Monday, May 18, 2015

Ten Great Minds, Ten Controversial Presentations

It's all here ladies and gentlemen.  These are the great minds of western society: John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, Dennis Prager, Ken Ham, Stephen Meyer, on and on the list goes.  Watching these presentations has greatly expanded my understanding of the universe and the world around me.  Please enjoy these presentations, which address the controversial issues of our day and age.

How are we to understand the developments of the last century?  How are we to understand life, existence, science, history, and ontology?  I often look to the great minds of our generation to learn about the most difficult issues that face our generation.

Let's face down the heated issues front and center.  We're not going to politically correct answers, we're instead going to skip past "what everyone wants to hear" and go after the truth.  These are the most controversial issues imaginable.  We'll look at gay marriage, the theory of evolution, intelligent design theory, liberalism in the college sphere, liberty and constitutional rights, young earth science, the philosophy of tolerance, the academic establishment, and Christians value in relation to the United States government.  

Have we failed to address any divisive issue?  I don't think so!  But these issues are vital for our day and age.  There is a lot of misinformation out there.  Often only one side of the debate is heard.  The mainstream media and it's corrupt influence often leave us ignorant of certain primary facts in these heated debates.  Enjoy, keep an open mind, and consider these issues in light of history and the possibility of a God who is in fact there.

1. Miracles: Is Belief in the Supernatural Irrational? | With John Lennox at Harvard 
Professor John Lennox, the renowned mathematician and devout Christian defends the concept of miracles before a packed audience at Harvard University.  Lennox describes in vivid detail the science and philosophy under-girding the concept of miracles.  Are miracles really so unbelievable?  Or are miracles reasonable phenomenon?  

2. Is Tolerance Intolerant? Pursuing the Climate of Acceptance and Inclusion | Ravi Zacharias at UCLA
Dr. Zacharias has traveled the globe discussing pertinent issues within philosophy, ontology, science, and culture.  At UCLA Dr. Zacharias addresses the issue of the philosophy of tolerance.  What is tolerance?  What is intolerance?  How are we to understand the climate of culture today?

3. Genesis, Key to Reclaiming the Culture | Ken Ham
The founder of the noted Christian ministry "Answers in Genesis" defends the young earth view of creation.  Ken Ham looks at the pertinent issues of today, and addresses the solution to reclaiming the culture of the United States.  

4. The Case against Gay Marriage and how Gay Marriage will Hurt Everyone | Frank Turek
Turek takes on perhaps the most controversial issue today in the United States: Should gay marriage be legalized?  This is a very difficult issue in the country today.  The voices on both sides are shrill.  Turek does a fine job of cutting through the noise, and looking at science, mental health, and government for answers. 

5. National Prayer Breakfast | Dr. Ben Carson
Dr. Carson's story is a beautiful witness to the power of Christ.  Carson looks at history, and his own upbringing to describe how the United States has prospered under God.  This is a presentation from 2013 National Prayer Breakfast with President Obama present in the audience.

6. What is Intelligent Design? | Stephen Meyer 
The intelligent design movement has faced a barrage of attacks from the Darwinian academic establishment.  Stephen Meyer describes Intelligent Design theory with clear science, and dispels the media created straw men.  Science vs. Religion = false dichotomy. Science and religion are friends, not enemies.  Divide and conquer, predictable tactic.

7. What Ever Happened to the Constitution? | Judge Andrew Napolitano
One of the great men of American politics, Judge Andrew Napolitano out lines how the United States has largely abandoned the Constitution.  Napolitano explains how liberties are being taken, and how those liberties are God given, and may not be rescinded by the state.  He describes in powerful terms the road back to sanity in the USA.

8. Faith Under Fire: Taking Risks For the Kingdom | Reverend Canon Dr. Andrew White at Hope College
The famed Vicar of Baghdad speaks to an American audience about taking great risks for the kingdom of God.  Canon White is an inspiration and has done great things in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of Christians are under severe persecution.

9. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed | Ben Stein
This is a documentary every American should see.  It explains how the Darwinian academic establishment has waged a war on Intelligent Design, and fights to keep any mention of the possibility of God from scientific circles.  This was a very eye opening documentary for me.  Please watch and share!

10. Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph | Dennis Prager at Colorado Christian University 
Dennis Prager is a Jewish radio host with an excellent understanding of Christian values and how they impact government.  I don't necessarily agree with Prager on everything, like his firm support for establishment candidates like Mitt Romney.  But Prager is a knowledgeable speaker with a lot of good points to make.  Please give him a fair hearing.

Additional Posts on these Topics:
  1. Christianity in the Public Square 
  2. Expert Testimony: the Demise of Evolution, Complexity in DNA
  3. Expert Testimony: Intelligent Design, Archaeology, and Historicity
  4. The Great American Culture War: Religious Liberty, Gay Rights, Naturalism and the Christian Faith
  5. What is the matrix?
  6. Logic, History, Statistics, & Astronomy: Interdisciplinary approaches to the Truth Claims of Christianity
  7. Does man need God in Western Civilization 
  8. Real Christianity: Clothing, Buildings, Money, & Extravagance
  9. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  10. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics  

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Helping Children Heal from Divorce

Helping Children Heal from Divorce
Justin Steckbauer
Liberty University

An article describing the effects of divorce on children and how healing can come about. The outcomes of divorce on children are explored. Possibilities for healing and examples from the Bible are described as ways children can come to healing after a divorce. Parents are offered various ways they can lead children along the path of healing after a divorce situation. Several key areas of healing are discussed including: healing internally, healing inter-personally, healing biblically, and healing holistically. God is described as the firm foundation that can transcend the shattered family structure for children who have suffered after divorce.

Marriage is the foundation from which a family is created. Children are born, and grow up in the gentle care and training provided by both mother and father. Marriage is sacred, a decree of God himself when he said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24 English Standard Version). Marriage is binding, and the scriptures say that when two are brought together they become one. Matthew 19:6 (ESV) says "So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” God makes it clear that marriage ought to be binding until death. Again and again in the scriptures it's made clear that marriage between a man and a woman should not be broken except in extreme circumstances (1 Cor 7:10, Luke 16:18, Mat 5:32, Mat 19:6, Rom 7:2). As a result, is it any wonder that a marriage ending in divorce leads to such chaos and destructive for all involved? Divorce is very harmful to the husband and wife. But perhaps those most harmed by a divorce of husband and wife are the children. Children face many unique challenges in a divorce situation. Thankfully God provides ways to heal from divorce. 
Outcomes of Divorce on Children
Children of broken families are at much higher risk of negative outcomes in life than those in stable married homes (Kim, 2011, p. 487). Negative outcomes can include dropping out of high school, social problems, decreased cognitive skills, and poor psychosocial well being (Kim, 2011, p. 487). Although social stigma regarding divorce has decreased in society, these outcomes have not changed over the years (Kim, 2011, p. 487). In the United States in 1860, 1 in 1,000 marriages ended in divorce (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 301). In 2013, the divorce ratio was up to 17 divorces in every 1,000 marriages (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 301). Divorce rates doubled between the 1950s and the 1980s (Stewart, 1997, p. 691). Today, about 50% of marriages end in divorce (Stewart, 1997, p. 691).
The consequences of divorce on children can last a lifetime (Sammons & Lewis, 2001, p. 1). There is increasing research that shows the effects of divorce on children can be devastating, yet society seems to lag behind in providing support for children of divorced families (Sammons & Lewis, 2001, p. 1). How can society provide supports for children of divorce? It's an important question to consider. Despite support from parents, siblings, friends, church leaders, counselors, and support groups, the effects of divorce are never-the-less devastating. Is it any wonder then why the scriptures say God hates divorce? (Malachi 2:16).

