Pay Attention To The Ripple Effect

ripple effectThe decisions you make and the actions you take affect those around you.

Rehoboam learned that lesson the hard way. Rehoboam followed his father Solomon to the throne of Israel. Solomon had exacted harsh labor on the people. A delegation, led by Jeroboam, went to the new king and asked him to take away the harshness.

In private, Rehoboam asked his elder council what he should do. They advised that he become a servant to the people, lighten their load, and the people would always be faithful servants to the king.

His circle of younger friends gave him just the opposite advice. They told him to work the people harder. He liked that idea, told the delegation his plans, and wound up with a divided kingdom.

At one time or another all of us are impacted by someone else’s decisions or actions. When we suffer the negative consequences of another’s wrongheaded decision, God can redeem the situation. Although Rehoboam wound up ruling only two tribes—Judah and Benjamin (as opposed to Jeroboam’s rule over ten tribes)—it was through Judah that Jesus came to us. God can work, and often does what seems to us as his best work, in situations that seem the most difficult.

We should always consider how our decisions and actions affect those around us. In “systems thinking” it is said that “you are the highest leverage point in any system you are in.” More simply stated, you can make a difference. You are more “powerful” than you think you are––no matter your station in life.

Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s use of the South African rugby team to help heal a nation divided by apartheid. In one scene of theripple effect 3 movie he explains to a team member, “Reconciliation starts here. Forgiveness starts here.” He knew his actions would have a ripple effect on those around him. Eventually the blessing of that “ripple” washed across the nation.

Rehoboam made a bad decision, but it was really his father Solomon’s actions that divided the kingdom. He forsook the one true God and chased after other “gods,” he neglected to serve the people and instead forced them to work harder, and he was focused on himself, as reflected in his accumulation of wives, gold, and horses in direct disobedience to God’s counsel. His son Rehoboam was merely living out consequence of those decisions and actions.

Learn from Solomon’s mistake. Love God first. Love others second. And serve those that do not yet know God. You will be surprised to see how far your ripple will travel

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Let’s Cohabitate!

The “Wise” Solomon

cohabitation 2Solomon is revered as the wisest man who ever lived. But was he really? When we look closer at Solomon’s choices we see a man who rejects God’s direction, especially when it came to love, sex and marriage. I mean, Solomon took polygamy to a whole new level. Right? I mean, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And God defined marriage differently than that.

Here’s what God says in Genesis 2, the very beginning of time, the first marriage and God defines marriage and he says, For this reason a man (singular )will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (not wives, wife), and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) This word “united” is a strong word. It means to be bonded or glued together. And it really doesn’t allow for there to be more than one. It is this idea of one and one being united as one. And that’s how God designed it. That’s how God created it. That’s how he defines marriage.

“I Want to be Happy”

And Solomon decides, I want to do things differently. I want to be happy. My heart tells me this is what I should do and so that is what I’m going to do. And so in his pursuit of happiness he ignores what God has said.

And Solomon pays a significant price because he doesn’t do things God’s way. God says, “Here are my directions,” and Solomon says, “Yeah, well, I think this will work.” And you can just hear Solomon. He knows what God has said but he just loves her, he just loves her. “God I know what you have said but I just love wife number 274. I love her. I love her.” And he puts his hope in his own understanding, in his own feelings even though that violates what God has said.

I want you to think for a moment, what is kind of a cultural equivalent to this? In other words can you think of an area in our culture, in our society that goes against what God has said when it comes to marriage that we have kind of decided that we know better? We have kind of decided that how we feel about it makes the most sense. We have ignored what God has said. Can you think of an area like this?

Cultural Equivalent

I think of Cohabitation as an example of this. Couples living together before they are married. That has been on the increase since 1970. There is a 700% increase in couples that live together outside of marriage. Now when I sit down, and I have a number of times, and talk to couples who are living together and are not married and I just talk to them a little bit about here’s what God’s word says and here’s why he says this and here’s why these directions are best for you. And when I talk to these couples, one of the things I love about them is that so often they have a heart for commitment. They are taking marriage seriously and in their minds they don’t want to risk it. They don’t want to be part of a divorced generation like their parents. And they just want to be sure. And I appreciate that spirit.

And then you just start looking at the evidence. And the evidence just reinforces again that God knows what is best in this area of our lives. There is a Scripture verse in Proverbs that goes like this, it says, There is a way that seems right to a man (there is a way that feels right to us. It seems to make most sense. It seems to make the most rational approach. There’s a way that seems right), but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

And I think we can really paraphrase that verse and contextualize it for our application here and I think it would be fair to put it this way, “There’s a way that seems right to couples but in the end it leads to divorce.” Because that’s what we’re seeing.

