Thursday, July 12, 2018
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17
We all need some semblance of structure in our lives in order to be productive in whatever it is that we set out to do each day. If we wake up without any sort of plan, not only is time easily wasted, but we aren’t focused on where it is God is calling us to go, and with whom He is calling us to fellowship with. Without a rough plan, we are simply being blown by the wind in random directions, and without a plan, it’s very hard to live out the purpose God is calling us to fulfill. But there is also a flipside…don’t have so much structure in your life that you aren’t open to something new that God may bring your way! A friend may text with a need in the middle of a busy morning, or a co-worker may need to sit down with you for a lunch to discuss a current problem, or a call may come in from an extended family member wanting to catch up about plans for the holidays. If we install too much structure in our day, we may not respond to that text, tell our co-worker that we just don’t have the time, and ignore the call from that cousin of ours. It all boils down to God’s will, and how He is calling us to live each day. No structure leads to laziness and “random living”, and extreme structure leaves no room for adjustments…do your best to live with “casual structure”.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Taking the time…
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:3-4
It’s like clockwork…each night we have to remind our girls that the only way they’ll get to the popsicle, is to finish the dinner in front of them. They’re pretty good eaters, but like many kids get hooked on the idea of dessert before the chicken nuggets, yogurt and grapes get cleaned from the plate. We often want the same as adults…to experience the end result without taking the journey that gets us there. I’ve spent time with many people who have given their lives to Christ, but struggle to understand how God is directing them. I’ll ask them, “Have you been spending time with God?” to which they’ll respond with “No.” It’s impossible to know what God’s will is for your life if there’s no time spent in prayer and in the Word. If you don’t ask, how can you expect an answer? If you don’t communicate, how are you going to hear? I’ve never met someone who didn’t want to know what was around the corner, who didn’t want to better understand their purpose. But to receive clarity, you must take the time to build your relationship with God. He wants to hear from you…are you talking, and are you listening?
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Don’t worry…spend time with God!
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Matthew 6:25
It’s easy to get caught up in our heads, thinking about what happened in the past or concerned about what may happen in the future…causing stress and anxiety for ourselves that only brings us down and diminishes our witness. We’re confronted with so many choices in life that it seems as though thinking and rethinking about all of the decisions we’ve made or need to make becomes second nature. Christ tells us in scripture to not worry about our life, but instead calls us into a relationship with Him.
Think of your closest and healthiest relationships in life…your spouse, your children, your friends…do you worry about every single decision you’ve made around them and with them, or do you communicate needs, make decisions and move on in faith? The reason those relationships are healthy is due to the fact that you have chosen to be transparent, while also giving as much as you are able to the person…the same goes for our relationship with Christ! Don’t concentrate on what you think you should have, shouldn’t have, or need to do…instead spend time with God and strengthen your relationship with Christ, and watch how your heart is led, instead of your head being worried.
Monday, July 9, 2018
He meets our every need…
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
The other day after I finished my afternoon five-mile run in the ninety degree heat, I came back into the house, grabbed a bottled water and began to drink. But because I was so thirsty I attempted to gulp the entire thing in just a few seconds, and like I’ve done a hundred times before, I drank too fast and some went down the wrong pipe. Most of the time when this happens, like most people I cough a little and it’s cleared up in just a few moments. Instead, in the moments following my initial realization that the water went into my lungs by accident, I began to struggle with breathing. It was unlike any other time when this has happened…I literally couldn’t breathe and began wheezing heavily. It was as if I was drowning without being anywhere near a body of water. The more I tried to breathe deeply, the more I struggled to get any air up…and then the panic set in. My lungs felt as though they had locked up and couldn’t purge the water back out, and as bad as this sounds, I began to prepare for the worst in my head. I decided to make a last second effort to cough as deep and loud as I could to see if I could encourage the water to come back out, and it worked!
I had to take a few minutes at the kitchen table to gather myself, and realize that God had provided me a way out in an extremely tense moment. That six to eight second span of time reminded me to not take my time on this earth for granted, and that God is with me and with us through every struggle. We all have tense moments in life, some are physical and some may involve a mental struggle, but whatever it is that you’re going through, God will provide blessings of peace, direction and clarity when the path ahead gets cloudy.
