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  • Mark Burnett and Roma Downey get religion. At least they get The Bible. Their 2013 blockbuster television miniseries of that name garnered accolades while reaching huge audiences. Now they’ve adapted its “Jesus” portion with new footage for theaters.
    Prolific television producer Burnett (Survivor, The Voice, Shark Tank) and his wife, actress/producer Downey (Touched by an Angel), explain: “We responded to an overwhelming demand for the greatest story ever told to be seen as a shared experience on the big screen. The result is a beautiful stand-alone movie…the story of Jesus for a whole new generation.” Twentieth Century Fox releases Son of God February 28.
    This film has adventure, drama and passion. Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer created the orchestral score. The Middle Eastern locale is authentic; Jesus has dirt under his fingernails. Downey, as Jesus’ mother Mary, compellingly displays love and angst that likely will touch your heart.
    Tough but Tender
     Jesus is tough but tender, turning over moneychangers’ tables, forgiving an adulterous woman, welcoming children with a warm smile.
     He answers a skeptic with perhaps his most famous statement: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Believe in him and you will have eternal life.”
     His suffering is realistically portrayed. You may cringe at his beating, gasp as the nails puncture his hands and feet, grimace as the spear pierces his side.
     Son of God?
     This film’s title appears no accident. Numerous script lines incorporate biblical claims about Jesus’ deity, among them: Peter’s affirmation, “You are the…Son of…God.” Jesus’ response to the high priest’s query whether he is the Son of God: “I am.” Accusing him of blasphemy, leaders said he deserved to die.
     Was Jesus really God’s Son? Controversial question.
     What are the alternatives? If his claim was true, he would be the Lord. If it was false and he knew it, he was lying. If he didn’t know it was false, he had serious delusions, perhaps paranoid schizophrenia or paranoia proper.
     Jesus’ claim to deity sets him apart from great moral teachers. If the New Testament accounts of his life are accurate, he was either a liar, or a lunatic, or the Lord.
     Liar? Lunatic?
     Was he a liar? If so, he died for that lie. Few, if any, would willingly die for something they knew was a hoax. Would you? Both believers and skeptics have considered Jesus a paragon of virtue.
     Was Jesus a lunatic? His teachings are often used as a basis for mental health. He had a genuine concern for others, a cool response under pressure, and a great love for his enemies. As the film indicates, he said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” If Jesus was insane, what must we be?
     If he was neither liar nor lunatic, one alternative remains: that he was the Lord. Evidence for his resurrection – also depicted in Son of God – supports this claim.
     Producers sought to be faithful to the spirit of the Bible. They take typical movie-making liberties – combining events and condensing timelines – to represent the gist of Jesuslife. Compressed narrative and dialogue skip some details and occasionally blur nuances. But the result is powerful cinematic storytelling.
     Fave not-from-the-Bible lines
     My favorite lines from the film that are not directly from the New Testament:
     Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who reluctantly ordered Jesus crucified: “He’ll be forgotten in a week.”
     Peter, at the empty tomb, after his friend John says Jesus is “gone”: “Gone? No. He’s back!”
     Back, indeed. And worth contemplating this Easter season and beyond. Son of God is a great place to start.
     Rated PG-13 (USA) “for intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence”
     http://www.SonOfGodMovie.com Theaters USA Canada
     Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. http://www.RustyWright.com
    Mark Burnetts Son of God movie: Action Epic. The Survivor producer and his wife, actress Roma Downey, wanted to communicate “the story of Jesus for a whole new generation.” Their new film presents adventure, drama and passion; a Jesus that is tough and tender; and enough gripping stories to allow skeptics, searchers, and the faith-filled alike to consider whether he really was the Son of God. (Short op-ed by Rusty Wright)

  • Does experiencing God’s love make you want to give?  Some current social scientific research suggests it might.

    University of Akron sociologist Matthew T. Lee says, “Millions of Americans frequently experience divine love and for them this sense of God’s love not only enhances existential well-being, but underlies a sense of personal meaning and purpose and enlivens compassion for others.”

    Godly Love National Survey

    Lee and his colleagues Margaret M. Poloma (a sociologist) and Stephen G. Post (a theologian) interpreted the results of the Godly Love National Survey (GLNS), a “representative random survey of 1,200 people – both religious and nonreligious – from across the United States.”  Their Flame of Love Project studies how spiritual experience relates to benevolence.

    The project’s ambitious goals include “establishing a new field of interdisciplinary scientific study”and seeking “to transform social science by taking God seriously as a perceived actor in human events….”

    Sigmund Freud, call your office.

    When the father of psychoanalysis branded faith in God as “an illusion,”did he ever imagine this?

    Of course, the GLNS studies perceived influence of godly love – individuals reported their own thoughts, feelings and experiences.  No one is claiming to have a machine that sees God or definitively confirms divine existence.

    Numbers and Stories

    But the GLNS results – numbers and stories – are impressive, and certainly merit consideration in a discussion about divine influence.

    Among the numbers:  People who claim to feel God’s love more than once daily are over twice as likely as other Americans to help others, and to donate over $5,000 annually for the needy.  Experiencing divine love most consistently predicted six kinds of benevolent behavior the researchers studied.

    Among the stories:  The researchers – funded by the John Templeton Foundation – interviewed at length 120 people and included five stories of “exemplars of godly love”in their book, The Heart of Religion.  One of the five is Anne Beiler, whom you may recognize as the pretzel lady.

    Darkness, Light, and Pretzels

    It’s hard to walk though a major US airport or shopping mall without seeing Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.  She and her husband parlayed her successful business into funding for their hometown Family Center to promote mental, physical, and spiritual health.  But life was not always pretty.

    Jonas and Anne Beiler’s lives plunged into darkness when a farm tractor struck and killed their young daughter, Angie.  Anne’s pastor, whom she approached for assistance, sexually abused her during her first counseling session.  The abuse continued; her marriage deteriorated.

    Eventually, the pastor was dismissed from the church and the Beilers began repairing their relationship.  As he saw wise counsel benefit his own marriage, Jonas wanted to help others by offering free counseling services.

    Anne’s work to support Jonas’ dream morphed into what became “the world’s largest hand-rolled soft pretzel franchise.”  Accolades for her entrepreneurship recognized her efforts to inspire, serve and give.  Today, The Family Center partners with community organizations to offer counseling, healthcare options, education, and more.

    A Hiding Place

    Anne credits God with sustaining her, quoting David, an ancient Israeli king: “For you [God] are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble.  You surround me with songs of victory.”

    “We all need that hiding place,” she affirms.  “The reason I never wanted to tell anyone about the secrets in my life was that I was ashamed, and afraid, and scared that people would no longer love me. So I tried to hide my ‘stuff’ from everyone.  But this kind of hiding only made it worse. … Confession allows us to hide in God and be surrounded with songs of victory and not floodwaters of judgment.”

    So … can experiencing godly love prompt benevolence?  Certainly worth considering.

     

  • It’s her eyes and innocent face that first grab your heart.

    At least they grabbed mine.

    Annika, a delicate young girl, has been unwittingly handed into virtual slavery by her homeless father.  Sweatshop labor and sex-for-sale portend a bleak future.  She seems precious, blameless, so undeserving of this hell.  But life is cheap for an outcast like her, unless someone intervenes.

    Enter Caden, a spoiled, rich, 20-year-old Southern California student, who wrestles with mean streets and his own mean self in reaching the reluctant conviction that he should be that someone.  Roadblocks include greedy pimps, sleazy flesh brokers, beefy thugs, plus his own indifference and faith disappointments.  Others’ prejudice and apathy complicate his quest.

    Rescuing their Future

    Rescuing the future for Annika and millions like her is the noble cause permeating the film Not Today.  “Your ticket in is their ticket out” claims the plug for the fictional but reality-based feature movie opening in selected U.S. cities April 12.  Profits go toward combating human trafficking.

    The cast includes Cody Longo (HollywoodHeights), John Schneider (October Baby, Smallville, The Dukes of Hazzard), Shari Rigby (October Baby, The Bold and the Beautiful) and Cassie Scerbo (Make It or Break It, Hot in Cleveland).

    Selling humans for labor and sex is widespread and profitable.  The U.S. State Department reports, “The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children – both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals – subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, involuntary servitude, and sex trafficking.”

    The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, “estimates that 20.9 million people” worldwide “are victims of forced labor,” generating $44 billion annually in illegal profits.

    Not Todayis set in India; Annika and her father are Dalits, members of the lowest caste.  Though India’s constitution outlaws caste discrimination, de facto social discrimination exists.  An arm of Friends Church in affluent Orange County, California, produced the film.

    Modern-Day Abolitionists

    “Friends” are Quakers.  “Quaker” may make you think of the smiling guy on the oatmeal carton or perhaps the rural, reserved believers who shun modern society.  (For the latter, think Amish, not Quaker.)

    In fact, Quakers have a long history of social activism.  In centuries past, many labored to abolish slavery.  These modern-day abolitionists carry that torch for today’s disenfranchised.

    FriendsChurch supports groups seeking to eradicate the caste system in India.  They see education as vital and committed $20 million toward building 200 Dalit Educational Centers to help lift Dalits out of the poverty that fuels human trafficking.

    Biblical convictions about human life’s value seem to be driving this.  Not Today executive producer and Friends Church lead pastor Matthew Cork explains: “For centuries Dalits, the ‘lowest of the low,’ have grown up believing they are less than animals….  Christianity tells them they are made in the image of God.”

    That notion actually has Jewish roots.  Moses, the great Jewish liberator, wrote, “God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

    Precious Image; Worthy Cause

    Precious children like Annika – and the millions she represents – are formed in God’s image and need help.

    Actor Cody Longo expresses personal commitment to the effort:  “Our goal as storytellers is to start a global conversation. … Human-trafficking is everyone’s issue and should be everyone’s cause.”

    While I appreciate his enthusiasm, calling trafficking “everyone’s issue” seems hyperbolic.  Poverty, hunger, abuse, racism, corruption, sickness, spiritual emptiness, mental illness, domestic strife, AIDS …. Gasp!

    Where does the list of legitimate needs end?

    Of course, no one can assist every worthy cause, but many can do something.  Not Today‘s cause certainly merits wide attention.

    Maybe yours.

    PG-13 for “Mature Thematic Material”

    http://www.NotTodayTheMovie.com   Theaters

     

  • “The minute you start to think that you`re first and your plans matter more than God`s is the minute your life starts to go the wrong way.” Oklahoma University`s starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, gets nervous every time he hits the field, always recanting plans and plays in his head, but never forgetting that he works with a team and that God is always with him.

    How can it not be tempting to soak in the cheers of the crowd and the lights of the stadium? Bradford explains that it`s about more than that. It`s about staying grounded and focused. Most often people only see the glory of the game, but he has to juggle many responsibilities including school and setting aside time with God. No matter what, Bradford has a future: he gives his all to the game and his education. Wherever his future leads, God is leading the way.

