Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What's Real and What's Not






Sometimes we just don't get the concept that the spiritual realm is the most "real" realm known to man and spirits. 
          The spiritual realm goes forever in both directions--infinity past and infinity future.
          Here on earth, we're in a time "prison."  We cannot escape the passing of time that ultimately results in an "end."  In the spiritual realm, there is no such thing as an end.  And yet, here, our minds somehow fool us into believing that we'll always be here.  Even the minds of us Christians!  We understand that some day we'll be in heaven, but let's be honest...some days we don't feel like it'll be anytime soon.  And sometimes we even forget it's going to happen at all!
          Take Roy, as I'll call him.  
          I visited Roy today.  He's a man in his eighties who's got six months or less to live.  Upon every visit (and I mean every...single...one), he cries at the mention of his wife, who died six years ago.  Today he told me that every morning, the first thing he does is walk over to his dresser where there's a collage of photos of his wedding day, and he touches each one of the some-fifteen photos.  Surprisingly, he doesn't cry at that time of day.  But as the day progresses, tears flow as he thinks about his wife.
          I love Roy for his sensitivity and immense love for his wife.  Even more, I love him for his love and relationship with Jesus Christ.  But I find myself continually bringing Roy to a place of anticipation of seeing his wife again soon, rather than having him imprisoned in a time warp of separation from his lovely bride.
          With each visit, I rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal creative ways of teleporting Roy from the prison of time to the reality of infinity.  Today, I told him that his life is like the tip of a thumbtack.  While infinity is like the earth and the moon and all the planets.  That is where he will be reunited with his wife, and that reunion will last forever.
         Imagine how excited we'd be if we held in our hands a plane ticket to somewhere we've never been before, like say, Europe.  Admit it.  The trip is six months away, but we're packing tonight!  We're checking off each day on a giant calendar.  And we're looking at photos online of all the places we're going to visit.
          We're not crying every day because we never travel.  
          Roy is traveling to heaven within six months.  He'll be with His Savior and his wife.  Why isn't he packing?  Why hasn't he bought a calendar?  Why doesn't he read about where he's going?
          Ahh, but our minds deceive us.  
          Reality lies in what we cannot yet see or feel or hear.
          Sure, I'm not stupid.  "Reality" in philosophical terms is both our earthly life and our heavenly one, but which one does the LORD continually sharpen our focus on?
          Already Scriptures are racing through your mind, aren't they?  We KNOW the Bible.  The KNOW the truth about what lies ahead...the great HOPE that we have in Christ.  And yet, our fingers caress a collage of the days that were, instead of envisioning the reality of what is sure to come and of what will last forever--the reality of "the city with foundations."
          Read what was deeply entrenched in the heart of our forefather Abraham, mentioned in Hebrews 11:9-10:

By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

          Do we still have work to do here on earth?  
          Absolutely!
          Does that mean we should get a reality check and keep our minds on what we're doing here?
          Absolutely NOT!  Otherwise, God wouldn't tell us to "fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).
          True "reality" then is encapsulated in the unseen Hope that lies before us.

...Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  (Phil. 3:20-21)

          If God is real, heaven is real.
          If heaven is real, salvation is real.
          If salvation is real, then many of us--including myself--need to tweak our eternal perspective!
~ ~ ~
"Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in.  Aim at earth and you get neither."  ~C.S. Lewis

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chlorophyll Versus Treasure


Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
                                    ~Matthew 6:19-21

As I’ve ministered to dying people for the past several years, I’ve noticed a phenomenon.  Very shortly before someone dies, they often become extremely concerned about their belongings.
            Back in 1993, my mother was a health nut.  Before she became seriously ill with cancer and diabetes, she bought twelve large bottles of chlorophyll—a nasty green, organic liquid that tasted as bad as it smelled, and was supposedly the healthiest thing in the world to hold your nose for and drink.
            She then went into a nursing home for nearly a year.  As time grew closer for her life to come to an end, she became unusually obsessed with something.  She did not want anyone to touch her precious chlorophyll bottles!  She would often ask me or one of my siblings if the chlorophyll was still there and intact.
            “Yes, Mom.  Don’t worry.  It’s still under the dining room table where you left it.”
            I remember some sibling cruelly joked that he or she accidentally kicked one of the bottles and it burst open.  Well, I thought my mother’s skull was going to burst open right then and there.
            Just days later, she was gone.
            Does someone know when their mortality is imminent?  I believe so.  I believe, from what I’ve witnessed for a long time now, that God often speaks directly to someone’s spirit that their time is coming very soon.  And my mother was caught in the middle of stepping into the afterlife with one foot while grabbing at anything dear to her with another hand.  Chlorophyll represented earth to her.
            When Paul writes about his heaven and earth struggle here in Phil 1:22-24…
                                                                    