The Research

This isn’t Christian or biblical research. This is secular research. University of Wisconsin reports that those who live together before gettingcohabitation 5 married and then get married have a 75% divorce rate. They also found out that 15 out of every 100 cohabiting couples who are living together right now, only 15 out of every 100 will eventually get married and 10 years from now 85% of them won’t be married. And they just conclude that really this isn’t a good way to prepare for marriage. This is secular research and God is like, “Yeah, because I gave you these directions way back when.”

And the Bible tells us in numerous places about guarding the sacredness of marriage. Hebrews 13:4, Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. (Message) God’s oneness, this one man, one woman becoming one is really a beautiful gift that God gives us as a husband and as a wife but it has to be protected. It’s got to be guarded, that if we treat it lightly we lose out on what God wants for us. And so in his directions God said, “Look you’ve got to protect this. You’ve got to guard this. It valuable and sacred.”

And I’m sure Solomon thought, well maybe the next one, maybe the next one, maybe the next one. But the irony is that the more he added the less likely he was to discover the joy of that intimate relationship that he so desperately longed for. So you get to the end of his story and do you know what Solomon says at the end of his story, “I should have followed the directions. I should have done things God’s way.”

Thoughts?

(Adapted from “The King who had it all” by Kyle Idleman)

A simple answer to all the violence.

violence 2

I look at all that is going on in our country and the world. Shootings and violence seem to be escalating daily. In some cases it just seems to be worse due to expanded media coverage that amplifies the picture. However, no one can deny the expansion of outright disregard for the lives of others and the determination to take life in violent ways.

As I study the scene the question comes to my mind, is there a simple explanation for it all? Are we making it more difficult than it really is? Are we looking for answers in all the wrong places? Are we attempting to make it something that it really isn’t? Are we exploiting the violence for personal agendas? Are we habitually or ignorantly ignoring the primary reason for it all?

At the risk of oversimplifying, could the reason for the escalation of killings and cold-blooded violence be traced back to a country and a world that insist on turning farther and farther away from God, Jehovah God,? Instead, the world, out of arrogance and self directed ambition, has turned more and more to its own ways. Over the last few decades, especially in America, there has been an intentional, by government and individuals, movement to turn from a belief in and an adherence to God. As a result, the downward spiral in our country has escalated.

So is it too naïve to just say that the reason for what we see, more than anything else, is the result of turning away from God and the truth of Scripture? Every man and womanhatred has chosen their own way. And when God is eliminated from the picture what we are experiencing is inevitable. We are left with no moral or spiritual code and every person becomes their own god and the value of life goes down exponentially.

Having stated that, I fear the future more than the past or the present. As America and Americans, as well as the rest of the world, moves farther away from Jehovah God and Scripture the violence picture will most certainly escalate.

We can look to gun control or mental health solutions or a number of other plans to stop violence. But none will provide any long term improvement. My observation is that our only hope is for the people of America and the world to turn back to God, Jehovah God rather than no god or some other god that advocates violent killing of innocent people.

So where are you with God?

I declare my support-election 2012

I know, this is a risky move to make, but I cannot keep from doing so. All I ask of you is to hear me out and then tell me where you stand on election 2012.

I believe in God and I believe in America. I believe America is the greatest nation in the world and arguably is the greatest nation the world has ever known. And I believe the greatness of America is founded in her belief in God. The more America has exalted God the more God has exalted America. And the more America has ignored and thumbed its nose at God the more God has withdrawn His blessings from this great nation.

I am also a conservative. You don’t have to talk to me long to see where my values lie. I believe in hard work, freedom, independence and interdependence, biblical values, strong morals, and a willingness to sacrifice for the greater cause. None of my beliefs and values have to do with making more money or acquiring more “stuff.” They are convictions and principles that reach infinitely deeper than materialistic ambitions. I believe they are foundational building blocks of greatness.

Because I hold these beliefs dear, I am ready to declare my support in the presidential election of 2012. I enthusiastically throw my support to the Romney/Ryan ticket. Yes, I am one of those red blooded Americans that votes in elections. I can’t remember the last time I missed voting for the President of the United Stated or if I ever have missed an election. And I have traditionally voted the conservative ticket. But never have I come out so strongly in support of a candidate or ticket. The reason why I am doing so at this time is that I believe, like never before, that the pillars of greatness that have made America the pride of the world are in danger of being dismantled and destroyed right before our eyes, in rapid action.