    Being on the field is probably one of the toughest things to describe, but it’s probably one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had. Coming out, taking the field for the first time each game, stomach is just knotted up, nervous as I can be, hearing the fans scream when we take the field and my mind just starts racing. I wonder, How am I going to play today? Are we going to play good, are we prepared? And then once the game starts and once we get into the flow it’s like everything disappears. I just enter this zone and I don’t hear anything, I don’t hear the fans, I don’t hear the opposing team. I’m just totally focused on what I have to do, and not until after the game do I normally sit back and realize how the game went, how we played.

    Pre-game? There is a lot of time spent off the field in the meeting room. I think a lot of people think we just comes and it just happens, but there are a lot of early mornings and late nights spent in the film room just trying to get ready, trying to figure out what the defense is going to try to do to stop us and try to see as many looks as possible so that if they change something during the middle of the game hopefully we’ve seen it on film and we’re able to adjust to it. Emotionally, I think back when I was younger playing football, just having fun. That’s the attitude I go into every game with. It’s a blessing to be here. I’m probably one of the luckiest people alive to get to play for the team I’ve always wanted to play for in my home state and I just try to make the most of it and have as much fun as possible.

    Because I have that attitude, I don’t get rattled in the game. There have been a couple times during my freshman year when I got a little frustrated and tried to force some things. But that happens.

    It’s really important in times like that, during frustration and taking things too seriously that faith plays a big role. There is a lot of pressure on me to play well and I put a lot of pressure on myself to play well. I know if we lose a game or I play poorly, there is going to be a lot of people that are going to be upset with me; I’m going to be upset with myself. In those tough times, I know I can always talk to the Lord, get in the bible, read His word. It’s always going to be a comforting feeling knowing there’s Someone there who’s got my back no matter how I play on Saturdays. Taking that time to focus inward and on God allows me to see that I’m not doing it by myself. Obviously I have teammates and we work as a team, but I know there is something more than that. I know the Lord is out there with me. I know He’s given me all the talent that I have and without Him there is no way I would even step foot on a football field. I feel like He’s out there with me every game; I feel like He’s right by my side. I think knowing that you’re not out there alone is something that really does allow you to stay calm in such

    Jesus plays a big role in my life, especially now, taking upper division classes and preparing for the games… it gets stressful. Obviously football is pretty much a full-time job. Honestly, I put a lot of pressure on myself, a lot of stress. I’m a perfectionist so I always want to play as well as I can. So with school and football I have to have balance in order to maintain my relationship with the Lord, spend time with Him every week and that just lets me get away from everything else. When I’m with Him I stop thinking about school, I stop thinking about football, I stop thinking about any other problems that are going on in my life. To be able to have a place and have a relationship were you can get away from all your problems, I think it makes life ten times easier.

    The fact is, everything is a battle. You can go through ten maybe 20 battles a day with just different things and if you don’t have a relationship with the Lord you’re going through all those battles by yourself and you’re probably going to be outmatched in a lot of them. But when you have a relationship with the Lord and you spend time with Him and you’re in His word you have a teammate. You have Someone on your team, and you’re able to go into those battles together, not alone.

    I think we’re all made for different things, we all have different purposes. God has planned out everyone’s life from the beginning and I believe He has had this plan in my life since before I was born. I feel like right now I’m just living out his plan. It’s part of my duty to help Him fulfill that plan and help bring more people to Him.

    And the same way we’re made for different purposes, God gives us different strengths. I think I’m very tough minded and self disciplined. I think when I see something and want to achieve it, whether that’s a certain grade in a class or a certain performance level on the field, God has given me the ability to stay disciplined and work as hard as I can to achieve that goal. Physically I think he has given me all the tools necessary to play sports at this level and I think that is part of His plan. My greatest talent is probably my personality and the way I’m able to deal with my friends and my family with so much going on in my life. I’m really proud of the relationships I’ve been able to keep with my friends and with my family during college. My greatest weakness, though, is that I am a perfectionist and I try to make everything perfect and I drive myself to the limit on certain things that they’re just not possible to do sometimes. I’m so hard on myself sometimes that sometimes I get in a funk and I get down on myself when I really shouldn’t be. Sometimes, I let it affect my relationship with the Lord.

    Something my dad taught me when I was younger is, “Don’t compete against anyone else but yourself.” I think I always compete against myself and I put a lot of pressure on myself and I expect to be the best at everything whether it’s on the field, in the classroom or if we’re just playing ping pong in the garage – I expect to win. Sometimes I believe that can be a weakness of mine. If I’m not the best and don’t win I just get into this mood like, “God wasn’t there with me, He turned His back. He left me this time.” I’m human though and I always end up realizing that this is not the case at all.

    When things don’t turn out the way I want them to, I realize that He has something else in store. I believe that whatever happens, it’s in God’s hands, it’s the right thing for you and no matter how much you think you’re right or how much you think your plan is best for you, you have to realize that it’s not. His plan is always better; his plan is always right and He’s the person that you need to follow all the time. It’s a very hard thing to accept and it’s something I struggled with my first year here at OU. I wasn’t playing, I was redshirting. I knew that was the best thing for me. I thought I was prepared, but at the same time I didn’t understand. I was miserable the whole time, not playing, sitting on the sideline and I felt like God had just abandoned me. I feel like He blessed me for so many years and allowed me to play in so many games and finally it got to the point He was like well I’ve done all I can do with you and now you’re on your own and I just didn’t understand that and I kind of turned my back. I stopped going to church, I stopped going to FCA, I just struggled. My relationship with the Lord went south in a hurry. Finally, Ken Bullocks the leader of the FCA at OU talked to me and he had talked to me through that entire season. He said you need to start coming to FCA because it’s something that’s going to be good in your life. Through FCA I got back into the word and I started hearing the message every week and just through that simple 45 minutes a week I got back on track and got back into my relationship with the Lord.

    Reuniting with God was tough because I knew I had messed up, I knew I had kinda turned my back and I wasn’t sure if God was going to accept me. But God’s love isn’t like ours. He has unconditional love so He always loves us and always accepts us no matter what we’ve done. Still, I wasn’t sure at the moment until I realized He was still right there with me, it was a great feeling.

    I got into that whole situation because I didn’t understand His plan. I see now, that He rewards those who are patient and those who persevere. Looking back now I wouldn’t change a thing about sitting out, practicing the way I did because I learned so many things about myself during those 6 months that were so miserable.

    In college, trying to live up to these expectations but more importantly for the Lord is I a definite struggle. Spending time is also a struggle because a relationship goes both ways: you have to put time into it, just like your friends have to invest time into it if you want your relationship to grow. Sometimes I get carried away with school, football and other activities – speaking engagements, for example, and I just kind of push my relationship with the Lord off to the side. But I have to make the time, because otherwise our relationship won’t grow. In addition to that, college is just a challenging place for living a life for Christ. The parties, the drinking – everything you see in a typical college atmosphere, makes it tough. Pretty much when you go out on the weekends almost everything you encounter is probably not what the Lord wants you to be doing. When you put yourself into situations like that and surround yourself with the things the Lord doesn’t like it’s hard to keep a relationship and to keep doing the things that he wants you to do.

    I believe you really have to be dedicated at this though, because the rewards aren’t always instantaneous. Still, the best and most important reward is eternal life in Heaven and having a relationship with the Lord. I don’t think there’s anything greater than having a relationship with the Him.

    It’s the same way with sports. There’s a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice that go on behind the scenes that people don’t see. People don’t see waking up at 5 am in the summer every morning to go to work outs, then to class, then coming back and going through drills, watching film for 3 hours and preparing while all your friends are at home sitting by the pool or just hanging out. It’s the same routine during the school year and I just think a lot of people just see what happens on Saturdays. Sometimes I feel like I’m not truly having a college experience because I don’t get to hang out a lot with my friends but in the end when you’re out there on Saturdays and you play well and your team wins and you get to celebrate a victory in the locker room with your team mates. All the guys that are going through the same things that you are, they’re busting their butt too, and that’s a very gratifying feeling.

    So it is very important for other people to see that light in me. Going back to the platform that God has given me, I feel that if I can live in a way that brings glory to Him and other people see that and they want to live for him too then that’s only a small amount of thanks that I can give for all the blessings that He’s given me.

    Overall, I realize that I’m second and Christ is first. That’s because it’s how it has to be if you want to have a relationship with Him. You have to realize that everything that you do is because of him and he has a plan. The minute that you start to think that you’re first and He’s second and that what you think and what you have planned in your mind is more important than what he has planned for your life that’s the minute your life starts to go the wrong way. So stay on track and you have to realize that he’s always #1 and that everything that He wants you to do is the right thing for you to do. That’s how I try to live my life.

    I don’t think the pay-off from having a relationship with the Lord is necessarily success. I think what I take from my relationship with the Lord is a sense of comfort and a sense of strength. I’m very competitive. Whatever I do I feel like it’s a game and I know that having a relationship with Him gives me strength in those battles and I think know that you have Someone with you, knowing that you’re stronger with two than you are with one.

    It gives me a sense of comfort knowing that anything I go into I’m not going into it alone and whatever happens I’m going to have Someone who is going to be there with me and who I can talk to about that experience.

    For more films like this, visit iamsecond.com.
    Want to learn more about following Jesus?  Click here to discover the steps to peace.
    Want to discuss these films with friends?  Download free “Film Discussion Guide” here.

  • Did global warming—human-induced climate change—cause or exacerbate Hurricane Sandy?

    Al Gore says of course, and many agree.  Some scientists say we can’t be sure.  Other scientists discount a global warming Sandy link.

    Tragic Superstorm

    The superstorm’s tragic wake of destruction stretches from the Caribbean to the northeastern US.  I sympathize with the victims and applaud their helpers.  My Miami youth taught me much about hurricanes’ fury.  In 1993, I spent a month back in my hometown volunteering with the Hurricane Andrew rebuilding effort.  Sandy’s aftermath brings daunting challenges.

    But can the victims blame global warming?  When even scientific experts disagree, how do we decide?

    I’m not a scientist, nor do I play one on television.  I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    However, I’ve read enough to know that there are credentialed scientists on both sides of the global-warming debate.  Of course, each side—including scientists and the divided public—could benefit at times from coaching on tact, diplomacy, humility, anger management and fact checking.

    Science Deniers?

    But one thing about the debate particularly disturbs me: Human-induced-climate-change proponents often dismiss as “science deniers” those who believe that shifting climate patterns are generally cyclical and naturally induced or that human-induced warming is inconsequential.

    Certainly human-induced-climate-change dissent is a minority view, but its supporters are not necessarily without scientific credentials.  In fact, they include scientists from reputable institutions.  See, for instance, the New York Timesprofile of Harvard-educated MIT meteorology professor Richard Lindzen.

    Even some global-warming heralds have moderated their views.  MSNBC reported that “James Lovelock, the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his ‘Gaia’ theory of the Earth as a single organism, has admitted to being ‘alarmist’ about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too.”

    A Considered Approach

    So, as climate-change rhetoric heats up after Sandy, maybe it would be wise to step back, take a deep breath, have an honest look at the issues and evidence, then thoughtfully decide.  My brief 2010 comment,”Global Warming’s Glacial Blunder,” offers further support for taking a considered approach.