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

            ...his “earth” was not things but people.  
            That’s because he was Kingdom centered, whereas my mother had not yet accepted Christ (she did, however, a day before she passed).  If someone does not have Christ, they latch onto the next best representative of this earthly world—things.
            That brings me to two dying women I’ve visited this past month.
            Katie is an old German woman who’s been stripped of nearly all she has owned.  She was a widow who lived alone.  When her condition became too severe to leave her alone, Katie’s neighbor, Sandy, took her in.  Katie then had to sell her house and her car to live with Sandy.  A few months later, Katie had to move to a nursing home because caring for her was too much for Sandy.  When she moved, she had to get rid of her precious Cocker Spaniel, the only family she’s known for years.
            Now in a nursing home, Katie’s become so paranoid.  Some may say that’s understandable.  Katie worries that Sandy is taking her for all she’s worth, but it’s virtually reduced to next to nothing anyway.  Still, Katie’s panicked that Sandy has her driver’s license.
            “What if a cop stops me on the road?  I’ll go to jail without it,” she cried to me.  But we all know that Katie can’t set foot in a car.  Besides, her car is gone.  Katie is holding on to anything that represents earth to her with a feverish desperation.
            Today, I spent time with another woman, Robbi.  Robbi has a short time to live, but since she recently moved to a nursing home, she’s been very teary and desperate.  You see, she believes her wayward son is at her house taking her for all she’s worth (which also isn't much).  Robbi was convulsing in tears because she thinks her son is stealing a rock collection she has in a backpack.  Those rocks are Robbi’s chlorophyll.  But today, I believe I refocused her on her treasure in heaven, praise God. 
            Please pray for both Katie and Robbi.  But more importantly, join me in ensuring that your treasure and mine remains where it should be—in the bosom of our Lord in heaven!  
            We nearly lost everything in the Waldo Canyon fire this summer.  Fortunately, the Lord spared our home.  But even more fortunately, the incident woke up my wife and me about what’s really important.  And “things” just aren’t.  Mind you, Adéye and I don’t own anything to store in a safety deposit box.  (You’re more than welcome to walk around our home and help yourself to anything! lol)  But still, belongings don’t have to have intrinsic value to be a source of treasure on earth.
            I have in my closet two or three boxes of “stuff” that belonged to my father.  They were near and dear to his heart.  But for me, well, I never once looked at them since he died.  It’s not that it’s too painful, it’s that they don’t mean anything to me.  They were dear to HIM.  Aw, but Solomon got it right, huh?  It’s all vanity, empty!
            Let go, friends.  Let go.  Start now releasing the chlorophyll in your life and be free to go home.  Because it could happen at any time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Love-Hate, Hate-Love Thing





To some it sounds strange when those in the adoption community herald how important it is to God that orphans find their forever homes.

“Why would God care so much?”

“Aren’t orphans better off where they are?  At least they’re given the essentials of life.”

“Isn’t God more concerned with ‘lost’ people?”

Or even something as heartless as this…

“If orphans die where they are, they’re going straight to heaven anyway, right?”

These questions often come up.  And if they’re not spoken or written, they’re in thoughts.

The simple answer to why orphans matter so much to God is this…Are you ready for it?...Here it comes…da-da-da-DA!...

BECAUSE ORPHANS MATTER TO GOD.

I told you it was the simple answer.  But shouldn’t that be all that matters to us—that it matters to God?  I mean, why else are we here as Christians?  To do what matters to US and to let God take care of what matters to HIM? 

I recently spoke with a woman who’s dying.  She’s very lucid and conversant.  She also feels extraordinarily uncomfortable with the outpouring of love—cards, letters, phone calls, visits—from close friends and from those whom she hardly knows. 

So I asked her, “How does God show His love for us?”  She couldn’t answer.  He does it in many ways, I told her, but one very common way is that He uses people as His vessels.  That’s why we get checks in the mail with extra money that we prayed so desperately for.  That’s why when we feel down, we get that timely phone call from a close sister.  That’s why when circumstances are not in our favor, God spoils us by mobilizing people to help us, even though we never spoke to anyone about our plight.

God uses my hand to touch another.  He uses my arms to hug someone He wants to hug.  He uses my tongue to speak the things that build up another who needs to hear it.

So I ask you, How does God care for the widow?  How does God meet the needs of the poor?  How does God visit the prisoner?  The sick?  The orphan?

It’s me.  It’s you.  It’s our neighbor.

So if things like this are critically important to the Creator, then how do you think the devil reacts to it? 

It all comes down to this simple principle:

If God loves something, satan hates it.  And if satan loves something, God hates it.

It’s not rocket science.  It’s biblical logic.

Of course satan does not want orphans rescued from where they are, regardless of how long their lifespan will be—BECAUSE GOD WANTS THEM CARED FOR!

And that’s good enough for me, and it should be good enough for any Christian who lives to please his or her Savior.  This is what drives a couple to fly thousands of miles to a country so different from their own, not knowing what they’ll find in a dilapidated orphanage, not knowing if that tiny heartbeat encased in rice paper-thin skin will endure the plane trip back home, much less another day once they are home.

This is the stuff that only Christians have whose souls long for God “as the deer panteth for the water.”

Christians who love what God loves and hate what God hates…at any cost to ourselves.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

First Time in 10 Years!

This past weekend has been glorious.  It's the first time in 10 years that my wife and I have been away for a night together.  I was shocked when we recollected the last time. 

It was shortly after 9/11.  We were missionaries in Australia.  We stole away to a quaint, historic town called York in Western Australia.  That was refreshing because we had these two children that we loved dearly, but from whom we needed a break.  Yeah.  We think about that and laugh.  We're now at seven children and counting (two more coming this fall, Lord willing).

So when Adéye's father and Beth arrived from South Africa, we both excited at the prospect of going away again.  I know, I know.  It was about time. 

We had 24 hours of bliss.  We stayed at a B&B in Cripple Creek, a historic mining town about 40 minutes from where we live.  This morning, we slept in.  Let me say that again.  We s...l...e...p...t  i...n!  Wow.  Forgot what that was like.

