Thursday, May 31, 2012

Top New Blog Posts - May 2012

Here are the top 5 new blog posts for May 2012, beginning with the number 5. Thanks for reading!

#5 Conservatives Turn on Their Own

MP Stephen Woodworth


This article was written about the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party of Canada as they turned on their own back-bencher, Stephen Woodworth. Woodworth presented a motion to review Canada's 400 year old-law defining when a baby becomes a human being under Canadian law. For this he received the criticism of some even within his own party. So much for democracy. 

#4 Scott Jackson - My Battle With Depression

This is a guest post by Scott Jackson, president of  Trust Communications and founder of LIFE 100.3 Radio. 

 #3 Reflections on a Wedding

The third most popular post was written the week following the wedding of my son Levi and his new bride Amanda. With all of the stresses on the institution of marriage, I felt it would be a timely subject. 

#2 No Justice in Canada for the Unborn

This article was written on the heels of the March For Life on Parliament Hill which went largely unreported in the mainstream media, though it was attended by some 15,000+ Canadians. It deals with a number of misconceptions about the abortion issue in Canada.

#1 Akiane Kramarik - 2012

Akiane Kramarik (Age 17)
Once again Akiane Kramarik takes the top spot. I decided to write an update on Akiane since the old posts I've written about her received so much attention. This young lady continues to attract worldwide attention for her art and her poetry, based on spiritual themes. If you've never seen her work before, take the time to look through the artwork displayed on her website. It's worth the time. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Planned Parenthood Offering "Sex-selective" Abortions

I've written a few times on the subject of "gendercide," the war against female babies simply because of their gender. The practice of sex-selection abortions is most prevalent in China and India but has now spread around the world. In many countries, infanticide is also common - the killing of a newborn baby.

The video below reveals Planned Parenthood counseling a woman with a late-term pregnancy how to procure a late-term sex-selection abortion. Many are still under the impression that Planned Parenthood is a wonderful organization that simply helps women make wise choices. It has instead shown a repeated pattern of complicity in contravening the laws of various states and defrauding their own government of millions of dollars. Remember this next time they look for your support.


Related Articles:
Susan G. Komen vs. Planned Parenthood - Not a Fair Fight
Planned Parenthood Aids Pimp's Underage Sex Ring
"Gendercide" - A Deeper Look
Words of Death: "It's A Girl!"
The War on Women


Monday, May 28, 2012

How To Avoid Burn-out

This week I listened to an interesting lesson from Wayne Cordeiro, a Pastor and teacher from Hawaii. He was sharing some of his experiences with burnout and how to avoid it. This lesson is particularly helpful for anyone in the people business - teachers, health professionals, pastors, social workers, etc..., but also for anyone in a high-stress job.

Here it is in a nutshell. Each of us have a limited capacity emotionally. While we may think that we are superman or superwoman, life has a way of demonstrating how wrong we are. The landscape is strewn with many from the helping professions who have crashed and burned after pushing it too hard and too long. Each of us have to learn our limits, and ensure that we build in time and activities that refill us.

Wayne uses the analogy of an emotional fuel tank. It's something that we don't often think about, but keeping that tank full is important to our long-term success. None of us wants to become a statistic.

So, here's the question, what are the things that you do that feed you emotionally; that help you feel better about life; that recharge your batteries? For some that may be long walks, sports, reading, traveling, going to the beach, gardening or any number of things. Whatever they are, you need to identify them, and you need to make them a regular part of your routine.

This seems counter-intuitive for many "Type-A"personalities, who tend to feel that they have to always be on the go. The truth is, without recharging, you are likely hurting your long-term productivity. I know, in my experience, sometimes the schedule has gotten away from me and, inevitably, what ends up getting dropped is the "me" time. The tank is then depleted and, if it goes too long, emotional damage is done.

I experienced this a few years ago in my own ministry. The church was growing, I was getting busier; trying to launch new initiatives and keep the ball rolling. I was trying to help others with their problems. I had other stresses in my life that contributed to a mounting sense that I was losing control. It took me longer and used more energy to do what I used to do. All I knew was that I stopped caring - and that's not a good place to be in ministry.

Thankfully, I had an understanding Board and a caring church family that allowed me to take the time I needed to get myself right. I learned some lessons the hard way during that time. Here are some of the bigger ones.

There's only one God, and I'm not Him.
Pastors, in particular, can tend to fall into this trap where they feel that they have to save the world. The truth is that we're all only human, with very real limitations. I've had to learn that there are some situations that are beyond my control. I've preached on this verse for years, but learned through these experiences just how true it is:  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7) Remember, as well, that none of us are indispensable.

Build margin and stay away from the edge.
What this simply means is that you have to choose carefully where you will spend your time. There are two opposite temptations for pastors: one is to become a workaholic and never take time for themselves; the other is to be lazy and to neglect their ministry. Both are wrong and damaging in their own way. The key is balance. If you are going to take time for yourself you have to build that into your schedule and you have to learn to say no (something I have a hard time with). Learn to prioritize, remember the Pareto Principle: 20% of your activity will provide 80% of the productivity.

Know yourself.
You need to be able to tell when your stress level is rising and you need to know what to do about it. In this case especially, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When you sense the pressure building, offload the stressors if you can and do something to recharge. It's better to take a couple of days sooner, then be forced to take a few weeks or months later. 

Identify what gives you energy and what takes it away.
There are some things in my ministry that I do because I have to - they're part of the job. There are other parts of my job that I love to do. When you find your energy level being depleted, do your best to focus on the parts that you love, where your passions lie. 

We can be healthy, and we need to be healthy if we're going to continue to be of use to others. Ask yourself this, on a scale of 1-10, what would be the level in your emotional tank? If it's dropping down below 5, what can you do to get it back up in the healthy range? If you're running on empty, who do you need to talk to who can help you? Take care of yourself. Life is hard but God is good.

Related Articles:
Book Review: "The Me I Want To Be"
Caring Enough to Confront
The Pareto Principle
Authentic Leadership
Book Review: The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham



Friday, May 25, 2012

Scott Jackson - My Battle With Depression

This Sunday I will be participating in the walk/run for defeating depression. With that in mind I have asked Scott Jackson to share his story of his battle with depression. I hope that this helps someone.

