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The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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The Times They Are A Changin’

I was a child of ten when A.W. Tozeran American Christian pastor, preacher, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor, died in 1963 at the age of 66. And it was the very next year in 1964 that Bob Dylan, an American songwriter, singer, artist, and writer who has been influential in popular music and culture for more then five decades, composed his famous song, The Times They Are A Changin’”. Back then I was too young to know who either of them were, but decades later when I stumbled upon some of Tozer’s writings, I could see just how much the times have changed since his day. And, of course, Bob Dylan, born in 1941 and who is now 75, is a cultural icon who has just recently been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (see article at this link.) And who doesn’t like a good Bob Dylan song where the message transcends the music?

And how the times have changed since then, too . . . .

Life is ever changing regardless of how we may perceive it to be on a daily basis. And we live in such a fast paced time with all of it’s technological wonders that it is all we can do to keep up with today, but the winds of change still blow. And there are some things that never change–like death, taxes, gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, the love of a good man or woman (my preference is for a man), and real friends who stick around when times are rough. But most things, over time, change.

I was reminded again this morning just how much things change when I read a devotional that I get in my email from BibleGateway.com by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963). However, the devotion is on a spiritual principle that never changes, even if it isn’t a topic that is addressed much anymore:

Irreconcilable Hostility

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12

In the early days, when Christianity exercised a dominant influence over American thinking, men and women conceived the world to be a battleground. Our fathers believed in sin and the devil and hell as constituting one force, and they believed in God and righteousness and heaven as the other. By their very nature, these forces were opposed to each other forever in deep, grave, irreconcilable hostility. Humans, our fathers held, had to choose sides-they could not be neutral. For them it must be life or death, heaven or hell, and if they chose to come out on God’s side they could expect open war with God’s enemies. The fight would be real and deadly and would last as long as life continued here below. People looked forward to heaven as a return from the wars, a laying down of the sword to enjoy in peace the home prepared for them….

How different today. The fact remains the same, but the interpretation has changed completely. People think of the world, not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land; we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, but we are already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full. This World: Playground or Battleground?, 4-5. (Quote source here.) The rest of the chapter from which this devotion was taken can be read at this link.

Today the subjects of “sin and the devil and hell” are relegated to Halloween lore or scary movies, but in our day to day lives we mostly scoff at such topics. It’s shows just how much our culture has changed in the past fifty or so years from back when those topics were taken quite seriously. I suppose one might say we’ve been illuminated from such quackery. But have we really been illuminated?

As a child attending church, I remember singing hymns with titles like Onward Christian Soldier,” but most of today’s Christian music centers around emotions or feelings, and the idea of being a soldier in some sort of spiritual war has been totally lost to the younger generations. And, the wizardry of Harry Potter along with all the techie wonders is far more appealing. And nobody is telling them anything different, and maybe that’s because the parents don’t know anything different, either.

Back in 1979, even Bob Dylan knew there was a spiritual war going on, and he recorded an album titled Slow Train Coming,” which expressed his strong personal faith. Here’s a statement from Wikipedia regarding this album:

“Slow Train Coming” is the nineteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on August 20, 1979 by Columbia Records. It was the artist’s first effort since becoming a born-again Christian, and all of the songs either express his strong personal faith, or stress the importance of Christian teachings and philosophy. The evangelical nature of the record alienated many of Dylan’s existing fans; at the same time, many Christians were drawn into his fan base. “Slow Train Coming” was listed at #16 in the 2001 book “CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music.”

The album was generally well-reviewed in the secular press, and the single “Gotta Serve Somebody” became his first hit in three years, winning Dylan the Grammy for best rock vocal performance by a male in 1980. The album peaked at #2 on the charts in the UK and went platinum in the US, where it reached #3. (Quote source here.)

The spiritual war going on is clearly stated in the lyrics of the song, Gotta Serve Somebody” (YouTube video available at this link). Let’s take a look:

“Gotta Serve Somebody”

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Might be a rock’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
Might have money and drugs at your commands, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a state trooper, you might be an young turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion, or you might live in a dome
You might own guns, and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may call me Terry, you may call me Jimmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything, but no matter what you say.

