Monday, August 31, 2015

Treasures in Trash

 by Christi Sleiman

For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. ~ Matthew 13:15

As a kid, I had many aspirations.  I thought maybe I'd be a teacher, psychologist, or maybe even president.  I thought I'd do incredible things like climb mountains and make great speeches.  Never, ever in my life did I see myself picking up trash.

Trash is gross.  There is no way around that fact.  It stinks and has germs and is ugly.  Yet, this summer while on a mission trip to Israel and Palestine one of my team's favorite things to do was pick up trash.  Why? When we humbled ourselves to perform this job, the Lord chose to reveal Himself to us in entirely new ways.  On my team of 12, I heard stories from around half of them of what God showed them while picking up trash.  I remember being amazed by this.  Sure, I had enjoyed my time praying while cleaning our assigned location, but I wasn't having any extreme revelations.  However, on our last day picking up trash, the Lord spoke.

 There were way too many of us at this location.  At least, that's what I thought until I really got cleaning.  I started just picking up a piece of trash here and there, but then I found my spot.  It was a gap in the ground that had a very nice layering of grossness on it's surface.  I hopped in and got to work, not realizing what I had just gotten myself into.  I was at one 3 by 5 foot spot for over an hour.  Whenever I thought I had made progress, I found another stash to be picked up!  It was actually humorous how much trash there was to be picked up on this one little spot compared to what I was expecting.

When I spoke to a local woman about Isis, she said she tries every day to forgive them, but then hatred boils up again.  She told me that she doesn't even think they are human, that they are actually devils.  For a second, I agreed with her.  How can humans commit such awful sins against humans?  But while picking up trash, God showed me His answer to me.

 Underneath layers and layers of trash, there is still ground.  No matter how much trash is piled upon the ground, that does not change that it is ground.  The ground doesn't get to choose what trash is piled upon it.  That is not to say that the ground doesn't allow weeds to grow too, but trash is literally thrown upon the ground, polluting it, without any say from the ground.  How much grossness has been forced upon many hearts?  Piled until the heart is barely recognizable and a "devil" is left in its place.  Yet God still sees the heart beyond the trash.

 When God showed this to me, I said "but God, I cannot ever fully clean this ground."  It was true.  Even if I picked up every large piece of trash, the ground would still have the shriveled remains of bags that had deteriorated.  Shards of glass would have still been left untouched.  Yet God said "but I can."

 It is not my job to fix the world.  I cannot heal broken hearts or tear down barricades around them.  That will never be my job, and for that I am thankful.  However, it is my job to say yes.  Every day I have to choose to say yes to the Lord and all that He desires from me.  It is a joy to say yes, because even if I cannot melt a frozen heart I can trust that when I follow the Holy Spirit's prompting I can be used to put a stitch on a wound or a chip in a wall.  Saying yes to God is all I am responsible to do.  The rest is in His very capable hands.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Do You Know Fear?

by Dina Sleiman

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. ~ Psalm 86:11

This summer nineteen members of Acts 2 Church went on a mission trip to a poor, rural part of West Virginia and Kentucky. While there, we were all challenged (including the children and teens) to have an hour long quiet time, and it actually ended up being a big hit! Part of the reason it worked out so well was that we were given a devotional guide (which was actually more like an in depth Bible study) titled “Know Fear.” And after our quiet time each day we had small group discussions about what the Lord was showing us.

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The mission organization was new to our church, and I was concerned that the “Know Fear” topic might be something judgmental and religious, trying to slap us upside the head with the fear of God. Instead, it was a very balanced and deep-probing analysis of fear: both the good and bad sides of the subject.

First we learned that fear is an important window into the soul. We shouldn’t just ignore, deny, or repress our fears, because our fears tell us a lot about what is really going on inside of us. Fear reveals certain needs and cravings that we have. And at the bottom of those needs and cravings are idolatry that we probably never even suspected. One fear in my heart that God revealed was certainly a new one for me. I had a fear of discomfort and pain, which I think comes from some of the middle-aged health challenges I’ve been facing for the last few years. Certainly not any exciting or impressive sin, and yet something that could pull me away from God’s best plans for my life it I let it.