Then we had a huge breakfast/brunch at an Irish cafe, shopped, took pictures, and drove around.  It was all so mindless.  And it was all so FANTASTIC!

Loved having The Fetching Mrs. Salem all to myself.  Thank you, honey, for a great time.

P.S.:  Did I tell you that we slept in?

Downtown Cripple Creek--the original capital of Colorado!




Approaching Cripple Creek, Colorado

Waiting to register at the high school!  Actually, these donkeys are from a group of 12 wild, roaming donkeys in Cripple Creek.  We were told they are the direct descendants of donkeys used in the mines in the 1800's during the gold rush.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Of Life and Death








Life is so short.

I was once again reminded of that while at work as a chaplain for a local hospice where we live. 

I had spent considerable time with one particular family.  The mother was the patient, who was living with her daughter and son-in-law.  All said they were Bible-believing Christians.  I was thrilled to relate to them on the same spiritual level.  But then things started being revealed which saddened me. 

As the mother approached death, the daughter and the son-in-law were experiencing a lot of tension with each other.  Sam (as I’ll call the husband) was a mess.  He was shaking uncontrollably.  Was he prepared emotionally for what was about to happen with his mother-in-law?  Could he bear the burden of the tension with his wife who was stretched and stressed beyond description?

I spent a lot of hours with Sam at his house.  On that particular day, he confessed that he had a drinking problem—“a few cocktails every day,” as he put it.  His mental health wasn’t the greatest either, so he also took prescription medication to calm himself.  I saw him swallow his pills, but even they were not able to lessen his horrendous shakes.  And he was too hyper to sit down with me on the couch.

So we spoke for hours, standing up.  Mainly about the Lord.  Since he was also a musician, I let him break up the stress of the day by placating him—allowing him to place headphones on my ears to hear his favorite singers on YouTube. 

“Man, Sam, that guy has such a ‘liquid’ voice!” I said.

Sam smiled big and had a little boy’s eyes as I struck a chord with him by speaking his language.  I was so happy I could get a smile out of him.  All the while, his mother-in-law was in the next room gasping for her last breaths.  I had already spent lots of time with her, preparing her for what was to come and praying for a smooth transition into eternity with her Savior.

But with Sam, I was burdened.  He was concerned about and even frightened for his wife.  His shaking still dominated his hands and arms.  It was then that the Holy Spirit had filled me with supernatural boldness to say what I know He wanted me to tell Sam:

“Sam, I understand your mental issues.  I even understand your stress, considering what’s happening now in your family.  But I really feel that the Lord wants you to rid your house of all alcohol and for you to take your God-ordained position as spiritual head of your marriage.  Sam, God may not change the strain on your wife, but as for you, He wants YOU to step up and put Jesus Christ back in as the center of your life, in your marriage, and in this house.”

I said a lot more, but to be honest with you, I can’t remember.  The words just flowed and flowed and I had the feeling I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.  But I knew that each and every word I spoke was from the Lord and was meant to be a direct hit into this precious man’s heart.  And they were.

Sam looked at me frozen.  His eyes, again, gleaming with the innocence of a little boy.  He was speechless at first, although his lips tried to form words. 

Then he took a deep breath, nodded, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Anthony, you’re right.  I know you’re right.  But it’s going to take an intervention team to help me.”

I told Sam that I understood and that he really should start that intervention as soon as possible.

Sam’s mother-in-law died that evening.

Six days later, Sam was dead, too.

I was called to the house—a house full of police and detectives.  His wife told me that Sam felt bad for her because it was Mother’s Day on Sunday, and it was only days after his wife’s mother passed away.  So he suggested they go out to a popular café and “celebrate” Mother’s Day.

And celebrate they did.  This particular café served alcohol.  Sam had consumed several shots of hard liquor.  He even bought rounds for many at the café.  They were so inebriated that they took a taxi home and passed out.

The next morning (yesterday), Sam’s wife turned to him with a glass of water and found him dead in bed.

I miss Sam so, so much.  When I spent that last day with him, I was thinking this guy could be a friend of mine, someone I could invest in and mentor, someone I could see blossom into a beautiful man of God.  He was so soft-spoken and gentle, yet his vices ravaged his soul.

Pray for his wife, too.  She lost her mother and husband within a week.  Pray for healing in her soul.

I write this story because I wanted to say that God reminded me of something yesterday…

He is real.

His love for us is TANGIBLE.

He is serious about us being healed of all the demons that haunt us…at any cost.

And finally, God will go to the ends of the earth (which He did, in Jesus) to see us whole. 

To give us hope.

To love us to freedom.

I hope all of you will do what I just did tonight—I held my kids a little tighter, telling them how much I truly love them, and how much a loving heavenly Father loves them even more.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Conversation with a Reluctant Husband








Although I wrote a series on reluctant husbands, I’d like to speak with you right now, right here, if you are one.

ANTHONY:   OK, so why are you so reluctant to adopt?

RH:  I don’t know, really.  I guess I’ve been working so hard just to “protect” the family that I have now.  What I mean by that is that I’m trying to preserve time with my family.  And that’s already a challenge with my work schedule.  How can I possibly fit one more in?

ANTHONY:   What do you mean?

RH:  I feel it’s not fair if we bring another child into our home because I feel like I’m lacking as a dad already, not giving enough quality time to the children I already have.