     

  •  Avoid Negative Voices from Your Past  By Brooke Keith, Guest Writer

    My husband and I met in high school in Mrs. Saunders 2nd period class. He looked at me. I looked at him. He said “Hi” and that was that.

    Though he was the party boy and I was the Abercrombie girl; it worked. It fit. I taught him how to walk the line. He taught me how to color outside them. From day one … we just were. We were fun. We were silly. Sometimes we were enemies. Sometimes we were best friends.

    We used to sit in each other’s company … nowhere to go, no place to be … windows down driving as fast as the wind would take us on an old dirt road in a muddy old red pickup truck with a bad radiator. Hard to believe that all this has been almost 12 years ago, that I’m pushing 30 and we have four children, a mortgage and a car note.

    And I feel like we are finally getting older. I feel like life is catching up, like we are turning new sand on the hourglass. Gone are the days of watching the stars from a tail gate and driving with no place to go, because there’s always some place to go – the grocery store, the doctor, the dentist …

    In the blinking of an eye, the boy I fell in love with grew up; and I did too.

    Worry and Fears

    But I’m not ready to let go of the boy he was. I’m afraid of the change 30 brings. I fear that if I do, if I let go, he’ll walk too far ahead of me. I’m afraid I won’t catch up. I’m afraid that one day I won’t be enough. I’m afraid that if I give him any slack He’ll pull away from me scary-fast like a tape measure does when you release the button.

    If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a little bit of a worry wart and a smidge of a control freak.

    Sometimes I’m afraid to let anyone crawl out from under my protective bubble:  my children, my spouse, my sister, my mother, because I’ve seen so much in my life. And what if those things happen to me? What happens if the other shoe drops? What happens if the chalkboard of my life is erased in a split second and what if I can do absolutely nothing about it?

    So many women are so strong. One of my best friends lost both her husband and little girl all within a five year span. Another juggles three children with chronic health problems. One just went through a messy divorce and is working three jobs to support her two boys – alone. Another relying on grace to make her marriage work.

    These women pick up their cross every day and they walk.

    But I don’t know what I’m more afraid of – afraid of everything falling apart or afraid of not being strong enough, like these women are so effortlessly, to pull it back together if it does.

    Being a woman in this society is so difficult. Every day we are faced with commercials that show us women in bikinis, with perfect bodies and youth that has since passed us by and it says to our insides “You aren’t good enough.”  “You aren’t thin enough.” “You’re clothes aren’t pretty enough or as expensive as mine.”

    Are Other People Worrying Too?

    But I wonder what voice this woman hears. Does she hear the same things I do? Does she sit by herself when the day is over, when the cameras are off and the makeup has faded? Does she ever think “I’m not good enough?” “I’m not thin enough?” “I’m not pretty enough?”

    I wonder what her tape is.

    I wonder if she has a husband she met her freshman year of high school. I wonder if she worries about her children and questions if she loosens the worry bubble on her husband and family even just a little bit it will all fall apart or one day if it does if she will become a tabloid headline. And if it all crashes down – I wonder will she survive?

    I wonder.

    Voices from the Past

    Many of us have tapes because we have been programmed with them since childhood. My tapes are of abandonment and abuse. My tapes tell me I’m not enough. My tape tells me to be weary of every one and trust no one. My tapes tell me I’m not pretty enough, that I’m a crumby mother and a worse wife, that if I misstep on just one notch of the stair case, I will crash all the way down and find myself alone and scarred again.

    What do your tapes tell you?

    “You’re sins are too crimson to be cleansed.”

    “Once addicted always addicted.”

    “Things will never change.”

    “Things could never be the same.”

    I believe the devil has an iPod; and it’s on shuffle. When he gives me a rest, he moves on to you. When he moves on from me, he might visit your friend, or your neighbor or your pastor. He makes mix tapes of the scars deep down in our past and he wants so badly to keep us there. So he plays our tapes … over and over and over … until we are so caught in the past, we can’t focus on anything but yesterday.

    Though it’s hard and I too struggle with it daily, we must get back in touch with who God is and what His truth is for our lives. “The thief comes only to kill and steal … but I come so that they might have life and have it to the fullest.”  God says to us. And to the devil He says, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

    If the words on your tape bring you sadness, if they bring you guilt or shame, if they wrestle withholding forgiveness, if they stir your spirit in ways that makes you think you can’t go on … God didn’t write them. You’ve found your way to shuffle. (1 Cor. 14:33)

    When all I can hear is the devil’s playlist I turn to my Father, the one who wrote the book on a grace that’s “new every morning.” And with His help, God hits pause. And I listen to the silence for the first time in what seems like years.

    The devil will always try to convince us that change can kill us, that imperfection can crucify us.

    But someone forgot to tell him that my imperfections and your imperfections have already been crucified in the One who is perfect.

    When your tape echoes in your ear – pull out your headphones.

    God wants a chance at your playlist and He’s got a new track for you . . . Press play.

     

  • The moment when you are 15-20 yards from an 80 ton jet coming through the building at 530 mph with 3,000 gallons of jet fuel, and you live to tell about it– not because the United States army made me the toughest guy in that building, but because the toughest man that ever walked this earth 2000 years ago and sits at the right side of the father had something else in mind.

    The morning of September 11, I stepped out and went to the men’s restroom, and took care of my business. I was about 7 or 8 steps out when flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at the intersection of the fourth quarter in the E ring at about a 45-degree angle.  I was thrown around, tossed around like a rag doll inside. I was set ablaze, breathing in black putrid smoke, inhaling aerosolized jet fuel, with the temperature of that air somewhere between 300-350 degrees. You could see flesh hanging off my arms, my eyes are already beginning to swell closed, and I had no hair. The front of my shirt is still intact, my access badge and my nametag are melted, but still hanging covered in the black soot and scorched blood.  My arms are skinned alive, my pants are gone, I only have my leather belt and a portion of my pants that are in the immediate area of the belt. The flames were consuming me and I expected to pass away.

    It’s really the definition of terrorism because it combines two things: One, receipt of a life threatening injury, I mean, set on fire the way I was; but combined with the blackness, the darkness and inability to navigate. Just moments before I was in a hallway that I was exceedingly familiar with, I knew exactly which way I was going. Then in that next moment on the impact of the aircraft I am being set on fire, sustaining a life threatening injury with no way to escape, and no way to know which way is to safety or to danger. That darkness and that blackness is what really captures your heart in the panic. When you meet those two circumstances, those moments seem to last an eternity.

    I did what we in the military are never trained to do, which is surrender. I came to that realization that I was no longer struggling to survive, but I had stepped over that line from that desire and zest for living which we were created with to that acceptance of my death and recognizing that this is how the Lord was going to call me home. I screamed out in a loud voice, “Jesus, I am coming to see you.” Yet that didn’t come, and I lay there thinking all right Lord let’s get on with this thing. But the Lord had other purposes.

    I used the wall that I had been blown up against to get up; and as I was staggering down the hallway four men, Bill McKennan, Roy Wallis, John Davies and Chuck Knoblauch come out of the B ring door area and Roy can see me, he sees me coming out of the smoke and staggering in the hallway. And in their haste to pick me up, Bill, Roy, Chuck and John each grab a limb and give that exertion to get up but I didn’t come with them.  It’s similar to that paraffin or hot wax you stick your hands in and after the wax cools it will just peel right off, and that’s what happened when Bill, Roy, Chuck and John each grabbed a limb and go to pick me up, they pulled chunks of flesh off of me and that’s my first insight into the pain thresholds that are ahead of me as a critical burn survivor.

    I began screaming at them to leave me alone, and in my heart and mind am telling them to leave me there to die.  They don’t do that. Chuck actually rolls me over onto the left hand side and essentially the four of them shake hands with each other, grasping each other’s hands and wrists with my body weight resting on their arms acting as a litter to carry me through; I am yelling at them to put me down and leave me alone. I am yelling at Bill because I recognized Bill but Bill doesn’t recognize me. I am trembling violently and uncontrollably. In all my years of triage, the process is to take care of those that are most injured first, the most critical, and Dr. Baxter treats me first, and that tells me how serious injured I am.

    We get to Georgetown University Hospital. On the other side of the Potomac River across the Key Bridge – there’s a lot of intensity, a lot of voice commands, a lot of directives; clearly a lot of gravity. Normally in an emergency room situation it’s airway, breathing, circulation; once those three things have been stabilized you’re evacuated to specialized care. But more importantly, when flight 77 makes impact with the Pentagon, as the third aircraft that crashed that day, inside the White House Situation Room Vice President Cheney turns to Secretary Moneta, Secretary of Transportation, and says, “Shut down all air space in the Unites States.”  that includes all medivac helicopters.

    Dr. Williams will not just do his best to stabilize me, but he began the escharotomy, the incisions, and the very ghastly things that have to be done for someone who has been so seriously and critically burned. The finality and permanency of life that I thought I was facing inside the Pentagon– I am now in an emergency room realizing that whatever I do here may be my final acts.   So I told Dr. Williams I wanted to take my wedding ring off, because normally jewelry has to be cut off the burn survivor, whether it’s a ring, bracelet or necklace if that’s the part of the body burned because as swelling of the body occurs but the jewelry doesn’t swell, it becomes a tourniquet. Judith Rogers, one of the nurses in Georgetown that had answered the “all hands on deck” call to the Emergency Room, reaches for the ring as my body is cooled like that steak you take off the grill, and as Judith takes that tug and de-gloves the flesh, there’s exposed bone after she pulls it off, there is blood streaming out of the base of my hand and only the Lord can hear me scream in my mind. I am concentrating on the dignity and the finality of the death that I know I am dying; and saying goodbye to my wife and my son, and the symbolism of that wedding ring.

    Mel will eventually arrive at Georgetown. Knowing that she was there was critical to me, more than anything else she was living up to the wedding vows that she had taken 14 years earlier. I am proud of her. I asked for the hospital chaplin, Chaplin Cerillo, to say that final prayer, and it’s just a prayer that says, “Okay Lord, You are in charge here. If you guide Dr William’s hand and the team here at the Georgetown Emergency Room and I survive here, we will salute that flag and move out with that mission; but if You’ve brought me here and Your decision is to bring me into eternity silently and quietly under the care and compassion of my fellow Americans, we will salute that flag too.” It was with the strength, not of a soldier, but of my faith in Christ that I could look at Dr. Williams when that prayer was over with and very laboriously tell him lets get on with it,  resting in the comfort of the commander and chief of life.

    General Peak very wisely asked Mel, “Has Matthew been up here to see his father?” and she said, “No, not yet.” He said, “You need to get Matthew up here because your husband is dying and your son needs to say goodbye before that happens.”

    Matt would make that visit and in 20 plus years of military service, the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do was to say goodbye to my son. I remember watching Matt come in and he came into the right hand side, as I was wrapped like a mummy, with a tube in every orifice in my body. I can’t speak because of the tracheotomy and the feeding tubes and other things; but I can see him walk in and just mouth “I love you dad,” and I could sit there and mouth back to him how much I loved him; and because of that opportunity I had to say goodbye to my son, in that moment I was having my “it is finished moment”.

