Vaccines, Christians, and love thy neighbor……

Recently I have seen a advertising campaign for the Covid 19 vaccine that is about getting the vaccine because we as a country should “love our neighbor”. While that is just a guilt trip advertisement, it does bring up some good points. “Love thy neighbor” is often referenced when trying to get a population to do something. However, it is a second step commandment. The first, or greatest commandment is “Love God with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy mind.” which is found in the Gospel of Matthew 22:37-39. See we do not love our neighbor naturally. We are by nature selfish and self centered. We are focused on our lives, family, jobs and our future. President Obama said “We are no longer a Christian nation” and I absolutely agree with that statement. The proof is in how we as a country behave both as a nation and individually. Homelessness, poverty, childhood hunger, drug abuse, human trafficking, and all the other things that plague our society and our lack of ability to focus on and eradicate them are all signs of selfishness. There was school district that would call DHR on a child if they had an outstanding lunch balance. Mind you this school was located in a impoverished community. As a country we have failed so many people in this country. As people look for reasons, I simply point us back to the Greatest Commandment.

Matthew 22:37
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

This is where we as a nation and as individuals must return. If we want to love our neighbor, then we must start by acknowledging that God does exist. Then we must yield our life to Him through belief and faith in Jesus Christ. See, loving our neighbor does not come naturally to us, it only comes to us through our relationship with Jesus and as the Holy Spirit works through and in us to soften us and open our hearts to the struggles of our neighbors. It is why Jesus answered the way He did. He put the steps in order for us. Love God and from there love thy neighbor.

If we are to truly “Love our neighbor” then we must as a nation and Christians repent of our sins as a nation and as individual Christians.

2 Chronicles 7:14
if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

So, this is where we are as a nation. Do we repent or do we continue down the path we are on? Do we truly want to love our neighbors? Are we even trying to love our neighbors?

Trash is in the trash can

We were talking about dating these days among youth and college and career. We got into the topic of using dating apps to find people. We started talking about Tinder. Tinder is a notorious dating app designed for hook ups. I made the off hand comment that “If you look in the trash can all you will find is trash.” We all laughed and then thought about how true that statement is. I mean if you are a Christian, dating apps should not be on your radar. Why? The app Tinder is for hooking up. That is not our dating goal as a Christian. We date to find a spouse. We use dating as a means to weed out the fit and unfit. So why use a dating app to find someone. We are designed to be married, have kids, and life as a family for the Lord. Now of course we all want that special someone. I get it and totally understand. Here is the rub though, there are no such things as soulmates. I know, calm down. I can prove it though. My in-laws are prime examples. My mother in-law was married to her first husband for 25 years. He passed away from cancer on Thanksgiving after 25 years of marriage. She has now been married to my wife’s’ dad for over 25 years. If there was only one soulmate for her, she would have been single these past 25+ years!! So stop with the fairy tale and start looking for a good mate.

Now after I had said this to the students, they asked me what I thought was qualities of a good mate. So, I made a quick list.

  1. Do they love Jesus? Thats the #1 most important question. Is He on their lips and in their heart?
  2. What is their family like? Family matters. No matter what. Their upbringing, their family dynamics, and how they function as a family matters in your relationship.
  3. How do they view money? I am a big Dave Ramsey fan and follower. One of the biggest issues he deals with on his show is marriages and money. When one person in the relationship is going one direction and the other going the opposite direction, conflict arises. So It is best to find a person who is similar to you financially.
  4. What is their love language? Let us start with this, there are 5 Love Languages and we all have them. We all have a top two and we should know ours and know our significant others love languages. You can find out yours here: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language
  5. What is their plan? A date should play out like an interview. Whats your goals? Whats your 5, 10, 20 year plan? Now whether or not those plans come to fruition is irrelevant, it is the fact that they have a plan.

Dating in this day and age is so hard and different than when I was dating. Social media, dating apps, FaceTime, and all the technology have changed the game. It has opened up the dating pool area. You can meet people from all over online. So use some judgment and rely on your friends and family to help filter out candidates.

