How Road Trips Teach Me to Trust Jesus

As I approach this season of pilgrimage, Scripture offers me a theology of travel.
COURTNEY ELLIS

How Road Trips Teach Me to Trust Jesus

My husband, Daryl, experiences more wanderlust than I do. He grew up in Southern California, traveling across the valley for high school basketball games, taking class field trips up the coastline, and loading up the church van for missions to Tijuana. On our family Sabbath, it’s Daryl who takes us out on the roads of Orange County. When I ask where we’re headed, he smiles and nearly always says, “I’m not sure. Let’s just have an adventure.”

In particular, our trips to visit extended family bring out the differences in our travel methods. I plan ahead while Daryl enjoys serendipity; I prepare for every eventuality while he prefers to throw a few diapers and a bag of tortilla chips in the car and hope for the best. But since my husband’s side of the family lives in Los Angeles—a thriving metropolis with all manner of convenience stores and restaurants—I’m learning to hang loose on these local treks.

As these drives to LA become more common, God is faithfully teaching me that my rigid, planned-up-to-the-minute travel method isn’t always the best one. In fact, the biblical model for following Jesus is much more Spirit-led than plotted in advance. It isn’t that preparation isn’t necessary or helpful, it’s that openness to the Spirit of God is more important still. “The wind blows where it wills,” Jesus tells Nicodemus in John’s gospel.

Paul’s journeys were continually interrupted by storms, bandits, imprisonments, and mobs, and once, when he made it all the way to the outskirts of the province of Asia, the Spirit of God turned him away at the last minute. Perhaps that’s why when God speaks to individuals in Scripture, his first call is often for them to step out in faith, to follow a new and previously unsought path. Much of the time God doesn’t even give the destination. The command is simple (and, if you’re a homebody like me, perhaps a little unsettling): “Go,” he says. “Go.”

God uses this word with Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. “Go,” he says to Jonah. Simeon is “moved by the Spirit” to go to the temple, where he welcomes and blesses the infant Jesus. “Get up,” an angel says to Joseph in a dream, warning him to flee from King Herod’s murderous rage and go to Egypt.

As pilgrim people, we, too, are called to travel with our eyes open to the work of the Lord in the world around us. As N. T. Wright puts it, “A pilgrim is someone who goes on a journey in the hope of encountering God or meeting him in a new way.” Whether we fly across the country or simply drive an hour to visit a friend, travel provides us with a unique opportunity to experience God anew by approaching our journey not just as travelers but pilgrims—people on the lookout for God at work and opportunities to join him.

Jesus was the ultimate pilgrim, after all, leaving his heavenly climes to not only visit with but live among humanity. He faced all the usual obstacles to comfort that plague us when we travel—difficulty in finding food and shelter, misreading the vibe of a particular place, and having to rely on the hospitality and grace of strangers, family, and friends. “Foxes have dens,” Jesus said, “and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus leans into this discomfort, telling his disciples to “take nothing for the journey.” He invites us to do likewise. (Though, to be fair, none of the disciples was toting a two-year-old. Surely then even Jesus would have advised bringing an extra snack or two.) Away from our usual environment, at the mercy of the road or the airlines or the weather or the host home, we are given the opportunity to see the world with new eyes: to receive welcome, to develop compassion, to grow in faith and trust that God will care for us throughout the journey and see us safely home at its end.

In my upcoming summer travels, I want to practice Christlike pilgrimage, watching for God as our family journeys, looking for opportunities to love those in my path with the love of Christ, and doing my best to accept discomfort and even disaster as means of discipleship and grace.

I also need to seek ways to slow down and listen—something that doesn’t come naturally to me. One of the lessons God offers to us in travel is to find peace amid the storm, to leave behind the intensity of our work lives and schedules and family pandemonium and settle into the quieter days of travel. As Carlo Carretto puts it, “That is the truth we must learn through faith: to wait on God. And this attitude of mind is not easy. This ‘waiting,’ this ‘not making plans,’ this ‘searching the heavens,’ this ‘being silent’ is one of the most important things we have to learn.”

This insight comes home to me every time I visit my parents in the northern woods of Wisconsin, where I’m cut off from the busyness of my normal life. My parents’ internet is spotty; my cellphone works only intermittently; the last time I heard a siren of any kind was at the town Fourth of July parade half a decade ago.

Back home, Daryl and I often fall asleep watching The West Wing or The Office in an effort to still our ping-ponging thoughts. Here, however, any digital streaming takes literal hours to download, so we simply don’t. At night we open the windows to hear the oak and maple leaves blow in the wind, falling asleep with books on our chests. When we spend these days in the quiet of the northern forests, it’s as if Jesus stands at the helm of our proverbial boats during the storm of the usual daily grind—ministry, school, appointments, errands, household chores—and says, “Peace. Be still.”

