Notre Dame: A Fiery Sign?

by William Kilpatrick | The damage to Notre Dame is a wakeup call not only for Christians who have let their faith lapse, but also for dyed-in-the-wool secularists. Though run by the Church, Notre Dame, like other historic churches in France, is owned by the French state. Notre Dame is important to France not only because of its history, art, and architecture, but also because it is one of the main reasons that people visit France. (Image by Markus Naujoks from Pixabay )

Was the near destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral simply the result of an accidental fire? Or was it also a prophetic sign?
In the Bible, the destruction of a city or a temple is often linked to immorality or unbelief. The fire and brimstone that was rained down on Sodom was punishment for the sins of its people. Likewise, Jesus warned the people of Capernaum and other cities that their fate could be worse than Sodom’s because they did not repent despite the “mighty works” he had performed in their midst (Matt. 11:20-24). When Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, he prophesied that its enemies “will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).

The “sign” of Notre Dame ablaze comes on top of other disturbing signs. Since the beginning of the year, dozens of churches in France have been vandalized, desecrated, and torched. In 2018, 1063 attacks on Christian Churches or symbols were registered in France—a 17 percent increase over 2017 when “only” 878 attacks were registered. Other signs that the times are out of joint are not hard to find.  Among the more horrific were the massacre at the office of the Charlie Hebdo publishers, the Bataclan Theatre attack, the truck jihad in Nice, and the Christmas Market massacre in Strasbourg.

Church desecrations and terror attacks are not confined to France, but since France is one of the most aggressively secular states in Europe, it may be more in need of signs than most.  And it may require more spectacular signs to call France—once considered the “eldest daughter of the Church”—back to the faith.

When asked why her stories were full of grotesque characters and shocking violence, Flannery O’Connor replied: “When you write for the blind, you have to write in big letters.” Those who live in overly-secularized societies, such as France, often become blinded to what is truly important in life, and may, therefore, require fiery signs to wake them up to reality.

The truth is that unbelief in France is probably as great as, if not greater, than in the Biblical cities and towns cited in Christ’s warning to the unrepentant. Only four percent of French Catholics attend Sunday Mass on a regular basis, and in the larger cathedrals, the number of tourists far exceeds the number of worshippers.

After visiting several Churches in France, including Notre Dame, Mark Steyn was struck by their emptiness: “One gets the sense that a living, breathing faith is just becoming, actually, a museum, an art gallery, a storage facility.” The cathedrals of Europe are truly magnificent and awe-inspiring, but the awe is for achievements that we no longer seem capable of because we lack the requisite faith.

The damage to Notre Dame is a wakeup call not only for Christians who have let their faith lapse, but also for dyed-in-the-wool secularists. Though run by the Church, Notre Dame, like other historic churches in France, is owned by the French state. Notre Dame is important to France not only because of its history, art, and architecture, but also because it is one of the main reasons that people visit France. Notre Dame actually draws more visitors than the Eiffel Tower. Many who visit the Cathedral come not just as tourists, but also as pilgrims. For them, “Our Lady’s” cathedral means far more than one more historic site to check off the list. Ironically, secular France’s greatest attraction is a spiritual treasure.

French President Emmanuel Macron promises to raise enough funds to rebuild Notre Dame within five years. But to what purpose? For the greater glory of God? To worship and praise him? Not quite. The damage to Notre Dame could be a fatal blow to France’s tourist economy which is already reeling from rising crime rates and the constant threat of terrorism brought on by mass Muslim migration. Macron’s haste to rebuild suggests that the state is far more dependent on the Christian faith than it had thought.

Many moderns assume that the secular can get along fine without the sacred. But much of the glory and greatness of France—and of Europe as a whole—is bound up inextricably with its Christian faith. Take that away and much of the glory and greatness would disappear with it. There would be no parliamentary democracies to boast of, little sense of the dignity of man or of his inalienable rights, and, quite possibly, no planes, trains, or automobiles.

But Europe’s leaders seem disinclined to admit any of this. In a fine essay on the subject, historian Paul Kengor writes: “The burning cathedral, and the state’s inability to stop the blaze, seemed a harsh symbol of France’s failure to protect its religious heritage.

Or even to acknowledge it.

Kengor reminds us: “In the early 2000s, a battle raged within the European Union over whether to include a reference to God in the EU constitution.” In the end, the European Union decided to keep God and Christianity out of its constitution. Having rejected the cornerstone, the builders are now discovering that the whole edifice of secular Europe is crumbling.

Why does the secular need the sacred? The answer is that the sacred realm makes sense out of life—a service the state cannot perform for itself. If there is no fixed transcendent order, everything becomes relative. Without reference to a higher authority, laws are perceived as arbitrary impositions of the state. One follows them simply to avoid the state’s penal institutions. As Dostoevsky put it, “If there is no God everything is permissible.” Likewise, if there is no God, there is no ultimate standard by which the state itself can be judged. Hence, the state becomes the ultimate arbiter of what rights you can and cannot have.

Pope St. John Paul II was the most prominent proponent of keeping God in the European constitution.  According to Kengor:

He made arguments akin to those made by the American Founding Fathers: It is crucial for citizens living under a constitution to understand the ultimate source from which their rights derive: their rights come not from government but God.

The hollow shell of Notre Dame should be a reminder to France that the secular state is itself a hollow shell when it fails to acknowledge the Creator who endows us with inalienable rights. It has no lasting vision to offer. And its guarantee of liberty, equality, fraternity, and the rights of man are backed by absolutely nothing.

Notre Dame Cathedral rosette following a major fire that began on April 15, 2019, in Paris, France. (Photo credit: Pierre Suu/Getty Images)

Notre Dame Cathedral rosette following a major fire that began on April 15, 2019, in Paris, France. (image, Pierre Suu/Getty Images)

So the damage to Notre Dame is not necessarily a tragedy if it serves to remind people of the source and center of their lives. Hopefully, it will provide a much-needed spark of recognition. President Macron and other secularists are now acutely aware that France’s tourist economy depends much more on God than they had realized. Perhaps that is a step in the direction of realizing that France depends on God for everything.

There is, of course, one other consideration. France is allowing itself to be taken over by an alien religion—a religion that has been at war with Christendom for over 1,400 years. Whether or not the French leadership takes the fire at Notre Dame as a sign from heaven, Muslims almost certainly will. They will see it as a sign from Allah—a sign that Islam is destined to triumph over France and all of Europe. Some Muslims will, no doubt, feel that they have a duty to hasten the process along. As a result, we can expect the attacks on Christian churches to continue and even to escalate.

Most French citizens, one assumes, would prefer not to live under sharia law. But that is the direction in which France is headed, and secularized France doesn’t seem to know how to prevent it from happening. In previous centuries, the people who built the great cathedrals were able to turn back massive Islamic invasions. Apparently, the faith that enabled them to build the cathedrals also gave them the strength to resist.

Providentially, enough of Notre Dame has survived intact to make a full restoration possible. And quite possibly there remains enough residue of Christianity in France to provide a foundation for the restoration of the Faith. In that case, it seems quite likely that Our Lord and Our Lady will give the people of France the strength to resist the advance of Islam, and perhaps even to convert their Muslim neighbors in the process.

William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily,and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com



Do Christians Need to Speak in Tongues?

by Christianity.net.au | Don’t get me wrong, tongues are still a gift from God and still good, but the exact problem the Christians in Corinth had was that they played a game of one-up-manship based on who had the better gift, and who followed the ‘better’ Apostle – and that’s why Paul hammers them in I Cor 3:1 as “mere infants in Christ”.  Don’t let whether you speak in tongues or not shake your confidence in Christ! (image, Pixabay)

 

I am wondering about ‘speaking in tongues’. A friend of mine has just given me a book called ‘Heaven is so Real’ by a woman called Choo Nam. In this book, she claims Jesus has taken her to heaven many times and she tells the reader that Jesus tells her she must pray in tongues. Are we Christians who don’t speak in tongues missing something or are we not good enough Christians for God to give us tongues to use? I have found many mentions of speaking in tongues in the Bible and just am quite confused about the whole thing. – Anonymous

Regarding speaking in tongues, the Bible never tells us that we must speak in tongues.  A good passage is 1 Cor 12:27-31:

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[a]? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire the greater gifts”.

The obvious answer to his rhetorical question (in bold) “No, of course they don’t!”.  This idea is picked up earlier in 1 Cor 12:7-11, where different gifts are given to different people as the Spirit determines.  This is a really clear answer from the Bible (yay!), the Bible doesn’t tell us that we must speak in tongues.

