borderMust a lifeguard drown to prove compassion? Or would we call her wise if she kept her distance by extending a pole to save a thrashing swimmer? Evangelical believers desire to show Good Samaritan love toward the needy. Yet is the Samaritan parable the right lens for viewing our duties in the border crisis? Or does the present invasion swarming our southern states invite a larger biblical perspective? Consider the possibility that we are dealing with another biblical concept known as judgment. Deuteronomy describes national consequences which today’s religious leaders neglect as they use the charged language of “compassion,” “love,” and “keeping families together.” It’s time to peel away emotive labels and examine this crisis afresh in light of Scripture.

The respectable signatories of the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) hold that our “national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis.” Consequently, some evangelicals choose to urge Congress to enact so-called “bipartisan immigration reform.” Nevertheless, the problem is not the law - it is the law breakers who are creating the crisis. Laws are stationary markers to show where the lines are (just as Paul taught in Romans 7).

The above EIT phrase blames the system (immigration laws) and shifts blame away from the law breakers. It reads more like a social science construct than a biblical worldview that expects personally responsible behavior. Immigration laws are broken when people cross the line - it’s not the line crossing over people. The failure to enforce the law or obey the law involves persons deviating from the law. One cannot blame the thermometer’s grid for the fever.

Former Governor Jeb Bush opines that illegally crossing the border is an “act of love.” Mr. Bush omits mention of human traffickers (sex trade or slave labor), drug cartels and terrorists. This Presidential hopeful misrepresents the whole with the part. Yes, some people violate our border laws for a better life for their families. But, a desire for a better life is not a free pass to break border laws. Sadly, the process too often sets other lawless acts in motion such as identity theft and false oaths to name two. The “Otherwise Law-Abiding Illegal Alien” is a myth ably debunked by the Center for Immigration Studies (

While not all border violators carry equal risk we cannot overlook the following probabilities: porous borders enabling new diseases to orphan and widow American citizens and resident aliens; cartels decimating our families through drugs and gun battles; sex traffickers stealing the innocence of children, and terrorists leaving more vacancies at our dinner tables. The pictures on our mantels of deceased children, husbands and wives will make us feel that “keeping families together” was a ruse similar to, “If you like your doctor you will be able to keep your doctor.” When tragedy strikes, we can count on the policy makers who were responsible for the security breach to deflect accountability away from themselves. As masters of public relations they will conceal their negligence by redirecting the media spotlight to the heroism of first responders. In light of this coming scenario we must act now.

As evangelicals we are the children of the Reformation. The cry ad fontes “to the sources” drove Luther and Calvin to shed the shackles of tyranny and translate Scripture so they could lead people to feed themselves. Over the years Popes and Bishops have worked steadily to influence U.S. immigration policy. But are the proclamations from these prelates the best guide? The Reformation leaders rejected Vatican sources as authoritative in favor of sola scriptura “Scripture alone.” Prayerfully, evangelicals must reason directly from the Bible.

While we thank Rome for working with us on pro-life issues and standing up for natural marriage, we evangelicals must do our own thinking. What incentive does the Vatican have to care about our U.S. Constitution or borders? Rome might see the alien deluge into the U.S. as a quick road to bigger parishes regardless of the form of government that survives. Catholic Bishops claim, “Persons have the right to immigrate and thus governments must accommodate this right.” To the contrary, “We the people,” not Rome, decide who is constitutionally welcomed and under what conditions. Beyond this we must remind our friends that Vatican City employs Swiss guards who take a dim view of breaching their boundaries.

As we return to Scripture we see that God warned Israel that an overwhelming flood of aliens would be a curse upon them for disobedience (Deut. 28:43-45). Too many religious leaders oversimplify our overrun borders as an “opportunity for evangelism and ministry.” Of course we should lovingly minister and evangelize, but the border crisis raises a variety of godly duties such as love, justice, holiness, and covenant keeping with neighbors (Deut. 27:17). We need to ask a larger question, “Could God be judging our nation?” Surely, we are not Israel, but are ancient sins still an affront to God’s holiness today? The Puritan John Flavel put it this way:

“When the same sins are found in one nation, which have brought down the wrath of God upon another nation, it is an evident sign of judgment at the door, for God is unchangeable, just, and holy. He will not favor that in one people which He hath punished in another, nor bless that in one age which He hath punished in another, nor bless that in one age which He hath cursed in another.” To paraphrase Flavel, God does not outgrow holiness like a teenager outgrows acne.


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Does our nation gain God’s favor if officials advocate for children crossing the Rio Grande but fail to guarantee safe passage through the birth canal? Such carnage in the womb occurs within our U.S. borders daily. Additionally, in 2003 Justice Scalia predicted that with the repeal of sodomy laws, sodomy would become institutionalized. Today our little children learn a new euphemism in school, “same-sex marriage.” At the university level, academics are paving the way for pedophilia to be viewed as one more sexual orientation. Closer to home, we have tolerated emergent church leaders who undercut God’s justice by eroding hell. With this modeling, is it any wonder that policy makers undercut just laws and erode U.S. borders?

If the alien invasion is a sign of divine judgment, shouldn’t we still act to minimize the effects? If we experienced a judgment of drought we would still dig wells; if famine, we would still forage for food. While our first task is to humbly call people to repentance through Christ, we should unashamedly cry out that U.S. borders be secured. Exclusion has appropriate precedents.