In these pilgrimage moments, I’m ever so slowly learning to listen. I’m learning, too, that the journey, provision, and destination all belong to God.

Courtney Ellis is a pastor and speaker and the author, most recently, of Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents (June 2019, Rose Publishing). She lives in Southern California with her husband, Daryl, and their three kids. Find her on TwitterFacebook, or her blog.

This essay was adapted from Almost Holy Mama by Courtney Ellis. Copyright (c) 2019 by Courtney Ellis. Published by Rose Publishing, Peabody, MA. hendricksonrose.com

 

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God Gave Us Sex For ‘Procreation of Children … This Truth Is Not Homophobia’

June 4, 2019  By Michael W. Chapman

Bishop Joseph Strickland, head
of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas.
(Diocese of Tyler)

(CNSNews.com) — In response to vicious attacks by homosexual activists and their supporters against a fellow bishop, Joseph Strickland, head of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, said that preaching the truth of the Gospel is not homophobic, that sexual intimacy is for a married man and woman “for the procreation of children,” and that this is “simply reality.”

Bishop Strickland made his remarks on Twitter in defense of Providence, R.I. Bishop Thomas Tobin who had advised Catholics not to participate in the LGBT activities of “Pride Month” in June because celebrating or endorsing sodomy in any way is contrary to Catholic teaching.

(Twitter.)

Tobin had tweeted on June 1, “A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.”

For his statement on Catholic teaching, Bp. Tobin was harshly criticized onlineby LGBT activists and their supporters.

In response, Bp. Strickland tweeted on June 2, “Please stop labeling bishops who speak the truth of the Gospel as homophobic. God gave us sexual intimacy for the procreation of children and the deeper union of a man & woman in marriage. Stating this truth is not homophobia, it is simply reality.”

(Twitter.)

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (Emphasis added.)

(Twitter.)

The Catechism further teaches, “By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory. Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: ‘It is not good that man should be alone,’ and ‘from the beginning [he] made them male and female’; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’

“Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.”

Gay marriage is a contradiction in terms and illogical, according to the Church, because homosexuals use their sexuality in unnatural ways and do not reproduce. Unlike the unitive and generative nature of heterosexual coitus between a married man and woman, homosexual intercourse is non-unitive and non-generative.

(Twitter.)

Bishop Strickland also tweeted on June 2, “Bishop Tobin is simply speaking for one truth of the deposit of faith. God made humans male & female. Certainly those who are confused about their identity need Christ’s love & compassion, let’s remember Christ’s love is expressed when [he] dies on the cross for the truth.”

The Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction is not sinful but to engage in homosexual practices is gravely sinful.

https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/us-bishop-god-gave-us-sex-procreation-children-truth-not-homophobia

Billy Graham mag calls out ‘lie of progressive Christianity’

Says Buttigieg, others seek to drive biblical faith to ‘outer margins of society’

 

DecisionButtigieg

The mantle of “progressive Christianity” is being claimed by more and more people these days – some megachurches, some old-line denominations and even some politicians.

It’s roughly a gospel that regards the Bible as a good book but insists it must be reinterpreted to comport with contemporary society.

But now Decision Magazine, the publication launched by Billy Graham and still run by his organization, has unleashed a broadside against that belief system.

Its June front-page headline, “The lie of ‘progressive Christianity,’” is plastered over the image of Pete Buttigieg.

He’s the Democratic presidential hopeful who just a few weeks ago attacked the faith of Vice President Mike Pence, whose beliefs align with traditional Christian views of marriage and sexuality.

“Back in April when Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg threw stones at ‘the Mike Pences of the world’ for their historic Christian beliefs about marriage, sexuality and sin, he drew rapt attention from the news media. He also raised the visibility of a religious movement that claims the term Christian but denies the full authority of Scripture on which ‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3, NKJV) is based,” writes the author of the article, Jerry Pierce.

“Buttigieg’s ‘progressive Christianity’ allows him to claim a commitment to the faith that Jesus Christ taught in the Gospels and still remain married to his male partner,” he wrote.

But R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, says that’s a “distortion” of God’s Word.

Buttigieg attacked Pence’s faith as “social extremism” and, in effect, told faithful evangelicals to either “affirm the new sexuality embodied in the LGBTQ movement, or affirm the full authority of Scripture and be anathema in the postmodern culture.”

Mohler told Decision that it is tempting for Christians faithful to the Bible to hunt down a “middle ground” on such issues.

But that’s not what the Bible allows.