    As hard as that was to physically and emotionally say goodbye to my son, I think about how difficult it must have been for God the Father to say goodbye to His Son for three days, His Son having known the perfection of heaven. In my death, I would be separated from my son, but joined to my heavenly father, whereas Christ’s death separated Him from the perfection of Heaven and the relationship He had with the Father.

    Time will allow me to forgive. In fact, I can’t say that’s happened. I couldn’t look you in the eye and say, “Yeah I have forgiven and moved on,” but I can tell you that Mel and I accentuate the positive of not only having our lives to remain together and watch Matthew grow up, but also having grandkids somewhere in the future and continue to live in this great nation. We don’t think about the difficulty that five particular terrorists put us through, and concentrating on the negative of the terrorists’ actions; but we concentrate on the grace of the Lord’s actions.

    You know, I got a purple heart for stepping out of a men’s restroom; and many of our men and women in uniform today earn their purple heart today by stepping out of this great nation into foreign danger zones. Christ earned his purple heart by stepping out of the perfection of heaven. And that’s exactly why the term “I am Second and He is first” is so appropriate.

    My name is Brian Birdwell and I am Second.

  • I have been playing with cards since I was actually a kid. I’ve been learning this for a really long time. You know while learning how to become a magician I have developed a skepticism. That’s really where my story starts.

    Having become a magician you understand that there is some kind of scheme or something going on behind the scenes that is ultimately fake or false. The idea of a god seems really silly, it seems really really silly. It’s like the wizard of oz; it’s like the wizard behind the curtain making things happen. However, one day in college, I was asked to go to church to check it out, so I did. Something happened to me that morning that I couldn’t quite fit into my worldview. There was a way there was a version of the story that was shared. I began to ask myself the God question. Maybe there is something more to this? If I was going to believe in this God, if I was going to believe in the bible, if I was going to acknowledge who the bible ultimately points to which is Jesus, if I was going to acknowledge all these things, I asked God to make this real to me. I needed him to make it so real to me. I needed him to take me back behind the curtain. Sometimes when you pray prayers you don’t fully want them to be answered. Mine was getting ready to be answered.

    Here I was, I was 29 years old. I had been married for five years, with a three-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy. I had this really intense pain started happening in my leg, I was popping ten Advil at a time trying to make it go away. We decided that it probably be best I go to the ER. They began to run a bunch of tests on me. The Doctor walked in and told me that my white blood test was real high. They wanted to do some more tests. Then another doctor walked in and on his name badge it said TX Oncology, a cancer doctor. He said, “Mr. Munroe, you have leukemia. We have to do something about this right now.” This doctor basically told me I had two months and that I was going to die if we didn’t do anything.  They got me down to MD Anderson cancer center and they began to run just a battery of tests on me. Cat scans, catheter into my chest, sticking huge needles into my spine; it’s a complete whirlwind.

    The first doctor on call that was going to oversee all of my treatment came in and said “Mr. Munroe, I’ve got some bad news for you.” And at that point I am going, you mean like worse than cancer bad news?  He said the kind of leukemia I had was more rare than what they initially thought. Even if we fought the cancer and got me into remission – this thing was going to come back. No matter how hard we hit it, it was going to keep coming back. There was something they wanted to do, something they could assist in making me completely made well and healed. They wanted to do a procedure called a bone marrow transplant. What they wanted to do was to get me into remission by treating me with chemotherapy, but then find somebody somewhere in the world, who’s DNA matched mine so distinctly that they would literally take their immune system out of their body and put it into mine; and hope that my body would recognize it enough as its own and it would essentially start growing new white blood cells from an entirely new person. That is like real magic.

    So they went and they tested my biological sister, and my own biological sister wasn’t a close enough match. Which was a huge blow to the situation. So then they went into this database that the national bone marrow donor program keeps and they told me that of the 7 million-person database, I had 16 possible matches. Out of those 16 possible matches, they found one perfect match. It was a 19 years old female. We found one perfect match.

    We were elated and so excited that there was someone out there who was not only a match, but after being contacted was willing to give their blood and were brave enough to give me what I needed to live.

    So they began the process and began the chemotherapy. Those first ten days literally destroyed me. As we went through the process they used this terminology like you will be born a new person, when we transplant this and put this new blood inside of you, you will be given a new birthday; you will be like a baby inside a mothers womb all over again. I had heard that terminology before in scripture, so I was thinking that this was kind of weird. I am literally dying a death; and then they brought that bag of blood into the room, the whole time, this whole process just waiting to get this new blood on the inside of me and they stuck it into my IV and the new blood began to run into my body. The doctors and nurses, everybody involved were hoping my body would accept this new blood; and it did, my body accepted this new blood and it slowly began to build a new immune system and I am completely cancer free today.  I am 100% cancer free. It’s no longer I who lives, but someone else who lives inside of me. When they look at my blood now, when they investigate it, they don’t see a 30-year-old male; they see a 19 year old female. I literally have XX chromosome living on the inside of me. A substitution of blood on my behalf so that I could live again; and so that the deception of my body would die. That to me is really difficult to ignore when I ask God to reveal himself to me. That is very difficult to ignore.

    I believe that all of us have a spiritual cancer that’s eating us away on the inside. When we really take a look at it, we are dying and we are begging for somebody to intervene and step in on our behalf.  There is not a question in my mind that the only answer for the human condition is that of Jesus. My life with Jesus has completely changed as a result of my darkest hour. I am actually thankful for the process I went through.  As a skeptic and a magician I fully believe, I fully believe in not only who God is, but also what He did for me. There is no question in my mind.

    My name is Jim Munroe, and I am Second.

  • On July 5th, 1996 World newspapers welcomed Dolly, the first mammal cloned through nuclear transfer. There were several articles, ever since, of some other animal that has been cloned. Almost every magazine that has seen a story of this subject has addressed the question of human cloning. If so, will the process of human cloning somehow eliminate God or minimize or trivialize his creative acts?

    Cloning in simple terms is reproduction through human-made process. Genetic material is produced in a mechanical physical way where the cloned individual gets the identical properties of the donor. A person like you and I can be cloned with identical physical properties but the memory, personality, skill and talent cannot be the same. But nevertheless have we created life? Can we now live without God?

    Cloning is done in two ways – firstly the Artificial Embryo Twinning, which uses the technology of mimicking the natural process of identical twins. A zygote is divided into two cells in a Petri dish, instead of in the mother’s body, and is placed in surrogate mother. The second way is Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, which was used to create Dolly. A somatic cell (a non-germ cell that has two complete sets of chromosomes) is isolated and its nucleus is transferred to an egg cell (whose nucleus has been removed), which after some chemical tweaks behaves like a freshly fertilized zygote. The developed embryo is implanted into a surrogate mother. In spite of the complexity can we still hold to the view that we can do away with God?

    Cloning cannot happen without an intelligent, purposeful scientist who has enough knowledge and equipment to create a living being. The scientist further depends on the available resources like a zygote or a somatic cell and a surrogate mother. Further, life is not created but only transferred from the parent to the cloned being. Therefore cloning, which is a very delicate and complex process, proves that our God is great for he created the world out of nothing and gave life to the first couple.

    Cloning cannot happen either by natural selection or by chance, which is even more applicable to the scientists who are able to clone. Reason cannot come from non-reason and purpose cannot come from chance. Further the complex matter of cloning has become an ethical issue. Without taking sides, the concept of ethics is applicable only to humans because we are moral beings – we have moral law in us, therefore there must be a moral law giver.

    God gave us creativity and we are able to recreate. God gave us rationality and we are able to seek either to invent or discover. Loren Eiseley, a distinguished scientist writes, “Man is the Cosmic Orphan. He is the only creature in the universe who asks, ‘Why?’ Other animals have instincts to guide them.” Of all the questions the most important are – Why I am here? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life? These are the questions that can be answered only with reference to the producer or creator – purpose and meaning can come only from the producer.

    Some have rejected God because of much evil and pain in this world, but now the whole burden falls upon humans. Gregory Koukl, in his website Stand to Reason, writes that a person who rejects God has to still face evil and has to explain where good comes from, for nothing is evil in a world that is without God. William Lane Craig in his website Reasonable Faith argues that if God does not exist, then both humans and the universe are inevitably doomed to death for there is no hope of immortality outside God. People who believe in themselves and their abilities, like cloning, are the perfect examples what G. K Chesterton said “When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”

    A rational, creative and moral human being cannot come into existence without an intelligent purposeful and just creator God. Belief in such a God is not blind for the subjective quest and objective reason, the order and delicacy of the creation, gives us the base.  Paul in his letter to intellectual Romans writes, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1.20)  The Psalmist found meaning in worshiping that creator God …

    You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

    You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

    You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

    Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

    How precious are your thoughts about me,* O God. They cannot be numbered!

    I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!

    And when I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139.13-18)

    For further reflection, read God’s particle.

  • From India to Saudi Arabia 

    My name is Jag Mohan Chhabra and I was born in a staunch Hindu family in India.  After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant and working for some years in Delhi and Mumbai, my next destination was Saudi Arabia, as finance manager of a multinational company. There I became very good friends with Jawahar Lal Sethi, whose wife also happened to hail from Delhi.  Through them, I came in touch with a person, who lived in a village 130 km from Hyderabad, and who was later to be my ‘Guru Ji.’

    Whenever my friend Jawahar faced any tough situation, he would consult this Guru, who used to solve all issues through his divine powers. This phenomenon impressed me so much that I also became his disciple, and for the next seven years, this Guru was my sole guide and philosopher. The then Indian Ambassador in Saudi Arabia was also his disciple.

    This Guru used to make the impossible, possible and if I considered him a ‘living god’ giving him precedence over all the deities I had worshipped until then, it was only natural. I can recall many instances where he performed near miracles, justifying my deep faith in him.

    Saudi Arabia to Canada

    The Guru passed away all of a sudden at a young age in 1988. It was like the ground giving way under my feet. I later emigrated to Canada. While in Saudi Arabia, I had suffered from minor ailments earlier, but in Canada my health condition deteriorated further. My heartbeat often rose to 150 as against the normal 72. There was restlessness and sweating and I was having a multi system failure. Am I heading for a heart attack?  Such fears and above all the fear of death haunted me. After subjecting me to numerous tests, doctors could not find any reason for my sickness. I was given medication for reducing the heart rate contending that since the cause of the disease is not known, there was no way they could treat me.

    Back to India

    Thinking that it was better to die back home, I returned to India. At a friend’s suggestion, I went to a top astrologer who had hotline facility with central ministers including the then PM. Looking at my horoscope, he divined that it was an adverse planetary positioning that was causing the trouble. All that he wanted me to do was to go to the Hanuman temple in Delhi and complete a ritual– that of adorning the deity with sindoor, ghee, and silver leaves (in local term called Chola Chadhana).