Aaron sporting his "Know Fear" shirt
Over the next two days we really took an in depth look at the fear of man and the fear of the unknown. Two areas that hold many Christians back from God’s best for their lives. And at the end of the day, both sinful responses that we need to overcome. I didn’t personally relate a lot to the fear of man, but it revealed a different fear. I long to be free and unique, and so I fear any sort of outward control on my life. Even on this trip, I had opportunities to challenge myself and face that fear.

Due to the duration of our trip, it wasn’t until I got home that I finally had the opportunity to read the author, Lauren Wright’s, perspective on the fear of God. And it was perfect. When we are not in right relationship with God, we have every reason to fear Him. But as we grow in relationship, that fear morphs into reverence, devotion, trust, and eventually pure worship.

This probably wasn’t a subject I would have ever thought to study on my own, but I feel like now I “Know Fear” much better than I ever have before, and I’m thankful for the revelations God gave me on this subject.

You can read more about the trip here, or check out our pictures here.

What fears have you struggled with? What fears have you overcome? Those of you who were on the trip, feel free to share your thoughts too!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Passion for His Presence

 by Pastor Bill Heffelfinger

Passion for His Presence. As a believer, it is a deep longing to sense the presence of Almighty God. As a matter of fact, it is a deep longing to experience His Presence. Yet, we go to church, we do our rituals, and come home feeling either satisfied or wishing there were more. Time passes and we either begin to become content with that or we start looking for what we long for. We tend to go "church hopping" or we quit going to church all together. We don't seem to receive what we have longed for; so we add more and more things to our lives. So much that we have no more room for seeking the presence of God.

Here's the thing, we are the church, and if I am a believer I am a member of the Body of Christ. If I am the Church then I help dictate the ability for God to move in the corporate setting of believers. What I mean is, it is how I enter that setting that determines how much I will experience God in that setting.

I, first of all must experience God all week before entering the setting.  How?  By seeking Him daily, not just a devotional, a Bible reading time, or just prayer on the way to work; I must SEEK Him. If I was looking for a $100 bill that I had lost, I would tear my house up looking for it, I would spend however long it took to find it. The same should be when we are seeking God. Heb. 11:6 says "... He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Next, I must look at my attitude as I enter the building of fellowship.   Am I just coming because it is another Sunday?   Has my heart turned cold toward God and His people?   Do I truly long to be in His presence?  If I truly long to be in the presence of God, Then I will come expecting Him to move. The time of corporate worship is for the believer, we must come longing for the presence of God.

Unbelievers will bring enough junk in their lives to give over to God, but if we have a lot of junk in our own lives, they will be unable because the presence of God will be absent.

Remember, we determine how much God is experienced. We are the conduit for the power of God to flow freely; the power only comes with His presence. For deliverance, healing, and salvation to take place in an unbeliever's life, when they grace the corridors of our buildings, the presence of God must be experienced.

Oh, that we would find ourselves seeking the presence of God so much that nothing else matters. That we would say as Moses did, “Show me your glory!"

My Favorite Customers

by Stephanie Burkard (2013)

It was a busy Friday night at the restaurant.  People came in and out, oblivious to the feelings of the servers that hid so well behind that plastic smile.  When you serve, nothing can get to you.  Your pay depends on how funny, helpful, and timely you are.  Some people switch out “funny” for “quietly respectful”.  It just depends.

In the back hallway, I covered my face and stood against the wall.  Just for 5 seconds.  Table 5 needs water.  Table 2 needs their check.  Table 10 needs 3 miso soups.  My brain ran as my eyes closed- and opened.  And then I ran.

“Sute-chan!  Did you get table 2’s check?!”
“I’m doing it now.”
“Did you see table 4 added extra sushi to their order?”
“No, I’ll write it down now.”

Time slowed for the customers as it raced on for us.  Then came the blow.

“Sute-chan, don’t go to the Japanese customer’s table anymore.”  “Hai.”  I didn’t ask.
“Japanese people are very particular.  If one thing is out of sorts, they get all upset about it.” “Hai.”  Don’t talk to me like I don’t know what Japanese people are like, I thought inwardly.

A few minutes later, a more detailed and painful explanation came. “One of the Japanese men, he’s allergic to foreigners.”

My heart dropped to the floor.  Pain seared through my chest as my plastic smile melted.  “What do you mean?”