“I have made the argument that everybody’s opinion on these matters is going to be known,” Mohler told the magazine. “It may be when you run for office. It may be when you move into the dorm. It may be when a new neighbor walks in and you end up in conversation. But the point is, there’s nowhere to hide on these issues. There are a lot of Christians who are trying to hide in the tall grass, and that’s not going to work.”

The article says Buttigieg and others of his belief system are trying to drive biblical Christians “to the outer margins of society.”

Mohler explained “the new liberalism under the ‘progressive’ banner is encroaching on more conservative churches amid a culture that paints biblical values as oppressive and bigoted.”

He told Decision that Christians don’t want to appear hateful but issues such as homosexuality cannot be defined “on the world’s terms.”

The issue has brought untold grief to the United Methodists, now caught in a fight between conservative African and Asian members and progressives in the United States.

Lay leader Mark Tooley, a Methodist and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, told Decision progressive Christians often affirm miracles, even the Apostles’ Creed, but deny the full authority of God’s Word.

“This is true for mainline Protestants, but also increasingly for many members of the post-evangelical left,” he told Decision.

Mohler said he is concerned that Christians eventually may be deemed as subversive as early Christians were in Rome, who were killed for their faith.

“There’s no middle ground between affirming and denying the bodily resurrection of Christ. There’s also no middle ground between defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman and saying it can be something else,” he said.

https://www.wnd.com/2019/06/billy-graham-mag-calls-out-lie-of-progressive-christianity/

Geckos Evidence of Creation NOT Evolution

By David Jolly – June 9, 2019

Virtually everyone here in the U.S. has seen or heard of the gecko used in commercials for a certain insurance company. That gecko has successfully invaded and colonized many homes and businesses throughout the country. But what does that have to do with Creation?

As I have previously shared, while working on my master’s thesis, I studied a different gecko that also invaded and colonized many homes and businesses in the U.S. The first documented report of the Mediterranean gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus, was in Key West, Florida in 1915. Through the scientific literature, I tracked this gecko across the Gulf Coast states from Florida to Texas. At the time of my research, I lived in Mesa, Arizona and the Mediterranean gecko had been well established in the area for over 35 years.

During my research, I found that the only life history study ever done in the U.S. on this interesting little gecko was conducted in Texas and published in 1986. In the conclusion of this study, the author claimed that the Mediterranean gecko was proof of evolution because of its method of colonization which is known as the Founder Principle. Evolutionists have long used the Founder Principle to justify their theory.

The Founder Principle is defined as the establishment of a new population from a larger population by the transportation of a few individuals, a gravid[i] female or a nest, to a new area that is isolated from the original population. The new population will contain a lesser amount of genetic variation than was found in the larger original population. In a number of instances, the decrease in genetic traits will lead to enough of a change between the two populations to make interbreeding unlikely or impossible which in turn will result in the establishment of a new species or subspecies. And it is these changes that are used as proof of evolution.

The Founder Principle is one variation of what is called a genetic bottleneck.  A genetic bottleneck generally occurs as a result of a major event that drastically reduces the number of individuals in a population. It can also be the result of removing a few individuals from the parent population and relocating them in a new and isolated location. Examples of a genetic bottleneck could be a disease that kills off a majority of a population, leaving only a few individuals left. It could also be the effect of transplanting a few individuals to a remote location that is geographically separated from the original larger population. As can be seen in the image to the right, the narrower the neck of the bottle (meaning the fewer individuals that survive or are passed on to the new population) the fewer genetic traits that are passed on with them.

What if the ‘A’ was a trait for a large body size and ‘a’ was a trait for a small body size. Those individuals with ‘AA’ would be quite large, while those with ‘Aa’ would be medium sized and those with ‘aa’ had a small body size.

 

The parent population contained a fairly equal amount of the large and small traits which may have resulted in medium sized individuals. In the first example of the largest bottleneck, more traits are passed on and the new population will most likely reflect the traits of the parent population and have medium sized bodies. In the middle example, both traits occur, but there are a greater number of individuals with traits for the larger body size than the smaller, so in all likelihood, that population would have been somewhat larger than the parent population. In the third example, only those individuals with the ‘a’ trait survived, resulting in a population of smaller individuals.

Indeed, the Mediterranean gecko did colonize via the Founder Principle. When I mapped out the various reports of the appearance of the geckos across the Gulf Coast states, the paths followed the major highways and port cities. As a rule, they do not migrate more than a few dozen yards from where they hatch. They are nocturnal geckos that inhabit urban and industrial areas. They like to hide in the cracks in walls and fences of homes and commercial businesses and in and around boxes and freight. The females will nest in and under items such as large cartons of freight. Unlike most reptiles that lay numerous eggs at a time, female Mediterranean geckos lay an average of only 2 eggs at a time. However, up to a dozen or more females will lay their eggs in the same nest. When the freight is shipped from one city to the next, sometimes a few individuals or a nest will be shipped along with it allowing the geckos to colonize a new area.