This is a guest post by Scott Jackson.

Scott Jackson
The question is - how does a Christian get depressed? You know you're going to heaven in the end. Jesus loves you. Your church loves you. Your family loves you. Your dog loves you. What's your problem?

Well, I've read a lot about it. Depression could be spiritual or physical. Mine was both. I believe Satan wants to take out ministry leaders so attacking me would be a certainty. But doctors told me that I have had 30 years of staying up late and pushing my body clock to the point where my brain doesn't know when to sleep. We all have an internal clock that says "it's time for bed" but I would ignore it and wait for my second wind and work into the night. Well, my body finally said "stop I've had enough" and I suffered my many emotional crashes, seemingly triggered for no reason. I didn't feel tired.

I'm no doctor but as I understand it, chemicals in your brain are released and they give you energy to work, think, focus and so on. For me, the chemicals were not releasing properly causing confusion and a lot of pouting.

Hmmm. You listen to the radio. You hear a smiley, happy DJ. But there are times when we don't really feel perky and we have to act. Off the air I would begin weeping and moaning, and then stop long enough to introduce a song and then return to the moment of despair.

One day, in one of those moments of moaning and wailing, everyone in the station could hear me through the walls. Steve Jones came in the studio and stood there for five minutes, probably deciding whether I was stable enough to do the show. I remember it well. I didn't look at him. I paced the room, cried and introduced the next song, with the listeners not knowing the situation. Steve left, seemingly satisfied that things were not beyond control. Until the next day.

In the middle of my show at 11am I crashed. I couldn't focus on the show. Concentration was lost. Hopelessness set in. I left.

Then came the wave of "I don't care".

I don't care.

About anything.

Depressed people care about nothing and have no reason to get out of bed in the morning. I'd tell my wife - "I don't care. There's nothing to get out of bed for. Nobody will miss me at work. Who cares". I spent time with a psychologist who was very helpful to get me past the situation - most of the time.

My family doctor had me experiment with three different anti-depressants until he found the right combination for me. Yes, I tried Prozac. It wasn't the best in my case. My wife was very patient through all of this. Two nights in a row, while I had insomnia from the anti-depressants , I took a mittful of sleeping pills.

On anti-depressants I counted 13 side-effects. Some visible, some not. Amnesia is the annoying one. Not remember what I told people and repeating myself.

There's lack of focus. That's the worst and being unable to compose a memo to my staff, or work on a detailed project. Couldn't do it.

Hair loss - which nobody wants, especially guys.

Nightmares. Really weird.

Another side effect was stage fright, which prevented me from going on the radio. I was just afraid that I couldn't speak coherently, so I stayed away. I stayed off the air for four months.

Anxiety and panic. Not looking forward to upcoming situations, both personal, family and work-related. I started saying to Janice "cancel that!". It was a canceling rampage of lunch dates and fun nights for weeks.

Thoughts of suicide. I thought the point of an anti-depressant was to avoid those thoughts, but sometimes you have them anyway.

One day, working at home on my laptop I went through an hour of sweat, in the middle of winter. I thought, "this is really weird. I'm not a sweaty person. One of the side effects.

Anhedonia - the inability to find any pleasure from daily life.

Akathisia - the inability to sit still. Legs jiggle endlessly.

Muscle twitches, which you can see through my shirt.

Even on anti-depressants I would have two crashes a week. Usually what triggers depression is when someone cancels my plans at the last minute.

So, not focusing, forgetting stuff and turning my disposition on a seconds notice makes for an unstable boy.

My Christian friends, and believe me I have very few true friends, say hurtful things like, "oh you need to read your Bible more". Can't. Can't focus. "You need to got to church more". Don't want to because everyone asks me "how are you doing" and I don't feel like telling anyone, so skipping church is the way out. Or they tell you, "you need to sing worship songs to God". Can't. Can't focus. Extreme ADD. Can't do it.

After promising to "be in my corner" during these months, my best friend deserted me in my greatest time of sorrow. Other friends were "unavailable" and screened my calls. Other friends who cared enough to listen actually tuned me out while still smiling and nodding. Nobody listened. Nobody really cares about other people. Everyone is too busy with their own busy lives.

I met with a psychiatrist for medical help, The Barrie Healing Rooms for spiritual help and a psychologist every two weeks, who was wonderful.

In March I announced to the LIFE staff what was going on. Obviously something was up - I was never at work more than an hour a day.

Generally, people fear what they don't know. There's the "C" word (cancer) we don't like to say. And there's the "depression" word that suggests someone is c-c-crazy.

I have decided to try "a day of rest" each week. It worked for Jesus so I thought I'd try it. I was inspired by the book "Velvet Elvis" in which Pastor Rob Bell turns off his cell phone, computer, texting, email - everything. No contact. No work on his day of rest. I like that.

And I have vowed to God, that when this is over, I will use it as my testimony to help anyone else who loves God, but won't get out of bed.

If you want to help a depressed person, help move them physically from the room they are in. Go outside, turn on the TV, talk about an upcoming event - anything to take their mind off the moment. If they tell you to buzz off, try again. Depressed people want to be pulled out of the moment but won't admit it. 

Scott Jackson is the president of Trust Communications and laid the groundwork for the launching of LIFE 100.3, which launched in 1999. He is also an author and produced More Radio magazine. 

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's My "Right"

Everywhere we turn these days we hear people talking about their "rights." In Canada right now we're watching the drama unfold in Quebec, as students are protesting against the government's plans to raise post-secondary tuition to levels still below those of the rest of Canada. Some students are wanting to push it even further, not only do they not want the increases, they say that have a "right" to free education.

We've only recently come through some highly publicized cases before Human Rights Tribunals where Ezra Levant and others were forced to defend themselves because what they published was offensive to some. Some members of the Islamic community were offended because he published the cartoon which sparked Muslim riots in parts of Europe. The argument was that they had a "right" not to be offended.

Here's the question, what constitutes a "right?" Because I want something, does that mean that I'm entitled to it - as one infamous politician stated, "I'm entitled to my entitlements." We seem to have raised a generation of people who have largely forgotten what rights are and from whence they come.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution famously stated that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." It went on to say that "among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This was a good place to start.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982 lists Fundamental rights as: "freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association." The Canadian Charter begins with a statement that recognizes the supremacy of God, indicating again that these rights flow from our Creator.