“He doesn’t like foreigners.  We’re not like that, but some Japanese people are very particular.  You weren’t what he was expecting.  It’s just expectations, you know?  You wouldn’t like it if you went to eat sushi expecting Japanese people and some Chinese person took your order, would you?  Don’t take it personally.”

The storm of the restaurant work became a storm in me- hot, red, fragmented.  The flames inside melted at the smile.  I only kept it up when speaking to customers.  I’m sick of the racism.  I could feel the hate- not just the prejudice of this man, but of all the Japanese people who had ever treated me the way he did.  Gaijin.  Foreign trash or novelty.  Either way, not a valuable person.

“God, I wish my favorite customers would come!” I prayed.  I wanted to smile genuinely towards people who appreciated my service- who would know my name and have a good time.

Miraculously, within 5 minutes, there they were.  Father and three year old, sushi loving, girl.  Mother was busy working that night, but the two of them were there. Two of my favorite customers! And then it occurred to me.

The kingdom of heaven is like a busy restaurant.  The customers I have go there- and Jesus, the waiter there, serves all people, racist or kind, with the same focused diligence and love.  The racist man who complained to the restaurant about my imperfect Japanese presentation is His favorite customer.  The father and daughter who thank Him with every dish and enjoy joking with Him are His favorite customers.

This blew my mind.  These people are all Jesus’ favorite customers.  Wow!  Thank God!  I am not the best customer by ANY means, and yet I’m Jesus’ favorite customer!  That’s the easy reaction to the story- and although it’s true, it’s not the only proper reaction for me.

Wow.  These people are all Jesus’ favorite customers.  Jesus has called me to follow Him.  I say I follow His example.  My religious label, “Christian” means “little Christ”.  Kinda like, “Jesus wanna-be”.  Sometimes God tells us to do things or be things because He himself is that way.  (Ex.  “Be holy as I am holy.”)  For me, all this translates to this; these people are all my favorite customers.  Even if I know table 3 will only leave a 10% tip, even if I know table 6 tips based on how much I make them laugh, even though I am foreign trash to table 1, and even though table 7 loves and appreciates my service, these people are all Jesus’ favorite customers.  These people are all my favorite customers.

Prayer Power

by Pastor Rob Stevenson (2013)

April 22 I'm laying in a hospital bed at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital ER.  Abdominal pains being quenched somewhat by some pain-killing drug.  My abdomen expanded out like I'm 3-months pregnant.  Though I hadn't eaten anything in over 24 hours, no appetite existed.  Doctors were telling me gall bladder cancer had attacked my liver, and maybe my pancreas.  The fluid in my abdomen looked bad and was attacking other parts of my body, they said.  A low day in the life of this pastor?  No duh.  I wasn't defeated though, and I'm not now defeated.  I felt no real depression, though I can't say I was singing songs of joy and praise either.  Sure, some tears came later.  However, Bev and I have kept our faith.  We prayed.  Bev realizes the power of prayer and its affect when unity takes place.  She starts sending out texts, making phone calls, and praying hard herself.  My brothers and sisters in the Lord stood in the gap.  Words of healing were spoken, prayed, and declared.  A few came over and laid hands on me.  I was anointed with oil.   Things happened. 

After two days and a night in the hospital, things actually started looking better.  Hmmm, maybe this isn't cancer, the doctors start wondering.  This pastor looks like the epitomy of health from all the lab tests we have done.   Test after test all have come back negative.  Looks like a "slow" gall bladder now.  I'm still not totally healed.  However, I know I am healed.  I'm not believing anyting but health.  I confess those things that are not, as though they are.  Things happen.  I press on.  I persevere.  Never giving up, I run for the prize.  We will keep following the Lord, and will never surrender.

House of Prayer

by Pastor Rob Stevenson (2013)

Prayer can certainly be moved out of your life.  Are you giving it the priority it needs?  When did it stop becoming a priority in the Temple?

Matthew 21:12-14  (NIV)  Jesus is at the Temple
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.

