Untraveled Path

I wonder what that first day was like for Adam and Eve after having to leave the Garden of Eden? Can you imagine opening your eyes and realizing it wasn’t a nightmare but all that had happened was reality? Some of you know what that feels like.

Or Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives…what was it like the day they stepped out of the ark and realized they had to start all over.

What about the morning after the crucifixion, the disciples somehow had to open their eyes and begin again.

You may be there today.

Anytime we face an untraveled path, a tragedy, a devastation, God is with us. Even when we have to start over after horrific circumstances, He is ready to show us how to pick up the pieces, one step at a time.

Today keep these words from Hebrews in mind:

Hebrews 13:6, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?'”


He Means It!

My grandmother used to say, “when things do not go as we planned, they do.”

Has your life ever taken a turn that left you stupefied – standing in the road in utter shock as to how things could possibly turned out this way? I can imagine it is how the disciples must have felt as they saw Jesus being arrested, beaten, and crucified. He was the miracle worker! He was their King! Had they misinterpreted His actions that much? Had others been right about Him? Was He not who they thought He was?

Sometimes we make a decision we believe is from God. We’ve gone to Him in prayer. We’ve studied His word. We feel assured He is with us. Suddenly, out of nowhere, it turns bad and we don’t understand. Were we that off-base? Is God really who we thought He is?

I am a big believer in “the BIGGER picture.” While we may feel we are the ones going through the fire, God knows different. Maybe He is sparing us from something far more tragic than the supposed failure before us. Maybe He is preparing for something much better than we imagined. Maybe what we see as failure is a stepping stone to a greater purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Those are not just words to make us feel better.

In the South, we often greet people, “How are ya?” Everyone knows it isn’t literal. No one would ever stop and say, “Well, my bursitis is flaring up and my septic tank overflowed and flooded the basement.” The response is, “I’m good, you?” And when we depart from one another we add, “Come see me!” No one would ever say, “OK. When? How ’bout Friday night?” The response is, “We’ll do!”

When God says He knows the plans He has for you, He means it! When He says He will prosper you and not harm you, He means it!

The next time your plans don’t fall into place as you expected, praise God for it! He is either preventing you from something painful down the road, setting you up for something much better, or using the process as a step-up to something you’ve never even thought. God is our hope for the future.

When you ask, “What happened?” Know this, God happened. And I’m so grateful He did.


Do I Qualify?

Luke 1:34 tells us Mary’s response to the angel when she is told she will carry the Son of God, “‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?'”

Doubt, a tinge of hesitation, apprehension, suspicion, and mistrust, can cripple us if we allow it. “I can’t pass this test.” “They would never accept me as a friend.” “I could never be elected.” “They’ll never hire me.” “Why would God want to use me!”

We all do it. We all experience doubt. Often, when I read the words, “Do not fear…” in the scriptures, I replace the word fear and substitute the word doubt.

Really, when Mary questions the angel, she is asking, “Do I qualify?”

Doubt makes us believe we are unqualified to do what God is asking us to do. We tell ourselves we could never go on a mission trip to a third world country – we aren’t qualified. We could never go back to school and earn a degree – we aren’t smart enough. We could never tithe 10% of our income – we can’t pay the bills as it is. On and on, doubt, doubt, doubt…

In Luke 1:30 the angel tells Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” Let’s change the words for the sake of perspective, “Do not doubt, Mary, you have found favor with God.”

It isn’t so much at times being nail-biting afraid as it is a lack of confidence that we are capable. But if we aren’t able to do it, why would God ask us? Moses worried that he couldn’t measure up because he stuttered. Gideon felt he was the least of the tribes. He didn’t qualify for battle! Abraham questioned God because he was an old man. Zechariah questioned Him as well. Realizing the incredible impact these people made for God, I wonder, how could they worry about qualifying? The fact that they did lets us know they are just like you and me.

Do not doubt, Mary, you have found favor with God.”

Remember Isaiah 66:9, “‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord. ‘Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?’ says your God.” 

Our Father asks us with confidence. We need to answer with confidence as well.


We are all walking sermons

One of the greatest moments in my day is when I can preach. I really can’t imagine doing anything else. Years, years, years ago I may have said pitching baseballs but what a privilege to preach and love people. The other day I was thinking about all of us. Realistically, we are all walking sermons. It’s not about how many times we come to church or how much money we give. It’s not about the bumper stickers on our cars or the symbols we wear around our necks. No! Our sermon is what we do everyday – it’s how we walk, talk, respond, and act.

Obedience to God’s word – not just on Sunday – but Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday too! It’s at the ballgame, work, in the classroom, and in the gym. Everything we do and say is a sermon for God. It leaves me with the question – what are you preaching? What am I preaching? At Wal-Mart, what sermon did you deliver yesterday? One of kindness and love or impatience and intolerance. Maybe it was one about being judgmental or of being discriminatory.

