Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Know – How

Isaiah 50:4, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary…”

Christ came to be a voice to the weary. He came to teach the ways of His Father. He came that we might have life. And when He left, He told us He was sending a helper, the Holy Spirit, to live within us (John 14:16).

Do you experience the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to deal with that difficult person at work; the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to handle the foreclosure; the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to handle the sickness;  the ‘KNOW HOW’ to handle the troubled teenager;  the KNOW-HOW to say what needs to be said? If you have a relationship with Christ and have welcomed the Holy Spirit into your life, you have access to it. In fact, it is in you. God has given us a well-instructed tongue so we can speak to the weary in spirit, witness to the non believer, and encourage the broken. When we face hard-times, feel depressed, and all around us seems chaotic, God has given us the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to make it through.

Isaiah 50:4, “…He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed (taught).”

Have you ever thought, “God awakened me!”? It has happened to me numerous times, where I felt with certainty God awakened me for a particular reason.  In fact, this morning at 5 am it happened.  I should have been exhausted but was wide awake an hour early for no reason…or perhaps for a reason.  Whether it was to pray for someone, read a Scripture, listen to His Voice, prepare for a situation I will face, or simply to rest in His presence, I knew He was there…and speaking.  Isaiah is telling us, God wakes us up every morning to instruct us of our day -to tell us how to deal with this or that.

How many of us miss that? He is giving us the ‘KNOW-HOW’ so we can come against any obstacle in our path. How many of us jump out of bed and start running full bore never preparing for our day? How many of us miss out on our instructions and walk blindly through the day? The old adage is “around like a chicken with its head cut-off.” Perhaps that describes how we jump into our day when we could have learned from God what was coming and how to deal with it.

If you want the ‘KNOW-HOW,’ make God your first uninterrupted appointment every morning. If it means less sleep, so be it. Don’t miss out on God’s instruction to you. It is His promise to us when we listen to Him. As the great reformer Martin Luther put, “I have too much to do today not to pray.”


A merry heart

Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” 

When I was a boy, I often went visiting with my mom and dad to see people in the church my dad served. It was usually those in the hospital or nursing home. Sometimes it was new people who had just moved into the community. My mom usually brought them some home-baked goodies, and we’d sit and chat for a while. There was this one particular lady who I loved to visit. She didn’t have a lot of money. My understanding was she’d had a pretty tough life. Her husband had left her with 5 children to raise on her own. She’d lost 3 of her children to tragic deaths. The bank had foreclosed on her home, and she now lived in government housing. Whenever we came to visit, she always had a pot of beans on the stove and her beans were some of the best I’d ever had. Ms. Lily planted vegetables in flower beds outside her back door. She’d say to me, “Boy, (she couldn’t remember my name) go fetch your mama a few tomatoes outside my door!”

Ms. Lily was without a doubt one of the happiest people I’d ever met. Her fingers were crooked from arthritis but she knitted and played the piano. I loved singing hymns with Ms. Lily. She knew I had a quick mind for memorization and so she’d challenge me to see which one of us knew the most verses of a hymn. Despite all the tragedy in her life, Ms. Lily’s heart was good because she kept it joyful. The day she died, I learned of all the wonderful things she had done for people in our community. Story after story of how she loved and helped people.

One lady said at her funeral that Ms. Lily always told her, “God is the only medicine any of us need.”

Today, approach life with a cheerful heart and a positive attitude. Tell God, “I’m going to praise You! I’m not going to fear what is ahead of me because I know You are already in it. My heart and mind will have an attitude of love and praise and acceptance. My bones are never going to dry up!”


The Mighty Warrior who saves…

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. ” – Zephaniah 3:17

John Paul Jones, a Scottish sailor who fought during the American Revolution, uttered the words when taunted to surrender by the British, “I have not yet begun to fight.” His statement rallied the troops to victory.

There are times in life when taunting causes us to want to doubt our abilities. The pounding from life’s struggles brings confusion and at times, makes us wonder where God is in all that is going on. I know very few people who have not experienced despair at some point in life. We allow our minds to tell us to surrender, to lower the colors, to give in to what is trying to consume us.