Prepared Through and By Prayer

One of my former youth students is in dire need of a boyfriend. She wants one, craves one, and is focused on one. Her whole world will crumble and her lifetime plans will fall apart of she does not have one by the end of the upcoming college year. The other day I gave her advice and thought it was good advice. (I surprise myself sometimes.) I told her to be patient, be watchful, and be prepared through prayer. That last line got me thinking that we all should be prepared through prayer for things we are wanting to happen in our lives. We cannot just wander into the things we are wanting, like relationships, jobs, promotions, or anything, if we are not in prayer about it. It is normal to want a significant other. It is normal to worry that nobody will want you, but it is a whole other issues to be ready when all of that comes into your life. When that person that God has created just for you comes into your life, you have to be ready. You have to have been prepared by God through prayer and supplication, which is a five dollar word meaning to humble yourself before God and to allow yourself to be transformed by God. Pray for your future significant other now, (I am sure my wife prays for me more now than she did before we met) so that you will know when you meet that person. Meeting the person that God has prepared for you is like stepping into a swift moving stream, it moves fast and you had better be prepared. Prayer is designed to get us adjusted and tuned to Gods will in our life. We like to run ahead of the plan and timing, I am guilty, and then when we turn around we then only see how far we have out run God. So then we have to backtrack or worse, wait. It happens to the best of us.

One last thought. Being prepared through prayer requires us to be vigilant when it comes to prayer. We have to make a point to spend time in prayer. One of the questions I get from the students is “How do I pray?” So I have a acronym for them to guide as an outline for their prayers.

P= Praise. Start with a praise report to God. Praise Him for what He has done for you and those around you.

R=Repent. Repent means to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for ones sins. Here is the place to ask God to show you your hidden sins.

A=Ask. God is already very aware of your wants, needs, and dreams. So ask Him for them and express the why behind them.

Y=Yield. The most important thing to do is to yield to Gods plans for our lives. This allows us to become more attuned to His plans and paths for us.

To wrap it up I always tell students this, write them down and do not pray before bed time. Use a prayer journal to keep up with your prayer life. It helps document the journey and train of thoughts. Never lay down to pray before you go to sleep because you will wake up hours later still in prayer! We have all done it! So be prepared through prayer.

Overcoming Fear

I was able to share at the Alabama Adult Education Conference. I spoke on Overcoming Fear in students, and adults. Below is my outline I used.

What Causes Fear?

While each one of us struggles with fear, we all probably have different backstories surrounding that fear. Your story is unique, your students’ story is unique and it’s a good idea to spend some time reflecting on the root cause of your fear. Here are a few reasons we develop a fear of failure: 

  • Perfectionism: Often, we don’t want to try something new because we’re afraid of feeling dumb or not doing it right the first time around. The key to overcoming perfectionism is to give yourself the permission to be a beginner.
  • Comparison:It’s easy to fear failure because we care so much about what others think. We compare ourselves to people around us instead of focusing on who we want to become.
  • Past trauma: All of us carry scars from painful things we’ve experienced. You might be afraid to put yourself out there because you don’t want to risk a repeat of what happened last time. “Your past is a context‚ not an excuse.” We can’t blame our past for our present—at some point, we all have to choose to make changes in our lives.” 
  • Belief systems: Our values and beliefs are often engrained into us from a very young age. Your family’s patterns of talking and relating with each other shaped you more than you realize. You are bringing a unique perspective on life to the table. And that’s a good thing! But sometimes, our beliefs can hold us back. For example, if you were told by your parents that you weren’t smart enough to be a (fill in the blank), then you might struggle to believe you can accomplish great things, even as an adult.
  • Negative thoughts: Often, we’re our own worst enemy! You probably hear all sorts of discouraging lies in your head about who you are and what you can accomplish. 
  • Tying your self-worth to your accomplishments: If you’re like me, it’s easy for you to find a sense of meaning in what you can accomplish. But when you find your worth in what you can do, failure becomes devastating, because it reflects on who you are at your core. We all need to work extra hard to separate our sense of self-worth from our jobs or our goals. 
  • Fear of Success: Yes, success brings its own challenges. Our adult education students have had so many failures in their life that success seems so distant to them, so unattainable. 
  • Fear of Change: This one is the one nobody likes. Change. Change brings out the fear in all of us. 
  • Fear of College: As crazy as this sounds, college campuses can be intimidating for adult learners. 

Helping Overcome Fears

  1. Identify Fear: Fear hates to be identified. Fear hates to be named, highlighted, and confronted.
    1. Journal it out! When fear starts to creep in, and it will, write those fears down in a journal. No matter how small, how trivial, or how silly, WRITE IT DOWN!
    1. Read it OUTLOUD! Once you have written them down, read them out loud to yourself or to somebody else. 