Friday, July 6, 2018
Get out there!
Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” Ecclesiastes 11:6
It doesn’t matter if you live in the very hometown that you grew up in, or in a city that’s a thousand miles away from your place of origin. It doesn’t matter if you live out in the country, or in the heart of a booming metropolis like New York City…you will continually be confronted with new situations, new challenges, and new opportunities to serve. The tendency of the flesh at times in the presence of something new, is to keep homeostasis…to keep things “normal” and routine so that we don’t get overwhelmed, overburdened and thrown off our schedule. But as we read throughout scripture, our goal shouldn’t be to keep our little area of life nice and tidy, but instead get out into this big world and experience life while serving others through our gifts. Sure, people may disappoint us, and plans may fail, but from my experience, I’ve found that many more positives and new relationships have come from living into new situations. As you remain open to new people and opportunities for service from morning till evening, you could be sowing seeds for Christ that through God’s power and love, will bloom into new life for others!
Thursday, July 5, 2018
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39
Walking with Christ and following Him through obedience will cost us something…it will cost us multiple things at times. Following Christ will require sacrifice on our part…giving up things that we want, things that we think we need, even things that we love. As a minister of the Gospel, I’ve had to leave things behind that were very dear to me in order to follow Christ. I’ve lost friendships, I’ve had multiple family relationships broken apart, I’ve been poor, my wife and I have routinely been excluded from events because of being a ministry family, and most of all, the relationship with my oldest daughter is barely functional because of moves I’ve made for ministry. I don’t regret making a single change in my life in order to follow God’s call for my life.
Is it painful at times?…sure. Does it cause stress to my family?…sure. Does it feel like I’m on an island at times?…absolutely. But God doesn’t call us to live a life of luxury and comfort, He calls us to serve. The life of a devoted Christian will require sacrifice…and at times it will be beyond any pain you’ve ever experienced, but if you love Him more than anything, that pain won’t harm you, but instead bring you closer to God. Remember, Christ gave it all when He died for you.
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Extend some grace…
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:8
We’re called to love with the unconditional, forgiving love that Christ gives us. If we struggle to follow God’s call to love others through our gifts in the various situations where we are placed, we are certainly going to struggle with the forgiveness part. Along with forgiveness, we are called to be gracious to others, to love them while allowing them to be themselves without judgment. We all struggle, we all make mistakes and we all do things that we wish could be taken back, but through Christ, we are forgiven, and saved by God’s grace through faith. When others don’t follow through as they say they will, give them grace. When others don’t meet the expectation they promised they would, give them grace…because God gives us all grace in our relationship with Him through Christ. Don’t rush to judgment, condemnation, criticism and anger, but instead understand that we all make mistakes, and that we are called to give others the grace that we receive from our Father.
Monday, July 2, 2018
Giving beyond what’s expected…
“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.” 2 Corinthians 8:3
Someone needs our time, but we choose to ignore the call…someone needs some financial help, and we shell out a few bucks…someone needs a word of encouragement, but we don’t feel encouraged ourselves, so we act as though we didn’t hear the request. These are responses that one gives if they live according to the world, following the flesh.
Someone needs an hour of our time, so we give them a day…someone needs help paying a bill, so we give them enough to pay it for two months…someone needs motivation, so we spend hours over lunch talking about life and ways to move forward with God’s joy. These are the responses of someone who walks with Christ, and gives beyond their ability, as did those in Macedonia according to the words of Paul. You have a choice each day as to how much of yourself that you give…don’t just give to meet the need, give to exceed the need.
