Monthly Archives: July 2016

We will ALL struggle…

I remember very well the day I crashed my bike. Back then, we didn’t have laws governing helmets. I don’t think anyone wore a helmet while riding a bike. The hill looked too inviting; the thrill of the wind against my face and the potential speed forced a decision that wasn’t the best for me. And as I am sure you guessed, I wrecked – hit a group of trees, tumbled down the asphalt, left half my skin in a trail of blood and pain. Feeling a tad woozy, I glanced up to see my dad running down the hill, rolling up his sleeves. He’d heard the commotion as he was leaving for church. In one swoop, he took me in his arms and ran up the hill toward home as I rested my head against his chest.

Exodus 3:7-8, “And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people…and I have come down to deliver them.”

When I read this verse, I see God, running toward me, pushing up His sleeves, scooping me in His arms, and caring for me. Do you know that even before we were born, God knew the trials and struggles we would face? He already has the answers. He has already worked out the details. And He is not sitting idly by, watching.

Acts 14:22, “…strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.”

No one is exempt from hardship. Difficult times come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Hardships are similar to a person jumping off a very tall building – Christian or non-Christian; good person or bad person; educated or non-educated; rich or poor; the results are all the same. He or she will splat on the concrete below.

God doesn’t pick and choose. He tells us we will all struggle so that He can refine us and mold us and make us into the people He needs us to be. But it comes with assurances. He will never forsake us. He will run to us with His sleeves rolled up, ready to fight for us, ready to care for us, ready to bring us the answer.

Cherish your relationship with our Heavenly Father who deeply and intimately loves you.


Close to home?

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus proclaimed 7 blessings on the righteous in Matthew 5:3-10. Many of you are familiar with this scripture. It has been called “The Sermon on the Mount” or “The Beatitude,” and it is probably the most loved section of the Bible. In His sermon, He spelled it out for those who would listen. He told what the character of the Kingdom was all about. He explains the guidelines for an ethical and righteous life.

Interestingly, we hear a great deal about the blessings but not so much about the woes. At the end of Matthew and toward the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and teachers of religious law and describes their actions stating “Woe to you…” By their hypocrisy, these self-righteous individuals are keeping people out of the Kingdom of God; are condemned; and are described by Christ as the children of Hell. What did He accuse them of doing?

Surprisingly, many of us may at times do the same things.

  • “They do not practice what they preach”
  • “Everything they do is done for men to see”
  • “They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues
  • “They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.”
  • “They clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence”
  • “They are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”
  • “They travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”

Do any of these statements hit close to home for any of you?

Jesus is the antithesis of entitlement. He came to earth as a humbled servant – a giver, a doer, a sacrificial lamb, a savior. When He declared the “Seven Woes,” He was angry. He had dealt with these types of people long enough and He needed for them to know just what was in store for them.

One of the most important aspects about being a disciple of Jesus Christ is knowing how we should act but even more how we shouldn’t act.

  • It is important we never do anything to keep people from God
  • We must never act selfishly and take advantage of other people
  • Our influence on others should not mislead them
  • We should not focus on worldly things and greedily seek more.
  • Our actions should be pure and not focused on personal gratification
  • Do not oppose those who are trying to live righteously
  • The words that come from our mouths must align with our actions

Today, look at what you do. Would Jesus have spoken to you as He spoke to the Pharisees? If so, ask Him to help you live the way He wants you to live and act the way He wants you to act.


How to follow what is within you…

The other day I overheard a conversation between two women. One said to the other, “I am so grateful for my GPS. I don’t have to worry about not knowing where I’m going anymore.”

When Jesus was explaining to the disciples why He would need to leave them, He said in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” What Jesus was telling them is the Holy Spirit will come and live within us as a guide – a Godly Positioning Spirit – so that we too always know where we are going. (And you thought it was only in your car or on your cell!)

Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”

If you’ve ever been around sheep, you know, they are not the smartest of animals. Sadly, left alone, they would not survive. Even when threatened, they lie down, unable to defend themselves. Since the Lord is my Shepherd, then I am admittedly a sheep. I don’t like to consider myself an idiot but the example is there. Without God, we are defenseless, stupid, wandering animals, just like sheep. We are like the woman I overheard talking about her GPS – completely lost without it.

Hearing God’s voice is something we must learn to do, unless of course, like Moses, we are confronted with a burning bush. But just as you read the directions and learned to work your GPS, so do you need to know how to follow the Godly Positioning Spirit within you.

1. His Word – You need to know God’s character. You have to understand how He does things: how He reacts; how He instructs; and what He expects. So, start with His Word – The Bible.

2. Situations/Circumstances – God may use situations and circumstances in our life to alert us to His voice. There are no coincidences. Believe in Divine appointments and watch carefully for opportunities.

3. Peace – There are times when we are contemplating something and we just don’t feel right about it or vice versa. Trust that voice within you directing you off the path.

4. Be a good listener – I used to hear Connie telling our kids, “Be good listeners, today!” It’s true. In order to hear God, you have to listen to what He is saying. Stop talking long enough to allow Him to speak.

God knows how to guide us but we have to choose to follow Him. Tune in to your G.P.S. today and allow Him to direct your footsteps.


Are you breaking the First Commandment?

Exodus 20:2-3, “‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.'”