THEY WILL SOUND RIDICULOUS!

  • Eliminate Fears: We must overcome fear by eliminating negative people, circumstances, and voices.
    • Internal Voices:
      • Self-Doubt
      • Parents and Upbringing
      • Internal Negative Voices
        • “Don’t have time”
        • No opportunities
        • Risk disapproval
        • I should be content with where I am
        • I’m scared of the risk
    • External Voices
      • Friends
      • Family
      • Co-workers
      • Kids
      • Parents
  • Plan: Fear and Doubt thrive in chaos. A plan helps deal with Chaos
    • Chaos=Complete disorder and confusion.
    • Use S.M.A.R.T. GOALS
      • Specific
      • Measurable
      • Attainable
      • Realistic
      • Time-Bound
  • Motivate, Motivate, Motivate
    • No Negative Talk
    • Money, Money, Money
    • Lead by example

Satan, culture, and economic success.

By now we have all heard about Lil Nas X and his new video where he is giving Satan a lap dance. He also released a shoe that contained human blood and satanic symbols. Those same satanic symbols are obviously spread throughout the video and across his brand. I had numerous people ask me about it and my thoughts on the whole thing. I think some were shocked when I said its just a rerun. My whole life I have seen music artist do this. They use satanic symbols, language, and imagery to sell records. It is all a ruse to get attention and sell records and in turn make money. Ozzy Osborn, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Billie Eillish, and now Lil Nas X, have all used the same ideas and imagery to sell albums and garner attention. It is an old trick to get us to talk about and listen to or watch their videos or music. Which in turn makes them money, which is their whole goal. Look how fast the Lil Nas X shoot sold out. Look at the backlash against him and against Nike who had nothing to do with the project. Shoes are selling for thousands of dollars on the secondary market, the video has millions of views, and he has plenty of attention. Thats the name of the game folks, attention. Attention leads to views and views lead to profits. PT Barnum said “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” That has been proven true numerous times.

So, lets talk Satan for a moment. There is true evil in this world, Satan is alive and well. He is not red and does not have horns. He is not interested in the Satanic symbols or their church. He wanted to be like God and therefore he wants the worship of Gods people. He wants his own kingdom. He is the master of camouflage. The modern church and society has done a poor job of putting Satan and his plans in front of the church. His plans and methods remain the same, imitation, deception, and guilt. So be aware that evil is real and it always has a plan, to steal, kill and destroy.

Conversation Starter #1

Parents, you know that teenagers are hard to talk to. They give you short answers, no answers, or just noises. So, I thought that I would give you some conversation starters to help you and your teens communicate more efficiently. People love to talk about themselves and their dreams, goals, plans, and beliefs. So why not take advantage of that insight and use it to get some dialogue flowing with your teen. So here is the first conversation starter.

“If there were no risk, what would you try tomorrow?”

This is a great question to get dialogue flowing. It may jam their developing brains up at first but it will soon get them talking. Why? Because they have dreams that we as parents have no clue about. They have dreams hidden in their brains that stay hidden and locked away because of fear, rejection, or lack of information. I would love to take credit for this question, but it is a guy by the name of Ken Coleman who asked this question first. I ask my students this question all the time and it always is fun to listen to them dream outloud. It is exciting to see them open up and expose their dreams to the light. It is a great exercise for them and it empowers them to overcome fear and objections.

Now parents, please watch what you say in response to this question. You may have the tendency to reply with something negative, DO NOT DO IT!!! Just listen and watch them. See if they light up, see if they get passionate, see if they have a dream concealed from you. It is not a time to offer criticism or to try and redirect them. It is a time to shut up, listen, and observe them. Ask follow up questions to encourage them to dig deeper into why that is their dream. This is not a conversation about your thoughts but about the dream but the opportunity to gather insight into your teens brain, passions, and thought process. So take this opportunity to ask the question and observe them.

