Laughter

I know, I know—”life is serious business.” If I hear that one more time, I think I’ll gag. I fully realize that too much humor can become offensive. I recognize that it can be taken to such an extreme that it is inappropriate. But doesn’t it seem we have a long way to go before we are guilty of that problem? The final result of a joyless existence is sad—a super high-level intensity, borderline neurotic anxiety, an absence of just plain fun in one’s work, a lack of relaxation, and the tendency to take ourselves much too seriously. We need to lighten up! Yes, spirituality and fun do go well together.

Scripture speaks directly to this issue, you know—especially the Proverbs: “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken” (proverbs 15:13).

Amazing how that proverb goes right to the heart of the problem (no pun intended). We’re not talking about a person’s face here as much as we are about the heart. Internal joy goes public. We can’t hide it. The face takes its cue from an inside signal.

A well-developed sense of humor reveals a well-balanced personality. Maladjusted people show a far greater tendency to miss the point in a funny remark. They take jokes personally. They take things that are meant to be enjoyable much too seriously. The ability to get a laugh out of everyday situations is a safety valve. It rids us of tensions and worries that could otherwise damage our health.

You think I’m exaggerating the benefits? If so, maybe you’ve forgotten another proverb: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Isn’t that eloquent? Literally, it says, “A joyful heart causes healing.” What is it that brings healing to the emotions, healing to the soul? A joyful heart. And when the heart is right, a joyful countenance accompanies it!

We Need To Step Up

There are many people today trying to figure out how to fix our country. They have various ideas about how to deal with all the problems we’re facing as a nation.

But something that no one seems to be talking about is at the root of everything: the breakdown of the family. Studies have shown that you can take almost every social ill in America today and trace it directly to the breakdown of the family—and specifically to the absence of fathers.

When the family is strong, the church is strong. And when the church is strong, the nation is strong. But when the family breaks down, the nation breaks down with it.

I believe there’s a full-throated, all-out attack on the family in our nation today. It’s time for moms and dads to be the spiritual leaders in the home. And it’s time for grandparents to be spiritual leaders too.

In fact, we need grandparents as never before. Many grandparents today have stepped up to raise grandkids that moms and dads have abandoned. And I thank God for those grandparents. But I think we make it very hard to teach our children spiritual things by putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves.

We feel that we need to spend a specific amount of time talking to them about things we’re not comfortable with—in the most boring way imaginable. But the best way to teach kids spiritual values is to weave them into everyday life.

The Bible says this about God’s commands: “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 6:7 NLT).

You can’t save America, and neither can I. You cannot save all the families in America. But you can save your family. So start there. Next Sunday at Harvest Church we are introducing some tools to help facilitate these “God Moments” every day in your home. We hope you can join us at 10am this coming Sunday!!

The Enemy Is Attacking Our Kids!

I know I will probably get lots of negative messages on today’s blog but I can’t be silent any longer.

Why would Disney – the alleged family-friendly entertainment giant – want to encourage kids to reject their sex, and why aren’t the media covering this story?

As left-wing corporate activism – through companies from Facebook to Coca-Cola – continues to use its influence to move the country into what critics call a form of Marxism, children are not being left out of the new vision for America … a vision being brought about through racial division, anti-Americanism, the culture of death, climate change and LGBTQ+ propaganda.

The Muppet character, Gonzo, has ‘transitioned’ to a girl, Gonzorella – that is why he is wearing a dress to the ‘royal ball.’ He does more than wear a dress. He instructs Miss Piggy and Summer that ‘doing things a little different can be fun.’

Normalizing and encouraging transgenderism and other alternative lifestyles promoted by the LGBTQ movement is the focus and it has gone way past the tolerance stage of yesteryear.

The message to children is: a boy can be a girl, and vice versa, and making this choice, they are told, is not something abnormal – it’s just ‘a little different.’ Moreover, [they contend] it can be ‘fun’ to reject your sex and pretend that you belong to the opposite sex.