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

(Lyrics compliments of AZLyrics.com)

stand-firmAnd that spiritual war hasn’t changed over the centuries, either. It still rages on today (see Ephesians 6:10-18). We just like to gloss over it or totally ignore it. And that’s a choice we all make on an individual basis every single day. So who are we going to serve today?

In a newly published book by Moody Publishers that includes twenty-four sections of Tozer writings titled, Culture” (2016), the publisher’s note at the beginning of the book states the following:

Like the men of Issachar, A.W. Tozer was a man who understood his time and who knew what to do. The twenty-four selections that follow are a small sampling of Tozer’s writings on what it means to be a Christian in a world that is largely uninterested in Christ.

He covers topics like truth, the meaning of the church, the veracity of Scripture, and how Christians should live in this world while maintaining their identities as citizens of another.

Tozer wrote with conviction and purpose. He held nothing back in his challenge to his fellow Christians on how to live as Christ did:

We who call ourselves Christians are supposed to be a people apart. We claim to have repudiated the wisdom of this world and adopted the wisdom of the cross as the guide of our lives. We have thrown in our lot with that One who while He lived on earth was the most unadjusted of the sons of men. He would not be integrated into society. He stood above it and condemned it by withdrawing from it even while dying for it. Die for it He would, but surrender to it He would not. (Excerpted from Chapter 7.)

While these are merely words of one servant of the Lord from many decades ago, they also represent timeless truths that ought to be heeded in our day. The context may change and the specific battles may vary, but the truth remains the same. (Quote source “Culture,” p. 7-8.)

The following comes from Section #18 titled, “Resisting the Enemy” (pp. 139-142):

Someday the Church can relax her guard, call her watchmen down from the wall, and live in safety and peace; but not yet, not yet.

All that is good in the world stands as a target for all that is evil and manages to stay alive only by constant watchfulness and the providential protection of the Almighty God. As a man or a nation may be in deepest trouble when unaware of any trouble at all and in the gravest danger when ignorant that any danger exists, so the church may be in greatest peril by not recognizing the presence of peril or the source from which it comes.

The church at Laodicea has stood for nineteen hundred years as a serious warning to the whole Church of Christ to be most watchful when no enemy is in sight and to remain poor in spirit when earthly wealth increases, yet we appear to have learned nothing from her. We expound the seven letters to the churches of Asia [Revelation 1-3] and then return to our own company to live like the Laodicean church. There is a bent to backsliding that is all but impossible to cure.

The healthiest man has enough lethal bacteria in him to kill him within twenty-four hours except for one thing— the amazing power of the human organism to resist bacterial attack. Every mortal body must fight its internal enemies day and night. Once it surrenders its hours are numbered. Quite literally it must fight or die. 

The reason for this is that the human race inhabits a fallen world which is in many ways hostile to it. Nature as well as man is fallen; and as sin is normal human powers gone astray, so disease results from microscopic creatures once meant to be useful to men but now out of hand and perverted. To live, the body must resist these invisible enemies successfully, and considering our high vulnerability and the number of our enemies it is wonderful that any of us manages to live beyond his childhood. 

The Church lives in a hostile world. Within and around her are enemies that not only could destroy her, but are meant to and will unless she resists force with yet greater force. The Christian would collapse from sheer external pressure were there not within him a counter pressure sufficiently great to prevent it. The power of the Holy Spirit is, therefore, not optional but necessary. Without it the children of God simply cannot live the life of heaven on earth. The hindrances are too many and too effective. 

A Church is a living organism and is subject to attack from such enemies as prey on living things. Yet the figure of the human body to stand for the church is not adequate, for the life of the body is non-intelligent, whereas the church is composed of moral beings having intelligence to recognize their enemies and a will to enable them to resist. The human body can fight its enemies even while it is asleep, but the church cannot. She must be awake and determined or she cannot win. 

