Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Michael Vick Finds Jesus

Everybody’s heard about the legal troubles of quarterback Michael Vick.

In the midst of it, guess what?  I just read this quote from Vick in Time magazine.  “Through this situation, I found Jesus.”*

Some are skeptical, but I hope he did.  I hope he allows God to do a great work in his life.  I hope for years to come we will hear from Michael Vick about what the Lord is doing in him and through him.

You know what we need to do?  Pray fervently for Michael Vick.

Here’s another news item, reported Monday by WCTV television.  And to tell you the truth, it kind of shocked me.  They said that the high school graduation rate for black males around Tallahassee was, quote, “hovering around 50%.”**

Now just let that sink in.  Think about what kind of job you can get without a high school diploma.  It’s bad enough what you can get with just a high school diploma, but without?  That is not a bright future. 

And speaking of bright future, Florida makes it so easy to get a good education.  First of all, the public schools are free.  And if you do a good job, the state offers the Bright Futures Scholarship to cover your college tuition.  It’s an incredible opportunity. 

And yet roughly half the young black men around Tallahassee will miss the boat entirely.  I don’t know how many that is, but let’s just say it’s around 500 kids a year.  In ten years, that’s 5,000 young men with very little education.  What are they going to do?  How are they going to get a job or support a family or have any kind of stable life?

You know what we need to do?  Pray fervently for the young black men around Tallahassee, and also for those who are trying so desperately to reach them.

Here’s a news item you won’t read about in your local paper.  I am deeply concerned about this issue.  I think it is a plague that is tearing its way through our country, and I have no idea how to stop it.  I feel like I’m standing on the beach looking up at a 100 foot wave.  What else can I do but yell in fear?

I am talking about the plague of internet pornography.  It is an onslaught from hell.  It dehumanizes and degrades.  Computer users become peeping toms, and begin to see people as mere objects for their own pleasure. 

And here’s the thing.  When you dehumanize people, you become capable of all sorts of evil.

The plague of internet pornography operates at the moral microbial level.  Its initial effects are unseen, taking place in the hearts and minds of the viewers.  But so many viewers!  Millions of viewers. 

I think about this generation being raised with easy access to the internet, and all the filth it belches out.  An entire generation influenced.  I look at what is happening, and all I see is a 100 foot tidal wave.  I think about my own daughters and who they will end up marrying.  Will they find a Godly young man, unscarred by internet porn, a young man who won’t treat them as an object?

I read about the high percentage of pastors who have problems with internet porn.  Not that long ago a porn problem would have immediately disqualified a pastor from the position.  You cannot have a man as a spiritual leader who is taking little hits of the porn drug when he gets the chance.  But the hellish part of it is that it’s so easy to get away with.  And if that many people are doing it themselves, who’s going to bring it up?  Who’s going to confront someone, if they don’t want their own computer’s hard drive examined?

I’m telling you, it is a flood of filth that is washing over our nation, and though we may not see the effects on the surface, they are coming.  They have to.  There is no way a nation can have such a morally rotten influence that is so prevalent, yet continue to function normally.  It simply cannot happen.  There is a big price tag on this one, folks, and I don’t have any idea what to do about it.

But I know one thing to do.  Pray.  Pray that God will somehow stem the tide of moral decay. 

If there ever was a “stronghold,” pornography is a stronghold.  Thank God Second Corinthians 10:4 says, “…the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds…”

Thank God James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Thank God there IS power in prayer!

So what can we do for Michael Vick?  Pray!

What can we do for the young men whose futures look bleak?  Pray!

And what can we possibly do about the plague of internet pornography?  Pray!

Our nation’s future hinges on it.



(As heard on Wave 94.1 FM)


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Conversations in Your Head

Do you ever have complete conversations in your head?

It’s where you think about what you would say, then what the other person would say, then how you would respond.  It’s the whole conversation, and it’s all in your head.

Probably some of your wittiest conversations take place right there in your head.

A salesman worked for me one time, and he would give me a play-by-play of imaginary sales calls.  He would say he had a good potential client and I would say, “Have you talked to them?” 

“No, but I’ll just give them a call and I’ll tell them what we’re doing and they’ll say ‘That sounds good,’ and I’ll say, ‘Would you like the $500 package or the $300 package,’ and they’ll say, ‘Give me the $500 package.’”

Some of his best sales calls took place right there in his head.

I know I do this, and I wonder if everyone does it.