Which brings us to the second part of your question about whether Christians who speak in tongues are some how superior to those who don’t, or whether we’re missing something.  Back in the first passage the last verse says that we are to “eagerly desire the greater gifts” (V31).  But V28 tells us that they are more like the gifts of apostleship (which you and I aren’t!), prophecy, teaching etc…  In fact, tongues are last on the list!  The gift of administration is even above tongues in this ordered list.  Sometimes it’s easy to over-emphasise tongues because they look impressive, when really God values other things more highly.

Don’t get me wrong, tongues are still a gift from God and still good, but the exact problem the Christians in Corinth had was that they played a game of one-up-manship based on who had the better gift, and who followed the ‘better’ Apostle – and that’s why Paul hammers them in 3:1 as “mere infants in Christ”.  Don’t let whether you speak in tongues or not shake your confidence in Christ!

Finally, I think it’d be really good to be encouraged by what Christianity is all about.  Have a read of this:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in CHRIST”.  (Eph 1:3)

If you have Christ, you have it all!!  That’s worth remembering I think.

Christianity.net.au is an Anglican Media Sydney production, started in 2005. Sydneyanglicans.net is the official website of the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church and a division of Anglican Media Sydney. Click here to learn more about Anglican Media Sydney.



3 Kinds of Spiritual Vision You Get Through Fasting

by Apostle Guillermo Maldonado | To minister effectively, I need to stay on the spiritual cutting edge. And fasting is an important way I maintain my position there. (images, Cloud – Pixabay)

There are three kinds of spiritual vision we can experience as we consecrate ourselves to God in fasting. The first is “inner” vision, which is something you see in your mind’s eye. The second is “open” vision, where you might see something in the physical atmosphere as if on a television screen. The third is “ecstasies.” This is where you begin to see into the spiritual world, as in spiritual visions or “trances” (such as the apostle Peter experienced in Acts 10:9–16, or the apostle John experienced in the book of Revelation); in this type of vision, it is often as if you are in a state between being awake and being asleep.

Remember that, when He operated as a human being on earth, Jesus needed spiritual clarity in His mind and heart before confronting Satan in the wilderness (or anywhere else). However, Jesus prayed and fasted not only for spiritual strength to defeat the enemy but also to commune with the Father, receive revelation and act on what was revealed to Him. For example, Jesus stated, “Then Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do. For whatever He does, likewise the Son does” (John 5:19). God desires us to function in the same way—seeing what He is doing in the heavenly realm, and then doing the same thing on earth. He wants to work through us to bring what is in the eternal realm into the physical world as manifestations of His kingdom.

We see an excellent example of this process in the life of the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote,

“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’
And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree.’

Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well. For I will hasten My word to perform it” (Jer. 1:11-12).

In answer to the Lord’s question, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” the prophet replied, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” Jeremiah’s spiritual vision was sharp, and this enabled him to see into the spiritual realm to what God was doing. He saw what God saw. And the Lord told him, “You have seen well. For I will hasten My word to perform it.” In the original Hebrew, the Lord’s reply is essentially this: “Because you have seen well, I will accelerate and perform My word.”

Today, God wants to make sure we, too, are seeing what He is seeing, so we can receive all that He has for us and be able to fulfill His purposes. I try my best to remain sharp in the Spirit, so I can receive God’s revelations to me. For instance, sometimes, I am enabled to see when spiritual danger is coming and what I should do about it; other times, I am enabled to see what is truly going on in someone’s life, beneath the surface, that is causing a particular problem. To minister effectively, I need to stay on the spiritual cutting edge. And fasting is an important way I maintain my position there.

Whenever we can see what God shows us, we are able to obey His will, receive His blessings and walk in victory. When I was ready to buy the property where King Jesus Ministry now stands, I stepped onto the land, and I saw, in the Spirit, the building that would become the sanctuary, educational classrooms, counseling rooms and more. What did I do? I started leaping! I started running and repeating, “I see it!” And God said, “Because you saw it, it’s yours. I will accelerate it.” He accelerated the process so that it was complete in under two and a half years. God will do the same for you—if you see something in the Spirit and accept it in faith, you will receive it, and God will accelerate the process.

To give you another example, I prayed for five years for God to do creative miracles, such as generating new organs and other body parts in people, because I felt that was included in my calling to minister the supernatural power of God. During that time, I saw a lot of healings—but not a lot of creative miracles. Then the Lord said to me, “Until you see them, I am not going to accelerate them.” So I went into a fast, and, remarkably, I saw in the Spirit a woman’s breast regrowing after having been surgically removed. God said, “You saw it; now I will accelerate it.” Since then, I have seen many types of creative miracles in my ministry.

If you see something in the Spirit and accept it in faith, you will receive it, and God will accelerate the process.

Apostle Guillermo Maldonado is the founder of King Jesus International Ministry—one of the fastest-growing multicultural churches in the United States—which has been recognized for its visible manifestations of God´s supernatural power. He is a spiritual father to 338 churches in 50 countries, which form the Network of the Supernatural Movement (formerly called the New Wine Apostolic Network). He is also the founder of the University of the Supernatural Ministry (USM). Apostle Maldonado has a doctorate in Christian counseling and a master’s degree in practical theology. He resides in Miami, Florida, with his wife and partner in ministry, Ana, and their two sons, Bryan and Ronald. Visitwhpub.whitakerhouse.com/breakthroughfast.



Weekly Spiritual Digest: Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | Job was a righteous man, yet he suffered. Everything went wrong in Job’s life in a single day and his response was to worship God. God is still there despite any tragedy you may be experiencing. God allows Job’s pain to prove to Satan that Job worshiped God for who He is and not because of His blessings.

Pain and suffering are real but also relative. For some kids, eating veggies is the worst suffering in the world. Every one of us has a story of pain and suffering and some are going through it right now. The primary source of pain is the Fall. We sowed SIN and we are reaping its harvest. The good news is that God is interested in you, loves and cares for you more than you can ever love and care for yourself. Pain and suffering come upon good and bad people alike, but it has an end! Job was a righteous man, yet he suffered. Everything went wrong in Job’s life in a single day and his response was to worship God. He declared the truth we must always remember: The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Job did not ask Why Me? He accepted both good and trouble from the Lord. Job. 2:10.

Some reasons why God allows pain and suffering?

  1. In Job’s case it was to prove to Satan that Job worshiped God for who He is and not because of His blessings. Why do you worship God? Pain and Suffering will expose your motive.
  2. When we suffer like Christ, we become more like Him.
  3. It produces Perseverance, Character and Hope. Rom. 5:3-5.
  4. Because of the Name of Jesus Christ. Lk 21:12

We learn obedience just as Jesus did. Heb. 5:8. When you suffer, you have a choice to either remain stuck and bitter or better by growing through your pain. If the purpose of my life is to bring glory to God, then even when I suffer, I must bring glory to Him. How have you handled pain and suffering recently? God promises He will be with you, not let you go through trials beyond your ability, give you grace, peace, joy, hope and finally deliver and reward you with the words: Well done, good and faithful servant.

Rev. Sunday BwanhotRev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.



How does God give spiritual gifts? Will God give me the gifts I ask for?

by Got Questions | An overview of these chapters reveals that the apostle Paul taught love was the most excellent way that all believers were to seek. In addition to love, God gives spiritual gifts to help one another in the church and to reach those outside of the church (image: Pixabay – Dove hand trust).

It is clear each believer has at least one spiritual gift. First Corinthians 12:6-7 notes, “there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

This same passage teaches spiritual gifts are given for the common good. In other words, gifts are shared according to what best helps the larger body of Christ rather than for the self-improvement of the individual. Spiritual gifts are given to use for serving others.

No one has every spiritual gift. First Corinthians 12:8-11 notes that one person is given a certain gift, and another person is given a different gift. A believer may have more than one spiritual gift, but no believer has every gift.

How does God decide which gift to give? Will God give me the gifts I want? First Corinthians 12:31 states, “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.” Does this mean I should seek out additional gifts?

The answer is found in part in the verses that follow 1 Corinthians 12:31. Paul notes, “And I will show you a still more excellent way” to conclude chapter 12, followed by a chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13. First Corinthians 14 then discusses prophecy and speaking in tongues (or languages) as two important gifts because of their ability to reach unbelievers and help believers grow.

