Posted in My Journey

A Gentle Spirit

Be kind to one another. Love each other as Jesus loved you, insomuch that He shed his blood for us while we were yet sinners. Give and never fear of going without. God will always provide. He is the one who created everything. Is it so difficult for Him to supply the needs for his children?

Above all else, remember to have a soft and gentle heart to those who wrong you. They are lost, and they do not know what they do when they are harming you. The apostle Peter says it this way:

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” (1 Peter 2:19)

Be merciful to your persecutors. For as it says in Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

A gentle spirit is humble. A gentle spirit is pure. It does not desire vengeance, nor does it desire evil for evil. It returns love for hate. It shows understanding when there is a lack of wisdom. And it promotes comfort for those times when others feel insecure.

Never be afraid to show the world what Jesus looks like living inside you.

Posted in My Journey

What Is Love?

Love does not hate; it does not boast, nor does it seek revenge. Love cares for another more than oneself; it is not proud, arrogant or unmerciful. Love leads, conquers prejudice, and gives even when in need. Love is not afraid and will always be kind.

It would be easy to quote the apostle Paul’s inspired words about love from 1 Corinthians 13, but one of the greatest thoughts about love comes from Jesus himself, when he said:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Jesus demonstrated that very love when he died on the cross for us in order to pay for the penalty of our sins. And although the night before his death Jesus fervently prayed to God regarding this great responsibility placed on his shoulders, he still accepted it because it was God’s will. No other act in human history depicts just how much God loves us than for him to have given his son Jesus as a sacrifice to redeem us from death.

What is love? It is to look upon Christ’s sacrifice and to conclude how selfless an act it truly was for him to give his last breath for us sinners. It is to become like Jesus and to sacrifice ourselves for others as a means to allow Christ to live in us, not only in word but also in deed. We Christians owe our lives to God, and what better way to show our love for him than to give as he gave so that we can experience the fullness of his love living in us. No greater love is it than to sacrifice one’s life for friends.

As we move into the new year, let us resolve to let our light shine so that others may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.

Posted in My Journey

All Glory to God

All glory to the Highest, King of Heaven and Earth. Let all the angels praise His name, for He is good. There is no one greater than God. He reigns supreme above all things. There is nothing He has not made, for He made all things. He is the beginning and the end, the creator of all, and we are in his image, wonderfully made, perfectly crafted.

“And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8)

Give thanks to God, worship Him with arms outstretched; praise Him in the fields, praise Him in the woods, praise Him in the quiet places. Give glory to the Father of all, for His gift to us is eternal life through Christ Jesus His son.

The Lord is our rampart, He is our protector, He is our guard. His mercy is forever and His life lives in us through his Spirit. Worship God in the mountains, worship Him in the valleys, worship Him from sea to sea.

“And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3)

God is good. All glory belongs to Him. Let us give Him thanks, praise Him and worship Him in all that we do. All glory to God.

Audio transcript:

Posted in My Journey

A Change in Heart

How does one go from writing about zombies to writing about God? Specifically, how did it happen to me? Believe me when I say, I did not go out of my way looking for it. I was curious, but not to the point where my life would make a drastic about face. Only a miracle could have done that. And earlier this year, I was not into miracles.

Yet, when you see your life slowly spiraling out of control, when once things made sense but now it is nothing more than a jumble of disconnected events, when your legs break from under you to reveal a foundation constructed out of rot, that is when miracles happen.

For me it happened when I began reading the bible from cover to cover, a lofty goal I had wanted to achieve since my early teens. Never had the notion entered my mind that I would not accomplish such a feat until later in life, but I held firm to the hope that I would find the opportunity. Eventually, with the success of my book series underway, my relationships with other people went in another direction. I could have been a better person, but I was not. For a while there, not only was I in a bad place with those around me, but I was also in a bad place with God.

What can I say other than I was thinking only about myself. I recognize that now. Back then, I did not.

Nevertheless, things began to happen to me late last year when I was in the middle of reading the gospels. Matthew 5-7 hit me hard. The simplicity of verses like, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2) prompted me to consider a time when I will not be alive, but will be standing before the throne of God to account for everything I had done while living on this puny planet called Earth (Matt. 12:36-37).

My life took a sudden and abrupt shift when I went from focusing on me to focusing on other people and God. It was not until April that I finally fell to my knees with the realization that I was a sinner in desperate need of God’s forgiveness. I knew then that no matter what I did, I could never earn salvation, but through his grace, God is willing to give it freely to everyone who repents (Eph. 1:7-10).

King David echoes my experience in Psalms:

“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:16-17).

Will I ever go back to writing about zombies? Maybe, since I always thought of them as sin incarnate seeking humans to corrupt. But that may not be for a while. For now, I am happy to write about God and his awesome plan for those who are searching for real peace.

Posted in Bible Studies, My Journey

Psalm 23

In the span of a month, I have memorized Psalm 23, one of King David’s most famous songs dedicated to God. It is something I have wanted to accomplish since returning to church April 10, much like reading the bible cover to cover, which I completed last year. I am rereading the bible again this year, but this time it is the New International Version.

I am not sure what the reaction to this post will be (my 500th), but I am writing it to help others who may have wondered about the meaning of the psalm. Before going on, below is the full text, as presented in the English Standard Version:

Pslam 23

  1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  2. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
  3. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
  4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
  6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The interesting thing about memorizing scripture over a long period is having the luxury to think through the verses and their meaning. I can say without a doubt, each verse has had an impact on my life.

