The hole in the fence

When I was a little boy, my mom and dad took my sister and me to the Christmas parade. It was crowded with people and being as we were late in arriving, it was difficult to find a parking spot. The parade had already started, and I just knew we were going to miss seeing Santa, the marching band, the floats, and the girls twirling fire. Finally, we found a spot on the parade route behind a fence. “It is the best we can do, Michael,” my mom reminded me. There was a hole in the fence, just the perfect height and width for me. I pressed my forehead against the wooden edge and like a pair of binoculars, I could see the action in front of me. But only in front of me through the hole in the fence.

I often think about that parade day when I feel uncertain about my future. We see life like I saw that parade. We have a limited view of what’s out there for us. God, on the other hand, sees the whole parade route. He isn’t limited by the hole in the fence. He knows just what is needed to get where He is taking us. He knows the next step.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Today, put your trust in Him. He knows where you are going – He’s already been there! Rely on Him to teach you what you need to know to get there. Don’t fret. Just do what you know to do today and give the rest to Him.

Move that bus!

There was a popular show on television a few years back. A team of demolition workers, construction workers, decorators, architectural designers would come together and transform a person’s home in a week. The family would be sent on vacation and return to their home, no longer looking like it used to look, totally transformed – in a week! A large bus usually sat in front of the house and people would gather around and the family would yell, “Move that bus!” Emotions ran high as the camera crew would capture the moment of realization when the family saw their new home for the first time.

A friend of mine remodeled his home recently. He laughed because his kids had the idea the home would be finished in a week – like they do it on TV. He told them, “No. It takes much longer than that. We don’t have the ability to do what they do on that television show.” His daughter was discouraged because she had believed it would be like that.

Dave Earley in his book Living in His Presence writes, “There is no such thing as spiritual transformation. It is an ongoing process of ever-increasing glory. Our character is transformed little by little, a bit at a time.”

2 Corinthians 3:17-18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

When we come to know Christ, the Bible tells us we are “new creations” or that we are “born again.” John 3:3, “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone,  the new is here.”

Like infants, we have a lot to learn! Your walk with Christ is an ongoing learning experience. It doesn’t happen over-night. The transformation does not happen in a week either. Christianity is about studying the word of God. It’s about making mistakes and learning from them. It’s about repenting and turning in the other directions. New Christians are as vulnerable as an infant would be if left unattended. God is teaching us every day, molding us, and making us into the people He needs us to be.

If you know a person who is a new Christian, make it a point to encourage him in his walk. If you feel stagnant in your relationship with God, join a Bible study and learn His ways. If you feel frustrated that you are not where you need to be in your relationship with God, talk to Him about it. He is always there. He hasn’t gone anywhere – you have!

Remember, God is the Creator. Every second He is shaping you in ways you cannot imagine. He is forming you into the beautiful being He knows you can be. What He needs is your full attention to the project.

Blessed is the one

Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,  and who meditates on his law day and night.”

Blessed is the oneThose words in and of themselves should make us stand up and take notice. Isn’t that what we all want? To be blessed by God? When I read those words I want to say, “Yes! What do I need to do?” We have no problem when we hear an ad on TV, “Lose 20 pounds in two weeks. Follow this full-proof plan!” We grab our phones and start dialing to order for $19.99 a month. Here, the Holy Spirit is telling us how to have a blessed life.

who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockersNo one wants or sets out to be a sinner. A four-year old doesn’t profess to his parents, “I think I’ll grow up to be wicked.” Sin has a way of creeping up on us unexpectedly at times and blatantly at others. It should not be welcomed in our homes, our cars, our workplace, our schools. We do not want its company. We do not want to follow its example.

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.God wants us to make Him a daily habit. Everything in scripture leads up to Christ. The  ultimate goal in reading the Bible is not so we can win a Bible trivia contest or quote scripture to impress others; it is to cultivate a relationship with the Savior of the world. From cover to cover, the Bible is all about our salvation. Why wouldn’t we read it?

2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Knocked down but never out

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

When I lived in Mississippi as a boy, every year in a nearby town a contest was held to find “the toughest guy”. In a makeshift boxing arena set up by a team of traveling professional boxers, the locals would fight one another in elimination rounds for the chance on the final night to duke it out with one of the professionals. At the end of three consecutive nights, the local left standing would fight for prize money and the title. I wasn’t old enough to enter; but if I were, I knew facing my mama when I got home would be worse than anybody they put in that ring with me.

One year a big ol boy named Rodney Chapman had beat every fighter put in the ring with him. He was one of the local favorites and everyone wanted him to beat the professional fighter on the last night. Rodney had a punch like Sugar Ray but was the size of Mohammed Ali. On the final night it was standing room only. We couldn’t wait to see who Rodney would be facing. To our surprise a guy twice his size entered the ring.  The room fell silent and the cigar smoke hung in the air like a thick cover of dust. My friend’s dad had taken his son and me to watch the fight. We were close enough to feel the moisture from the overheated men in the ring. And the excitement and anxiety of the audience made my heart pound. I really wanted Rodney to win. His challenger’s name was Goliath.