An overview of these chapters reveals that the apostle Paul taught love was the most excellent way that all believers were to seek. In addition to love, God gives spiritual gifts to help one another in the church and to reach those outside of the church. He concludes with, “But all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Both showing genuine Christian love and the practice of spiritual gifts together in church gatherings are to take place with respect and order that honors God and helps others.

One final note also provides a profound look at God’s care in designing us with certain gifts and abilities. When God called the prophet Jeremiah to serve Him, He said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Though this passage was written specifically to Jeremiah, God prepared us before we were born to serve Him in a particular way as well (see Psalm 139 and Ephesians 2:10). We need not compare our gifts or abilities to those of others. We are called to grow in love and to serve according to His will with the abilities He has given us.

 



The Brewing of a Toxic Culture

by Joseph Mattera | There is constant bickering and or resistance which then hurts the execution of the vision, which spills over to the rest of the organization—creating a toxic environment

The following 20 signs are based on my observations regarding organizational dysfunction associated with a toxic (poisonous) culture in any organization.

In this article, the word “culture” refers to the prevailing attitude, behavior, and unspoken feeling and or rules that motivate and determine how people respond, react and act in the context of their work.

The following toxic traits fit either a “for profit” or “nonprofit “organization (including nonprofits like a hospital, school or church).

1. The leader is a demanding micromanager.

When the leader of an organization is constantly hovering over staff and other team leaders—not only telling them what to do but exactly how to do it (although this is necessary temporarily when a new person is learning a new job until they prove their competency), it discourages the work environment because the leader’s leadership style demonstrates a lack of trust towards those under him or her.

2. The leader is emotionally abusive and demeaning.

A work environment is absolutely horrible when the boss is constantly putting the staff and other leaders down—never praising them and only speaking to them when he wants to correct them.

3. The leader doesn’t understand or desire to delegate tasks to others.

Often, micromanagers have a hard time delegating work to others because they have a “perfectionist” spirit and think they are the only ones who can get a job done the correct way. Even when they delegate, they don’t trust those they delegate to and are constantly on top of them, thus not giving them room to breathe or grow.

4. The leader and the governing board are always arguing.

I have spoken to numerous pastors or CEOs who say they dread board meetings because of philosophical differences. The result is, there is constant bickering and or resistance which then hurts the execution of the vision, which spills over to the rest of the organization—creating a toxic environment.

5. There is low morale among the staff, employees and participants.

When the staff and team leaders of an organization have low morale, it negatively affects the rest of the participants since it is like a virus that spreads to all.

6. The vision and mission are always changing based on the mood of the leader.

Any church or organization that has a new vision and mission every year has a confused leadership team. Since vision determines the organization’s responsibility and mission determines its authority, when these two are constantly changing, nobody understands what is expected; thus, creating confusion, lack of trust towards the leader and resulting in a toxic culture.

7. A culture of rampant gossip is tolerated.

When an organization cannot keep confidentiality among the leaders and staff, and when backstabbing and gossip is tolerated, the organization is poisonous and unfit to work in until there is a drastic shift away from this behavior.

8. There is a lack of transparency regarding financial decisions.

When any organization—including a church—doesn’t at least annually divulge financial expenditures, values and priorities, it shows a lack of accountability and possible mismanagement. When only the lead pastor and or CEO of an organization (not talking about a “for profit” mom and pop restaurant or small business) know the true financial state and or has access to the monies, it can be an ethical disaster waiting to happen. I’ve known of some cases where not even the trustees of the organization knew what was going on financially.

9. There is an ambiguous accountability structure.

When nobody on staff or in a ministry or job position understands who to report to, it creates a toxic, confusing environment without true accountability.

10. There is a lot of transition in the staff and middle management.

When a “season” of transition becomes years of staff transition, it becomes part of the culture and demonstrates some level of toxicity that chases people away from the work environment. People in healthy work environments usually enjoy going to work (unless they are lazy and unmotivated) and make a long-term commitment to serve.

11. There is no “buy in.”

The key to the success of all organizations is when the staff and participants go from being “employees” to “proprietors;” hence, only when the key players in an organization take ownership and have the attitude of a shareholder does the organization gain momentum.

An organization populated only with mere “employees” is a toxic organization that marginalizes its ability to execute its vision and mission.

12. There is an entitlement mentality among the leaders and staff.

When the leadership and staff of an organization have a “what’s in it for me” mentality—the organization is in big trouble.

This entitlement mentality spreads, then instead of a culture of servant leadership you have a culture of obtaining a title in the organization primarily, so you can enjoy the fringe benefits.

13. There is much activity without measurable goals and profitability.

When an organization has much activity without measurable goals, then it’s difficult to define success and failure. In a church like this, nobody has to exercise their faith in God to accomplish their mission and assignment. Consequently, it is an organization that is on autopilot or like an aimless ship at sea in the night. This causes much frustration and lethargy among the staff, and eventually creates a toxic environment.

14. There is blame-shifting and a lack of taking responsibility.

In any organization that doesn’t have clear lines of communication, leadership structure and accountability, it is easy to have a culture of blame-shifting. Since blame-shifting generates animosity among the staff (and irresponsibility from the ones blaming others) you have a toxic culture that needs to be cleaned up systemically.

15. The participants do the minimum amount of work required.

I have observed in many organizations leaders and staff who just do the minimum work required to keep their position. They clock in and clock out and don’t care to do above and beyond the general job description. This generates a very bad environment if it is not dealt with and results in resentment from other staff members carrying most of the weight.

16. There is a dearth of volunteers.

When it is hard for a nonprofit to garner volunteers, it may demonstrate that there is a disconnect with the vision, the morale is low or the people are not committed to the mission. This lack of motivation creates an apathy, that is toxic for the culture of the entity.

17. The boss regularly ignores the protocols.

Every efficient organization needs to have protocols in place related to communication, accountability, layers of leadership and responsibility so that participants know the when, where and who to report to. When the top leader continually violates these processes put in place he or she acts like they are above the law and become bad role models for other leaders who will also replicate their disregard for protocols and order.

18. The boss regularly bypasses the leadership structure set up.

When the top leader allows people to report directly to him or her—(thus bypassing the delegated leadership structure) it creates confusion, favoritism and disrespect towards those bypassed.

The result is resentment among those bypassed, a sense of entitlement and favoritism among those with direct access to the boss, resulting in a toxic environment that can only be fixed if the senior leader leads the way by ceasing to violate the hierarchical leadership structure.

19. Creativity and innovation are discouraged.

Healthy organizations encourage creative thinking, innovation, a certain level of risk-taking and cutting-edge methodologies to support and advance the mission.

When an organization is more concerned with protecting the status quo, the result is groupthink—a lack of creativity and a uniformity lacking a healthy dose of critical thinking, which eventually leads to the dulling and ineffectiveness of the organization.

20. There is no long-term planning.

The old popular adage “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is a proven truism. An organization constantly given to last-minute events (barring an unexpected crisis or emergency) or a lack of long-term planning (every organization should at least execute an annual planning meeting for future events directed towards advancing the assignment) is an organization without a spirit of excellence or proper focus.

The result will be many opportunities to maximize the gifts, talents and resources of the organization will be missed, which will frustrate many and hurt the morale of many.

Dr. Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He is renowned for addressing current events through the lense of Scripture by applying biblical truths and offering cogent defenses to today’s postmodern culture. He leads several organizations, including The United Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (uscal.us). To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to josephmattera.org.



Jim Bakker: The Coming Judgment

Jim Bakker believes he has some really important things to say in this 3 minute video (YouTube)

Televangelist Jim Bakker says we’re about to experience something we’ve never had before and things are going to happen.

Bakker claims to have read the David Wilkerson book Racing Towards Judgment on a weekly basis and believes it is helping him to predict what will happen next and that some of the book’s predictions have already occurred, even though it was written  in 1976.



How Jesus Can Help You Push Past Your Fears

Becky Harling | The truth about God is that nothing can separate us from His love. Even if some of our worst fears happen, God’s love does not change (image: James Marler).

Recently, I was reading the story found in Matthew’s Gospel where the disciples leave Jesus to go ahead of Him across the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 14:22-33). The disciples head out across the dark lake while Jesus retreats for some time alone in prayer with His Father. Later that night, when the boat was a considerable distance from the shore and struggling because the waves had kicked up, Jesus headed out to meet them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw a figure coming across the water, their imaginations went wild, and they freaked out thinking Jesus was a ghost! Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage! It is I” (Matt. 14:27b, NIV).

At this moment Peter a bit unsure said, “Lord, if it’s you… tell me to come to you on the water” (Matt. 14:28). Jesus immediately invites him, saying, “Come” (Matt. 14:29). You know the rest of the story.

