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.
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