Since the Mediterranean gecko repeatedly colonized across the U.S. by means of the Founder Principle, I tried to determine if there were any differences between the ones that were now well established in Arizona compared to those from Texas and Florida. Besides the nearly 100 geckos collected from the Mesa, Arizona area, I was able to obtain a number of specimens from Texas as well.   Unfortunately, I was unable to collect any specimens from Florida.

When comparing the Arizona and Texas specimens, what I found was quite interesting. The Arizona specimens were significantly smaller than the Texas geckos.  Additionally, the Texas geckos were far more aggressive than the Arizona geckos. Approximately 80% of the Texas geckos would try to bite when handled while none of the Arizona geckos ever bit. When placed together in a terrarium, the aggressiveness of the Texas geckos was such that even when the Arizona geckos out numbered the Texas geckos 10-to-1, they would find a secluded corner as far away from the Texas gecko as possible and remain there until they eventually starved to death. As long as the Arizona geckos were in the presence of the Texas geckos, they would not eat, but as soon as they were removed from the same terrarium as the Texas gecko, they would start to eat almost immediately. I tried 15 different combinations of numbers and sexes and had the same results every time – dead Arizona geckos.

The difference in size and behavior between the two populations may be considered enough evidence to claim that the gecko population in Arizona be classified as a new subspecies of Mediterranean gecko. Unfortunately, I was not able to afford the cost to conduct any DNA studies on the two populations of geckos to substantiate my findings. Had I been able to conduct the DNA tests, I am positive that it would have shown that the Arizona geckos contained a lesser amount of genetic variation than the ones found in Texas.

Probably the greatest example of all time for a genetic bottleneck coupled with numerous Founder’s effects, would have been the Genesis Flood and subsequent Ice Age. The animals on the Ark probably carried a fairly large amount of genetic variety, which would allow them to survive the many different environments on the earth after the Flood. A certain amount of variation would also have been lost at the time of the Flood because taking only 2 individuals (7 of some) out of a larger population would still create a HUGE genetic bottleneck. As the animals dispersed from the Ark, they would have started breeding faster than normal because breeding pressures would have been non-existent at the time. As the populations grew, they began to spread out to the four corners of the earth via one Founder’s event after another. Each new population would have had less genetic variation than the previous one creating many new species in a span of 100-300 years after the Flood. Eventually, new areas were filled with enough animals and the rapid speciation would have slowed down.

It was also around this time (200-700 years after the Flood) that Ice Age occurred as a result of the Flood. The Ice Age caused some major climate changes which would have caused many of the newly formed species to die out and become extinct because they no longer carried the necessary traits to survive that the original members of the population had. That would help to explain the many different fossils we find in early post-Flood deposits.

In reality, the Founder Principle and genetic bottlenecks are the exact opposite of what evolution requires. Not only does evolution need an increase in variability, they also need an increase in genetic information. For example, they need a way to have ‘Bb’ and ‘Cc’ added to the ‘Aa’ when it never existed in the population to start with. To date, there has never been a known case of NEW genetic information being added to an organism by natural means. If evolution was true, we should be finding all kinds of examples of this, but we don’t. We do find numerous examples of the Founder’s Principle and genetic bottlenecks resulting in not only new species, but numerous extinctions as well, which all fits into a curse filled Creation that continues to run down.

Yeah, listen to the gecko. It will tell you that real science and the study of population genetics supports a biblical creation model and completely destroys evolutionary theory. If I ever do get evidence that the geckos in Arizona are a new subspecies, I am tempted to name them Hemidactylus turcicus creationensis because they tell me that God’s Word about Creation and all that follows is true.

[i] The term ‘gravid’ is used for animals that are carrying young or eggs. In scientific terminology, the term ‘pregnant’ is used only for humans.

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Why Do Some Pastors Sabotage Their Own Ministries?

And how can they avoid the allure of the self-destruct button?
STEPHEN L. WOODWORTH

Why Do Some Pastors Sabotage Their Own Ministries?

Can we be brutally honest with one another for a moment? Can I ask you, pastor to pastor, the question that no one dares to ask.

How often do you want to quit?

How often do you fantasize about doing something else, something that refuses to weigh so heavily on your soul, something that offers more money? Or less? Something that doesn’t cost your family so much of their time, energy, and privacy? Something that helps you feel “normal” when you talk to fellow parents at your child’s school or their weekly sporting event? Do you ever wonder if there might be another way to make a living that doesn’t cost so much?

I do.