As I’ve been reading this story and mulling it over in my mind, it dawned on me: At times, Jesus provokes our fears. In this particular story, it seems as though He’s baiting the disciples’ fears! Why? I believe it is because He wanted to give them the opportunity to move past their fears and come to a greater understanding that He was the Son of God!

In your life and mine, we are plagued with lots of fears. Our imaginations at times get the best of us. We fear financial setbacks, insignificance, loss of control, sickness and a host of other things. Here’s the thing: Jesus wants to heal our fears. Often the best way to do that is for Him to provoke our fears so that we have to face the truth about our fears and the truth about who Jesus is in those fearful situations.

Knowing this, here are three questions you can ask yourself the next time you feel anxious or afraid:

What is the truth about my fear in this situation? Talking to yourself is actually a great practice because it can help you manage your emotions. Next time you feel afraid, go to your fear. Don’t run from your fear—denial has never helped anyone! Instead, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Then don’t stop there, but go on to ask, “Is my imagination getting the best of me?” The disciples in the boat let their imaginations run wild thinking, “It’s a ghost!” Don’t make the same mistake. Often our perceptions of reality are quite different from what reality actually is. For example, suppose at work you are not given the promotion you feel you deserve. As a result, you begin to imagine, “I’m just irrelevant in this company. No one needs me anymore. Blah, blah, blah.” The truth might be that God is protecting you from something you can’t see. The truth might be that God is about to open an exciting door for you that you wouldn’t be able to take if the promotion came through. So instead of imagining the worst, remind yourself that God has your best interests in mind.

What’s the truth about God in this fear? The truth about God is that nothing can separate us from His love. Even if some of our worst fears happen, God’s love does not change. He is still for us and with us. Meditate on Romans 8:35-36 (MEV) “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Is there a step of faith I need to take? Often, fear is what holds us back from stepping into all that God is calling us to do. The way to move past fear is to accept Jesus’ invitation to come and take the step out of safety to join Him in the adventure to which He’s calling. If Peter hadn’t taken the risk to get out of the boat, he would never have walked on water.

Becky Harling, an author, certified speaker, leadership coach and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, is an energetic and motivational international speaker inspiring audiences to overcome their greatest life challenges and reach their full God-given potential. Her most recent book is How to Listen So People Will Talk. Her husband, Steve Harling, is the president of Reach Beyond, a nonprofit organization seeking to be the voice and hands of Jesus around the world.



Rio de Janeiro – Social Inequality and Urban Violence

Prof. Dr. Pr. Jairo Goncalves | The city of Rio de Janeiro is now experiencing a dramatic transformations characterized by several urban city of its size; unemployment, poverty, violence, increase slums, urban degradation, and violence. | connect via www.jairogenoma.com.br

The President of Brazil decreed on February 16, 2018 “federal intervention” in the Security System of the Rio de Janeiro State (first intervention since the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution). Mayor Crivella (Bishop of IURD) and Governor Pezão (MDB) have demonstrated that they can not fight the shootings, robberies and other crimes in the daily war between organized crime factions; can not guarantee public safety to reassure the population of Rio.

However, this will not solve the serious problem. On the contrary, it will aggravate it for the following reasons.

  1. The situation of public calamity in Rio has been deeply rooted, since its foundation and disorderly and unjust socio-economic growth, with thousands and thousands of Portuguese, German, Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Swiss, Jews, Lebanese, Spanish, French, Argentine, Chinese, and a large contingent of Brazilians from the Northeast who have fled the drought and poverty. Particularly in 1808, when 15,000 noblemen and people from Portuguese high society (Hereditary Capitany) settled in Brazil, because of the establishment of the Royal Portuguese Family in Rio de Janeiro, and the relative proximity of the mine deposits/MG (discovered in the 18th century).
  2. Another factor that is impeding is that Commerce & Industry, Samba Schools & Families & Leisure in the favelas were born and developed at the expense of subordination of all and all financial support in exchange for shelter and hiding, imposed by the rival gangs of drug and arms traffickers. According to the 2010 (IBGE census), about 1,390 million of the city’s 6,290 million inhabitants live in subnormal clusters.
  3. Another impeding factor is the terrible religious contribution:

a) from the Catholic Churches, which has been materialistic and confused since Cabral who changed the name “Land of Holy Cross” to “Brazil”, in a demonstration in which Commerce and Industry of Wood Brazil “would become stronger than the” Christian Faith “;

b) from the Evangelical Churches, which has been disastrous since the “selfless missionaries” – all directly and indirectly linked to Freemasonry (Templar Jews – according to Internet news on the “Masonic pagan Obelisks” erected in Sta. Barbara d’Oest/SP and in front of the 1st I. Batista de Campos/RJ, to commemorate the 140 years and 100 years of the Baptist work in Brazil) came to preach here a “simplified and broken Gospel”.

This contributed to the fact that the State of Rio de Janeiro, which nowadays has the largest number of evangelical believers and churches in Brazil, became, unfortunately and paradoxically, a world reference of “a more carnival, more violent and more ungoverned State.”

Note: To learn more about this “simplified and broken Gospel” that is preached in all churches, read the warrior book: “Gospel of the Glory of the Cross of Christ – All Truth” – “The Mystery of the Christ-Lamb”, published and offered on the revolutionary site:www.jairogenoma.com.br).

CHRISTIAN MISSION RESTORED LIVES

Clinic of Soul and Spirit – Psychopedagogic and Biblical Genome Project
Jairo Gonçalves (Theology – Pedagogy – Psychology)

Maria Syllene Andreazzi Street, 154 / Shop 1 – Frei Eustáquio – Belo Horizonte / MG
Tels. (031) 2514-8759 / 99114-7038 (Free Service)

www.jairogenoma.com.brjairogenomabh@gmail.com



Heaven: Daddy Does Not Love Me

Prof. Dr. Pr. Jairo Goncalves | From the High of the Cross of the Father, God the Son Begged Forgiveness and make peace with God-Abba (Col 1:20, Ephesians 2:14) | connect via www.jairogenoma.com.br

At the “Psique and Spirit Clinic” (Lifes Mission), we serve childrens with behavioral and learning problems. A Christian lady came to us to expose the problem with her 7-year-old son whose Christian father (her husband) had died in a crash (fell from a CEMIG post). Briefly, here is the story told by the mother: “Carlinhos suffered greatly from the loss of his father. I tried to comfort him by saying that Daddy had gone to Heaven to live with God and that we should accept the will of the Heavenly Father. That’s what they heard in the funeral service because the Chaplain could not explain the difference between Will and Permissiveness of God-Abba-LAMB (Gal 4:6; John 1:29).”

“Days after the funeral, when I went to accompany my little son in the prayer we always do at bedtime, he did not kneel, did not put his hands in prayer, and only cried. I urged him to talk to Heaven Daddy. He turned his sad face to me and said: “Heavenly Father does not love me. I do not like Father in Heaven any more. I’ve already asked, but He does not want to give my daddy back”. I explained that God could not do that. Then my son became angry and said that this God was very bad, and nothing powerful. Carlinhos asked to go and live with his father in Heaven. I explained that this would only be possible if he died too, and this should take a long time. Carlinhos became depressed and rebellious at home and at school. He did not want to pray any more and said several times: “My father has forgotten us”; “My father must flee from heaven and return home”; “I do not want to live here on earth”; I want to die and go live with my father.” Twice I caught him forcing the bars of the apartment window to throw himself off the fifth floor and move in with his father”.

My initial approach focused on the mother’s need to know the difference between the will and the permissiveness of God the Father. The extreme behavior of Carlinhos (fictitious name) had a direct connection with the root of heartache and revolt of it against God the Father (the root we all inherited from this original sin: Adam and Eve did not accept God’s offer and request for forgiveness, in the person of the God-Son already Lamb, with the blood-vaccine, the antivenom, and there present (Rev 13:8). Adam and Eve did not forgive the God-Abba (Gn 3:12,13). The mother of Carlinhos confessed in revolt at the unjust death of her husband, an excellent father, faithful servant of Jesus, an operative deacon of an evangelical church.

I introduced the confused and wounded mother, the unknown God-Dad, who from the Cross, through the blood of the Son, asked her to forgive God’s initial and involuntary weakness (1Co 1:25; 2Co 13: 4) and make peace with God-Abba (Col 1:20, Ephesians 2:14). “From the High of the Cross of the Father, God the Son Begged Forgiveness” and make peace with God-Abba (Col 1:20, Ephesians 2:14). It was when this wife/mother, so embittered (Heb 12:15), experienced reconciliation with God-Abba (Rom 8:15, Gal 4: 6), by convertion of spirit (1Pe 1:18-23; Mat 11:29; Gal 2:20; 6:14) and found the lap of God-DAD, who is here with us.