Now, I need to be very clear about one thing. It might upset a few, but I will say it anyhow. Mitt Romney is a Mormon in his beliefs. I am not a Mormon. Without going into details, I would be one of those who would classify Mormonism as a cult. I believe the Mormon religion denies some of the major tenants of Christianity, like the God ship of Jesus. But that’s not the subject of this post. And as it has been said, I am not voting for a pastor-in-chief to direct the church, I am voting for a commander-in-chief to direct the country.

Let me get specific. Here are three reasons why I support the Romney/Ryan ticket and why I feel that it is time for a change in the leadership of our country.

  1. Mitt Romney has experience in taking the unprofitable to the profitable. He has provided courageous leadership in doing so with the International Olympic Committee, the State of Massachusetts and with several companies owned by Bane Capital. This is not a time to debate the processes of Bane. It is a time to say, though, that Romney knows how to get it done when it comes to making the cuts and changing direction for the good of the organization or institution. Believe me, that is exactly what we need in Washington. Personally, I believe that is one of the major reasons why so many are so opposed to his candidacy. The fat sees the knife coming.
  2. Mitt Romney is willing to take on the tough issues. Could that be any clearer than with the selection of his running mate, Paul Ryan? Paul Ryan is a very intelligent man who has a remarkable command of the needs and numbers and is willing to put forth solutions to looming crisis and catastrophes, even when they will not set well with many people. This country has challenges that must be met and decisions that must be made and I believe the ticket of Romney/Ryan says we are willing to take them on, regardless of their popularity or unpopularity.
  3. But here’s the biggie for me. Romney/Ryan are the candidates that will uphold the moral values and principles that are vital to the future recovery and health of our great country. We will not see the further dismantling of marriage and family under Romney/Ryan. We will not see the support and lobbying of abortion rights under Romney/Ryan. We will not see a system of rewarding those who refuse to work under Romney/Ryan. We will not see the blatant violating and usurping of the laws of the land under Romney/Ryan.

Enough said for Romney/Ryan. Now, here are three reasons why I believe it is time for a change at the top.

  1. Let me begin where I just left off. We have had enough of the dismantling of the American family. Here are a few ways the family is under attack in America as listed by my good friend Robert Partington, Director of Peace in the Home Ministry. ( http://peaceinthehome.org/) “The family is under attack when health care reform is a guise for universal access to taxpayer-funded abortion. The family is under attack when two same gender individuals are permitted to adopt innocent children, subsequently modeling brokenness to yet another generation. The family is under attack when governments invest more resources into organizations with nice names who promote promiscuity and abortion than they do into self-control and adoption. The family is under attack when government schools are used to advance social engineering agendas, influencing the hearts and minds of our children, without any heed to parental values. The family is under attack when fully one-quarter of the next generation is murdered in the womb. The family is under attack when the voting public doesn’t see past an engaging smile to the anti-family agenda lurking beneath.”
  2. We have a President who is aggressively selling to and forcing on America a flawed and destructive economic philosophy. His answer to everything is more programs, more spending, more giveaways and more government. Rather than encouraging hard work and self reliance there is an endless agenda to get less and less people working and more and more people depending on government for the needs in their life. Instead of a philosophy of self-worth, achievement, values and hard earned success there is a determined effort to promote all the opposite values and then punish and penalize those who live by them. Enough is enough.
  3. We have an administration that will say and do ANYTHING to get reelected and hold onto power. Lies, distortions, vote buying, bypassing laws, threats, intimidation, arrogance and cover-ups are business as usual. I know, these things have been part of politics since the beginning of politics. But I cannot remember in my lifetime, and that’s quite a long time, the kind of blatant use of such practices as we see them today.

So for these reasons and others, I have decided to declare my support for the Romney/Ryan ticket. I have never done this before in such a public and bold manner. I realize that someone in my position could pay a price for doing so, but, I cannot sit by and silently watch what I believe in be systematically destroyed and dismantled. I cannot help but speak up and support the candidate that I believe is immensely more qualifies to bring the long overdue turnaround to the greatest country in the world.

How about you?

Sex Education

This Sunday, July 8, I will begin to address some issues related to sex in our Sunday gatherings. During the four week series I will include here on my blog information that relates to the Sunday message. Please forgive me if I might be a little too “bold” in what I have to say than what you are comfortable with. But my observation is that everyone seems to be talking about sex except the church. If God is the designer of sex and His instruction on it is of greatest importance, why don’t we discuss it? We would, instead, rather listen to what Satan, the deceiver, has to say about the subject. Therefore, the title for the series is “Satan’s Sex Ed.” Who are we really listening to when it comes to our sexual thoughts, feelings and practices?