That certainly is not the popular perception in a time when people regularly declare that they have a "right" to do basically anything that they want. Let's take a quick look at this subject to see if we can bring some common sense to bear.

Rights imply responsibilities.
This is a point which appears to be lost on most people. Every time we grant someone a right, we create for someone else a responsibility. For example, for the young lady in Quebec who, on the news last night declared that she should have a right to a free post-secondary education, the question is: who, then, has the responsibility to pay for it? The answer is generally the collective "them." "They" will pay for it because "they" can afford it. The problem is that "they" is "us," and we're running out of money.

Whenever government grants a right, like universal health care for example, (which I think is a good thing) they take on the responsibility to provide that. They then reach into our pockets for the money to pay for it. We believe that every child has a right to a basic education, accordingly we are taxed to provide for public schools which everyone can access. (The quality of education available is a subject for another day.)

The ever-increasing provision of "rights" has contributed to an escalating debt-load throughout Western Civilization, to the point where many nations are at risk of economic collapse. Yet, whenever those governments attempt to bring spending under control by making cuts they are met with rioting in the streets. 

Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.
In other words, you can exercise your rights until they infringe upon mine. This is where things get dicey. We have granted the right to freedom of expression, yet have rightly limited that right if it is abused to incite violence, for example. But what about those cases where we simply don't like what someone else is saying, as in the case with Ezra Levant and the Mohammed cartoons? Does Levant have the right to publish something which he knows will offend someone else?

One of the problems that arises when we lose our grip on the origin of rights is it simply becomes a matter of opinion. In Canada we've set up "Human Rights Tribunals," to mediate between parties, as in the Levant case. The problem with them is that, without a firm foundation from which to work, they have simply become a vehicle for social change for radical groups - all paid for by our tax dollars of course.

One issue which has received publicity over the years is the right to freedom of conscience - that a person cannot be compelled to do something that violates their conscience. This arose when pro-life medical professionals were called upon to help with abortions, which they believed to be the killing of an innocent human being. Yet some women believe that they have the "right to choose" what they do with their own body. When the "right to choose" comes up against the "right to freedom of conscience," which one wins. (Never mind the "right to life" of the child.) So far compromise has won the day, but we haven't seen the end of it.

Count Your Blessings
As the recently deceased Charles Colson wrote, "As Christians enjoying freedoms known few other places in the world, we have a special call to speak a sobering word: Rights divorced from responsibilities are the seeds of destruction."

One of the most famous quotes by John F. Kennedy was along these lines: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." As recipients of a society which recognizes basic human rights defended by the blood of our grandfathers, I think it's time to stop whining and start working. A question we should all be asking ourselves is this: how am I contributing to make this world a better place?

Related Articles:
No Justice in Canada for the Unborn
Can We Talk? I Guess Not.
Losing Our Way
Oh Canada!
An Open Letter To Stephen Harper

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Conservatives Turn on Their Own

MP Stephen Woodworth
Stephen Woodworth is a backbench Conservative member of Canada's parliament. He recently put forward a private-member's bill that calls for a committee to be struck to  review Canada's 400 year old law defining when a baby is considered a human being. The current law states that a child is not human until he or she emerges fully alive from his or her mother's womb.

The opposition from the Liberals and the NDP was to be expected, but the vitriol from his own party whip is another thing entirely. Rather than me restating what has already been stated so well, I will simply post a link to this well-written article by Ottawa Citizen reporter David Warren. I hope it makes you think. Here's the link.

I decided to add the video below for your information. It's long (about 35 minutes), but gives a lot of information for anyone who really wants to know the facts. One of my greatest frustrations is that the vast majority of Canadians are unaware of the fact that there is no law protecting unborn children in Canada whatsoever. While most Canadians say they don't want the abortion debate re-opened, that's because most do believe the unborn have some protection. Over 70% of Canadians believe that there should be at least some limits on abortion. The video below has MP Stephen Woodworth presenting his own argument for your consideration.

Related Articles:
No Justice in Canada for the Unborn
Heads In The Sand
Why the abortion issue won't go away
Canada Now an Abortion Destination
Can We Talk? I Guess Not.

The Power of Forgiveness

kimphucAbout five years ago I helped to arrange a couple of speaking engagements for a Vietnamese lady by the name of Kim Phuc. Kim is famous for a photo that was snapped of her which became an icon and earned a Pulitzer Prize. In the photo (shown below), 9 year old Kim is seen running from her village with others, her clothing having been burned off by napalm, as they had been mistakenly attacked as enemy soldiers.

Kim spent 14 months in hospital and had 17 surgical procedures. She was then used as a propaganda tool by the Communist North Vietnamese government. After being given leave to study in Cuba, Kim was married and, on their honeymoon, got off a plane in Gander, Newfoundland at a refueling stop and asked for political asylum in Canada. She has since moved to Toronto, and now speaks on behalf of child victims of war, having started the Kim Phuc Foundation International.  


The reason I thought of Kim was that I was preparing to write on the subject of forgiveness. I remembered her powerful words on the subject as she spoke at our local High School and to our church. She is one who can speak with authority on the subject, having endured horrible suffering as a victim of war. In 1996, Kim publicly forgave an American pilot who believed that he was the one who had dropped the bomb on her village.

The subject of forgiveness is a touchy one. Many people feel that forgiving someone is tantamount to letting them get away with what they've done. But what they don't understand is that not forgiving actually costs the victim more. As Kim said, "The anger inside me was like a hatred as high as a mountain. I hated my life. I hated all people who were normal because I was not normal. I really wanted to die many times." I've met many who have shared the same kind of sentiment. 

In 1982, Kim came to faith in Jesus Christ and, with that, found the capacity to forgive. She said, "God helped me to learn to forgive - the most difficult of all lessons. It didn't happen in a day and it wasn't easy. But I finally got it. Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed." 

