Child Abuse or not?

One thing that probably bothers me most in public places is the absence of discipline by some parents. Some may accuse me of being a little too strict with my child, but it is because of discipline that he behaves.

I recall a few years ago hearing a parent in Walmart say to their child “if you don’t stop ___, then I’ll ___.” Within the next five minutes, the child continued to misbehave, and the parent continued to threaten. But that’s it. The child didn’t stop, because the parent never carried out the punishment that was promised. The child knew he would get away with doing wrong because he was never disciplined.

On the other hand, extreme cases can result in child abuse, which I am obviously against.

However, I think it’s fairly easy to strike the right balance between the two with a little practice and trial and error.

As I read my devotion today, it just happened to strike me that we MUST discipline our children. This is quite interesting:

6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. – Hebrews 12:6-10 (NIV)

And for those of us who don’t really like being disciplined ourselves, we must remember:

11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. 14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. – Hebrews 12:11-14 (NIV)

 

 

Hall of fame –> Hall of FAITH

Some have heard of the Hall of Faith; others have not. It is detailed out quite nicely in Hebrews 11.

Although we don’t know who penned the book of Hebrews, we can trust that God inspired the person to summarize the accounts of each of these who had complete faith in God. From Abraham sacrificing his son to Noah building a boat in light of the shame of the world, we have record of some of the most famous faith-filled men and women in Biblical times.

What is interesting about this synopsis to me is not just the listing of their names and events, but the commendations that they received in heavenly rewards from having such faith. Throughout this chapter, we find individuals who received great rewards:

  •      Noah who built the ark in complete obedience – was the only family to survive the flood
  •      Abraham who (almost) sacrificed his son – went to live in the land of promise with many descendants
  •      Enoch who had faith – was taken out of this world to be with God
  •      Sarah who believed – conceived a child very late in life
  •      Moses who was not afraid of Egypt – led the Israelites in the Exodus and across the Red Sea

The list goes on and on about conquerors, resurrections, and more.

However, here is another interesting twist:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11:39-40 (NIV)

This serves to remind us that we need to be faithful and faith-filled, despite what happens. Just because we feel we are being led to a certain mission, event, or trial – don’t try to anticipate the outcome. God has a plan much bigger than us, that we normally cannot see. Not everything may work out the way we desire, or plan, but that doesn’t mean that it ended wrong.

Let God direct your paths. Seek Him and He will provide. He will commend those who are faithful and faith-filled.

Rewards Points

In today’s society of connectivity, everybody is connected to everyone else (it seems) through Facebook, twitter, instagram, LinkedIn and a variety of other social media technologies. Companies are even trying to profit from the connected culture more than ever through expanded Rewards Points, “bonus cards,” travel miles, and other loyalty programs. Some companies have even originated with a goal to simplify all the many loyalty programs into one simplified, one stop shopping reward market.

For some people, this whirlwind of technology, social media, and rewards points programs control their life and destiny. They spend countless hours on-line chatting with “friends,” playing games, and stacking up rewards that in the end would probably be cheaper to buy working a few hours part time (vs spending hours online).

Anyway, I’m not intending to bash any of these. I’m just thankful that at the end of the day, I’m not competing for the most friends on Facebook. I’m not in a contest to get the most free stuff at the grocery store. And I’m not vying for the most chips in an on-line poker game. At the end of the day, it is not about any of these.

Life is about the here and now AND the future. What does your life consist of today? And where will you spend eternity?

Here’s a fact: I’m not good enough for Heaven! The Bible is very clear that I can’t do anything physically or morally to get into Heaven.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. – Romans 3:28 (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

If there was something that we could do to get to Heaven, then God would “owe” us Salvation. But instead, God doesn’t owe us anything. Instead, we owe it all to Him.

“For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 (ESV)

It is because of His love for us that we can have eternal life. No social connections, no rewards points, nothing can earn His love. God has already given it to us: a free gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ.

No regrets

Gotta live like we’re dying! That’s the premise of a popular modern christian song by Kris Allen.
The lyrics point out that there is a limited amount of time that each of us have on earth. During that time we need to think long and deep about how we live.
People with terminal illnesses are sometimes given a life expectancy from doctors. And it seems that these individuals generally make an effort to improve their life by “living life to the fullest” during their final days.
To each person that phrase has a different meaning. Irregardless, are you living life to the fullest?
What’s important in your life? And more importantly do others see that in your life? We do have a limit to our days, start living today!
Psalm 90:2, 146:2, 37:4

today’s message was for me

Sometimes the Lord can really convict a person. Today was that day for me, as I re-read a passage that I consider one of the hardest to relate to. The story in Genesis 22 when Abraham willingly stepped forward to sacrifice his son.

We all know the story, the Lord asked Abraham to take his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loved, and sacrifice him. Abraham had less than 24 hours to decide, and from what we read in the Bible, there is no indication that he hesitated. He arose “early in the morning” and began the more than 3 day journey to Mt. Moriah with his son. Again, throughout the Scripture there is no indication that Abraham wavered or even struggled with the decision.