One enemy we must resist is unbelief. The temptation is strong to reject what we cannot explain, or at least to withhold belief till we have investigated further. This attitude is proper, even commendable, for the scientist, but wholly wrong for the Christian. Here is the reason: 

The faith of the Christian rests down squarely upon the Man Christ Jesus who declares that He is both God and Lord. This claim must be received by pure faith or rejected outright; it can never be proved by investigation. That is why Christ’s appeal is directed to faith alone. The believer thinks, it is true; but he thinks because he believes, not in order that he may. Faith secures from the indwelling Spirit confirmation exquisitely perfect, but only after it is there without other support than Christ Himself. 

Another enemy is complacency “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion.” The contented Christian is not in danger of attack, he has already been attacked. He is sick and does not know it. To escape this we must stir up the gift of God which is in us. We must declare war on contentment and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 

Again there is self-righteousness. The temptation to feel morally pleased with ourselves will be all the greater as our lives become better. The only sure defense against this is to cultivate a quiet state of continual penitence. A sweet but sobering memory of our past guilt and a knowledge of our present imperfections are not incompatible with the joy of the Lord; and they are of inestimable aid in resisting the enemy. 

The fear of man brings a snare, said the prophet, and this enemy, too, must be defeated. Our whole modern world is geared to destroy individual independence and bring all of us into conformity to all the rest of us. Any deviation from the pattern, whatever that pattern may be at the time, will not be forgiven by society, and since the Christian must deviate radically from the world he naturally comes in for the world’s displeasure. If he surrenders to fear he has been conquered, and he dare not let this happen. 

Other enemies may be identified, such as love of luxury, secret sympathy with the world, self-confidence, pride and unholy thoughts. These we must resist with every power within us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. (Quote source “Culture,” pp. 139-142; originally published in “That Incredible Christian,” pp. 101-104.)

As Christians, the moment we let our guard down and fail to recognize that is exactly what we are doing, we have lost the battle. And somehow that message has been lost today, and it is to our detriment. As Tozer stated above, “There is a bent to backsliding that is all but impossible to cure.”

Tozer’s words can be hard to take, but sometimes that is exactly what we need. We cannot afford to just coast along. So let his words be a gentle reminder of who we are as Christians. And with those words, I will end this post with the benediction from 2 Thessalonians 3:16:

Now may the Lord of peace Himself . . .

Give you peace always in every way . . .

The Lord be with you all . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Times They Are A Changin'” (1964) composed by Bob Dylan and sung by Phil Collins:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Next Right Step

quotefancy-4337-3840x2160Sitting on the fence is never a good thing to do as, for one thing, it lacks courage. That is not to say that it is always easy to make a decision. In the absence of knowing what one should do, sitting on the fence tends to ease the strain of making a decision in favor of not making any decision . . . which, in and of itself, is a decision. And most likely never a good one, either.

And we’ve all been there . . . .

I haven’t been one to sit on a fence for long throughout my life; however, at the moment I’m trying to decide what direction to take, and sometimes decisions don’t depend on just us. However, there needs to be movement in the right direction. No fence sitting allowed. So, I think I’ll have a salad instead of fries today, as that is a step in the right direction while I’m deciding on the other step I need to take. Any forward movement, no matter how small, is a good thing–like smiling instead of frowning. And I tend to smile a lot.

Yesterday while I was roaming around the bargain books area at Barnes and Noble, I picked up another book by Regina Brett, newspaper columnist, popular speaker, Pulitzer Prize finalist who hosts a radio show, and a New York Times best-selling author, and I couldn’t put it down. I wrote a blog post recently (click here for post) on the first book of hers that I found titled, Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible (2012), which is actually her second book. The book I found yesterday is her first book, and it is titled, God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours (2010).

Life’s little detours . . . . Most of us who have been alive long enough have experiences one or more of life’s little detours. I experienced more than just a “little” detour seven and a half years ago when I lost my job in Houston. For the regular readers of my blog, you know the story, and it is still ongoing.

However, back to Regina Brett’s book, God Never Blinks.” You can read the titles of all 50 lessons in this book at this link. Lesson 2 titled, “When In Doubt, Just Take the Next Step,” immediately caught my eye since I have found myself somewhat “stuck on hold” for the past few weeks. In Lesson 2, Brett opens and closes that lesson with the following statements:

[Opening] My life used to be like that game of freeze tag we played as kids. Once tagged, you had to freeze in the position you were in. Whenever something happened, I’d freeze like a statue, too afraid of moving the wrong way, too afraid of making the wrong decision. The problem is, if you stand still too long, that’s your decision.