Most people would not have the depth of emotion Kim experienced and perhaps wouldn't describe their feelings as hatred, yet the power of those emotions is real nonetheless. It keeps them from living life to the fullest; they avoid people and places; relationships are hindered and damage is done to the soul. What should we do when we find ourselves trapped by unforgiveness? Here are some keys.

Start at the Cross
The cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest symbol and example of forgiveness that we have been given. It was from the cross that Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He prayed this for the soldiers who mercilessly tortured him. In the cross, we find forgiveness and mercy offered to all of us. Kim spoke of the power of this reality in her own life. She could forgive because she had been forgiven. 

Choose to Forgive
Forgiveness, ultimately, is a choice. It's a decision to no longer hold something over someone's head. It releases the forgiver to move forward with their life and let go of the past. Choosing not to forgive locks us in time at the place where we were hurt. It continues that person's power over us. As someone said, "not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."   

Forgiving Doesn't Require Forgetting    
We are human, and we don't forget much, except maybe where we put the car keys. What we can do is refuse to let the memory rule our lives. We choose to walk in a new reality.

Forgiving Allows Healing
Every one of us who has lived long enough has been hurt by someone in our lives. For many, those wounds are sensitive and anyone who brushes against them emotionally may pay the price - including friends and family. But when we choose to forgive, the power of that event is broken and healing can begin. It may take time, but good can actually come from the bad events in our lives. I'll give the final word to Kim. “Having known war, I now know the value of peace. Having lived with pain, I know the value of love. Having lost everything, I now know the value of cherishing everything I have that’s important and having known hatred, I now know the value and the power of faith and forgiveness.” 

Related Articles: 
Get Over It
Are You a People Person?
Book Review: "It Came From Within!"
Repacking the baggage of our lives
Looking Back


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Get Over It

John Donne said that "no man is an island." We all live in community; our lives brush up against others on a daily basis. Even the most introverted among us impacts a group of people, however small. For that reason alone, maintaining healthy relationships is a life skill that none can do without. And perhaps the greatest enemy of relationship is a little thing called offense.

An offense is that thing, be it large or small, that somehow finds its way between people and, unless dealt with, severs whatever bond once existed. I've seen it happen so often that, at times, it becomes almost nauseating. I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. So, how can we avoid being a casualty to this thing called offense? 

Be Honest With Yourself 
One of the best ways to keep relationships intact is to give up on the illusion of your own perfection. You and I have made mistakes - plenty of them. That fact in itself should help us to extend a little more grace to others. There are days when I have not felt well and have said things I shouldn't have. Without the grace of others, I could have, and likely have, done damage to relationships. There are other times when I, in my stress or fatigue, have taken someone else's words or behavior and willfully took offense, when I knew that was not their intention. These actions are my responsibility; the fault lies with no-one else.

Remember That People Are Just People 
We tend to expect a lot more from others than we do from ourselves. We tend to judge others quickly for what they do or say yet we judge ourselves by our intentions. There is a lot of wisdom in Jesus' words when He said to "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Take a moment and think about what that person may have gone through already, what battle they may be facing. We are all human, subject to illness, fatigue, financial problems, work issues, family challenges, etc... You are not the only one with a sad story.

Practice Good Will
This is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received. It has saved me a mountain of grief and kept me from walking away from people I love. Good will is very simply believing the best about a person until being proven otherwise. This works in marriage and family life, workplace relationships and friendships. It's a conscious choice. Here's how it works in real life. Let's say I'm speaking with someone and they say something that could very easily be taken the wrong way.

When I have good will, I assume that either I've heard them wrong or they've said something in a way they didn't intend. (And you know we've all done this). I then give them an opportunity to restate that thought. This usually results in a good result because they never intended to hurt me in the first place. If it's still offensive, I can tell them so and ask them what is going on that they would say that. I have found this almost always leads to an apology or a necessary conversation to resolve an issue.

On rare occasions, the person has real issues and is willfully causing damage. Notice what Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."The implication here is that sometimes it's just not possible. It's hard to hug a porcupine, you get hurt every time. Sometimes avoidance is necessary.

Admit When You Are Wrong
When we admit our mistakes it gives others permission and courage to admit theirs. I know people who make it a policy never to admit they are wrong. I don't know who they are trying to fool. They don't even look like Jesus! When we admit our mistakes we become more likeable and more approachable, especially as leaders. Far from being a sign of weakness, I believe it's a sign of strength. Shock your wife and children, apologize! It will do you all a world of good.

Submit Your Relationships To God
This may be a new idea to some of you but it sure has worked for me. Jesus spoke so much about relationships that we know that it matters to God. His desire is that we love each other, in fact, the New Testament is full of the "one anothers" - love one another, forgive one another, be kind to one another, encourage one another, etc... It also says to pray one for another. I have found that it is very difficult to stay angry with someone when I'm praying for them. As a Christian, if you can't pray for someone, you have major issues. Deal with them.

Build Bridges Instead of Walls
We are always responsible for our own behavior. We might be dealing with a difficult person, but that doesn't give us permission to act childishly in response. Another Biblical truth is this: "a soft answer turns away wrath." While, obviously proverbial, I have found this to be true in most cases. It takes two to fight, and if you don't take offense you may actually win a friend. Who has offended you? Extend a hand. Bake a pie. Buy a coffee or simply say "hello." One final piece of advice: when you're having relationship issues with someone, don't post it on Facebook!

Related Articles:  
Made For Relationship
Book Review: "The Me I Want To Be"
Are You a People Person?
Repacking the baggage of our lives
How to Choose to Not Be Offended


Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Turn it Off" - The Principle of Restoration

This is a reprint of an article that appeared first in August of 2011. I hope you find it helpful.

Part 6 of 6
Over the past week we’ve been going through a series focused on how to make positive change in our lives. This is the conclusion of the series. Just before we get into it, let’s review.

Part 1: Put God First – The Principle of Priority
Part 2: Take Out the Trash – The Principle of Transformation
Part 3: Do Your Own Dishes – The Principle of Responsibility
Part 4: Write It Down – The Principle of Clarity
Part 5: Do It Now – The Principle of Inertia

Turn It Off – The Principle of Restoration. My wife and I just returned from a week-long vacation to Oregon a few weeks ago. As we were getting ready to leave I remember the stress and the pressure to get things done. There were plans to be made, messages to finish, a wedding to prepare for that would take place as soon as I got back. My wife had schedules to prepare and amend, lessons to plan, and many other stresses to cope with.