This true story leads us to the “all truth” (still hidden) of the Gospel dripping Blood of the Lamb, because the climate and spirit of this case here are repeated in the lives of most unconverted believers (but only converts of soul) when they face the “evil day” (Eph. 6:13). They are Christians who are ignorant of ALL TRUTH (John 16:13) on the Cross-punishment of the God the Father and the Blood-forgiveness of the God-Son-immolated Lamb, before the creation of Man and original sin (Rev 13:8; 1Pe 1:20). Therefore they hold the roots of fear, shame, guilt, and bitterness of original sin deep in the soul and spirit (Heb. 12:1,15; Gen. 3:12); bear the roots of the hereditary family curses (Lk 5:7,16) which the Apostle Paul compares with wood, straw and hay (1 Cor. 3: 10-15: Mt 3:10). The child only knows that God his parents/grandparents know (2 Tim. 1:5). – No child learns to pray right: “My God Daddy, that You are HERE with me … inside of me?”. Attention! The phrase “who art in heaven” (Mt 6:9) is apocryphal and is contrary to Mat 1:23; John 14:18,23; Gal. 4:6).

Note: All Truth about GOD-DAD that children are unaware of is presented in the book: “Gospel of the Glory of the Cross of Christ-All Truth”

CHRISTIAN MISSION RESTORED LIVES

Clinic of Soul and Spirit – Psychopedagogic and Biblical Genome Project
Jairo Gonçalves (Theology – Pedagogy – Psychology)

Maria Syllene Andreazzi Street, 154 / Shop 1 – Frei Eustáquio – Belo Horizonte / MG
Tels. (031) 2514-8759 / 99114-7038 (Free Service)

www.jairogenoma.com.brjairogenomabh@gmail.com



The Peterson–Craig Encounter: A Missed Opportunity?

by Scott Ventureyra | Another troubling aspect of Peterson’s naturalistic outlook is that, as he stated in the discussion period (also found in his book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief), he views the transcendent as an ‘irrational’ component. Sam Harris has said of Craig that he is the “one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.” (image: The Kathmandu Post)

On January 26, Wycliffe College, a graduate school federated with the University of Toronto, hosted a discussion on the question: “Is there meaning to life?” The three participants included, philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig, atheist philosopher Rebecca Goldstein, and clinical psychologist and professor of psychology Jordan Peterson. This encounter made me reflect more deeply on the areas where I have found disagreement in Peterson’s understanding of philosophical and theological issues, and the anticipated interaction between Craig and Peterson.

Having said that, none of what I am about to say is meant to denigrate Peterson and the tremendous cultural impact he is having. I do believe that almost single-handedly, Peterson is rescuing a decadent Western culture and a tragically lost generation of men. Without affirming belief in God, ironically, on this front, he is accomplishing more than many Christian preachers, Catholic Church officials including the Bishop of Rome. It should be noted, I am not saying there are no other thinkers who are involved in this battle, there are, but not at the unprecedented appeal and influence of Peterson. I also know that his research in his field is top-notch. I can also see how effective he would be as a clinical psychologist. But, we are called to speak the truth; here is my analysis of his understanding of philosophical and theological issues, as they pertain to Christian truth.

Natural Law Theory
I had hoped that Craig would have pressed Peterson on the grounds of natural law theory. However, Craig, as a Protestant, most likely does not agree with the tenets of natural law theory, although he is one of the most influential Christian philosophers defending natural theology. He has brilliantly defended the axiological argument, which would be of tremendous aid to Peterson, if not solely as a thought experiment.

Natural law theory entails a set of normative guidelines for human behavior and action that are not human created but endowed by a transcendent source such as God. Human reason can ascertain these laws of nature. They exist independently of the laws of any given state or socio-cultural milieu. Interestingly, Craig did mention he appreciated Peterson’s presentation in his affirmation of objective moral standards as opposed to a relativistic understanding of moral values and duties. The issue is whether Peterson has any foundation to make these affirmations, since they cannot be grounded in naturalism. Naturalism alone has nothing to offer as an explanation of objective moral values and duties. As Craig had pointed out, if morality is the byproduct of undirected naturalistic socio-biological evolution, it is just merely contingent on how we have evolved. There is no necessary and objective morality. As the late Harvard paleontologist, Stephen J. Gould, observed, if we re-ran the evolutionary “tape” of history, we would get different sorts of creatures emerging since evolution is not a deterministic but a contingent process. The same would be true of moral values.

Peterson spoke of a Cartesian moment, namely his realization of something he could not doubt. The existence of human evil is the most indubitable fact of reality for Peterson. By coming to this realization, he then comes to understand there must be good as well. Therefore, Peterson understands that there is a mode of discernment between good and evil. Peterson comes to a moral understanding through reasoning. Yet, this presupposes the existence of a moral lawgiver even though the problem of evil seeks to undermine the very existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God. I believe it inevitably creates more of a difficulty for the nonbelievers, who assume evil. On the one hand, they must confront the nihilist who denies any objective meaning and value in the absence of God; and on the other, the theist who has coherent grounds for affirming objective meaning and value. This means that one can reason through morality, evil and suffering in a framework of natural law—devoid of supernatural revelation. Oddly, in the dialogue portion, Peterson affirms a Platonic sort of realm, thus acknowledging the insufficiency of naturalism to account for morality. There is indeed, a deep tension for Peterson between a naturalistic outlook and a very intuitive transcendent reality.

Methodological Naturalism vs Metaphysical Naturalism
Methodological naturalism is a tool that excludes supernatural explanations to understand the natural world, whereas metaphysical naturalism says the supernatural realm does not exist. In his dialogue with Craig and Goldstein, and elsewhere, Peterson refers to the power of the naturalistic method in science—which I take him to mean methodological naturalism. This is true but methodological naturalism has its limitations and cannot answer the deep questions of theology and metaphysics. He does not make a clear distinction between the two. It seems as though he conflates them.

Metaphysical naturalism seems patently false given the many arguments in favor of God’s existence. Methodological naturalism has its power but also possesses severe limitations and remains logically neutral on questions such as the existence of God, objective moral values and duties, and the nature and origin of consciousness itself. Catholic philosopher Edward Feser has given a brilliant analogy that explains the limitations of methodological naturalism. He likens methodological naturalism with a metal detector. A metal detector is extremely useful for detecting metal but nothing else. Thus, it does not follow that, if the metal detector detects A, B, and C, that only A, B, and C exist. It could be that D, E, or F also exist, but the metal detector is not meant to detect non-metallic entities. Similarly, methodological naturalism has its scope and is not a reliable method for studying non-material phenomena.

The Existence of God
Another troubling aspect of Peterson’s naturalistic outlook is that, as he stated in the discussion period (also found in his book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief), he views the transcendent as an ‘irrational’ component. But why? The relationship between faith and reason, and, science and theology are highly complex. It would be more appropriate to discuss belief in the transcendent as supra-rational. The transcendent is not to be understood by reason alone but it doesn’t make it irrational. It merely transcends the rational. Peterson has been frustratingly ambiguous on his belief in God and Christianity. He suggests that people have different ideas about God.

This is true, but there are clear and cogent explanations on the nature and existence of God. Has Peterson not read the works of the great Christian philosophers such as St. Augustine, St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Thomas Aquinas, Richard Swinburne, and Alvin Plantinga? Is he not aware that such works exist? There has been much ink spilled on explaining the coherence of the concept of God and in defining precisely what God means. In one of his lectures, when asked about the existence of God, he refers to the singularity and Big Bang Cosmology. This is one of Craig’s areas of expertise—the existence of God and Big Bang Cosmology.

 On the Historicity of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection
Peterson suggests that he is afraid of being “boxed in” when it comes to his belief or nonbelief in Christianity. He has also made dubious claims that the historicity of Jesus is questionable. The truth is that the historicity of Jesus is on more solid ground than even the existence of Socrates. We have more firsthand documents about Jesus than any other figure of antiquity. The New Testament books are more than 99.5 percent textually pure. In other words, throughout the 20,000 lines of the New Testament, only 40 lines are questionable; this amounts to 400 words. It is important to note that these 400 words do not affect any Christian doctrine. This is much more accuracy than any text dealing with Plato or Socrates. Still, this does not mean we can demonstrate the existence of Jesus beyond a shadow of a doubt but his existence rests on strong evidentiary grounds. The New Testament critic and self-professing agnostic, Bart Ehrman, has gone out of his way to correct our culture’s theological illiteracy to argue for the historicity of Jesus’s existence, in his book: Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.