Friday, June 29, 2018
Going the extra mile…
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4
It was about 4:30 and I was making my way down the hill to the studio to pick up my middle daughter from her weekly art lesson. Before I made it to the door, she popped out, ran to me and embraced me with a smile, telling me how much fun she had. Just a few moments later her friend came out as well with a pink popsicle, reminding my daughter to come back and get her end-of-class treat. This other student wasn’t required to look after my daughter or get her the treat, but she knew that Laney liked pink popsicles, so she took it upon herself to grab one for her. We get busy, we get stressed, and at times get overwhelmed…which can all affect our witness and our ability to meet the needs of others. Allow God to provide for you throughout your day today, so that through His power you may be able to provide for others.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
1 Peter 4:12-13
It may be a reaction at times to pull back, disengage or lessen the effort when life gets challenging and situations become difficult. In those moments, stress and anxiety can make their way into our souls, polluting our witness and “taking us out of the game.” When we allow fear to infiltrate our lives, it’s very easy for the fear to guide our lives, run our lives and conduct how and where we engage others. Fear is natural for any human being…we all experience fear, but the question is, are you allowing fear to dictate the direction of your life? When times get difficult and the road begins to curve, acknowledge the fear, but also press even harder into God’s will, knowing that whatever is needed He will provide.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3
Throwing a baseball, football or Frisbee…swinging a tennis racket, baseball bat or golf club…follow through is the most important part, and without it the object being thrown or hit could fly off in a random direction. Finishing the throw or swing is essential to getting the object to the desired location or person in an accurate manner. In life, we communicate with others constantly, which seems to be more over social media and text rather than face-to-face, but communication is a large part of our lives. Through that communication, we commit to plans, we amend plans and we completely change plans based on our needs and that of our families. But the key is not only to make the plans, but to follow through or carry out the plans. Making a plan, but not following through breaks trust with another person, and doesn’t harbor a strong relationship going forward. People are busy and time management is extremely important, and not following through on one occasion could hinder a relationship that you have worked hard to build…a relationship where you are able to share life with another person, and the love of Christ. Make plans, and amend them if needed, but always follow through with what you’ve committed to…it keeps bridges built and relationships strong.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
A simple “no”…
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, I was exposed to the D.A.R.E. program in middle and high school. It was a program that combatted the drug epidemic, and the goal was to encourage children and youth to “Just Say No”. D.A.R.E. stood for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, and our school system placed posters all over the walls in support of the program, while also requiring us to go through a D.A.R.E. curriculum with a local police officer. The point of the entire program was to encourage children and youth to say no if someone approached them with drugs…a simple, but firm “No”.
We are presented with things each day that could potentially harm our personal lives and our spiritual walk…worry, fear, temptation, anger…the list goes on and on. As Christians, with the Holy Spirit guiding us, we know what’s good for us and what could potentially harm us, and we must be prepared to say no to what doesn’t line up with God’s will for our life.
Monday, June 25, 2018
Partners in the Gospel…
“As God's co-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain.” 2 Corinthians 6:1
Paul uses the term “co-workers” as he begins to tell those in Corinth about his great struggles and hardships that he’s incurred while preaching the Gospel, so that others may know Christ and His love. The Greek word sunergeó is used, which means to work together or cooperate. As Christians, we must not forget that we are a part of the Body of Christ, and no one person or one set of gifts is better than the other. We are all family…brothers and sisters pushing forward, together, each day so that we will grow stronger in our faith and that others may come to know Him through our witness. You will incur hardships and extremely difficult times, but we must support one another through our challenges so that our witness does not fall away. Also, continuing to serve God and live with joy during the valleys of life signifies to others that there is something different about us…it is Christ in us!
Friday, June 22, 2018
God’s beautiful surprises…
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
We were finishing up our final full night of Vacation Bible School last night, prior to our closing ceremony and ice cream social tonight. After we all came together for the closing worship and sang the first song, we went right into a time of invitation for all to come, believe in, and follow Jesus. I spoke for about ten minutes on Christ’s sacrifice and love for us as the kids held glow sticks in the darkness of the sanctuary in a brief moment of silence. Following the time of reflection, we sang our final song of the evening, and as the music began to play I looked down and my youngest, Edie, who is three, is at my feet holding her arms up for me to pick her up. As I lean down and lift her up, she says, “I want to hug Jesus…I need Him.”
