The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: October 2009

The Enemy Within

I have to tell you…this is the first time that I’ve sat down to write a post for The Seed of Hope with a bit of apprehension. It’s not that I’m afraid…I just have this sense of darkness…or dread…or insecurity. I feel threatened.

This is a topic that I’ve wanted to write about for some time, but something (perhaps it is fear) keeps getting in the way. In fact, this feeling has been growing in both my mind and my heart for the past couple of weeks, and with that growth has come restlessness, irritability, and a weakening in my relationship with God, our God, who I love so much.

The focus of this post is on something, or perhaps I should say someone, that many of us don’t want to talk about. Some of us go about our daily lives pretending that he doesn’t exist. Others feel that talking about him will make him aware of our presence. I think that there are many people “of the cloth” that will touch on the issue, but are afraid to go in depth on the subject because, well because they don’t want to make their “sheep” uncomfortable. Well, guess what, sheep?

The Big Bad Wolf is here, and he’s real...

and I’m gonna talk about him. Yep, I’m talkin’ about Satan…the Devil…Lucifer. And I know that he’s gonna try to pound on me for doing this…for writing about him…but I don’t care. I’m walking with God, I have Jesus in my heart, and the Holy Spirit is protecting me from evil. You see, Satan has been riding around on my back for weeks now, and it’s time for him to be gone.

Jesus said to him “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’ ” Matthew 4:10 (NIV)

Describe him.

If I asked you to visualize Satan, what would you see? A snake? A demonic-looking creature? A red man-like figure with a tail, horns, yellow eyes, and a trident? Something so evil that you don’t even want to picture him?

I think that Satan looks like any man…like every man…and yet, like no man. How can this be?

Any man…

Look at the faces of men throughout history…Attila the Hun, Adolph Hitler, and Charles Manson, just to name a few. All were from different eras, yet each man was evil personified. Do you believe that the actions of these men were the work of God? How about the murderers, rapists, and child molesters sitting in prisons around the world today? Would you consider them to be “men of God”? I didn’t think so.

Every man…

I want you to stand in front of a mirror and look into the eyes of the person looking back at you. Before you do it, I want you to offer you this line of thought…

·         Nothing that comes from God is evil. Nothing.

·         Nothing that comes from Satan is good. Nothing.

Now go take a look in that mirror. Do you see a person who has told a lie, or stolen, or cheated, or lusted, or thought a malicious thought about an “enemy”, or envied the possessions of someone else? Can you run down the Ten Commandments and say that you’ve never broken one of them?

Ever?

Don’t worry; I can’t either. I’m no saint…never have been, and don’t suppose I ever will be. If you feel like I’m throwing darts at you, you can rest assured that I’ve plucked those same darts from myself at one time or another.

No man…

GOD created man in His image. Satan had nothing to do with it.

We are born in God’s image, and because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are born pure…free from sin…free from evil…all of us…even Attila, and Hitler, and Manson.

As soon as we are able to think for ourselves, Satan goes to work; on us!

Why do you think that Eve took a bite of the apple, or that Cain was beset by jealousy and murdered his brother Abel, or that the Israelites were havin’ one heck of a party while Moses was getting the Top 10 List of what not to do, The Ten Commandments?

Do you believe that God was responsible for any of those actions? Of course you don’t.

Satan was responsible for that very first offense against God in the Garden of Eden, and he has, in some fashion, played a part in every subsequent one, large and small, through all of history!

Every thought, word, and deed that is not in keeping with God is from Satan. Jealousy. Greed. Envy. Hatred. Prejudice. Dishonesty. Lust. Bribery. Murder. Cruelty. Rape. Abuse. Gambling. Theft. Addictions. Satan doesn’t commit these offenses against God. We do.

Satan didn’t try to talk Jesus out of following the path that God had laid out for him. He used a man to tempt him.

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’ ” MATTHEW 16:23 (NIV)

Satan didn’t betray God’s only Son, Jesus. He used a man to do it.

          As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him. JOHN 13:27 (NIV)

Satan didn’t nail Jesus to the Cross. He used men to do it.

Here they crucified him, and with two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle. JOHN 19:18 (NIV)

Born Again.

When someone is born again in the spirit, they open their hearts and minds to Christ, and invite Him in. I’ve heard that more people than ever before are giving their lives to Christ…perhaps this is out of love for Him…perhaps this is out of need for Him…perhaps they feel that the end is near…perhaps it’s all of the above.

I’m going to use an apartment as an analogy for what I’m trying to tell you…

There’s only room for one tenant at a time in an apartment. One moves out; one moves in.

When Christ moves into a heart, Satan gets evicted. Tossed out. Kicked to the curb. Put out with all the other garbage. Yesterday’s news.

Satan has been getting the boot more and more lately. His ranks are thinning, and he’s, well he’s mad as hell about it. He’s gonna come after me, and you, and every Christian…he’s gonna try to sneak his way into the hearts and minds of all of us, and try to take our eyes off of God. And make no mistake about it; Satan is a powerful adversary. Unlike an attacker that you can spot approaching from a distance, Satan works from the inside out. He is the enemy that lies within. Stand ready.