God is comfortable with exclusion when the higher governing principle is in focus. His word speaks of a narrow gate (Matthew 7:13), turning away unwelcome guests (Matt. 22:13), fixed boundaries (Luke 16:26), and dividing families (Matt. 10:34-37). Granted these contexts involve salvation but exclusion is for those who reject God’s terms. Person to person, Jesus spoke of expulsion (Matt. 18: 15-17) and the presumption of protection from home invasion (Luke 11:21). He also taught that the waters of poverty will never evaporate in this life (Matt. 26:11). The point is that if we naïvely adopt a doctrine of inclusion that guts the rule of law then our nation’s future is grim.

Ponder some other Bible passages pertaining to our rights and responsibilities to earthly governments. Romans 13 exhorts us to obey the governing authorities. The Constitution of the United States of America is our governing authority, yet how many of us actually know what it says? Article 4 Section 4 provides for the protection of each state’s borders as well as protection from domestic violence. Why have Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico been denied protection under Article 4 in the current invasion of illegal immigrants?

U.S. Citizenship is precious. The Apostle Paul employed his Roman citizenship first to avoid a flogging (Acts 22) and later to appeal to Caesar (Acts 24). Not once does Paul argue that Rome’s aliens (legal or otherwise) should receive amnesty and become citizens. Paul doesn’t push lowering the requirements for citizenship, even as the Roman Commander whined of having been price gouged for his (Acts 22:28). Paul prized his citizenship on earth and in heaven.

Still, some act as though citizenship means little. We allow terrorists to become Mirandized, illegals to receive defense counsel (at taxpayer expense) and unbeknown to many, most states do not require a photo ID to vote. How do our military men and women feel about our lax border security and cheapening the requirements for citizenship?

The top public policy issue today needs to be securing the borders now. We have immigration laws. Let’s first restore equilibrium. Secondly, we must insist on a photo ID at the polls. If we lose the integrity of elections, conservatives will lose any chance of winning the pro-life, marriage and religious liberty issues. Losing elections through voter fraud will likely cost us our rights to free speech and assembly. With dagger in hand, political correctness awaits that day.

So is this God’s judgment? Perhaps we will know in time. For now, we need evangelicals confident in a biblical basis for limiting the border deluge. No false guilt trip need dissuade us. Our nation needs protection from lawlessness. Let’s love our alien neighbors with the prudence of a savvy lifeguard who won’t allow herself to be pulled under in the rescue. Let’s enforce and obey the present Constitutional laws of immigration and welcome as new citizens those who respect our laws. Put the “protest” back into Protestant and insist that we secure our borders!

Ken Carozza has taught at Cornerstone University for twelve years. His background includes business, pastoring, and serving in the public policy realm with a Focus on the Family State Policy organization and as Director of Programs at the Acton Institute. He is a Professional Member of the Evangelical Theological Society, holds the Master of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary and the Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

                                 Copyright 2014 © Kenneth L. Carozza All Rights Reserved

father7A family I know loves to play basketball together. They call it “family basketball” and they play in the driveway of their home. It’s a mom and dad and two boys. They love to whoop it up—shoot free throws, block shots, and drive the basket, all the while joking and laughing with each other. Quite often while they play, a 10 year-old boy from down the street will ride his bike back and forth in front of their driveway. He doesn’t say anything but it’s obvious he’s dying to get in the game. He lives with his mother and grandmother, but no father and no basketball hoop.

This month we celebrate Father’s Day and for many young boys there is no one to buy a card for, an outrageous tie or smelly after shave cologne. For them, this month is just like any other month.

For that reason, I’m going to ask all fathers to join me in an investment opportunity that I think will yield great returns—more than l00 percent! It’s something I want you to consider before another Father’s Day rolls around.

Before I share this awesome opportunity, I want you to take a personal inventory of your own life. I want to make sure that you are spending quality time with your own children and contributing to their lives. Are you balancing your work and home life to where your kids feel cherished by you?


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If that’s all in order, then I want to encourage you to join me in picking a child over the course of the next year that you can invest in. One who perhaps doesn’t have a father or doesn’t know their father. A kid who’s sitting on the bench and doesn’t have a chance to get in the game without the right coach.

I’ve been taking time to look around at the average teen boy in our society. Many grow up without fathers. According to the web site, The Fatherless Generation (, studies have found that children from fatherless homes are five times more likely to commit suicide; 32 times more likely to run away; 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders and l0 times more likely to abuse chemical substances. These young men do not have older role models and therefore can easily be led in the wrong direction.

There is a young man I’ve gotten to know over the course of the last few years that is in that situation. Every now and then I just tell him how proud I am of him and I can tell by his smile that it means a ton.

I understand that Father’s Day ought to be one of those days where you simply lean back in your recliner, with your remote in hand, and let the kids wait on you hand and foot. I celebrate that with you and hope I’ll be doing a little of that too.

On the other hand, I’m simply asking you to recruit another player on your team. I ask you to invest today in a son that someone else has neglected. I’m not talking legal adoption but someone you can occasionally involve in your family activities. A kid you come alongside and tell them the things you see and value in their life.

I hope you will consider investing in the future by making a difference in the life of someone else’s kid today.