There are also plenty of cogent arguments defending the dual nature of Christ and Jesus’s divine self-awareness. Furthermore, there are stronger arguments for a supernatural resurrection of Jesus, over a natural one. Peterson seems to affirm a naturalistic one in this video. The majority of scholars engaging in New Testament studies (including a vast number of nonbelievers), particularly those revolving around the events of the resurrection of Jesus agree upon three well-established facts that constitute historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus: the empty tomb of Jesus; the appearances of Jesus to his disciples; and the origin of the Christian faith. For a rigorous study of a novel historiographical approach to the resurrection, I recommend Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.

Peterson’s Epistemology of Truth
I think much of the problematic nature of Peterson’s view concerning sustaining a foundation for his morality—God’s existence—is predicated on his epistemology. Peterson’s epistemological approach to truth is two pronged. The first prong adheres to what he refers to as objective truth, this you can think of as a conventional definition of truth. This, in its most basic sense is whatever is in accordance with reality. The second prong, which is where the general thrust of his thought and discourse revolves around, is the notion of pragmatic truth. Essentially his understanding of pragmatic truth is one of action, which follows a question of value, of how one should act in the world. Closely tied to this, is Darwinian survivability since for Peterson, this pragmatic truth is related to the ability for one to exist and reproduce. Thus conferring a selective advantage and functional utility.

Nevertheless, Darwinian survivability does not provide any veritable linkage between knowledge of truth and the brute fact of mere existence and reproduction. Physicist Paul Davies eloquently illustrates this same tension in his book The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World. Davies wonders how we can even comprehend the rationality and structure of reality—why should it be comprehensible to us especially from an evolutionary survival standpoint?

The mystery in all this is that human intellectual powers are presumably determined by biological evolution and have absolutely no connection with doing science. Our brains have evolved in response to environmental pressures, such as the ability to hunt, avoid predators, dodge falling objects, etc. How fortuitous that our minds (or at least the minds of some) should be poised to fathom the depths of Nature’s secrets.

Thus, the aspect of pragmatic truth Peterson refers to is wholly insufficient to explain the capacity for knowledge of objective truth which humans possess. Unfortunately, Peterson’s understanding of truth is mostly usurped by his fixation on its connection to pragmatism and Darwinism. This fixation resulting in confusion was demonstrated in a debate with neo-atheist, Sam Harris titled: “What is true?” The problem for Peterson was that his notion of pragmatic truth is nested not only in Darwinism but also within the concepts of good and evil. Although, in other instances, such as in his course lectures based on his book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, he makes reference to objective meaning, he seems to completely neglect it in other instances. The discussion that ensued between Harris and Peterson involved some sophomoric fumbling in ascertaining what truth really is. The safest place to start is with the laws of logic; for instance, without the validity of the law of non-contradiction correct thinking would be impossible. Without it, how would we make assessments and conclusions about anything?

A More In-depth Dialogue with Craig
There is no other Christian philosopher who has not only rigorously engaged academically with the big questions of metaphysics and theology, while also being involved heavily in university debates and the wider culture, than Craig. Sam Harris has said of Craig that he is the “one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.” The Best Schools named Craig one of the 50 most influential living philosophers. His first doctorate and much of his subsequent publications have dealt with what I consider the most convincing argument for God’s existence: The Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) which was supervised by John Hick, a leading philosopher, in arguments for God’s existence in the 1970s at the University of Birmingham. His second doctorate dealt with the most fundamental question in Christian theology: the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, which was supervised by arguably the most influential Protestant theologian of the twentieth century, Wolfhart Pannenberg, at the University of Munich. Pannenberg set the theological world on fire in the 1960s with his now classic book: Jesus – God and Man.

Craig is also a leading philosopher of time who has explored God’s relationship to time—defending the notion that God is timeless without the existence of the universe and temporal with the existence of the universe. He also worked on divine foreknowledge and human freedom; the challenge of Platonism to divine aseity; and most recently the doctrine of Christ’s atonement. An in-depth dialogue between Peterson and Craig, would help Peterson realize that the existence of God and arguments for the divinity of Christ and his resurrection are reasonable to believe in. Although, not absolutely compelling, they best explain the data available to us.

Thus, Christianity best explains the data of the universe and the plight that humanity finds itself in—something that Peterson recognizes all too well as a psychologist and observer of the history of totalitarian regimes. How much better would it be for Peterson to live his life knowing that Christianity really is true rather than merely act as if it were true? As St. Paul wrote: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). It seems as though Peterson is stuck in the archetypal understanding of Biblical truths, which are indeed useful, but may not be giving other profound questions the proper care that they deserve. Will he become the most reluctant convert in Canada, as C.S. Lewis was 87 years ago in England?

Scott Ventureyra earned a doctorate in theology from Dominican University College in Ottawa, Canada in 2017. He has published in academic journals such as Science et Esprit, The American Journal of Biblical Theology, Studies in Religion and Maritain Studies (the journal of the Canadian Jacques Maritain Association). He has also written for magazines such as Crisis and Convivium and newspapers such as The National Post, City Light News, The Ottawa Citizen and The Times Colonist.



From Pain to Praise

by Dena Yohe | This Bible verse has become special to John and his family: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth and make it bring forth and bud that it may give seed to the sower ad bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void” (Isa. 55:8-11).

If you’re a parent in pain due to the behaviors and choices of your son or daughter, New Year’s might not be a good time for you, so I have something special for you. It’s the true story of God’s faithfulness in His pursuit of a wayward son. A former prodigal and his mom got together wrote it (I’ve made only a few grammar edits). They gave me permission to share with others to encourage them. This is for parents far and wide; a vision of what God could do in your child’s life—a gift of hope.

Let me tell you about John. You may see similarities here to your own child. John is the son of Christian missionaries. He made a decision for Christ when he was 5 years old. He rededicated his life at age 12 and was baptized at 17. However, when he was 18, he decided to live life his way. He chose to deny God to justify his choices. These choices led him out of his parent’s home, first to live with friends, then on the streets.

He never blamed his parents for his choices or their consequences, “You guys have done nothing wrong. These are my decisions. I feel like I need to do this.”

Eventually, John joined the Army. A few years later, he got married. His parents found out on Facebook. Over time, he made many bad choices that led to several addictions. After a few years, his marriage ended. This was a huge life-change that led to him on a search to find self and what he was missing.

God brought about him reconnecting with an old friend with whom he desired to have a relationship, but she shared that if he wasn’t walking with the Lord, it was a deal-breaker. A month later, John called his mom and told her, “I’m having a crisis of ego. It is my ego that is keeping me from God.”

This godly mom questioned his motives, but of course, she wanted him to pursue God. She gave him some advice a wise woman had given her many years earlier: “If you don’t make a decision because you think your motivation could be wrong, then you’ll never make any decisions because your motivation could always be wrong! Connect with God and pursue whatever He is calling you to do. And if you think your motivation may be wrong, ask Him to change it. You can’t steer a parked car; you have to start in a direction and then let God steer you.”

Soon after that, John chose to come back to God, and a transformation began.

The change has been amazing. He has connected with a good church, joined a men’s small group, and is being mentored by an older gentleman. He’s also reconnected with a former middle-school friend who is now a strong believer. This friend directed John to some excellent resources that answered many of his troubling questions regarding Christianity being rational and the Bible being valid. He now sees where “science and God really do go together.”

God has met John in a profoundly personal way showing him:

He was God—true and powerful. He has ” unbridled joy in His presence.” That His Word is unfailing, steadfast and living, teaching him different things each time he reads it.

John chose total surrender, in his own words, “…not just supplementing my life with God.”

He has a passion for the Bible. He’s choosing forgiveness, for himself and for others. He’s facing challenges but facing them with faith and trust in God. He’s connecting with God; listening and obeying have become a way of life.

His mom shares, “What a joy for us to watch this transformation in our son’s life! We couldn’t be more proud! He has taken a hard road to Jesus, but we’re confident the Lord wastes nothing and will use all his experiences for his glory. God truly is doing a mighty work in John’s life and in all of our lives!”

This Bible verse has become special to John and his family: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth and make it bring forth and bud that it may give seed to the sower ad bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void” (Isa. 55:8-11).