No matter how much the media, education system, politicians, entertainment industry and corporate America try to rebrand what they are doing – for example, pushing their agenda on America using their preferred lexicon with words such as “inclusion,” “tolerance,” “pride,” “transgender,” “gender pronouns” – what they are doing goes beyond neglect for children’s well-being.

This needs to be called out for what it is: child abuse. Anyone who is even remotely knowledgeable about what sex transitioning entails – the physical and psychological problems that boys and girls experience are multiple – knows how harmful this process is. Seven in ten of those who transition are girls wanting to be boys, and the extent of their suffering is well documented.

As formerly child-friendly corporations such as Disney and Lego – which debuted its first LGBTQ + set for the Gay Pride month of June – push dangerous sexuality on children at early ages, I have noticed how the mainstream media is generally nowhere to be found on the issue.

So why is it that – aside from some gay and conservative news sources – this story is being ignored by the most influential newspapers, as well as the broadcast and cable news networks? Is it their unconcern or indifference that is driving their passivity? Or cowardice?

And let me just say this. It is not just the Left that stands by while children are being indoctrinated to try out potentially harmful sexual lifestyles. The big disappointment is the lack of response from the conservative community – thank God we have some like Candace Owens who will not be intimidated.

Genuine conservatives are concerned about the three ‘M’s’ – namely: markets, missiles and morality. In recent years, many have all but given up on the latter ‘M;’ hence, the advent of Disney poisoning the minds of children in their latest attempt to make Gonzo go woke.

In conclusion, anyone who thinks things can’t get much worse is a fool. If conservatives continue to retreat from controversial social and cultural issues, things will only get worse.

This is not about treating everyone with respect – that is not the issue – it is about shielding our children from those who want to sexually engineer them.

So today, I rise as a Christian, father, a pastor, a religious leader in my community and say I refuse to just sit idly by and allow my children and their friends to be indoctrinated with such filth that is blatantly contrary to the Word of God and our morals. I will not allow the “woke” movement to infiltrate my home. My children will understand that God created them male and female, and he did not make a mistake that has to be corrected. God is NOT the author of confusion. Everything that God does, He does well.

I’m burdened for this generation and the one that is to follow. With every passing day, people continue to ignore the warning signs and say “but it’s just a kids show.” We must wake up and recognize the enemy’s devices. If we don’t, he will claim this next generation as his own.

Handling Difficult Situations

The apostle Paul understood how to handle tough circumstances. Even while he was confined in a prison cell, he kept his eyes on Christ and trusted firmly in the Savior. Therefore, despite being in chains, he was able to celebrate the Lord’s work in his life. In fact, the epistle he wrote from jail to the Philippians was filled with rejoicing (1:18; 2:18; 3:1).

Focusing on Christ is neither a natural reaction nor an easy one. Our instinct is to dwell on the situation at hand, searching for solutions or stewing over the pain and difficulty. As a result, troubles look scary and overwhelm us with a sense of defeat.

However, fear and defeat cannot live long in a heart that trusts the Lord. I’m not saying you’ll forget what you’re going through, but you can choose to dwell on His provision and care instead. He is the Deliverer (2 Cor. 1:10). He is the Healer (Deut. 32:39). He is the Guide (Prov. 3:6).  The believer who lays claim to divine promises discovers that God pushes back negative emotions. In their place, hope, confidence, and contentment take up residence (Phil. 4:11). You aren’t going to be happy about a difficult situation, but you can be satisfied that God is in control and up to something good in the midst of trouble.

The Lord’s principles and promises don’t change, no matter how severe or painful the situation is. Focus on Christ instead of the circumstances—God will comfort your heart and bring you safely through the trial. Then you can answer Paul’s call to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4).

What’s It To You?

Have you ever wondered why God allows some Christians to suffer so much, and others seem to glide through life relatively pain-free? I know many godly men and women who seem to suffer without end. Their pain is more than I have ever experienced; they’ve faced more trials in a year than I’ve faced in my entire life. Why is that? Am I loved by God more than these people? Are they glorifying God more through their suffering than I can in my blessings? The comparisons go in all directions.