Happy Father’s Day!

mosqueIf I had to put it bluntly, I’d say many American Christians don’t have a clue about how to do ministry in Muslim-based cultures.  Nor, frankly, do most of us know, really, what a Muslim is, what he or she believes, or how we can or should befriend much less talk about Jesus with a Muslim neighbor or co-worker. Until a few months ago, I’d have to put myself in the same category.

     And we’re not down to bedrock.  The problem goes deeper.  Truth be told, some American Christians don’t particularly want to know much about Muslims—expect maybe how to make a them go away.

 A Moment in Time

     Roots and reasons for these views aren’t difficult to identify. Among them: 

  • 9/11 and the understandable fear, anxiety, and anger that stems from this horrific day
  • Periodic acts of terrorism since that day, including Fort Hood and the Christmas day airline scare
  • Not one but two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Cultural, racial, and ethnic differences
  • Rapid growth of Muslim populations worldwide, including significant increases in the United States
  • Theological disagreement with the tenets of Islam

motherI watched a woman drive her van into the parking lot of the local grocery store. I was there waiting in the car for my wife to come out and this lady pulled into the spot in front of me. She opened the driver’s side door slowly as though her arms were weighted with lead. She emerged with her head hanging a little low. She pushed a button on her key ring to activate the opening of the side door. My window was open a crack and I heard the sound of a baby cry. The woman then stuck her head in the side door and after a few moments materialized with the handle of a baby seat in her left hand, a whimpering toddler positioned on her right hip, and another toddler walking closely by her left side. From where I sat, I could sense the woman’s feeling of exhaustion. Frankly I was tired just watching her.

Motherhood is grueling. I’ve concluded this by not only talking to many moms but also by witnessing my own wife as a mother. Being a mom to children under five can be especially draining. I remember vividly the times I experienced changing diapers, chasing after little ones when something breakable was within their reach and wiping more runny noses than I care to count. It’s flat out demanding, even when there are two parents functioning well as a team.


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I’m focusing specifically on moms today because, well, it’s their day! I also believe that many moms bear a very heavy load when it comes to caring for the children. Even for a guy like me, who came alongside his wife in sharing the parenting duties, I think many small tasks would never have been completed if not for her. If she hadn’t filled in the gaps, my adult children would still be wearing toddler-sized clothes and eating with their fingers.

An at-home mom rarely leaves the environment in which she works. Therefore tasks are staring her down at every turn. She never really knows when to call it a day. The same is true for moms who work outside the home. They end their day at the office and then come home and transform into mommy. For both, the tasks are never-ending. Even when they go to sleep at night, they do so knowing they may have a middle-of-the-night interruption because someone needs a glass of water or has an upset tummy.

I think moms are incredible for many reasons, although not everyone will agree. Just ask a teen boy who’s frustrated by a nagging mom who insists he wear a coat. Teen girls don’t always appreciate Mom’s protective nature as they battle to define appropriate clothing for school. Not every moment is picture perfect, but the overall effect of Mom’s love and care is eventually recognized and appreciated as a major part of the strong foundation of a kid’s life.

Even today, many moms won’t have time to read this article so it might be someone else who tells them about it. And here’s what I want all moms to know. I’m proud of you for your commitment to be there for your kids and to provide care, comfort and love for them. It’s part of the fabric of our life and the backbone of our society. My hat is off to you and although you can’t see me right now, I’m giving you a standing ovation.

 cellThe disappointed look on her face conveyed everything her father needed to know—if only he’d look. But he was too busy fiddling with his phone to witness her growth on the basketball court. She was hoping for encouragement, pleading with her eyes for him to notice her.

Another player—my daughter—beamed at me when she made a good pass. I gave her a thumbs up, happy to be in that place.

I can’t help but be amazed at all the parents (and their children) who use their cell phones during the kids’ games, as if paying attention for a whole hour to what’s going on in real life is just asking too much.

However, these parents simply represent what’s going on in our world today. According to Business Insider, the average cell phone owner uses her cell phone 144 minutes a day.

What would you do with an extra 144 minutes a day? For me, an extra 144 minutes might look like this:

  • A board game with the kids (45 minutes)
  • A hand written letter to my great aunt who appreciates time honored traditions (10 minutes)
  • Gathering my family for prayer (5 minutes)
  • Taking a walk with my hubby (20 minutes)
  • Extra bedtime stories for kids (15 minutes)
  • Talking about boys with my 10 year-old daughter (15 minutes)
  • Mowing my elderly neighbor’s lawn—and our own! (30 minutes)
  • 2 extra hugs per family member (4 minutes, but priceless)

We are in bondage to our cell phones, I’m afraid. We have become dependent—no, addicted—to its wailing siren.


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Until recently, we had more time to daydream, rest, create, innovate, reflect, rejuvenate, sit still, engage with loved ones, and get work done. Cell phones have robbed us from what truly matters. We are on 24/7 and don’t know how to shut off the noise, slow down, and savor the gift of life that God’s given us.