Healing from Divorce in Light of the Bible
As previously discussed, the marriage bond is extremely important. Although in modern society marriage is often not taken particularly seriously, to God it is a sacred covenant relationship. Divorce in light of the Bible is a serious and difficult situation. Suffering is the natural outcome. Yet what possibilities for healing from divorce are there, in light of the Bible?
Jeremiah 17:14 (ESV) says "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise." Ultimately the only way for children to heal from divorce is to reach out to God for healing and comfort. Jeremiah 33:6 (ESV) says "Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security." The passages from Jeremiah are extremely important. Consider the situation Israel was facing: Israel had turned from the Lord, and the king of Israel was listening to false teachers. Israel was about to face the Babylonian captivity, a terrible time of discipline and suffering. It is much the same after a divorce. A family has been splintered due to sin. The parents could not work it out, and thus suffering results. Yet God still offers healing, forgiveness, and love despite the poor choices people make in life. Even out of great tragedy, God can bring prosperity and security.
Psalm 103:2-4 (ESV) says "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy." Psalm 103 illustrates how God offers forgiveness, healing, redemption, steadfast love, and mercy to those who come to him. Children must be encouraged to "bless the Lord." Remind children again and again that though their foundation has been lost, the family, they must seek out and find the true foundation which is God almighty. He is the only unshakeable foundation.
James 5:15 (ESV) says "And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." Divorce often brings about chaos for children, and causes numerous problems in mental health and functionality. Thankfully prayer is a powerful weapon against brokenness. The Lord will raise up children who have suffered the horror of divorce. Sins related to the divorce should be confessed, and then they will be forgiven (James 5:16). It must be underlined, that the suffering child does not need therapy, counseling, or interventions as much as the child needs the real presence of God the Father. "Self-help" style counseling is foolishness, and God-less (James 4:7, James 4:10, Romans 12:2) It leads to a repeating loop of suffering. Instead the scriptures say that one must submit themselves before the Lord, and he will lift them up (James 4:10).
Psalm 147:3 (ESV) states: "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." God came to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10). Children of divorce have lost a great deal. Though some do suffer only minimal consequences, many leave the situation brokenhearted. If these children will honestly seek after God, he will bind up their wounds.