Note from Dena: Never stop praying and bringing your requests to God. John’s parents never knew if or when their prayers would be answered, but they never gave up. Persevere! 2018 could be the year of transformation for your child (and for you)!

See hopeforhurtingparents.com for the original article.



The Reason Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Sinned – And How Our Generation Is Following Suit

by Rabbi Eric Tokajer | Yes, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the older generation has failed and left a legacy that has been less than perfect to the next generation. And yes, the upcoming generations must keep the vision of doing better, achieving more and seeing real change in our world (image, USCatholic.org – Sins of the Father).

This week, I continue traveling across Israel, and one thought that keeps traveling through my mind is how often the different characters we read about in the Bible walked and re-walked over the exact same places. We see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob journeying in the same location through the wilderness and valleys that we later read about Joshua and Caleb walking. We continue to read about King David and the prophets traveling in the same locations and even in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, we read about these same valleys and mountains.

This historical truth caused me to wonder if the differing generations looked at where they were and where those before them were and wrestled within their minds with the idea that the people of G-D didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.

Think about it: Generation after generation walking back and forth over the same pieces of property. The people prospered at times, were then overtaken by their enemies and dispersed from Israel, only to return once more to start what appeared to be the same cycle over again.

It would only be human to wonder if it was all just pointless. It has often been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Yet, we find the children of Israel continuing to journey north, south, east and west over the same ground, doing the same things year after year.

You may be reading this and wondering to yourself, How is this relevant to me today? After all, you may never make a trip to Israel. (Although, I hope everyone reading this will—it is a life-changing trip). Let me try to answer.

Over the past few months, I have been dialoging with both ministry leaders and young people with a desire to be involved in ministry about the generational differences in thoughts and mission mindsets. Now, before I go on, let me say these same conversations went on in my parents’ generation, my generation and in my children’s generation and will continue to take place in the generations that follow.

Each generation, just as the generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is traveling the same journey over the same ground with the same goals. Yet, each generation with the advances in education, technology and experience believes they can improve the way they journey and bring about better results than the generation before. The younger generation looks at the traditional form of congregational worship and involvement with skeptic’s eyes. They want to make a real difference. They want to change the world. They want to feed the poor, clothe the needy and more. And as with every generation they look down at their feet metaphorically and see they have been asked to walk over the same ground one more time and, as with every generation before, they want change.

It was when I stood in the city of Beersheba I realized that while desire to solve the world’s problems is admirable and is extremely biblical, sometimes we forget the reason the Israelites walked over the same ground over and over is that land was the land G-D gave them. The land is their inheritance. Just as G-D established community worship and congregations, G-D established weekly Shabbat gatherings and Holy Day convocations.

While these old-fashioned journeys may be what the generations before us did, walking the same journey over and over, the journey was designed and the map provided by G-D. Yes, we have failed to do what we could to change our world many, many times. Yes, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the older generation has failed and left a legacy that has been less than perfect to the next generation. And yes, the upcoming generations must keep the vision of doing better, achieving more and seeing real change in our world.

But, this must be done by staying within the boundaries establish by G-D. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob didn’t fall into sin because they were journeying within the promised land or because they were in the “same old place.” They sinned because they didn’t do the right things while they were where G-D placed them. Likewise, the failures of the body are not because of the structure of congregations or because of Shabbat and Holy Day commemorations. Our generations’ failures are because we are not doing what we were commanded to do within and outside of our congregations.

It isn’t about changing G-D’s plan; it’s about following His plan.

Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry and #Man Wisdom: With Eric Tokajer.



17 Secrets to the Satisfaction You Crave

by Gregory Dickow | God knows and cares about your suffering in this fallen world – all the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain you go through.

You’re not a victim of circumstances or other people’s choices. No matter what, you have the power to create a fulfilling life for yourself by changing the direction of your thoughts.Accept and respect who God made when He created you. Acknowledge the good in you and thank God for it.

Realize that it all starts in your mind. Your thoughts grow into attitudes; which determine your decisions; which lead to your actions; which establish your habits, character, and ultimately your destiny. So the secret to your satisfaction in life lies within you – in your mind – rather than in any external circumstances you experience. By choosing to change your thoughts you’ll be tapping into the power to fulfill your greatest potential in life. Reject feelings of powerlessness. Admit that you have the power to make your life better, and decide to use that power.

Be loved. Don’t waste any more time or energy worrying about whether or not God loves you. He does!  Accept God’s complete, unconditional love for you. When you’re connected to God’s love, you’ll fee whole and enjoy a fulfilling life. Dispel the myth of God as an angry Being who’s eager to punish you for your mistakes and flaws. Recognize that God is actually on your side, wants to love and forgive you. Pour out your thoughts and feelings to God and ask Him to help you feel His love for you in tangible ways. Stop trying to earn God’s love; you already have it. Instead, respond to God’s love by trying to become a better person as a way of thanking God and loving Him back. Every time you see a reflection of yourself in a mirror, remember that God has made you in His image. Ask God to heal you from wounds like past mistreatment, rejection, or abandonment that are preventing you from believing in His love. Break free of the need to earn other people’s approval. Be confident in God’s love for you.

Believe. If you simply believe that you can change your life, your faith then makes it possible for you to do so. Pray for the faith you need to overcome your fears. Stop limiting yourself and remember that all things are possible with God. No matter what challenge you’re facing – a physical illness, a financial crisis, a broken relationship, a career problem – trust God to help you deal with it. Pray for a vision to know how to create a solution that’s greater than what you can see right now. Rather than focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what God can do. An active belief system will attract all the good that life can bring you. Unleash the faith God has already placed inside you by: exposing false beliefs (like the idea that you’re defined by your upbringing) and replacing them with biblical truths (such as the truth that your identity is based on the fact that you’re one of God’s beloved children), refusing to be a victim of your circumstances and taking responsibility for finding solutions to your problems, refusing to settle for less than the best for your life, eliminating criticism from your life and becoming an encourager instead, and shifting your focus away from what you don’t have and toward what you do have, believing that God will always meet your needs.

Be expectant. Expect the best – not the worst – to happen in your life when you trust God. Begin each day with optimism, hope, and enthusiasm. When you look forward to something good happening to you, you invite God to bring good into your life. Get rid of doubt and mediocrity that fuel low expectations of yourself. Start dreaming and pursuing your dreams. Create a list of new goals for every part of your life. Pray about them regularly and work hard to achieve them. Remain hopeful while you’re waiting for what you need; keep trusting that God will provide at the right times and in the right ways. Live to please God – not necessarily other people. Follow God’s guidance even when that means not living up to other people’s expectations. Surround yourself with people who will encourage and support you, and avoid those who discourage you. Remember that God is on your side, and expect Him to always act according to what’s best for you.

Be healed. God knows and cares about your suffering in this fallen world – all the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain you go through. Don’t deny, ignore, or cover up your pain. Instead, figure out what lies behind it and how to treat it. Replace your negative thoughts and feelings with positive ones. Thank God for the healing that He has already brought into your life, and let the memory of what God has done so far grow your faith in what He can do now. Instead of concentrating on what’s wrong in your life, focus on what’s right and keep cultivating positive thoughts and surrounding yourself with positive people. Take good care of yourself, such as by eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise and sleep. Make time regularly to have fun. Keep taking whatever steps God leads you take in your healing process, one step at a time.

Be still. Spend time in silence and solitude regularly so you can listen well to what God may be trying to tell you. Make time to rest and reflect. Eliminate unnecessary distractions from your life such as by turning off your cell phone during times when you need to focus on something more important. Ask God to help you turn off worrisome thoughts and let go of your concerns when you’re praying. Simplify your schedule by cutting out activities that aren’t the best choice for you right now. Pray for a soft heart that’s forgiving, compassionate, open, and sensitive to others, since that’s the kind of heart that can best receive what God wants to plant in it. Start each day with peaceful prayer that seeks God’s guidance for the day.

Know yourself. Discover who you really are as a person – from the inside out – instead of letting other people try to define you. Ask God to show you the person He created you to become. Don’t devalue yourself; always keep in mind that you’re valuable because you’re God’s child. Don’t allow other people to damage the image of God placed in you. Don’t judge yourself for failing or making mistakes. Let the knowledge of who you are give you the confidence you need to overcome temptations and challenges. Cultivate values like integrity, honor, humility, loyalty, and love in your life to build a strong character. Tap into the power of the Holy Spirit inside you each day. Be honest about your weaknesses, and rely on God’s strength to overcome them. Base your confidence ultimately in the fact that you enjoy a love relationship with God.