ANTHONY:  That’s a fair statement.  But I can tell you from personal experience that whether you have one child or ten, you never feel like you’re giving each one ample attention.  That may not be a bad thing.  It keeps us dads on our toes.  Besides, God somehow makes it all work out anyway.  And how great it would be if you show your children, by example, the heart of God lived out—His heart of adoption!  Every day you show your other children how the Father loves each of us adopted believers.

RH:  That’s all good in principle.  But I know me.  My stress level is at its threshold with the kids we have now. 

ANTHONY:  Then stress is the issue that must be addressed first.  If we see our children as a source of stress and not blessing, as the Word depicts them, then we are not living with the peace of Christ in our hearts.  And our children will always remember their dad as a nice guy, but an uptight dude.

RH:  But the source of stress isn’t always the kids.  It’s the finances that help pay for the kids. 

ANTHONY:  Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse?  If you are open to the Lord merely asking you to adopt, don’t you think He’ll take care of the finances?  If God asks us to do something, don’t you think He’ll pay for it?

RH:  That sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky, doesn’t it?

ANTHONY:  It does only if you are the god of your own finances.  In all that we do, we trust in the Lord, don’t we?  Why is our financial future any different?

RH:  OK, but I really have to admit something.  Even though we have the money, I’d really like to grow old with no kids in the house.  Children with special needs, well, many of them may end up staying at home for the rest of our lives.

ANTHONY:  And…?

RH:  And when am I going to have my time?  My time to finally spend with my wife.  My time to finally travel and see the world.  My time to just sit and relax and do nothing, if I want.

ANTHONY:  I understand.  But if you’re like me, then this passage in Luke shakes you up:
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.   And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
~Luke 12:16-21

RH:  Ouch.

ANTHONY:  I know.  Me too.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Please Vote for This Ministry

Hi, friends. This is a repost of what my wife published on her blog today. A cause well worth it!

There are so many ministries around who do incredible works.  All of them are advancing the kingdom of God on the earth--taking the Good News to all four corners of the globe. It's a beautiful thing. There are a handful of ministries that Anthony and I absolutely love.  They're led by people of integrity who serve sacrificially and seek the Kingdom above all else.  When we look for ministries to get behind, there are a few things which are important to us.  Integrity is one.  Walking the talk is another. 

 One of the ministries we believe in is PROJECT HOPEFUL.  We love these people!  Carolyn Twietmeyer and her handful of volunteer staff are the real deal--sold out for Jesus and just doing the most wonderful work in spreading the TRUTH about HIV around the world.  They rely solely on donations to spread TRUTH to whomever will listen. 

A few years ago I got to follow Carolyn as she traveled to Ethiopia to adopt her precious little girl, Selah.  My heart ached as I saw Carolyn embrace her little angel who, at that point, was barely alive due to the crippling effects of HIV. Since then I have watched Carolyn and her hubby Kiel live their lives out loud--with an authenticity that is rarely seen.  They truly do walk the talk big time. And so today I come to you all asking for help. 

My friends at Project Hopeful could really use a helping hand. You see, they have been given an opportunity to win $50,000 for their ministry.  That's a whole lot of money and would be such an enormous blessing. All that is required is for folks like you and me to vote...it's as easy as that!  And you can do it once a day for the next 55 days. 

 I cannot even begin to tell you how many e-mails I get with people asking me, "What can we do to make a difference in the life of a child?  How can we get involved in the orphan crisis when we are not in a position to adopt?" Easy!  Vote for Project Hopeful and help them win an enormous amount of money to help children living with HIV/AIDS by educating, encouraging and coming alongside families stepping out in faith to rescue these precious ones. It's as simple as that...and you don't even need to leave your own home. Please vote every day, friends.  Just go to THIS LINK!
Thanks for caring! Please share on your social networks and blogs.  The more people we have voting, the better.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bulgaria's Abandoned Children Video

In my last post HERE, I mentioned a horrific video showing the condition of children in orphanages in Bulgaria.  Please understand this--I am not being melodramatic when I say that conditions compare to the worst concentration camps the Nazis maintained, but what's worse, all of the "inmates" are fatherless children.

I want to first show you a "teaser" below.  If you speed up the video to the 1:52 mark, it's only eight minutes long.  But I can assure you, it will be eight minutes that will change your life.  I suggest you speed it up because the first part only shows an older orphan who is upset that another child broke her handbag.

After you watch this teaser, you can click on the next video, which is the full 89-minute version.   "Bulgaria's Abandoned Children" is a BBC documentary produced by their reporter Kate Blewitt.  Many of you may remember Kate from when she produced the documentary on "dying rooms" in China several years ago. 

Kate spent nearly a year in Bulgaria so that she could depict an accurate account of daily life (and death) in these orphanages.  DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND WATCH THIS FULL VERSION.  But be warned, there are parts which may not be suitable for younger children.

In the full version, you will learn how many, many children enter the orphanage at infancy because of a disability like blindness, deafness, Down syndrome, or autism.  Sadly, you will see how these children were healthy otherwise, but institutionalism has caused them to exhibit at best autistic tendencies and at worst, insanity or even death!

But for now, take a look at this teaser:




And now here is the full 89-minute version of the documentary:



Please know that this is not some freak occurrence.  It is prevalent all over the face of the globe, whether the countries are developing or are first-world.  You heard in the documentary that Bulgaria is a member of the European Union.  Unheard of.  Until now.