Sometimes in life we are hard pressed on all sides. Paul knew what it was like when he wrote the scripture in Corinthians. There are times when we can catch it from all sides: trouble, heartache, pain, sickness, worry. We might feel the pressure mounting from all directions; but, we will never be hemmed in or crushed.

Sometimes we do not know which way to turn. Nothing makes sense and there seems no real answer. Confusion surrounds us and no one can help. The best part is, although we don’t know what to do, God does. We may not be able to see the big picture of the plan, but God can.

Sometimes we are struck down – that “coming out of nowhere” blow which knocks us to our knees. The tornadoes of life which wipe us out. Leave us wondering where it all came from and where we go from here.

Rodney went 10 rounds with Goliath. Time after time, he hit the ground, but somehow found his feet before the final count down. Time after time, Rodney seemed boxed into a corner with no way out. His face bloodied from the fight, his breath shallow, sweat pouring from his body; and yet, he hadn’t been knocked out.

Finally, in the last round of the fight, Rodney caught Goliath with a left hook in just the right spot on the chin, to knock that big guy to the ground. The crowd erupted. As he turned to greet the cheers with clenched fists of victory, I noticed a tatoo on the back of his neck, 2 Corinthians 4:8&9.

I wish God promised us an easy life, a life filled with more wins than losses; but He doesn’t. On the contrary, God says we will be surrounded by troubles but it will not overcome us. While we may be confused, we will not lose heart. And there will be times we are knocked down but never out.

Mighty God

When I was a kid, I loved super heroes. The capes, the brightly colored masks, the emblem on the chest, all made me long to be a Superman, Spiderman, or Batman. How cool would it be to run into a telephone booth and emerge a hero! I used to play that I was a super hero; that is until my cape got caught in a tree in front of my friends. It took months to get rid of the stigma.

Do you know God is our super hero? Mighty God! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Mighty God conquered death, saved the world, and continues to actively provide for us protecting us from harm. He is our super hero, Mighty God! And He is real, not some figment of the imagination.

It was easy to believe in super heroes as a child. Now that I am an adult, I realize those cartoon characters were just that, characters created from the amazing imagination of someone to entertain children and even adults. But what of God? Some don’t really believe He can do what He says He can do. Some believe in Him but don’t necessarily believe in what He can and will do.

Is He Mighty? Is He in control? Did He conquer death? Can He defeat Satan?

The answer is YES! And more…

As Paul wrote in Romans 1:17, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.'”

Today, bind yourself to our Mighty God. Say to Him, “I am Yours. Save me!”  “I am Yours. Deliver me!”

I called

Psalm 138:3, “When I called, you answered me;”

WHEN: This word brings me comfort because it is a word of ‘time’. It does not indicate between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm, Monday through Friday; or Sunday on the front pew only; or in the presence of this person or that; or if God isn’t busy. No, the word when speaks volumes to me because it tells me, He is there when I am ready to ask Him.

I: That’s me and it’s you. It’s personal. He is our God and the word I talks of us. He doesn’t say “When the well-educated or the most athletic or the most handsome,” I covers us all.

CALLED: Have you ever tried to get in to talk to someone society deems as ‘important?’ It basically doesn’t happen. You can’t get the number and even if you do, it is impossible to get passed his or her assistant. But God, the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords, the Creator of the Universe, the Great I am, gives out His number freely.

YOU: The “you” in this scripture is God. We can have a personal relationship with Him. We can call on Him. When I was a boy, I’d asked my dad before every ballgame, “Dad, will you be there today? Will you be at my game?” I would ask my mom, “Mom, will you wash these for me? Will you make my favorite cookies?” He is our “YOU.”

ANSWERED: He answers! He hears us; we can call on Him; He knows our needs before we even realize what they are. And He answers. In this particular scripture, David says, “answered.” Past tense. It happened! He called on the name of the Lord and the Lord God All Mighty answered him. Since I know God is the same today as yesterday and tomorrow, I know He will answer me and answer you too. He is not just the God of David; He is our God too.

Call on our Heavenly Father today. Know that He hears your cries for help. And He will answer you.

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…

And the answer is

I love Jeopardy, America’s Favorite Quiz Show, as it is coined. I particularly like the thinking music, the tune while the contestants write their answers down at the end. Some of you who are fans of the show will know what I am talking about. I call it, “The decision-making tune.”