    Brush with exorcism

    At the Hanuman temple, I befriended another devotee, one Dr Jitender Arora, who used to make fond inquiries about my condition. When I did not make any progress in my health, he ventured to suggest that my problems might not be physical. It could be the effect of some black magic, witchcraft or something similar. Dr Jitender had earlier got his sister treated successfully from an exorcist, for severe witchcraft.

    I could not brush aside my friend’s fears. After much persuasion, accompanied by my son, I went to meet the exorcist who happened to be in Delhi around that time. He held my hand and with an expression of astonishment on his face remarked that such was the deadly potential of the witchcraft that it was a miracle that I was still alive. Two spirits came out of me and two from my son. To the tantrik’s (exorcist) questions, they began answering in Hyderabadi dialect. It was all a new experience to me and quite shocking! After this, my health seemed to improve for a little while but after some time things became worse than before.

    No hope, no peace

    Here I was, lacking nothing…power, position and wealth. But there was no peace within. Whatever I attempted ended in failure. The deteriorating health filled me with fear. I received all kinds of suggestions to resolve my situations and I tried most of them. I was like a drowning man, clutching at every straw.

    Here I was, lacking nothing…power, position and wealth. But there was no peace within. Whatever I attempted ended in failure. The deteriorating health filled me with fear. I received all kinds of suggestions to resolve my situations and I tried most of them. I was like a drowning man, clutching at every straw.

    We have come to pray for you

    One fine morning, around 7am, my sister- in- law (my elder brother’s wife) along with some friends descended on my home and she said: “We have come to pray for you; there is witchcraft done on you!”  My sister-in-law had accepted Christ and I did not appreciate her conversion from Hinduism to Christianity. So I was not at all happy to see her and her Christian friends.

    So when they offered to pray for me, I had difficulty concealing my hatred. My sister-in-law then insisted that I pray to Jesus, and leave all other gods and goddesses of mine. Being a staunch Hindu, this was unacceptable to me. However, I told her that the only concession I was willing to make was to accept Jesus as one of the gods. To which she replied that I cannot have my feet in two boats. I was offended but at the same time did not want to be discourteous. They left after some more prayers.

    This letter set me thinking

    A few days later my sister – in – law’s daughter wrote me a four-sentence letter.  It began: “My dear uncle, “You are the most religious person in the family. How is it that your gods and goddesses could not protect you from witchcraft? I am compelled to write these few lines by the Holy Spirit.” It kindled my anger for it was quite provocative. I tore it off in a huff. However the words stayed in my mind and I now started thinking “Yes, how is it that a person like me, so devout and faithful, should be troubled by witchcraft? Why could my gods and goddesses not protect me?”

    Her zeal was understandable. She had tasted the power of faith at a point of crisis in her own life. The crisis was in the form of a spinal problem. She had such severe pain that she even decided to take her own life to end the misery after the doctors had given up. It was then that a Sri Lankan neighbour in Saudi Arabia, a Hindu who had embraced the Christian faith, and his wife, a Buddhist turned Christian, prayed for her and cured her quite miraculously. My elder brother had also by then become quite interested in the Gospel and even taken to preaching Christ in Mumbai after resigning from Saudi Arabia.

    I attend a Christian convention

    It was November 1994. The Hindustan Times advertised a three day convention of evangelist John Osteen, at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. It seemed to be about spirituality, about the claims of Jesus. Besides, there were promises that the sick would be prayed for, and healed miraculously. In spite of my reservations about Christianity I decided to go.

    Thousands attended the mammoth convention (held by John Osteen and his team) at the large stadium. When it was time for prayer, he asked the sick to place their hands over the area of the body where the sickness was located.

    I placed my hands on my chest, liver, kidney and forehead by turn for I had no idea where my illness was rooted. In fact I was sick all over. Nothing happened to me. I was however puzzled when a sardarji on crutches nearby got up suddenly and began shouting, “I am healed!  I am healed!!” A few others came over the mike and also narrated their healing experiences.

    Until that day, I had not heard of anyone getting healed through prayers said over the microphone. I was convinced this was a stage-managed attempt, to convert people to the Christian faith. I said to myself,” This fraud must stop! I must report this to the police.” Back home I shared the same with my wife. Being more religious and prudent, she advised me to exercise caution: “God can do anything!”

    I decided to attend on second day also. I went alone, my wife had stayed back. This time I sat in an area where very sick persons were brought for healing (some on hospital beds). Again, more testimonies of various kinds of healing were heard. Doubtless, it began to dawn on me that so many people couldn’t be lying, with most of them being non-Christians.

    Walls start to crumble

    The walls of resistance within me (to the claims of the miracle working power of Christ) began to crumble.

    When I drove back home, one thought occupied my mind: if this is the true God, as my sister-in-law had insisted, then what will I do with her demand to give up all other gods whom I had worshipped until now? That seemed be an impossible task to me. I said to myself, “No, I cannot give up reciting the Hanuman Chalisa, or the hymns to Durga and Shiva … May be, I will add Christ to my list of deities.” The fear of estranging my gods was lurking within me.

    My mind was struggling to find a way of escape from the dilemma when this formula struck to me: “I will also pray to Jesus with my recitation of “Om Namo Jesus!”(I worship you Jesus). The Bible says (as I learnt later) “—-whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

    Power in the name of Jesus

    The next day, as I lisped the new Jesus mantra, I felt the darkness lifting from me, and negativity being replaced with hope and expectation. With passing days and weeks, my life seemed to take a new direction, with my problems getting resolved one by one.

    In three months, there was a complete change in my situation. Firstly, my health returned to normal. My heartbeat of 150 per minute fell to 72 without any medication. I also began to prosper much more.

    Encouraged by this new turn in my life, I rang up my sister- in- law to inquire what I must do next. “Burn up all those books and literature on gods and goddesses, astrology, yoga etc!” came her crisp reply. Soon afterwards, I made a bonfire of them. My neighbors watching the papers aflame wondered whether I was destroying secret documents in anticipation of an income tax raid!

    My sister-in-law’s next command was more difficult to carry out. She also wanted me to throw away all those bottles of whisky and wine, gathered from abroad and stored with care–some of them were very costly brands. For months, I debated within me unwilling to incur the monetary loss involved. Then at one point I felt an inner urge –that was ten days before the next Deepavali —to take a decision and throw away those bottles of intoxicants.

    Soon in another week, I felt God was rewarding me for my obedience: the reward came in the form of a plot allotment in prime land in Faridabad, for which I had applied long ago. It was the only plot available (on the main sector road) in a draw of lots in the public quota, the other one having gone under the chief minister’s quota. And the plot was worth a fortune.

    The veil is lifted

    As the veil lifted, I become aware that the Lord had delivered me from demonic powers of which I was ignorant earlier. My Guru (from Hyderabad) was in fact using the powers of darkness to fulfill my needs. On the outside, he was a Guru but inside a man controlling evil spirits, an agent of satan.

    The world of spirits and demons deceive a large number of people, even those who ought to know better. The Bible has rightly warned: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

    The prince of the air (devil) controls the world and seeks to infiltrate the mind of man. It uses many allurements to deceive even the devout. Manifestations of demonic activities are too numerous to be listed. Often the devil appears before us as an angel of light. He is behind much of the evil in this world, the conflicts, hatred, wars and the like. That is why Lord Jesus warns in the Bible “Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness” (Luke 11:35).

    The tantrik (exorcist), it dawned on me, was able to astound me by making things happen through the working of evil spirits. He had already put under his power a good number of people and wanted to manipulate me too. He had a list of distinguished people from all walks of life including politicians, doctors, engineers etc.

    Today varied spiritual experiences claiming miraculous results but having their origin to evil forces, pose a threat to mankind.

    Lord Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, according to the Bible (1 John 3: 8). He spent considerable time casting out evil spirits from ‘possessed’ men and women. Not only that, He gave power to all those who believe in Him to cast out such spirits. And He gave the promise: “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18) and “Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt you”(Luke 10:19).

    You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

    The Bible says that God who is sovereign gave us freewill and when we misused it we became sinners. But God who is love sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who used His freewill to die as our substitute and provided a solution. And now, he pleads with us to use our freedom to accept this offer and become truly free beings. Do you want to be truly free?

    If yes, follow these steps to peace.

    My name is Jag Mohan Chhabra and I was born in a staunch Hindu family in India.  After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant and working for some years in Delhi and Mumbai, my next destination was Saudi Arabia, as finance manager of a multinational company. There I became very good friends with Jawahar Lal Sethi, whose wife also happened to hail from Delhi.  Through them, I came in touch with a person, who lived in a village 130 km from Hyderabad, and who was later to be my ‘Guru Ji.’

    Whenever my friend Jawahar faced any tough situation, he would consult this Guru, who used to solve all issues through his divine powers. This phenomenon impressed me so much that I also became his disciple, and for the next seven years, this Guru was my sole guide and philosopher. The then Indian Ambassador in Saudi Arabia was also his disciple.

    This Guru used to make the impossible, possible and if I considered him a ‘living god’ giving him precedence over all the deities I had worshipped until then, it was only natural. I can recall many instances where he performed near miracles, justifying my deep faith in him.

    Saudi Arabia to Canada

    The Guru passed away all of a sudden at a young age in 1988. It was like the ground giving way under my feet. I later emigrated to Canada. While in Saudi Arabia, I had suffered from minor ailments earlier, but in Canada my health condition deteriorated further. My heartbeat often rose to 150 as against the normal 72. There was restlessness and sweating and I was having a multi system failure. Am I heading for a heart attack?  Such fears and above all the fear of death haunted me. After subjecting me to numerous tests, doctors could not find any reason for my sickness. I was given medication for reducing the heart rate contending that since the cause of the disease is not known, there was no way they could treat me.

  • In 2002, Publishers Weekly called Prayer of Jabez “the fastest –selling book of all time,” quickly becoming a #1 New York Times bestseller. Who would have predicted such an outcome considering Bruce Wilkinson first published the 93-page book in the spring of 2000?

    The book centers around the bible verse found in 1 Chronicles 4:10, where Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”

    God granted his request.

    No where else is Jabez mentioned in the Bible than in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. 1 Chronicles 4:9 says that Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother named him Jabez, which meant “pain.” Funny she picked such a foreboding name for her son.

    This first verse makes me think all the way back to when I was a child. One of my first photos as a toddler shows me with long black hair and wearing a dress. My mother always wanted to have a girl, and she took liberty with my innocence and played house according to her unfulfilled dreams. Three years passed before the start of school forced Mum to rethink my effeminate appearance!

    My long hair also represented my introduction to Hindu spirituality and tradition. I grew up in India, and my family observed typical Hindu customs, celebrating my first years with various sacrosanct rituals. I remember well the Mundan Sanskar, also known as my first haircut as a child, which occurred with my family on the temple steps in Haridwar. In faith, my family carried me to a sacred location in India where I partook of this blessing and received the start of a long and happy life.

    In the Sikh religious tradition, a newborn infant is presented by the family to Guru Granth Sahib. At this ceremony, the child is given a name for the first time, chosen with thoughtfulness and care. The naming traditions found in the Old Testament were not dissimilar. Names were typically chosen according to their special meanings.