Helping Children Heal Biblically
Proverb 23:26 (ESV) states "My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways." Children heal when the Great Physician is at the center of the healing process. If a child is to survive divorce and thrive in the wake of it, parents must help the child connect to God. Parents must help children to give their hearts to God entirely and seek him as the firm foundation that the family had been prior to the divorce. Parents must help children to study the Bible, to "observe His ways" and truly follow them. Otherwise divorce may be a grim endeavor for children.
Despite cultural views that "what is good for parents is good for children" the grim reality is that divorce is very destructive for children (Desai, 2006). Children hold a basic understanding that parents have a sort of supernatural ability to help them and protect them (Desai, 2006). When divorce occurs, that trust is shattered and children will often become resentful (Desai, 2006). Divorce initiates a basic contradiction of what children see as right, that their parents belong together (Desai, 2006). The psychologist Judith Wallerstein followed a group of children from the 1970s to the late 1990s to observe how the children would grow and develop (Desai, 2006). She interviewed each of them at 18 months, five years, ten years, fifteen years, and even twenty five years later (Desai, 2006). Shockingly, she found that many of them still struggled with basic issues of fear of conflict, fear of failure, and expectations of failure after more than twenty five years (Desai, 2006). God's word is correct, despite all the noise of culture and secular psychology's attempts to downplay it: divorce is destructive (Matthew 19:6). Yet there are many ways parents can help children heal from divorce.
Parents should be in prayer for their children on a daily basis (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is powerful (Mark 11:24). Prayer is meaningful, and God will help children who are being prayed for regularly (1 John 5:14-15). Parents ought to ask church leaders and prayer or small groups to pray regularly for their children (Ephesians 6:18).
Parents should also model effective communication (Minirth, Meier & Arterburn, 1995, p. 233). This will help children to share their feelings and avoid bottling up their emotions regarding the divorce (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Validate the child's emotions, don't discount them (Minirth et al.,1995, p. 233). Children need to share their feelings and identify those feelings after a divorce (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Watch the child's behavior. Behavior problems and acting out can be signs of deeper emotion issues taking place beneath the surface (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Staying actively involved in the child's life is very important as well; often parents who do not have full custody will disengage but that is not a good idea (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233).
Overall, parents who care for their own spiritual needs and mental health will be best able to care for their children after divorce (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Parents should pray regularly for strength, wisdom, and compassion (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Parents should join a divorce support group if they are able, and seek healing for themselves (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Parents should not try to communicate through the children or play games or attack the other parent's character in front of children (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Parents who have divorced should treat each other with dignity and respect, addressing each other as if in a business relationship (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). When parents are mature about the divorce situation children more easily adjust in healthy ways. 
Helping Children Heal Personally
Proverbs 17:22 (ESV) says "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Children are often left with a crushed spirit after a divorce. They have seen their foundation removed, and they feel resentful and may often become disengaged. Drug and alcohol use may come about. Thankfully joy is good medicine. How can children learn to have joy? Joy is found in the Lord (John 16:24, Psalm 33:21). Hope leads to joy, and children certainly need hope after divorce. Since joy, peace, and healing all come from God, children must learn to connect to God in real, tangible ways.
Parents must help children to develop spiritual disciplines to deal with the vacuum in their lives after divorce. There are many useful and powerful spiritual disciplines parents can teach to their children.
Searching the scriptures is a very powerful spiritual discipline (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 141). Children should be encouraged to carry their Bible everywhere with them, and to page through it in times of struggle.
Solitude is another important discipline. Help your child to shut off the computer, television and I-phone, and just sit quietly with a Bible or in prayer. Relaxing in nature and reflecting can be very powerful as well (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 142). Solitude is a lost discipline, but very useful for those in need of healing (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 143).
Silence is still another useful discipline to practice. Silence coupled with solitude has a way of dismantling defenses, and opening the mind to the presence of God (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 145).
Simple prayer is another important spiritual discipline. Teach children to constantly talk to God within their own minds as they go throughout the day (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 148). Teach children to get on their knees twice a day to pray to God (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 148). Parents can model all of these disciplines to their children and make it a part of growing together in the new post-divorce family unit. Other disciplines may be explored as well such as celebration, fasting, confession, and submission (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006, p. 150). 
Helping Children Heal Inter-personally
How can parents help their children heal in their relationships with others and the world around them? Children of divorce will often struggle in their future relationships and may be more likely to divorce in their future marriages (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 208). For parents after the divorce, it's important that children know the divorce is not their fault (Petherbridge, 2009).
Helping the child to grow and function well begins with the parent healing from the divorce (Petherbridge, 2009). Parents should find a support group where they can discuss the pains and hurts of the divorce (Petherbridge, 2009). That way the child does not have to be the comforter of the parent (Petherbridge, 2009). If a child becomes the comforter of the parent, this represents a role reversal and can be destructive for the child's mental health.
Parents should continue to discipline consistently (Petherbridge, 2009). Discipline and firm rules communicate love and security to the child (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Sometimes parents after the divorce may be tempted to over-indulge their children out of guilt, but avoid this pitfall as it can communicate confusing signals to children (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Overall, children may struggle in future relationships no matter what the divorced parents do. Divorce is an ugly affair. But parents can help children toward healthy interpersonal skills by helping children communicate their feelings, setting down good discipline, and explaining the situation in clear truthful terms (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Children can be helped by participating in strong communities of believers at places like church youth groups, bible studies, divorce support groups, and Christian after-school programs (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Parents can present a positive view regarding marriage and friendships, so that children will not grow up feeling jaded or fearful of interpersonal attachments (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Children need to be children, even after a divorce (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). Try not to involve them in decisions regarding money, food, or other adult issues outside the child's level of maturity (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233). If parents are careful to stabilize the growing environment for children while providing supports and opportunities for healthy relationships, divorce related social problems can be minimized (Minirth et al., 1995, p. 233-235). 
Helping Children Heal Holistically
Taking a holistic approach to healing after divorce is very important for the long term recovery of children. Children need to heal internally, they need to heal interpersonally, and they need to heal in the power of God.
Divorce is not considered a short term incident, but a life long struggle with far reaching implications (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 307-308). During the time after divorce both parents may struggle with self-esteem issues, sexual acting out, emotional outbursts, depression, and anxiety/fears (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 307). This leaves the parents unavailable to help their children adjust emotionally (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 307). Male children of divorce will often struggle with acting out behavior and non-compliance (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 308). Female children may act-in through becoming emotionally closed off (Balwick & Balswick, 2014, p. 308). There is no doubt that divorce is destructive, but many children from divorced families express relief because the marriage situation caused so much trauma and abuse (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 311).
It's clear that children are affected in diverse ways by the divorce situation (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 308). Usually the worst period for children is in the first year after the divorce (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 308). Of course children suffer less when the parents are amicable with one another (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 308). Female children tend to recover more quickly from divorce, while male children, especially those raised by a single mother tend to take longer to fully heal and recover from divorce (Balswick & Balswick, 2014, p. 308).
It's important to address multiple issues with children. Of course children must have their physical needs met: food, water, and shelter. Children must also have their emotional needs met through love, relationship, and emotional expression. Still further, children must have their social needs met through church fellowship, friendships, and adult mentors. Yet ultimately, the most important holistic need of the child is his or her relationship with God. Jesus Christ said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
Parents struggling through a divorce will not be able to lead their children perfectly in this process, but there are many resources and angles from which to seek help and support for the children. Parents would be wise to take a holistic approach to the healing process and realize children have diverse needs in the process of rebuilding (Balswick & Balswick, 2014).