There’s a moment in the special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Charlie Brown stops to see Lucy, the five-cent psychiatrist. Lucy does her best to diagnosis him.

If he’s afraid of responsibility, he must have hypengyophobia. Charlie Brown isn’t sure if that’s exactly what he fears the most.

Lucy tries hard to put her finger on it. If he’s afraid of staircases, he could be climacophobia. If he’s afraid of the ocean, he had thalassophobia. Maybe it’s gephyrophobia, the fear of crossing bridges.

Finally, Lucy hits on just the right diagnosis: panophobia.

When she asks Charlie Brown if that’s what he has, he asks her what it is. The answer both shocks and comforts him.

What is panophobia? The fear of everything.

Bingo! That’s what Charlie Brown has.

Me, too. (pp. 10-11)

[At this point the author describes her growing up and adult years and how she settled on writing as her passion.]

[Ending] So I took one writing class, than another. Then another.

When in doubt, do the next right thing. It’s usually something quite small. As E.L. Doctorow said, writing a book is like driving a car at night. “You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

The philosophy applies to life, too. The headlights on my car shine 350 feet, but even with that much light, I can travel all the way to California. I need to see only enough light to get moving.

I graduated with a journalism degree from Kent State when I turned 30. Ten years later, I got my master’s degree in religious studies from John Carroll University. I never set out to get a master’s degree. If I had counted the years (five), the cost (thousands), and the time in the classroom, doing homework, doing research (late evenings, lunch hours, weekends), I never would have mailed that first tuition check.

I just took one class, then another and another, and one day I was done.

It was like that raising my daughter. I never dreamed I’d be a single parent for all 18 years of her childhood. My daughter finished high school the same month I got my master’s degree. I’m glad I didn’t know when I gave birth to her at 21 what it would cost in terms of time, money, and sacrifice to bring her to that graduation day. It would have terrified me.

Every so often some expert calculates how much it costs to raise a child. It’s in the six-figure range. The money doesn’t scare would-be parents away, but if someone calculated all the time and energy it took to raise a child, the human race would become extinct.

The secret to success, to parenting, to life is to not count up the cost. Don’t focus on all the steps it will take. Don’t stare into the abyss at the giant leap it will take. That view will keep you from taking the next small step.

If you want to lose 40 pounds, you order salad instead of fries. If you want to be a better friend, you take the phone call instead of screening it. If you want to write a novel, you sit down and write a single paragraph.

It’s scary to make major changes, but we usually have enough courage to take the next right step. One small step and then another. That’s what it takes to raise a child, to get a degree, to write a book, to do whatever it is your heart desires.

What’s your next right step? Whatever it is, take it. (Source, “God Never Blinks,” pp. 10-11, 13-14.)

get-off-the-fenceWhile I never had a daughter (or any children), I was 30 when I finished my bachelor’s degree, and later when I went back and earned a master’s degree (I started off in journalism and switch to higher education administration), I was 39 when I received it. And my passion is writing, too. And it took losing my job in Houston seven and a half years ago and being left unemployed all this time to find my true passion.

From my own experience during these past seven and a half years, I truly believe the our detours are actually divine appointments, leading us in ways we would not have chosen for ourselves, yet opening up a whole new world that we would have completely missed otherwise. My world has changed exponentially from what I have learned during this very extended time of unemployment, when my energies could focus on other areas that I wasn’t aware of when I was working. Of course, I did undertake a massive employment search for several years that went nowhere fast or slow, but what I have learned during this time is invaluable.

However, lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been straddling a fence (and I’m not very good at it, either). I left one city and state in late July to take a break from the very long and dismal housing search on my low Social Security income that had produce zilch after two years. And I’ve now been in the second city and state for three months (I came not intending to stay but to take a break), and I don’t want to return to the same dismal situation I left in July. Hotels are less expensive here, too (a major plus on a tight budget).