    My naming ceremony resulted in my name, Amitabh, which means “giver of light.” My mother had chosen it in honor of Amitava Roy, who was her ENT doctor. It may have helped that Amitabha is a Sanskrit word that literally means boundless light and boundless life. Amitabha is also the name for Buddha in the land of ultimate bliss, and I am told is one of the most popular and well-known Buddhas in China.

    Based on my family’s beliefs and traditions, is easy for me to understand why I have the name that I do, but I still cannot understand what made Jabez’s mother name her son after “pain.” The Bible does not elaborate.

    In the second Bible verse that mentions Jabez, he uttered his famous prayer that has since influenced human beings to pray according to a few simple principles. I am attracted to it because of its clarity in terms of what Jabez desired from God. Bruce Wilkinsons, in his book, identifies the main foci of the prayer as follows:

    1.     God, give me your blessing: “God really does have unclaimed blessings waiting for you, my friend, I know it sounds impossible – even embarrassingly suspicious in our self-serving day. Yet that very exchange – your want for God’s plenty – has been His loving will for your life from eternity past.” – The Prayer of Jabez.

    2.     Give me a new territory – enlarge my territory: “When we seek God’s blessings as the ultimate value in life, we are throwing ourselves entirely into the river of His will and power and purposes for us. All our other needs become secondary to what we really want – which is to become wholly immersed in what God is trying to do in us, through us, and around us for His glory.” – The Prayer of Jabez.

    3.     Your hand be with me: This sounds similar to my favorite verse in the Bible, found in Nehemiah 2:8b. “And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.”

    4.     Keep me from harm or evil. “We are redeemed and commissioned for the front lines. That’s why praying to be kept from evil is such a vital part of the blessed life.” – The Prayer of Jabez.

    5.     I will be free from pain. “Lord. Keep me from making the mistakes I’m prone to when temptation comes. I confess that what I think is necessary, smart, or personally beneficial is so often only the beautiful wrapping on sin. So please, keep evil far from me!” – The Prayer of Jabez.

    In light of Jabez’ prayer, I find strength in the words of Jesus:
    “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
    For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
    (Matthew 7:7-8)

  • It is likely no surprise to you that God has wired women and men differently. We all recognize some of these differences, but others often hide in plain sight. Shaunti Feldhahn, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, author and speaker wrote a fantastic book, For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. In it, she recounts the surprising truths she learned about men after interviewing more than 1,000 of them. We had the opportunity to interview Shaunti for our radio broadcast, HomeWord with Jim Burns. In our discussion, we spoke about 10 things guys wish women knew about men. We think you’ll find these 10 things fascinating! Even more, we believe that in understanding these issues, you’ll be equipped to lead your marriage to a better place!

    1. Men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected.

    Husbands need to know that their wives respect them both privately and publicly. Men thrive when they know that their wives trust them, admire them and believe in them. Shaunti Feldhahn’s research indicated that men would rather sense the loss of loving feelings from their wives than to be disrespected by them.

    2. A man’s anger is often a response to feeling disrespected by his wife.

    When a husband becomes angry with his wife, he may not come out and say, “You’re disrespecting me!” But, there is a good likelihood that he is feeling stung by something his wife has done which he considers disrespectful and humiliating.

    3. Men are insecure.

    Men are afraid that they aren’t cutting it in life —  not just at work, but at home, in their role as a husband. They may never vocalize this, but inwardly, they are secretly vulnerable. The antidote? Affirmation. To men, affirmation from their wives is everything! If they don’t receive this affirmation from their wives, they’ll seek it elsewhere. When they receive regular and genuine affirmation from their wives (not flattery, by the way), they become much more secure and confident in all areas of their lives.

    4. Men feel the burden of being the provider for their family.

    Intellectually, it doesn’t matter how much or little a man makes, or whether or not his wife makes more or less money in her career. Men simply bear the emotional burden of providing for their family. It’s not a burden they’ve chosen to bear. Men are simply wired with this burden. As such, it is never far from their minds and can result in the feeling of being trapped. While wives cannot release their husbands from this burden, they can relieve it through a healthy dose of appreciation, encouragement and support.

    5. Men want more sex.

    Everyone’s natural response to this is probably, “Duh!” But, that response is probably for the wrong reason. We primarily assume that men want more sex with their wives due to their physical wiring (their “needs”). But, surprisingly, Shaunti Feldhahn’s research showed that the reason men want more sex is because of their strong need to be desired by their wives. Men simply need to be wanted. Regular, fulfilling sex is critical to a man’s sense of feeling loved and desired.

    6. Sex means more than sex.

    When men feel their wives desire them sexually, it has a profound effect on the rest of their lives. It gives them an increasing sense of confidence and well-being that carries over into every other area of his life. The flipside of this coin also carries a profoundly negative affect. When a husband feels rejected sexually, he not only feels his wife is rejecting him physically, but that she is somehow rejecting his life as a husband, provider and man. This is why making sex a priority in marriage is so incredibly important!

    7. Men struggle with visual temptation.

    This means the vast majority of men respond to visual images when it comes to women. And, this doesn’t just mean the guys with wandering eyes. Even the most godly husband cannot avoid noticing a woman who dresses in a way that draws attention to her body. Even if it is just a glance, these visual images are stored away in the male brain as a sort of “visual rolodex”; that will reappear without any warning. Men can choose whether to dwell on these images and memories or dismiss them, but they can’t control when these images appear.

    8. Men enjoy romance, but doubt their skills to be romantic.

    True, many men appear to be unromantic clods, but it doesn’t mean that they want to be that way! Men want to be romantic, but they just doubt their ability to pull it off. They are plagued by internal hesitations, perceiving the risk of humiliation and failure as too high. Wives can do a great deal to increase their husbands’ confidence in their romantic skills through encouragement and redefining what romance looks like. For example, a wife may balk when her husband asks her to go along to the hardware store, but it’s likely that he’s asking because he sees it as a time they can get away as a couple and hang out together. What’s not romantic about that?

    9. Men care about their wife’s appearance.

    This isn’t saying that all men want their wives to look like the latest supermodel. What men really want is to know that their wives are making an effort to take care of themselves (and not letting themselves go) because it matters to them (the husbands!). Husbands appreciate the efforts their wives make to maintain their attractiveness.

    10. Men want their wives to know how much they love them.

    This was the number one response of men. Men aren’t confident in their ability to express this, but they love their wives dearly. Men want to show how much they love their wives and long for them to understand this fact.

    Want to learn more? Check out For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men

    Printed by permission of HomeWord.  For additional information on HomeWord, visit http://www.homeword.com.

  • TipriTV.com  What is True Love?  By John Christopher
    ‘There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done,Nothing you can sing that cant be sung,Nothing you can say but you can learnHow to play the game,It’s easy – All you need is love,All you need is love,All you need is love, love,Love is all you need”That’s how the Beatles sang about love.There is absolutely nobody who hates to be loved!And surely there is none who loves to be hated!
    Be it an infant just born or an aged person close to death, we all long for love.To be loved and to love…
    ‘The mystery of love is stronger than the mystery of death’, says an old saying. After all what is love? A feeling? An emotion? A force or what?
    Is it just coming together of two bodies or two minds or two souls or anything more?
    Love is a gift of one’s inner most soul to another so both can be whole”, said one wise man.”Love is life, If you miss it, you miss life” said another.
    Years have passed since the Beatles song, but the song is still around and it makes people smile. Too bad it had to end so soon. The sixties are ancient history now, the Beatles long since split up, John Lennon shot to death for no reason. Their song should have changed the world, but no one seems to have gotten the message.
    In a world full of such wonderful definitions of love, with increasing number of love stories, movies and music filling our shelves, one fails to understand on the other hand, why the crime rate, rape rate, AIDS rate and suicide rate are on the rise at alarming heights.
    According to one report in India only one out of seven suicides is reported to the police. In 1987 the reported suicides were 36,000 where as in 1997 it has risen to 98,000.
    The last decade of the last century population in India has grown by 20% where as the suicides have grown by 21.2% 
    On the one side thick volumes on love, on the other side its death of all kinds.
    Nothing seems to satisfy the human soul, and the question still remains the same…
    Some tried to find solution in the platonic, some tried to find in the physical.Some tried sex, some tried relationships, some tried possessions.
    But isn’t it true that most of it ended up in disappointment, disease and death?
    Princess Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles was called the wedding of the century, but very soon love faded, relationship broken and her funeral became the funeral of the Century. The whole world watched what her brother said at the funeral… ‘she remained an insecure person at heart…searching for love’What went wrong?
    Probably there’s a misunderstanding. May be it’s a wrong prescription following a wrong diagnosis of the question… What is love?One description that stood the test of time was given by a man called Paul in the first century AD.
    Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered.It keeps no record wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always perseveres… Love never fails.Interestingly though Paul was a very learned philosopher of his day, he was a religious fanatic, a murder, self-righteous freak, who later was transformed into a self giving, gentle human being, so full of love that he could explain to the world, about love in such a way where all other philosophers have failed.
    He said, he was touched by love. A love that loved him when he was still an enemy. Isn’t it amazing that there is a love that loves the enemy?
    Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend’, said Martin Luther King Jr. True Love is sacred, love is holy and is pure, has the power to transform, because love is the true nature of God. For God is love. God is the source, the author of this fragile delicacy called Love. 
    But why we fail to understand Love, where is the key?The secret is in understanding the source, the author and His purposes. 
    Failing to understand the purposes of the source will only end up in misusing and abusing the product.Therefore God demonstrated His kind of love. Showing true love, the love that transforms, the love that satisfies the soul, the love that forgives.
    This is how God demonstrated his love for us, that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ into this world that we might live through him,’ states the Bible. This is the love that loves the enemy. This is the love that helps the hopeless to live with hope. It is unconditional. It is the love that wipes away tears, takes away our pain because God chose to allow His Son to cry our tears, take our hurts and die our death. He bore the punishment of our sin to set the guilty free. 
    True love takes away fears, grants freedom. Come experience true love. May your life be transformed, may you show forth true love.Its only in Jesus.For God so loved that world that He gave his only begotten Son, Jesus, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.Let the love, love you.
    More love stories here.

  • Breaking Through The Veil Of Shame

    Silent, uncontrollable sobbing … Bruises and beatings … Shoving and slapping … Children so traumatized they’re afraid of their own shadows. And the endless string of lies … “He fell down.” “It was an accident.” But child abuse is no accident. It violates God’s fundamental purpose for man. And parents and children around the world find themselves ensnared in its cruel clutches.

    From Taboo to Truth

    When people hear the term “child abuse” they may think it only occurs in under-educated, poverty-stricken families. However, this epidemic occurs in all types of families.

    In America alone, reported cases of child abuse exceed 1 million each year, and some experts say the actual number of abuse victims may be far greater.

    Types of child abuse include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Affected children often suffer physical injuries, emotional scars, malnutrition, and sadly, even death. Child abuse also spiritually cripples precious young lives. These children may struggle to accept God as their loving heavenly Father ( Matt. 18:5-6). Other family members often suffer silently. Even the offender suffers, increasingly bound by the shame and secrecy of the addictive behavior.