In conclusion, Deuteronomy 6:5-8 (NIV) states "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Though these words are from the Old Testament and refer to the Old Testament laws of Moses, one could surmise that Jesus Christ calls us to do very much the same. Jesus said let the little children come to me (Matthew 19:14). Jesus Christ also said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6). And Paul wrote of the Christ saying, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Families need Jesus. Parents need Jesus. Divorced parents need Jesus. And children of divorce desperately need Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ heals the brokenhearted.
If parents help children to place Jesus Christ at the heart of their healing process, then their children will be healed. Teach the children to love God with a full heart, despite the pain of divorce. Teach the children to know and follow the words of God in his Holy book the Bible. Counseling is important, support groups are important, wise parenting is important, and fellowship is important, but the very center piece of recovery after divorce is Jesus Christ. When parents are armed with that knowledge, their children will have the privilege of experiencing true healing after the horror of divorce.
Children need help to articulate their suffering, and express themselves personally. Children also need help from parents to develop their interpersonal skills. Children have a great many needs that must be addressed in a holistic manner. Yet most importantly, children need God to heal. And so do parents. In closing, parents and children of divorce alike ought to remember the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Balswick, J., & Balswick, J. (2007). The family: A Christian perspective on the contemporary home (3rd ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.
Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Loving your child too much: Staying close to your kids without overprotecting, overindulging, or overcontrolling. Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers. ISBN: 1-591-45045-4.
Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Why you do the things you do: The secret to healthy relationships. Nashville, TN: Integrity.
Cloud, H. & Townsend, J. (2001). Boundaries with kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ISBN: 0-310-24315-7.
Derdeyn, A. P., M.D. (1980). Divorce and children: Clinical interventions. Psychiatric Annals, 10(4), 22-26,29-33,37-39,43,46-47. Retrieved from
Desai, A. (2006). How Could Divorce Affect My Kids? Retrieved April 29, 2015, from
Elwell, W. (2001). Evangelical dictionary of theology (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.
Krumrei, E. J., Mahoney, A., & Pargament, K. I. (2009). Divorce and the divine: The role of spirituality in adjustment to divorce. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71(2), 373- 383. Retrieved from
Minirth, F., Meier, P., & Arterburn, S. (1995). The Complete Life Encyclopedia: A Minirth Meier New Life Family Resource. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Petherbridge, L. (2009, December 18). Healing 101. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from
Sammons, W. A. H., & Lewis, J. (2001). Helping children survive divorce. Contemporary Pediatrics, 18(3), 103. Retrieved from
Stewart, V. L. (1997, Jul). Deconstructing the culture of divorce. The Christian Century, 114,690-693. Retrieved from accountid=12085

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Noble: The Life of Christina Noble & her ministry to the children of Vietnam

You can tell a story is real, when circumstances tend to go from bad to worse.  Terrible things happen, and we turn our eyes to heaven and ask God: Are you still there?  Do you still care?  How could you let this happen? 