As Brett stated in her last sentence in Lesson 2, “What’s your next right step? Whatever it is, take it.” I only wish I knew what my next step should be. At the moment, I don’t know.

Blessings often come disguise in the hard things that happen to us. We may not see the blessing at first, but a whole new world can open up when something comes along that drastically changes the world we’ve been living in. I worked all my life until seven and a half years ago, and I’d still be working now if I hadn’t lost that job in Houston, but God had other plans.

However, I don’t want to get off of the topic which is getting off that fence! Perhaps your “fence” issue involves a relationship. In Never Go Back: 10 Things You’ll Never Do,” (2014) by Dr. Henry Cloud, he offers some great advice throughout the book regarding moving forward in our lives (see blog post titled, We All Do It,” for specifics on his book). Each of the ten chapters in Part 1 of the book covers a principle (the ten principles are listed at this link). At the beginning of each chapter he opens with a verse and a principle. Chapter 1 is titled, “Never Again . . . Return to What Hasn’t Worked,” and the verse quoted is from Psalm 119:71, It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” The principle under the verse is: “Never go back to what hasn’t worked.” The following is taken from Chapter 1:

Life is meant to be forward moving, not backward. Make sure that if you “go back,” you’re not going back to the same thing.

In business, we often see this when someone ends a relationship with a boss, a company, an employee, a strategy, a partnership, or even an industry. They move on for a while, only to go back and do it all over again. They rehire the person or go back to work for the same boss or company that they left for good reason or some other redo. For some reason, they think it will be different this time. Yet they find themselves back where they were to start with.

Remember: There is a reason it did not work. If you are going back, make very, very sure that reason is no longer there. You need to see more than just a “sorry” or a commitment to make it work “this time.” You need to see a real, verifiable change. People do change, and people do learn. Situations change; dynamics that were once present and making something not work can be different now. People build skills, learn new things, develop new capacities, etc. That is what life is about, and all of our lives hopefully are in a direction of getting better, not worse. Just make sure that is the case before you “go back” to anything.

If you are considering going back to anything that did not work or that you had a good reason for leaving, look at three categories of possible change, asking these questions:

  1. Am I different in some way that would make this work?
  2. Is the other person or persons different in some way that would make this work?
  3. Is the situation fundamentally different in some way that would make this work?

Sometimes going back can work when expectations have changed or matured and the wish for something different has been given up. I see that sometimes in marriages that are put back together and reconciled. But if the relationship is going to work, something must be different in the expectations of the one who left and is coming back. If you’re the one who left and now want to return, look at yourself to see if you have truly changed or are simply coming back because you’re lonely or sad. There must be something different in you if you want to make something work that didn’t work before. Likewise, if you are the one who stayed, before taking back the one who left, ask yourself, What is different? In me or the other person?” . . . .

If we left something because another person’s behavior or character was unacceptable–not our own expectations or reactions–how is that person different now and in what tangible way is that fruit being lived out? . . . .

Just because someone is sorry does not mean they have changed. It may mean they want to be different, but you must be able to see tangible fruit to know the change is real. Forgive people freely for the past; but in order to trust them for the future, you need to see tangible change. . . .

In the third instance (e.g., “Is the situation different?), there must be some real change in the situation that would make it work. The company has new ownership, the market is different, the leadership has changed, or different people are involved in the situation. Look for tangible evidence of change for the better so that you will be going forward and not backward. (Source, “Never Go Back,” pp. 17-21).

In a section of that same chapter (Chapter 1) titled “Tomorrow, Not Today,” Dr Cloud writes:

When considering going back, think of it this way: next year is next year, not last year. Tomorrow is tomorrow, not yesterday. God has designed life in a way that is forward moving. As time moves forward we grow, develop, and transform into newer more complete and mature lives. Unless . . . we are stuck. And there is no better way to remain stuck than to repeat what has already been. The last thing you want to do is relive the past all over again. Tomorrow should be new and improved–always!

