A Harlot’s Expectation

She was scorned by her neighbors, shunned by the shopkeepers, condemned by her city government, and judged as an unrepentant sinner.

She surely felt unworthy, desperate, and hopeless; trapped in a life she hated, and unable to find a way out, until… Two strangers came to town.

The two strangers were sent into her city as spies.  Their mission was firm: Determine the easiest way for the others to come in, and estimate how many people would have to die.  The high command was crystal clear: Leave nothing that breathes, alive.

Rahab the harlot was most likely plying her trade on her front porch when she caught a glimpse of the two spies. Seeing these men caused an immediate hope to spring up in her heart like a flood.  But not just any hope…this hope was a “confident expectation,” and Rahab knew what had to be done.

Calling to the strangers, she hurriedly beckoned them into her home.  And by doing this, she literally put her life at great risk. These two spies were from the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, but feared and hated by other cities and nations. When Israel went to war, entire nations were slaughtered, and Rahab knew well their bellicose reputation.  As a matter of fact, Israel’s fierceness had caused all of Jericho’s citizens to melt with fear.

The men entered Rahab’s dwelling just moments before the stomping of the King’s horses were heard approaching. Rahab rushed the spies to her roof, and hid them among her things.  As soon as she had run down the stairs, the knock on her door rattled the house.

The King knew the spies had entered the prostitute’s home, and he was determined to take them captive.  He sent his soldiers to demand Rahab to hand over the two men.  Rahab found herself to be at a crossroads of sorts: She could easily earn some major Brownie points from the King by handing the men over, favor she could’ve used badly for once in her life, but instead, she replied to the soldiers, “The men you seek aren’t here. They just left but I know not where they are going.” Did they believe this common whore?  If not, she was as good as dead. “If you leave now, you can catch up to them,” she continued, praying they would believe her.  Staring intently into her eyes…they did, and headed off through the city gate just as it was closing for the night.

Adding ‘Liar’ to her list of condemning sins, Rahab sprinted up the stairs to uncover the men from their hiding place.  Boldly, Rahab said to the spies, “All of Jericho has heard of your great exploits, and how your God goes before you into battle,” She began.  “The men of this city are very afraid of you…Because I’ve shown kindness to you, swear an oath that you will not harm me or my family…swear it!”

The two Israelite spies considered her demand, and then swore to her that because she was kind to them, she would be saved from certain slaughter.  “You must do this one thing, however, if you expect us to protect you,” The men proclaimed. “You must tie this scarlet cord to your window.  When we see it we will know its you, and you will be saved.”  After safely lowering the men down the wall that night, Rahab wasted no time securing the blood red cord to her window.

Well, because Rahab the Harlot is included in the bloodline of Jesus Christ, we may safely conclude that she was in fact saved from destruction after the walls of Jericho fell.  And what I find interesting about this story is the courage Rahab mustered that day.  She had a confident expectation that the two spies could introduce her to the One True Living God.  And she risked her life to make that introduction.

Also, the two spies are not quoted as mentioning Rahab’s line of work, whatsoever.  They obviously knew what she did for a living by the way she displayed herself to the public, but it didn’t matter to them.  What mattered was the purity of her heart in showing the two strangers kindness.  The spies knew that once she met their living God, and had a genuine encounter with Him, her behavior would naturally change.

Being courageous takes guts.  And courage is not ‘the absence of fear,’ it is recognizing fear, but pushing ahead anyway.  

Hoping in such a way that you are confident in expecting what you hope for takes faith.  And faith, if you are ever so brave to initiate it, activates the power of Almighty God.

And the power of God, once He comes into your heart and life, revolutionizes you, and transforms you into a very precise and usable vessel for His Glory.

Rahab the Harlot… Not a sermon you are likely to hear in church anytime soon, but can’t we all relate to her plight?  Don’t we all know what its like to be looked down on; to feel unworthy?  Yes, and may we all someday come to know exactly what she felt as we too step out in courageous hope and expect God to grace us in profound ways.

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Bad things; Good people

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Why do bad things happen to good people?  Ever heard this age-old question?  To answer it correctly, you would first need to define the term, “good.”  What I define as being good most likely differs from your definition.  And what defines the term “bad” for you?  That would differ from my definition as well. Is it sickness, disobedience, physical deformities, rebelliousness? But to keep from delving into a winded twelve part series on the subject, let’s just agree that regardless of the definitions, it often feels like life takes a crap on decent people and our existence slowly begins to resemble a journey of frequent unfairness.

