What Do I Tell My Child / A Person Who Has a Deformity?

What to say to people who are different or have a deformity? from disciplefish on Vimeo.

I am in a group on Facebook for Amniotic Band Syndrome (the syndrome that caused my grandson to be born with fused fingers, a cleft lip, a club foot, and a band wrapped around his right leg). The question that gets asked often by parents in the group is: “I am afraid that my child is going to be bullied for their ‘differences’ as they get older. What do I tell them?

This is the answer that I posted this morning. It is true for ALL of us, because all of us have ‘differences’ on the outside and the inside, and all of our bodies are subject to deterioration, and death. I hope you read it entirely and are encouraged.
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We live in a broken world that is under the effects of the curse because of Adam’s sin, but has been redeemed by the sinless atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And while the effects of the curse are still seen and felt, God has given us hope to look forward to the time when Jesus Christ will return and rule the people of earth and restore all things. In consideration of that, we are to instill faith, hope and love into our children and grandchildren.

So what do we tell our children / grandchildren that have a deformity? The truth:
Who we are is on the inside. Our body is not who we are, but a temporary part of us that is subject to the broken nature of this world. Who we are on the inside is really what matters most.

We were created by God to reflect His love, mercy, kindness, justice, and goodness. Not everyone is brought up to know or believe this, and as a result, they only look at the outward parts and treat people based on this. But we who know better and who have been taught and believed the truth can make a difference in their lives by showing them the person we are on the inside and teaching them through our actions and words who they are meant to be also.

David, a friend of God and a man that knew the heart of God and the love of God wrote this for our understanding: “You (God) created my innermost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together… Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days determined for me were written in your book (the Book of Life) before I came into existence.”

Jeremiah, another young man chosen of God for a special purpose was told by God (and recorded it for our encouragement): “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart (for a special purpose)…

Instill in your child that he or she was formed by God for a special purpose, and although something about them on the outside is “different”, God doesn’t make mistakes. In spite of their differences, He made them special on the inside, to show others who we really are in love, mercy, kindness, justice, and goodness. And that through faith in Jesus Christ, when it is time, each of us will receive a new beautiful body that is just like His and we will leave behind these bodies that deteriorate and are affected by the curse that will be removed at His glorious coming.

It is written in Thessalonians that Jesus “will appear in the clouds of heaven and we will be caught up to Him and will ever be with Him”, and in Philippians it is written that Jesus, “by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, WILL TRANSFORM OUR LOWLY BODIES SO THAT THEY WILL BE LIKE HIS GLORIOUS BODY.”

Encourage and build each other up in this truth, and don’t let how others treat you defeat you, or take away your joy, faith and hope in these things.

Called By Name

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1

My earliest memory of God was when I was about 5 years old. My father was in the Air Force, and my family and I lived in base housing (a three bedroom house provided for Air Force families) in San Bernardino, California.

The day I heard the call, my mom was outside watering her rose bushes, and my dad was at work on at the Air Force base. I was in the house heading for my bedroom when I heard a voice call out to me (not loudly) “Dane.” As soon as I heard it I stopped, turned around expecting to see my mom or dad, and answered “yes.”

There was no one there.

But the voice was right next to me, and it was so familiar I definitely knew it had to be either my mom or dad.  I turned around and continued toward my bedroom. Again I heard “Dane. (pause) Dane.” I turned around again and said “Mom, dad, did you call me?”

No one answered.

I ran to the front door, outside and around the house to where my mom was and asked her if she was calling me. She said no and told me to go back and play. Then I asked her if dad called me, and told her what had happened. She said no one called for me, and again told me to go play. I did as I was told, and went back to whatever it was I was doing. But the memory of that day was etched into my mind.

Years later, after I had walked away from following Jesus Christ at 13 and then repented at my dad’s deathbed when I was 21, I was reading through I Samuel. When I read chapter 3, the memory of that moment was suddenly at the forefront of my mind, and I knew for sure exactly who it was that had called me that day.

Joh 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Has Jesus been calling you?  He knows your name.

– Dane

If God is Good, Why Does Evil Exist?

In a recent conversation with a neighbor (we’ll call him Sam),  I had the opportunity to talk with him about the perplexing question about the existence of evil in light of God’s holy nature.

Sam came over and asked if he could talk with be about some things that were troubling him. He stated that he knew I believed in God, said that he was troubled by the recent reports of natural catastrophes, wars, disease, etc., and wanted to know if God really existed. I thanked Sam for coming to me and giving me the opportunity to share my views with him. I let him know that while I don’t have all the answers, I let him know that my views are based on my personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, through ongoing Bible study, and ongoing studies about God called theology.

