“Revival” My Ass…

When I came out of the supermarket today, I passed by a bulletin board with one of those Victory Outreach flyers pinned up on it.

Revival!  3 Days Only!  Don’t Miss It!

What a load of bs.  I hated that “revival” bullshit back when I was a bible-believing Christian, and I hate it even more now that I’m not.  As a christian I hated those manufactured revivals because, really…how do you schedule a revival?  You can schedule an evangelistic meeting or a bible study or one of those “crusades”…but a genuine revival is out of your hands.  It’s not something you pencil in on a Thursday.

But that was then.

Nowadays, all of this fake religious garbage is offensive to me.  It’s just stupid.  I had heard of Victory Outreach — since we have some here in Hawaii — but I thought they were just a small, local pentacostal church.  When I googled them I learned that they are all over the US and even in other countries.  And then a little further digging turned up the cultic nature of many of the VO programs and leaders.

This church is messed up.  I’m sure that there are tons of decent, well-meaning people that are hooked into VO, but ultimately they are just another religious cult and they’ve done a lot of damage to a lot of hurting, vulnerable people.  One thread I was reading about them had a response from a girl who’s in one of the Victory Outreach recovery homes, and you know she was defending them, of course.  But one line that she wrote really stood out to me:

“…stop blaspheming against the anointed ones, because God does not look kindly upon those who do that.”

Really.

Stop blaspheming the “anointed ones,” huh?  Or God’ll getcha!

CLASSIC cult thinking, right there.

Sigh.

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Do You Believe God?

I was listening to a sermon today on the radio by David Hocking.  He was preaching from James chapter 3.  I didn’t catch the whole message, maybe just 15 minutes or so while we were driving.  The part that caught my attention was the part where James quotes Genesis:

“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Abraham Believed God

Abraham’s faith in God saved him, not just from a wasted life, foolishly following after earthly pleasures, but truly saved him from his sins and made him right with God.

This is the famous passage where James says that faith without works is dead, and he makes the argument that Abraham’s actions made his faith complete and proved his faith to be genuine.  Pastor David then went on to talk about how seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that should give us a sense of peace and assurance that our faith is also genuine.  If you have genuine faith in God, it will show in the way you live your life.

What Kind Of Belief Saves Us?

He related a story from years ago, when a woman came to his home witnessing for her church.  She insisted — as her church taught — that if you simply read the little prayer that she had printed on a card, that your sins will be forgiven and you will be saved.  The prayer was theologically sound; I mean, it said all the right things, but it was odd and humorous — yet appaling — that her church taught people that if they just read the words on the card that they would go to heaven.

How absurd!

And yet, there are apparently masses of people out there who believe that a shallow, half-hearted faith or belief system will save them.  ”Just say this little prayer and go back to your life, and all will be well.”  Ridiculous!

James didn’t teach that.  Paul didn’t teach that.  Jesus didn’t teach that.  Moses didn’t teach that.  Nowhere does the Bible teach that.

So that got me thinking about my own life…made me think about how I’m living and what my actions say about me.

Do I Believe God?

Apparently, I’m not saved.

Yeah.  The truth is, I’m not the one who turned on the Christian radio station this morning.  I haven’t intentionally listened to that stuff in years.

There was a time when I believed in God and acted like it, but over the past decade and a half, my faith was barely even noticeable.  I wanted to believe in God.  I wanted to believe my Bible.  I used to believe, but I just didn’t anymore.  I felt like God had abandoned me.  Then of course, that led to me feeling angry at God.  My depression (which had been with me since childhood) got worse.  My anxiety got worse.  I started hating God.

Then I realized that hating God was stupid, and I eventually realized that I just didn’t believe in God anymore.  Not that I just didn’t believe His promises or His Word.  No, I stopped believing in His existence entirely.  I wanted to believe in God, but I couldn’t.  I just wasn’t convinced that He was there.

So was I saved when I was younger and then lost my salvation?  Or was I not really saved in the first place?  I’ll let the know-it-alls take comfort in knowing the answers to those questions.  As for me, I don’t know.  I have an opinion, based on knowing my own thoughts and beliefs through the years and based on various scriptures, but ultimately, I don’t know for sure, and I’m okay with that.