Man.

Satan always uses man to do his work. The same man that God created in his own image…the same man that God poured His love into…the same man that God blessed with a soul, so that we might spend eternity with Him. Don’t you find it ironic that Satan’s only way of getting back at the Creator is by using the created ones to do it? And do you not find irony in the fact that Satan pits God’s children against one another to keep them from being in union with God? Our minds are the only true weapons that Satan has! Fight back! Be ready. Be strong. Be alert.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for the saints. EPHESIANS 6:10-18 (NIV)

 

Amen.

See you next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 10/26/2009 at 7:00 AM | Categories: Faith -

The Pin

It’s been just over three years since I got my tattoo, the day that I was born again. I’ve gotta tell you…I’m still not real comfortable using the term “born again”, but when you get right down to it, I suppose that’s exactly what happened.

I got the idea to have a cross tattooed on my arm on a Sunday, paid a visit to a local tattoo artist on Monday to discuss the design, got my tattoo on Wednesday morning, and declared myself to be a soldier of Christ that same night. I made a vow to go out to do His bidding and to spread His word to whoever would listen. I don’t know…is that being born again?

What’s next?

So I woke up the next morning, all fired up, ready to go out and be a soldier of Christ! Well, here’s the thing…I didn’t know what to do or where to start doing it!

I had proclaimed myself to be a soldier of Christ, but what exactly did that mean? Soldiers fight, right? Who was I going to fight? Were there anti-Christ armies? Where were they? I was ready to go to battle, but who was my enemy? (The answers to all of these questions will be in a future post.)

And I’ll let you in on a little secret…if you’ve never walked around spreading the good news of God, you just don’t roll out of bed and start talking about Him. At least I didn’t. I was born and raised here in Birmingham, Alabama; in the “Bible Belt”, as many like to call it. Be that as it may, I just didn’t know anyone (other than priests…yes, I was a Catholic) that walked around talking about God.

And I’ll go ahead and admit it; I didn’t have the courage to stand up and talk about God (some of you know what I mean). Didn’t matter. I was gonna get past my fears and spread the news of what God had done for me, regardless of what people thought of me. I just didn’t know where to begin.

I AM

A couple of months later I came across a silver lapel pin that was a half inch tall and three quarters of an inch wide. The pin bore three letters: I AM. The tail of a shooting star crossed the A to complete it. It was that simple, yet so powerful.

God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” EXODUS 3:14 (NIV)

I knew that wearing this pin would give me opportunities to talk about my faith. I wasn’t wrong.

I remember placing my pin on my shirt for the first time, wondering if anyone would ask me about it.

It took about an hour!

I was standing behind the front desk in our hair salon talking to one of our guests about her next appointment, when she stopped mid-sentence, and pointing at my pin, asked “What’s that?”

I panicked for just a moment. Then I replied “Well, this serves as a reminder for me of things that I strive to be each day. I am a good husband. I am a good father. I am a good Christian. Things like that. And oh yeah, it stands for God, as in the great I AM, as in the Bible I AM.”

“Oh, that’s nice.” was her reply. I could tell that she wasn’t deeply impressed by my affirmations. You think I cared? I had talked about God…even if I had backed Him into the conversation at the very end. It was a huge victory for me! I didn’t know if God was smiling, but I sure was.

And so it went for the next few weeks. People would ask, and I would answer. After the first couple of days, the anxiety began to fade away. As time passed, I began to explain my I AM pin with a bit of confidence…and pride. I even began to look forward to the questions.

It’s GOD.

One day, I don’t know, maybe four or five weeks later, a guest questioned the meaning of my pin. I looked at her and with a huge smile on my face, said “It stands for God. He has blessed me in so many ways, and made my life so complete. I figured the least that I could do is advertise for Him a bit. And oh yeah, it serves as a reminder of what I try to be each day.”

My response had moved this lady. Fighting back tears, she thanked me for being so open and for having the conviction to talk about God. And she wished that there were more people like me around.

BAM! That was all it took.

I’ve been “runnin’ for God” ever since. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll talk about God at any time, in any place, in any crowd. He is my favorite topic.

I only wear my I AM pin occasionally nowadays. I don’t really need it anymore. You see, if you’re around me long enough (and that’s not very long) the topic of the conversation will at some point turn to God.

Here’s why:

I no longer question if God is smilin’ when I’m talking to people about Him, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or sharing the good news of what He provides me with each day. You see, when I’m talking, and people are listening, and I’m allowing His light to shine through me, I feel Him smiling on me!

You should try it sometimes. It’s awesome!

 

See you next week!

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 10/19/2009 at 7:12 AM | Categories: Faith -

If You Believe

“If you can believe it, you can receive it.” How many times have you heard this in the past few years? I’ve read it in books, and heard it from many inspirational speakers and “visionaries”. I wonder who originally penned this thought. I wonder if he received everything that he believed. I wonder if he believed in God.

I agree with the basic, stripped-down, bottom line of this message: a positive outlook does increase the odds of good things happening in your life. And conversely, walking around expecting doom and gloom will result in…you guessed it; doom and gloom.