Let me begin with Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

When David wrote this, he knew all about being a shepherd through experience. In his time working out on the field, he had saved his flock from the jaws of a ravenous lion (1 Samuel 17:34-35). For David to compare God to a shepherd was natural for him. He knew all about the life of a shepherd because he had been one before defeating Goliath (1 Samuel 17:36).

Back in February, when I was in the throes of agony, I did not desire anything from God other than relief for the pain in my neck. I would classify it as an upsetting experience. However, it encouraged my belief that nothing really mattered in life other than to be kind to one another and live as peaceable a life as I possibly could. In other words, my want—desire—was nothing in comparison to knowing God was working a miracle in my life. He was my shepherd, and I had no hesitation knowing he was on my side.

Psalm 23:2-3 continues to say, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

I cannot say how important those verses were when I was going through one of the most distressing periods of my life. I had to let go of certain things in order to let God nudge me in the right direction. Once I had done that, green pastures and still waters presented themselves for me and I finally found peace. It was not by accident. A shepherd knows where he wants to lead his sheep, and God took his time to bring me into the fold of the flock. I resisted, but he was there to lead me in the path of righteousness. It may sound corny, and I would have agreed with you several months ago, but after having lived through it, I am in no way fearful to give him all the glory and honor for my renewed spirit and attitude.

David Changes the Way He Talks About God

Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” 

Something I had not noticed before was how David refers to God in a more personal tone. Instead of using pronouns such as him, he uses you. I wondered about that. Why would he do that?

I have had my dark days where I did not see the light. I define dark days as a time when I did not know God, and led a life that went diametrically opposite to what God wanted. Nonetheless, when I did wrong, he made sure I knew about it through his correction in the form of situations that did not work quite the way I had planned. Now, that is not to say his rod and his staff are bad things, because he was purging sin from my heart, and I knew he was not about to abandon me because of my sin. No. If God was using the rod and the staff to tap me back into place along with all the other sheep, then I knew he loved me. All he wanted was for me to be safe. Moreover, yes, that was a comfort.

David felt the same way, and to express the comfort he had with God, he referred to him in the most intimate way he could.

Pslam 23:5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

When memorizing this verse, I learned that God sometimes will not get rid of a problem, but control it, which left me with no other choice than to accept it and move on. Much like a pack of wolves wanting to kill me, he did not get rid of the wolves but he protected me from them instead.

Even more so, I was in the middle of a personal anointing at my church. I had gone up to remove a root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15) from my heart, and I had gone up to ask for forgiveness for the transgressions I had committed to the Lord my god. More than anything, I wanted reconciliation (Matthew 5:23-24). Because of this, the minister left my forehead soaked with anointing oil, something I had never experienced before. The event made verse 5 all the more real to me.

God’s Grace

Lastly, Psalm 23:6 states, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

I am at the point where I know God has forgiven me and his mercy is now upon my life. I do not have to worry that I am unworthy to receive his grace, because really, he has given me his grace freely without conditions. Nothing I do will earn me salvation (John 3:16). I know that now.

And with that knowledge, I know that when I die I will dwell with God forever.

 

Posted in Freedom Friday

I Can Never Say Goodbye…

This is going to be a tough post to write.

Sometimes life throws you circumstances you just have to deal with on your own. I have to admit that I have had my trials. I would like to think, though, I have always possessed the fortitude to overcome them. Call it determination. Call it perseverance. Maybe. I call it the will to do whatever it takes to succeed.

I have been writing three posts weekly since December 17, 2012. As of next Wednesday, I would have completed 500 posts. I cannot say how grateful I am to have accomplished so much since that humble Monday Mayhem post that started it all. To put it into perspective, 498 posts at 500 words per post comes to under 250,000 words over the course of 3 years. Add to those numbers the three books I have published, weighing in at another 250,000 words, and you can quickly see a pattern.

None of it, and I say this from deep within my soul, none of it means anything without you the reader to have visited, liked, or commented on all my work. What can I say other than thank you. You are amazing. You are the one who has made JackFlacco.com a place where people can talk about anything, including life, and not be afraid.

Life. My dream was to provoke thought, interest and ideas in the impossible, no matter how improbable those ideas may have appeared to be.

Unfortunately, something has taken precedence in my life. The only thing I can say is for the next little while I have to look after my health.

In the meantime, something has to suffer. I will attempt to continue writing my books. I will continue to think about the future, but I cannot continue writing the weekly posts. You have to know it is not something I take lightly to have come to the decision of stopping. Stopping is not something I do well.

I am hoping the future will look brighter once I take care of what I have to do to carry on.

What does this feel like?

It is like telling one of your best friends you can no longer be friends. As much as it is the wrong thing to do, it is absolutely the right thing to do. How can you tell your friend you are no longer kindred spirits? That is how it feels—like I have ripped my heart from my chest and thrown it into an abyss where nothing can escape.

I plan to keep this site up during the time I am away. I am not sure when I will be back. I am hoping a few weeks. All I know is writing has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. I cannot say how honored I am to have had the opportunity to interact with each and every one of you. You certainly have made my life a joy to live. Nothing will ever replace that memory in my mind.

Thank you so much for your incredible support. I really do love you all. I will keep you in my prayers. May God bless you in everything you do.

In a bit. I promise…

Jack