Edie may not fully understand the concept of salvation, but I believe she knows Jesus and she feels His love in her heart. What happened last night was something that I didn’t expect to happen for several years, but God had other plans, and I’m extremely joyful for it! There may be times when we place limits on our lives and the lives of others, forgetting that the Maker of the universe is in control…all we have to do is yield to His will.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Step into it…
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,” Colossians 1:11
I’ve played tennis since I was a little boy, and received my first lessons at the age of 10 by a family friend. Later on, I played on the high school team and did fairly well, but don’t think I ever reached my full potential as a player. There were multiple reasons, but one of them was that I consistently played off my back foot, which in sports is a no-no! Anytime you’re swinging a bat, club or racket, the weight needs to be transferred from the back foot to the front to maximize your power as you swing through the shot. I was able to compensate for this loss of power with a strong upper body, but I still didn’t reach my max potential because I never broke the bad habit of playing off of my back foot.
There may be times when you “ease into the day”, or “tip-toe into a situation”…it could be worry, it could be the unknown or it could be that you simply don’t want to engage in the situation. Whatever the reason may be, it hinders you from “transferring the weight from the back to the front foot”, which in the spiritual sense means, allowing God to fully use you. When you approach a sensitive or difficult situation today, allow God to move through you and use you to your fullest potential as you carry out your ministry for Him, making an impact for the Kingdom.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
What’s most important…
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
Martha was more concerned about cleaning up the house and getting the meal ready for Jesus and His disciples, instead of pausing for a moment to truly understand that the Son of God was in her presence, carrying a message of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. We see through the words of Jesus that Martha was “worried and upset about many things”, but that her sister Mary went right to the feet of Jesus upon His arrival, so that she could hear every word.
Preparing a home for a guest isn’t a bad thing, especially when it’s for the Son of God! But many times in life, we can get so bogged down and worried about checking boxes and making things look a certain way that our focus isn’t on Christ, but on worldly tasks. At the end of this story, we see that Martha wasn’t only distracted by the initial preparations, but that she was upset that her sister Mary wasn’t helping…so her worry spilled over into her relationship not just with her sister, but with Christ. When we get distracted by routines and checking boxes, it will hinder our relationship with others as well as our Lord and Savior. May your actions be an outpouring of God’s will for your life, and not a self-generated to do list.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8
Often times in life we feel like we need to bring God into a situation, and we forget that He’s already working before we get there! We are called to shine our light before others…to bring the light of Christ to the world and into each moment of the day, but we can’t forget that God, the Creator of the universe, has already been working prior to you going through that door, sending that text, making that phone call, or sitting down for that meeting.
The people in the situations you walk into may not be following God, and sometimes not believe in Him, but it doesn’t mean that God’s presence isn’t already there…the people you are ministering to may just not being acknowledging it, or that Christ is Lord and Savior of their life. God is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere at the same time…let us not forget this as we go out into this day serving Him. He is there and He will help you through every situation.
Monday, June 18, 2018
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
We certainly can’t disregard our past, because it’s what has made us who we are today…the great times as well as the difficult times. There are also wonderful memories that we hold onto from our past, moments that bring us a smile or a laugh as we think back. But there is one instance where looking back to our past can be detrimental to our future…and that’s when we look back through the “lens of worry”. As we journey through life, we will make mistakes…it’s inevitable. We can learn from them and move on, or we can worry about why we did or didn’t do something, and hold up or pause our present ministry in the current situation. Keep the great memories of life close to your heart, learn from your mistakes, and keep moving into the next moment and ministry of the day. In Christ, we are forgiven of our sins and loved unconditionally…take joy from that and keep moving forward!
Friday, June 15, 2018
His love never fails…
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
God’s love is unconditional and eternal…it’s always present in our lives as followers of Christ, and it never fails. It doesn’t matter how much you mess up, God never leaves you and His love is always with you. I was speaking with another pastor the other day who’s been in the ministry for thirty years, and he said that maturity in the faith takes a lifetime…and that is so true. We never stop learning, we never stop growing, and our life is full of ups and downs that test our appreciation for what God has done in our lives, and also our obedience when we struggle. The passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13 is often read at weddings, but it’s something we should go back to time and time again, as it reminds us of God’s love for us, as well as the love we are to give others.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Have you asked God?