When a person comes to this realization, it’s usually because he has made the same mistake twice or more. He has gone back to some situation or person that he had left behind, thinking and hoping it would be different “this time.” But he found, instead, that the old situation simply repeated itself. At some point in the journey, he realizes, “I was here before and I left. Why did I come back to do it again? How is it that I find myself here again?

That realization, if listened to, can become a great teacher. It is the wake-up call that says, “You knew this was what it was like. Yet you came back. You should have known better than to think it would be different this time.” That understanding becomes a prediction when the person finds himself considering a repeat. His memory reminds him: “Remember when you went back before? Where did it get you? It got you right back to what you had left and for good reason. No need to repeat it.”

And when it becomes a real awakening, that memory is not just about a specific situation. It becomes a memory that can apply to all situations: “If you left for a reason, you left for a reason. And if that reason is not gone, then you will be right back there again. Don’t go backwards.” This new understanding becomes a structure inside our wisdom brain that puts up the caution light and says, “This will not end well.” Go for tomorrow, not yesterday. Unless, of course, yesterday was great and you truly want to do it again. Nothing wrong with that at all–if it truly was great . . . .

If you are planning to go back and yet nothing has changed, make sure you know you are going back to what was and still is, not what you wish would be. If it truly is different, fine. But if not, do not make it different in your head.

If a nine-year-old can tell you that you should not go back, then the decision is not rocket science. It is a matter of being in touch with reality, looking it squarely in the face. You know what was, so if you do not want what you left, make sure you are going back to something different . . . either in you, the other person or people, or the situation. Otherwise, you are doing the same thing expecting different results. And that is a pattern from which we truly want to repent. We should never go back to the same thing expecting different results. (Source, “Never Go Back,” pp. 22-25).

Sometimes, like right now, it’s just hard to know what to do. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus said:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7-12).

My motto during these past seven and a half years has been “Take one day at a time and see what unfolds.” It has served me well. For the past week while I’ve been trying to decide what to do, one verse has stood out during this time. I’ll end this blog post with it (Psalm 46:10):

Be still, and know that I am God . . .

I will be exalted among the nations . . .

I will be exalted in the earth . . . .

YouTube Video: “Moving Foward” by Hezekiah Walker and LFC:

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Now Is The Time

nowWhen I took typing classes in high school on an old IBM selectric typewriter almost four and a half decades ago, there was a sentence we learned to type over and over again in typing drills. The sentence is “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” The origin of the sentence goes back to the early 20th Century:

“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party” is a phrase first proposed as a typing drill by instructor Charles E. Weller (1840-1925); its use is recounted in his book “The Early History of the Typewriter,” p. 21 (1918) Frank E. McGurrin, an expert on the early Remington typewriter, used it in demonstrating his touch typing abilities in January 1889. It has appeared in a number of typing books, often in the form “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” (Quote source here.)

In a blog post titled Now Is the Time for All Good  Men to Come to the Aid of Their Country,” published on October 16, 2012, by Elizabeth Westhoff, Director, Marketing and Mission Awareness, she gives a more detailed background on the sentence drilled into every typing student’s head at the time I was in high school; however, given her age (she was a child of the 1980’s) she states she never used it on a typewriter:

Given my age, I will admit it is surprising I’m aware of the titular phrase I’ve used for this blog entry. You see, the phrase, “Now Is the Time…” was once a typing drill taught by a teacher named Charles E. Weller (I really have no idea why I know the teacher’s name, but those who know me will vouch for the fact that I have millions of generally useless tidbits careening around in my brain.) Mr. Weller used that particular phrase because it exactly fills out a 70-space line if you put a period at the end. My use of the phrase is surprising though, because—I’ve never used a typewriter. I have no idea of the relevance of a 70-space line. I could no more set the tabs on a manual typewriter than rebuild a car engine, and yet, as an English major and communications professional, my entire academic and professional careers have both necessitated my ability to type—and to type well. The thing is, my parents taught me the phrase, “Now Is the Time…” as a kid and today as a 38-year-old woman, it sticks with me still. (Quote source here.)

