Monthly Archives: November 2013

The good and the bad

The other day as I was leaving an Atlanta mall, a security guard trainee stopped me. Apparently the mall was doing random security checks and for whatever reason, I was picked. “Do you mind if we check the content of your bags with your receipts?” he asked. A manager stood beside him, posed in an intimidating stance.

“Not at all,” I answered.

Shoppers passed by, some not noticing at all and some glaring at me as if I were a shoplifter. The manager instructed the trainee on a few points and then released me with a simple “Thank you.”

As I walked to my car, I noticed a shopping cart, picked up by the wind, rolling aimlessly in the parking lot bound for an unsuspecting car. A man, around my height and weight, hurried to catch it before it dented someone’s automobile.

As I continued to my car, a young lady yelled from a distance a quick thank you for preventing the cart from hitting her car. I casually waved not knowing what else to do.

In less than ten minutes, I went from being the person I was when I entered the mall to shop for a gift for my wife, to a suspected shoplifter by people passing by, to a good Samaritan – the latter two being totally incorrect.

Isn’t it amazing how we size-up people by appearance? A 20 second glance and we think we have the whole story.

Standing on the corner of downtown Atlanta, a man held a sign which read, “I need money.” He was at a red light and my car window view of him met him face-to-face. I rolled it down and handed him the cash I had in my pocket. I didn’t want to size him up as had just been done to me – good or bad. I didn’t want to assume why he needed the money or if he needed it.

God knows our hearts. He knows the makings of us. Sometimes the judgement of others hurts, especially when the glances are negative and condescending. Other times the judgement is a false belief that we have done something extraordinary and we haven’t. Either way it is wrong.

Today as you go about your day, think about how you judge people. Maybe you are quick to assume one way or another that a person is this or that? As I drove home, I felt a closeness with God; grateful that He knows who I really am – the good and the bad.

Keep this scripture in mind from 1 Chronicles 28:9, “For the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”

Today ask God to help you see people through His eyes.

Who needs your help today?

Acts 3:1-7, “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.”

This story in Acts intrigues me for several reasons. It is interesting that there is a man who has been crippled since birth and people helped him daily by bringing him to the Temple gate called Beautiful.  Why?  So he could beg to acquire the basic necessities of life. I assume, they would pick him up at the end of the day and take him home as well. What a blessing these people were to him.  Without the coins he received each day, he would not be able to live.  Without their help getting there, he would struggle to survive.

When he sees Peter and John, he asks them for money. Peter and John do not have silver or gold to give him; instead, they tell him “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Those words give me chills because of the power behind them. They take the man’s right hand, help him to his feet, and he takes off on strong feet and ankles.  His life has forever changed.

Which was the better help for this man? There is no way to answer that because both acts offered him assistance; yet, Peter and John’s way changed his life.

It brings me to this thought: how often do we encounter people struggling with life, and we want to help them in some way. We see what they need to change themselves, but it is easier to bring them to the Temple gate to beg instead of truly changing their lives. Maybe we do not feel comfortable telling them about Jesus of Nazareth, the King of kings and Lord of lords. We would rather offer sweet words and move on. When is the last time you’ve asked someone if they have Jesus in their life or is it just easier to drop a coin in the cup and walk on by.

I feel stronger than ever that we must become people with the faith and vision to take someone’s right hand, help him to his feet, and in the name of Jesus of Nazareth tell him to walk – in the fullness of Christ, in faith, in obedience, in a life centered by God.

Who needs your help today? Will you drop a coin and pass by, or will you change their life forever? Think about it.

The Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

I don’t think a Thanksgiving has passed in our home that Norman Rockwell’s famous Thanksgiving dinner print doesn’t cross my mind:  the perfect turkey, moist and seasoned; the table filled with friendly faces, laughing and agreeable; no stress; no dysfunction; everyone under one roof; just pure unadulterated joy. It is what we all hope for, but it never quite turns out that way. The reality of the Norman Rockwell picture is although we strive for the perfection of the day, it really isn’t what Thanksgiving is all about.

A few years ago a pastor/friend of mine called to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. He started to tell me of his day. Because his wife had passed away that year and he had no other family, he invited a group of “misfits” to dinner. These were people who had no where else to go for Thanksgiving. (Some were divorced, some estranged from family, and some never had anyone in their lives to begin with). As he described the gathering, the day for him sounded the most like the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving picture that I’d ever heard.

When I told him what I thought, he laughed and explained to me why I might feel that way, “You know, Mike, the one statement I heard the most throughout the day was ‘I’m so grateful not to be alone today.'”

His words brought tears to my eyes. So many of us spend our time concerned with who is at our table; or how we appear to others; or who has treated whom a certain way; or why this person has done this; we forget to be thankful we aren’t alone. What would our table look like if no one was there but us?

I want to encourage you today, as you gather with family and friends, to be thankful that you are not alone today. Be thankful for the diversity of personalities and appearances of those around you. Set aside your conflicts. Celebrate the lives of those who sit at your table.

When we choose to be grateful for one another, animosity leaves; disappointment vanishes; anger exits; and love surfaces.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Where discipleship begins

Galatians 2:20, “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Most of the original 12 disciples were crucified because of their ministries. But when Paul wrote this, he wasn’t suggesting the same for us obviously. He wanted us to realize that in order to have spiritual victory over the evil of this world; in order to live as Christ lived; in order to allow Him to move and work in and through our lives, we had to be crucified with Christ. No longer do we have the right to control our own lives. In being crucified with Christ, we find the power to live a life filled abundantly with the joy, power, and abilities of Him.