I do on those Monday mornings when the post-sermon blues hit me so hard I could stay in bed for days. When people judge my children, second-guess my motives, and criticize my teaching. When I spend another sleepless night on the couch, in the silence and stillness of my house, wondering if there might be anything else in the world someone like me could do, but when the thing I know how to do best is pastor the souls of broken men and women.

These haunting questions are the unspoken underbelly of the pastoral calling. They are asked by those torn in two by the burden of their calling and the desire for escape, those who have invested too much time and money building a platform they can’t afford to lose, and those who wake up some morning to discover that all the years of preaching truths they never experienced themselves bored a deep cynicism into their souls.

This kind of pressure pushes some pastors toward the light, draws them closer to Christ, and grows them into greater spiritual maturity. Yet it casts others into the darkest of corners, sends them running away from Jesus, and tempts them to give in to temptations that have haunted them for years. While many pastors handle the burden of ministry with grace for decades, why do some crash and burn in only a few years?

Many people believe the reason is quite simple: the sinful human heart. This is true, of course, but also vague enough to be of little value for those seeking a specific prescription. Others suggest pride or a culture of celebrity that elevates pastors above the law. Still others talk about pastors’ isolation, their lack of confession, their diminished willingness to engage in self-reflection. Or as my wife suggested, some pastors have gotten so used to faking it that this becomes the norm in every sphere of life. Undoubtedly these all play a role in pastoral failure.

But I want to suggest another option: Some pastors sabotage their ministries on purpose.

Hitting the Self-Destruct Button

I often read that pastors never decide one morning to become addicted to pills, to bed down with someone other than their spouse, to endlessly click through pornographic websites, or to drink until life becomes a dull blur. And while it’s true that these decisions probably aren’t spur of the moment, we deceive ourselves if we pretend pastors never willingly and intentionally decide to fail. Some do.

As Carey Nieuwhof reflects, failure is sometimes the quickest escape.

When I first started out in ministry, I met with a pastor who had just had to resign because of an affair. He was 20 years my senior, and we met for lunch.

I asked him why he had an affair, and he told me in part it was because he couldn’t handle the pressure of ministry anymore but couldn’t find an easy way to get out. The affair forced him out.

Years later I would discover the pain of burnout personally. … I was so burnt out an escape from my life looked appealing. By the grace of God, I knew enough to keep my head in the game even though my heart had stopped working. As a result, during my darkest months, I kept saying to myself “whatever you do, don’t do anything rash—don’t cheat on your wife, don’t quit your job and don’t buy a sports car.”

In its simplest terms, self-sabotage, or self-defeating behavior, includes any behavior that undermines a person’s own goals. Psychologist Ellen Hendrickson suggests that, among other reasons, many people self-sabotage because it gives them a feeling of control over their situation. She notes, “It feels better to control your own failure. At least when you’re steering the ship, going down in flames feels more like a well-maintained burn.”

Others may sabotage themselves due to insecurity. Many pastors feel like imposters, and it may feel easier to fail morally than face the potential of being fired for inadequacy. “How does this manifest?” asks Hendrickson. “Feeling like a fraud easily leads you towards procrastination and diversion—if you’re faced with a task that makes you feel like a phony, it’s a lot more tempting to … realize there’s no time like the present to immediately start a DIY spice rack project.”

And then there are those who pursue self-sabotage as a way to return to a sense of equilibrium. To one degree or another, every pastor feels the gnawing sense of their own hypocrisy. We are called to preach, week after week, about a vision of Christianity that we may not fully experience, a love from God we sometimes don’t feel, prayer we don’t practice, parenting and marriage advice we forget to employ in our own homes, forgiveness we struggle to give, an identity in Christ in which we struggle to stay rooted. Amid that tension, pastors may look for a way to balance others’ external expectations with their internal reality. The higher the pedestal, the stronger the pull back down.

For this reason, it doesn’t surprise me anymore to see those in some of the largest and most influential ministries in America jumping toward the ground. Sin is the norm and sainthood our elusive goal, so it can be a bizarrely cathartic act for some to give in to their temptations in order to feel “normal” once again. I have watched this principle play itself out among colleagues who have confessed to retreating to their office immediately after the sermon to look at porn, swallow a pill, or drain a bottle of liquor.

I do not believe pastors misunderstand the ramifications of these sort of actions. Certainly, many have successfully hidden their sins for years, but the truth usually finds its way to the surface. And when it does come into the light of day, pastors can’t speak about biblical ignorance or moral ambiguity. Indeed, perhaps the greatest irony of pastoral failure is the amount of teaching, preaching, and writing pastors have often dedicated to decrying the very sins that lead to their fall. Pastors are uniquely positioned to understand the gravity of their immoral decision. This is precisely why their moral failures are more shocking, and why it is difficult to deny that, at least in some cases, pastoral failure is an intentional push of the eject button.

