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Prayer for Protection from Evil
Heavenly Father I pray that You would protect me and my family from all the evils and from those that would seek to harm us. Uphold us and keep us safe from all the evils that encircle our lives. Put Your hedge of protection and safety around us we pray, and place a guard at our doors and protects us from all that pass by our gate. And Father, keep our hearts from fear but rather fill us to overflowing with Your peace that passes all understanding. Thank You that You are indeed our refuge and strength. You are that ever present Help in time of trouble. In Your strength we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the middle of the sea. Stay with us wherever we go. In Jesus name, Amen.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. —Isaiah 55:8–9

There is another way. It is not your way. You would not have imagined this alternative way nor been able to predict it, and you surely cannot control it. There is a way into the future in your life, because God is at work doing strange, wondrous things for you and in spite of you, and your job is to get your mind off your ways of need and control, to give your life over to God’s large, hidden way in your life.”

“A Way other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent” by Walter Brueggemann

In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus makes two remarks about people’s faith. One man, he says, has great faith. Later in the chapter he tells his disciples that they have little faith. Each account, by itself is remarkable, and by comparing them we can possibly get some incredible insights about faith.

In the first story (5-13), a Roman centurion comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his servant. Jesus asks the centurion if he wants him to come to his house. The Roman leader tells Jesus “No. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus was amazed and told his followers that he had not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

Towards the end of chapter 8 (23-27), we find Jesus fast asleep in a boat with his disciples. Matthew tells us that a furious storm came up on the lake and that the waves swept over the boat. The disciples were afraid and woke Jesus up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Jesus said to them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” And then Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

In comparing these two stories, naturally the question comes up, why did the centurion have such great faith, and the disciples such little faith? It seems to me that it should be the other way around. The disciples should be the ones with great faith. They traveled with Jesus and everywhere he went he healed people and cast out demons and taught the multitudes about the Kingdom of heaven. The disciples were somewhat intimate with Jesus and not only learned from him about faith, but also saw faith in action.

The Roman centurion on the other hand was not even a Jew. He was a gentile. Probably hated by most Jews because of the Roman occupation. What little knowledge he had of Jesus probably came second hand from a few stories and rumors told him about this miracle worker. Not exactly the makings of great faith.

So why the great faith of the centurion and little faith of the disciples? Who knows? God knows, but he isn’t telling. Or is he? Maybe there are a few clues in these stories to enlighten us about their faith and perhaps ours as well. Here is my theory.

Matthew indicates that the Roman centurion knew a little something about authority. A Roman centurion was in charge of 100 soldiers. He had authority over 100 soldiers. He was also a man under authority. When his superiors said “Jump!”, he asked “How high?”. By the same token, when he gave orders to the men under him, they obeyed him or died trying. The whole Roman army was under the authority of Emperor Caesar. He had a goal, and a plan for reaching that goal, and every soldier in his army had a role to play in achieving that goal.

In the same way, I believe, that the centurion had an idea about the way Jesus was able to heal people. He either had super-natural authority to heal people, or was under the authority of someone who had the power to heal people. And what was the goal of healing people? To relieve human suffering. People were miserable when they were sick, and happy when they were healed. Hence, the ultimate goal of Jesus was to make people happy. The centurion must have believed that either Jesus was God, or was working under the authority of a God who loved people and wanted them to be happy. If this was the case, then there was no need for Jesus to go to his house or lay hands on his servant. All he had to do was just say the word, and his servant would be healed, and many would be made happy. The servant, the servant’s family, if he had one, his friends, and the centurion.

The disciples,on the other hand, the “little faithers”, were freaking out in the boat, in the middle of the lake as waves surged over the side. Was Jesus panicking? Not so much. He was sleeping. The disciples woke him up screaming, “Lord save us! We’re going to drown.”

Ultimately they didn’t believe that God, or Jesus, had ultimate authority over everything. They didn’t really believe that God loved them and wanted them to be happy. The believed in the Evil Powers that lurked in the depths of the sea, that caused big storms which chewed up little fishing boats and spit them out, just for the fun of it. If they would have believed that God loved them and wanted them to be happy, they would have had a terrific time enjoying the wind and the waves and the wild ride, much like thrill seekers do on an exciting water ride at an amusement park. But, alas, they were full of fear, and their little faith was abundantly clear.

