Take the low road

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“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”Luke 9:48

We had a wonderful holiday weekend. Family projects, family cookouts and family pool time. It was just a matter of time before our son and daughter reached the “you get on my nerves” part of “family time”. I tried to take each child aside at different times and explain that sometimes you just have to take the high road and walk away. “Pretend it doesn’t bother you and they will stop doing it.”, I would plea. Teaching children to handle things ethically, without seeking revenge and retaliating is, in my opinion, one of the greatest task we have as parents. Honestly, I still have a hard time with this as an adult from time to time – today included as God would have it.

But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. Luke 14:10

Taking the high road really boils down to taking the low road. I know that sounds a little counter intuitive and like I’ve been out in the sun to long, but stick with me. When we take the high road we are essentially putting ourselves last. Putting others before ourselves and loving others as we love ourselves. Dying to self, putting pride aside, taking the lowest place ensures we handle life and it’s situations with integrity and grace, but can only be done when we position ourselves below others. Hence, the low road.
and it sprouted and became a low spreading vine, and its branches turned toward him, and its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs. Ezekiel 17:6

We aren’t able to take the high road if we are living on it. I picture my son sitting on our back patio, feet kicked up on the coffee table drinking a lemonade saying, “Oh, yeah! I’m living the high life.” When our lives, actions, prayers and faith are all about us we are living a life literally “high on SELF”. When we lower our posture to one of servanthood and humility,  like Jesus did, we see the benefits of the low road. I think I need to reconsider my response to our children. I dare say – they are always on the high road – maybe it’s time for them (and me) to start thinking, living and taking the low road.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Lo and Behold

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For the past several months our family has played the license plate game. We have a list of all 50 states in the car and every time we see a license plate from a different state we cross it off. Knowing that finding Alaska or Hawaii would be next to impossible, our goal has been to find every land-locked state. Well, lo and behold – driving from Raleigh to Mocksville on Interstate 40 we passed a car with an Alaskan license plate. Needless to say we were all high fiving and celebrating. I even wanted to beep the horn as we drove by.

“So—who is like me? Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy. Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name —so magnificent! so powerful!— and never overlooks a single one? Isaiah 40:25-26 (The Message)

Isn’t that what we do to God sometimes? We don’t ask. We lower our expectations of the Creator. We make Him small. We lean on our own understanding. Our own ideas. We don’t expect more than our brains can fathom. What is wrong with us? Our God is BIG enough! He will knock our socks off with blessing after blessing and smile doing it. His plans are far more than we could ever imagine. Far grander than we would ever dream for ourselves.

It reminded me of asking a group of second graders (who lived no more than 20 minutes from Raleigh, NC) where they would go if they could travel anywhere in the world. Many of them said they would go to Raleigh or South Carolina. I remember being so disappointed they hadn’t come up with better ideas. I just knew they would be listing places like Paris or Africa, but they didn’t know any better. They had never been exposed to anything else. Raleigh (although only 20 minutes away) seemed like a grand adventure. But I was from Raleigh, had been to far greater places across the ocean and was old enough to have been educated on all this world has to offer.  Our Father has that same knowledge times a billion trillion (as my kids would say). How many times have we disappointed Him by not asking or opening our prayers to His leading instead of our own?

God! Let the cosmos praise your wonderful ways, the choir of holy angels sing anthems to your faithful ways! Search high and low, scan skies and land, you’ll find nothing and no one quite like God. Psalm 89:5 (The Message)

There is no one like our God! He turns trials into treasure. Washes sins away until there is no trace. He sees into the depths of our hearts and loves us anyway. He adores each one of us despite our flaws and inadequacies. Like I said, There is NO ONE like our God. Do you know anyone you could tell all the secrets of your heart to? Do you know anyone who would be there if they knew all the secrets of your heart? That won’t judge you for your past, but give you a clean slate for the future? That is available to seek wisdom, counsel and comfort from 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? That would die on a cross for you after you scorned and denied them?

Our God was, is and always will be those things to each of us. Open your heart and turn over your expectations . . . just when you think you have figured it all out lo and behold – God will show up and show off in a way you would have never imagined.

We weren’t, you know, just wishing on a star when we laid the facts out before you regarding the powerful return of our Master, Jesus Christ. We were there for the preview! We saw it with our own eyes: Jesus resplendent with light from God the Father as the voice of Majestic Glory spoke: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of all my delight.” We were there on the holy mountain with him. We heard the voice out of heaven with our very own ears. 2 Peter 1:16-18 (The Message)

Who do you praise?

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It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. Psalm 118:8

“Mommy, what if there were churches where the people who went didn’t praise God. Instead they said bad things like God’s dead and not alive?” my son asked as he stared out the window from the backseat of the car. And sadly I had to answer, “Well, unfortunately, there are churches like that. They may not say those mean things out loud, but their actions and lack of boldness in their Christian faith scream it out to others.”

You adulterous people!Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4

Seeing my son turn these facts over in his head as I spoke made me question just how many others are out there struggling in their faith. How many have settled into the comfort of this modern day Babylon? How many lack a boldness for Christ? The world has overcome them. Their insecurities overtaken them. They need a resurrection!

resurrection (n) –  a revival from inactivity and disuse ; a resurgence; revitalization; revival, a return from the dead

Do you need a resurrection?

People praise what  they love. Who or what do you praise? It is in the answer to this question you will find who or what rules in your heart. Is it the Lord or is it this world? It is peace or destruction? It is truth or deception? As you read this, are you uncomfortable, angry or moving your fingers towards the delete button? It’s painful and difficult to look inside our hearts and see what lies beneath the surface.

