Monthly Archives: February 2013

What you cannot do

Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

There are times in our lives when we feel stuck, unable to move, heavy, and burdened. I don’t know about you, but those are the times I want to crawl in my bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep through the storms.

Years ago, my rental car broke down on a back road outside the city of Chicago. It was one of the coldest nights of the year. I had on dress shoes and a suit, not appropriate attire to walk a few miles through the snow to get help. Today, I would’ve hit OnStar and waited for help. Fifteen years ago, that was not a possibility. The snow banks made walking extremely difficult forcing me to lift my legs as if I were marching. My hands were cold. The wind stung my face. The snow was falling in sheets of thick flakes, and I could barely see the road ahead. For a moment I wanted to quit moving, but I knew that was the worst thing I could do. The gas station I had passed earlier appeared, and I was able to press on to get the help I needed.

Some of you are facing tough times right now. Whatever the mess is in your life, ask God what to do and get moving. Do what you know to do. Do what makes sense. Studies have shown the most creative and inventive times in history come during economic hardships. When the economy is bad and people start losing jobs, they start thinking; they start inventing; they start creating. If your marriage is suffering, do what you need to do to make it better. Don’t wait for your spouse to change…change yourself. If you need to get healthy, don’t wait another day. Study nutrition and start eating right. Exercise. Change your unhealthy habits. If you are suffering from an addiction, get help. Determine you are no longer going to let it have a hold on you.

My grandmother used to tell me, “Do what you know to do. Do what you can do. When you put forth the effort, God will show up and do what you cannot do.”


Did I say that?

1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.”

Have you ever said something you wish you could take back? If there were a rewind button, you’d hit it and start over! Maybe it was to your spouse; your parent; your child; your best friend. Once those words leave your lips, there is little you can do but apologize over and over. Sometimes an apology can’t take it away. Words can damage our hearts and make us insecure. They can cause more damage than a hurricane and replay over and over in our minds. What is more, they can cause times of extreme despair throughout our lives.

When we speak, Peter tells us we should talk as one who speaks for God. He is right, you know. In everything that we say and do, we should always represent God; whether it is Sunday morning on the front row of church or Friday night at the basketball game, our words matter. The manner in which we speak directly reflects our hearts. As children of God, it is our responsibility to honor our Father by choosing our words carefully. Perhaps nothing challenges me more in my daily life.

There’s a funny joke about a lady who was pulled over and arrested for stealing a car. Once booked and interrogated, the officer determined she had not stolen the car; in fact, the car she was driving was hers! With apologies, she was released. As the officer was returning her personal belongings, she asked why she had been suspected of auto-theft. Did she resemble a particular criminal? “No,” he responded. “I over-heard you yelling at the driver in front of you at the four-way stop. Your language was such that the stickers on the back of your car indicating that you were a Christian and loved God did not match the person driving the car. The owner of the car was a Christian and the person driving the car would not be cursing at the other driver. So I figured you had to have stolen the car.”

As people of God, we are called to a higher standard than others. We must love deeper than others; care more intensely; display tremendous compassion; and speak as a representative of God at all times. What a challenge…


God’s Bling

Job 23:10, “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

Gold; not only is it one of the heaviest metals on earth, it is also very beautiful and doesn’t tarnish or corrode once purified. Being soft and the most malleable and ductile of all metals, gold is used to make very fine jewelry. When gold is extracted  from the earth, it always contains other unwanted elements. Because of this, gold undergoes a  purification process to remove these elements to obtain pure gold.

To purify, gold undergoes several steps: melting, binding, and separating. Gold is melted at a temperature of 1103 Celsius. In binding, the impurities rise to the top. These are called Slag. In the separation process, the gold and slag are separated and usually, the gold undergoes the purification at least 3 times more before it is considered at perfection.

It is interesting that Job describes the outcome of his trials as “I will come forth as gold.” When God is done testing him, Job has the faith to know, he will come out of it looking like gold.

What is the slag in your life? What needs to be separated and removed from you? It could be your attitude or the way you treat other people. It may be an addiction or inappropriate relationship with someone. Whatever it is, God wants it out of your life.

Some of us do not understand the difference between a trial and a consequence. Usually, when you go through a trial, it is through no fault of your own. A consequence is a direct result of an action you have taken. God allows us to go through trials in order to purify us and make us like gold. We put ourselves through consequences by our own bad decisions.

James 1:4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

Trials are never easy but like Job we can rejoice that when it is over; when He is finished testing us through our trials, we will imerge stronger than ever. I want to be God’s bling, don’t you?


Be an Onesiphorus

Little is mentioned in the Bible about Onesiphorus; interestingly though, Paul took the time to write about him in 1 Timothy 1:16-18. In probably his final words, Paul wrote to Timothy, a young friend of Paul’s, because he was concerned for him and the church of Ephesus. As a prisoner in Rome, Paul realized there was little chance for his release. Under Emperor Nero, anyone believing in Jesus Christ was persecuted tremendously. Nero is known for burning Christians in his garden to provide a source of light. Because of this emperor, most of Paul’s supporters turned their backs on him, but not Onesiphorus.

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched diligently for me until he found me.”

Today, it isn’t difficult to find someone anywhere in the world. With modern technology, we have OnStar, GPS, cell phones, and an abundance of social networks. I can track down someone from my high school I haven’t seen in 30 years in very little time through Twitter or Facebook. Onesiphorus searched for Paul on foot, knocking on doors, and walking for hours. He diligently looked for Paul; and he found him. What an encouragement he must have been to him.