So what about us when the storms of life hit our little boats with fury. Do we grab on for dear life and scream for Jesus to help us, or do we grab on for dear life and enjoy the ride, knowing that the God of the furious storm is right along side us, laughing all the way?

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In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow me.”

What exactly did Jesus mean when he said that his disciples must deny themselves? For lent I have been reading Walter Brueggemann’s book A Way other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent. In one of his devotions he writes:

“The call to discipleship is not a program to make us feel bad or impoverished or uncomfortable. Or pressed more deeply, to deny self is taken too often to mean you should have some self-hate, feel bad about yourself, ponder your failure and your guilt, and reject your worth. But that is surely not what Jesus is talking about.

 “The alternative to self-focus is to move one’s attention away from self to know that our life is safely and well held by God, who loves us more than we love ourselves, to relish the generosity of God and so to be free of the anxieties and needs and hungers of those who are driven by a mistaken, inadequate sense of self. The self who is denied is the self who is received from God and given back to God in obedience and praise.”

Good words to consider during this time of lent.

I took the road less traveled,
and that has make all the difference.

My wife, two daughters and I recently spent a weekend in the mountains of Oaxaca.  We had a great time and took lots of pictures. I was looking at the pictures the other day and one particularly stood out for me. The one above. A lonely, rarely used road that we came upon on one of our hikes. It reminded me of the Robert Frost poem –

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I remember reading that poem in high school. After reading the poem I thought that in my life, I would like to take the road less traveled.

I grew up in a Christian family. We went to church three times a week.  I decided to follow Jesus at an early age. That was my first step on the road less traveled. Jesus said in Matthew 7 that wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Few choose that path. In a sense, the Christian road is a road less traveled.

But as I went to church week after week and year after year, I began to notice that everyone around me had more or less the same life; were on the same road. They all had more or less “American middle class” jobs, lived in “American middle class” houses and drove “American middle class” cars. It seemed to me that everyone was on the “American middle class” road. Hardly a road less traveled. It seemed more like a 12 lane highway and  the whole world seemed to be beating a path to join the crowd on the “American” road.

Fortunately we went to a church that stressed missions and regularly had missionaries come visit and share about what the missionary life was like. They regaled us with stories of making long treks to reach indigenous tribes in dark jungles and preach the Good News of what Jesus had done for them and that by believing in Him, they could live happy, abundant, lives.

Those stories made a deep impression on me. The missionaries were definitely  on the road less traveled. They had a faith in God that I rarely saw, and a trust in Jesus that enabled them go where few had gone, and do important things that few people were doing.

So I decided to go to Bible College and study missions, so that I too could be a missionary and travel that road.

Studying that life I became sorely disappointed. I learned that missionaries have to get bucket-loads of cash before they could even leave America, and then every four years come back to America to get more cash. I wanted to go to a foreign country, live there permanently, and trust God to provide for my needs. I came to the conclusion that I must not be cut out for that particular less traveled road.

I lived many years in the good ole USA , travelling the “American” road and was never satisfied that this was the road for me, but not knowing what to do about it. Thank God I discovered Foundation for His Ministry and a missionary road that suits me just fine. FFHM operates homes for needy children in different parts of Mexico. I visited the first one they established in the Baja peninsula of Mexico. It was incredible. They not only took in poor, abused, abandoned children and fed them, schooled them, loved them and shared with them about the love of God, but they also fed and clothed the hungry and oppressed in nearby agricultural work camps. They also did a lot of evangelistic outreach to children and adults in those camps. They also had a medical clinic that treated sick people for free.

I learned that each volunteer or staff worker received a monthly stipend, along with a place to stay and meals. “What more could a dedicated Christian who wants to do God’s work need?” I thought.

 I made many trips in the following years to help out as best I could, always thinking that one day I would not have to leave, but would be a permanent part of this marvelous organization. One day I would be on the road less traveled that I had always dreamed of and never get off.

FFHM started a new work in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca, and I was at a place in my life where I could say, “Adios” to the ” American ” broad highway, and be fully engaged on the road less traveled. I sold or gave away everything that would not fit in my Toyota Corolla and headed south.