A Glimpse of Hope at the end of Good Friday

Its close to sundown on Good Friday and I wanted to give you a little glimpse of hope. See God brings hope to the hopeless through Jesus. So what about Jesus’s Disciples and followers when Jesus dies upon the cross? God did not leave them hopeless as I am sure they were. They did not have the advantage that we do of hindsight. They had watched the leader, who they had come to see as the Messiah, die upon the cross. They had to be distraught and down. Had to be. We know now that Jesus came back on the third day just like He said He would. The Apostles did not know that but God gives them a sign. In Matthew 27 verse 51 God gives people a sign. “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,” In the temple there hung a big veil, or what we in the south would call a curtain. This was no ordinary curtain though, it was huge. 30 feet high, 30 feet long, and 4 to 5 inches thick. This veil separated us from the Holy of Holies. Now in layman terms, it represented a barrier between God and mankind. In King Solomon’s Temple the Ark of the Covenant was in the Holy of Holies and God would, in smoke form, rest on the Ark. Nobody was allowed past the veil. The veil symbolized sin and the barrier between God and mankind. Jesus dying meant that He became the veil and thats why the tearing of the veil was so important. It gave hope that we as mankind would be able to approach God personally. Which is exactly what Jesus said He is “The way, the truth, and the light and no man comes o the Father except through Me.” in John 14:6. Jesus tells us He is the veil. You cannot get into the Holy of Holies, aka to God, except coming through Jesus, aka the veil. See how it all ties together? God leaves the Apostles and Jesus followers a sign. A huge sign. God always gives us Hope. He did then and He does now! Now wait till Easter Sunday when this story gets really wild!! Sundays Coming!!

Survive and Thrive in a Crisis

My sermon on sacrificial giving from Palm Sunday.

1.  WE MUST LEARN TO BE ____________________ GIVER’S

Sacrificial giving is giving beyond our means. It’s no secret that we are part of a generation known for living beyond our means.

A.    Holy Week is all about sacrificial giving.

·      Jesus was our _________________________.  (1 John 2:2)  (propitiation)

·      Tetelestai means ________________________. (John 19:30)  (paid in full)

2.  THREE REASONS SACRIFICAL GIVING IS HARD

A.   ______________ Hinderance. (Debt)

  • Crunch Bar 70%aka normal (broke busted and in debt)
  • Milk Duds2%Drowning in Credit Card Debt
  •  Average Credit Card Debt per household is $7,027 and nationwide is $416 BILLION dollars
  • Zero Bar 16%Zero, Zilch, Nada. Do not pass go, do not collect $200
  • 100 Grand Bar10%Debt Free and Living Large
  • Payday 2%You are a millionaire

B.   _________________ Hinderance. (Love)

If we love the world and the things in the world then our love for God is superficial.

(1John 2:15-17)

C.    _________________ Hinderance.   (Heart)

When our lifeis surrendered to God then our moneycomes along with it.  (Romans 12:1)

Facts Over Fear

Teenagers ask my advice on decisions all the time. Some take my advice, and some do not. I always tell them to make decisions based on facts rather than fear. I know that sounds simple, but teens and adults alike make decisions based on fear rather than facts. A quick Google search on facts over fear will net you 600 million results. The top ones are all about the Covid 19 vaccine and the facts about it. See fear motivates people to make decisions in a stressful moment, and usually those decisions are not sound ones. The fear is real and seeps into our lives and we start to make decisions based on dealing with or overcoming those fears. Teens are afraid in decision making because some have been sheltered, controlled, or do not have all the facts. So, here is how I tell teens and adults alike to make decisions.

  1. Gather Facts

One of the best ways to root out fear in decision making is to replace the unknown with facts. “Google is your friend” is a statement I use to guide people. The “More You Know” was a series of infomercials in the late 80’s and encouraged people to become better educated on certain subjects. This little piece of advice is key to rooting out fear and replacing fear with facts.

2. Seek Counsel

When making big decisions in life, seek wise Godly counsel. Find a few people you can talk to and explain your plans to. Be prepared to be told your decision is unwise or not the best plan of action. Accept that advice and choose wisely.

Proverbs 15:22

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

These two steps seem very obvious, but people fly right by them and do not slow down to work through the issues. So, do your homework, seek guidance, and pray about the decision. Ask God for the wisdom to guide your decisions and He is faithful to give you both wisdom and guidance.

Anchors

An anchor is defined ay object used to hold something firmly in position. Over the past year I have really been focused on helping move people out of their comfort zones. I have found that people get anchored down in jobs, relationships, mistakes, and many more scenarios. I started thinking about how these anchors affect or lives and how we respond to those anchors.