Here’s the simple truth when it comes to good & bad, human beings; their value and worth, and our relationship to God within this ambiguous dynamic: “Bad things happen to good people because life is not fair by any stretch of the imagination…and life is a violent struggle, from the moment of our birth to the last painful dying breath. Gravity is a perfect example of what I’m describing. In order to walk upright upon the earth human beings must resist, often painfully, this natural law every second of every day, and to not resist the law of gravity is also painful. That is just the cold hard truth… and God still wants to use us anyway.”

God specializes in taking us from Tragedy to Triumph. He is highly skilled in taking our pain and turning it into purpose. He takes our messes and turns them into ministries.
God has built us; created us to withstand the cumbersome storms of life, and to dance in the stinging black rain of pain.  But if we are stuck in the mindset that being pooped on is unfair, we can never achieve “Spiritual Ninja” status. If we believe that messing up disqualifies us from ministry, or from being loved by God, we have lost the fight before we have entered the ring.

There is this notion that when bad things happen to us, God is to blame; it’s because we have become a disappointment to God, or perhaps He is punishing us for disobeying Him… and it’s at that point that we look at ourselves as failures; damaged goods, unusable, throw-aways; unworthy of God’s gifts and callings & love.

Well, I’ve got encouraging news for ya… In Isaiah 55:8-9, God says this…
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror, or look at where you are in life and think its hopeless? Do you think that God couldn’t possibly use somebody like you??

Do you ever find yourself wondering how God could even love a mess like you?  I used to wonder that about myself all the time.  After all, God only uses extraordinary people, men and women completely devoted to Him and unwavering in their Christian walk… right?

Well, consider this:  God never calls the qualified, He qualifies the called. Think about that…
God doesn’t wait for us to get our acts together before He decides to use us for His glory.  If that were the case He certainly would not have used these individuals…

Take Moses for instance… did you know that Moses had a stuttering problem? It was so pronounced that God appointed Aaron to speak for him. 
The question is, why didn’t God just pass the responsibilities over to Aaron and have him part the Red Sea?
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith 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.”
God was going to use Moses despite his character flaws, and human frailties.  When God calls you, He’s never going to settle for your best friend.

Consider the woman, Rahab… she was a prostitute in the walled city of Jericho.  But because she was kind to the spies from Israel, and helped them evade capture, God blessed her and her entire family and no harm came to them when Israel captured Jericho. Rahab was a whore.  Do ya suppose she suddenly became a shopkeeper the day after the spies left??  I doubt it, but God used Rahab because Rahab was willing to be used.

Check out David… God made this profound statement about David: “David is a man after my own heart.” Acts 13:22.  Yet David was a cold blooded murderer, an adulterer, a robber & pillager, and a scoundrel.  David was ruthless, but every time He got sideways with God, he never ran from God like modern Christians like to do today.  David ran to God, and confessed, repented, and stayed in position for the next mission God was going to send him on.

Consider Peter… a very salty, sarcastic, rough guy to say the least.  Peter carried a sword everywhere he went and wasn’t hesitant in using it.  Peter spent over 3 years with the Lord, walking with Him ministering with Him, witnessing His miracles, and Peter still denied knowing Jesus…three times to be exact, the last denial being filled with curses.  And after the Lord’s resurrection, Jesus appointed Peter, of all people, as the head of the first Christian Church.

I can name several more people that should have never been used by God, but suffice it to say, these people suffered from the very same disease you and I are afflicted with… Sin.  We often think that because people like Moses and David are in the bible, they must’ve been different than us.  No, as a matter of fact, they are just like us.  What they did that set them apart was simple: They did not refuse to be used.  God called them, and despite their physical and spiritual deficiencies, they stepped up to the plate.  They let God use them, even when they felt totally unworthy & unqualified.

We are being called today in like manner.  God is wanting to use each one of us to accomplish His will.  Will we let Him? Or will we continue to look at self, believe lies, and keep ourselves off the field.  Aren’t you tired of being a benchwarmer?  I certainly am!  Granted, we may never have our names immortalized in best-selling books, but we can still affect the lives of others just the same as the Biblical characters of old.