I feel that the adage has one glaring omission, so I’d like to offer you my version of “believe and receive”.

If you believe that God can give it to you, only then is it possible for you to receive it.

 I am so happy and grateful now that I have peace of mind. Jackie and I are happy and healthy. Our salon has ten stylists and is one of the best salons in Birmingham. I have a great job with Redken. It gives Jackie and me the opportunity to visit cities around the world. We have money in the bank beyond our wildest dreams. I have my new Corvette. I am a good man. I am making me proud. I am a star that shines for others. I am a good Christian and I spread the good news of what God has done for me whenever someone will listen. I am full of life. I am a leader. I am a follower. I inspire others. I love living. I am finding oneness with God. I am.

I wrote those affirmations on November 6, 2006. I had only shared those particular thoughts with my wife Jackie and a handful of close friends. This past week I had the privilege of talking to a group of people that attend Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham, where Jackie and I are also members. I don’t know why, but I felt lead to share it that night with them, just as I have with you today.

You see, what I wrote on that November day was everything that I dreamed that I would one day see, feel, and be. Apart from Jackie and me being happy and healthy, none of the rest of it was really true!

A couple of weeks earlier, Jackie and I had watched this movie titled The Secret (definitely a topic for another day!), and the essence of its message was the “believe it-receive it” thing. This movie "planted the seed" for what transpired on November 5th (see the post title The Epiphany 11/24/08).

So the very next day, and every day thereafter, without fail, for the next two years I would offer my intentions…to God, to His universe, and in hindsight, to myself ! You see, I didn’t really believe that those things were possible, at least not for me. I always figured that those kinds of things, the rewarding things in life, were for everybody else. I wouldn’t even read self-improvement books that talked about the greener grass, because seeing the other side would only serve to make me more miserable.

For the first couple of weeks I’d get up early in the morning and have a seat in “my” chair in our kitchen, say a few prayers, and then pull out my sheet of paper. I read the list of affirmations with as much conviction as I could muster. I don’t know if it was my conscious or subconscious mind, but one of them kept on whispering “You don’t really believe any of that do you?”

Here’s where it gets a little hard to explain…

Of course I knew that what I was saying wasn’t true, but deep down inside I believed that it was gonna come true. It was gonna take some time, but it was gonna happen. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. All of it. I’d heard the term “blind faith” through the years, and thought that I knew what it meant…until I began reciting my affirmations.

I had faith…blind faith…unwavering, unquestioning faith, that God was gonna help me do this. So every morning I’d read the paragraph. It wasn’t long that I had it memorized. Looking back now, I think that it became a prayer that I offered up to God; a prayer that I believed would be answered.

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22

And life as I knew it began to change.

October 12, 2009

It’s been almost three years since I grabbed pen and paper and wrote my “dream list”. What has happened since has been, well, it’s been quite amazing. Everything on my list, or least all the important stuff, has come true.

First, let’s take a look at the insignificant:

I have a great job with Redken. It gives Jackie and me the opportunity to visit cities around the world.

At the time I thought that Redken was the only vehicle available to get the “God-message” bottled up inside of me to others. The idea of using the Internet, and more specifically The Seed of Hope as a means of reaching people hadn’t crossed my mind.

Our salon is one of the best in Birmingham. We have money in the bank beyond our wildest dreams. I have my new Corvette.

We work every day at making our salon one of the best, and who’s to say that it’s not? And look, when I was a kid our family was poor…any money in the bank was beyond my wildest dreams. Thing is, I don’t really dream about money anymore. Nor do I worry about it; it’s just not that important. Same thing goes for the Corvette…I could have one if I really wanted one, but hey, it’s just a car. Our 2003 Infiniti and 1998 Forerunner get us where we want to go just fine!

That’s it. Everything else on the list has either happened, or is continuing to happen. So remove all the tangible things from the list…the job with Redken, the salon, the money in the bank, and the Corvette from the equation.

What’s left?

Life Traits

I haven’t heard of life traits either…I guess I just made that one up! I’ve heard of personality traits, character traits, and genetic traits, but none of them describe what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the way that I live my life and what I strive to be each day. My state of being. Who and what I am. These intangibles, these things that matter most to me, may seem petty to you, but they have become the foundations of my life.

I AM…

Happy…grateful…healthy…at peace…a good man…a light that shines…a good Christian…a messenger…a  leader…a follower…full of life…loving life…inspiring others…finding oneness with God.

I am finding oneness with God.

Your Life List

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Bucket Lists, which consists of things that we want to do in life, i.e. see the Grand Canyon, travel to Australia, etc. Buckets lists give us incentive to be successful, something to shoot for in life.

Today I’m suggesting that you make a Life List; a list of what you want to be and who you want to be. Offer that list up to God every morning, with the expectation that He’s gonna answer your prayer…that He has answered your prayers. Make a commitment to God, and more importantly to yourself, that you will use the gifts that He gives you to live the life that you were meant to live. Then just do it!

“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23

I don’t care how old you are…you’re never too old, or too young, to be happy.

 

See you next week!

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 10/12/2009 at 7:00 AM | Categories: Faith -

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