It probably started with something small, or even small and helpful.  Two people come to the temple.  One has money and no sacrifice.  Another has two sacrifices.  They make a deal and both go into the Temple happy.  From there it escalated.  Naturally, my questions center around these two initial persons.  One had no sacrifice, but came anyway.  Is that how one goes to church?  On the one hand, you say ‘yes’.  Jesus turns no one away.  On the other hand, you can say ‘no’.  With nothing to offer and nothing to give, your gratitude seems counterfeit.  The other had twice what he needed, and for what purpose?  His intent seems to carry an ulterior motive.  He could have been laden with guilt, and wanted to offer twice the sacrifices.  However, his greed dominated.  Hmmm.  Maybe that was why he needed extra sacrifices.

Our lives reflect similar changes. Our intentions stay high, but the weak flesh doesn’t act so weak many times.  Subtle changes occur that direct us away from a well-intentioned prayer life.  Extra work hours throw us off-schedule, for instance.  When I was in the Navy, abnormal work hours became the norm.  Bev and I would get into a habit of praying together each night, but then off to another base I would go, or home late from a busy day.  Then, the schedule goes awry.  Children can do that, too.  It doesn’t have to be much.  A touch of diarrhea or a loose cockroach in the house. (Well, I can’t blame the kids for that one.  I loosed the cockroach in the house, but that is another story.)   We could have been well on the way to great prayer if not for the washing machine overflowing.  These are small things, but they add on to each other, and they take us away from prayer. 

What can we do?  First, give prayer the priority it deserves.  Prayer is not just a nice thing to do. Prayer is communication with the God of Creation.  That can’t be placed into second place.  Second, which goes along with the priority, is that Jesus desires it.  His Temple, where the Holy Spirit resides, is you.  He despises a dwelling place that contains thievery, cheating, deceit, and an uncaring attitude.  Third, you need prayer.  The Lord enjoys it, but you need it.  Your desires follow your attentions.  You start praying regularly, and you will start enjoying what it does to your life.   Get started.

Is it Shunday for You?

by Pastor Rob Stevenson (2013)

When I was younger, like 12 or so, I couldn't grasp what Good Friday was all about.  I mean, Jesus mocked and brutalized. Tortured.  Suffering.  Killed.  Then, I realized years later.  He died for me.  And He arose.  He lives!  That's why it's good. Don't be shuned by Sunday.  Rejoice.  Get free.  Jesus made it that way, for you.

And most important of all.  Remember, He LIVES!  Jesus is the stinger remover.  Death has no sting.  1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

It's Sunday, and time to celebrate!

A Prayer of Total Coverage

by Pastor Rob Stevenson (2013)

The Lord’s Prayer is Matthew 6:9 -13 (KJV):  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread.  12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer is a total prayer.  It covers all aspects of our prayer with Him.   Prayer includes all of these areas:

Positioning –  We pray to our Father who is in heaven.  His name is to be kept holy.  We are praying to our Father, through Jesus, His first son, (who died for us to have this capability) by the Holy Spirit (who is living in our spirits). 

Prophesying – When we pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”, then stand-by because you have prophesied a mighty action over all the world.   Special note here: Romans 14:17 (NKJV) says “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Petitioning – Sure, we ask God for things.  The best that we can ask for is bread, both the physical sustenance and the spiritual.  The bread for our bodies and the Bread of Life for our souls are both important.

Pardoning – Asking God for forgiveness must happen frequently because we do sin against Him; and we should also confirm with God that we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.  Both areas are important.  Right after the Lord’s prayer, we read in Matthew 6:14 – 15, NKJV: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Placing – And lead us not into temptation.  “Lord,” we speak, “place us in the righteous roadways.  Let our feet stay on the Rock, and not stray to the right or to the left.”

Protecting – But deliver us from evil.   Wherever evil is, we want the Lord to get us out of its clutches; and He will.

Proclaiming – For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  It’s a great proclamation!

Punctuating –  Amen.  So be it.  It’s done.  Period.  End of sentence.  Complete. 

Prayer is More Than Just Talking to God

by Pastor Rob (2013)

Talking to God is a common occurrence to many people.  Whether a close, casual, or totally distant relationship exists with the Lord Almighty, at one time or another we have tried talking to Him.  How does this work?  In Mark Batterson's book called "Draw the Circle" he writes that a group of revival seekers in the late 1800s sought out Rodney "Gypsy" Smith, a London-born evangelist who traveled thousands of miles, saw two sitting US Presidents, and preached to millions of people.   They wanted to know how they could make a difference with their lives the way he had with his. This was his advice to them: Go home.  Lock yourself in your room.  Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle around yourself.  There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.   