When his son asked about the lamb for the burnt offering, Abraham replied that the Lord would provide. It is therefore evident to me that he NEVER questioned the Lord during this journey. I don’t believe that Abraham ever dreaded the outcome; instead he had full faith in God’s plan.

Yet, in my life, as I mature in Christ, I still see areas that I fail in.

I have been saved for about half my life, and actively involved in ministry for about 7 years (not including Sunday School teaching, which would add another 8 years). So, why do I still fail?

Well, this is the way I see it. First, I don’t think we should consider ourselves FAILURES in any aspect. I have only failed to complete my “maturity.” I’ve actually succeeded in progressing from a life void of Christ to a life growing in Christ. I don’t believe that any of us will ever achieve the full and complete being that we are meant to be.

How can I say such a thing? Think of it this way. As we praise the Lord, as we learn about Christ, as we study the Scriptures, we grow every day! And sometime in the near future, when we get to Heaven, we will be closer than ever before to Christ. But during that eternity, our faith, our love, and our knowledge will continue to deepen and grow. We will grow closer to the image of Christ as we live our heavenly life.

Until then, we can try our best to be the person God wants us to be. Don’t ever think of yourself as a failure. Instead, think of how many successes you have had, and be aware of areas in your life where you can improve.

DIY

In this continuing culture of do-it-yourself (DIY), it seems that one can find a video about pretty much anything on Youtube. And from there, the sky is the limit for a motivated person.

From knitting to automotive work, painting to kayaking, the videos seem endless, and are uploaded at the rate of 100 hours of video/minute. That’s a lot of video footage!

I wondered, just how many people use Youtube? According to their website, more than 1 billion individual users/month. That’s over 32 million hits/day. Wow! And according to Nielsen statistics for young adults, Youtube is used more than any single cable TV network!

What is it about being on-demand and searchable that we like about the internet? We can read articles, watch old TV shows, be a student, research anything….

It’s a whole do-it-yourself, when you want to (24/7), from where you want to (home/car/restaurant), and how you want to (computer/tablet/phone) world!

But despite all this technology, regardless of the unending amount of knowledge that is available on-line, there is still only one way to Heaven.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. –  Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

It is only because of what God did, and not what we do that we can have eternal life. God sent His Son, Jesus, to do what no man can do.

Modeling Job

Today I was asked about my prior experience in modeling.

I know what most of you are thinking. So what kind of modeling experience does James have? Maybe you are thinking “I know he is an attractive and handsome guy, but modeling, really?” 🙂

The answer is yes – I have experience modeling. For years, I have spent time putting my experience and knowledge into computer simulating and modeling programs…. What? That isn’t the kind of modeling you were thinking of?

OK, so maybe I was a little vague in my explanation.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about modeling, and in particular modeling life.

You see, we are rather intelligent beings (some more so than others). And we can piece together small bits of information to form hypotheses, that can be tested, and tried to prove a multitude of theories.

We can even formulate suppositions based on prior knowledge and experience to predict outcomes and establish probabilities on certain future events. However, there is one variable in the equation that we haven’t quite figured out how to manage yet, and that variable is God. You see, no matter how much experience, how much knowledge, or how much we think we know of something, God can turn the tables on anything and cause the outcome to be drastically different than we would ever expect.

The interesting phenomenon to this “variable” however is that God is constant. He doesn’t change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)

He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. We know this. We know He doesn’t change, so why can’t we predict Him. We call Him a “variable” in the equation, when in fact He doesn’t vary, He remains constant.

So, if we know that His position is constant, why can’t we predict the outcomes of events? For example, why do we have trouble sometimes trusting in Him when we are in a valley of trials? life_planWhy do we struggle and worry over the outcomes of our children or our friends?

We know that God is a God of love and that He has a greater plan than we do.

Recently, I saw this Facebook posting which I believe is a great depiction of how we may think Christian life is. While I really do love the contrasting picture that this shows, I feel that there is one thing missing from the picture that would better help us focus on the reality of life. And that one thing missing is God. You see, despite our ups and downs, no matter what struggles we endure, in spite of how hard we may think our life journey is, God is there, right beside us the entire time. He is just patiently waiting for us to reach over and hold His hand and ask for His help. Will you put out your hand to His today?

Traveling Ambassador

In my current job, I tend to travel quite often. Some would say it’s fun to travel; and to some extent it is.

Unfortunately, being away from family and home takes its toll on a person.

When I travel I represent my company; therefore, I must be on my P’s and Q’s at pretty much all times. (by the way, I didn’t know exactly what the P and Q stood for except to be polite and watch my manners. Come to find out, not even the internet knows the true history, but possibly P’s = Please’s and Q’s = Thank you’s.)

Knowing that I should watch my P’s and Q’s no matter what the letters stood for, I sometimes don’t “enjoy” my travels. I tend to be a little professional, trying my best to impress when in public.