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;” Psalm 37:23
You may feel pulled in a thousand different directions today, but have you asked God where you are to go? How you are to use your energy? There’s much work to be done for the Kingdom, but where and how we serve is based on our call by God, how He has gifted us, and where He has placed us. You have a special purpose and place to serve in this day, but you must first ask God to direct your path so that your gifts and energy are used in the most efficient way. As you go forth today, ask God for clarity on how and where you are to serve, and I pray that He will bless your journey with strength, peace, wisdom and love so that others may know Him through your witness.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks to God in all that you do, and be grateful for all that He has done, is doing, and will continue to do for you. In this way you are acknowledging that God provides for you in all situations, guides you in challenging times and encourages you when you may feel like quitting. Giving thanks to God enables you to live with joy that only He gives, and that joy is reflected upon all who come into contact with you, allowing them to see Christ in you.
Start every prayer and every day by giving thanks, and watch how your outlook changes…in the high moments of life you feel extremely blessed, in the lower moments of life you feel taken care of, and when things seem to get mundane, you find purpose. Giving thanks leads to a life driven by joy, and a joy-filled life is one that can make a strong impact for the Kingdom.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Keep it simple…
“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” 2 John 1:6
K.I.S. – Keep it simple...an acronym that I learned from my very wise wife.
There’s no need to complicate situations in life, especially when we have several situations and decisions confronting us every single day. Also, adding more to a challenging moment than it needs only brings stress upon yourself and others that are involved. I’ve learned over the course of my life that God has a purpose and a plan for our lives, but we must believe in Christ and follow Him to see it, understand it, and live it out. In terms of that purpose, I like to think of it as a box that I’m to operate in, because a box has four sides, or boundaries. Those boundaries give me a sense of “extent of call”, meaning the box I operate “in” each day is based on how God is directing me. This doesn’t mean that I don’t “think outside of the box”, but I also stay “within my box”.
I don’t want to venture outside of the boundaries that God gives me each day because I’ll encroach upon someone else’s work, or over-function myself and use energy up in places where it will be wasted away. This goes for speaking, listening, calling, emailing, meeting, writing, building, etc. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, we need to do our best to “keep it simple”, and do our individual jobs each day, and leave what’s outside of your boundaries to someone else. Doing this will help you simplify your life, conserve your energy, and make a stronger impact for the Kingdom!
Monday, June 11, 2018
Stand up for what’s right…
“The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, and you will see distress in my dwelling.” 1 Samuel 2:31-32a
Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were openly and bolding sinning by taking portions of the sacrificial offerings brought to Shiloh for themselves, that were supposed to be given to the Lord, as well as sleeping with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The bible evens calls them “scoundrels”, which can be translated as “sons of worthlessness”.
A man of God had told Eli that his sons would die on the same day for their sin, as well as Eli’s own sin for not putting a stop to it…and this would eventually come true. To add, Eli died on the same day as his sons, just after hearing of their death and the news of the Ark of God being captured by the Philistines. Eli was ninety-eight years old and had led Israel forty years, and was part of bringing up and training young Samuel, but he lacked greatly in that he didn’t put an end to outright, bold sinning by his sons. The man of God even highlighted the fact that Eli was honoring his sons more than the Lord.
There are times in our lives when we’re going to be called by God to stand up for what’s right…it could be like Eli’s situation…in your own family. It could be at work, and it could even be at church, but whenever God calls you to speak His word, make sure that you pray about the time, the place, and the witnesses needed before speaking, and remember, when God calls you to speak, He will give you the words.
Friday, June 8, 2018
Walking in faith…
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
I’ve never really been a person who’s afraid to take chances…I’ve made my mistakes, but I’m usually willing to put myself out there or try something new if I believe I can grow from the experience. Sometimes trying something new brings an added benefit, and sometimes it fails, and I still benefit because I’ve learned what won’t work. We recently redid our backyard, bringing in topsoil and a ton of fertilizer, lime and grass seed…and with help from friends and God’s blessing, it’s looking like a yard two months later. I also tried the same process with a strip of old flower bed in our front yard, and it didn’t work so well. After bringing in the topsoil, prepping the new ground and planting the seed, grass began to grow, but just days after, weeds also started to pop up…and man did they come fast! They grew so quickly that they choked out the new grass, and eventually killed most of it. I had to make a decision…stick with the green weeds, or start over, and I chose the latter. I eventually sprayed the entire area with Roundup, and will try again in the fall.