As I am writing this devotion to you, I am reminded of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian and American Citizen imprisoned in Evin Prison in Iran. Recently, he was able to sneak a letter out of the prison to his wife in Idaho. He writes of horrific torture and abuse because he is a Christian. I would like to share parts of that letter with you:

“My eyes get blurry, my body does not have the strength to walk, and my steps  become very weak and shaky,” read the letter, sneaked out of Evin prison in  Tehran. “They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ. But  they will never get this from me.”

Very much like Paul’s letter to Timothy, Pastor Saeed is writing to remind us of the devotion we must have for Christ. As Onesiphorus was sent to refresh Paul, I believe God is sending people to refresh Pastor Saeed; but maybe, we need to be one of those ‘refresherers.’

Who are you encouraging for Christ? Who do you diligently seek out and find? I want to be a modern-day Onesiphorus, don’t you? Many people are on the front lines for Christ throughout the world. We need to support them with encouraging words, offerings, and prayer.

2 Timothy 8-9, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”

You may write to Pastor Saeed at the following address. Please avoid discussing political issues or the Iranian or United States Government. Just encourage him with the word of our Lord.

Saeed Abedinigalangashi

Evin Prison

Saadat Abad

Tehran

Islamic Republic of Iran

God has called us to suffer for the gospel, through His power, because He has saved us. Be an Onesiphorus to someone today.


Dust in the Wind

Waiting for an appointment the other day, a lady’s cell phone began to ring to the tune, “Dust in the Wind.” A popular song by Kansas during my high school years, I started to hum the lyrics as she took her call. “Dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.” The words stung my mind as I thought of their meaning. Are we just dust in the wind?

Isaiah 43:1-2
“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine.'”

Dust? Would God call out with such a degree of importance, “You are mine,” if we were just aimlessly floating along, driven by the whims of the wind? Unequivocably no! We are created by God who knew us before we were even conceived. We are His. He calls us by name.

Jeremiah 1:5,”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”

There are times in life when we might feel like dust in the wind, wondering of our significance; wishing we mattered to someone; trying to find a reason for existence. But what a lie to even consider such.

Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

God is telling us not only are we significant to Him, He had a plan and purpose for us before we were even formed. Before our days even began, He had them fashioned just for me and just for you. We can’t even begin to realize the importance we are to Him.

I stopped humming that tune; in fact, I’ve vowed never to sing it again. Not only am I not dust in wind, I wanted to stand and shout in the waiting room, “I am the son of the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords! I am heir to His throne.”

Realize who you are in Christ and never doubt the unconditional, overwhelming love He has for you. Shout it to the mountains, “I am the glorious creation of God!”


The belly of a fish

Jonah 1:4, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”

Most of you know the story of Jonah. The guy who was swallowed by the big fish and lived in its belly for 3 days. He got there because the Lord asked him to go one place but he wanted to go another. And knowing he was disobeying God, he set out to “flee from Him.” It seems crazy  for someone to attempt to run away from God – the Creator of the Universe, the omnipotent King of all kings, the Great I am. Is there anywhere we could go that He wouldn’t see us? Find us? Reach us? When we read the story of Jonah, we almost laugh at his stupidity; yet, even now, some of us are just like him.

Unsuspectingly, some of us justify our actions, even though we know they are in opposition to God’s word. We disguise sin as cultural norms, political correctness, and claim the God of today is not the God of yesterday. The world is a different place, we assert. I often wonder if Jonah was thinking the same thing. He probably felt he knew more about the people of his time than God; after all, he was in the here and now!

A young man came to my office many months ago. He wanted to get married. “Could I do the ceremony for him?” I knew he and his girlfriend had been living together for several years and I asked him about it.

“We have,” he said almost proudly. “We bought a house together and after 2 1/2 years we think its time to take the next steps.”

“The next steps?” I repeated. “You’ve never taken the first step.”

In order for me to marry him, I told him he would have to move out, live apart, abstain from intimate relations, and do it God’s way.

“Oh,” he smiled, “Pastor, nobody waits until marriage anymore.”

We’ve become a society of rule makers and rule breakers. If it doesn’t meet our agenda, we find some possible way around it. We lawyer it down; read between the lines; and make our own precedent. When I think about it, there is a little bit of Jonah in all of us.

Take God seriously. If there is something in your life you need to change, don’t wait another minute. Bring it to God in prayer. Make it right, before you, like Jonah, end up in the belly of a fish.


Who is it?

Genesis 4:6, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

One of my childhood friends, Riley, went to a different church from me. Despite the fact my dad was a pastor, he and my mom always allowed me to go to Riley’s church when I spent the night with him. And I loved it. His church had breakfast before Sunday School, and we couldn’t wait to get to the cinnamon rolls – homemade, warm, and gooey. As disgusting as it might sound, we’d tuck one or two in our pockets to eat later before church.

I remember vividly a Sunday School lesson with a cartoon picture of sin knocking at the door. It was a drawing of a demonic looking creature standing outside a child’s door. The image bothered me. I had always envisioned Jesus knocking at the door, and the two outside my door didn’t blend.

The reality is we are constantly being pulled. What is right and what is wrong? Should I say this or should I keep my mouth shut? Am I being helpful or am I hurting? Sometimes it can feel like a ping-pong game in our conscience, and the batting back and forth can be overwhelming.

God warns us many times throughout the Bible of the evil lurking around us.

Ephesians 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Who is knocking at your door? Who are you letting in?

…it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Everyone of us have decisions to make on a daily basis. We like to keep our godliness at church, and during the week, do what is necessary to have our way. Sin is sin whether it is committed on Monday morning or Saturday evening. If you are letting it into your home, your car, your workplace, or your heart, you will pay the consequences for it and possibly destroy those around you because of it.

Listen to the voice of God. Read His word. Ask Him for guidance. Commit to God each day. Know who is at your door so you do not let someone in who doesn’t need to be there.