       How does prayer work?  1) First of all it's  realizing that the biggest change for prayer happens in you, and 2) Faith is essential.  Hebrews 11:6  (NIV) And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

       You have just been challenged.  Take up the challenge and see what God will do to you, and to the world through you.

Love: A 4-Letter Word

 by Pastor Rob (2013)

Looking at the movies, songs, TV, and books, I propose that love does a lot of sales. And well it should.  Love does make the world go around.  Romantic love fills the airways.  In some ways it's treated like a four-letter word.  As an older Christian, I see other forms of love.  In Dina Sleiman's book entitled Love in Three Quarter Time, the main character (Constance) is in love with dance, and with a young colonial plantation owner, and in love with herself.   

Okay, it's a "chick book" and I have been struggling through it, I admit.  However, I continue pressing on, and I'm glad I did.  A new love started emerging.  Christ's love. Dina brings it in through a refreshing way that took me by surprise.  Naturally, Constance is introduced to Christ in a way that upsets her staus quo.  Staunch religiosity, and stiff, formal, unemotional assemblies provide nothing to slaves longing for freedom.  She starts seeing a different love that surpasses her traditional upbringing.

JESUS. This is the the type of love that makes a difference.  Christ's love is unconditional love. His love sets you free, keeps you safe, improves your decisions, gives you a purpose, and makes your life complete.  His love saves you.

The world?  That love falls miserably behind the Jesus-love.  See what He has to offer.  He has answers to questions that you haven't even thought of yet. 

Love and Change

by Pastor Rob (2013)

Bev and I met each other in the sixth grade.  Bev got fairly disgusted with me right off.  I treated her in rude ways, I cussed a lot, I used crude jokes to “impress” her. And yes, overall my main strongpoint centered on being a jerk.  Now, granted, at 12 years old, my experiences limited my expertise at influencing someone who attracted me.  However, I wanted Bev to like me, and eventually I focused on finding out what pleased her, and what didn’t.  I started cleaning up my act.  Cuss words, out.  Rudeness, eliminated.  Nasty jokes, forgotten.  Slowly, I wooed her to my side.  The rest became history.  In all of this my life changed tremendously for the better.  It changed in more ways than I could ever have imagined. 

I bring all of this up to stress one point.  Love changes people.  Maybe the love of a young boy for a fascinating girl, or maybe the love of a son for his dad, or a daughter for her mom.  Whatever or wherever the love comes from, it makes changes.  Work the love through a spiritual anchor using Jesus Christ as your compass and power, and you can certainly get some things done.  It’s not easy, but sometimes it is.  You will get answers, sometimes hard ones, at least it seems hard at the time; but they will bring awesome results. 

As a young boy, I realized that persevering brought good.  I couldn’t give up.  You can’t give up.  If it is good, wholesome, and worthwhile, then press on.  Stay at it.  You will find rewards.   It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)  The Bible provides a lot of information about real love.  Check it out.

Jesus - A Baby Beginning

by Pastor Rob (2012)

He came onto this earth like we all do, a one-celled organism, full of potential, life, and a miraculous growth.  His DNA could be considered a bit different because it truly was an eternal DNA.  I have heard scientists refer to our own human DNA as eternal or infinite.  In theory, it should last and continue forever.  However, our sin has put a hiatus on that plan.  Jesus came into our midst to alleviate that mess, and set matters straight so that eternal life, and eternal DNA might be set into its original state.  Jesus did this, starting as a baby beginning, but it was not the end, only the beginning. 

That is an important thing to remember this Christmas.  Jesus being born was an awesome and rich beginning, even with the austere surroundings that came with it.  However, this beginning would grow to an epic salvation that still overshadows everything else in history.  Have a Great Christmas!