But right now I believe again.  That’s why I’m back on this blog again.  If my faith is real, then my actions — my works — will prove it.  But I’m not out to prove anything to anyone, not even to myself or to God.  I just want to start walking with God again, start reading my Bible again, start praying again, start worshipping the Lord again, and start leading my family and pointing them to Jesus again.

That’s good enough for me.

So yeah, I believe in God.  And I believe Him.  His Word says that He’s there, that He cares for me, that He’s never abandoned me and never will, and that He has a plan and purpose for my life.  I believe that.

I believe God again, and over time I suppose my life will prove that to be true.

How about you?

Do you believe God?

 

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MONEY Proverbs Devotional Day 30 – A Woman’s Place?

Proverbs 31:10, 16, 24 – An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.

Any Christian man who thinks it is inappropriate and unbiblical for his wife to be working at a job and helping to provide an income for their family needs to read his Bible more.

The “Proverbs 31 woman” has been revered by believers for centuries as a model Christian wife. This idealized, God-fearing wife is honest, industrious, generous, confident, and intelligent. She manages her home and businesses with wisdom and attention to detail. She doesn’t pass the buck. She takes responsibility and gets the job done, both in and out of the home…and her husband praises her for all the ways that she is a blessing to him and their family.

Husbands, whether your wife works outside of the home or within it (or both), be sure to take some time every day to praise her for all the ways that she contributes to the family’s prosperity and well-being. Nobody likes to be taken for granted; we all want and need to feel appreciated, especially by those who we care about most.

And ladies, take a minute to go back and read the entire 31st chapter of Proverbs. This woman sure sets the bar high, but she sets an example that is worth following.

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MONEY Proverbs Devotional Day 29 – Give Me Moderation Or Give Me Death

Proverbs 30:7-9 – Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.

How’s that for wisdom? Pretty good, huh?

There’s something to be said about taking the middle road…about seeking balance, contentment, and moderation in our lives. This proverb reminds me of how Jesus taught His disciples to pray and ask God, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and also of how Paul taught Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Those Scriptures are all about keeping our focus on God and placing our trust in Him as our source of life.

Like the wise man who wrote this proverb (his name was Agur), may our prayer also be,

“Lord God, please give us enough for today. Not too much for us to handle without becoming arrogant or greedy, and not too little that we doubt You and lose faith and turn from You. But God, please give us just what we need to provide for our families and keep our hope and trust right where it belongs.”

That seems like a pretty good prayer to me.

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MONEY Proverbs Devotional Day 28 – Or The Fool Who Follows Him

Proverbs 29:24 – He who is a partner with a thief hates his own life; he hears the oath but tells nothing.

Years ago I was a delivery driver and installer for an office supply company. One Friday, I was out with my supervisor making deliveries, and it was getting late as we arrived at our last stop before heading back to the warehouse. The last delivery was a desk – already assembled – that we were supposed to take to an upstairs apartment. The only problem was that the desk wouldn’t fit into the elevator or stairwell, which meant that we would have to go back to the truck and get our tools to disassemble it, haul it up to the customer’s apartment, and reassemble it for him. So what’s the big deal, right? We were on the clock, and that is what we get paid to do.

On any other day, this would not have been a problem, but today my supervisor had special plans to go out with his girlfriend, and working late today was not a part of his plans. So, since we had not yet even contacted the customer to let him know that we were there, my supervisor made the brilliant decision that we were simply going to go back to the warehouse and say that the customer wasn’t home.

I didn’t feel too good about this plan, but I was tired too, and after all…he was the supervisor, not me. So I went along with it. He said that when we got back, he would do all the talking with the manager. Well, I reluctantly agreed to go along with it, and even made sure to get the story straight.

We got back and he bolted.

The manager came to me demanding to know what happened. He said that the last customer had been waiting and waiting for his desk, and he was very upset that we hadn’t shown up yet.

What could I say? I wanted to tell the truth, but nothing came out. I didn’t want to lie, but guess what came out? I stuck with the story. I backed up that dummy, and I lied to my manager. And I hated myself. Then I clocked out and went home.

There are lots of things I’ve done in my life that I’m not proud of, and that one definitely makes the top 5. Never again. I vowed that I would never again lie and cover up for someone who’s too lazy and dishonest to do his job.