Even while I use the word intentional, it is important to remember that the motives for our self-defeating behavior may be hidden from us in the moment. As with many poor decisions we make, our motives may be limited to hindsight. Such is the case for Darrin Patrick, who underwent three years of restoration since his firing from The Journey church in 2016. After years of counseling, reflection, prayer, and repentance, Patrick came to understand his own act of ministerial self-sabotage was driven by a deep need to be rescued and rebuked:

In my own story, this self-sabotaging was a cry for help. It was me throwing the white flag up and saying, “I need help.” I was saying, “I want to be known, I want to be accepted despite my flaws, I want people to know I have struggles, I want people to know how hard it is and how much I have sacrificed.”

Perhaps most important for Patrick during his season of restoration was the counsel he received from CrossPoint Ministry founder Richard Plass, who shared with Patrick, “You have been crying out for help since you were a little boy; you’ve been wanting somebody to come and be your dad, be your older brother. You’re acting out in order to be rebuked.”

Stepping Back from the Ledge

I shared these reflections recently with some pastoral colleagues who resonated with many aspects of the self-sabotage temptation. When I asked them how they had managed to avoid this fate, a few themes repeatedly rose to the surface of these conversations.

1. Avoid Isolation

Several pastors mentioned that their primary driver of frustration, disillusionment, and sometimes despair is the inherently dehumanizing nature of ministry. In too many churches, the pastor is a role, not a person. Pastors fulfill certain duties—they pray, they preach, they visit, they counsel—but many don’t feel seen as individuals. When someone or something makes a lonely pastor feel “human” again, that pastor may struggle not to run straight into its arms. And the temptation grows even stronger when giving in to it might provide an easy out from a ministry that otherwise feels unavailable. This is the temptation Henri Nouwen was guarding against when he wrote about the need for constant community in the life of a pastor:

When spirituality becomes spiritualization, life in the body becomes carnality. When ministers and priests live their ministry mostly in their heads and relate to the Gospel as a set of valuable ideas to be announced, the body quickly takes revenge by screaming loudly for affection and intimacy. Christian leaders are called to live the Incarnation, that is, to live in the body, not only in their own bodies but also in the corporate body of the community, and to discover there the presence of the Holy Spirit.

2. Watch for Patterns

Second, my colleagues suggested that pastors on the verge of self-sabotage begin to notice the moments in which temptations strike hardest and keep track of when their particular struggle rears its ugly head. Is every spiritual success, every instance of high praise, met with a plunge into the depths of darkness? Pastors on the verge of collapse should ask those who love and know them best if they recognize a pattern in their bouts of depression, anger, despair, or defeats with temptation. If these pastors are seeking a sense of stability to help balance their external persona with their internal reality, they should talk to older pastors about their feelings of inadequacy, their guilt of hypocrisy, and their desire to leap off the pedestal. More ministry “success” will only aggravate the problem.

3. Grieve Your Losses

Finally, and maybe most importantly, my colleagues recommended that pastors learn to grieve. Pastors everywhere, regardless of ministry context, size, or denomination, will sometimes experience a sense of personal loss, betrayal, and anger toward congregants—people who criticized their ministry, tried to get them fired, or consumed their time with petty gripes about music, sermon topics, or the youth ministry. People they poured their life into, yet they still left the church for another one down the street with better coffee in the foyer. People who tried to split the congregation over a trivial issue or personally attacked their spouse or kids. People who hurt them.

Pastors need a way to take these wounds seriously and address them in healthy ways that don’t include passive attacks from the pulpit. They should make time for regular, extended Sabbath rest and quarterly appointments with a trusted counselor who can help them process their pain.

Finally, let me say this: It’s okay to quit. You are not your church. You are not your ministry. You are not the sole bearer of the kingdom in your corner of the world. And stepping away from a role in full-time ministry is not equivalent in any way to stepping away from God. In fact, for some of you, stepping away from full-time ministry may be a step toward God. Every time a pastor escapes ministry through self-sabotage, an entire community is devastated and the global reputation of the church is harmed. Some pastors need to resign rather than escape. Yes, the church needs pastors, but it also needs to stop getting hit by shrapnel when they crash.

 

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Nikki Haley Destroys The Notion That Being Pro-Life Is Anti-Women

The abortion debate in this country is at a fever pitch. While both pro-choice and pro-life advocates passionately defend their causes, civility flies out the window. In the midst of this political firestorm, one voice of reason recently emerged.

Speaking at an event for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List on June 3, 2019, former United Nations Ambassador and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley gave a poignant pro-life speech without ruthlessly attacking the other side. While destroying the notion that being pro-life is anti-woman, Haley said, “That Is Not Real Feminism.”