Sometimes we try new things and they work according to our vision, but there are times when things just don’t go according to plan and we have to back up and rethink the situation. This is the point where it’s easy to get hesitant about taking chances, because we’ve tried something that failed…but remember, failure is part of life, and much good can come from failing at something. Through failure we learn what won’t work, we learn how people feel about certain things, and we gain wisdom to pass along to others we’ll meet farther down the road. Don’t be afraid to walk in faith when God is prodding you to try something new, or look at a situation from a new perspective…sure, not every end-result will be what we wanted or intended, but in the end, if you’re sticking with God through it, you will learn something.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Seeing the whole picture…
The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
Julie and I like to grill out about three times a week because it’s easy, fast and it brings out a lot of flavor in the food! We work as a team…I’m on the grill and she cooks the sides and prepares the salad. I enjoy sitting outside talking to the neighbors and monitoring the cooking process while I wait for the steak, burger, chicken, pork chop or piece of fish to reach its intended internal temperature. Many recipes or instructions for grilling mention an allotted time frame for how long cooking needs to take place on either side of the piece of meat, but there’s other factors involved as well to taken into consideration if you really want to maximize your grilling. You’ve got to make sure the heat is at the right temperature for starters, but in addition to time, the color and texture also have to be monitored…and they both have to work together with time. If all three aren’t taken into consideration when grilling, you could have a darkened steak on the outside, but be raw in the middle…or a piece of fish that may be the right color, but dry as a bone.
Every situation in life cannot be looked upon or gauged as if it’s the exact same as a similar situation in the past. It may be different people involved, a different time frame, a different season of life, a slightly different challenge…when building relationships and working with people, we need to analyze the entire picture prior to understanding how God is calling us to move forward, and in this way each moment can be maximized for the Kingdom.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Stress, anxiety and fear are a part of being a human being, but their place in our lives will lessen as we grow in the faith, and, we don’t have to let those feelings rule our lives. They often come and make home within us because we are either unprepared for what’s ahead, or feel that we will be unprepared to handle a situation in the future. But think back to every time that you’ve succeeded at a task, and felt great once it was accomplished…there’s a good chance that you weren’t stressed about the task, because you were confident in what you were doing…because you were prepared.
In everything that you do today, be prepared. Do the research, ask the questions and dig deep for answers so that you may be ready to face the tasks ahead, and not be afraid. There are certainly times when we don’t know exactly how to prepare, but in those times make sure you have discussed this concern with God, so that when unexpected things do “pop up”, you are still ready to move forward with confidence.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,” Proverbs 1:5
Being convicted about what Christ has done for us and continues to do for us is essential to our daily walk…we must believe, have faith and follow. Being convicted about how we live our lives and carry out our mission for Him is also foundational to our witness, but we can’t live in a way that closes the door to how others live and think. This doesn’t mean that we sacrifice what we believe, but it does mean that we shouldn’t rush to judgment or throw out instant criticism of someone who’s thought process doesn’t line up with ours.
I sit down with folks all the time who don’t look at life from the same perspective that I do, but if I rushed to judgment, I’d lose the friendship and the relationship could be damaged forever…and to be honest, I’ve learned a great deal about how I can improve (and still do) from those conversations. It’s not that one person is wrong and the other is right, it’s that each person looks at the world through a slightly different lens. Each of us grows up with traditions and ways of doing things that shape our lives in a significant way, but we also must be open to how others interpret the world and see God in their lives…and you just might learn something!
Monday, June 4, 2018
Are you listening?
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10
Hearing the voice of God takes patience…it takes being intentional about listening…and it takes an open heart to understand His calling and direction. If you break it down even further, it takes a belief in Christ, a belief that God provides through your relationship with Christ, and believing that God does continually speak to us! In the story of the calling of young Samuel, it wasn’t until the Lord spoke to Samuel for the fourth time that Samuel finally realized and understood what was happening. Once he acknowledged that it was the voice of God, through the help of Eli, he made himself available and open to hearing God’s direction. We need to be open to God speaking to us directly within our hearts, but also through the voice of others, but it starts with knowing that God wants to be in constant relationship with us, and He continually speaks…but are we listening?