In life, we are faced with major decisions and often we do not know what we should do. Proverbs 3:5 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

There is great comfort in these words; but, this scripture is not meant to be crippling. It is not meant for you or I to sit back and let God do all the work. There are times when God needs us to move a mountain, and He gives us a shovel and a wheelbarrow. Some of us may need a few calluses on our hands.

Proverbs 3:13-14 tells us, “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, 14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.”

So what is the answer when making a decision in life? How do we balance allowing God to direct our path and gaining understanding to make a wise choice? The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 2:15, “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

Paul is telling us, when we are in line with Christ; when we walk in accordance with His plan and His purpose, our minds are like His. We have understanding because of our oneness with God. When God is in the driver’s seat, decision-making is much easier because He will give us understanding. Stay in the word. Pray daily. Obey His laws. Live according to His purpose.

And the answer is… You’ll find the major decisions of your life are made simpler because you seek your wisdom and understanding from Him.

Peace Maintainer

Psalm 34:14, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

There are those who are peacemakers: solvers of problematic situations, negotiators, mediators, and conflict resolutionist. What a place they have in God’s Kingdom; but, I am focused today on peace maintainers. We are called by God not only to make peace with others but maintain it. Pursue it. By definition, to pursue something is to persist, to follow, or to seek after. The sentence that comes to my mind in regard to pursue is, “He was in hot pursuit of the suspect.”

You’ve watched CSI or Law and Order. Those guys do not stop until the criminal is apprehended and behind bars. So, what about seeking peace? What about the pursuit of peace?

It is more than making it, it is about keeping it. There are those around us we must learn to harmoniously live with on a daily basis; and sometimes it is a tough task. The resolution part is actually much easier than the maintainance. The question becomes not so much how to solve conflict as to how to live beside it in peace.

Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

My eyes fall on the words, “as far as it depends on you.” Knowing what part we play in the conflict is just as important if not the most important part of maintaining peace. Our natural instincts cause us to focus on what is being done to us and how it impacts our daily lives.

“He is unfair to me.”

“She is always making me feel this way.”

“He never gives me the chance to…”

“She is constantly on my back.”

Step back and ask yourself “Why is he unfair to me? What do I do that makes him unfair to me? Why is she always making me feel this way? What do I do that makes her act this way?” See, until we understand our part, we are simply asking someone else to compromise without giving any skin into the situation ourselves.

Newton’s third law of motion can relate to people as well. People react to particular actions. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you sit in a chair, your body exerts a downward force on the chair and the chair exerts an upward force on your body. The two forces result in an interaction – a force on the chair and a force on your body. Action and reaction are the two forces.

When we apply Newton’s law to everyday life, we realize there is something we do (action) to make someone else respond negatively or positively (reaction). Maintaining peace comes into play by a realization of our actions.

Look at your relationships today at home, work, school, church, and in social settings. How do you deal with the people around you? What part do you play in certain areas of conflict and how can you change to make a difference. Become a Peace Maintainer.

Got faith?

From Luke 18:35-43, we read about a blind beggar who receives his sight. “As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him,  ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

There are many incidences in scripture where the people around the person in need discourage him or her from crying out to God. David, Job, Paul, and many others all heard the naysayers around them echoing the same sentiment, “Be quiet! God can’t deliver you! Who are you that God would even listen?”

In Luke 18 it is no different. A blind beggar is sitting by the road, and he hears the commotion of Jesus Christ. He hears the crowds calling out for Him. He knows something big is happening, and he asks, “What is going on?”

The people around him tell him “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by!”

To relate, it would probably be like a celebrity of today in a parade of sorts where many have gathered, maybe The President of the United States. You ask, “Who is that?” You are told, and you start shouting his name. Immediately, those around you laugh at you. They tell you to hush! What a fool you are to think he would stop for you!

But Jesus is different. He hears the man despite the noise around Him. He orders the disciples to bring the man to Him, and He questions the man as to what He can do for him.

I’ve heard many cries from the altar at the church I serve. I’ve heard many cries from hospital rooms, at graveside, in prison cells, at bank foreclosures; the one assurance I know, that I know, that I know, is Jesus Christ of Nazareth never just passes by. He stops and asks, “Yes? What can I do for you?”

His answer is simple. It is not by His choosing to give the blind man sight. He didn’t say, “Let me consider your plight and get back to you.” Instead, He tells the man “receive your sight.” I don’t believe He was referring to vision; He was talking about a life of following Him, of knowing Him, an eye-opening experience on the path of eternal life. The blind man’s vision is restored by His faith because He cried out to Him despite the ones around Him.

I do not know why some people are healed here on earth and others healed in Heaven. I do not know why some people receive a financial miracle and others receive the restoration later. But I do know that the needs you have are always heard by our King. He doesn’t keep walking by but instead, calls us to the throne of His grace.

Hold tightly to this truth and never doubt the ability of God to restore your sight.