Can God use us when we’re so busy, always on the go, never still or quiet enough to hear His voice? Must He shout? Will He?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is this: You can free yourself from your cell phone’s grip. Here’s how:

  • Get honest with yourself. For two days, log exactly how you use your cell phone. Note when you use it, how long, and for what purposes. What surprises you? Upsets you?
  • Experiment. Leave the cell phone behind for a few hours, half a day, a weekend! Get an accurate sense of what your cell phone is really costing you, and tally up the benefits from giving it up for a while.
  • Create a plan. Implement boundaries. For example, do you really need an email alert set up? What hours will you check your email or accept calls? Can you leave the phone behind for part of the day, so you’re not tempted to fiddle around with it?
  • Share those boundaries with others. You can do this respectfully, even with coworkers and your boss. On of my clients told her boss the specific times she checks her voicemail and emails, which assured her boss that she will, indeed, get back to her.
  • Ask others to let you know when you’re breaking your own cell phone rules. If I ask my children this, they will be sure to inform me that I’m on the phone too much. They want their mommy time!

Again, what would you do with an extra 144 minutes a day? Would you live the life God desires for you? Would you race the race that’s before you? Would you rest more, pray more, and spread love around twenty times over?


 Kimberly Gleason is a Grand Rapids-based personal and executive leadership coach, business coach, author, speaker, and trainer. She specializes in helping leaders to improve individual and team performance, effectiveness, engagement, retention, and results. You can find out more about her free e-books, blog, resources, presentations, and programs at

words Some time ago, around this season of the year, a friend named Dennis dared me to take a crack at a certain sort of New Year’s Resolution. Dennis’s goal for the year was to pick a single word, just one, and let that word come alive in his life over a twelve-month period. His challenge for me was to do the same thing, to try out a word of my own.

Never the kind of person to let a challenge go unmet, I took the one-word resolution idea and decided to give it a shot. That year, of all the words to pick from, I chose one that had a glaringly obvious need for development in my life: PATIENCE. With the word tucked nicely into a corner of my mind, I hung a new calendar on the wall.

Not even a week after the ball dropped in Time’s Square that year, I was driving my family home from a party hosted by some friends. The night had been fun, but a few hours spent mingling while keeping track of four kids will fry my energy almost as quickly as it fries my last nerve. By the end of the evening, I just wanted to be away from people, away from talking, and away from noise in general.

As I drove home from the party, my temper was on a hair-trigger. So when one of my kids started disagreeing with me from the backseat, it was all I could take. I snapped immediately, launching into a verbal tirade about why I was right, how tired I was, and why children should be quiet when they’re in the car.

In the tense moments that followed my little outburst, I remembered that this was the year I was supposed to learn patience.

That patience didn’t come easily. Over the course of the next twelve months or so, there were many other moments where my brain had to check my impatient behavior—instances where I had to ask for forgiveness and try again. In time, though, I really did get better at keeping my composure.

When exasperating moments came around, I learned to count to ten before reacting. I learned to wait for people without getting frustrated right away. Little by little, I learned patience.

At the start of a new year, most people are thinking about those five pounds they’ve got to lose, or they’re contemplating finishing that project that’s been sitting in the basement for eighteen months. Instead of making resolutions like those this year, I’d like to challenge you to try something even better. How about a one-word resolution of your own?

What area of your character could use some growth? Is there a part of your life that needs development? If you had to choose, which word would you work on this year? How about kindness? Generosity? Contentment? Health? Compassion? Happiness? Control? Service? Prioritizing? Truthfulness? Selflessness? Trust?

Pick a word, any word, and seek to let it build in your life this year. Write it on your calendar or tape it on the bathroom mirror. Stick it to the fridge or make it the opening message when you turn on your cell phone.

Put forth a conscious effort to change this one word, and—I promise—something amazing will happen. When next January comes around, you’ll find that your one-word resolution has become something much bigger: a one-word revolution.

 Winning At Home, Inc. is a nationally-known organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. Dan Seaborn, founder, wrote this article. E-mail your questions or comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


downloadThere’s almost a popping noise in my head as circuits become overloaded. My eyes glaze over from wires crossing at a rapid pace because of the information being filtered to my brain. At the same time, bright colors awaken my senses and get my heart pumping. Words sear my soul and create a longing that wasn’t there just minutes before.

It’s all the Christmas ads I see weekly in the paper along with the pop-up ads I get online. It’s the computerized billboards that shine vivid images as I’m driving and the clever jingles I hear in my head for weeks from television commercials. It stirs a desire in me for things I didn’t even know I wanted and don’t come close to needing.

If you kept track of all the things you see that focus on others and compared it to the number of things you see that encourage you to be selfish, it shouldn’t surprise you that you might continually struggle with self-indulgence. It’s not that you seek to be that way, but it’s created partly by the environment or the world we live in today. But we’re still responsible for our response. I think the battle might be won more often if we understand where it originates. I have always found that understanding a challenge is halfway to overcoming it.


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Within the last few weeks, I’ve been challenging my family and myself to continue to die to the things that we want. The more we do that, the better off everyone seems to be. It’s not easy. Being comfortable, continually at ease, and have everything go our way—now that’s easy. In fact, it’s pretty sweet, but it’s also egotistical. I could easily generate a Christmas list a mile long, because I enjoy nice things, but it’s not what brings joy or satisfaction to my life. That comes more from serving others.

As Christmas nears, I can’t help but think about Christ and all He did to serve us. I am reminded of the miracle of His birth and how everything He did was with the intent of blessing others. Nothing was done for selfish gain. He is the example in my life.

While I’m sure it would be fun to give away gifts through this column, like popular daytime talk show hosts do on their shows, I think a better present would be to encourage you to try to live outside your box and consider others more important than yourself.