Yet you can also tell a true story, a real story, when God shows up at the most unexpected moments, at the darkest moments, to make his presence known, and bring good out of evil.  

It was interesting in the case of Christina Noble, that she found herself in terrible circumstances, yet God used those moments to bring about revolutionary changes in the world.  

In the film Noble the story is told of the life of Christina Noble.  I was asked to write about the film and offered a special screening to view it before it's release.  My first reaction was similar to most: "I don't have time."  I had been working full time, I was trying desperately to finish up my last two classes before traveling to Virginia to participate in graduation at Liberty University.  Yet a still small voice seemed to hint occasionally, to take another look.

Much is the same when it comes to the plight of the poor, the lost, the homeless, and the starving in parts of the world like India, China, North Korea, and Vietnam.  "It's a tragedy, but I don't have time."  Just recently, and quite late, I managed to allot some time to watch the movie Noble.  

I was shocked, amazed, horrified, and inspired to the point of sobbing by the end.  And I'm a guy, I don't cry easily.  The story touched my heart in a very real way.  The plight and life of Christina Noble was powerfully captured.  It jumped right off the screen into my heart.  Why?  It managed to portray the struggle of life in a very real way.  

Noble was a child of hope, and joy, singing before crowds in taverns.  Yet after her mother's death, she was separated from her family and sent to an orphanage.  Christina Noble was later reunited with her father.  And then he vanishes.  It had that quality of random brutality.  When at moments in her life she desperately needed a cup of water to her lips, she was given a brick to the face instead.  Life is often like that.  

It's not like a movie, where the bad guys are defeated whilst the hero manages to create an elaborate situation where he keeps his honor, offers the enemies mercy, yet in the end defeats them.  No.  Life is ugly, and scary at times.  We're held down and violated, mistreated and lost.  We lose our dignity, and the bad guys often win.  Things go from bad to worse, and Christina is left time and again, facing the altar of God broken, asking: Are you really there?

We as humans have a certain romanticism about life.  Yet in reality, life is at times brutal and random.  The Word says the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). And how much more so for the forgotten children?  How much more so for the children of the streets of 3rd world countries?  

My God, my God, how Noble is needed today.  We in the west so often turn a blind eye to the suffering of the faceless.  We can't see them, we blind ourselves to their suffering, and we harden our hearts to their struggle.  After watching Noble it was much more real to me, the struggle of the homeless and lost.  Rape, violence, sex trafficking, assault, kidnapping, are all daily realities for so many.  

Everett Swanson, founder of Compassion International shared some of his story for one of my class lectures in Christian Counseling for Children 302 (at Liberty University).  He told how children in these countries are targeted, because they have no defender.  Children are weak, fragile, and easily snatched up and forced to do terrible things.  They are naive to the world.  They are the easiest target.  It horrifies us, but children are certainly easy targets.  

And how much more so unborn children in the womb?  And truly truly, they have been targeted in our society, to genocidal effect.  53 million people dead.  Real people.  The tragedy is unspeakable.  The heart cries for mercy from such organized madness.  And God hears, truly truly, God hears.

The story of Christina Noble vividly portrayed in this movie is the message we all need to see.  Christina Noble had nothing.  She had no money, she had none of the right friends.  She had been through trauma, rape, homelessness.  She had been abandoned by her father, and lost touch with her brothers and sisters.  She had been mistreated by nuns, those who should have cared for her and protected her.  

What more to say, enough, leave her alone, let her be for just a moment?  Just give her a chance, please?  Anyone might say, she went through enough, now let her rest.  But Christina Noble knew there was something wrong with the world.  And she heard the call of God.  In a dream she saw the chaos of Vietnam.  And she answered the call and went, with nothing.  

We often feel so powerless as Christians.  What can we do to change all this madness?  So we simply let it go, and keep moving forward in life.  Who could blame us?  But the story of Noble challenges us to step out in faith.  It challenges us to take a stand.  It challenges us to awaken that sense of valor buried within, that image of God within, and calls for us to be valiant, brave, noble, in this mysterious drama they call life.  When by all appearances there is no hope to change anything, one act of faith can change everything.  