A very wise man (Obi-Wan Kenobi, I think it was), once remarked: “Who’s the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?”

Be careful who you partner with in your career and business. Lies will lead you nowhere…at least nowhere that you want to be. Work hard. Stay honest. Do your job. And don’t partner up with people who lie and take what they did not earn.

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MONEY Proverbs Devotional Day 27 – Responsibility Cannot Be Delegated

Proverbs 27:23-24 – Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.

A shepherd in ancient Israel had to spend time out in the fields with his sheep – keeping an eye on them personally – if he was going to be able to accurately assess their health and condition. A negligent shepherd who only watched from a distance or who relied completely on hired hands to take care of his flocks might not be aware of developing problems like disease or injury until the damage was too far spread to prevent loss.

In a similar way, we need to take responsibility for our own “flocks” and have an awareness of what is going on in the details of our daily lives, whether in the realm of business and money or marriage and family. This awareness cannot develop if we are always at a distance, hiding out in our own little corner of the world.

At work, we may need to leave the back office more often and get out on the sales floor with the entry-level employees and our customers. We need to see first-hand the condition of the work environment.

At home, we may need to communicate better with our spouses about our financial stability. We may need to work the numbers together to make sure everything is balancing properly and the finances will be in good shape for the long-term.

There’s a lot more to say about applying this proverb to our marriage and family life, but that will have to wait until the next devotional ebook on Proverbs comes out.

The point is that we’ve got to be involved out on the front lines – both at work and at home. Nothing lasts forever, and nothing stays the same. Just because our finances were in great shape last year or last month, it doesn’t mean that all is well and that we can just take a casual, hands-off approach today.

We need to be proactive. We need to communicate. We need personally get out there on a regular basis and pay attention to what’s going on. Delegate tasks as much as needed, but never forget that you are still the one who’s responsible for the outcome.

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MONEY Proverbs Devotional Day 26 – Don’t Be A Slug

Proverbs 26:13 – The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! A lion is in the open square!”

Some people will make up just about any excuse to not go to work. You’re not one of them, are you? Of course not. Neither am I. We’re talking about those other people.

Your failure or success in life is your own fault. It’s on you. If you don’t want to go to work, don’t go. If you just want to roll over and go back to sleep…go ahead. If you just want to lay around the house like a slug, fine…whatever. But don’t try to make up some sob story about how you can’t go to work because of blah, blah, blah. Your boss hears it all the time. Your coworkers hear it all the time. Your family hears it all the time.

Nobody wants to hear it anymore.

Either you’re there or you’re not. Either your boss and coworkers and family can depend on you or they can’t. Either you’re earning your pay or you’re not. Either you’re taking care of your family, or you’re not.

It’s all on you.

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MONEY Proverbs Devotional Day 25 – Friendly Fire Is Not So Friendly

Proverbs 26:10 – Like an archer who wounds everyone, so is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.

Hiring the right person is not always an easy task. During my time as a supervisor, there were a few people who I had to interview and select for positions on my staff. It wasn’t always easy, but sometimes I just had a gut feeling about certain applicants. Everyone looks good on paper, but during the interviews, you’ve got to really pay attention, and if something just doesn’t click, then that is the time to say “pass” and move on the next applicant.

It may take more time to fill the position, but it will be a whole lot less stressful than… 1). hiring the wrong person and… 2). letting them do a lot of damage to your organization before you finally… 3). realize what’s going on and replace them.

The ones I ended up recommending to management for those jobs turned out to be pretty good choices (one even went on to become my replacement when I went to another company, and she eventually advanced into management).

But there are many times when an applicant seems ideal during their interviews and then turns out to be a major headache as soon as their name tag gets printed up. What’s up with that?

I’ve worked alongside some people who would spend their whole day gossiping and talking trash about their coworkers and customers (and the managers who gave them their jobs in the first place). They’d cause drama all day long, and I know that the managers who hired them regretted their decision.

There’s no question that these employees are to blame for their attitudes and actions, but notice the wording of the proverb above. Who ultimately bears the responsibility for the damage these employees cause to their organizations? It’s the managers who hired them!

Leadership expert and author John C. Maxwell has stated again and again in his books and seminars: Everything rises and falls on leadership. Regardless of who is to blame for an employee’s incompetence or lack of character, it is the leadership’s responsibility to correct the situation, keep it from spreading, and prevent it from being repeated all over again with the next new hire.