My family has chosen to do that by going on mission trips, getting involved in community events, locally and globally, and doing other things that keep us from thinking about ourselves all the time. It’s difficult at best but with perseverance, recognition of our motivation for things, and a desire to want to change, it’s possible to achieve that goal.

Sometimes the Christmas season puts too much focus on the stuff we’re going to give and receive. It leads to people standing in long lines and being short on patience. It reveals hearts filled with love but bank accounts empty of funds. It encompasses families gathering together as well as breaking apart.

This doesn’t mean I think people should return all the presents they bought. I just want to challenge you to start this Christmas to try and die to self more. Not only will you be blessed, but so will those around you. It’s a gift that will last a lifetime.    

averageDid you know that your values, passions, skills, talents, experiences, and life purpose fit into an overall vision and mission for your life? That they somehow relate? That they can and should give you direction? They are instrumental in identifying the life God desires for you. Like puzzle pieces, they form a picture of who you are and who you are supposed to be.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to be an ordinary person living an ordinary life for ordinary reasons. Ordinary, for you, means forgettable, superficial, and insignificant. No, you want to live a life that’s extraordinary. Significant. A life that powerfully impacts eternity. You want something to show for your life.

The first step in living the extraordinary life is to understand who you are. Spend time over the next few days journaling. What are deeply held values? Do you value ideas such as commitment, family, perseverance, integrity, community? What about your passions? What fires you up? Your life experiences, too, can inform your life’s direction. God can use them all for good. He has also given you many talents for His purposes. What are they? And have you considered that your life’s purpose is intended for His glory?

Once you’ve identified who you are and what God’s called you to do and be, it’s time to define your short and long-term goals. So let's get specific. Begin by answering the following questions:

  • What is your life purpose?
  • What goals should you create to help you live out your God-given purpose more fully?
  • Do these goals align with your values, passions, talents, and skills? Do these goals align with what God has been speaking into your heart?
  • Would accomplishing these goals bring you peace and joy, because they originate from God’s own heart?
  • What's the time frame for these goals?
  • How will you know when you've achieved these goals?  What will be the evidence in your life?

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Next, it's critical to discern what are your time zappers and energy sappers. What might keep you from accomplishing your goals? Perhaps your challenge is fear, or lack of training for a specific skill, or lack of time. Or maybe you find that you spend a lot of your energy doing things that are not the best use of your time and resources. Whatever they might be, it is a must that you don't allow time zappers and energy sappers to keep you from moving forward. Remember, Satan is working just as hard to veer you off God’s path.

And finally, have a powerful support system in place. Countless things vie for your time and attention, and most people have too much on their plates already. So besides eliminating or lessening those energy sappers and time zappers, find wise Christians who can support you and speak truth into your life. They can help you to stay on track, keep focused, and hold you accountable.

So go for it. Don't merely exist like so many people do, who, upon their last breath, say, "This is it? What do I have to show for it?" You are significant. You are unique. Your life is of such great value that Christ died for you. Only you can do what He designed you to do. Now go live the extraordinary life.

Kimberly Gleason, of Kimberly Gleason Coaching, is a Grand Rapids-based personal and executive leadership coach, author, speaker, and trainer. She helps people and organizations to flourish, reach their potential, and achieve their personal, professional, and organizational goals. Check out her free e-books, blog, resources, presentations, and programs at

tugHave you played today? No, I don’t mean surfed the web or ran a lap around your neighborhood. I mean play. You know, did you splash in a puddle, let your dog lick your face, tickle the kids, slurp spaghetti, or tell a joke?

Yeah, yeah. You’re busy with work, cleaning, and a million little things to do. Yet we can’t escape the fact that play isn’t a nice add-on at the end of the day. Rather, play is essential for our growth and joy. And while we recognize that play is critical for kids’ development, we tend to forget that play is good for us old people, too.

Play develops curiosity. Curiosity is the basis for learning. Were we not curious, we would never motivate ourselves to discover the truths about the world we live in. For example, we have an annual event in my hometown called Art Prize. Within a three-mile radius, one can see over a thousand works of art. Not only do I love the pieces themselves, but I also appreciate the stories behind the art. I learn much about art, human motivation, and the joys and sorrows of life. I can’t necessarily say the same about reading from a textbook.

Play builds our confidence. I think it’s high time I played a rousing game of tug-of-war. I’m not talking about kicking some little kids’ butt. I mean kicking some adults’ butt. In a godly way, of course. In a moment of insanity, we brought home two dogs a few days ago. And boy do those dogs love to play tug of war. When the war is over, those two walk away, tails wagging in the air, demonstrating confidence in their doggy-ness. Play can build our confidence, too. With so much to do at work in such little time, many people feel unsure about themselves. What a great outlet play is, then, to remember we are more than busy workers, harvesting the golden honey of business success and money. Jesus offers us the abundant life. And while work is necessary, yes, I can’t imagine He would deny us the pleasure of play.


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Play boosts your relationships. I love my husband. He hates tickling. So what do I do? Tickle him, of course! While doing so may not enhance his feelings for me, tickling does enhance how I feel about him. How? Because tickling is fun. (Yes, I realize that tickling is really a form of manipulation and control, but that’s acceptable since sometimes I need a power-boost). Seriously, though, playing—whether that be strategizing over a board game or jumping on a trampoline or attending a comedy show—inspires feelings of intimacy and trust. We like those we have fun with. That’s why leaders will often incorporate enjoyable and challenging team-building exercises into business conferences and retreats. Play makes people come alive and develop positive feelings toward others. When’s the last time you chased the kids or did cartwheels?