But once we got on the plane, we settled in, put on a movie, enjoyed the view out the window and thought about reconnecting with people we hadn’t seen in a long time. The week was a whirlwind of activity, talking, laughing, reminiscing and enjoying one anothers company. We didn’t intentionally set out to be renewed and refreshed but it happened, because we were able to turn off the work motor and give our minds and bodies a break. That’s the way that we are designed.

We live in a world that is constantly telling us to do more, go faster, hurry up, work harder, earn more. And sometimes, those messages are true and good. God made us to be productive; there is a dignity and value in hard work and creativity. If we don’t have an outlet for those things there is something lacking in our lives. But the same God who created the world in six days set us an example by taking the seventh day as a day of rest.

He didn’t do that because He was tired; He did it in order that we would know that we should rest as well. In Exodus 20:8-11 as God was handing down the law to the Jewish nation through Moses, He said this: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” It is the fourth commandment.

The law was given as a part of the covenant agreement with God’s people, the Jewish nation. There is still a lot of discussion about what the law has to do with us who live on the other side of the New Testament. My purpose today is not to dig too deeply into that, but I will touch on it. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to fulfill the law and He also came to establish a new covenant with us – a covenant of grace. Paul wrote about the Sabbath in Colossians 2:16-17 – “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

Hebrews 4 speaks about the Sabbath rest for the people of God and how that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ by His finished work on the cross. Because of what He did, we no longer have to “labour” in law-keeping in order to be justified in the sight of God and this includes the observance of the Sabbath. Jesus was sent so that we might rest in God and in what He has provided.

By saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest was put in place to relieve man of his labours, just as He came to relieve us of our attempting to earn salvation by our works. We no longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our labouring to attain God’s favour. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever. There is no other Sabbath rest besides Jesus. He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law, and He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God’s plan for us to cease from the labour of our own works.

There is nothing sacred about any particular day, either. The Old Testament Sabbath was Saturday. After Jesus’ resurrection, the early church changed the day of worship to Sunday, the first day of the week, likely in remembrance of the day that Jesus rose from the dead. But in Acts 2 and elsewhere we see that the early Christians also met on other days of the week. In our culture, for centuries, Sunday was set aside as a day of rest and worship because the vast majority of people were Christians and Sunday was when public services were held. Stores were not allowed to be open, there were no organized sports on Sunday, and most everyone took the day off work. I don’t think we’ve gained anything by changing that.

However, all that being said, the principle of restoration still applies in our lives, not as some kind of legalistic thing that we must do to win favour with God, not to make anyone feel guilty who has to work on Sundays, but as a practice that enables us to be refreshed and refocused on a regular basis. We’re not made to have the switch always set to “on.” John Ross Schroeder called the condition of our age “Hurry Sickness.” It’s to the point that many feel like a hamster on a wheel. They get on as a young adult and can never find the way off. But let’s look at what we see in the Biblical pattern.

We see, in the way that God has created nature, that there is an order to everything. The earth orbits around the sun every 24 hours and spins on its axis so that there is a day and a night. From the dawn of creation, the day has been for work and the night has been for sleep. Before electricity this was especially so. People would wake at first light to take advantage of the sun and they would sleep at night. Studies have revealed that, on average, we sleep 90 minutes less than our ancestors just 100 years ago. With the rise of the internet and satellite and cable TV, we’re sleeping 25 minutes less than we did even 10 years ago.

God also divided time up in chunks of seven days. There are seven days in a week – not 50. Our Creator knew that we have limits, and we need a break every seven days. You can manipulate that any way you want to, you can pretend that you’re invincible and work crazy shifts for weeks on end without a break, but eventually it catches up to you. We all need that break.

Time has become such a valuable commodity that we joke about wishing there were more hours in a day. I don’t wish that. I find that no matter how many hours there are in a day, I can fill them with busyness. What I need is wisdom to know how to manage those 24 hours properly. In Psalms 90:12 we read: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Alan Redpath, former pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, had a plaque on his wall that read: “Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.” So, time is important; it is a precious commodity. What do we need time for as it relates to our subject today?

Time to rest.
We need time to rest. It doesn’t matter who you are, how smart, how strong or how talented – you need times of regular rest. I have learned this the hard way in my own life. I know that many have joked that pastors only work one day a week, but I think you’d be surprised. There are times when I’ve allowed the demands of ministry to crowd out my schedule to the point where it seemed that days off were only a rumour. I’ve foolishly allowed myself to be stretched beyond where I could easily recover. It’s interesting that the time the board advised me to take off to recuperate some years ago was called a “sabbatical” – a time of rest.

Jesus, entrusted with the most important mission in the history of the world, regularly took time apart to rest. He also encouraged His disciples to do the same. In Mark 6:31 it says, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” We all need it. For you workaholics out there - Stop! It’s okay to take a break.

Time to recreate.
When we think of recreation we usually think of sports or outdoor activities – things that we do. What do they have to do with our well-being? Merriam-Webster defines the word “recreate” like this: “to give new life or freshness to.” Particularly for those of us who sit at a desk for a good portion of our day, it’s important to get out and do something that gets the motor running.

Looking back on our trip to Oregon, it’s amazing how many activities we packed into a short period of time, and how good it felt as we were doing those things. Recreation is literally the refreshment of one's mind or body after work through activity that amuses or stimulates. For some that may mean a long walk, for someone else it might be a good book or a puzzle; for others it might be strenuous physical activity, but it really does recreate us.

Time to reflect.
The late author Norman Cousins observed: "We in America have everything we need except the most important thing of all, time to think and the habit of thought." In a world that is chaotic and non-stop and where mindless entertainment is available 24/7, one of the most important things that we can do is to unplug from all of that and allow our minds some activity.

Taking some time apart allows us the space to really look at our lives. For a lot of people I know, the thought of that terrifies them. They have no desire to stop and consider the current state of things. It’s much easier just to keep running. What is going well in your life? Are your relationships healthy? Are you fulfilled? Are you growing? Are you happy with the direction you are headed? What problems are you facing? What can you do to face them and fix them? Pick your own questions.