The Death of Boredom

 by Bryan Stevenson (2012)

At work the other day I was struggling with a difficult programming problem. I worked on it for a couple of hours straight and then got up to use the restroom and grab some water. I don’t have a cell phone, so my 120 second break was the perfect opportunity for my brain to disengage and wander. On the way back to my desk the solution to the problem I was facing suddenly clicked. I wasn’t thinking about it, or concentrating on it, but my brain was still working in the background. The brief respite was all my mind needed in order to get a different perspective, and a creative solution. That programming epiphany was quickly followed by another … we don’t give ourselves enough time to meditate and simply do nothing. Our bodies and minds are over stimulated and starved for relaxation and meditation. We’re never bored, and we’re losing our creativity, our critical thinking, and our inspiration, as a result.

Society views boredom as a bad thing. It is lazy, unproductive, and worthless. We strive to “cure” boredom like a disease. A recent article on CNN talks about how every idle moment is filled with technology, and asks the question. “Is that a good thing?” I submit that it is not a good thing. It reminds me of an old Bill Gaither children’s song. The refrain, “God loves to talk to boys while they’re fishing”, expresses in simple terms the beauty of a quite moment. Many of our most powerful and precious memories stem from moments like these. I remember holding my children in the hospital after they were born and looking at them in wonder and awe. The world around me dropped away as I drank in those cute little features. Driving, fishing, hiking, sitting next to your wife on the couch in the evening with the TV off. Each of these moments provide an opportunity for introspection and meditation. It activates the creative and problem solving parts of our brain. So, what does instant access to mind numbing entertainment do to our psychology? I think it is truly dumbing us down. Our inspiration is dying in a flood of lights and sounds. We need to turn back to the simplicity that was found in earlier times.

The Bible is filled with instructions to meditate. We are admonished to think on the good and lovely things. Many religions recognize this need and meditation is the cornerstone of societies around the world. It truly does offer us an opportunity to ponder the divine. So, the next time you think about picking up your cell phone to fill an empty minute, think twice. Set it down and just do nothing. I guarantee you will have a refreshing and enlightening moment.

A Crutch?

by Pastor Rob Stevenson (2012)

One excuse for ignoring Jesus centers around an opinion that, "He's a crutch."  Over the years I have heard other men say such things as: “You need a crutch. If Jesus is good for you, then go ahead.” Or “Jesus is a crutch. I’m okay the way I am.”  I would shrug off the comment, sometimes saying something resembling His awesomeness as a “crutch” if that is what He would be referred to.  It bothered me a little, until finally during all these years of pondering it in the back of my mind, I've realized how stupidly asinine such a thought really is.  Jesus is not a crutch.  He’s not even an awesome crutch.  He is NOTHING of the kind. He frees. He does not hinder.  He enhances.  He heals.  He makes whole.  Everything a crutch is not, Jesus is.

Crutches take care of the weak and feeble.  It’s a poor second to actually walking or getting around on your own.  The broken or injured get crutches to help them in their brokenness, but they are still broken.  To parallel Jesus as a crutch demonstrates an ignorance of just who He is and why He was called upon this earth.  Jesus is the best solution for life, and not a poor, or even a  best, second.

So, the most ideal crutches remain poor substitutes.  They help the person just get by until something better comes along, like a healing. Jesus skips the "just-get-by" stuff. He heals.  "... And he healed every kind of disease and illness."  (Matthew 4:23 NLT).  Does this sound like a crutch to you? Of course not.

Crutches come from man-made structures that require manpower to function.   It's all from man. Jesus on the other hand came from heaven and His power comes from God.  It's all God-centered and God-created. 

One thing stands as a common bond between a crutch and Jesus.  Nobody wants a crutch, and unfortunately, many don't seem to want Jesus either.  Sad testimonies come regularly.  However, further review would show many diametrically opposed aspects.  For instance, scriptures say "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6).  Crutches can be observed with the earthly senses of sight and feel.  Jesus is in the supernatural, the realm of faith.  Yet again, a similarity comes to mind.  Crutches at one time were made solely of wood to so people could stand up.  Jesus was laid on wood.  A cross.  He was nailed to it, and the cross was used for Him to stand up.  This happened so that others, like you and me, could stand free, healed, complete, and whole. Call on Jesus.  Not for a handicap help, but for a whole soul.