Play decreases stress. My clients lead hectic, frantic lives, as if they’re walking on a tightrope of deadlines, frightened they may fall. And no wonder. Their lives are ruled by their relentless to-do lists. They are exhausted and overwhelmed, and that’s from the day to day minutiae, let alone the major challenges they face. But sometimes, we need to just let it go. Satan wants to attack and overwhelm us so we become ineffective Christians. He knows that if he can make us weary, we are more likely to become defeated. Play gives us those breaks where we can refresh. So every once in a while, close your eyes to the madness and mayhem. Shut out the noise. Skip to the songs of your heart.

Kimberly Gleason is a Grand Rapids-based personal and executive leadership coach, author, speaker, and trainer. She specializes in helping leaders to improve individual and team performance, effectiveness, engagement, retention, and results. You can find out more about her free e-books, blog, resources, presentations, and programs at

choices“Hey kid, get a haircut” is a resonant symbolic statement from my youth, the 60s when America seemed to turn upside down and inside out. It was a time when the Counter Culture pushed us, pushed the Church, to explain the “Why?” of our lifestyle standards.

     “We don’t drink or smoke or chew, or go with girls who do,” said the Church.

     “Why?” Culture asked.

     It’s a fair question. Unfortunately, the Church’s rejoinder on these and a host of other “lifestyle choices” was not always coherent, credible, Christian, or Christ-like.

And The Beat Goes On

     Questions and opinions about lifestyle standards and choices form a never-ending debate. It’s one some people consider healthy but others find disconcerting, even threatening.

     I call this debate the "In the World/Not of the World Tension." It’s right out of John 17. Figuring out how to live “in the world”—physically and culturally—while being “not of the world”—philosophically—while going “into the world” is tough. It’s an everyday-in-every way tension because things keep changing.

     Youth keep acting like youth. Long hair—short skirts—knee high boots—tie-dyed bellbottoms—beads have given way to multiple piercings—tattoos—bling. And that’s just pop fashions. So now what?

Holy Lists

     Too often, I think, the Church tended to answer “Now what?” with a “List of Dos and Don’ts”—Memorize this, Do/Don’t this, and you’ll be OK. In other words, keep checking the boxes on someone’s “Holy List.”

   But then it got complicated because different Christian leaders, churches, and other authority figures came up with mismatched Holy Lists. From there it got more complicated because the Church turned in on itself and started fighting over whose Holy List is The Holy List.

Conviction vs. Preference


     So why do people fight over Holy Lists? One reason is they confuse "convictions" and "preferences."

     Convictions are beliefs we hold based upon (one hopes) “sound doctrine,” unchanging (timeless) biblical principles. One example: God's statements on sexual morality. God’s will on this and a few other moral matters are “non-negotiables.” God does not alter his moral will from one generation to the next and he expects us to obey…for our own good and the good of others.

     Preferences are different. Preferences are a host of non-moral practices, the so-called “non-esssentals.” They are (time-bound) ideas and attitudes each of us develop based upon personal tastes and perspectives rooted in different life experiences. Our preferences may vary at times in our own lives and certainly will differ from one person to the next.

    Because God commands holiness (1 Peter 1:16), our preferences must not violate the moral will of God. You can’t claim, for example, it’s your preference to shoot an annoying person, steal candy from the discount store, or engage sexually with someone other than your spouse. These acts are not legitimate preferences. According to God’s Word they are sin.

     But examples of harmless and permissible preferences are limitless. You like to sing using a hymnbook; your friend likes to sing choruses displayed on a wall, screen, or monitor. You order pizza; your spouse wants a taco. You “dress up” for church; your neighbor wears “holely” blue jeans.

     If we maintain our own preferences and let it go at that—assuming those preferences do not in themselves violate the moral will of God—than things are copasetic (1 Corinthians 10:23).

     But sadly many Christians aren’t content to live with their own preferences.

License – Liberty – Legalism

     This is why, for a long time now, I've been warning people: "Don’t add to God's list." It’s another way of emphasizing the Lord's command to "stop passing judgment on one another" (Romans 14:13).



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    In his Word, God gave us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). Yes, you could say God gave us a “list” of rights and wrongs, which we ignore them at our own peril. But if we ignore God’s commands and throw off his will entirely, we’re not living in liberty but license, or maybe licentiousness.

     On the flip side, in an effort to be “really holy,” Christians come along and "add to God's list." We create our own list because apparently we believe God didn’t get it right and needs a little help. Then we judge other people by our list. When we do this, we’re not living in liberty but legalism.

Free to Disagree


     To avoid license on the one hand and legalism on the other we need to live according to the principles of Christian liberty (Romans 14). Certainly, we need lifestyle standards, God’s list of right and wrong, so we may prosper. We need to develop a mature understanding of how to apply his Word in the world and live with godly preferences (choices).

     So it’s OK to have preferences. It’s OK to disagree with others’ preferences. It’s even OK not to like another’s preferences. The point, though, is to extend to them the right to live by preferences different from your own.