Ms. Westhoff is now 42, and I’m old enough to be her mother; and I do remember why the line had 70 spaces, and I can reset the tabs on a manual typewriter; however, I cannot rebuild a car engine. I very much appreciated the fact that while she doesn’t know why she remembers Mr. Weller’s name, she wrote, “those who know me will vouch for the fact that I have millions of generally useless tidbits careening around in my brain.” So do I. Often folks who are not like she or myself often find those of us who are to be, well, sometimes annoying (I only wish I could say that particular trait was more endearing, and I suppose it could be to some people). However, back to the topic at hand.

Now is the time . . .

The last presidential debate is over (and we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief), and the presidential election here in America is now 19 days away. If there was ever a time . . . “Now is the time for all good men (well, people) to come to the aid of their country.” However, the country is so divided many folks are considering sitting this one out (which is not a good solution). Whichever side of the fence you’re on, don’t just sit on it. Do something (like vote, and if you are so inclined, pray).

My last blog post titled, We All Do It,” started out with the following quote:

“I thought you were normal, and now I find out you are one of those religious types.” (Quote source: “Never Go Back” (2014) by Dr. Henry Cloud; Preface, p. xv).

Like Dr. Cloud, we “religious types” often get pigeonholed into the category of “religious types” among people who don’t really know what it means, or assume they do know but don’t, or worse yet, they often don’t care to know. And with the rise of the Nones (religiously unaffiliated–see article titled, ‘Nones’ on the Rise,” by Pew Research Center published October 9, 2012), it’s gotten worse. However, let’s start by defining normal:

Normal: (1) conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural; (2) serving to establish a standard. (Quote source here.)

Much of the division that is going on in America today has to do with labels we place on others who just don’t see things the way “we” do whether our disagreements are religious, political, racial, lifestyle related, or whatever. And now we have to define “we.” By now you can see the issue at hand. We are fragmenting and dividing our society more and more with each passing decade and every new generation.

The plaque at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty (dedicated on October 28, 1886) reads:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These lines are from the poem “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. (Quote source here.)

1-cor-2v4-5There is nothing religious, political, racial or lifestyle related in those words. So how did we get from there to here in a scant 130 years? In an article titled, The Life Cycles of Empires: Lessons for America Today? by Eric Snowpublished on July 6, 2011 in Beyond Today,” he writes:

The German philosopher Hegel (1770-1831) knew that just because men and women learned about the past, that didn’t mean they’d make better decisions about the future. He once cynically commented, “What experience and history teach us is this—that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”

For years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, America seemingly towered over the world as a great giant—economically, culturally and militarily. But now for nearly a decade since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, its armed services have clashed with the forces of Islamic extremism and terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the world.

If that weren’t bad enough, the worldwide economic crisis has laid the country low with high unemployment, an immense federal government deficit, rising inflation and depressed home values. Other challenges loom ahead, flowing from the European Union’s growing political and economic integration, Russia’s increased strength and assertiveness, and China’s rapid economic, industrial and military growth.

Clearly America’s present lone-superpower status is being increasingly challenged. Could it be lost completely? While it clings to a general preeminence right now, could America still decline and fall?

Didn’t that happen to other great empires in the past, such as those of Britain, Spain, Rome, Persia, Babylon and Egypt? Is America’s future more secure than theirs was? (Quote source here.)

We fight among ourselves and disparage those we don’t understand without thinking twice about our role as a nation in human history. Farther down in the article Snow discusses the seven steps in the life cycles of great powers:

Seven steps in the life cycles of great powers

Glubb Pasha [Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, 1897-1986, who was a British soldier, scholar and author] learned that different empires had similar cultural changes while experiencing a life cycle in a series of stages that could overlap. He generalized about empires having seven stages of development, identifying these successive ages as follows:

1. The age of outburst (or pioneers).
2. The age of conquests.
3. The age of commerce.
4. The age of affluence.
5. The age of intellect.
6. The age of decadence.
7. The age of decline and collapse.

Each stage helps progression to the next as the values of the people change over time. Military, political, economic and religious developments all influence an empire’s people to act and believe differently over time. (Quote source here.)