Spread the word, church, and spread the prayer!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Man Up, Men of God!








What was it in the films “Braveheart” and “Gladiator” that still appeals to men, so much so, that both films are stacked in thousands of men’s DVD collections at home?

I know what they both represented in me…

Courage.

Courage driven by a passion of values. 

In both films the heroes lost their loved ones.  From that moment on, both characters set their faces like flint (à la Isaiah 50:7) and would not stop at anything until mission accomplished.

I think every man wants to identify with heroes like those.  Every man wants to aspire to be just like them.  Gone are the days when Superman was the hero du jour.  Now…it’s PASSION over a cause that men want.  And I think it’s because men have had their passion over the years eroded by changes in our culture.

I had lunch with one of my best friends—a 91-year-old war veteran who flew planes in the South Pacific.  Howard told me that when World War II was in full swing, when Americans were fighting in both the Pacific and in Europe and Africa, the entire nation was driven by the war effort.  Everyone was united and so focused on winning that hardly anyone spoke of anything else.  Nearly every man in the country was chomping at the bit to fight for freedom.  And while they did, their women were active in factories, manufacturing supplies for the cause.

We have lost that, men.  We have been criticized, feminized, and mesmerized by intimidation coming our way.  Since the hippie movement in the 1960’s (something I lived through), fighting for a cause was no longer a noble thing unless it was a fight against the establishment—any establishment, even if it was good.  Superman of the 50’s was taken out in the 60’s by a kryptonite of Krishna-ism.  Good became bad, noble became ignoble, and pure became out of touch.

But now is the time.

Now is the time to recapture what we were placed on this earth for.

Now is the time to join the ranks of martyrs before us and martyrs among us.  Yes, that’s what I said.  We may not die for our Christianity like hundreds of others are EVEN TODAY in other parts of the globe.  But we need to seek and seize the passion that the LORD of Lords has added to the mix when He shaped us men at birth.

Now is the time to identify with the loss of our “loved ones”—not our immediate family members like those in the two films, but the loved ones who’ve preceded us some 2000 years ago.  Loved ones mentioned in Hebrews 11:35-38:

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Then there are our loved ones whose fate was recorded in history just a few years later; those who were sliced in two by Roman swords, who were impaled on long wooden poles, who were fed to ravenous animals in the Coliseum, who were crucified by the hundreds along the Appian Way (the main road leading into Rome), then lit on fire as human torches, the glow of which was seen for hundreds of miles.

Now is the time for courage in an era where literally millions of orphans (163 million, to be exact) are wasting away in so-called “welfare” institutes and children “care” centers, reminiscent of Hitler’s cowards torturing prisoners in “work camps.” 

The documentary I saw recently, entitled “Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children,” will shake your world--children…CHILDREN…with skin hanging on skeletons like miniature Auschwitz victims.  Children peering outside their institutions at cemeteries awaiting their fate.

Meanwhile, the men of God sleep.

Meanwhile, the men of God brush and blow-dry their hair before going to yet another men’s breakfast.

Meanwhile, the men of God hum and haw about which new car to buy next, while running the three-legged race at a summer men’s camp.

Meanwhile, the men of God close ranks in their family, draw a line in the sand, and tell God, “I will here and no farther!”

Men of God, RISE UP!  RISE UP!  RISE UP!

We have a church down our street that told a family they will not allow them to have a fundraising dinner in their hall so they can adopt a desperate orphan. Why?  Because if they did that, they’d have to allow everyone to do the same.  What?!

Men of God, I am not calling for rebellion.  I am calling for REVOLUTION! 

And the place to start is on your knees.

Get before the Lord and your family and repent of not being a man.  Not being a man of God!

Do you not realize that the true heroes and warriors of world history were men of God?

What has happened to us that we allowed a society to suck the passion of God out of us?

Repent.

Then get off your knees and tell your family that new things now matter.  That this life is not worth saving.  That you will no longer save for a retirement that will not last anyway. 

That you will put up with inconvenience…

and hard work…

and an old age that may not mean all of the kids are out of the house…

and that you will now, once and for all, trust the Lord Jesus Christ, the LION OF JUDAH, with your sustenance, your family’s sustenance, your joy in life, your purpose in life, YOUR LIFE!

Man up and rise up, men of God.

Be on a perpetual reconnaissance mission to seek out ways in which to live kingdom life—to obey our Lord’s commands to care for the orphan and the widow, to visit the sick and the prisoner, to feed the poor.

Think: 163,000 million orphans on the face of the planet is not a world problem.  IT…IS…OUR…PROBLEM!

I beg you, let the Christ in you, the Lion of Judah, wield the sword of Truth and lead your family by your courageous example. 

Shun mediocrity and GO TO WAR!

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? YOU ARE A MIST that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
                                                                                                ~ James 4:13-14

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Abandonment" Versus "Responsibility"





How can a Christian “lose their life for [Jesus’] sake” (Matt. 10:39) and still be a “responsible” person? 

In other words, how does one abandon or surrender their lives, substituting their will continuously for the Lord’s, while making sure all the bills are paid and funds are set aside for college or retirement, etc.?

It kinda sounds like an illogical question when you think about it.  By following the Lord’s will all the time, don’t you think He would want you to pay your bills?  And don’t you think He’s interested in taking care of you in the future?