    But as many have already discovered, there is hope. The vicious cycle of abuse can be broken, especially as we present our wounds to the Gentle Healer, Jesus Christ.

    What Drives the Sin of Abuse?

    So what causes child abuse? Often, parents who abuse their children have been victims of abuse themselves. Driven by years of repressed hatred, these parents continue the cycle.

    Sometimes even the most dedicated parents can momentarily lose control — frustrated by a child’s actions or simply overwhelmed by their own sense of failure or frustration. But an isolated incident or two, left unchecked, can become a destructive force, tearing apart a family.

    God’s View of Abuse

    The Bible gives much practical advise on the subject of child-rearing. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it,” says the writer of Proverbs ( 22:6). Parents are clearly cautioned to take steps to correct foolishness which “is bound up in the heart of a child” ( Prov. 22:15).

    Parental discipline is essential, but some parents view these Scriptures as giving absolute control over their children. This is not true. God’s Word should never be used as a license for abuse. Parents need to discipline their children, but they must keep their own emotions and actions in check ( Eph. 6:4, Col. 3:21). In God’s eyes there simply is no justification for abuse.

    Finding Help

    If you are trapped in the unrelenting cycle and sin of child abuse, don’t leave this webpage until you have made a commitment before the Lord to break this destructive pattern. It won’t be easy, but it could be a matter of life and death. Understand that you are not alone. Jesus knows you better that you could ever know yourself (see Psalm 139), and He is willing and able to help ( Heb. 4:15-16). But you need to ask for His grace to share honestly your struggle with a trusted brother or sister in Christ, or with your pastor. Follow these steps to get help.

    1. Acknowledge the problem. To receive healing, admit that you have a problem. Once you’ve broken the silence and confessed your sin of abuse, God’s grace and forgiveness can begin to restore you ( Psalm 32:3-7). 2. Acknowledge your weakness. Allow God to minister in your weakness, for in it He can make you strong ( 2 Cor. 12:9, Heb. 1:32-34). 3. Take action. Pray with other believers and share your struggles, seeking the help of pastors, or other appropriate counselors ( Prov. 15:22, James 5:16).

    If You’ve Been Abused

    If you have been the victim of abuse, you need to know that God has not abandoned you. He is “intimately acquainted” with all your ways ( Psalm 139:3). He knows your pain, and He has a plan for complete healing and restoration for your life. Consider these simple steps as you seek the Father’s healing.

    1. Face the abuse. The shame associated with abuse is unbearable. You can hide the pain for a season, but eventually, the wounds will surface. But take comfort, for God knows the horror that you have unjustly endured (see Psalm 139, Matt. 10:29-31). Ask God for the strength to face your nightmare of abuse.

    2. Forgive and release. As difficult as it may sound, you need to begin by forgiving the perpetrator for his or her actions against you. It may seem impossible, but the consequences of unforgiveness can produce even further destruction ( 2 Samuel 13:23-29). Instead, ask God to give you the grace you need to forgive ( 1 Samuel 1:15-17, Psalm 42:3-4, Psalm 62:8).

    3. Seek shelter. If you are still in an abusive situation, immediately seek shelter. Consider turning to family members, your church family, or perhaps authorities if necessary. Ultimately, rest in God’s shelter. Turn to His Word (the Psalms offer much encouragement for the downcast).

    4. Move on. Once you have taken steps to forgive, ask God to help you pick up the pieces, and seek again the abundant life in Jesus that He has for you ( John 10:10). Press on and leave the past to God ( Phil. 3:13-14).

    As You Pray

    If your life has been devastated by child abuse, turn to Jesus right now, and, on bended knee, ask Him to take control of your life: “Dear Lord. I have never been confronted with a deeper, more urgent need than right now. Please minister to me and my family members in Your perfect love and compassion. Break the chains which bind us. And restore us to the joy of Your salvation as we receive forgiveness and healing in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

    God’s Word on Child Abuse

    “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” ( Eph. 6:1-4)

    Scriptures for Study

    Matthew 18:5-6, Mark 13-16 — Jesus’ attitude toward children

    Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21 — Proper attitudes for parents

    Psalm 32:3-7 — Acknowledging the problem

    James 5:13-20 — The church and restoration

    Hebrews 12:15 — How to avoid bitterness

     

  • During elections, over 700 million Indians make a decision to choose their government and its leader. The verdict is given; some are happy while others are not. The new-old government is formed and both the happy and the unhappy have to live with it, their choice!

    Do you know that we humans are the only privileged beings on planet earth who have the ability to choose? And this intellectual faculty to choose makes us accountable for our choices. We are free to choose but we cannot escape the consequences of our choices.

    Stanley Jones, a good friend of Mahatma Gandhi, once rightly said, “You can make your own choices; you cannot control the consequences of those choices.” Choices can be intentional or impulsive, but the result is what we all have to live with it. While we enjoy the fruit of the good choices we make, we also suffer from the effect of the bad ones.

    Human memory is strange and it often brings to mind the bad choices we make. As a result, we blame ourselves several times for one or more of these wrong choices. We suffer from humiliation, grief, fear, guilt, remorse and loss of integrity and credibility. To cover up, we try to justify ourselves before others. But in the court of our conscience, we find no excuse to hide any of our secrets. The worst part is we find ourselves alone, in spite of being in the company of our dear ones. We look for a pill that can abort the feelings of guilt and fear.

    We realize that our personal and private world is suddenly burst like a hand grenade. It explodes outward and affects our life and our surroundings. We realize that we are not able to perform well in our tasks, and unable to meet the dead lines.

    Soon friends find that we have become different and they question us, but we have no courage to tell them that we are facing the consequences of our wrong choices. We put up a plastic smile to save our dignity, which actually according to our conscience is already lost. To cover up one mistake we deliberately end up making more mistakes – bad choices.

    We feel that we have reached the rock bottom, hit the wall and reached the dead end. In those moments, we hope that someone would accept us just as we are, and forgive our wrong choices and give us the confidence to move ahead.

    Are these lines an echo of your cry? Are you going through similar painful experience????? Relax! You are not alone walking through this dark path. Infact, almost all people experience the same situation several times in their lives. Again, it’s a choice they have to make. While some boldly take the path to restoration, others take the path to degeneration.

    Friends, it’s time that you make a deliberate choice to be restored. I once chose this path on the suggestion given by a friend. Suffering from the effects of my wrong choices has changed; I now feel, I am like a fellow-patient recovering soon because I made a choice earlier to be cured. Enjoying the fruits on the path of restoration, I am now able to give you some advice. That path is the God of the Bible, who loves you and is happy to restore you.

    Peter, the chief among the disciples of Jesus Christ, once claimed that he would never disown his guru. But within hours of that claim, he disowned his master before a servant girl just as foretold by Jesus. The burden of that guilt was so heavy that he decided to quit the team.

    Later, Jesus met him not to condemn but to restore. And history says that Peter became the first official spokesperson of Jesus. Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Thomas and host of other great persons in the Bible had similar experiences. They all made their choices to be restored. Are you willing to make that choice? You will be restored!

  • When Charlie Sheen’s rants and raves in the media, it highlights a little bit of what it is like to be in relationship with a narcissist. People who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder have an exaggerated sense of their own self-importance, making them difficult to deal with in families.

    You might experience them as conceited or obsessed with their own brilliance, wealth, ideal love, beauty, etc. You will notice:

    •    a grandiose self-importance
    •    preoccupation with success
    •    a drive to be admired and have attention
    •    unable to accept criticism
    •    extremely self-centered
    •    egotistical
    •    arrogant
    •    selfish

    The central thought of a narcissist is, “I must be a special person and I deserve special treatment”. This thought is a distortion of our uniqueness. While all of us are special to God, the narcissist thinks he or she is better than others. God is not impressed by our accomplishments, outward appearances, or who we are. He is no respecter of persons.

    Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an ingrained pattern of behavior and thought that takes work to change. Here are three ways you can interact with a narcissist that may improve your relationship:

    1) When there is a conflict, ask the narcissist to listen to and consider your point of view.

    Empathy is usually missing; so it must be addressed. Ask the person to pause and reflect on your position before they offer an opinion.

    2) Work with the person, not against him/her.

    You must decide how much to accommodate the person and where to set limits. For example, a pastor counseling a woman who is narcissistic and wanted to close the door of his office so they could be alone and uninterrupted, did not let that happen. She felt she deserved special treatment, but the pastor had to set a limit regarding leaving the door open. He explained why in terms of protecting her against gossip. Since she was concerned about how things appeared to others, she agreed. If the pastor had simply talked about how important it was for him to keep the door open, he may not have gotten cooperation. He set a boundary, but appealed to her specialness.

    3) Don’t lose sleep over the person’s intense need for approval.

    Instead, try to stick to goals that involve helping the person adapt to others in the family. Becoming angry or upset over the person’s need for self-importance gets you no where.

    Relationships with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are challenging and take much patience. In order for things to improve, the narcissist has to acknowledge the problem and want to change. Otherwise, it is a matter of knowing how to work with such a personality.

    PROMO: Now until April 1, 2011, if you post a review of Dr. Linda Mintle’s new book, I Love My Mother But… on Amazon.com, we will send you a free book to give as a gift or keep yourself. Just post the review and send your mailing address to drlindahelps@gmail.com.

  • Genesis 21:1-4,12-14,30-34 Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him… But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. “And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and gave her the boy, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba… He said, “You shall take these seven ewe lambs from my hand so that it may be a witness to me, that I dug this well.” Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because there the two of them took an oath. So they made a covenant at Beersheba; and Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, arose and returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines for many days.

    Three major themes are in today’s chapter and as always, I recommend you read the entire chapter rather than just the few verses I’ve used to bring in the essence of the chapter.
    First is the birth of Isaac, which was a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah, and their age did not come in the way of God delivering this bundle of joy at the right time, God’s perfect timing.
    Next is the separation of Hagar and Ishmael from Abraham’s household and it seems rather cruel but God’s assured Abraham of Hagar and Ishmael’s welfare and therefore he goes ahead with it.
    Lastly, the human covenant between King Abimelech and Abraham that gave Abraham the peace of knowing he was here to stay for a while and not move for a while.
    What is God trying to teach us through the joyous birth, the painful separation and the peaceful covenant?
    As we can see in all these situations, God has eternally been in control and does what pleases Himself because His will is perfect and His ways are perfect. There is a stark difference between our thinking and God’s because He knows and sees all and has a plan.
    With us, we know little, see only what is important to us and try to work out what’s best for all ‘given what we know’! Take a judge for example, he rules on a case based not on what is but what he is told, how it is presented, what the law states and what might be the best solution.
    With God, He is the judge, He sees everything, He knows what the outcome is and does what He knows is right for He is the RIGHTEOUS ONE!
    We can serve our own limited wisdom or submit to the one who is everlasting and who loves us so dearly that He sacrificed His only son Jesus Christ, that we may be washed clean of our sinfulness and be transformed by the power of His Spirit that takes seat in us.
    Abraham describes God in Hebrew as ‘OLAM’ or ‘NETSACH’ or ‘AD’ which mean always, everlasting or eternity and we serve an eternal God! Is that not a great assurance!!!
    In His Loving Service,
    ServantBoy

    Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

    If you would like to know about Jesus, then please click here.