When you find yourself in a position to give a job applicant a thumbs up or thumbs down, be sure to take that decision seriously, even if it’s just for an entry-level position. No…especially if it’s just for an entry-level position, since it is often those entry-level workers who are spending the most time in direct contact with your customers.

Reckless, indiscriminate hiring is like randomly firing arrows into the battlefield…sure you might hit some of their guys, but you’ll also hit some of your own. That strategy didn’t do King Edward I much good in the movie Braveheart, and it work so great for your organization in real life, either.

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MONEY Proverbs Devotional Day 24 – Don’t Feed The Birds

Proverbs 24:33-34 – “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,” then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man.

You wanna eat? Work for it.

I love the fact that this proverb places full responsibility for our prosperity or poverty on our own shoulders. If we are too lazy to get up and go to work, and we fall into poverty – then it is our poverty…our fault. We can’t blame our parents or our employers or our ex-employers or our government or our economy or God or anyone else. If we have the ability to work at a job…any job at all…and we choose to just lay on the couch and play video games all day long instead, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves when the bills go unpaid.

But you don’t like your job? Suck it up and learn to deal with it.

But you did that, and you still don’t like your job? Go get another one.

But you’re unable to actually do your job? Improve your education and skills so that you can do your job.

But you’re did that, and you’re still unable to do your job? Go find another job that you are actually able to do.

But you tried all that, and you still can’t find any jobs that you’re able to do? Be creative. Literally…create your own job.

No matter what difficulties, challenges, and limitations you struggle with, if you are alive and are not in a coma, then you can do something.

Why do you think I’m doing this right now? If I could go back and do what I used to do – and earn a steady paycheck and benefits for my family – I’d be doing it. But I can’t. I don’t know why. I used to. Other people can. I should be able to. I want to. But I can’t. So instead of doing nothing, I’m doing what I can.

I’m not going to make excuses and just lay around all day, and there’s no way I’m going to give you permission to do that, either. If you are able to work, but you’re choosing to sit at home instead and collect welfare while everybody else your age is out working…you suck. You are hurting yourself, you are hurting your family, and you are hurting your community.

If life knocked you down…again…believe me, I understand. Cry it out, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and then get back out there and try again.

Rest when it’s time to rest. But once you’re all rested up… it’s time to get back to work.

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MONEY Proverbs Devotional Day 23 – Awaken The Jolly Green Giant Within

Proverbs 24:27 – Prepare your work outside and make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house.

On the surface, this proverb seems to say that work life takes precedence over family life, but let’s dig a little deeper and see if that is actually the case.

The communities that produced these ancient proverbs were primarily made up of farmers and shepherds and the merchants who distributed their commodities. So to best understand this proverb, imagine yourself to be a young/middle-aged man who has recently left your parents’ home to strike out on your own, by starting your own farming business, and raise a family.

So you’ve just acquired a new, empty plot of land. You and your young bride close your eyes and picture your cozy, new home here on your property, with golden wheat fields spreading out towards rolling hills and rocky mountains in the distance. What do you do first? Where do you start?

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll start on your new home right away, spending the next several weeks and months purchasing materials, building the structure, acquiring furniture and an array of cooking and storage utensils, etc.

But by the time you finish your home and head out to start plowing your field and planting crops, you’re nearly broke, your supply of food is running out, and worst of all – you’ve missed the proper time for planting seeds in time for this season’s harvest. When everyone else is bringing in cartloads of grain to the marketplace, your crops are nowhere near being ready…and winter is just around the corner.

Rather than providing for your family’s needs in the long-term, you made personal comfort and immediate gratification your priorities, and now your family will suffer the consequences.

You’re guilty. I’m guilty. We’re all guilty these days. We’ve all managed to get ourselves stuck in the cycle of immediate gratification, overspending, and debt. But the true mark of maturity is when we own up to our mistakes and make the hard decisions necessary to break that cycle and start doing things right.

Setting priorities, planning for the long-term, applying self-discipline to our spending and saving plans, and working together with our families to delay short-term comforts for long-term prosperity…these are the steps we need to take over and over again to break out of the cycle of debt slavery and find financial freedom.

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