“Each stage helps progression to the next as the values of the people change over time.” Notice that is it the values of the people that are the primary cause of the change. The past several decades here in America have seen the rise of affluence, intellect, and decadence. In his article, Snow states the following regarding the last stage (Stage 7):

Sowing the seeds of decline

During the age of intellect, schools may produce skeptical intellectuals who oppose the values and religious beliefs of their empires’ early leaders. . . . 

Scholars also might manage schools that teach the ruling class and/or some of the average people subjects that are either mainly oriented towards financial success or are simply impractical. For example, in the early Roman Republic, students received a basic education that stressed character development and virtue. But in the later Roman Empire, teachers taught rhetoric (the art of speaking) when emotionally persuading assemblies was no longer of political or practical value.

The corrosive effects of material success encourage the upper class and the common people to discard the self-confident, self-disciplined values that helped to create the empire. Then the empire eventually collapses. Perhaps an outside power, such as the so-called barbarians in Rome’s case, wipes it out [see the eight reasons why Rome fell at this link]. Or maybe an energetic internal force, such as the pro-capitalist reformers in the Soviet Union, finishes the job instead [see “The Fall of the Soviet Union” in 1991 at this link].

The growth of wealth and comfort clearly can undermine the values of character, such as self-sacrifice and discipline, that led to a given empire’s creation. Then the empire so affected by moral decline grows weaker and more vulnerable to destruction by forces arising inside or outside of it. (Quote source here.)

Snow further comments on four key signs of decline noted by Glubb:

What are some key signs of decline?

What are some common features of an empire’s culture in its declining period? Glubb describes developments like these:

1. Rampant sexual immorality, an aversion to marriage in favor of “living together” and an increased divorce rate all combine to undermine family stability. This happened among the upper class in the late Roman Republic and early Empire. The first-century writer Seneca once complained about Roman upper-class women: “They divorce in order to re-marry. They marry in order to divorce.”

The birthrate declines, and abortion and infanticide both increase as family size is deliberately limited. The historian W.H. McNeill has referred to the “biological suicide of the Roman upper classes” as one reason for Rome’s decline. Homosexuality becomes publicly acceptable and spreads, as was the case among the ancient Greeks before Rome conquered them.

2. Many foreign immigrants settle in the empire’s capital and major cities. The mixture of ethnic groups in close proximity in these cosmopolitan places inevitably produces conflicts.

Because of their prominent locations within the empire, their influence greatly exceeds their percentage of the population. Here diversity plainly leads to divisiveness.

We see this today in the growing conflict in European countries such as France and the Netherlands, where large numbers of immigrants are stoking violent cultural clashes. German chancellor Angela Merkel recently made headlines when she stated that attempts to create a multicultural society had “utterly failed” and immigrants must do more to integrate into society.

3. Both irresponsible pleasure-seeking and pessimism increase among the people and their leaders. The spirit described in 1 Corinthians 15:32 spreads throughout society: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

As people cynically give up looking for solutions to the problems of life and society, they drop out of the system. They then turn to mindless entertainment, to luxuries and sexual activity, and to drugs or alcohol.

The astonishingly corrupt and lavish parties of the Roman Empire’s elite are a case in point. The Emperor Nero, for instance, would spend the modern equivalent of $500,000 for just the flowers at some banquets.

4. The government provides extensive welfare for the poor. In the case of the city of Rome, which had perhaps 1.2 million people around A.D. 170, government-provided “bread and circuses” (food and entertainment) helped to keep the masses content. About one half of its non-slave population was on the dole at least part of the year.

True, helping the poor shows Christian compassion (Mark 14:7). But such help also can lead to laziness and dependency (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Such problems are especially likely when the poor believe state-provided charity is a permanent right or entitlement. (Quote source here.)

what-do-you-valueSound familiar? We need to be reminded that who we are as people is just as important as who we elect for president. How are we living our lives, and what is it that we value?

First Peter 3:8-12 sums up how we should live as Christians. Let’s take a look at those verses:

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,

“Whoever would love life
    and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
    and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
    they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Throughout history nations have come and gone, but as Isaiah 40:8 reminds us . . .

The grass withers and the flowers fall . . .

But the word of our God . . .

Stands forever . . . .

YouTube Video: “Revolution” (1968) by The Beatles:

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