Tuesday, September 11, 2012


A forest path in Redwoods State Park, California.
Have you ever thought about faith, what it is and most importantly what it means to you?  Do you think (or believe) that faith impacts your life or do you think that you can live without it?  I believe that faith is vitally  important in our lives and that we cannot live without it; also, without faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is a gift from God: believers have been given ‘the’ measure of faith and there is no amount of money we can pay for it nor can we earn it through good works (Romans 12:3b). I think it’s helpful to define words so we can have a better understanding of how we are to use and apply them to our lives.
Merriam-Webster defines FAITH as follows:
1 a: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty; b. (1) fidelity : to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions; 2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion; b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust; 3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>
If you think about it, we actually have faith in both people and things without really considering it  a belief. We sit in chairs and expect them to hold us up; we turn on our televisions, radios and other electronic devices in anticipation of them working as we expect. We can also have faith in people we don’t even know (e.g. airline pilots, bus operators, taxi drivers, doctors, hospital staff, etcetera) and trust them with our lives and safety. This type of faith could be considered sincerity of intentions and we always hope and pray that the people we are trusting, will not let us down or cause us harm.
The most important kind of faith, loyalty or complete trust that anyone can have is faith in God. We would cease to exist without Him and would not have any hope in this life or for the next (Acts 17:28). God loved mankind so much that He gave His only Begotten Son to die for us, so that we would be reconciled to Him (John 3:16). Through Jesus we were redeemed from the eternal destiny we inherited as a result of Adam and Eve’s transgression against God in the Garden of Eden. Without Jesus Christ, we would have been eternally lost. The way that the world believes is quite different from the Scripture way of believing. The popular secular cliché for faith is:”I’ll believe it, when I see it.”  But, believers in Jesus Christ, believe  the opposite: “For we live by believing and not by seeing (2 Corinthians 5:7 NLT).”  It’s easy to believe what we can see, but that’s not faith; but believing in something that has not physically manifested is faith. “Now FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.] (Hebrews 11:1 AMP).
I believe that we sometimes have a tendency to believe in the things we desire [to see], when we are not to have faith in things, but in the Creator of things:God! It’s absurd for us to have more faith in people, who can and will let us down than we do in God! That should not be, for God is faithful, always keeps His promises and has an impeccable track record (Numbers 23:19). Mankind, on the other hand is fallible with the tendency to fall short. Since, we have the tendency to believe in what we can see instead of believing, when we can’t, what can we do to have the faith that will allow us to trust God for something before we see it? The answer is the Word of God. If we are faithful, we can develop faith that will not waiver, regardless of the situation: “So faith comes by hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ“ (Romans 10:17 NLT). What we hear and embrace can either build or block our faith. I believe without a doubt that there’s nothing on earth more effective in building our faith in God than His infallible Word.       
Now, let’s look at FEAR, which is verb denoting action. Again, I am using Merriam-Webster for the definition.
As an transitive verb, it is defined as: 1. archaic: frighten; 2 archaic: to feel fear in (oneself); 3: to have a reverential awe of <fear God>; 4: to be afraid of : expect with alarm <fear the worst>; as an intransitive verb, it is defined as: to be afraid or apprehensive <feared for their lives>.
Looking at the definitions above, we see that fear can frighten us; cause us alarm (fearing the worst) or to have a reverential awe of God and His greatness. Scripture refers to fear as a spirit, that was not given to believers by God, but is a satanic tactic. Fear has the potential to be debilitating in that it can impair our spiritual strength and cause it to diminish if not identified and eliminated quickly. Renewing our minds with consistent doses of the Word of God can help us  tremendously (Romans 12:2).   
Everything positive has a negative or opposite, so let’s look at fear as the opposite of faith, because it’s incongruous and works against faith. I consider fear an enemy of faith, because if allowed, it will cause us to switch our focus on things that are temporary (tangible) and away from the things that are truly lasting (intangible); It will cause us to doubt God and not believe His Word. Fear if allowed can be a strong influential spirit in our lives as it is False, Evidence, Appearing, Real. The devil has an arsenal he uses against believers in Christ, but, God has also given us the spirit of power and love and spiritual weapons to counteract Satan’s collection of weapons and their effects (2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 6:11-18).
God does not want us to be in fear, because He knows the emotional damage it can cause us and that it will prevent us from walking in faith and receiving from Him. I find it interesting that each time God sent a messenger to deliver a message to anyone in the Scriptures or whenever Jesus spoke to those during His time of ministry, there was the exhortation to: Fear not! Take time to read the following references (or even better the associated chapter) at your leisure: Matthew 1:20; Matthew 28:5; Luke 1:13; Luke 1:30; Luke 2:10; Luke 5:10; Luke 8:50; Luke 12:7, 32. The love of God is perfect and fear cannot exist with love: “There is no fear in love [dread does not  exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thoughts of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into loves’ complete perfection].
As we continue to dwell in God and His love, stayed armed with faith, the Word of God and the Armor of God, we will be equipped to frustrate the devil; most importantly, we can stop the fear that he uses to paralyze us in an effort to make us ineffective for God and His kingdom. We never have to fear being abandoned by Him, because God said that He would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b). Stopping fear in our lives is not a one-time event, but we must be diligent each moment of everyday to guard our hearts and minds to prevent future inroads. We can trust God to keep His promise (Hebrews 10:35) and fulfill His good plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). God has given us everything we need to live a life of godliness, victory and success on earth without fear (2 Peter1:3).     