So when I get home, and no longer have to be a visitor, I should be relaxed right?

Well, to some extent, yes. But it depends on what we mean by “relaxed.”

If one defines relaxed as lazy, then the Bible clearly states in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (as well as many other related verses) that “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

If one defines relaxed as not anxious, then this plainly validates Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

So, at home I don’t need to be an ambassador, right?

Well, not exactly! In 2 Corinthians 5, we find Paul teaching the church at Corinth about what it means in our life to be saved – to have Christ in our lives:

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. (2 Cor 5:20a)

So, even when we aren’t traveling, or on business, we are still an ambassador! If we try to understand this, I think it’s simple. As Christians, we do not belong to this world. In 2 Cor 5:6, Paul states that “…as long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord.” I believe he is reminding us that while we live here, we are away from Jesus physically. Similarly in Romans 12, Paul reminds us not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed, and to lead a life worthy of Christ’s calling.

Thus, we are all ambassadors – sent here to be God’s hands and feet until the day He calls us home.

Someone’s in my head

As I begin the day, it’s as if there is someone in my head. The voices are feminine, yet the person standing in front of me is clearly a man. It’s as if it was a bad lip sync to a poor movie.

With a set of headphones on and a couple translators in a skybox above the instructor, I hear voices. Never being in this type of environment, it feels odd to hear voices in my head – voices that don’t match the lip movement or the expected tone of the person speaking.

It may not be the best learning environment, but it’s better than not understanding at all.

Isn’t that how life is sometimes? We are drifting along, oblivious to much around us, thinking that we understand, when all of a sudden it happens. We realize that we truly don’t understand.

We think we are in control of life, and out of nowhere a train wreck occurs, and it is obvious that we are not in control. God is! But somehow Satan is right alongside of us trying to pull us in a different direction. We have voices in our head. But unlike a translator that is clearly communicating an explanation, we have two voices. One from the world (and Satan), but yet another coming from the Holy Spirit, directing us to the right path.

Unlike my headset, which does a decent job of blurring out the foreign language and clearly speaking to me in terms I understand, the voices in our head may be less clear. While we may know the answer deep within ourselves, it may be difficult to blur out the sinful voices.

So, how then do we choose? I think the answer is preparation. Unfortunately, when the time comes to make a tough decision, it generally seems too late to prepare. It’s like taking a test; without preparation, the choices are difficult to analyze. Therefore, we must study beforehand.

In the case of life’s hard decisions, preparation comes from studying the Bible, prayer, Sunday School lessons, and sermons. But I think another crucial ingredient is practice. We can do all of these things, but without practicing right actions, walking the walk, and actively following God, seeking Him in everything, the voices in our head will continue to be blurred. But if we are doing the right things on a daily basis, choosing Christ first and foremost in all things, the one true voice will ring louder than all others.

There is someone in your head; the question is Who is speaking louder?

Is that for me?

churchYesterday I had the opportunity to attend a new church. It was beautiful. The glistening lights, the radiant and exquisite stained glass windows, the ancient architecture, the unique and divine black lava exterior . . . , but something was missing!

The church had its beginnings in the 5th century, and today it continues to tower above the neighboring buildings, in height and majesty. The history in the church, much less the design, is amazing to say the least. But something was still missing!church_inside

I’ve attempted to count the number of churches that I’ve attended in my lifetime, and it amounts to at least 30. I know that sounds like a lot, but many were for research during my Seminary days.

church_glassOther times, as my family moved, we merely visited churches to see if they “fit” us for regular worship. That may sound a little weird, but I think you know what I mean. And that is what was missing last night. I didn’t fit there! Why? I didn’t see God. I’m not saying He wasn’t there, but I couldn’t feel His presence; I wasn’t drawn to Him!

So why couldn’t I feel God? One answer is that I might not have had my heart right. Maybe I wasn’t listening for Him? Or maybe it was as if they were speaking another language that I just didn’t understand? That was it. Exactly! No joke – they were speaking French, which was Greek to me.

But WHY is this important? I think that many times when we are witnessing to a “lost” person, we are speaking another language to them. And because we aren’t speaking their language, they can’t feel or see God. They don’t understand us, and thus, don’t feel drawn to God. Because of our background as Christians and attendance at Sunday School, we learn words that aren’t common to the ordinary non-believer (Salvation, lost, baptism, etc . . . ).

As we speak to them, we need to be conscious of this, and use simple terms. For example, first we shouldn’t ever call them “lost” to begin with (I’m just as guilty as anyone). They know where they are, and so does God – how can they be lost?

“Salvation” – while it is an important word to us, doesn’t mean much to them, unless we explain that it means the one way to Heaven, through Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (and by the way “Lord” and “Savior” are also terms that aren’t common to non-believers).

So, if we return to the story, I probably won’t go back to the church I visited yesterday. Why? I just didn’t feel God; I didn’t feel that it was a place that was trying to help me. Is that the way somebody feels about us as we witness to them?