Monthly Archives: January 2017

How are ya?

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.

God coming to us

Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

As a pastor I have seen people at their best and I’ve seen people at their worst. It is the reality of my job; but, I am most surprised at times by the strength and character I find in those who put their trust in God. Insurmountable odds; yet, there is peace. Unbelievable grief; yet, there is peace. Many times I have done a funeral and heard the comments of those around, “I don’t know how they are doing it. How are they putting one foot in front of the other?” God says we won’t understand it but He will give us what we need to get through the really tough moments of our lives if we rely on Him.

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.”

What do you do when your world is falling apart? How do you deal with the crisis that seems crippling?

Sometimes the reason our world is falling apart and the crisis seems crippling is because our gaze is fixed on our problems, our grief, our obstacles, and we lose sight of our God, our Deliverer, our Savior. Sometimes God has to take us to pure exhaustion before we look up and realize the answer has always been there – Him!

Finding perfect peace is not in our problems or hardships going away. It is in our God coming to us. Let go of the tight grip you are holding on those issues and give them to God.

He has gone ahead of you!

Deborah was known as one of the wisest people of Israel. She called herself “a mother in Israel.” Deborah, a prophetess of God, held court under a palm tree to help the Israelites settle disputes. The Canaanites’ commander, Sisera, was a cruel man under the reign of Jabin, king of Canaan, and for 20+ years, the Israelites suffered because of him.

One day, Deborah called for Barak and says to him, “…The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” – Judges 4:6-7.

Whether Barak believed her or not is unknown, but he insists that she come with him. Deborah went with Barak and ten thousand men to Kedesh. She realized that Barak was not following God’s words exactly and she stated, “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

The interesting part of this passage is Deborah’s willingness to do whatever God asked of her. Not only was she stepping outside the cultural norms being a judge for the Israelites, but she was willing to go into battle. The scriptures do not indicate that she argued about going. When God directed, Deborah followed.

Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you!'”

Every man in Sisera’s army was killed, and Sisera fled on foot! Later, Sisera was killed by a female named Jael while trying to hide in her tent. Talk about a victory!

Do you know that the words ‘the Lord has gone ahead of you’ are not just for Deborah and Barak? Do you realize those words are for you and me too? In every situation God’s children face, He has gone ahead of us to work out the details for our good. Sometimes we know God is leading us but we want that assurance, like Barak, to ask Deborah to come along. Oh that we could  have the faith of Deborah and simply obey!

Listen for the word of God and follow His command. Even when you face the cruelest of giants, God has gone ahead of you. Rely on Him today!

A Little Sunshine for God

“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When its cold outside, I’ve got the month of May…” The Temptations’ song from the mid 60’s played in the waiting room as I waited to meet with someone.  The lyrics of the song are written about a girl who makes the singer smile. “Well, I guess you´ll say,What can make me feel this way? My girl. (My girl, my girl) Talkin´ ´bout my girl. (My girl).” In actuality, shouldn’t we apply that to our lives as Christians? Do you ever think about what makes you smile and why? If you were to apply this mid 60’s song lyrics to your life, what would you say?

I read a quote the other day, it said, “Life is easy. It’s living it that’s difficult.” I’m not sure who said it, but in reality, he/she is correct. However, I would change the quote to say, “Life is easy. It’s how we live it that’s difficult.”

God has called us to a higher standard and He should expect us to live accordingly.

Wouldn’t it be “day” changing if we all agreed to wake up tomorrow morning and our sole intent was to make those around us smile. If that were your challenge, you’d open your eyes with a different attitude. You’d take a deep breath and proceed with a positive outlook. You’d probably sit on the steps outside your home and pet your dog; prepare breakfast for your wife or husband; write a special note in the kids’ lunch boxes. Maybe as you grabbed a biscuit at McDonald’s, you’d say a few compliments to the Drive-Thru attendant, and thank the person who handed you the food. As you walked into work, you’d greet everyone a little differently, remembering your purpose, to make people smile. Your dealings with customers would be at an even higher standard. Those with special requests you may stop and pray for them. You’d drop a card in the mail to your mom or dad. Bring home flowers to your wife or pick up a special treat for your husband on the way home. Play ball with your kids or bake cookies. And as you went to sleep that night, you’d remember all the smiles you got that day. Would tomorrow be different?

“I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day. When its cold outside, I’ve got the month of May. I guess you say, what can make me feel this way, My God…talkin ’bout My God…My God!”

I challenge you to spread a little sunshine for God today.

What are you missing?