     God gave us basic moral principles to guide our lives, but He did not choose to speak to everything. He gave us room to think, to decide, and to be different. God gave us Christian liberty and within this we develop our convictions and preferences. And that is a great beauty of the Christian faith.


     We don't have to like what our Christian friend likes and there’s nothing wrong with this. It's OK for Christians to be different.

     And if that's true, than we have no business criticizing other Christians because we don’t like their preferences. If we criticize another Christian because his or her preferences do not match ours, than we’ve just elevated our preferences to the level of doctrine in the Scripture. We've made ourselves divine, and that is a sin.

     Preferences differentiate us. We are distinctive people. God's Word provides the unity. Our preferences provide the diversity.

     “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).



                           Rex M. Rogers, President SAT-7 USA,,  






Shane: Put this in a box or side bar?



Dr. Roger’s book on Christian liberty is available through in the print version and as an eBook:


Christian Liberty: Living For God In A Changing Culture – original 2003 Baker Books paperback


family2A multigenerational household is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as three or more generations living together. These types of living arrangements have been common in the Asian and Hispanic cultures, but they have not been typical in American households. According to the Census, only about 4% or 4.2 million American households in the past were multigenerational. That’s changing! Current Census results show that between the years of 1990 and 2000, multigenerational households in the United States grew by 38%. In 65% of multigenerational families, the children and grandchildren were living with a grandparent and in one-third of the cases, the parents lived with their children.

What’s my point in sharing all of this? I want to remind you that it’s possible you could end up living with your spouse’s family. As frightening as that might be for some people to consider, you have to understand that it’s within the realm of possibility, especially with the high cost of elder care and the constant threat of social security funds teetering on the brink of extinction.

When two people get married, they sometimes forget that even though they are physically marrying one person, most of that person’s family will be part of the marriage in some form or another. Couples might try moving away from their families in order to avoid any drama, but most couples will confess there isn’t enough distance to create that gap. Especially now with all of the social media platforms available to connect with loved ones.

But even if a family doesn’t move in together, a spouse’s relatives are always part of the marriage relationship. They help bring out all of those characteristics in your husband or wife that you either adore or perhaps irritate the heck out of you. The ones you saw in your in-laws but didn’t notice in your spouse back when you were dating. You begin to make the connection as time goes on.


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Fast forward to your marriage today and think about how many arguments you and your spouse engage in that end with someone using the phrase, “You’re just like your father,” or “That’s exactly what your mother would say.” Usually a tiff that ends with that kind of statement doesn’t end well. This is particularly true if it’s the default expression used in every disagreement. If it gets a rise out of your spouse, you keep pressing that hot button because you figure any kind of reaction might bring about change, but it usually doesn’t!

Remember, your spouse has an intimate connection with their parents as much as you do with yours. Even though your spouse knows their parents have faults and that they aren’t perfect, they still love them. When you continually criticize them, it hurts your spouse’s feelings. When you use your spouse’s parents as a weapon in an argument, it may put your mate on the defensive, but not put your relationship on the mend.

Discuss your spouse’s behaviors that are frustrating to you or that make you angry, but don’t blame their parents. It’s no secret that relationships with in-laws can be challenging, but do your best to alleviate the negativity by inviting them into your home not into all of your arguments.

Remember that those characteristics you love about your spouse also have a little something to do with their parents’ influence. If you bring that gratitude into your marriage and leave the negative out, it will help you win at home.

NewYearsResolutions2Ever notice how New Year’s Resolutions are often about how we wish we were different?  Lose weight.  Lower golf handicap.  Watch less TV.  Quit smoking.  Quit drinking.  Quit less-than-useful habit du jour.  Get out of debt.  Off-load stuff accumulating in the basement, the attic, the garage.

The moral of the story is that a lot of us want to improve ourselves and our lives, or at least our general condition.  But we have this problem called the human predicament.  As Pogo famously said years ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  It’s not family nor friends.  Not our environment.  Not even the economy that keeps us from fulfilling our dreams.  It’s us.

But still, the better angels of our nature want more.  We aspire to be better than we are.  So we make resolutions.

Resolutions are an interesting part of our culture.  Some people have fun with the exercise and make resolutions that are silly or superficial.  But others take this annual ceremony quite seriously.  They make resolutions that are sincere and possibly significant.

From a Christian perspective I can find nothing wrong with making New Year’s resolutions.  Having served as “an academic” for three decades I tended to make resolutions (set goals), sometimes at New Years, but often in the fall at the beginning of each school year.  It was fun and gave me a focus.  I set both public and private goals.  The public ones eventually saw the light of day, but the private ones often never did, things like lose fifteen pounds, write a book, or more personal, spiritual considerations involving my walk with the Lord.  I even saved them in a text file.  Actually, I still have that file dating back at least ten years.  Reading my old goals now is like a documentary on what I did or didn’t accomplish, which either way is humbling:  gratitude to the Lord for his blessing or regret for my own short-comings.

Making resolutions, whether in the form of goals or simply promises to oneself implies we believe we can change—or at least we hope we can.  And biblically speaking, it’s true, God made us what philosophers call “free moral agents.”  We’re not robots.  The details of our lives are not pre-determined in the primordial past.  God placed each of us on this earth for an appointed period of time, gave us the capacity to reason—to choose—and then expects us to do so.  While we’re ultimately accountable to him for how we use our God-given time, talent, and treasure, God gives us an enormous amount of freedom to decide what the “be” and the “do” looks like in our lives.