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Few Thoughts About BULLIES


As a youth, I grew up hearing and saying with my playmates: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  We believed that to be true, but it was only through study of the Scriptures as an adult that I found out the truth: names and words can really hurt. “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose” (Proverbs 18:21 – The Message).  In our formative years, we chose to do what was popular and as school age children and teens, we wanted to be cool, spent time sharing the latest gossip about our peers and maybe even making fun of those we did not like. There were fights (I wasn’t a fighter, but had friends who did) and maybe we encountered a bully or two, but sometimes, those you were Stop-Bullying-Sign-K-7052initially afraid of ended up becoming a good friend at the end! It was all about communicating and getting to know one another. The bullies during my childhood and teen years only wanted tasty lunches, money, homework assistance or answers to a test they knew they couldn’t pass. The violence that did occur among youth was mostly between gang members. Today, bullies are heartless and have a violent mindset towards their peers.

I recently read an article that was heart wrenching about a seven year-old boy, who was found dead in Detroit in what authorities ruled a suicide. Suicide at seven years old? When I was that age, I don’t even remember if I knew how to spell the word! Thank God, I never had a thought about taking my life. It was reported in The Detroit Free Press, that the mother told police that her son, “had been depressed due to the fact that he had been bullied continuously by the children at school, in addition to the constant teasing he had endured because he was the only boy in the home of eight females.” This article also referenced a 14 year old youth, who was rendered blind in one eye after being jumped by classmates, who accused him of being gay. What happened to being ‘your brother’s keeper’ and having love for your neighbor? I guess some young people didn’t get that memo (I mean text)! Times have surely changed and so have people; many are not getting better but worse with these evil times. The medias of our century have great influence that is generated through the air waves and internet. Their varied and diverse messages can and do impact us all in unexpected and subtle ways. Unfortunately, their negative effects are evident in the behavior displayed by some of today’s children, youth and young adults.

I believe today’s medias have influenced our children, youth and young adults in such a way that it causes them to be cruel, hateful and insensitive toward their peers without a reason. They emulate what they see on television, video games or rap videos. Where are the parents of children and youth who bully and what are these parents teaching their children at home? It’s obvious that some parents are clueless about their children’s aggressive and violent behavior until they are exposed after an unfortunate incident.You would think that young adults would know and show better, but unfortunately, bullying incidents are also taking place in our nation’s colleges and universities. Could it be that some bullies are in the closet with their family, but emulating towards outsiders what they see and experience at the hand of family members? Since, “hurt people hurt people,” personal hurt (or emotional damage) could be the catalyst for the violent acts committed by our children, youth and young adults against their peers. Regardless of the reasons, something needs to be done to bring a complete HALT to this modern-day terrorism.

It seems that no one is exempt from being a target of bullies; children and adults alike have been victimized. My heart goes out to all families, whose loved one could no longer endure the cruel treatment received from classmates or peers. These victims were severely wounded; left feeling worthless and without a desire to continue life. Gone are the days of being safe at school or in institutions of higher learning. It seems that no one is safe: whether an administrator, a teacher or a student; even school bus drivers have become targets for bullies and while doing their job! Parents and guardians send their children to school or off to college for an education and hope they will be safe and have a good experience. Instead, some children end up emotionally wounded by their classmates. Could home schooling become a safety net and a way for parents, who can participate-- to protect their children from peer violence that is found in elementary, middle or high school?

This problem is not yet a priority for our Government legislature, but if it came close to one of the homes of a member, there’s no doubt some action would be taken. Until that time, acts of violence by bullies need to be handled expeditiously by our local law enforcement agencies as a criminal offense. Parents and/or guardians of children should be held responsible and ordered to pay restitution to the families of the victims. Also, students, who bully should be suspended or expelled from school; this means that school officials can’t afford to be passive or inattentive and risk the safety or life of any student in their school. A strong message needs to be sent to all parents of children or youth, who feel the need to taunt or physically attack classmates. Since, there is no acceptable reason for this kind of behavior, it should not be tolerated at any time in any school in our nation. On-site counseling and support groups could be helpful for students, who fear being targeted and don’t know what to do or who to trust.

I consider individuals, who bully others to be cowards, but I also realize the possibility that some of these bullies might be victims, who are acting out the things they have experienced at the hands of individuals in or outside of their families. Some individuals appear normal to everyone, but have deep-seated hurt, are emotionally scarred and are just trying to cope. There has been enough hurt and loss of life as a result of bullying—whether in our backyards, surrounding areas or across the nation at large. We as citizens of the United States should take a stand and develop a NO-TOLERANCE position and do what we can to support any Anti-Bully group or cause in a collective effort. We need to send out a clarion call to action and put those who choose to bully out of commission, make them and their parents legally accountable and if necessary get them immediate help for any emotional dysfunction as well as anger issues. I believe that enough is too much! What do you think? The child you help save, could be your own! Selah (pause and calmly think about that)!