight hours.  In all honesty,  I must admit, I never like embracing these changes when they come. This is because I know it means the warm, lazy days of summer are gone. But, I also know these are in fact, the very things that bring about the amazing sight my eyes were beholding. Frost on the ground, and reduced daylight hours, releases the beauty of what comes next. Without these added stress factors, as unpleasant as they are,  it would be absolutely impossible to produce the glory of what was all around me.

In this life, God will often bring us to an uncomfortable place of change, to make us better. It’s the place we have refused to face, or don’t want to process, but we have to go there anyway. We so enjoy the summer we have lived in, and the thought of entering a cold season just does not enter our field of vision. We will comfortably keep doing what has always worked, and find ways to prolong it, even if it is not God’s highest and best for us. Then it happens, the world gets colder and darker, for no apparent reason, and our life is left floundering in a directionless sea of uncertainty. Like it or not, we are then forced into uncomfortable personal change, and there is no way out, so we are forced to go through it instead.

What we often fail to recognize in these tough times, is that this is exactly what we need to bring out the beauty of what comes next. The frost, and longer nights of Autumn, reveal the brilliant colors that will paint the hillsides. So also, the personal distress God allows into our life, is exactly what sets us up for a greater expression of His glory through us. God could leave us as we are, and never bring any challenge to make us grow, but is that what’s best? He could be like a negligent, weakling of a parent, who never crosses their self-willed, dishonoring child. But, let’s be honest. Who enjoys dealing with these kids, and is that what you want for your life?

Every gardener knows it takes a lot of water, fertilizer and sunlight to produce the best harvest. Fruit in our life is just the same, since it grows best when the environment for it is right. That means, the factors that produce joy, come through times of sorrow. What produces patience, is endurance in days of difficulty. What causes peace to grow, is going through seasons of unrest, with godly confidence. It is the frost, and growing darkness of difficult situations, that brings out the beauty and glory of what God has planned for you all along.

Never settle for where you are, or what you have currently achieved. Ask God to give you the desire to be the best version of who He made you to be. That will mean unexplained seasonal shifts, where frost and darkness are your companions. It will mean adjusting your vision, and displaying a better attitude in moments of crisis. Most of all, it will mean finding your value in who He says your are, not in what you think you do well. Change is the order of life, and it often comes through things we would prefer not to experience. However, when you see the amazing landscape of life that God lays out before you, you will say, as I did on that frosty, clear morning, “it has all been worth it”. Now, bundle up, get out there and don’t let the frost keep you from enjoying all the beauty that surrounds you.

Clash Of Cultures

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The Romans believed their empire rested on the concept of “Pax Deorum”, meaning “peace of the gods”. That is, if the Romans did right by all the gods, those deities would bring them peace and prosperity. When followers of Christ came along, this upset the balance of power Rome thought it had achieved. Christians claimed the pagan gods were demonic, and real peace only came through the truth of God’s Kingdom. This created a massive clash of cultures within the empire that Rome had never experienced before. If the Roman government allowed Christians to propagate their beliefs, even though they were model citizens, the gods would be angry, and they would withhold their favor from the Empire, and it’s people.

Usually, Rome embraced the cultures they conquered, allowing them to quietly assimilate their beliefs into Roman society. Even though Christians were peaceful, and obeyed the laws, they refused to acknowledge any other God but the God of Scripture. This became a huge problem for Rome, and it caused a massive division in the otherwise united empire that sprawled across the land. Thus, Christianity began to conquer the unconquerable Romans, by splitting the spiritual culture in half, and that created a multitude of problems for everyone.

Persecutors would give Christians the chance to go free if they would just acknowledge the Roman gods, but they refused to do so. They chose rather to die, than offer a pinch of incense, or say a few ritual words to a false god. This practice amazed the Romans, as they had only seen such unwavering bravery among their own soldiers. As a result, massive persecution arose against Christians all across the Roman Empire, but not because they believe in Christ. The Romans felt that any belief, even belief in Jesus, was fine. The persecution came because Christians refused to believe in anything BUT Jesus. They would not compromise the truth, and became the target of unspeakable torture.

Once the Romans realized Christians would never blend quietly into their culture, everything changed. Their very presence was viewed as a threat to the unity, peace and prosperity of the Empire. The “Pax Romana” or “Roman Peace” could not be possible as long as Christians were present. Rome had no fear of being defeated by the sword, or a vast, invading army. These could be conquered and grafted into the Empire. It’s greatest fear was that it would be unraveled by internal division. Who was this formidable, unconquerable enemy? Those who loved God, lived in peace, and loved others, but held unswervingly to the truth of Scripture.

The world loves it’s own. That’s what Jesus told his disciples over 2000 years ago, and it’s still true today. The world also, by it’s very nature, will always hate those who stand immovable, on biblical ground. Why? Because we bring conviction regarding sin, and that rocks the boat everyone else is enjoying. Regardless of the consequences, Christians are called to stand their ground, in love. Even when the world wants us to back their position for the sake of peace, we must still hold on to the truth. No matter how unpopular we may become, or how much we are accused of being “haters”, Biblical truth never changes, and neither can we.

Peace achieved by embracing everything, means people really don’t believe anything. There is no truth present when everyone, and every belief, is considered to be right. It’s impossible to have lasting peace, without truth being at the center of it. The universal standard of right and wrong that truth always holds dear, is what brings real peace. Thus, Christianity will always be at odds with any belief system, or empire, that does not line up with the Kingdom of God.

This is why we don’t rejoice and applaud, when a Hollywood star gets pregnant outside of marriage. They are thrilled and full of joy, but we are shamed and see disgrace by such behavior, and we must call it what it really is, fornication and immorality. The world hates us for this because we live by a higher moral standard that is set in place by Scripture. People in the world join themselves to same sex partners, and they applaud those who “come out of the closet” . We on the other hand, still love these people, but we call this behavior sexual sin, and believe our God can deliver anyone from this lifestyle of bondage. The results is always the same. The world hates us and calls us “hateful and prejudice”, simply because we hold to a higher standard that is grounded in 4000 years Biblical truth.

Just like it was in the Roman Empire, the clash of cultures is setting the world on fire once again. The set of ideals the world embraces to bring peace, is at odds with the truth Christians must live by. And, just like it was in ancient Rome, the roar of that clash means it’s not going to get any easier for those who really know, and love God. True Christianity, that which is grounded in the truth of God’s Word, will always come with a price. Every Christian will eventually have to stand and speak against the flood of immoral, and unethical standards the world holds in high esteem. When that day comes, the question is, will you pay the price for righteousness, or will you be swept up in the new “Pax Deorum” and “Pax Romana” the world offers to all?

Ephesians 6:13-15 says “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;” May the truth of God’s word strengthen you to confront in love, what is wrong, and not conform to the standard of this world. May the overcoming love of God strengthen you to speak the truth in a darkening world, and rescue those who hear it. May you go boldly into any dark night and shine with the light of God’s eternal Gospel when the clash of cultures comes your way.