This command is the first of the Ten Commandments. In reality, it is the basis of all actions; because, at any point when we sin, we are putting another god before Him. The command is absolute. There is no grey area or room for negotiation. When God said it, He meant.

When I was a little boy, the command seemed simple because in my mind I only associated “other gods” with bronze figures made by men. My belief was, if I did not bow down and worship a statue, I was covered… which left room to focus on the other 9 commandments. Later in life, somewhere in my teenage years, I realized “other gods” come in all shapes and forms. They are hard to determined until it is too late and they can consume your heart before you are even aware of it

“You shall have no other gods before me…”

As I am writing this blog, a familiar song is playing in the background with the lyrics, “You are the King of my heart.” As though it is answering my own question, having no other gods BEFORE HIM is simply making God the “King our hearts.” God is worthy of honor, praise, loyalty, devotion, and adoration. He is the Creator of the universe and all that is in it. NOTHING is more important than Him. NOTHING should mean more to our hearts than Him; yet, many struggle in this area.

Maybe sports have taken a higher place in your life than Him; maybe food; maybe a person or money or a movie star; maybe alcohol or drugs; maybe pornography; maybe shopping or gambling; maybe your career; whatever it is, if it comes before God, you are breaking the First Commandment.

The order in which He made the Commandments is significant. The first four deal with our relationship with Him; because, if we do not know how to love our Maker, how can we love our neighbor? When we know who is front and center in our lives, the remaining falls into place.

Today evaluate where God is on your priority list. If something has slipped in front of Him, it is time to rework your list. God put it this way, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9.


God Sightings

God sightings…that’s what I call them. Times when people experience the touch of God in their lives. Maybe it was a provision. I spoke with a lady the other day who needed her yard cut, but she was short on the money this month to pay someone. A young man from our church stopped by her house and asked if he could help her out by cutting her grass. She was so blown away by the gesture. She told him she didn’t have the money to pay him right now. He simply smiled. His mom had told him he needed to get out from in front of the TV and go help somebody. So, that is exactly what he did.

Recently, Connie and I flew out to see our brand new baby granddaughter. Talk about a God sighting. There could be no greater miracle than a baby. I couldn’t hold her enough.

A friend of mine is moving and needed to sell his family home at just the right time to get a contract on his new home. The intricate timing of the two transactions seemed impossible. And just as the offer was accepted on the new house he was buying, an offer came in for him on the house he was needing to sell.

One of the members of the church I am privileged to serve received the beautiful news that her cancer was in remission. She had been through a great deal of pain with surgery and chemo. The overwhelming relief of hearing the news that the tumor was barely visible now and no sign of cancer brought us both to tears.

A homeless family finds a home…food is provided for 400 families…people coming to know Christ…children enjoying the lessons of the Bible…healings…sunsets…rain…fresh tomatoes from my neighbor’s garden…God sightings. God interacting in miraculous ways to show His love for His children. People acting on His behalf to help one another.

Now, more than ever, we need to recognize the presence of God in our lives and share it. I challenge you to spread the Word. God is very much alive and involved in every aspect of our daily lives – share your God sightings. You never know, you might just change someone’s life!

 


The Thorns of Your Heart

Mark 4:18, “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” 

A few weeks ago, I cleared a spot just behind my house that is becoming overrun with thorny bushes & weeds. Connie and I marveled at how we hadn’t noticed it and then suddenly it seemed to be consuming our backyard with ugly, bristly brush.  Those thorns were so sharp, they pierced through my gloves as I pulled them out of the way. My arms were covered in scratches and my favorite pair of jeans received a tear.

This devotion came to mind as I took in the overwhelming task of getting this area cleaned up and cleared out. Thorns can quickly consume our lives – and I don’t mean the kind that was consuming my yard. Worries, obsessions over material goods and money, desires to live this way or that, can overgrow our hearts and minds pretty quick if we allow them in our lives. The seed sown among the thorns couldn’t grow because it was suffocated by the thorns – the distractions of life; the desires of the flesh; the lifestyles which are not inline with God.

It may be time to weed the thorny brush out of your heart and life.

I tossed all those branches in a nice big burn pile. I suggest you do the same.


Spicy Food

How often do our words singe someone?  In James 3:5-6 the scripture reads, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

That’s a lot of power for a part of the body we rarely recognize. There is much talk about the heart, the lungs, the brain, the kidneys, but the tongue? However, look at what power the tongue has. And just as the scriptures say, the tongue may be small and insignificant but OH! how it boasts. Like a forest fire, the tongue has the ability to corrupt the whole body.

One of my prayers every morning is the ability to guard my tongue. I ask God to give me His voice – a voice that speaks words of value, admiration, encouragement, compassion, and kindness to those I encounter on a daily basis – my spouse, my children, my co-workers, the people I interact with at the office, in the church, on the street, anyone who comes across my path during the day.

My dad taught me the 3 second rule of response. Basically, before I speak, think it through for 3 seconds. It may make the person I am communicating with uncomfortable, but I’m sure it has saved me from the foot in the mouth disease many times. Consider what you are going to say, before you say it. In today’s society, we must consider texting and social media. When you are angry or out-of-sorts, hold those fingers back from blasting someone through email or texting. Words can hurt – not only the person we are viciously delivering them to – but also ourselves.

The only fire I want on my tongue is the kind that comes from eating too much spicy food – which I love, by the way.

What about you?