I like a particular passage that speaks right into this issue:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
   “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
   “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
   “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
   “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Luke 14:25-35

Let’s start with this word, “hate.”  It is common belief that Jesus primarily spoke Aramaic as his native tongue.  In Aramaic, there is no word for “like” or “dislike.”  It was one extreme or the other.  But another way of looking at it, if you look at the text in other passages, is to “favor one more or less than the other.”

In Genesis 29:30-1, it says that Jacob “went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.”  Jacob favored Rachel more than Leah.  If he literally hated her, I doubt he would’ve married her.

Look also in Luke 16:13: 

“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.”

Here we can tell that the word “hate” should not be taken literally.  If that’s so, then one who claims to serve Jesus and money, for example, if he has a problem idolizing money, he doesn’t necessarily mean to “hate” Jesus.  In fact, that would be the last thing he would admit!  The struggle he has is that he prefers one more than the other, which causes inner torment.  If he actually hated Jesus, there’s no torment.  He chooses money.  Done deal.

So now let’s look at the passage in proper context in Luke.  It still sounds harsh, though, doesn’t it?  I absolutely LOVE my wife and kids.  I would do anything for them.  But when push comes to shove, Jesus wants me to prefer Him to all of the others in my life.  Well, what does that mean, exactly?  It means that all of our attention, all of our adoration, and yes, all of our will, must go to serving Him first and foremost, even before our “father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and [our] own life.”

I am so glad that the Lord added the most important part to that passage—our “own life.”  If He did not add that, then we would be tempted to place ourselves in preeminence at the expense of others.  But when we “hate” our own life, we are literally saying, “Not my will, but yours be done!”

So now let’s put some meat to the bones of this discussion.  Jesus gives two practical examples of something.  First, he mentions a time when you might want to build a tower.  In so many words, He says, You know you’ll need to do a cost estimate, because if you don’t, your future is bleak with it—you can’t finish it!  Then people will make fun of you.

In the second story, Jesus says a king does a huge assessment before going to war to see if he’ll be able to win with the amount of men he has.  Otherwise, he’ll try to make peace before his men get slaughtered!

In both stories, note that Jesus includes the embarrassment factor.  Both people will feel so much shame by their actions.

THEN…after these two stories, Jesus emphasizes (by His second mention of this), “those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”  What?  But I thought Jesus was trying to emphasize the importance of planning, not throwing everything away!  Seems to me that giving up everything is reckless, irresponsible, and doesn’t show much foresight of planning.

Aha, but that’s exactly Jesus’ point!  BY GIVING UP YOUR LIFE, YOU ARE BEING RESPONSIBLE, BECAUSE HE IS THERE TO TAKE CARE OF YOU!

And THAT’S the very reason why Jesus adds the last part of the passage about being salt that does not lose its flavor.  When we abandon our life to Him, we are incredible salt—kinda like my favorite, Lawry’s!—because EVERYONE will see that God comes in and provides for you.  And in that, there is no shame or embarrassment.  The shame and embarrassment come when we try to save our own life.  But how does God get glory when we save our own life?

Does that make sense?  Does it make you uncomfortable?  It should excite you.  It should energize you to jump off the cliff.

But, Anthony, are you saying I shouldn’t pay my bills?  As Paul would say in Romans 6, “God forbid!” 

“But what if God tells me to give to a mission instead of paying my bill?”

Hahahaha…HA-hahaha.  Nice try.  Can God do that?  Yes.  And if He does, you had better make sure that it’s HIM saying that, that He will give you money another way to pay the bill later.  BUT…this is rare. 

You see, abandoning your life does not mean you don’t pay bills or put money aside for your future.  You can do all that.  But it does mean that we need to a) obey the Word of God AND b) heed the voice of the Spirit.

For example, we know the Lord commands us in the Word to “look after widows and orphans in their distress” (James 1:27).  That means that we need to do this.  Period.  The question then becomes, “What is my or my family’s role in doing this?”  That’s when the Spirit comes in.

Galatians 5:16 says to “walk in the Spirit.”  We must rely on the Holy Spirit for when the Word is not specific with us on particular issues. 

For example, in Acts 16:6-10, Paul and company were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.”  Now preaching the Word is good thing, right?  But that is not what God wanted him to do at that time.  Later, we learn that God wanted Paul to go instead to Macedonia, via a vision he had received one night.

Of course, there are many ways we can hear from God.  I even wrote a post about the different ways HERE on my wife’s blog.

But for the sake of this post, suffice it to say if we receive a command from Scripture to do something, like care for the orphan, then we had better not ask the Lord if we’re “called” to do that.  He’ll just shake His head.  We are ALL called to care for the orphan.  No, it would be wise if we asked the Lord, “How do you want me to do that?”

Can you imagine if every Christian on the face of the planet did that one simple thing—ask God what his or her role is in caring for the orphan?  There would be no orphan crisis.

It all starts with what I call “simple substitution.”  We simply say to God, I want YOUR will in this, not mine.  What can I do for YOU, Lord Jesus, for the orphan or for the poor or for the prisoner…

We must not be afraid that we’ll hear something in return from God that we won’t like, kinda like, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22).

If we’re afraid, we’re not there yet.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fear of WHAT Unknown?








I’m afraid. 

I’m afraid that I’m not afraid. 

I don’t dread bringing the most severely disabled child into our home and calling her our daughter.  And perhaps pushing her in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.  And struggling everyday to understand her needs and meet them.

So why am I afraid that I’m not afraid?  Because I’VE changed.  And it’s for the good.  And that scares me. 