Christ left so that the Holy Spirit could fill us and live in us. This gives us the ability to do “what Jesus would do.”  Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whatever we encounter, we have the ability to conquer because Christ lives and works within us.

Today, in your prayer time, talk with God about living through you. Here are some guidelines to help start a dialogue with Christ:

1. Express to Him that you want very much to be a person of God. There are times when you feel defeated and inadequate. There are times when you do not know how to deal with certain people or do certain things. Admit to Him, you need Him.

2. Accept the authority of Christ to give you exactly what you need, whether it be in words or actions, believe you can overcome every obstacle because Christ is directing you.

3. Surrender to Him. Give Him express permission to live His life through you. Release the controls. Be crucified in Him.

You may have to pray this prayer on a daily basis until you can freely surrender to Him. Discipleship begins when we allow Christ to live in and through us.

He is God and He is good

I’ve been thinking a good deal about Thanksgiving, and how I celebrate the day. I remember as a boy learning about the Pilgrims and the Indians; tracing my hand on construction paper to form a turkey; helping my mom make pumpkin pies; and smelling the turkey as it baked in the oven. Usually, the day was filled with cousins and neighbors. We’d ride bikes or throw around the football. My dad would pick at the turkey and my mom would chase him out of the kitchen.

As an adult, my Thanksgiving aren’t much different. Even though my kids are grown, there is still activity in our home – and yes, I pick at Connie’s turkey as well. Who can resist?

But what is Thanksgiving, really?

Psalm 100 reads:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2     Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
5 For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.

For the Lord is good… what a reason to rejoice! What a reason to celebrate! What a reason to shout praises to His name!

This Thanksgiving, I want to focus on Psalm 100. I plan to prepare a devotional for my family, whoever may be there. I want to encourage you to as well. 

Know that the Lord is God…when it comes down to it, the message is simple, He is God and He is good. I am thankful that He is my God and He wants what is good for me.

Guard your steps

Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”

The Hebrew word for guard is Sha-mar meaning to take great care of something. It means to pay close attention and to protect from intrusion. The word Sha-mar places the responsibility on self. It is our duty to guard and protect and defend.

In this scripture from Ecclesiastes, we are requested to watch ourselves carefully as we go to house of God to worship Him. Our worship must be about HIM and our minds must be fixed upon the things of God.

To honor God in worship, here are some steps you can follow to help you guard yourself:

1. Prepare for worship. Have a good mental attitude. Go before the Lord with a humble and expectant heart. Look forward to going to church or reading your Bible in the morning or meeting with God in prayer. It isn’t a chore but a privilege.

2. Prepare yourself to adore Him. Open your heart and spirit to emotionally connect with Him. It isn’t a ritual; it is an action of openness prompted by one’s self in loving expression to our Father.

3. Be prepared to concentrate. Turn off your cell-phone. Stop making mental lists of what you have to do. Stop planning and find a place in your head to focus on God, and only God.

The scripture tells us to “go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”

4. Approach your time of worship prepared to hear from God either through music or sermon or the Word of God. Don’t be foolish and run your mouth endlessly. One of the reasons people have a difficult time hearing from God is not because God isn’t talking, they aren’t listening!

5. Listen to God and then respond. It is so difficult to speak to someone who you know isn’t listening to you but calculating a verbal response in his or her head. When God speaks to you, listen to what He is saying.

Worship is a time to glorify God; to connect with Him; to hear His Word; and to rejoice in Him and praise His Name. Think about how you worship God. Make changes if necessary. Enjoy being in His presence for He adores hearing from you.

What He is not for me…

Matthew 3:16-17, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

Do you ever wonder if God is pleased with you? What do you and I need to do to have God say those words about us?

There are times in my life when God should probably be really angry at me; others, I hope He is proud of me. Sometimes He is probably really frustrated by my inability to follow His directions; and at times, I know He feels happy for me, sad for me, and excited for me. But do you know what He is NOT for me? Worried.

Because His plans for me are good, He is not worried about the outcome. He knows how to get me where I need to go. He isn’t concerned with having to discipline me or cause me frustration. My comforts are not as important to Him as my character. Knowing this makes it much easier for me not to be anxious; but if I want to please God, what do I need to do?

The answer comes from Jesus Christ. Years ago a popular bracelet came out. People wore them. “WWJD.” The acronym meaning, “What would Jesus do?” However, the problem with the bracelets is that most people really do not know what Jesus would do because they fail to study “His ways.” If we really want to please God, then we must honor Him by understanding how Jesus lived His life and by following that example.

1. Communicate with God as He did

Mark 1:35, “And early in the morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.”

Luke 5:16, “But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” 

Luke 6:12, “And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.”

2. Love unconditionally as He did

1 John 4:16, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

Matthew 22:37-39″ And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

3. Forgive as He did

Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Matthew 7:2-5, “In the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Luke 17:3-4, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Think about how Christ lived His life. Pray and ask God to help you implement the same daily principles in your life. Study the Bible so that when you are faced with the decision, “What would Jesus do” you will know exactly what should be done.