Comparison was Peter’s go-to when Jesus told him this: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God). Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19).

Jesus was foretelling that Peter, just like himself, would be led to his death, arms stretched out in his own crucifixion. Tradition points to Peter being crucified upside down during Nero’s persecution, not wanting to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord.

I’m not sure if Peter knew then by what kind of death he would die, but no doubt he got the gist of what Jesus was saying. So it’s no surprise that he quickly disregarded Christ’s instruction to “follow me!” Instead, he looked around at the other disciples, spotted John, and exclaimed “Lord, what about this man?” I wonder if Peter was thinking, “I get what you’re trying to tell me, but what about that guy? Why should I go through this trial and not him? Do you love him more than me?”

Comparison is hard-wired in our sinful nature. When others seem to get ahead or are seemingly more blessed than us, we grow envious. When the tables are turned and we are the ones being blessed, we might fight the urge to brag or think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Both kinds of comparison are fatal to our faith, and Jesus knows it. So when Peter bluntly asked, “what about this man?” Jesus’ response was clear. “What is that to you? You follow me!”

Peter died a horrible, agonizing death. Most historians agree that most of the other apostles met similar, violent ends. Except for John. John died, presumably peacefully, in his old age. Why? Because that was how each “was to glorify God.” When God bestows on us blessings we should proclaim His glory joyfully and humbly. But when He allows us to suffer, we have the opportunity to proclaim him King through our hopefulness and faith. God’s glory is what’s important, not our circumstances.

“You follow me.” Fixing ourselves on Jesus is the key to fruitful ministry, the key to humility, the key to joy regardless of our circumstances. It’s the key to glorifying God – the true purpose of our lives and ministry.

How quick are you to compare your joys and sufferings to those around you? Comparing our circumstances to others is fruitless. Jesus desires us to follow him, and have faith in the plan He has for our lives.

Your Birthday: The Most/Least Important Day Of Your Life

Just before our second child Matthew was born, I remember standing with my wife in the house, looking around and just taking everything in. The wooden bassinet stood assembled and accessorized with blankets, padding and pillows. Diapers, booties and footie pajamas were tucked away in the dresser. In only a matter of days a tiny boy would fill that little house with life and great joy.

People love babies. There is an inexplicable excitement that surrounds the beginning of life. But as soon as the day of birth arrives, it becomes simultaneously the most important day and least important day of one’s life. It is the most important because, without it, one wouldn’t have life; but it is also least important because it is only the starting point and then it’s past. After the moment of birth, the most important thing is, of course, living.

Obvious as it seems, I was reminded while reading Francis Schaeffer’s book, True Spirituality, that many professing Christians seem to languish in denial of this fact regarding the moment of their own spiritual birth. Ask a friendly question of, “how is your relationship with the Lord?” and you may hear an answer emphasizing a past decision, a moment of crisis, or an experience—as if past events were all that mattered. Schaeffer wrote, “In one way, the new birth is the most important thing in our spiritual lives, because we are not Christians until we have come this way. In another way, however, after one has become a Christian, it must be minimized, in that we should not always have our minds only on our new birth. The important thing after being born spiritually is to live.” (ch. 1)

Yes, we are grateful for the past. We look forward expectantly to the bright future ahead with Christ in His manifest presence. But our present walk with Christ, right now, is the most important moment. Romans 14:17 says, “The kingdom of God is [present tense] righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

1 John 1:7 reaffirms this emphasis on the present—true spirituality is concerned with walking [present tense] in the light “as He is [present tense] in the light, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us [present tense] from all sin.”

Refocus today on your present walk with Christ. If your fellowship with the Lord is broken, let 1 John 1:8-9 illuminate the path. It says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Trust God’s promise of forgiveness and cleansing in Christ, and begin to walk with Him again. The important thing after being born spiritually is to live spiritually.

Persistent Prayer Is Powerful

Nineteenth-century pastor and evangelist George Mueller cared for thousands of orphans in England and was known to be great man of faith. He decided to pray for five personal friends who did not yet know the Lord, and it wasn’t until five years later that the first of them came to faith.