I mean statistically, a broke woman shows up to Vietnam to help children.  Not special, not different, just a Christian woman who wants to help.  What are her chances of starting orphanages that today serve over 700,000?  The chances are impossible.  Yet God does the impossible.  One woman was willing, and God worked through her.  Now not just 1 child, or 10, or 100 have a home, but 700,000 have a home, and someone to care for them.  

We as Christians can't see how it can be done today, with all the corruption, the chaos, the immorality, and western man's retreat from God.  We're discouraged.  But we don't need to be.  Time and again, God takes someone who by themselves could change nothing.  Not a deity, not a superhuman, just a regular person like you or me.  And they believe.  They try it, and then it starts to fail, it looks like it's not working at all.  Then at the last moment.. when all hope has faded, God blesses it.  

Everett Swanson was just a young man, not privileged or powerful.  Just an average guy, and he decided he would do something for the children.  Today his organization Compassion International serves millions of children in 3rd world countries.  K.P. Yohannan was a young man living in Asia doing missionary work.  He wanted to send missionaries to the cities of India.  He wanted to build bridges of hope to children in India.  Today his organization Gospel for Asia serves hundreds of thousands.  William Booth wanted to serve the truly lost, the most destitute, the ones Jesus loved.  He stepped out in faith, with very little, traveling around preaching.  Today the Salvation Army which he founded serves millions in 135 countries worldwide.  And Christina Noble decided she would serve the children of Vietnam no matter what.  Today her organization the Christina Noble Children's Foundation serves over 700,000.  They were not gods, they were not super men or super women. They were average, everyday people, who decided they would try to do something special.  They believed God could make oasis in the ghetto.  They believed God could make refuges of peace in mine fields.  And you know what?  They were right.  God could.  And he did. 

Life is tough.  For me it's been tough.  For Christina Noble it was often nightmarish.  There is great suffering in the world today.  That is the effect of the fall of man.  Yet that in no way changes our responsibility to God.  He remains God.  He never promises that we will be free from trouble.  He does promise to be with us in the trouble.   

As a Coldplay song played, and the credits rolled at the end of Noble I found myself sobbing terribly.  I've had a tough go at life.  Truly truly I have.  With so much brokenness and struggle, one eventually starts to wonder: Can I really do this?  Am I really going to be able to do this?  

Several times I have turned to heaven, as Noble did, and said, "Lord, I don't think I can do this."  The true story of Christina Noble reminded me, that though one may lose their family, live on the streets, be abused, kidnapped, raped, and abandoned... it can be done.  She did it.  She survived it.  She regained her strength.  Christina Noble was vindicated in the end.  At many moments it seemed it was over for her.  But it wasn't.  So today I'm reminded, by her story, that I may solemnly look toward heaven and say: "Lord, you're with me and I can do this.  I can change the world, because you're with me.  We can do it.  We can do it together.  Amen."  

 Please consider sponsoring a child at the Christina Noble Children's Foundation website. Click here.  Also consider viewing the award winning movie Noble, currently in theaters in select areas.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What is prayer?

"The true church lives and moves and has its being in prayer." -Leonard Ravenhill

Prayer is the very life blood of the follower of Jesus Christ.  We as his followers pray continuously, as the scriptures say.  My prayer life has at times been very difficult and at times quite wonderful.  A friend once said that she finds prayer awkward.  I can certainly understand what she means.  Prayer has at times been painfully awkward for me.  What do I say to the designer of reality?  What do I say to the one who knows the future, past, and present better than I could hope to imagine?  How shall I say it?  And do I really mean what I'm saying?

"Trouble and prayer are closely related. Trouble often drives men to God in prayer, while prayer is but the voice of men in trouble." -E.M. Bounds 

Perhaps the most honest prayer I've ever prayed is a very simple one: "God help me.  Jesus save me."  It was a very effective prayer.  That prayer changed my life.  Though more correctly, the one on the other end changed my life. 
When I pray for those I despise, my enemies, those who annoy me or upset me, or people that actively work to ruin my ambitions and keep me down in organizations, I find in the days that follow, that I learn to love and forgive that person.  My view of that person is changed by praying for them.  