Friday, June 1, 2018
Run with passion…
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2a
I participated in track while in high school, so metaphors and illustrations involving running or racing have always been something I can relate to rather quickly. My best event was the one-mile run, involving four laps around the track, usually competing against four to five other people. The goal of the first lap was to get all of the nervous energy out and stay toward the front…the second lap was all about getting a solid position among the pack…the third lap involved picking up the pace and increasing position…and finally the fourth lap was about giving it all I had, and driving it home to the finish line.
In life we have an earthly start when we are born, and a spiritual beginning with new life when we accept Christ…our “Starting Line”. But our finish line won’t appear after four laps around a track, and instead after a lifetime of Christian service to the Lord. We certainly don’t know the time or date that we will finish the race, but we are called to “run with perseverance” and strive to make a daily impact on the Kingdom as we walk with Christ. Run today with passion, run today with God’s strength, and run today toward someone that needs His love.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
At just about two weeks, four young robins took flight from the nest in our front shrubbery yesterday. All of us had watched them from the time they were just little blue eggs that the mother incubated for several days prior to hatching. It’s amazing how quickly the process of incubation and early growth took place before the birds went off on their own! I’m sure it seems like a daunting task for a young bird as they look out of the nest to the ground below, but in order to survive, the young robin must jump and start flapping those wings!
There may be many times in life when the Lord is asking you to get up and fly, but you feel as though you don’t have the wings…but that’s where faith comes into play. If you believe in Christ, you believe that through a relationship with Him, God will provide for every one of your needs. When God calls, follow and know that you are well taken care of!
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
It certainly hasn’t been on purpose, but I’ve now worked 38 jobs in my 39 years of life. Only about a fifth of them have been in the ministry, so I’ve had a lot of experience in numerous areas of employment prior to becoming a pastor. Most of the reason for so many changes is the fact that I’ve gone through many “life seasons” as a young adult, and had to move due to divorce, job layoff, etc. I also started working at the age of 12 at the local golf course, and worked multiple jobs while in high school. All this to say, I had to be willing to learn quickly at each new position in order to be successful…I was forced to adapt if I wanted to keep a paycheck coming in!
It doesn’t matter how many jobs you’ve worked, or how old you are, it’s never too late to learn a new skill or trade…the decision is up to you! God’s plan brings us into new arenas that can make us feel uncomfortable, but as Christians, we are to believe that He will equip us with the tools and resources necessary to do the job. One of my many jobs was working as a Management Trainee at Enterprise Rent-A-Car following my layoff, and within the first month, I was number three out of fifty other trainees in the region for top sales. If God is calling you to dive into a new situation, know that He will lay a path before you, enabling you to be successful at the task.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Give needed space…
“Don't visit your neighbors too often, or you will wear out your welcome.” Proverbs 25:17
Based on how God made us, and the life experiences we’ve been through, each person requires a certain amount of personal space. It’s that area or “second skin” around each person that gives us an unseen buffer as we encounter others. But sometimes folks need more than just a couple feet of open space between them and others…they need complete silence and space. We may often think that someone doesn’t like us, or may be upset with us because they aren’t chomping at the bit to get back with us over text or email, but in reality they just need some time to process a question or comment, look at their scheduling, and most of all, understand how God is calling them to proceed.
God created us to be in relationship with others, but we also need downtime to digest the moment or the day, and we must understand that our family, friends and co-workers need the same. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to understand the past and get clarity on the future. The amount of time and space needed depends completely upon the person, but we need to be respectful of that space in an effort to build trust with the person. The more they realize that you respect their needs and begin to trust you, the stronger your relationship becomes, giving a firm foundation for the Holy Spirit to work, through love.
Friday, May 25, 2018
Let love lead…
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“It’s all about what happens between the ears.” This was an expression someone shared with me years ago as we spoke about the challenges of life. He was referring to how much we as humans allow stressful situations to take over our day, or lead our lives. When difficulties come, we can at times “get stuck in our heads”, thinking over and over about what went wrong, and how the outcome of a situation is going to affect our life. When we continue to dwell on a past moment or something that is yet to happen in the future, we can fall into the trap of worry, doubt, fear and anxiety.