Can we take our eyes off of self long enough so that God can use us?  Definitely, bad things have happened to us, it would be ludicrous to deny that fact, and those harmful experiences can make us feel unusable… but God wants to use us anyway.  And if God wants to use us, knowing who we are, what we’ve done, and what’s been done to us…who are we to say no?  It’s time we get over ourselves.

Will you let Him use you today? Yes, you.

My Dirt is better than your Dirt

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I find it quite sad when people of differing ethnicities compete to prove that their race or culture is better than others.  Within a Texas Maximum Security Prison where I help teach, men are constantly debating the race issue, to the point of engaging in occasional violence.

I will overhear men in my class saying things like, “If it weren’t for slavery, the blacks would still be living a third world existence.”  And to not be out done, the other side of the racial isle will say things like, “We were kings and Princes in our homeland before the white man tricked us into slavery.”

There was a time when I would’ve stayed out of such volatile conversations, but yesterday it just hit me that as a teacher it was my responsibility to set the record straight, once and for all.  It dawned on me that I had an obligation to prove to these men just how alike they all were.

“Gentlemen, allow me to settle your debate about race and ethnicity so that we can move on to more important matters, like the Book of Acts, or St. Matthew.” I said.  (I teach a Christian themed cirriculum afterall.)  “I promise you, this won’t take long.”

The men looked at me like I had suddenly pushed their grandmother onto a hotrail of the New York Subway.  They seemed to gaze at me as if this 48 year old white guy could not possibly add anything of significance to an eons-old issue.  I accepted that voiceless challenge!

“I’m going to settle this argument once and forever more, so pay attention,” I bellowed across the room.  “Let’s consider this issue from a scientific point of view.  Science doesn’t concern itself with feelings of superiority, or status, or even gated communities and old neighborhoods… Science is science because it has been proven, and it has no dog in any fight.”  I was trying to focus them in.  “Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of only six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Only about 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium.  Men, this is a scientific fact.  Every human on the planet shares these elements in common, without exception.”  I waited…

“So, my question to you is this: Which elements are you touting as being better than your neighbor’s?”  I was hoping I had jarred them into actually thinking about this issue deeper.  “Are you suggesting that your combination of the 6 elements are more precisely melded together than somebody else’s?”  I pointed to one of my causcasian students.  “Chip, Are you claiming that ‘your’ element of oxygen is purer than Jose’s element of oxygen?”  He just looked at me confused.  Darryl, one of my African American students was grinning smugly until I turned and asked him, “Darryl, which element in your body are you claiming is superior to someone else’s?  Is it your carbon?  Hydrogen maybe?  Perhaps your mix of elements was just mixed a little better than everyone else?”

The lights were finally coming on.  “Don’t you see, gentlemen?” I pleaded. “We argue and debate and fight over simple compound elements that every single human body on the planet share the same amount of.  And to take it to a spiritual level, because we are in a spiritual program here, the bible states quite plainly that from the dust of the earth, man was formed.”

Walking over to the class room’s barred window, I pointed down with my finger.  “See that?  Do you see that dirt right there?  The dirt you walked on to get to this class today?  That’s what all of us are made of.”

Walking back to my desk and sitting on its edge, I finally sighed, “So tell me again just so I’m clear on the subject: Who’s dirt is better than who’s dirt?”  I could hear those squeaky brain wheels slowly turning!

Looking around the suddenly quiet classroom, I ended my soapbox presentation: “Are you arguing that because your Dirt is a different hue than somebody else’s dirt that it makes your Dirt better, or somehow more special?”  They were looking at eachother through new eyes… “Are you suggesting that because your Dirt was taken from a particular part of the earth, it’s far more valuable than dirt taken from elsewhere? 

Guys, don’t you realize that dirt is just…well, dirt!”  I spoke to every man in the room without needing to call out a single individual.  The expressions on their faces told me they had finally gotten the point.

From dirt we are made, and to the dirt we shall return.  And irrespective of where we come from, or how much education one has, or even the collection of toys we stack up, at death’s door we stand as one and the same: ‘Piles of dirt.’  Some dirt is darker than other dirt, and some dirt is finer granualed than other piles of dirt, but one thing is inarguably certain… its all just dirt.