Read good books that inspire and challenge you. Listen to good music that lifts and motivates you. Engage your mind in something challenging. It might hurt the first few times, but you’ll get over it.

Time to reconnect…
With Others. The final subject I want to touch on is the need to reconnect. It seems that the inevitable thing that falls through the cracks of our busy lives is relationship. We love our family and we love our friends, but in our busyness, we just don’t have time to keep those relationships healthy. But when we live on purpose, and by our priorities, we can change that.

God made us for relationship. Much of what Jesus shared in the Gospels was on the subject of relationships. He gave us the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The writers of the letters of the New Testament followed His lead. In Ephesians 4:32 Paul wrote: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” I have a list in my files of all of the “one anothers” in the New Testament. It’s a lengthy list. “Love one another, bear one another’s burdens, care for one another, pray for one another…” The list is an extensive one.

It was John Andrew Holmes who said "It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others."

With God.
When we get back to the heart of the principle of the Sabbath rest, the underlying need is for us to remember our desperate need of God. We are so prone to forget Him. As the old hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” I wish I could write a song that captures that sentiment for this generation the way that one did in the 1700s. What’s the point? The point is this – if God is to be the priority in our lives and truly be the rock upon which we stand, we have to regularly take the time to re-center ourselves on that reality.

We need to take the time to read and hear His Word; we need to take the time to foster a relationship with Him through prayer; we need to take the time for corporate worship; we need to stop and focus our minds attention on Him: His Word, His will, His world. When we take the time to create an opportunity and an openness, God will speak to us. But we have to take the time. What has God been speaking to you about lately? If you don’t have an answer to that question, why not?

Some my find it odd that the last principle in a series on bringing about positive change is related to rest. How are we to change if we stop and rest? It has been my experience that when I live my life in proper balance, and take those breaks, I have the energy needed to take on those necessary changes. It is a part of God's plan and ongoing pattern for our lives.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

Related Articles:
Developing Great Habits
Seven Keys For A Better Life
Think For Yourself! Don't Get Stuck in a "Filter Bubble"
I Love Me!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Do It Now" - The Principle of Inertia

This is a reprint of an article that appeared first in August of 2011. I hope you find it helpful.

Part 5 of 6
This is the continuation of a series based on the book "Good to Great in God's Eyes" by Chip Ingram. Here's a review of the first four: 
Part 1: Put God First – The Principle of Priority
Part 2: Take Out the Trash – The Principle of Transformation
Part 3: Do Your Own Dishes – The Principle of Responsibility
Part 4: Write it Down - The Principle of Clarity 

Inertia has been defined as "the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest or of a body in straight line motion to stay in motion in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force." There is a propensity with most of us to stay where we are and to continue doing what we have been doing. Yet it also is true that "if we always do what we've always done, we'll always get what we've always gotten."

If you've read this far in the series it's quite likely that you really are wanting to make positive change in your life. If so, this key is vital for you: start now. The world is full of people who have every intention of doing the right thing. They're planning on saving, losing weight, getting in shape, charting a growth plan for their life or any number of worthwhile goals. Yet it never seems to happen.

For some it's because they suffer from "the paralysis of analysis" - the need to look at every aspect of the decision in minute detail. They fear making a mistake; so they wait for the "perfect" opportunity, but such do not exist. It's like they're stuck: ready, aim, aim, aim, aim... At some point, if we're going to get something done, we have to begin. "Fire" already!

Some wise person said "if you have to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning." While I have no desire to eat a frog, the point is valid. Get the project you dread out of the way as quickly as possible. The reason for this is obvious: the longer we wait, the larger the problem becomes in our minds. It grows fangs and claws and hair and learns how to hit us where it hurts!!! As William James said, "Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task." Conversely, dealing with issues or challenges early gives us a sense of accomplishment that helps with whatever else we might face.

One thing that I've found helpful is developing the habit of prioritizing. Once I list my tasks for the day I place them in order of priority. I try to tackle the most important things first. The challenge, however, is to not wait for something to become a crisis before it makes it to our priority list. Developing the habit of doing the small things in a timely matter can prevent them from becoming larger and more urgent down the road. As Chip Ingram writes: "When you've procrastinated and have a week's worth of papers to file, twelve calls to return, several days' worth of homework or office projects to complete, and five loads of laundry to do, it's a little demotivating, isn't it?"

Once we push ourselves into that kind of a corner, it can be overwhelming to get out. What I've learned over the years, as I've found myself in those situations, is to "lean into it." A leadership principle that applies here is to "accept the pressure of the moment." Resist the urge to throw your hands up in the air and run in the other direction, or to simply curl up on the couch. Simply begin by starting with that which is in front of you. In establishing the discipline of doing it now you can save yourself from a world of problems later. As my mother always told me, "never put off until tomorrow what you could do today."

Related Articles:
"Do Your Own Dishes" - The Principle of Responsibility
"Write It Down" - The Principle of Clarity
"Take Out the Trash" - The Principle of Transformation
“Put God First” - The Principle of Priority
Developing Great Habits

Friday, May 11, 2012

No Justice in Canada for the Unborn

Yesterday in Ottawa, 15,000+ Canadians rallied at Parliament Hill against Canada's lack of an abortion law. You likely won't hear much of this elsewhere. The event is largely ignored by most media outlets. Remarkably, Canada is the only developed nation in the world without a law restricting abortion.

The mantra continues to be repeated by the mainstream media that the issue is closed and Canadians don't want to reopen the abortion debate. In my opinion, Canadians are ignorant to the facts and are unaware that there are virtually no limits on abortion in the country. See link. What this means is that a child can be legally killed with it's body halfway out of the birth canal. I have yet to meet anyone who believes that this is just, yet this is the law. In fact, according to Angus Reid, 40% of Canadians believe that abortion is restricted after 3 months gestation. How can we have closed debate when many are not even aware of the basic facts?

Recently, backbench MP Stephen Woodworth put forward a motion to review the countries archaic 400 year old law that states that a child is not human until it proceeds fully alive from its mother's womb. Sadly, our Conservative? Prime Minister responded that he was disappointed that it made it to the floor; that he would be voting against it and that he would not allow the bill to pass. The  most defenseless in our society have no-one with any power who is willing to stand up and speak for them.

