Series 26


We Brainwash Children

“What are you going to do, brainwash the kids?” Ethan said. His sarcastic laughter revealed his non-approving bent. I didn’t respond.

I had just informed Ethan; because of Saturday’s commitment to lead the children’s service at the Free Church, attending a family get-together would be impossible.

He was half-joking, half-serious when he referred to our gathering of children to study God’s word and engage in some wholesome activities as a brainwashing session.

If I would have responded to Ethan, I might have said, “Yes we brainwash children, that’s exactly what we are doing.” I’m serious. There’s even a Biblical mandate to do so: “Do not be conformed to this world—fashioned after and adapted to its external and superficial ways. But be transformed, changed by the entire renewal of your mind.”

Even Ethan knows this is not by force. Actually, it’s very common for the kids to come running full tilt towards my vehicle when I arrive in their neighborhood for pickup. But he probably hasn’t fully considered this; everyone is being brainwashed in some way by everything they encounter daily. TV, music, computer feed, books, people---the list is nearly endless.

Yes, we brainwash the children. To follow the ways of God, to love God, to love people, to say kind words, to respect authority, to be generous, to be truthful, to honor their parents…

And like the children, we all need some degree of brainwashing-- some renewing of our minds. It’s an ongoing procedure. And like the children, we decide which sources will be the instruments of this life-changing process. The children are choosing to let God and His Word be their brainwasher.

The Bible offers a superb goal: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ.” Yes, let us all start thinking the way Jesus would.


God Heals with A Can of Tuna

It was 2:00 a.m. Because of her ongoing sicknesses, Cathy found sleeping in her recliner more restful. Her prolonged health problems were still not effectively diagnosed.

Once again, she was unable to sleep. Cathy suddenly felt a very distinct impression from God: “I want you to start eating meat.” She had been vegetarian for thirty-three years. Now, Cathy is quick to clarify; this was a message for her. Not an edict against vegetarianism.

God continued: “Go to the pantry. There will be a can of tuna. Rinse it and eat it.” The can of tuna wasn’t unusual because Cathy’s husband was a meat eater.  So without hesitation, she obeyed God in making an instant major lifestyle change.

And she admits, “I always thought my way of eating was just a little better than other people’s.” Even as she was eating the tuna, God revealed this attitude as pride. She initially resisted this admonition. But, “Within sixty second, I saw my pride,” Cathy says.

God detests pride. But Cathy claims the most vivid lesson she learned was the importance of being obedient to God.

The Bible records these words from Samuel the prophet “To obey is better than sacrifice.” These words are aimed at Saul, the king of Israel. Samuel continued: “Because you (Saul) have rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you as king.” One act of disobedience cost Saul his position as king.

Sure, it’s unlikely a person will be dethroned because of disobedience. Though you will likely miss God’s best plan for your life.  Plus obedience to God has big dividends. Ask Cathy. “I regained my health in a very, very short period of time,” she says. 

Need some life improvement-- big or small? Need God’s blessings? Obedience to God may be your answer.


Will Work for Faith

He smiled when I finished the prayer. Even with an ultra busy schedule, I had eked out time for lunch with Phillip.

The smile-making prayer was simple: “Father God, thank you for the food. Help Phillip get a job.” Phillip especially liked the job part. We were eating at a fast-food restaurant as Phillip filled out their job application form. For completion, he only lacked his Social Security number. I said, “We can get it when I drop you off. Then I’ll bring the application back here on my way home.”

After a whirlwind of other stops, I was back at the restaurant. Handing the manager the application, she said: “We’re doing interviews between two and five.” Glancing at my watch, I felt the weight of several commitments stacked ahead of me. Yet I knew, if I didn’t drive Phillip to the interview, he wouldn’t make it.

As a tension reaction, I said: “I don’t have time.”

Heading towards my car, my prayer from a few hours ago, popped into my head. “Father God…help Phillip get a job.” Thinking: “Did I really mean that prayer?”

Yes, it was a prayer of faith. Still I knew what the Bible said: “What does it profit, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”  And another Scripture says, “Faith without works is dead.”

Now that I had prayed for Phillip, work was required to make the faith come alive. Still, faith and works were clashing as an I-can’t-do-everything thought crashed my mind.   So the faith I needed was for God to give me strength.

My day finally ended at 11:30 p.m. Phillip got his ride. And a mountain of other tasks were completed. Praise God! All possible because I chose to combine faith and works.

Faith applied: it works!


Anti-Stupid Solution

“I did something really stupid,” Brent told me. He looked sickish. This prompted me to ask: “Is there something wrong?”

I see 14 year-old Brent often at a group I lead at church. Even though he’s been faithfully attending for two years, Christ-like behavior has only minimally appeared in his life. And because of past behavior “really stupid” could mean nearly anything.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I said. He glanced down a moment and then looked at me; slowly saying, “Yeah.” Because Brent was minutes away from leaving on a family camping trip, we agreed to talk another time.

Eight days later at church, I reminded Brent of our agreement. He stalled. I didn’t press. Then the cork popped as his story spilled out rapid-fire.

Brent’s friend Perez gave him a 22 caliber pistol. And then Brent took it over to his friend Jonathan’s house. So now we have an immature 14 year-old showing his immature 13 year-old friend a loaded pistol.

Jonathan’s dad caught them.

I didn’t ask, but I was thinking: “Would possessing the gun have been really stupid if you hadn’t got caught?” With Brent, like most humans, the flip to “really stupid” probably occurred when he got caught.

But we get caught; don’t we? Now what do we do?

This can be approached in a multitude of ways. I gave Brent this scripture. “A righteous person may fall seven times, but they rise again.”

Doing stupid things is inevitable. And getting caught is highly likely. Now the righteous person, the person who wants to live Godly, will get back on track.

Be smart. Rise again.  Apologize to people and make restitution. Most importantly, ask our ever-loving God for forgiveness. And then you will rise again. This time to a life more pleasing to God.


Do You Need a Wet Spot?

“I hit a wet spot,” Richard said as he walked through the door. Dark clouds loomed outside, but it appeared the near-drought was continuing.

“What do you mean Richard?” I asked. He explained the contrast between wet and dry seasons in his ability to produce artwork. For months he was unable to do any of his pen and ink drawings.  But today Richard had with him more than a dozen pieces, many which he had produced in the last few days. He had shifted from dry to a flowing wet spot artistically.

Richard’s experience reminds me of what is known as the “desert or wilderness experience.” John Bevere, an author I greatly appreciate, says: “The wilderness—a place or time period through which every Christian must pass as he draws nearer to God...”

And the Bible says: “The LORD your God led you…in the wilderness, to humble you and to test you, to know what was in your heart.”

The spiritual wilderness, like it’s counterpart in the natural, feels like a harsh place. But it seems to be the only way people seeking the deep, deep things of God can find what they are looking for. In the wilderness God prepares us for His promised land (His best), which He has purposed for our lives.

Noticeable in Richard’s art resurgence, are vibrant splashes of colors which were not seen in his past repertoire. And now his artwork has undoubtedly peaked into a higher realm--- quality and quantity wise.

I’ve been through the wilderness. I made it. So will you. Believe this scripture with tenacity during the trudges of your journey: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us to triumph in Christ.”

Thank God. He always leads. There’s always victory for those who persevere. Your wet spot awaits.