After five years, two more became Christians. And after 25 years, the fourth came to Christ. Until he died, Mueller prayed for the last person who had not yet believed. And that friend finally came to know the Lord after his death. In total, George Mueller prayed for his five friends for more than 50 years.

Sometimes we pray for something that really seems like the will of God, but the Lord doesn’t give it to us when we ask. When nothing happens, we think that God has abandoned us. We want to know what went wrong.

But Jesus would say, “Keep at it. Keep praying, keep seeking, and keep knocking. Don’t give up. Apply yourself. Be persistent.”

Jesus told the story of a man who knocked on his neighbor’s door late at night until he finally got a response. He said, “Though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:8-9, NKJV)

We, too, need to pray. And we need to keep praying.

Sometimes we’re surprised when God answers our prayers, aren’t we? We pray and pray, and when God answers our prayers, we say, “I can’t believe it!”

But we need to believe that God can answer our prayers. God has His timing. So don’t feel that He has let you down or abandoned you. Keep praying.

Trusting God With Our Whole Heart

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

What a crazy time we’re living in. We collectively struggle with trust.

You hear one thing on the news and change the channel and hear something completely different. So, what are we to do? Where can we turn?

Our verses in Proverbs today clearly tell us that we can trust the Lord. And we can trust him with our whole heart. God tells us not to lean on our own understanding, but rather to acknowledge God in all our ways. But, I have to confess, I lean heavily at times on my own understanding. And when I do, I’m soon frustrated, wondering why things don’t seem to work out.

We are all works in progress. I have not arrived. I will still make mistakes and I’ll even blow it royally at times. But I’m so thankful that when I mess up, God invites me to come to him. And I can put my mistakes in his large, capable hands.

Growing up, I struggled with perfectionism. There are times I still wrestle with it. As a child, I wanted EVERYTHING to be perfect. I would write and re-write words because it had to be perfect. I picked up the hobby of drawing and would spend numerous hours on horse drawing because it just had to be perfect. Little did I know that when I went out on my own, that I’d be bringing my baggage with me. Perfectionism was neatly packed in one of my suitcases.

And years later, when I found myself overwhelmed and with health trouble because I was pushing myself too hard, I could finally fess up to this struggle. Do you want to know what helped me the most? While God always wants my best He doesn’t expect me to be perfect.

I still blow it sometimes, but God sees me through His blood that covers me, and I am forgiven. There is nothing I can do which will lessen God’s love for me and there’s nothing I can do that will make God love me more. Those words bring freedom. Does that mean He is always happy with me? No. But it means that He always has His arms open for me to come to Him.

As new believers we knew God would answer our prayers. God could do anything. But somewhere along the way, we began believing lies from the enemy. Lies like:

God is tired of answering your prayers.

God doesn’t care about you.

God is disappointed in you.

I’m so glad we can drench ourselves in the Word of God and the lies become obvious.

– God doesn’t grow weary (Isaiah 40:28).

– God encourages us to cast our cares on him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

– God does not write us off when we do blow it, but when we ask for forgiveness, He removes our transgressions from us (Psalm 102:12).

I’m so glad God gave us his Word so we can meditate on what’s true and denounce the lies. When we are immersed in God’s Word we can love God wholeheartedly. Is there something stopping you from trusting God with your whole heart?

God loves you totally. And you can trust him with your whole heart. Listen to this song, “Half of my Heart”, by Nathan Peterson. May it bless you as it blesses me.

Let God Carry You

When you can’t take another step,
then let God carry you.
Not only can he lift you up,
He carries burdens, too.

Jeremiah 29:11 (IN CONTEXT)

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11 

I am going to destroy what this verse means to you, but then I’m going to reframe it so you understand it better within it’s original context, and then you will love it even more when we’re done.

We often approach Jeremiah 29:11as a security blanket: God has a plan for me that is good, so clearly this suffering I’m going through will end soon and then my flourishing will begin! But that is not at all what God was promising to the Israelites, and it’s not what he’s promising us, either.