We’ve been arguing and fighting and killing each other for countless centuries over our fantastical belief that, “My Dirt is somehow better than your dirt.”  Really?!

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Friendship Redefined

Friendship is not a word that I use loosely.  Being a friend takes much more than just knowing how to spell the word.  A friend is someone who made a choice to stick by you, regardless of her behavior, and will not tuck tail and run when the masses are wanting to stone him.

What are the ingredients that make up that special connection called friendship?  I may not know every single social herb and root, but what I do know is this: it takes things like loyalty, honor, respect, commitment, and abiding love to create what the world today has lost sight of: True Friendship.

But when searching for that unique connection with another human  being, beware of the false friends.  Yes, I’m talking about the fair weather people who call themselves friends while the relationship is going smoothly…but when turbulence occurs, they have abandoned ship.  We all know a few of these types of friends, don’t we.

But are those types of fickle people really friends?  That depends on your personal definition of friendship, but according to the Urban Dictionary, “Friends are people who are aware of how retarded you are and still manage to be seen in public with you.  People who make you laugh till you pee your pants.  People who cry for you when one of your special items disappear… when you dont have enough money to get a ice cream, they chip in… knows all of your internet passwords; who would never make you cry just to be mean.”

If the people you’re surrounded by cannot meet at least 85% of the prerequisites in that definition, I would not deem them friends.  Those kinds of people are called associates, in my opinion.

Associates are seasonal people.  They are in your life for a specified period of time.  True Friends are permanent people.  They are in your life for the remainder of your life.  Associates are a dime a dozen…while true friends are rare diamonds.  Treat each catagory accordingly.

Friendship: Once you have tasted the sweetness of such a strong bond, you’ll not eat from another agape tree.

THE ONLY CONSTANT IN LIFE

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It’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result…and I can certainly attest to that idiom’s accuracy, but what I can’t understand is why so many people try to prove it wrong. 

Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, people continue to practice this very destructive dynamic, convinced something different will occur.

I used to be stuck in the same miserable cycle, feeling like a victim to a cruel world’s criminal tactics.  I could not fathom why my life was in a constant tail spin.  Until I found a gold nugget, that is.

This valuable nugget came in the form of a highly esteemed therapeutic Restoration counseling model called, Belief Therapy. 

Soon after immersing myself in this program’s academic & spiritual cirriculum I discovered the truth:

If I wanted something different out of life, I needed to believe differently.  That was my epiphany!  And without the accusation of craziness, I might add. 

Like any good theory, I knew I needed to test the Belief Therapy theory to make certain I was not going down the same dead end road once again, as was my long track record.  And my life has never been the same since.

Every day I am presented with opportunities to change what I believe about a situation so that the outcome becomes favorable.  And about 70% of the time, I actually succeed at it!  To be continued…

Pick Your Poison!

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Android verses Apple- the OS debate continues…

Sure, on rare occasions it happens. An Apple user will unexpectedly break her phone and her boyfriend will suggest trying the Android platform, and he just happens to have a trusty Samsung Galaxy phone in his sock drawer.

The one complaint I hear about this foray into cellphone wonderland is that Androids are too complicated. Sort of like an Old School Atari gamer being suddenly thrust into a GTA game-a-thon.  Too many buttons to push & toggle.

On the flip side of this mobile coin, the chief complaint I hear about an Android user dipping his toes into the cool waters of Appledom is…

The platform is too restrictive & controlling; Kinda like Grandpa accidently grabbing his teenage grandsons briefs from the dryer and becomes determined to get them on.

I can see legitimate beefs with each side of the eternal cellphone debate.  Both have their share of negatives.

However, I also hear good things from users who make the earth-shattering switch.  Statements like, “This apple phone is so easy to learn; only a few buttons to keep up with,” and from Android newbies: “I love how customizable this system is; I can do almost anything on it!”

I’ve debated the pros and cons of these two mobile platforms until I’m blue in the face and consequently, I’ve come to a very enlightening conclusion:

An Apple lover rarely commits adultery by taking Android as their mistress, and Android fans would never consider betraying their beloved team for another, hated opponent. The users of these two specific operating systems are fiercely loyal to their respective brands… sort of like how I am with Frankenberry Cereal!