OK, I know this doesn’t make sense.  If it’s a “good” thing, then why am I scared?  Well, sometimes I just can’t put into words what the Father has done deep inside of my being.  How He’s changed me to be putty.  But it’s not putty in everything that He wants me to be.  I still have a very long way to go. 

Believe it or not, the act of bringing home such a daughter is not nearly as difficult as facing my flaws as a father or husband.  Sometimes it’s just so darn hard to go to my wife or kids and say, “I’m so sorry.  I was a dweeb.  I was wrong.  Please forgive me.”

But as I work on the obstacles of the heart, I’m finding it easier and easier to dive into other things that other men see as CRAAAAZY!

Enter our eighth child waiting for us in Bulgaria.

If we do this, then what, Lord?  I’m scared…BUT…I’m excited!  It’s kinda like when you’re standing on a high dive.  You’re scared, but excited because you know what you’re about to do.  (OK, that’s not such a good example, seeing as last year I broke my back diving off a high dive.  But you get the idea.)  Because THAT’S where I have craved to be—living on the edge for Jesus.  Signing up for anything and everything HE wants me to do, where HE wants me to go, and what HE wants me to say yes to.

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  --James 4:14

I am sure that some of my friends look at Anthony Salem and say, “Well, he’s getting old.  He’s throwing his life into God because he doesn’t have much time left anyway.”

But statistically, if Jesus tarries, I have at least another 30 years on this earth, Lord willing.  That’s a long time in human years.  And in dog years, that’s 210 years.  And in GOD years, that’s…well…just a mist, isn’t it?

So that’s my point.  We can have 30 years left, 60 years left, or just a few months to live.  It’s all a mist.  And that’s what we need to continually remind ourselves of.  It was important enough for God to mention in the book of James.  So it should be foremost in all of our minds.

If we do that, we have no fear of the unknown.  Just the Godly adrenaline to “dive in.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Against All Odds -- Our Latest Adoption



What are the chances?

I mean, what are the chances that a 14-year-old girl weighs only 14 pounds?

And what are the chances of such a "person" surviving in a crib all these years, living on a bland diet that's just enough to keep her alive?

Our hearts broke when we not only learned about the condition of orphans in this faraway land, but of this young girl in particular.  Wouldn't yours?  Wouldn't all of ours? 

Against all odds, this treasure has survived.  She is alive!  How?  We can only say it's because of the immense mercy of God.  You see, some reading this would say that God should've shown mercy by taking her years ago.  But God has another plan...

The Salems are taking this child as their own!

For more on our daughter-to-be, please go to my wife's blog.  There are more photos and more details.  There is also a link to a blog post about the girl by the woman who first found her.  It will move your heart!

www.nogreaterjoymom.com

God bless you!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Ambush of Internet Sex: Grappling the Tough Questions






Healing is a funny thing. 

Sometimes the Lord heals instantaneously.  Other times, it’s gradual.  And sometimes, it’s veeeeeery gradual—too much for comfort.  And still other times, we may not realize our healing until heaven.  But in all instances, God does heal, one way or another.

Obviously, I would love to see everyone who is struggling with Internet sex be healed instantaneously—for their sake and for the sake of their family.  But what does a family do when that healing is gradual?  How should a spouse of a newly repentant mate interact with him or her over the weeks, months, and years?

Another important question is, If I am involved on the Internet, should I tell my wife (or husband)?  Or will I hurt them too much, causing a huge issue and threaten our marriage when I’m sure I can handle this on my own with God?

What about this?—Do I make my spouse an accountability partner in this?

Phew!  I need to take a breath.  These are very difficult things to grapple with.  And trust me, there is no easy answer.  The fact is that there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to any of these.

From stories I’ve heard from those who struggle with the Internet, I can tell you that all of these things depend on your relationship with your particular husband or wife.

Obviously, the first place to start with an addict is to repent.  Whether or not your spouse knows about your addiction, it is critical for you to repent of your sin.

All sin is an offense against God, first and foremost.  Sure, that sin hurts spouses, children, other family and friends, but God is the object of any sin we commit.  It says, “I don’t care about you right now, God.  This is more important to me than doing what you want me to do.  You’re way is too hard for me at this time.”

Spouses need to understand that someone can be very sincere in their repentance of Internet sex, but because there is a difference between repentance and healing.  I believe the former paves the way for the latter.  But regarding an addiction as vicious as this one, it may take time for your loved one to grasp how deep he or she must go to reach profound repentance.

What can you do to help him? 

First of all, communicate with him.  Don’t let this be a secret between you anymore.  Ask him often how he’s doing in this area.  He may get sick of it and even get angry with you, but he needs to be reminded of how critical this topic is in your marriage.  But you must communicate this in love.

And love is a second way you can help him.  Love, love, love!  Shower your spouse with affection.  There is something amiss in your husband, true, but also in your relationship with him.  If there are needs that aren’t being met (and you know what I mean), talk about them during a neutral time.  Go out to dinner, just the two of you, and share hearts (but quietly, lest your neighbor get an earful).  Or arrange a time while you’re both in bed before lights out and talk.  But apart from this, love in the form of encouragement and affirmation is SO crucial to your relationship.

Now I realize that if your spouse has been involved in Internet sex, the last thing you will want to do is look at him, let alone, touch him!  But allow time to heal.  And, don’t let this sit for months or even years!  If you are serious about your marriage, you will do whatever it takes to get your spouse back whole.