Original Creation Vs. Fallen Creation

The first thing that I explained to Sam was that according to the Bible, God is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving being that is only capable of doing perfect good. I then explained that according to the book of Genesis, in the beginning God created everything in our material Universe, including spirit beings that serve Him which are called angels, and ending with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, the ancestors of the whole human race. Because God is good, everything He created was originally good. Today we can observe vestiges of that original goodness throughout creation; including in natural beauty and harmony that occurs in nature, as well as man’s capacity for love and compassion in spite of the existence of evil, all of which confirm God’s good and loving nature.

According to the Bible, when God created Angels, He created them as spirit beings to reflect God’s holiness and to serve Him. Evil came into existence when one of God’s most beautiful Angels (Lucifer) chose to rebel against God, reject his position, and seek to overthrow God. In doing so, he became the corrupt being known as Satan (or the Devil), and condemned himself and one third of the angels (now demons) that followed him to a future eternal punishment in a lake of fire we call Hell.

Moral Evil & Natural Evil

When God created Adam, the head of the human race, He gave Adam the ability to reason, love, procreate, and have a special father/son like relationship with God himself. In order for their relationship to be mutual and based on love, He also gave Adam a will, and the ability to choose obedience over disobedience. That choice came with a promise and a consequence. Because of God’s perfect and holy nature, disobedience would result in a broken relationship and separation from God in the form of spiritual death, and bring condemnation on Adam resulting in his physical death, which would be passed on to all of his offspring genetically. That is why every human being since then has been born with a nature that leans toward selfishness and rebellion, resulting in evil thoughts and actions know as ‘moral evil.’ Some examples of moral evil that come from humankind’s naturally selfish nature include anger, hatred, murder, unjust war, sexual immorality, adultery, rape, theft, disobedience, rebellion, lying, and more. All of which result in destroyed relationships and even premature death.

When God created Adam, He gave Adam authority over the entire earth and it’s inhabitants, and gave him (and mankind) the responsibility to care for it. When Adam disobeyed God, he subjected himself to Satan’s evil. This resulted in Adam and all of his future offspring (mankind) not only becoming slaves to evil, but it also brought all of the material creation that Adam was responsible for under Satan’s authority, resulting in disorder and decay in nature, known as Natural Evil. Some examples of natural evil include the things that were troubling Sam, including natural catastrophes like earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions, as well as natural diseases like colds, flu, high blood pressure, heart disease, small pox, AIDS, and cancer.

What is Meant For Evil, God Uses For Ultimate Good

When I finished explaining these things to Sam, I then explained that in a world where we experience both moral and natural evil, it can be difficult to reconcile the ideas that God is all-powerful and all loving, and that He himself is perfectly good, despite the fact that evil exists in His creation. We learn from the Bible that like any loving father, while he may have the power to make his child obey him, his love requires that he allow his child to choose whether or not to obey so that the child is able to express and reciprocate love for his father. When a child disobeys, a father’s loving response is to discipline the child in order to teach the child obedience, and to prevent the child from becoming self and others destructive in his rebellion.

Because God is all-powerful, He is able to use even moral and natural evil that occurs as a tool for discipline in order to bring correction to individuals, communities, nations, and even mankind as a whole. Because God is all-loving, He not only “disciplines those whom He loves” according to the Bible, He also demonstrated emphatically His perfect saving love while satisfying His perfect need for justice towards man’s unholy rebellion that required death, in that He sent His only begotten sinless Son Jesus Christ from heaven to earth to become a man, and as a man, subjected Jesus to the undeserving death on the cross in order to redeem all mankind from moral evil, subjection to Satan, and eternal separation from God. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, every person that acknowledges their selfish and rebellious nature (sin), and puts their faith in Jesus Christ is given God’s Holy Spirit, released from the penalty of sin (eternal death), restored into a right relationship with God, and given the power to resist and overcome temptation in order to grow and remain eternally in a loving and obedient relationship with God.

Unfortunately, when people don’t have a proper Biblical understanding of God and evil, their faith in God can come into question when they experience moral or natural evil personally. I believe that even though a person may have erroneous beliefs about God, whether from ignorance, or resulting from drawing wrong conclusions based on experiencing moral or natural evil in their lives, if a person is honest about their concerns and keeps and open line of communication with God and continuously studies the Bible in order to reconcile those concerns, God will help that person grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually in their knowledge of God, resulting in gradual corrections in their erroneous beliefs, just as it is written in Philippians 3:15: “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”

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Bibliography

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Second Edition ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1984, 2001. Print.

The New King James Bible. N.p.: Thomas Nelson, 1979. Print.

Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2008, 2002. Print.