  1. Our own anchors: Jobs

We put our anchors down and will stay anchored there forever. We do that in jobs. Many of you are stuck in jobs that you hate, yet get up and go to everyday. Why? The pay, the retirement, the health benefits, the friendships, or the__________________, anchor you there. I try to encourage teenagers to find something they are passionate about and pursue it without hesitation. As a parent I encourage my own kids to figure out what makes them happy work wise, and go after it. Hey parents, here is a tip. If you are miserable in your jobs, your kids know it. Internally they ask themselves “is this my future” “is this what adulting looks like”. They know you hate it and they become scared, and a scared teenager just shuts down. They are scared of working a job that they hate. We as parents should be too! As a Christian we are all created to do work that matters and have a certain roll to fulfill. So parents, talk to your kids about finding their talents, likes, and where they can do work that matters to them.

2. Our Own Anchors: Relationships

Let me start here, all healthy relationships have room for improvement. There are no perfect relationships, contrary to what everything in our culture tells us. Those cute social media couples, that perfect couple at church, that wonderful couple at work, that couple at ________________. Trust me, they are not perfect. I know because they involve two human beings who are flawed and have their own issues. Teenager love is a whole other world. They crave a relationship and will seek them out, even if they are unhappy or toxic relationships. If you can get your teen to talk, ask them about dating apps. They are familiar with them. It is amazing how many people find relationships on the internet. Dating apps, websites, and social media have increased the size of the dating pool. So relationships are as old as humanity. Yet sometimes we anchor in a bad relationship, because of ________________. That blank has many answers such as: we’ve been together so long, well they will change, we love each other, and so many more. Truthfully, some relationships are just not healthy and our teens need to know that. We have to communicate that relationships are important. Parents please do not dismiss your teens relationships. It is one of the most important things in their lives. We as parents know the chances of their high school sweetheart becoming their future spouse is slim to none However; each relationship helps them define what is and is not important to them. So talk to them about what a healthy relationship looks like; a healthy relationship with God, a sound financial base, a great work ethic, open communications, and healthy language. Now some of us as parents are going to have to work on those items ourselves. There is a lot to the “monkey see, monkey do” mentality. So look at your relationship, if it needs work, get to work!

3. Our Own Anchors: Failures & Mistakes

Nothing defines us like our mistakes and failures. We have the habit of allowing our mistakes and failures to anchor us down. They will come to hold us in place and keep us from our full potential. Here is the truth, we all fail. Failures are the stepping stones to success. However; we can not hop that path while anchored in failure. Maybe you have blown it, failed spectacularly, blown it up, burned it down, stepped all in it, and done the stupidest things and now you define yourself by those mistakes and failures. Here is the good news, you are allowed to fail and try again. Everyone has some failure in their lives. Dave Ramsey was bankrupt, President Grant was a failure, Oprah was a dropout, Jay-Z sold drugs, and President Lincoln failed at business and lost an election. So I think we all can just step back and look at the failures and mistakes in our lives and learn from them and move on. No need to allow them to anchor us down and keep us from our bright, successful future.

After we address some of the anchors that we place upon ourselves, we have to address anchors that other people place on us. People will put anchors on us that keep us from moving forward. Lets look at a few anchors people put onto us.

  1. Your Past Mistakes and Failures

People will put your past mistakes on you and anchor you to those mistakes of the past. Some of you know exactly what I am talking about. A mistake you made 10 to 20 years ago is still how some people see you. No matter what you do you are still seen as that exact person from that time. They have defined you according to their mistakes. So how do you deal with that and those people? I always say that a conversation is the best place to start. Simply talk to them about how you feel. Tell them how you have grown and moved on from those mistakes. Remind them of this, your mistakes do not define you, they help develop you.

2. Their Past Mistakes and Failures

People love to project their own failures onto other people. I always say that people who talk negative about peoples dreams and goals are people with little to no success in their own lives. They are trying to anchor you down in their own failures. My default way to deal with these type of people is by using this phrase: Don’t take diet advice from a fat person. Or financial advice from a broke person. You feel in the blanks with your own situation.

Do not take _____________ advice from a __________ person.

3. Preconceived Notions and Preconceived Ideas

People have opinions on things they have no information or true understanding about. If you ask me my opinion on topics that I have no idea about, I am not afraid to tell you that I have no clue. Some people have an opinion on everything and if you allow them, they will spread it all over you. Look at social media, so much misinformation out there on any topic you decide to look at. People have those preconceived issues about everything. The best way to avoid them is to not ask their opinions, advice, or thoughts on a subject. Don’t engage with them because they will anchor you down with misinformation.

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