Men and women, if you’re involved in the addiction, you need accountability.  Do not think that you can go this alone.  It just doesn’t work that way.  And, by the way, that’s exactly what satan wants.  You need to find a pastor, a counselor, a good friend, or even a group of friends or a support group.  Choose a person or group who you can trust.  Pray that the Lord will bring such people to cross your path.  Remember, the Lord wants you healed as much as you do!  Romans 15:1 states: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.”  Find “strong” brothers or sisters to enter your life.

Now, should you tell your spouse?  This is a very, very tough call.  I have to leave this up to you.  Every spouse is different.  One spouse may completely fall apart and throw themselves into depression.  Another may pick up a hammer and whack you.  And many are somewhere in-between.

Ideally, I believe a spouse needs to know.  Besides, it’s only a matter of time before the Lord reveals it to him or her.  So how do you want them to find out—from you or from the Lord?  I know a man that has chosen his wife to be the accountability partner.  But you may find that some spouses don’t want to know what’s going on!  Pray that the Lord gives you wisdom here.  I know that many readers may feel strongly one way or the other.  And that’s okay.  I am open to other opinions and yes, I can (and often am) wrong!  But please, please, please remember…if your spouse does not know, someone else MUST know, someone who cares about you and your marriage, who is wise in the Lord, and who will pray for you.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Ambush of Internet Sex: Online Resources






As we’ve discussed, addiction to Internet sex is a vicious trap that claims many victims, many of whom are Christian and even Christian clergy.

Below is a list of just a few resources I highly recommend as you begin your journey to recovery.  It is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are my personal favorites.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find TONS of online resources out there, many of which are Christian-based and free of charge.  Word may not be getting out in enough churches about this problem, but it sure is in cyberspace.  What satan has done through the Internet to steal, kill and destroy, God has done through the Internet to form a bridge to healing.

Take your time and browse these sites.  At the least, you’ll find confirmation in numbers that there truly is hope out of this devastation, and at the most, you’ll find healing for your life, your marriage, and your family.



This is a great resource that’s something between a blog and a website.  There are wonderful resources there, testimonies, a blog, podcasts, and many, many topics on the sidebar that apply to just about anything you’re struggling with.  Porntopurity came out of Jeff’s own struggle with Internet sex.  Through his healing, he is able to help others, and his wife Marsha gives her perspective on being a spouse of a former addict.



What an excellent resource!  Blazinggrace is full of helping resources.  There are five-years’ worth of podcasts from its radio program with a wide range of sexual addiction topics, and you can access them all for free.  Its forums are fantastic, in which anyone can comment or ask for prayer.  Its informative, educational, and helpful in healing.


 
This is a powerhouse ministry for attacking Internet sex addiction.  They offer everything from a seven- to nine-month live-in program for addicts to phone counseling for them to a 12-week phone counseling program for spouses of addicts.  There’s even a way to ask questions online to trained counselors (graduates of the live-in program).  They do warn that because of the volume of questions, they may not get to every one, and if they do, there may be a long wait for a response.


www.befreeinchrist.com

Free In Christ is a popular online support for those addicted to Internet sex.  It’s in the form of a Yahoo group that works like a cyber support group.  Strict confidentiality is assured.  They also have several online tests to indicate whether you have an addiction problem or not.  And the brilliant letter to a “Long Lust Friend” I quote below from their site.


So let me leave you with this letter that can become a personal anthem as you say goodbye to a great enemy that has masqueraded as a dear friend all these years!
 

Dear Long Lust Friend,

I want to let you know how much I have valued your friendship over the years. You have been my most loyal companion.
           When I was sad, isolated, anxious and hurting, you comforted me. We celebrated life's successes and covered up the messy failures. Looking back I am amazed at your tireless devotion. Thank you for helping me cope with the never-ending challenges of life.
           I am sad to inform you that I no longer require your devotion. You see, though you have served me well, I have nothing left to give to this friendship. I have already given you the best years of my life by sacrificing relationships, opportunities, time and money. I willingly paid these exorbitant fees and, as promised, you introduced me to some of your closest companions; pleasure, sex, pornography, masturbation and fantasy. They too became loyal and trusted friends.
          The only thing I have left is my very life and I have recently given it to Another. His promise is that I will never thirst again; and oh how thirsty you have left me. There is a price for His friendship also, but luckily, the only thing I have left is the only thing He requires. I must admit, at first I was afraid of giving my life to Another, but fear is another invented friend of yours.
          He uses words like "abundance", "joy", "fullness", "blessings", "peace" and "freedom". My infinite Friend has a small voice that is hard to hear above the clanging noise of your vernacular ("fear", "despair", "depression", "panic", "irresponsibility", "doom" and "secrecy"). That is why I must sever all ties with you.
          My Friend lays claim to the title "Prince of Peace" and to be honest, I could really use some peace right now after all the insanity you have brought into my life. Everything is topsy-turvy right now; a byproduct of the life you helped me build.
          Like you, my Friend has companions. Among my favorites are intimacy, self-respect, truth, love and hope. Instead of dying of thirst, my thirst is dying down as I drink from His living water.
So, I am saying goodbye to you my long lust friend. I know that you are always near. I feel your presence often, but I no longer need you.

Your Once Faithful Friend,

Anonymous

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

NEXT POST: Grappling with the tough questions of how a couple should treat one another and communicate with each other during and after Internet sex addiction.




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