Ed Young writes, “Far from being an isolated act with the significance of a sneeze, sex is one of the most intimate, life-altering, profound, and deeply spiritual experiences available to man. It is the most natural high our bodies can experience. Sex is a strong, strong force, and what we choose to do with it affects not only our own lives, but other lives as well. In fact, our collective view of sex can predict the fate of our very society.

Scholar D. Unwin wrote years ago in Sex and Culture, ‘In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on prenuptial and postnuptial continence.’ In other words, societies that place no value on premarital chastity and marital fidelity simply do not thrive. Unwin studied hundreds of years of history and concluded that the health and longevity of nations directly corresponded to the value placed on sexual purity. Societies whose sexual mores were strong prevailed. Those whose sexual mores were weak no longer exist. Could this be what ancient Israel’s King Solomon meant when he spoke of the “total ruin” which awaited those who disregarded God’s commands in this area (Proverbs 5:14)?”

Imagine! Ancient history and modern surveys confirm what God has always said: that sex is a multifaceted gift of deep importance. However, the goal of our society seems to be more of that of safe sex than godly sex. Godly sex is no contradiction in terms. Godly, undefiled, undiluted sex is what God intended for us from the very beginning. If we make “safe sex” our highest aim, we will fall far short of the awesome sexual experience God has in mind for us as His children. He desires much more than that for you and me.

These messages will be delivered at New Venture Christian Church, 530 Courthouse Rd, Richmond, VA 23236 or can be accessed on line at www.relaxedchurch.com  or through this link when they are up for podcast http://relaxedchurch.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=57, or the New Venture Christian church facebook page.

Sex is Stupid

I’m guessing you are somewhat familiar with what has been happening in the world of sex in the last few days.

Kenyan Olympic marathon runner Samuel Wanjiru died in the early hours of Monday morning, May 16, from injuries after a “fall” from the balcony of his first-floor Nyahururu home near the Rift Valley in central Kenya. He had just been caught by his wife in bed with another woman. It is not yet clear whether it was a suicide or if he jumped out of rage or what caused him to fall to the ground.

Samuel was some kind of a world class runner. Not only was Wanjiru the first Kenyan to win Olympic gold in the marathon, at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games; he triumphed in an Olympic-record time of 2 hrs. 6 min. and 32 sec. Other high-profile wins for the Kenyan star included the Chicago and London marathons. Wanjiru was also a former world-record holder in the half-marathon, with a time of 58:33. He became the youngest runner to win four major marathons and ran the fastest time ever recorded in a marathon in the United States.

And then there’s IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn who awoke Tuesday in a notorious NYC jail on an attempted rape charge as the outside world swirled with questions about the truth of the rape accusations and pressure mounted on him to step down.

The 62-year-old managing director of the International Monetary Fund is being kept behind bars on charges he tried to rape a hotel maid, charges that look, at least from the outside, to be pretty strong.

Add to the sex news of the week the revelation that Arnold and Marie Schwarzenegger’s marriage is ending due to a “sex” child (Wasn’t really love, just sex.) he conceived with a member of their household staff over ten years ago.

Here are three high profile people in the world who have destroyed themselves, one quite literally, over nothing other than sex. Sex is stupid under such circumstances. In fact, sex is stupid under ANY circumstance other than its God created intent, within the sacred bonds of marriage. And that is true whatever your status in life. Outside of its intended purpose it ALWAYS leads to negative, damaging and many times completely destructive ends. It is just plain stupid. So guys and gals as well, wise up. Put your passions and parts away and show some restraint and a little bit of intelligence.

The BIG One

How about another jogging analogy? In my last post I discussed “hills” and how I developed the endurance to jog longer and longer distances by focusing on one hill at a time. So in life take it one hill, or one day, at a time. It is Jesus own prescription, “live one day at a time.”

Here is an interesting observation about the hills on the courses I jog. All total, the three tracks I take add up to 11.5 miles. In the 11.5 miles there are numerous hills, some slight and others steep. Some easy and others challenging. But of all the hills I jog I have noticed that the steepest hill, of the entire 11.5 miles, is right in front of my house. That’s right, in front of my own house. If you don’t believe me drive by 624 Coralberry Dr and see for yourself.

Isn’t that so true of real life? The biggest hills we face are at home, at our front door, in our own house. It is at home that we are most challenged when it comes to kindness and respect and encouraging words and humility and authentic love and all the other relational qualities Jesus expects us to display.

No where do we need to live out our faith more than right there at home and no where are we more challenged and tempted to lose our faith than right there at home. When Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” he could have added, “beginning at home” because that’s where it all begins.

Jesus also had a word for those who act like Christians when in the presence of others but fail to do so at home. You know the word—HYPOCRITE.

Let’s take the hill at home before we attempt to conquer the rest of the course.