The other night I was reading the story of Lazarus. It comes from John 11. The story is about a man, a friend of Jesus, who died. When Jesus returned to his house, he had been dead for at least four days. He was already in a tomb. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, was very special to Jesus and when he arrived, a heaviness of grief hovered over the home. I’ve read the scripture many times; I’ve preached on the story more times than I can count. But, the other night this scripture stood out for me.

John 11:38, “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 ‘Take away the stone,‘ he said.”

Now Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why would He ask that the stone be rolled away? I mean, if I could raise someone from the dead, I could certainly move the stone, couldn’t you? And oh how dramatic it would’ve been to point my fingers, wiggle them, shout out, “Open the tomb and come on out!” The stone would roll away and out walk Lazarus.

The reason Jesus didn’t do it that way is simple – PARTICIPATION. He wants our help. He wants our participation. He wants us to play a part in the miracle. He wants us to be His sermon.

Today, take away the stones blocking the miracles of God. Realize that you are an instrument God wants to use in a mighty but it starts with YOU. In your quiet time with God, ask Him to help you preach the life sermons He needs you to preach. Participate in The Kingdom of God


Your Stuff

Luke 12:16-20, “And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’”

What will happen to your ‘stuff’ when you die? Have you ever really thought about it? The baseball card collection? Your clothes? Tools? Books? Cars? Ski Boots? Will your ‘things’ be what your family treasures about you or will they be tossed away? I have attended the death-bed of many people and not once has anyone whispered in the minutes before leaving earth, “Oh I wish I had stored up more belongings!”

Jesus told a parable about a very rich man who had stored up so much food that he had to tear down his barns and build bigger ones just to manage it all. God calls him a fool. A fool! There are not many times in the Bible that we hear God call someone a fool. This scripture makes me sit up and take note. I do not want God to call me a fool; do you?

There are items in our garages, in our closets, in our pantries, in our freezers that can be a blessing to other people. We tend to hoard our things as if they will benefit us later. God calls us to help one another. Think about it; there are cold people living on the streets, and some of us have more coats in our closets than we could wear in three seasons.

Think about sharing some things you do not use by blessing others with it. Now more than ever, we have to become people aware of one another. We have to put aside our selfish, individualistic natures and start thinking about the community of God’s Kingdom. That may mean we need to view stuff and others differently.


Giving

Hebrews 13:16, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

As a boy growing up in the church my father pastored, I remember well a particular lady who was  best known for her 7 layer caramel cake. Any covered dish lunch or funeral, there was one constant, Miss Agnes’ cake. There was however a unique characteristic many people didn’t know. Miss Agnes was a giver. I once heard her explaining to my dad a particular gift she had made for my mom and him. Any gift Miss Agnes gave meant something to her. She would never go out and just buy something; she either made it or it was something that meant a great deal to her.

Once I heard she gave her father’s pocket watch to a young man she had witnessed grow up and because he meant so much to her, on his graduation day from high school, her gift to him was the watch. With tears in her eyes, she explained to him how much it meant to her and therefore, how much he meant to her. He understood the sacrifice with which she offered it to him and he vowed to always treasure it.

When I read this verse from Hebrews, I think of her example. It isn’t telling us to give out of abundance, it is telling us God is pleased when our giving is a sacrifice. The definition of sacrifice is a loss or something that is given up. It isn’t a few extra dollars in our pocket or a couch we wanted to get rid off. God is asking us to share with others as a sacrifice on our part – that’s what pleases Him.

I often hear people say, “If I had money, I’d be the nicest rich person!”

While it sounds good, the truth is, if you won’t share the little you have, you aren’t going to share the abundance.

Your time is a sacrifice. When we serve others with our talents and give to them time we could be doing for ourselves is a sacrifice. My question to you today, “What are you sacrificing for others in order to please God?”

Take the time today to evaluate your giving. If you struggle in this area, ask God to help you. Start looking for ways to serve others in your community, church, neighborhood, and home. Open your heart to the possibilities and begin making a difference in God’s Kingdom.


The Path of Life

Psalm 16:

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.  I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods  or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;  you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;  surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;  even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord.  With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

I love this Psalm by David. It says so much about out Father’s love for us. From the very first words, we are assured, like a child, that God will keep us safe from harm. You may be the richest man on the earth, but if you do not have God, you have nothing good. It doesn’t matter what you have or what you do, if God isn’t in your life, it isn’t good.

In today’s society, there are many gods to worship: money, games, material possessions, careers, and so much more. Many of us put our hopes in those fleeting things. Worshipping those things will only cause you to suffer more and more. David tells God, he will not worship other gods, but the Lord alone is his security.

When rough times threaten your peace, it is God who will take you up under His wing and give you the strength to endure. Money isn’t the answer. A new house isn’t the answer. A new car isn’t going to get it for you. Only the name of God should come for your lips.

Our portion (our inheritance) is drawn up by God. Our cup (our destiny) is planned out by God. He assigns them because He is in complete control of both. God makes known our paths for life and if we allow Him, He will see us through to the very end.

Set the Lord before you today. Remember who is your right hand and walk confidently that you will not be shaken.


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