According to the Washington Examiner’s Madeline Fry, the former South Carolina Governor stated, “Women are expected to support choice simply because we’re women. That’s just wrong. We all have to be true to ourselves and to others. Unfortunately, many on the Left use the abortion debate to divide women and demand conformity. They do this in the name of feminism. But that is not real feminism.”

In her speech, Haley challenged the demand by pro-choice supporters that all females toe the line with a certain set of values. The former United Nations Ambassador remarked, “The idea that women must adhere to a particular set of values is one of the most anti-women ideas in today’s culture. It is a rejection of the ideas of equality and tolerance that the women’s movement is supposed to be about” according to TheBlaze.

At the Susan B. Anthony List gala, Haley also reinforced the truth that the pro-life movement isn’t mainly about women. It mostly consists of acknowledging the right of an innocent unborn baby to live.

The former South Carolina Governor commented, “As a pro-life, female governor, I was blessed with a unique platform, and I made every effort to use it appropriately. Not to lob attacks at people who disagreed with me, not to diminish the other side, but to re-frame the debate. To explain that being pro-life is not about being for or against women. It is about being for a baby’s right to live — the most basic right there is.”

Fry wrote, “If more people involved in the abortion debate could understand where the other side is coming from — pro-lifers believe the unborn deserve the rights of any other human, and pro-choicers believe unwanted pregnancies will hurt women or hold them back — they might have constructive conversations about the issue.”

While Haley attempted to begin a constructive dialog about abortion, she was quickly and vehemently shot down by Whoopi Goldberg on a broadcast of the left-leaning “The View.” Goldberg quipped, “So let me get this straight, so giving a woman a choice about what to do with her body is anti-feminist? To me, you taking the choice from people is anti-human.”

In the Washington Examiner piece, Fry argued, “And this is why the abortion debate in America is going nowhere. Among U.S. adults, abortion opinions are split about 50/50, according to Gallup, which reports that 48% are pro-choice and 48% are pro-life.”

Fry went on to add, “But when Haley defends a view held by half of Americans, she’s ‘anti-human.’ When pro-abortion activists talk about the other side ‘trying to police’ women’s bodies and anti-abortion activists call people who’ve had abortions ‘murderers,’ something is wrong. No mind was ever changed through sheer contempt.”

In the Liberal Democratic Party, merely having pro-life views is grounds to get you isolated at best and ousted at worse. According to Fox News, “While the party once tolerated both pro-life and pro-choice Democrats inside the tent, those with pro-life views are being told they aren’t welcome anymore.”

Recently, 2020 Democratic presidential contender U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat – New York, told the Washington Post, “As a party, we should be 100 percent pro-choice, and it should be non-negotiable.”

When Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, dared to sign a bill last week that would ban abortions in his state after a fetal heartbeat is detected, he received blow-back from his own party. In a statement, Nicole Brener-Schmitz, NARAL Pro-Choice America political director, stated, “Governor Edwards, and any other elected official attempting to use political overreach to roll back our rights, is mistaken to think our fundamental freedoms are up for debate. We are the majority, and if you’re not fighting alongside us, you don’t deserve to represent the American people.”

Brener-Schmitz said that the Louisiana Governor “won’t get a pass just because he is a Democrat.”

The hyper-polarized abortion divide in America highlights just how important the 2020 elections are for advocates on both sides of the fence.

Expect things to get even more heated in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Original here

Mene mene tekel upharsin

June 1, 2019 by Witness for Jesus

Dear friends,

Have you heard the expression “the writing on the wall”?

Usually we use it in the context that someone saw or ignored it, meaning that they had seen or ignored a warning, something unfortunate was about to happen if they didn’t listen to this warning and yet they continued doing what they were doing…

Did you know that this saying actually stems from a story in the bible?

Me, I didn’t.

Only today when I was reading the bible did I realize that this is where it came from.

I am talking about the book of Daniel chapter 5.

For many of you, the phrase “writing on the wall” will have rung a bell, but let me freshen up your memory or fill you in if you’ve not heard about it:

MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN

That was the title of the writing upon king Belshazzar’s wall.

The phrase appeared on a wall in the palace of Belshazzar, the acting king of Babylon.

He is referred to as the “son of Nebuchadnezzar”, although he was not Nebuchadnezzar’s immediate successor. The biblical account of the mysterious and frightening appearance of the phrase mene mene tekel upharsin has given rise to the modern expression “the handwriting on the wall,” meaning “a portent or warning of inevitable misfortune.”

Daniel 5 tells the story of the Babylonian ruler Belshazzar, a rich and debauched king, who gave a banquet to his court. During the drunken party, the sacred vessels from the Jewish temple, stolen by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, were used in a blasphemous manner. At the height of the festivities, a man’s hand was seen writing on the wall the mysterious words “mene mene tekel upharsin” (verse 25). The king was terrified. But no one could understand what the words meant. All attempts at interpretation by Belshazzar’s wise men failed until the prophet Daniel was called in.