But, what if we shouted into the storm? What if we like David when facing Goliath announced, “…You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” – 1 Samuel 17:45? What if we stood firm and with the boldness of John Paul Jones and professed, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

God has not forsaken you. He is not in turmoil, knotting his hands together, and rocking back and forth wondering what you are going to do. God is a Mighty Warrior. He is ready for battle. He knows the strategy and He knows victory is at hand. And all He needs is for you to listen and obey Him.

Today, know that He is with you, and He is with me.


What can mere mortals do to me?

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?'”

 


They do

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.


Rule makers and Rule breakers

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.


A Father to the fatherless

A few weeks ago I took a walk in a nearby park. I was away from home at a conference and needed to clear my head. The neighborhood park felt inviting, filled with mom’s, strollers, and kids. Adjacent to the playground was a small pond with ducks swimming freely. Four older boys around ten-to-twelve years of age cast their fishing poles, waiting for a bite. I took a trail through the woods on a narrow path. The peacefulness after a hectic morning of serious discussions was refreshing. I sat down at the base of a large tree to think. A small rock hit the top of my head. It didn’t really hurt but it didn’t really feel good either. Ten seconds later another rock bounced from my head and another. I looked around wondering what it could be and heard laughter.

At first I heard just a giggle, and then more, until the laugh was very audible. Up above me in the tree, nestled on the hearty branches was a little boy around 7 or 8. Dark skinned, no shirt, barefooted, and skinny.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

The boy laughed again. “Dropping rocks on your head.”

“Well, I know that,” I answered, “But why?”

He paused for a moment then replied,”I wanted to see if I could hit your head.”

“Oh. Now that you have, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know, but I ain’t coming down,” he said determined.

“Why not?”

He tilted his head and paused for a moment as if to size me up. “Cause my mama’s going to skin me alive and feed me to the alligators.”

“I’d probably stay up there too. What’d you do?”

He laughed nervously. “I spray painted my dad’s trophies black.”

I nodded and sat back down on the ground. “I’d stay up there too if I were you. That’s some pretty bad stuff. I was wondering what that lady was going to do with those alligators. Now I know they were for you, ” I teased.

His silence made me smile as I leaned my head against the trunk of the tree and closed my eyes. I probably didn’t count to a hundred before I felt the touch of his hand against my shoulder. His dark brown eyes stared at mine. “I thought you weren’t coming down.”

“I thought I had killed you,” he responded. “I’m Joshua.”

“My name is Mike. Nice to meet you Joshua.”

He sat down beside me and told me all about his dad. How cool he thought he was. His dad played baseball and won many trophies. His dad had a really expensive car and made a lot of money. He wore really nice shoes. Story after story…his dad could run faster, jump higher, catch more fish, climb higher…you name it, his dad had done it and better than anyone anywhere.

The sound of footsteps caused Joshua to jump to his feet and take-off running. “Gotta go Mike. The alligators are going to get me.”

A tall white woman approached me with worried eyes. “Did you see a little boy? Dark skinned?”

“I did. He just took off down the trail.”

“Thank you.” She replied with a sigh, “My husband and I are foster parents. He just came to live with us two days ago.”

“Really? Where is his dad?”

“I don’t think he’s ever known his dad. His mother is in jail. I’m his fifth foster home. Why?”

Psalm 68:4-6, “Sing to God, sing in praise of His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before Him – His name is the Lord. A Father to the fatherless, a Defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads the prisoners with singing.”

I struggled with emotion as I stood to my feet. How many children live wondering when the alligators are coming? How many children fill their minds with imaginary people to love them when they should have real people to love them?

God has called us to be His hands and feet – a father to the fatherlessa defender of widows. God puts the lonely in families. I thought of my children. I thought of my father. I thought of all the hours my dad had spent tossing that baseball with me. All the hugs and laughter that filled the halls of my home with our three running around.

I reached in my pocket. Someone had just given me tickets, and I hadn’t planned to use them. “You don’t know me. But could I take you, your husband, and Joshua to a baseball game tonight?”

She smiled. “I’ll stay at home but I know my husband and Joshua would love to go.”

To all men out there who strive to be good fathers – thank you. God set the example, we just need to follow His instruction.

I once heard a quote, “If you can wish it for everyone, make it possible for one.”