Each of us have our own journey when it comes to prejudice. Mine is different from most. I am 100% Sicilian. Sicily is a small island below Italy. My father was born there and came to America as an immigrant. Since he was a leader in the Italian community, I grew up surrounded by people from the old country. I’m sure you’ve seen movies about the Sicilian mafia, and the arrogant bravado of Italian men. Early in life, some of my experiences became a significant turnoff. This prejudice against Italians caused me to not just dismiss my own heritage, but to look down upon others with that background. Every culture has its deficiencies, but we are called to love and forgive. I have since repented of my bigotry, have embraced the beauty of my culture and am now proud to call myself a Sicilian.


Looking back over the past 50 years of following Jesus, I’ve discovered a pattern worth repeating. Coming out of fatherlessness, atheism, depression and suicidal thoughts there was much that needed to be healed in my life. Many of my issues began with “DIS.” My foundation had been DYSFUNCTIONAL, unhealthy and abnormal. I was often DISCOURAGED, deprived of confidence. My rebellious attitude and its consequences were the result of being DISOBEDIENT to God’s best for my life. Consequently, I lived DISHEARTENED, having lost all hope and enthusiasm. But, when I allowed Jesus to become my Lord and Savior, gradually God made my life fully functional, courage filled my decision making, and I became committed to having no preference other than to obey God. Now my heart overflows with His love, joy and peace. 


Are you disappointed with God? If you are, perhaps this Bible verse will explain why. Romans 10:11 in the Amplified version says, “Whoever believes in Him [trusts in, and relies on Him] will NOT BE DISAPPOINTED . . .” That’s how NOT to be disappointed: believe and trust in Jesus alone. The only guaranteed way to NEVER be disappointed. Putting your complete trust in anyone or anything else will always lead to discouragement and despondency. When it comes to the most important dimensions of life, if we believe and trust in Jesus alone, no matter how difficult our circumstances are, He will see us through to a fulfilling end. Disappointment is preventable. It always depends on what we’re trusting in. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)


Pressure can produce great value: from oil to diamonds to muscles. That’s why I swim with hand paddles and fins. They allow me to swim for longer periods of time, increasing my muscle strength and endurance in the process. Strength and endurance produce character and spiritual qualities as well. I’ve found that by applying greater passion in my prayer life, likewise, increases my strength and endurance developing spiritual muscles. Passive swimming produces weak muscles. Passive prayers bring weak results. The Bible says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” (Matthew 11:12, NIV) Choose to embrace the value of the pressures of life, and they will produce the strength and endurance you need to finish well.


It’s hard to see the value of things that repulse us. Even if they are a part of our own lives. But God allows them for a greater purpose. Galatians 4 states that Paul the Apostle had a repulsive eye disease, but it didn’t stop believers from loving him: the man who once persecuted and killed Christians. The love of God transcended it all. Mother Teresa tells the story of a dying man she was caring for who was being eaten with worms. The smell was so bad no one could be around him. As she was caring for him, he looked at her and said, “Why do you do this?” Saying words that were filled with God’s heart, she replied, “Because I love you.“ God, give us that kind of love, even for those whose lives may in some way repulse us.


How valuable is the truth? As the very antidote Jesus said would set us free, it would have to be priceless. Likewise, truth’s opposite would be horrific and only bring bondage. When you and I come to the place where lying doesn’t bother us anymore, then our lives are headed for destruction. Satan is the father of lies, and the wages of sin is always death. There’s no such thing as a little lie, any more than a little murder. We live in a world where lying is epidemic, seen as justifiable, while truth is worth sacrificing if there is a perceived higher ground. Tiny deceptions always grow. Kill them at their source. Rip them up by their roots, or they will multiply like the plague. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” We can’t know Jesus without loving the truth. 


Would a person be more prone to be selfish and lie on their deathbed, or humbled and truthful? A random question, but quite revealing. The fact is: deathbed confessions are more common than deathbed denials. If we believe this is true, that faced withstanding before God in eternity we’d confess all, then it might inspire us to die sooner than later. To ourselves, that is. Paul the Apostle believed it. He wrote, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) And “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2-3) Contrary to conventional wisdom, dying to self is one of the most worthwhile experiences in life.


People have always mistaken freedom for being free. That’s why free will is the greatest responsibility each of us has ever been given. In a moment, it can turn from liberty to license. An entire generation seems to be mistaking privilege for entitlement. Paul knew the dangers of false entitlement all too well. A man of privilege, Pharisee of Pharisees, he used his position to persecute, even murder, others. Totalitarian governments have been doing it since the dawn of civilization. Paul wrote, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” I’m created to love and serve others, for their good, not for my gratification. 


When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He knew His only hope for remaining safe was to cling to the Word of God and His promises. Therefore, He addressed each of the three temptations with, “It is written . . .” Christ’s strategy for resisting temptation must be ours as well. When we are tempted, and we each will be, we need a reservoir of the Word of God in us to draw from. You can’t grow a harvest overnight. It takes time and preparation. We plant God’s Word in our hearts for the battles ahead. That’s why the psalmist wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, NLT) Writing the Word of God on our hearts is the only pathway out of darkness into the safety of His will. 


Do you know that Jesus is alive . . . beyond a shadow of a doubt? Many of us do! We know He is alive because He’s proved it to us over and over again. In Acts 1:3, the Bible says, “After His suffering, (Jesus) showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.” That’s not unusual. I believe it’s actually the normal Christian life. Now, I’m not primarily talking about miracles and healings, though if we can recognize them, they happen to each of us as well. But, if we have spiritual eyes to see, God is revealing His reality to us on a regular basis. It’s the same resurrected life Jesus showed His disciples in the first century, and one of the primary ways we continue to know Jesus is with us.


Unless we love what God loves, we’ll never be strong enough to hate what God hates. Unless we love God’s Word and what He values, we will gradually be drawn away to love the world. Jesus made this absolute conviction clear in this unequivocal statement, “What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15) That’s quite a demonstrative sentence, and, of course, shouldn’t be sweepingly applied. But He wasn’t overstating it! We can’t live with one foot in the Word and the other is the world. Eventually, we will be drawn away from the truth to believe lies. Sadly, I’ve seen it all too often. What started out as a flirtation with sin, led to bondage and addiction. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)


We’ve all been hurt by others. But how we respond to hurt will define who we are. In the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Bible says, “…Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But, before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” (Matthew 1:18-19, NLT) Is it any accident that the man God the Father chose to be the earthly father of Jesus did not want to publicly shame his fiancé, even though he mistakenly thought she had gotten pregnant by another man? Wouldn’t our world be a better place if people today refused to publicly shame those who hurt them most? Love covers. Hate shames.