That was fifteen years ago, and I have never been happier. My decision to take the road less traveled has indeed made “all the difference.”

Writing this, I have no intention to denigrate or put down all those Christians in America who are following their own road less traveled and are doing incredible, innovative things to make a huge difference in millions of hurting lives. I am simply giving an account of my own Road Less Traveled, and hope to encourage others who might be stuck in a rut on the Main Street of life to consider what joys God may have in store for them if they strike out on their own Road Less Traveled. Thanks to all the supporters of FFHM who travel their own little road and faithfully make donations and sponsor the children, the poorest of the poor, in Mexico, so that one day, these kids can also follow God’s road less traveled. Without faithful donors, this endeavor would not be possible.

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One picture of sin we get from the New Testament is an archer shooting an arrow at at target and trying to hit the bullseye, but missing every time.  Sin is missing what we are aiming at; missing the goal; being short of the mark.  An important question comes to mind, what is the bullseye. What is the mark we are trying to hit?  Some theologians say say “Holiness”.  The Bible says that we are to be Holy as God is Holy.”  Like that is ever going to happen! We definitely come up short there.

Others quote the scriptures that say we are to “love God with all our being and love our neighbors as ourselves” .  Once again, not gonna happen. Our default mode is to hate God and despise our neighbor!

As I have been pondering the question, I have come to the conclusion that Happiness is the bullseye that every human is trying to hit. I believe that God loves us and wants us to be happy! He has hardwired our brain to desire happiness above all. That’s what humanity is aiming for, striving to achive, wanting to experience. But most people miss the mark, at least in the long run.  In essence, they sin. Why? Well that’s the ironic thing. It’s because they want to be happy.

Let me explain. Just like most things in life, there is a right way and a wrong way. There is a right way to be happy and and a wrong way.  There is immediate gratification happiness, which is many times the wrong way, and there is Bible Happiness which is the right way and leads to eternal happiness.

I like to think of happiness as a computer game. Back in the day, a long time ago in a land far away, I used to make computer games. All my games naturally came with instructions. If a player read the instructions and paid close attention to them, then he or she was more likely to slay the evil enemy, gather heaps of treasure, and be happy.  The opposite was true if the player didn’t read the instructions. He or she would be frustrated, defeated and die poor and needless to say, be unhappy.

I’ve begun to look at the human being, the human brain as a Happiness Game, that God created. Like I say, He loves us and wants us to be happy! We are a Happiness Game and God gave us instructions to win the Happiness Game. It’s called the Bible. Here are some principles from the Bible to win Happiness.

I think a key verse is Romans 3:22-24.  “Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and everyone is justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (  My loose paraphrase)

Righteousness is living in right relationship with God. True and abiding happiness is impossible without this. Everyone has attempted to be happy without righteousness and has failed and has fallen short of the glory of God. God is glorified when people are happy, living in right relationship with him. We are able to live in right relationship with God through justification, grace and redemption through Jesus Christ.

Here are a few other basic principles to “winning the Happiness Game –

1. We face three fearsome enemies in this game – The World, The Flesh, and The Devil. I mentioned earlier that many times we are not happy because we want to be happy. What I mean by that is that the three fearsome enemies sneak up on us and offer us a fake, short term happiness that in the long run makes us sad, miserable, suffering creatures. So, rule number one, avoid The World, The Flesh and The Devil.

2. Realize you are a Loser! (Many of the principles to winning the Happiness Game are antithetical to normal computer games) To be happy we must realize that we can never be truly happy on our own, using our own abilities, trusting our own smarts.  The Bible instructions say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways look to God for guidance” and you will be happy .

3. Love your human enemies. We should hate and fight against the World, the Flesh and the Devil, which are spiritual enemies, but love all humans, even those we consider enemies. As I mentioned above, this is one of those principles that goes against common thought. In most computer games you hate your enemies and try to spill their blood. In this game you must forgive your enemies; help your enemies; pray for your enemies, if you want to be deeply happy.

4. Be a Transformer. Romans 12 tells us not to be conformed to this World, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We renew our minds by meditating on the instructions, the Bible. Doing this we learn the significance of concepts like Grace, Justification, Redemption, World, Flesh and Loving our enemies. The more we understand these Biblical Truths, the happier we will be.

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