The Importance of Connection

June 11, 2022 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Warren M Mueller –

As I reflected on the tragedies of the Boston Marathon bombing and the Newtown massacre, I realized that those who did these crimes were described as loners or people without friends. This caused me to think about what isolation does to human thinking. I searched for an example I could relate to and thought of my daily commute to work in an auto. In this case, people are isolated from each other, and most of the time, I see the vehicle, not the person inside. It is easy to feel annoyance and even anger when others violate my space on the road by cutting in front of me. When standing still in traffic, I tend to look straight ahead because I do not want to interact with others who may be angry or frustrated. The result is that my view of others on the road is reduced to vehicles that are obstacles or are competing with me for space. This situation fosters low tolerance of actions that violate my space and produces thoughts of others as being rude and selfish which stimulate negative emotions.

Conversely, people who share values, goals or something in common tend to think positively about each other. A great example of this occurs among Christians because of faith in Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I am amazed at how I can feel close to people with whom I have very little in common except our shared Christian beliefs. However, I find I feel much less connected to those who I see regularly but do not know by name or shared experience. There is a danger even in church of just being present out of habit or obligation which can result in going through the motions without mentally and emotionally connecting to others.

The Bible says that believers are to seek relationships or connections with other believers and meet together regularly (Hebrews 10:25 NIV). Jesus is the ultimate example of someone who overcame social barriers by connecting with others. Jesus loves us so much that he became human in order to connect with us and help us to become like him (John 1:12-13; 3:16 NIV). Jesus associated with social outcasts. He formed a network of followers to mentor and helped them develop a new identity based on his teachings, example, and relationships. His death and resurrection enable those who accept him as Savior and Lord to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 6:19 NIV). This is the ultimate connection in life because it is the most intimate transforming the mind and changing us into holy children of God (Romans 12: 1-2 NIV).

Shared views and purpose produce loyalty and commitments to glorify God and advance his kingdom on earth. The result of loyalty is unity and love for God and for other believers. This is why Jesus said that others will know his disciples by their love for each other (John 13:35). Why then is there not more love and unity among believers in Christ? I believe the root cause is our failure to connect with others.

Practice connecting to those you encounter by thinking of them in positive ways. I have started to look at people in their vehicles and think of them as working with me to get back and forth to work each day. This has helped me to connect with them giving me greater tolerance and appreciation of our collective effort to return safely home each day. Look those you encounter in the eye and smile at them and think of something you share in common with them. This could be as basic as realizing we are Americans. It will help you be connected and discover something to love in every encounter in your life.

When Not Good Enough Screams Pride

June 3, 2022 by  
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By Lori Freeland –

Pride. That nasty thing that precipitates my downfalls.

When I hear the word pride, I think of times in my life when I’ve longed to be the center of attention, hogged the credit for a project, elevated myself above the rules, and walked my road alone—confident my way was best.

I don’t often attach the word pride to the idea of low self-esteem.

Who would? Low self-esteem equals humility. When I don’t believe I’m good enough, I’ve kicked pride in the backside. Right?

Maybe not.

What if by not believing in myself, I’ve committed my largest act of pride?

Look at it this way.

God isn’t stingy when He dispenses gifts. He isn’t stingy with talents and skills either. So what if He loaded your arsenal with everything He wanted you to be and you turned away, hung your head, toed the ground and said, “No thanks. You’ve made a mistake. I’ll never be good enough.”

That’s exactly what Moses did. He had an entire argument with God about why he wasn’t good enough. Read Exodus chapters 3 and 4.

Here’s the part near the end of their interchange:

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.

Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him (Exodus 4:10-13 NIV).

Who was Moses to question God? Who I am to argue?

God gave Moses everything he needed to do His work.

Moses couldn’t see God’s provision through the reveal of the burning bush, his “live” conversation with the Master of the Universe, or the gift of Aaron.

Moses hung his head, scuffed his toe, and said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

What does God want you to do for Him? What experiences and people and opportunities has he placed in front of you that you’ve ignored because of your low self-esteem?

Remember that catchy phrase? If God leads you to it, he’ll bring you through it.

Pride isn’t telling everyone why you’re not worthy.

Pride is being ungrateful for God’s gifts. Pride is turning from your talents. Pride is scorning your God-given skills.

If you’re a believer, it’s not really about self-esteem anyway. It’s about God-esteem.

He’s equipped you. Now go do the work.

But They Desired a King

May 19, 2022 by  
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By DiAne Gates –

In December of 1620, a ragged band of pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, running from the King of England, searching for the freedom to worship the Almighty God. It cost them, and most of our founding fathers, their lives. But their determination to maintain their allegiance to God birthed a nation—under God—the United States of America.

And as long as Americans pledged their allegiance to the God of our Fathers, He blessed our land, our people and our children.

But the seed of Adam’s sin infects every generation. Just like in the Garden of Eden, man still struggles with the sin of rebellion against God. Each of us must decide where to place our allegiance. Each of us must choose the laws we will follow. Each of us chooses to give our love and our heart either to God or to Satan.

There is no middle ground. “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NAS).

We are no different from our ancestors, all the way back to Adam and Eve. We think we’re different because we’ve tossed mud into the waters of the sovereignty of God, hoping our pitiful attempts to obscure His truth in education will silence His Word. But God’s Word will remain forever, in spite of our futile efforts to diminish, twist, and destroy it.

God is the same God in Genesis that He is in 2013. His ways are the same. His authority is the same. His power is the same. And His judgments are the same.

Fifty-one percent of Americans are screaming for a king. Fifty-one percent of Americans want nothing to do with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Fifty-one percent of Americans desire a government like other nations who have either a dictator or a king.