  •  I find that my workout time is also a great time to clear my head and get real with God about what is going on in my life. As endorphins are released, so are thoughts of what areas of my life need Him more. Prayer Training is a simple way that you can combine your physical and spiritual health. Prayer Training is a creative approach to integrating prayer time with your physical workout. Start with a great body-weight conditioning program and what I call the ACTION prayer.

    All you need is a watch or timer, a little bit of space, and a willingness to work hard. Each exercise below will be performed for 30 seconds followed immediately by only 30 seconds of rest. The exercise descriptions below are just tips, not full explanations of the movement. Since these exercises are common you can also find videos and photos of each exercise on the internet.

    All ages and fitness levels can perform the exercises in Prayer Training. If you are new to training and have more specific questions about each exercise, you can contact me.

    1. PUSH UP– Target: Chest, shoulders, triceps, core. If push-ups off the ground are too hard, try angling your body off an incline surface like a countertop or stable chair. Common mistakes – lowering to your chin or collar bone rather than your chest, and keeping your hips too high. You should have a straight line from your head to your feet.

    2. SQUAT– Target: Complete lower body. We are made to squat! Watch any one year old learning to walk and when they get tired, they sit in a perfect squat. Mimic this movement. Push your hips back and down; don’t lead by your knees, and push your heels into the ground. Common mistakes – rounded back spine position and leading with your knees rather than pushing your hips back first.

    3. PRONE HOLD– Target: Posterior chain – basically the backside of you. Lie on your stomach and extend your arms out to the side like you are in a sky-diving position. Raise arms and legs and draw your toes toward your shins. Rotate hands so that your thumbs point up. Stay true to the name…”hold” this position while keeping your spine long and keep breathing. Common mistakes – holding your breath and not lengthening through your spine.

    4. LUNGE– Target: Complete lower body. Take a long stride and make your front heel do all of the work. The back leg is just for balance; this is not the “driving” leg. Common mistake – pushing off the toe rather than the heel on the working (front) leg.

    5. PLANK– Target: Core – abdominals and low back. Basically, this is a push-up position hold on your forearms instead of your hands. Hold and keep your spine long. Common mistake – raising the hips. Just like with the push-up, when viewed from the side, you should be able to draw a straight line from your head to your heels.

    6. JUMPING JACKS– Target: Cardio-vascular challenge. Standing normally, jump your feet to a wide stance and throw your arms overhead at the same time. Jump back to normal position with arms by your side and repeat fast as possible while maintaining a long spine. Common mistakes – fighting through shoulder pain and keeping tension in the jaw, neck, and shoulders. Arms could also go in front like a clap, instead of overhead, if needed to avoid shoulder pain.

    Rest two minutes then repeat with #1 (Push-ups) as long as the quality of movement remains high. Once you are unable to perform even a few reps in 30 seconds with perfect form, then the training session is over. Make a note of how many times you made it through all six exercises and the next time you repeat this workout, try to do more work. Let’s say in session #1, you make it through the set three times. The goal with session #2 is to at least start a fourth set. This program could be repeated 2-3 times per week for a 6-8 week session.

    During your two minutes of rest after jumping jacks, pray the ACTION prayer. This is a great way to give a greater level of structure to your prayer life. ACTION is an acronym for:

    A is for adoration – Praising and recognizing God for all of His glory and majesty.
    C is for confession – Get real with your weaknesses and what separates you from Him.
    T is for thanksgiving – Time of thanks for all of your many blessings.
    I is for invitation – This is where most prayers start. “God, I need you to…” or “God, please help me with…”
    O is for other’s needs – Friends, family, neighbors, etc.
    N is for next step – Now stop talking and listen. If prayer is really communicating with God, it needs to be a two-way street. Silently listen to what He is saying to you.

    Here is a sample ACTION prayer:

    “God, I adore you and praise your name today. I acknowledge that you are my creator and father Your power and love is mighty. I confess my sins to you and ask that you strengthen those areas of my life where I let you down. Thank you for my health, family, and friends. You have blessed me richly and I am very thankful for your presence in my life. God, I invite you into my life to guide me and direct me through some tough decisions that lie ahead for me. Please be with my mom and dad and brother as they battle health issues. Now Father allow me to hear your calling for my life as I close this prayer with a few seconds of silence…Amen”

    The ACTION prayer just gives you a simple template to follow and is a great way to connect with God during your rest intervals when training. The second time you rest, maybe you get more specific with what God’s majesty means to you, or you get a little more personal about your confessions, or things that you need God to handle (the Invitation). Just make it real and genuine.

    Here is another sample ACTION prayer:

    “Creator God, you are amazing and I really don’t understand it. How did you make the heavens and the earth, and yet you know the number of hairs on my head and love me? I am in awe and humbled by your love. I am sorry for letting you down. I get caught up with stuff at work and greed pulls me away from you. Please forgive me. You have given me so much and I am very grateful. Just the ability to workout today is a blessing. Thank you, Lord, for my life. I need you to help me better represent you. Please come into my life and direct me past all of the fluff and insignificant things that draw me away from you. Also, please be with my neighbors who just lost their job, and my grandmother who is battling eyesight problems. God, give me peace now to hear you…”

    Could you recognize the parts of the ACTION prayer? Notice how I didn’t end this prayer with Amen, because maybe I will continue to listen to God during the next set.

    After your first ACTION prayer, you might just do the N-part on the next rest periods. Fatigue will be higher as the workout goes on, so maybe you just need to be silent and listen to what God is telling you about what you shared with Him at the beginning of the workout.

    MORE PUMP & MORE PRAYER
    Another great way to integrate this template into your workout is to make the prayer portion of your Prayer Training as frequent as the exercise portion.

    1. Exercise: Push-ups for 30 seconds. Prayer: Adoration prayer about how awesome God is for 30 seconds.

    2. Exercise: Squats for 30 seconds. Prayer: Confession prayer for 30 seconds.

    3. Exercise: Prone Hold for 30 seconds. Prayer: Thanksgiving prayer for 30 seconds.

    4. Exercise: Lunges for 30 seconds. Prayer: Invitation prayer for 30 seconds.

    5. Exercise: Plank for 30 seconds. Prayer: Other’s needs prayer for 30 seconds.

    6. Exercise: Jumping Jacks for 30 seconds. Prayer: Next step prayer for 30 seconds.
    Same rest parameters as before: one to two minutes and start again with Push-ups.

    It is important for you to understand that the structure is more important than the exercises. The structure of the six exercises is organized into the following sequence:

    1. Upper body push
    2. Lower body bilateral (both sides) movement
    3. Upper body pull or posterior chain emphasis
    4. Lower body unilateral (one side) movement
    5. Core
    6. Cardio blaster

    If you don’t like the exercises I suggested or have range of motion limitations, you can pick something else that fits the category above and try it. For example, you could do a dead-lift instead of a squat. Or you can substitute in another core exercise that is your favorite. The focus of this program is to offer some body-weight challenges in a sequence that makes sense. Just like with the prayer template, take this idea, run with it and make it your own.

    One final important tip: You can only manage what you measure. So, write it down! Create a prayer workout journal and write ACTION at the top of the page with your workout. Journal some notes about what is happening in your life on that day. You don’t have to write out the entire prayer like I did in the examples for you, but rather just a few words about each letter. For what are you thankful? What do you need to come clean to God about? Who do you know who is struggling? Tracking your sets and reps is important, but you might find that tracking your prayers becomes the favorite part of your workout. It is good tool to help you look back on key times in your life when God was present and did some amazing things.

    Jason Rhymer, is the Training Department editor for Faith & Fitness Magazine. He is the president of Rhymer Fitness and a Z-Health Level IV Trainer. Drawing on science, faith, creativity and his personal fitness background, Jason meets the physical, spiritual and social needs of our reader. He leads Christian Fitness Bootcamps at two church locations and served during the summer of 2010 in Brazil doing ministry with Myers Park United Methodist Church.

    Reprinted with permission. Copyright © Faith & Fitness Magazine and Lifestyle Media Group. Faith & Fitness Magazine is on-line at faithandfitness.net. It is published six times per year as a resource for building physical and spiritual strength. They provide live support and program development for individuals, churches, and communities.

    For reprint permission contact Faith & Fitness Magazine.

  •  I am so grateful to have learned the dangers of sugar. That knowledge has finally motivated me to almost entirely eliminate sugar and all its kissin’ cousins from my diet. I feel so much better!

    Of course I was never under the impression that sugar was a good thing. But I was never really compelled to give it up.

    The thing that tipped the scales for me was a fascinating book I read called The Perfect 10 Diet. I followed up the book with an interview with its author Dr. Michael Aziz, a Manhattan internist.

    Although the title conjures up images of Bo Derek, it really isn’t about achieving the perfect 10 body. It’s really about the 10 key hormones in our body and how to regulate them perfectly.

    I’m talking about hormones like the sex hormones: estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Then there’s cortizol, which is activated by stress and leads to dangerous belly fat. There are hormones like thyroid, human growth hormone, DHEA, leptin and the one that gets so much attention: insulin.

    When our hormones are balanced we feel great and behave accordingly. Among other things, we eat sensibly.

    Keeping steady insulin levels is so important. They usually go out of whack when we eat sugar and refined carbohydrates, which to your body is the same thing as sugar. They cause our insulin levels to spike, which leads to a desire for more of the same food, which leads to weight gain.

    Sugar and refined carbs are incredibly addictive. The more you have, the more you want, and it takes increasingly larger amounts to satisfy. Exaggerated insulin levels cause a sugar crash, too, which feels awful. It’s a miserable roller-coaster ride. I highly recommend getting off!

    I went cold turkey after my interview with Dr. Aziz. I will admit, however, that I had a craving for sugars and refined carbohydrates for about four days. I would satisfy that craving with fruit until the craving went away and it worked like a charm.

    Here’s how to get sugar out of your diet. First, check the labels of foods you eat and make sure there’s no sugar in the list of ingredients. Also make sure there isn’t any high fructose corn syrup or any ingredient ending in “ose,” like dextrose or glucose, and don’t eat any ingredient that has the word “syrup.”

    Once you do that, you will notice there are about three or four items in the entire grocery store that don’t contain some type of sugar. Seriously, I thought I was doing great by buying 100 percent whole wheat bread until I looked at the label and noticed high fructose corn syrup in the bread! It’s also in pasta sauce! It’s everywhere!

    Another way to get rid of sugars is to eliminate refined carbohydrates from your diet, which is just about as challenging as getting rid of sugars because they are in just about everything. At least you can see them. They are white: white flour, white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc.

    The good news is their whole wheat counterparts are a magnificent substitution.

    By getting rid of sugars and refined carbohydrates your insulin levels will remain nice and stead and you will feel much better…the way you should!

    And you will probably drop weight, to boot!

    Are there any home remedies you know about that help eliminate sugar from the body naturally? Please share those pearls of wisdom below.