Today, I pray we are bold and courageous enough to take that long hard look. To sit in the “uncomfortable” of the moment. It is my belief and my experience that it’s in the uncomfortable we change and grow the most. We learn to seek not the wisdom of men, but wisdom from above.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

Guest Blog from my husband Matt Cain

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For I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for Salvation to everyone who believes.  Romans 1:16

On May 8th we will have the opportunity to vote “for” or “against” a constitutional amendment (in NC) that will read as follows…

“Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in the state”.

Like many of you I am not a political activist and often times find my busy life preventing me from paying too much attention to the politics and actions that go on in our state legislature.    My concern for this particular amendment was no different until I recently began researching the impact it could have for me and my family and our beliefs if it does not pass.  We will be given the opportunity to vote on this issue on Tuesday, May 8th.  As you head to the polls I would ask you to consider the following:

1.  Pro-Homosexual groups argue that this amendment is not needed since current and state law already define marriage as one man and one woman, thus, banning same -sex marriage.

FACT:  The current federal and state laws protecting marriage are under constant attack with many homosexual advocacy groups filing lawsuits challenging these laws.  In fact, in July of 2010 a federal judge in Massachusetts ruled that a portion of the current federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.    This ruling was also supported by the current Justice Department.  Without a constitutional amendment to define marriage the current laws regarding this issue will be left up to the courts for interpretation. *

2.  Pro-Homosexual groups argue that if the amendment doesn’t pass then nothing changes and for gay marriage to be approved in the future it would have to be voted on by the citizens.

FACT:  If gay marriage is approved in the future most likely it will not be the result of a vote by the citizens.  In all five states and the district of Columbia where marriage has been redefined to include same-sex couples it was achieved ONLY through courts or by legislative action – NEVER BY A VOTE OF THE PEOPLE. *

3.  The homosexual community argue that the Marriage Protection Amendment is as “ban on gay marriage” and is discriminatory towards them.

Fact:  This is true as marriage is an exclusive institution.  It is not open to everyone as we currently don’t allow children to marry, certain blood relatives cannot get married and more than two people cannot legally marry.  Marriage was created by God, not the state, and yes it is exclusive to one man and one woman.

4.  Many of you probably believe that even if gay marriage is approved in the future it won’t have any impact on me or my family.  I originally shared this belief until I studied the issue more closely.  Consider for example what has happened regarding religious freedoms and family beliefs in states where gay marriage is legal:

Massachusetts:  After legalization of same sex marriage in 2003 the State Board of Education altered its curriculum to accommodate same sex couples.  In 2008 the kindergarten “Diversity Book Bag” included a picture book, Who’s in a Family? which depicted a variety of families including two moms or two dads.  Second graders were required to listen to the reading of King and King, which describes the story of a prince falling in love with another prince.  Parents objected and sued because they were never given the opportunity to remove their children from the classroom while the materials were being taught.  The courts dismissed their lawsuit.  **

California:  In 2007 civil unions were legal but same sex marriages were not.  Four San Diego firefighters objected to participating in the San Diego Gay Pride Parade.  Their superiors forced them to do so. **

New Jersey:  In 2007, one year after NJ legalized civil unions, the state removed a greenway tax exemption from a NJ Methodist camp, because the camp refused to host a same sex union in its marriage pavilion.  **

These are just a few of the examples I read and they were eye opening for me.  I realized that if the state declares same sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships legal, you can no longer practice your beliefs that they are wrong or you could be sued for discrimination.  This is best summarized by a ruling from the courts in California where the courts found that the state’s compelling interest in extinguishing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation superseded a religious belief, even if that burden on freedom of religion was “substantial”.

There is a lot of information out there about what this amendment could do, or what could possibly happen if it is passed but the examples above are what did happen in states where the institution of marriage was not protected and what will happen here if it is not protected.  Please understand, I a not a homophobe nor do I hate those who are homosexual.  My wife and I have many dear friends who are gay but sometimes you have to make a stand for what you believe in and what you want the world to look like for your children.  As a Christian, who believes in the Bible, I must use it as my guiding principle on this issue.  It is clear, that homosexual activity is a sin (no greater or no less than any other sin, but yet a sin) and when given an opportunity to take a stand on this issue I must vote FOR the amendment which protects the sanctity of marriage as established by God.

Regards, Matt Cain

* Let the People Vote – 10 Reason’s Why N.C. Needs a Marriage Protection Amendment – Written By:  Alysse ElHage – Spring 2011 – family north carolina magazine

** A Threat to Liberty – Same-Sex “marriage, ” Domestic Partnerships, and Civil Unions – Written By:  Marry Summa, J.D. – Summy 2011 – family north carolina magazine

Revival

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This week I give you a song. A song that has become one of my favorites over the past few weeks. My theme song. As I’ve been praying for God to open the eyes of my heart and give me the courage and strength it takes to follow Him through the narrow gate, He has graciously reminded me of His awesome power, His bold love and His mighty hand. “Our God’s NOT dead – He’s surely ALIVE!”

Let love explode
And bring the dead to life
A love so bold
To see a revolution somehow

Now I’m lost in your freedom
And this world I’ll overcome

My God’s not dead
He’s surely alive
He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion

He’s roaring! He’s roaring!
He’s roaring like a lion!

Let hope arise
And make the darkness hide
My faith is dead
I need a resurrection somehow

Now.. Now I’m lost in your freedom
Now.. And this world I’ll overcome

My God’s not dead
He’s surely alive
He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion

Let Heaven roar
And fire fall
Come shake the ground
With the sound of revival*

*Lyrics from God’s Not Dead, Newsboys