1 Samuel tells of an event in the life of David. He is not yet the king. Saul is king and the city in which David, his soldiers, and their families have been living, was attacked and burned. David and his soldiers were actually gone when it happened and their wives and children were taken by the Amalekites.

David prays to God to ask what to do, and God instructs him to go after the Amalekites. No strategic battle, no blueprint, God simply tells him to pursue them. On the way, David’s soldiers find a sick man, an Egyptian who is the abandoned slave of an Amalekite.

1 Samuel 30:13, “…’I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. We raided the Negev of the Kerethites and the territory belonging to Judah and the Negev of Caleb. And we burned Ziklag.'”

Now Ziklag is David’s town. David asked the slave if he could lead him to the raiding party and the slave responds, “Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.”

Sometimes we are looking for God’s BIG ANSWER. When Moses stood before the Red Sea, the Egyptian soldiers thundering down upon the Israelites, millions of lives hanging in the balance, God parts the waters and the Israelites are delivered. Red Sea – Big Answer – Big Miracle.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (the guys thrown into the fiery furnace), God shows up and is in the furnace with them. The king actually sees a fourth person in the fire! Fiery Furnace – Big Answer – Big Miracle.

If only God worked that way all the time.

God sometimes gives us answers in ways we would have never thought. Would David have ever imagined he would find a sick slave who would lead him to the exact location of his enemy?

Be careful that you are not sitting by the Red Sea waiting for the waters to part, when God has someone in need for you to help who will in turn help you. Consider, David’s men could have passed this guy up. David could have instructed them, “We don’t have time to help this sick man, we are pursuing an army! We are going to rescue our wives and children! We are on a mission instructed by God. Who has time to stop and help a sick man!”

Who are you passing by? What are you missing that God is going to use to help you? Who are you too busy to help?

When looking for God’s answers, make sure your eyes and ears are opened to hear and see what He is trying to convey. Through out the Bible, time and time again, God shows up in ways no one ever expected. Since God doesn’t change, why do we look for Him in the obvious? He is not a God of the obvious, but of the extraordinary, unique, and impossible.

Today, ask God to open your eyes and ears to see the miracle He is planning for you. Your answer is on the way.

Your Goliaths

1 Samuel 17:32-37, ” David said to Saul, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.’

33 Saul replied, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.’

34 But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.’

Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you.’”

Goliath was a giant, fighting against the Israelites for the Philistine’s army. No soldier wanted to fight him. Because of his large size and brutal strength, he terrorized people with fear. He thought he was indestructible. He thought he had the upper hand. He thought he was the most powerful, and then he met God.

David knew how to face a giant. He didn’t cower down. He didn’t puzzle over the appropriate method of ambush or the right weapons for the fight. I imagine as he stood before the giant Goliath, who had killed many men, his knees shook, his heart pounded, his stomach probably flipped a few times; but David shouted, “…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)

The Bible actually tells us David ran quickly to the battle line. He proclaimed the name of the Lord and God’s mighty power to overcome anyone who stands against Him. David ran toward the giant; he did not run away from it.

Some of us need to learn how to face our giants. Some of us need to run towards our problems and stop running away from them. Some of us need to introduce our Goliaths to God.

Do you realize Who stands ready to battle with you? The same God who enabled David to kill Goliath. Today, talk to God about your Goliaths. Confidently move towards those obstacles, knowing the Lord Almighty stands behind you.

What Forgiveness Looks Like

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” – Mark Twain

“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” – Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” – John F. Kennedy

There’s much to be said about forgiveness; scriptures to read; many quotes to hang in our offices or on the front of our refrigerators;  and when all is said and done, how do you know you have truly forgiven?

Forgiveness is not an option for believers of Christ. We can justify in any way we wish, “I’ve forgiven him but he hasn’t changed;” or “the hurt I’ve experienced is unforgivable;” or “I can’t forgive what I can’t forget.”

The answers to these and other such statements is the same, “You are expected to forgive.”

Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

But what does forgiveness look like in every day life?

Forgiveness is dropping the right you feel you have to get even with him or her. When thoughts of this person come to mind, force those thoughts to be positive and not about the hurt he or she has inflicted on you.

Forgiveness is the hardest when it is someone you once cared very deeply about. Come to the point that you know in your heart, if that person was in trouble and you could help them, you would.

Forgiveness doesn’t seek to get even with anyone. It wishes those who have harmed us, good. It longs to see him or her change, and it believes he or she can change. It desires the best possible life for him or her. It stops looking for him or her to fail.

Forgiveness is tough but it is nothing compared to the suffering of Christ on the cross.

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”  – Oscar Wilde