A Plea to God’s People and a Plea to God Almighty

“Do not be conformed into the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  “The Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth.” “God’s Word is Truth.” “The Holy Spirit will take what is mine (Jesus) and declare it to you.” “I desire obedience and not sacrifice.”

The reason apostasy is so rampant and is increasing among churches, among Christians, is that so many of us have neglected the Word of God in its entirety.  We know the Gospel as it pertains to us individually, but we neglect Genesis through Revelation as the whole counsel of God, not searching out God’s plan of redemption, not searching out and understanding our own weakness and God’s provision for it, not searching out and understanding the strategy and tactics of our spiritual enemy, nor the tools of our warfare and how to use them effectively. “My people are destroyed (perish) for lack of knowledge.”

We are being told by the world and the spirit of Antichrist at work in the world what we should believe, and how the world defines Christianity and God’s love.  The world DOES NOT know AGAPE, and it cannot know AGAPE (Greek for God’s sacrificial perfect love) because the world is not of God and is under the influence of the evil one.  It only knows EROS (Greek for LUST). “The natural man cannot please God… and the natural man cannot accept the things of  God’s Spirit but considers them foolishness, and the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit, because those things are only discerned by the Holy Spirit.”

Receiving Agape, requires repentance based on conviction by the Holy Spirit according to personal revelation of God’s Word. Without God’ Word and faith in it, there is no repentance.  Without repentance, there is no transformation.

Repentance means we change our minds and direction about what the world says and what our feelings say, and INSTEAD line our will up with what God’s Word says is right, in opposition to what our feelings (EROS) and the world are telling us.

LORD God, Almighty, forgive us! We are so easily distracted, and to our own destruction!  We have neglected your Word, and have failed to obey your ways O God!  Have mercy on us, and help us turn from our wicked ways.  Grant us discernment O Lord!  Strengthen our weak wills by your Holy Spirit, and help us to recognize our deep need for the pure milk of your Word and to partake of it NOW, while it is freely available.  We are perishing for lack of knowledge!  You O God are not willing that any of us should perish, but that we all would turn to repentance.  O LORD, raise up men and women who know you and know your Word, and grant them boldness to proclaim truth and to preach your Word, and teach the whole counsel of God, empowered by your Holy Spirit, that many would hear and believe and repent and be saved in these perilous times. O God hear!, O God forgive!, O God have mercy!, O God act!

Military to Ministry

Last year while out to dinner, I had a chance to speak with a young Airman who was training to be a Pararescue Jumper (PJ).  As we spoke, the conversation turned to my taking classes for a bachelor’s degree in Theology and plans to attend Seminary, as well as my many years of service in ministry at multiple churches.  The Airman was curious to learn more about my having been a Marine and my transition into ministry.  He later emailed me for further details.

His main question was about being trained to be aggressive and demonstrate power, and that he thought that would be incompatible with being a disciple of Jesus Christ.   Here is what I told him, based on my personal experience:

I was in the Marine Corps for 7 months and was honorably discharged as a PFC (E-2) with disability in 1989. Basic training in the Marine Corps is designed to make every Marine a capable combat rifleman, without exception. While we were trained to be aggressive and exhibit power when in combat, we are taught discipline, honor, courage, etc. The training instills in Marines a confidence that comes through in our demeanor, but we are taught to be very disciplined and not be aggressive unless the situation warrants it, especially when dealing with civilians or non-combatants.
There are aspects of military training that are very compatible with ministry and serving the LORD, and there are things that are not compatible and have to be discarded.  In fact, there are many things about serving the LORD that I learned best while I was in the Marine Corps.  However, the one main thing that had to be discarded and must continually be prevented from taking control, is pride. I am continually learning that humility is actually more powerful.  Servant leadership, submission to authority, developing others, caring about people and doing what is best, but not always what is wanted or liked, are all part of the calling.
There are so many biblical examples, especially our Savior Jesus Christ, Creator God, who became a suffering servant and submitted Himself to the will of God our Father in Heaven, in order to demonstrate true humility without compromise, servant leadership, biblical discipleship.  The Centurion and Cornelius are two great godly examples in the New Testament.  David and his mighty men are great examples from the Old Testament.  (If David had followed God’s command for Kings found in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, he would not have fallen with Bathsheba and been guilty of her husband’s death).  Since we are all children of God through redemption in Jesus Christ, we are all best served in taking those principles to heart in order to be effective servant leaders who follow Christ.
Like Christ, in this life we are to be suffering servants by the leading of the Holy Spirit, so that having proven to be faithful, we will rule with Christ after the resurrection.  (See Matthew 25:23, and Joseph’s entire life in the Old Testament)