Daniel was one of the captives from Judah brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was given wisdom from God to read and translate the words, which meant “numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.” Daniel told the king, “Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:26–28). Peres is the singular form of upharsin. The Bible never identifies what language the words were in.

The handwriting on the wall proved true. In fact, it proved fatal for the dissolute Belshazzar. Just as Daniel had said, the kingdom of Babylon was divided between the Medes and Persians, and it happened that very night. Belshazzar was slain, and his kingdom passed to Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:30–31).

Belshazzar had not lived his life for GOD, nor had he feared HIM. This is why this came upon him according to the bible and to this story.

When you hear or recall this story, what is it telling you and how do you translate it into your life today?

To me, this can mean two things for us and in our lives:

  1. Either it is a warning to us that something we are doing must stop immediately, because it is not of GOD’s will, that we are living our life missing what he wants for us, that we are not on our path, not obeying HIS calling for us
  2. Or it can also be a warning for our enemies that their days are numbered and that they are about to die – this will be spiritually most of the time, usually not in a literal sense, but it also can be…

Which of the two meanings apply to your current situation, you will know immediately and most likely, you have even known what the meaning is before I suggested the options…

This is how GOD speaks to us, this is why HE has created the bible, so that we can hear HIM, so that we can learn what HE wants us to learn.

For me, it is always fascinating and a mystery at the same time, how GOD directs me to the very story that I am supposed to read and hear that day.

This one came to me through a movie that I watched – I don’t watch secular movies any longer, just as I renounced and stopped listening to secular music a while ago, and I also don’t have a TV at home, because I find that the media are trying to manipulate our brains and wellbeing too much with their negative propaganda, spreading fear and also with the subliminal messages and attempts to control our minds being sent out through the media…

But I do sometimes like to watch a film for entertainment and when I do, I sometimes like to watch one of the many Christian, Nigerian movies  – there are many of them and if you are interested, you can find them on youtube, just type in “mount zion movies” to give you an example.
They are all “clean” in language, all of them have a Christian message and most of them even contain sound biblical teachings which I really like.
This one today was about a family who had come from Nigeria to the USA and had missed the mission why GOD had sent them there –  before they had left for the foreign land, their pastor had asked the head of the family to read the first 6 chapters of the book of Daniel – and when he said it to the father in the movie, I paused the movie and did the same…

I still continued watching the film and I enjoyed it very much.

But even more so did I enjoy how this phrase came to me –  I had not seen it before:

MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN

These words comfort and inspire me.

And they give me hope.

Because in this account, someone who was against GOD was punished and died.

It can be frightening or comforting to consider that GOD is a just GOD.

Regarding of how we live our lives, this will either threaten or soothe our soul.

The knowing that GOD is JUST.

Me, I am comforted by this reminder today.

Perhaps I am missing something in my life which is not pleasing to GOD and perhaps I am being self-righteous, but after a lot of soul searching, I found that I have diligently sought HIM, asked HIM about every decision I made in my life in the past few years (after I got born again to be precise) and that my intention and my deep, deep wish is to follow HIM and to serve the LIVING GOD.

Which means that if or when my life is in dire circumstances, that these are against GOD and about to die, just like the forces and / or people causing them.

This is a good assurance.

And I wanted to share this with you, my dear friends.
Because I know that some of you are in the same situation.
That they are being treated unfairly, that they are being oppressed, that they are being haunted, tormented, shunned, attacked…

I want you to know that GOD is going to bring you justice.
That GOD is a rewarder of those who diligently seek HIM and that HE will give you an expected end.

And those of you who will see and ignore the writing on the wall and have some changes to do in their lives, in their hearts, they better do them, otherwise they will regret it.

GOD will always win.

There is nothing anyone can do about it.

HE is GOD and above all things and all persons and all powers.

If we are on HIS side and in HIS team, increasing and serving HIS kingdom, this truth is GOOD NEWS, is soothing, comforting, reassuring… if we are not, it is the most frightening truth we could possibly hear.

So if you are not comforted by this, my friend, take the writing on the wall seriously and give your life to JESUS today if you have not done so!
Remember, Belshazzar died the same night, so there may not be a lot of time left, you better repent and do it now!

And if you are already HIS child and serving HIM, take this as an assurance that your suffering will be over any minute…

I hope and pray that this will bless and inspire you and that THE LORD will bless you abundantly in all areas of your life, that HE will keep you and shine HIS face upon you and bring you peace. In JESUS’ name I pray. AMEN.

 

Original here