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Beyond this, the Christian life is supposed to be an experience of change.  It’s called the sanctification process.  Once a person accepts Christ as Savior, becoming a Christ-follower or “Christian,” than he or she begins to learn what it means to affirm Christ as Lord of life.  That is, over time, the new Christian is supposed to “grow in Christ,” becoming more like him, more holy, more sanctified.  This means change.  Through the Spirit’s work in our lives, grumpiness should give way to grace.  Temper to longsuffering.  Narcissism, the defining characteristic of contemporary Western culture, should give way to compassion, or what might be called “others orientation.”  God summarized it for us in a sound bite:  “And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

These examples reference the “be” of our lives—our character, who we are.  Character is the issue in this past year’s stories of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Nevada Senator John Ensign, and most recently, Tiger Woods.  We recognize these individuals’ talent and accomplishments, we know what they can do, but who are they, really?

It’s also possible to reference the “do” of our lives—our contributions or body of work, what we are about.  Not everyone is an Energizer Bunny, but God wants us to use our time and talent for good.  In the Old Testament human beings were given the task (work is a good thing) to develop the world and culture, i.e. our ways of life.  In the New Testament we’re told to “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  We’re commanded to “Watch,” “Be ready,” and otherwise “Not become weary in doing good.”  God expects us to be proactive stewards.  He wants us to think ahead and to find fulfillment in doing something for ourselves, for others, and for him.  So we establish plans, set goals, or make resolutions that identify a better tomorrow.

Moses reluctantly lead, but he got the job done in what’s still history’s greatest leadership story.  Nehemiah built a wall, but his legacy is a story of faith in action.  Esther used her royal position “for such a time as this.”  Paul conducted missionary journeys in the face of virtually every opposition possible in his day, finally giving his life for the cause.

Doing something for God matters.  “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).  What would American Christianity be like today if John Wesley had not tirelessly traveled the frontier?  Or Billy Graham not left hearth and home countless times to traverse the world?  The Greatest Generation answered the call and we are all direct beneficiaries today of their sacrifice.

This year, God blessed me with an Iranian Christian friend, a smart, talented woman with a compelling story of God’s grace in her life.  She speaks her native Farsi as well as English and holds a master’s degree in communications.  But she uses one English phrase that brings smiles all around.  When asked how she is doing, she’ll say, “I am more better.”

I like New Year’s Resolutions because they speak to hope in action.  They allow us to resolve to be or to do “more better.”  By God’s grace and enablement, we can, with desire, commitment, and work ethic, experience Gods’ more better.  I think one of my New Year’s Resolutions will be to resolve (with the Spirit’s help) to become more better at expressing the joy of the Christian faith.

Rex M. Rogers, Ph.D.

stagelights3Remember when former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, announced they were separating after 25 years of marriage. At the time of the announcement there was no mention of any particular reason, and it was just sad to see them give up. Schwarzenegger had just left the Governor’s office four months earlier and the couple had recently celebrated a silver anniversary. About a week after the separation, the news media revealed that Schwarzenegger had admitted to an extra-marital affair that resulted in the birth of a child. Apparently the woman was on staff at the Governor’s home and the incident and birth had occurred more than 10 years earlier. Now the separation was starting to make some sense. A year later Schwarzenegger released a book about the whole ordeal making his family essentially live through it all over again.

When you’re in the limelight, you literally can’t see more than a foot or two in front of you. I know because when I speak, I’m often under a bright, hot light for more than an hour. It’s difficult to actually see faces in the audiences. Figuratively, I think that illusive limelight, that everyone is chasing, can blind you from seeing the truth about yourself.

Celebrities deal with this all the time. They begin to think that circle of light is protecting them when I think it confuses them to the point where they can’t distinguish right from wrong. Eventually the light will expose them in ways that are not flattering. What happens is that once shining ray, intended to make a person look good, starts to turn and cast a bad shadow. There are so many celebrities, whether athletes, politicians, or movie stars who have faded under this brightness, there isn’t enough room to name them all.


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Even knowing this information, people continue to chase the limelight. Just look at the popularity of reality shows. Everyone is looking to be on the cover of People magazine, win a Grammy, or snag an Oscar and you have to wonder why when that lifestyle doesn’t appear to be so glamorous.

That’s why I think it’s important to live contently or put another way— live simply. To remind myself of this mantra, I have the word “simplify” carved out of wood. It sits on the table next to my bed so that every time I get up I see it there.

Instead of looking for ways to be in the spotlight, light the spot you’re in with who you are as a spouse, parent, sibling, aunt or uncle—shine in those roles and you will surely capture the hearts of those in your circle of influence. Whether your audience is one or one hundred, you can be a star by the way you conduct your life.

Think of the people you know or even don’t know, that you respect. Are they celebrities? You may have a favorite singer, author, or athlete but do you respect their behaviors, opinions, or attitude or do you simply appreciate their talent? I know some of the people I respect the most aren’t on TV. Their names don’t roll with the credits at the end of a movie. They are simply the folks living in my hometown that I see at the grocery store or at school picking up their kids. They are people I know who are working hard in their marriages and families, living within their means, and setting a good example for their children.

Stop chasing the limelight of fame and instead pursue shining the spotlight on your marriage and family.

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