The battle for pro-lifers seems to be an uphill one. Pro-life groups are shut out of many Canadian university campuses (those bastions of free speech); pro-life ads often become the subject of lawsuits, and any politician who sticks his head up to even look like they support the pro-life position is immediately targeted. Witness the CBC reaction story to the Ottawa mayor proclaiming May 11 to be Respect For Life Day as just one example.

What many don't realize is that this issue is only symptomatic of a much larger issue. The devaluing of human life is justified in the name of women's rights, yet it has resulted in, what has been called, "gendercide" - the aborting of fetuses simply because they are girls. It has now become common practice for women from China, India and other eastern nations to come to Canada to have abortions once it's determined they are carrying a girl. On what basis do we criticize them?

A story just broke last week from South Korea of the seizure of thousands of tablets containing the powdered remains of human fetuses. These were intended for use by people who believe they have medicinal value. According to the Korea Customs Service, the bodies of dead babies are chopped into small pieces and dried on stoves before being turned into powder. Many among the academic elite of North America have applauded China's one-child policy - the reality is not so pretty is it? Revealingly, this story has barely caused a ripple. Does it matter?

When we devalue life - any life - it devalues us all. I still hear people say things like "mind your own business," or "get your hands off my ovaries." Is it really that simple? Ordinary Germans were told by the Nazis to mind their own business, as well, when their neighbors were rounded up and taken to concentration camps. The roundup occurred after a sustained campaign declaring these people groups as sub-human or "untermensch."

The question to be answered is still when does human life begin? Surely, in a civilized society, we can agree that it at least begins when a baby is viable outside of his or her mother's womb. Britain has restricted abortion after 24 weeks, France after 12. Only in Canada, among developed nations, is there absolutely no restrictions. It's long past time for a change. If the subject makes you uncomfortable, get over it, this discussion needs to take place.

Related Articles:
Heads In The Sand
Why the abortion issue won't go away
Canada Now an Abortion Destination
"Gendercide" - A Deeper Look
Can We Talk? I Guess Not.
When is Killing Your Baby Okay?
What is a "wrongful birth?"

"Write it Down" - The Principle of Clarity

This is a reprint of an article that appeared first in August of 2011. I hope it's helpful.

We’re already at part four of a six part series about making positive change in our lives. Let me do a quick review:

Part 1: Put God First – The Principle of Priority
Part 2: Take Out the Trash – The Principle of Transformation
Part 3: Do Your Own Dishes – The Principle of Responsibility

You’ll notice, as we’ve progressed through this series that these principles we have laid down are building on each other. As we learn to really place God in that position of priority in our lives, our perspective begins to change; we start to see things differently. We also begin to see ourselves differently. We start to become aware of those things in our lives that actually get in the way of our accomplishing God’s will. We then can bring the junk in our lives to God, so that He can transform it into good stuff.

As we grow and change we’re able to take our place and assume our share of the responsibility in God’s Kingdom. We understand that each and every one of us is important in God’s plan and that, for everything to work properly, we all play a part. So now what? Where do we go from there? Proverbs 20:5 says “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”

In this essay we’re exploring how it is that we discern God’s will for our lives. In Habakkuk 2 we find a place where God has been revealing to His prophet things that are to come. Read what it says in verse 2: "Then the LORD replied: 'Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.'"

I believe that this provides us with a clue. There is a power in writing things down. It helps us to clarify what we truly believe. It gives focus to our intentions and even helps us to see where we’re wrong. It also helps us to remember in the dark times what God has showed us in the good times.

A few years ago I sat down and started looking at my values. I asked myself the question, what is it that I truly think is important? As I was preparing this series I went back and reviewed the list that I came up with. Here are some examples:
• I will place God first in my life.
• I will be a man of integrity.
• I will maintain a positive attitude.
• I will be committed to my family.
• I will be innovative in leading the church.
• I will be committed to personal growth.
• I will be committed to excellence.
• I will remember that everyone is someone for whom Christ died.

There are a few others, but you get the idea. I felt that writing them down helped me to clarify those things to which I was really committed. There were some things I thought were important, but when I began to try to put pen to paper I reconsidered. Seeing them in black and white made me realize they didn’t belong on that list. Some people have found it helpful to put each of these values on a 3” x 5” card that they carried in their car or kept in a place where they could refer to them often. It helped them to keep focus. Others have done this same exercise as a family, they’ve actually sat down as a family and written down agreed upon values. It reminds me of Joshua, who declared in Joshua 24:15, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” This list gave me a beginning point in developing a growth plan for my life. For each of those I then began to make a to-do list of things that could help me in those areas.

For example, under “I will place God first” I wrote these points:
• My definition of success is to find what God would have me do and do it.
• I will make it a priority to spend time alone with God daily for prayer and devotion.
• I will not neglect the reading of God’s Word.

These statements help me to refocus when life gets going too crazy. I revisit this and remind myself of what should come first and foremost.

I also use a personal planner. Part of that is because of my personality. I know that if I don’t write it down I will tend to forget it. I also know that writing it down and prioritizing it helps me to be more efficient. So, if you look at my planner, you’ll find that right near the top of the list each day is Prayer and Bible reading. Every day I will either be able to check those items off the list or be reminded that I need to pay more attention. This habit has helped me to develop other positive habits in my life.

Another thing that I have learned to use more effectively is a calendar. As soon as I make a commitment I put that on a calendar. Then I regularly review the calendar to see which of those items are going to require some advance work. I can then break those tasks down into steps and actually put them in my to-do list in the order they need to be done. One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is that you have to eat an elephant one bite at a time. Break a large job down into many steps and any task becomes doable.

We look at the Biblical example of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. Nehemiah was a Jew living in captivity in Persia, now known as Iran. He had never been to Jerusalem because he was born a captive. Many years before, his ancestors had been carried away by the Babylonians when Jerusalem fell. The city walls and temple were destroyed.

Now generations later, some of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem and had begun to worship God again in the nation of Israel. But they were leaderless and confused. They didn’t know God’s expectations of them and were living far beneath God’s plan for them. But, remember, God always has a plan. He had prepared this man by the name of Nehemiah – he had been placed in the position of cupbearer to the king.