Author and blogger Mary DeMuth addresses our misunderstanding of this verse in her article, Jeremiah 29:11 Doesn’t Mean What You ThinkAs she explains, the heart of the verse is “not that we would escape our lot, but that we would learn to thrive” in the midst of it.

Here’s the context for Jeremiah 29: the Israelites were in exile, a punishment from God as a result of their disobedience. The prophet Jeremiah confronts the false prophet, Hananiah, who had boldly proclaimed that God was going to free Israel from Babylon in two years (spoiler alert: God doesn’t do this).

Jeremiah calls out Hananiah’s lie, and then states the promise we read in 29:11. God does indeed have a good plan for the Israelites, and it is a plan that will give them hope and a prospering future. Sounds good, right?

The thing is, before he shares this promise, just a few verses earlier, he gives them this directive from God: “seek the peace and the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (29:7)

This is not at all what the Israelites wanted to hear! They wanted to be told that they were going to go home. They wanted to be told that their suffering was going to end. Instead, God’s plan was for them to stay right where they were, and to help prosper the nation that enslaved them!

And then came the biggest blow of all. In verse 10, God says that he would fulfill this “after seventy years are completed in Babylon.” This meant that none in the current generation of Israelites would ever return to their home.

What a crushing thing to be told!

Mary DeMuth writes: Yes, of course God knows the plans He has for us. And ultimately He will give us a glorious future. But as we walk out our lives on this crazy earth, let’s remember that the best growth comes through persevering through trials, not escaping them entirely. And when we learn perseverance, we find surprising joy.

What hard thing are you currently going through? In the midst of your suffering, cling to Jeremiah 29:11, but cling to it for the right reason: not in the false hope that God will take away your suffering, but in the true, gospel confidence that he will give you hope in the midst of it.

Not Ashamed

James 5:10-11 says, “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured.

When James is writing this letter, Jews have been exiled from their homes and lost everything during widespread persecution. James offers them encouragement they can relate to: “Remember the prophets . . . they suffered, too.”

These early Jewish readers would immediately remember Hosea who suffered humiliation from his unfaithful wife, yet faithfully loved her and brought her back home as a sign of God’s faithfulness to His unfaithful people.

They would remember Jeremiah who fearlessly preached God’s Word to Israel even though God told him that not a single person would heed his message.

They would recall Micah who was also ridiculed for his message, and Zechariah who was murdered for his testimony.

They would remember Amos and Haggai who were persecuted for the sake of God’s Word; Isaiah who was placed in the hollow of a tree and sawn in half by his own people.

Who among them would forget the more recent prophet John the Baptist who was beheaded in a Roman prison because of his faithful ministry?

James is reminding his readers that if anyone had it tough, it was the prophets. They were mistreated, misunderstood, maligned and, many of them, murdered. Almost all of them lived difficult lives and died tragic deaths.

But James goes on to say that we count those blessed who have endured. Why? Because they are receiving the eternal reward for their ministry! James is reminding us that our present suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us one day in Christ Jesus.

The writer of Hebrews commends faithful men and women throughout the ages for their endurance. He writes: “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

That last verse begins with a statement that is incredible: God is not ashamed to be called their God. That’s the blessing that awaits us one day as believers in Christ. Far more precious than a new heaven and a new earth, far greater than the glorified bodies we will receive as we step into immortality, vastly superior to the fact that we will be finally perfected and safely home is the fact that God will not be embarrassed by calling us His own . . . He will, in fact, be proud of us. What amazing grace is that?!

So don’t back down or walk away from a tough assignment today. Persevere in the life Christ has planned for you. And keep in mind it is no more difficult for us to live for Christ today than it was for the prophets of old.

One day, as the Father beams with pride over us (His frail and often-faltering children), every insult we bore and every injury we suffered, will no longer matter as they are exchanged for the rewards of His good pleasure.

Let’s follow in the footsteps of the prophets . . . today.