Love yourself. Accept and respect who God made when He created you. Acknowledge the good in you and thank God for it. Pray for God to help you see yourself the way He views you, so you can love yourself through the power of His love. Make your relationship with God your top priority. As you put God first in your life, you’ll start experiencing an overflow of love and respect for yourself and other people. Silence your inner critic by forbidding yourself to say negative words about yourself. Remind yourself that you’re worth so much to God that He sent His Son to die for your sins. Abandon perfectionism; simply do the best you can in life and trust God. Don’t compare yourself to other people; embrace your uniqueness. Surround yourself with friends who will help you appreciate the person God made you to be.

Forgive yourself. Decide to live free of guilt, no longer imprisoned by the past or your sins. Honestly confess and repent of your sins, then accept God’s forgiveness. Realize that making mistakes doesn’t make you a mistake. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Don’t allow other people to lay guilt trips on you; you don’t need other people’s approval when you have God’s approval. Accept the mercy and grace that God offers you. Stop punishing yourself for something for which God has already forgiven you. Believe that God can turn any situation from your past around for the better. Let go of grudges against people who have hurt or wronged you and rely on God’s strength to help you forgive them. Stop talking about old wounds and just let them heal. Verbalize your forgiveness – of yourself and others – often to remind yourself of it. Don’t insensitive comments and actions too personally; what people say and do is usually more of a reflection of themselves than a judgment on you. Celebrate the healing work of forgiveness that God is doing in your life.

Fall out of love with your feelings. Instead of letting your feelings master you, decide to master them. Disarm negative emotions by changing the thoughts behind your emotions from negative to positive. As you think the right thoughts, that will lead to the right feelings, which will then produce the right actions in your life. Pray often for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so that God’s thoughts will become your thoughts. Talk to your negative emotions (like anger, fear, or depression) rather than letting them talk to you. Have confidence in God’s promises, which will calm your emotions as you remind yourself that you can trust God to help you in any situation. Pray for God to send His perfect love into your life to cast out fear and melt away other negative feelings.

Discover the greatness in you. Get out of your comfort zones that are keeping you enslaved to a boring, empty, mediocre life by preventing you from tapping into your greatest potential. Stop going over your past failures and be willing to try again. Move forward, not backward. Dream, and take risks to pursue those dreams. Don’t limit yourself; be willing to try something new. Be open to growing and changing. Identify what you’re most passionate about doing. Then find ways to fuel that passion in active ways that help you contribute to the world around you – from learning to cook or mentoring children, to starting a business or volunteering at a hospital. Discipline yourself to work hard at developing the necessary skills to put your passion into action well. Stay on course despite what cynics have to say. Keep challenging yourself to improve and serve God and others with excellence.

Plant a seed. Any attitude or action you put your energy into returns to you like a seed you plant as investment in your future. The quality of your life depends on the quality of the seeds you plant and how you help them grow. So choose your “harvest” (the kind of life you really want) and make decisions designed to lead to that kind of life. If you want your children to grow up to be close to God, share your faith with them in purposeful ways. If you want a promotion at work, plant seeds of diligence and excellence on the job. Watch out what you allow to come into the field of your heart so you don’t choke your good seeds on weeds of sin. Replace mentalities of failure with mentalities of success. Then rest and trust God to make the seeds you plant grow at the right time.

Find your calling in your conquering. Each struggle you go through is an opportunity to learn and grow. Each bad experience you conquer can help you fulfill more of God’s good purposes for your life. So acknowledge your struggles, get to the root of the pain, and pull out the knife to open a wound from which new life can flow. As you step out in faith to overcome little things, God will gradually entrust you with bigger tasks and strengthen you along the way.

Be on the giving side. Choose to be a giver rather than a taker. Ask God to help you see people as He sees them. Realize that since you’ve been blessed, you can be a blessing to others. Instead of being a consumer (concerned about what you can get out of life), be a contributor (concerned with what you can give to the world while you’re here). Pray for the ability to overcome fear and selfishness. Remember Jesus’ promise that the more you give in life, the more you’ll receive. Cultivate giving as a lifelong habit, and watch your satisfaction keep expanding.

Don’t be afraid of the dark. Whenever you experience times of uncertainty in which you don’t know what to do, look for God’s light to guide you step by step. Walk by faith, not by sight, trusting that God is really with you as He has promised – even though you can’t see Him right now. Anchor yourself in God’s love. Reach out to other hurting people. As you help meet their needs, you’ll get your focus off your own struggles. Instead of talking about your problem, talk to it, commanding it to leave. Recognize that you may be experiencing attacks from evil. Worship God more deeply to drive evil away.

Live in the moment. Take each day as it comes, doing your best to be completely present and undistracted, enjoying and appreciating what’s happening in your life right here and now. Don’t agonize over the past or worry about the future. Maximize your opportunities each day by living purposefully. Be grateful for what you have and celebrate God’s ongoing work in your life.

Leave your country. Decide to leave the land of all that’s comfortable to you to set out on a journey with new adventures. Remember that you can’t put new actions into old attitudes. Be relentless about changing your thinking patterns from negative to positive. Take every thought that comes into your mind captive and change it to reflect biblical truth. Then watch your life take off in a new direction that will lead to more satisfaction than you’d ever before thought possible!

Gregory Dickow is the founder of the Chicago-based Life Changers International Church. He is the popular host of Changing Your Life, an international television ministry, as well as the highly rated Ask the Pastor radio program heard during the afternoon drive-time in a number of cities across the United States.



Coping with the Loss Of Your Loved Ones

by Katherine C. Nordal, PhD; Human beings are naturally resilient, considering most of us can endure loss and then continue on with our own lives  (image: pinterest)

Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the hardest challenges that many of us face. When we lose a spouse, sibling or parent our grief can be particularly intense. Loss is understood as a natural part of life, but we can still be overcome by shock and confusion, leading to prolonged periods of sadness or depression. The sadness typically diminishes in intensity as time passes, but grieving is an important process in order to overcome these feelings and continue to embrace the time you had with your loved one.

Everyone reacts differently to death and employs personal coping mechanisms for grief. Research shows that most people can recover from loss on their own through the passage of time if they have social support and healthy habits. It may take months or a year to come to terms with a loss. There is no “normal” time period for someone to grieve. Don’t expect to pass through phases of grief either, as new research suggests that most people do not go through stages as progressive steps.

If your relationship with the deceased was difficult, this will also add another dimension to the grieving process. It may take some time and thought before you are able to look back on the relationship and adjust to the loss.

Human beings are naturally resilient, considering most of us can endure loss and then continue on with our own lives. But some people may struggle with grief for longer periods of time and feel unable to carry out daily activities. Those with severe grief may be experiencing complicated grief. These individuals could benefit from the help of a psychologist or another licensed mental health professional with a specialization in grief.

Moving on with life

Mourning the loss of a close friend or relative takes time, but research tells us that it can also be the catalyst for a renewed sense of meaning that offers purpose and direction to life.

Grieving individuals may find it useful to use some of the following strategies to help come to terms with loss:

  • Talk about the death of your loved one with friends and colleagues in order to understand what happened and remember your friend or family member. Denying the death is an easy way to isolate yourself, and will frustrate your support system in the process.
  • Accept your feelings. People experience all kinds of emotions after the death of someone close. Sadness, anger, frustration and even exhaustion are all normal.
  • Take care of yourself and your family. Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of rest help us get through each day and move forward.
  • Reach out and help others dealing with the loss. Helping others has the added benefit of making you feel better as well. Sharing stories of the deceased can help everyone cope.
  • Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. Possibilities include donating to a favorite charity of the deceased, framing photos of fun times, passing on a family name to a baby or planting a garden in memory. What you choose is up to you, as long as it allows you honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you. If you feel stuck or overwhelmed by your emotions, it may be helpful to talk with a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional who can help you cope with your feelings and find ways to get back on track.

How psychologists can help

Psychologists are trained to help people better handle the fear, guilt or anxiety that can be associated with the death of a loved one. If you need help dealing with your grief or managing a loss, consult with a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional.

Psychologists can help people build their resilience and develop strategies to get through their sadness. Practicing psychologists use a variety of evidence-based treatments — most commonly psychotherapy — to help people improve their lives. Psychologists, who have doctoral degrees, receive one of the highest levels of education of any health care professional.

Use the Psychologist Locator to find a psychologist in your area.

Adapted from article by Katherine C. Nordal, PhD on the American Psychological Association website