I can be driving down the highway, completely immersed in conversation – in my own mind.

This is a good habit, as long as you have one key ingredient:  empathy.

Can you put yourself in the other person’s shoes?  Can you truly see things from their perspective?  When you carry on their part of the conversation, is it really what they would say, or is it just your characterization of them?

The next time you carry on a conversation with someone in your head, ask yourself, “How well do I really know this person?”  And don’t be too quick to answer.

For example, we don’t know what other people went through growing up.

I remember one time I was talking with a coworker who I thought I knew fairly well.  After all, I worked with her every day.  But then one time I said something about divorce, and she went off on me.  Turned out her parents were divorced, and it was a very sensitive subject for her. 

Then there was the man I worked with and the day I used the word “crazy.”  Later he wrote me a letter about how I shouldn’t throw around the word crazy because someone close to him had very real mental issues and he was offended by such words.

I have learned over the years, obviously sometimes the hard way, to be more empathetic in my conversation.  And when I run through these conversations in my head, I try to think about what is really going on in the other person’s life, instead of just putting words in their mouth.

I think it’s good to carry out these conversations in your own mind.  Call it practice before the big game.

In real life, if you let something slip out, you can never get it back.  But in your mind you can slip up and learn from it, without hurting anyone along the way.  You can analyze what you would say and your motives for saying it.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

When you carry out a conversation in your mind, ask yourself, “Will these words benefit those who listen?  Will it build them up according to their needs?”  If not, then reroute your conversation.  Ask yourself, “What can I say that will build people up?”

Mental conversations prepare us for real conversations.  If we practice saying good things, we are more likely to actually say good things.

Romans 16:19 says, “…be wise about what is good…” 

I think we need to hone the skill of being good.  We do that by practice.   The time to make mistakes is in practice, so that when it’s time for the real thing, we do it right.

One of the most important ways to be good to people is in our conversations.  We are to be wise about what is good in conversation.

And the way to do that is by practicing conversations in our head.  We are doing it anyway.  We just need to take control. 

So the next time you catch yourself carrying on a conversation with someone in your head, turn it into a practice session for saying good things to build people up, and benefit all who listen.

(As heard on Wave 94.1 FM)

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Plague of Dissatisfaction

She let out a big sigh.

“What,” I said.

“I’m not satisfied.  I just don’t have any satisfaction in my life right now.”

O.K.  Let’s talk about that for a minute.  Satisfaction.  What brings a sense of satisfaction to our lives?  Can you remember a time when you felt truly satisfied with your life?

I think, if you ponder it for a moment, you will find that you felt most satisfied when you were moving toward a meaningful goal.

Here is the tricky part.  It’s not even the arrival at the goal that is so satisfying.  It’s not the looking back and reminiscing about a goal that is satisfying.  It is the meaningful goal you are currently working toward that brings the most satisfaction.

If you are not currently working toward a meaningful goal, I think that is where you will find your source of dissatisfaction.

A life with no goals will feel aimless and meaningless.  So, what are your goals?  What goals are you currently working toward?

And here’s another thing.  It can’t be just any goal.  It needs to be a meaningful goal.  For example, if your goal is to be the flashiest dresser where you go each day, that will not bring much satisfaction because it is basically a meaningless goal.

Satisfaction comes when our goals involve giving…giving ourselves away for a good cause. 

“It is in giving that we receive.”

If your goals involve giving to yourself, or doing things for yourself, or buying things for yourself, or trying to make yourself look good…..these goals will not bring deep and lasting satisfaction. 

Maybe this doesn’t sound like a very weighty topic.  But I think dissatisfaction is a plague in America.  We talk about depression.  We talk about crime.  We talk about broken homes and marriages and families.  We talk about taking pills to make us feel better about things.  A root of all of this is plain old dissatisfaction.  To solve the problem, we need to get to the root of it.

As a Christian, I believe God created us with specific talents, and that He has a plan for putting those talents to work.  We all need to find out what God wants us to do, then do it with all our heart. 

If you are not sure specifically what God wants you to do, you can certainly discover generally what God wants you to do through the Bible.  Then ask Him to lead you as you set out to apply His word in specific ways.

In other words, through prayer and Bible study, pick a worthy goal, (and while you’re at it, make it a big one!) then go for it. 

Then just watch as your dissatisfaction melts away in the heat and hustle of working toward a meaningful goal.

(As heard on Wave 94.1 FM)