"There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him." - William Law 

Prayer is communion with God.  Prayer is communication.  Prayer is conversation with God.  A man once said that to be a Christian is to pray, if you don't pray, you're really not a Christian.  Many of the greats across Christian history have been dedicated to prayer.
Martin Luther would pray two hours in the morning before starting his day.  He said he had too much to do that day to not pray for two hours before starting.  Prayer changes my outlook on life.  Prayer changes my vantage point.  Prayer puts me in the shoes of God for a few moments.  Prayer helps me see things from the vantage point of love, selflessness, and hope, if only for a sweet second.

"Prayer does not mean that I am to bring God down to my thoughts and my purposes, and bend his government according to my foolish, silly, and sometimes sinful notions. Prayer means that I am to be raised up into feeling, into union and design with him; that I am to enter into his counsel and carry out his purpose fully." - Dwight L. Moody

As Moody said, prayer is where I learn about prayer itself.  We may start out with the idea that prayer is about letting God know what I want.  Prayer is about making a request.  That is a small aspect of prayer, intercession and requests, but perhaps the most important part of prayer is summed up in this statement: seeking knowledge of God's will, and the power to carry that will out.  We ask God for his purposes for us, and we submit ourselves to his plans for our lives.  
A very effective prayer is one Jesus uttered: Not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)

Yet prayer is about talking to God.  Sometimes I just tell God about what I'm thinking about.  I tell God about my pain and sorrows.  I tell God about my struggles, my depression, my happiness, my hopes, my fears, and my joys day to day.  Any relationship needs conversation and discussion to flourish.  Prayer is the vehicle of that.

I've been reading a book called A Year of Living Prayerfully by Jared Brock.  It's been an excellent read.  I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking for a down to Earth examination of prayer from multiple perspectives.  Brock looked at the prayer lives of Jews, Catholics, Protestants, and many others to learn ways to improve his own prayer life.  Probably my biggest take away from the book was learning the Pope Francis five finger prayer.  I like simple and effective ways to pray.  My prayers can get very jumbled up and messy.  But the five finger prayer is super helpful.

All you have to do is look down at your hand.  Your thumb points to you, so the first thing you pray about is the people closest to you: immediate family, grandparents, and close friends.  Your pointer finger is where you pray for people who speak into your life and mentor you, like church leaders, teachers, professors, or people at work who oversee your work.  The middle finger is the tallest, so for that one you pray for authorities and leaders.  I tend to pray for Congress, the Supreme court, and the President.  I also pray for local government, police officers, and international leaders.  The ring finger is the weakest finger on the hand, so for that finger you pray for the weak and the lost.  I tend to pray for those who struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction.  I also pray for the poor, homeless, and those who are struggling with tragedy in their lives.  The last finger is the smallest finger the pinkie, and lastly we pray for ourselves and our needs.  I like that, simple yet effective.

Prayer is vital to the Christian life.  So what is a good number for prayer?  How many minutes a day is wise?  Martin Luther prayed two hours a day as we discussed.  George Whitefield (Anglican Priest famous for helping spread the great awakening in the USA) prayed three hours a day.  William Bramwell (Methodist itinerant evangelist) would sometimes pray four hours a day.  

I don't try to shoot for a particular number of minutes or hours, but somewhere between 30 minutes - 1 hour would be ideal.  Though I seldom hit my ideal.  Today I tend to get on my knees and say a short prayer before I start my day (5-10 minutes).  During the middle of the day, whether at a meeting, or standing outside, I'll try to pray the "Our Father" slowly, focusing on meaning what I'm saying.  Then at night, just before I go to bed, I'll usually get on my knees, in the dark, usually around 11pm or 12 and pray my longest prayer where I'll use the five finger method, then segway into some random thoughts, and close out with some praises to the Lord.  The night prayer is usually my longest (7-25 min).  That way I'm praying at least three times a day, a method originally used by Daniel (Daniel 6:10).   

Prayer changes everything.  Don't let disgruntled skeptics tell you it's pointless.  Prayer is real, because God is real.  Trust in him, keep praying, and watch the world change.  Believe.  

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