And God will give the people what their hearts desire.

Just like He did to the Israelites who stood on the border of the land God and assigned their loyalty to ten lying spies who refused to believe God’s Word and His promise. And that choice cost those folks forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Until they died.

Choices bring consequences.

Refusal to address sin and rebellion in our lives, in our families, and in our nation is a refusal to seek God’s presence. Without Him there will always be chaos.

What will it cost Americans if we continue to reject the Lord God Almighty and pursue the desire to be like the other nations? What will the consequences be if this fifty-one percent grows to seventy-five percent? What will become of our young people, our grandchildren, being schooled in the murky waters of Day Age, Evolutional Creation, self-worship, pride, homosexuality, infanticide and millions of other deceptions writhing in the cesspools of evil?

Are you satisfied with Jesus? Does your heart truly belong to Him? Is He your Lord, your God, and your King?

Or does your heart desire another king?

Back to the Basics

May 12, 2022 by  
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By Pat Hodges –

The other day I was listening to Christian talk radio and a caller called in. I immediately noticed two things. First, he misquoted scripture and then he misapplied it in his conversation with the radio show host. The radio show host never challenged the caller on the misquote or challenged him on the misapplication of the scripture. I could understand this happening once, but this has happened numerous times on this radio program. The sad thing about is, the radio host claimed to be a minister of the gospel and claimed to be a pastor of a church.

In a day and age when most Christians rarely take the time to open their Bibles, let alone read them except on Sundays, we’ve learned to subsist on Bible “bytes.” A Bible “byte” is much like a sound byte. It can be easily manipulated and twisted to fit whatever we want it to say and mean.

Have you ever heard someone quoted, knowing the quote was totally twisted and taken out of context? It’s happening more and more in some media venues. That’s what can be done with a Bible byte and it seems to be happening more often than not. This is not just limited to the Bible, but it often shows up in our prayer lives to. We give God little snippets of prayer in our hurried chaotic lives. I find myself guilty of the same. God is looking for relationship, true relationship. Not a snippet of a prayer life that was once flourishing and is now withering on the vine.

Now is the time to come back to our First Love and rediscover the simplicity and joy of a prosperous devotional life and prayer life. This is the time to bring it back to the basics, and begin to rediscover who He really is, slow down a bit, and let Him really speak to our hearts, rather than wait for a sound byte from Him. Go ahead. Take the plunge of rediscovery.

Prayer: “Father, I thank you that you’re always present with me, but more than that, I thank you that you are so interested in me and my life that you honestly desire to be an integral part of it. I thank you for giving me the grace in the midst of my hurried chaotic schedule to take time out with you and for giving me a listening ear for what you have to say to me. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Winning

May 8, 2022 by  
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By Marcus Smith –

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39 NIV).

This verse reveals one of the many ways in which the economy of God is the opposite of the world’s. How many people, merely when threatened, rush to defend themselves with force? People operating under the world’s economy seek the biggest weapon, the smartest put-down, the solidarity of friends to lock out an offender. Whatever resource will defeat an enemy physically, mentally or even socially becomes acceptable.

Yet in the race to win what is forgotten is God’s call. God’s call not to win, but to Love.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-4).

Christians do not have the privilege of hating their enemies or of failing to pray for them. Although not expressly forbidden, the reliance on physical weapons is discouraged as Matthew 26:52 and Revelation 13:10 warn that those who kill with weapons are themselves subject to such death. Likewise, when we find enemies on any number of other less lethal but no less spiritually damaging arenas we must consider whether our response should leap to the weapons of that arena.

As a young man growing up in Texas, my enemy could take the form of another young man. Perhaps even a friend. And with few unkind words, a flurry of fists and dirt and blood, another battle would be over. Another victory won. Another cheek not turned.

Among women, the conflict increasingly looks the same, but Rachel Simmons in her recently revised breakaway best seller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls reports on the devastating consequences of social exclusion and ostracism in female culture. From dirty looks and taunting notes, to sudden removal and ostracism from even an established group of friends, girls have their own techniques for punishing their social enemies.

As we struggle in this life, it makes perfect sense, natural sense, common sense for us to hit back when someone attacks. And if we have the opportunity why not hit first? If we have an opponent that we cannot out debate we can strike first in a new arena by attacking them socially.

Christians have an even trickier struggle as we are prone to spiritualize personal strife. Our enemies become spiritual enemies, our struggles with them become discussed in spiritual rather than personal terms, and our disagreements move us to create spiritual walls that separate us into convenient camps of worthy and unworthy.

But Matthew 5:43-4 teaches us that the mark of God’s presence in a person’s life is that they do not hit back, much less hit first, or hit in a new way.

To be a Christian is to set aside any mindset that prevents us from treating our enemies, all our enemies, with love and prayer. Only then do we display the presence of Christ in our lives.

As Oswald Chambers writes, “…you cannot imitate the nature of Jesus— it is either in you or it is not. A personal insult becomes an opportunity for a saint to reveal the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.” He goes on to say in eloquence that, “It is not your duty to go the second mile, or to turn the other cheek, but Jesus said that if we are His disciples, we will always do these things. We will not say, “Oh well, I just can’t do any more, and I’ve been so misrepresented and misunderstood.””

The call of these passages does not go out to those with specific spiritual gifts. The call is not to be listened to under the right circumstances. The call is not to be obeyed whenever it is convenient. More than duty, our service to God is both privilege and sacred trust, and in our service, we never cease to offer mercy, never cease to offer compassion, never cease to offer love. The call of the Christian then is to represent God’s love in this fallen world.

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