He heard about the situation in Jerusalem; that the walls were broken down; that the people were confused; that there were enemies all around them. And a very strange thing happened – Nehemiah’s heart began to break. Something took place inside the heart of a servant in Persia that would affect the nation of Israel hundreds of miles away. A lot of times in church we call this a burden or a calling.

God places a burden, a weight, on an individual and they know that they must do something. They may be sitting in a service, hearing someone talk or simply reading a magazine article about a place, a people or a need and they just begin to feel this overwhelming sense of responsibility. Anyone who’s done anything of eternal significance has felt this weight, this burden, this call.

You hear it represented in John Knox as he declared “Give me Scotland, else I die.” You hear it in William Booth as he said “While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight-I'll fight to the very end!” And here we see it in Nehemiah. It says in Nehemiah 1:4, “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”

So here’s the question. How does a servant cupbearer in Persia, who has never been to Jerusalem, rebuild the walls of that city hundreds of miles away?

How does a simple preacher in Scotland change the spiritual climate of a nation? How does an evangelist in England build a worldwide organization, the Salvation Army, which is synonymous with compassionate ministry? He does it one bite, one step, at a time.

Nehemiah started with an audience with the king – he took advantage of what he had at his disposal, his relationship with the king. He asked for letters of safe passage (in other words, the king’s protection). Then he asked for enough materials to do the job. Once there he assessed the situation. Then he recruited his volunteers and set to work. He broke it down into steps, and for our sake, he wrote it down. In spite of opposition and challenges, the wall was built.

Do you want to know God’s will for your life? Here are some keys:
• Immerse yourself in the Word of God – this is primarily how God speaks to us.
• Spend time in prayer – this is how God molds our hearts.
• Learn your spiritual gifts. The Bible tells us that all Christians have some.
• Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. Be faithful.

Once those habits are established in your life, answer these questions:
• What do you cry about?
• What do you laugh about?
• What do you dream about?

The answers to those questions will go a long way in helping to reveal your passions and discerning God’s will for your life. Writing down what you receive will help to bring clarity of purpose and enable you to focus on that which is most important. As someone said, "It's only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal."

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all our ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Related Articles:
Developing Great Habits
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Do Your Own Dishes" - The Principle of Responsibility

This is a reprint of an article that appeared first in August of 2011. It's been one of my most popular posts ever since. I hope it strikes a chord with you.

This lesson is Part 3 of a 6 part series on making positive change in our lives. It's based, in part, on the book Good to Great in God's Eyes by Chip Ingram. I ran across a poem by Edna Wheeler Wilcox in one of John Maxwell's books. I liked it so much I still remember the gist of it years later. Here is part of it:

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people on earth today,
Two kinds of people no more I say.
Not the good or the bad, for it's well understood,
The good are half bad, the bad are half good.
No! the two kinds of people on earth I mean,
Are the people who lift, (and)the people who lean.

This writing is about responsibility, specifically, taking responsibility for our own lives. Many of us grew up with mothers who, regardless of the busyness of their own schedules, would be sure that all of the dishes in the house were washed and dried. A wise mother eventually teaches her children how to take responsibility and do their own dishes. Unfortunately, there are a great many people who, though well into adulthood, are still refusing to take responsibility for their own lives.

Some have grown quite proficient at the "blame game." It's not their fault that they forgot to pay the utilities bill; didn't see the stop sign; had teachers that didn't understand them, etc... ad nauseum. There are some who have accepted the role of victim, constantly bemoaning the fact that "life isn't fair" and that they never get a break. To be honest, I have played that card a few times in my life and understand the sentiment. But what I've learned is that it's simply not helpful.

There are a few things that we need to understand about life. First of all, as I said in the first part of this series: life isn't fair. Some people do seem to have more breaks than others. Some are born with wealthy parents who love them; others are born into poverty and abusive environments. Some breeze through school with healthy self-esteem; some struggle painfully at every level. Regardless of our lot in life, the principle of responsibility teaches that we must own up to whatever reality we face.

It is quite remarkable looking at a list of all of the great men and women of history who overcame great odds to make a difference. Sir Isaac Newton's father died before Isaac was born; his mother raised him in poverty. He went on to become one of the fathers of modern science and discovered the law of gravity. Benjamin Franklin was the 15th of 17th children and only had one year's formal education. Yet he taught himself 4 languages, science, finance, politics and much more and became a great statesman and author. There are legions of others. Conversely, the tabloids are full of failures who came from a life of privilege. I believe one of the key differences is the principle we're speaking of today.

If you want to make a difference in this world you have to be honest with yourself. As John Maxwell states, "no matter where you are, there you are." You might wish to start elsewhere, but that is not up to you. The truth is, it doesn't matter whose fault it is, if it's about you, it's your responsibility. What does this look like in real life?

You may have had a troubled childhood, with painful memories that have scarred and affected you deeply. I'm not minimizing anyone's pain, but there are two clear choices I see. You can wallow in that pain, allowing it to limit your progress and define your future, or you can choose to move through it, allowing it to make you stronger. Though it may not be your fault, it is still your responsibility. The effect of ignoring the problem may mean that your children, or others you love, pay the price, and an ugly cycle is repeated. Do your own dishes.

There are some incredible examples in the Bible of people who overcame horrible obstacles to make their mark on history, partly because they chose to view the events of their past through the lens of God's sovereignty. These examples include Joseph, sold into slavery by his own brothers, wrongfully accused, convicted and imprisoned, only to be eventually raised to the right hand of the Pharaoh of Egypt. You can see his positive perspective in his statement to his brothers once he reached the throne: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)

Believing that God loves you is one of the keys to being able to face up to our responsibilities. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." When you think you're facing more than you can handle, hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

The good news is that God hasn't left us alone. He will walk with us through whatever storms that life may throw at us. He will help us to redeem and even redefine our past. As Peter said, in 2 Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." You can choose to make the world a better place by what you do with what you have. Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? Don't lean - lift!

Related Articles:
"Take Out the Trash" - The Principle of Transformation
“Put God First” - The Principle of Priority
Developing Great Habits
Book Review: "It Came From Within!"
The Great Paradox