Fear and Peace

 by Pastor Rob Stevenson (2012)

Cockroaches fell from the upper walls of the food elevator located on one of the Navy’s aircraft carriers.  They descended like rain, dropping around my feet and on my shoulders, head, and arms.  The ones on the floor looked for hiding places, and found them under my shoes or up my pants legs.  Let’s call it a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, except this could be called “The Cockroaches”.  I took control of the situation by more pesticide spraying, and eventually overcame them.  This type of work entailed an adventurous Navy job; one of my entomology (a studier of insects) duties as a young, LTJG (Lieutenant Junior Grade).  Later that night, as I undressed, a few more cockroaches fell out.  I even found one in my briefcase.  Does that send shivers up your spine? Do you have an innate fear of something like that happening to you? 

Retired, I now teach life science to 7th graders.  Things like tarantulas and frogs seem to gross out the girls to the point of high-pitched screams.  It produces squeamish looks from the boys.  Earthworms?  Yep, slimy and slithery makes for a yucky, loud, and tense-filled experiment.  

What other fears do we deal with?    How about dentists, doctors, getting a shot, speaking in public, lightning, sharks, and terrorists?  These come to mind when I think of things to fear.  To some of us these and other fears control our lives.   But Jesus said, “ Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28 – NLT)  In other words, we need a far-reaching vision that goes beyond what our earthly bodies endure.  Fearing our loving creator, like children fearing their loving parents, produces a healthy platform for a love-inspired relationship.  Philippians 2:12 (NLT) says,
“ Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.”  Absolutely, He is The God.  Nothing exists more powerful and strong than Him.  He created the earth, the heavens, and us, and well…   everything.  I think our fear should be real enough to elicit a positive response to accept Him as Lord if we have never done that before, and to accept His Son, Jesus, as the Savior of our souls. 

When we get to that point, something happens.  We receive God’s peace.  I like the Bible’s Amplified version on the definition of peace (from Philippians 4:7): that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is.  You see, fear from this earth leads to grief and anxiety.  Fear from heaven leads to peace and contentment.  Fear God.  Experience the positive change for now and eternity. 

Looking Away

 by Pastor Rob Stevenson (2012)

Research suggests that looking away when receiving an injection reduces the strength of the expected pain.  While watching video clips showing a needle pricking a hand, a Q-tip touching the hand, or a hand alone, study participants concurrently received painful or non-painful electrical stimuli applied to their own hand. Participants reported that their pain was more intense and more unpleasant when they viewed a needle pricking a hand than when they saw a hand alone or a Q-tip on the hand.

"Throughout our lives, we repeatedly experience that needles cause pain when pricking our skin, but situational expectations, like information given by the clinician prior to an injection, may also influence how viewing needle pricks affects pain," says lead author Marion Höfle (1)

I marvel at the human mind's ability to conjure up and physically display a sensation like pain. You see the pain taking place.  You hear about the pain.  Then, when you could be experiencing it (but not necessarily really experiencing it), the pain is indeed intense and powerful.  Isn't it like calling those things which do not exist as though they did (Romans 4:17 NKJV)?   Certainly, if the mind is so adept at moving into the realms of pain, then something new and creative might help the mind experience higher levels of love or joy or peace. 

If throughout our lives we repeatedly experienced how a needle hardly hurt at all, and we heard how it barely could be felt, then it probably wouldn’t hurt much.  That happened to me when I was little.  Over and over again I heard from my dad how shots were nothing.  “Why, they are puny, little pricks that have nothing to do with a hurt.  When you get pinched a little bit, that hurts as much as a needle. Just forget about it and don’t look at it,” my daddy would tell me time and time again.  I believed him.  At an early age, a shot affected me hardly at all.  I took them in stride and barely felt them.  It was years later that I related this story to my dad.  He surprised me by saying that he hated needles.  They gave him plenty of fear, and he never wanted one.  In fact he dreaded them.  I still chuckle at that, but the point is, I heard something that helped me have a better attitude about needles.  My faith had been in my dad and his wisdom, even though he hadn’t applied it to himself. 

Let’s take it further.  Have your faith in Jesus take charge of your life.  Let your sight see the good.  Let your experiences be positive.  I marvel at the human mind’s ability. The mind relates to what God creates.  Look away from evil and look to your faith in Jesus.  You will see.

    (1) Marion Höfle, Michael Hauck, Andreas K. Engel, Daniel Senkowski. Viewing a needle pricking a hand that you perceive as yours enhances unpleasantness of pain. Pain, 2012; 153 (5): 1074