In Christ, there is no need to fear! You have the Maker of the universe with you, and guiding you each step of the way! Instead of allowing your mind to lead, playing unneeded and unwanted scenes over and over in your mind, strive to love others with the love Christ gives you…letting your heart lead. When we allow our heart to lead us, joy begins to overtake our emotions and stress subsides, and our energy is put into building the Kingdom, and not wasted by worrying.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
“How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
Camaraderie…it’s a word you may have heard frequently when it comes to various sports teams, but it’s also a word that can be associated with any type of organized group. Camaraderie involves people on a team or within a group working together in a way that trust is built, and each person truly enjoys being together to accomplish a task. Every well-functioning group needs good camaraderie, and without it, the group will most likely suffer, and not experience good results.
To get to the point where everyone in the group trusts one another and enjoys their time together, each person must understand that they are different…they think different, talk different, act different, lived through different life experiences, had different upbringings, different family situations, encountered different trials…we all are unique, but that’s what every healthy-functioning team understands. When new ideas are expressed, they are welcomed and heard even though everyone may not agree, and in this way each person feels appreciated as a valued member of the team. As you encounter other members of each of your “teams” today, remember to respect the differences that each of the other members bring…each person has something special to contribute!
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Trust and follow…
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
God knows your every need. He knows your thoughts, He knows your words, and He knows your actions. He knows your feelings of celebration, He knows your sadness, and He knows your pain. We may forget to thank Him in great times, while also not looking to Him during challenging times, but why? If the Maker of the universe created you and knows everything about you, why would we think for one moment that we had to solve all of our own problems, creating large amounts of stress in our life?
He calls us to follow Him. When you follow someone in a job, a church or a community group, you trust them to lead…it sounds simple, but you’re following that person because you trust that they are headed in the right direction, and they have your best interest at heart. When you fully trust Christ to lead your life, you will place every single concern into His hands, and you will thank Him for every mountaintop, because as James says, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights”. Trust, and follow.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
My wife and I celebrate seven years of marriage together today. When God brought her into my life, I was in my second year of seminary, making very little money as a youth ministry intern and barely able to support myself. There was also some chaos happening in my extended family, to the point where I had to intervene to offer help, bringing that chaos right into our brand new relationship. Over the almost eight years together and seven years of marriage, we’ve moved eight times, changed jobs multiple times because of the relocating, been alienated from friends, served in a church where we were treated very poorly to the point where we had to leave, judged to the point of cut-off by family members, dealt with a miscarriage, and waited two years to sell a home that we didn’t even live in!
It seemed like the circumstances kept trying to break us apart, but as I wrote in Julie’s card, all they did was bring us closer together and strengthen our relationship…our partnership. God’s unconditional love comes to us through a relationship with Christ, and we are called to carry that same love to others…and when we do, there’s nothing that two united people for Christ can’t do! May God bless all of your relationships with patience, endurance, peace and love.
Monday, May 21, 2018
The importance of rest…
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Exodus 20:8
Rest…it’s something we do each night when we lay our head on the pillow, but do we truly make time on occasion to fully rest our souls? Taking time to rest (when you’re not sleeping), is just as important as the rest you have each night after a long day’s work. Some call it rest and relaxation or R and R, some call it a lazy day, some call it taking a vacation day…whatever you call it, take time frequently to refrain from work and simply enjoy the day God has put in front of you.
My wife and I were able to take a two-day vacation last weekend, which we don’t have the opportunity to do very often. We needed some time away to digest the wonderful things God has done for us, and to also understand how we need to move through some current challenges in our lives. Taking a Sabbath day certainly doesn’t mean having to go on frequent vacations, but we as a couple needed a Sabbath day(s) together, something that is hard to come by with young children. We love our kids dearly and missed them while we were gone, but having two days to enjoy life, not think too much, experience new people, and digest the past while looking to the future, was something we needed to refresh our souls.
As Christians, do you best each day to take “Sabbath moments”, thanking God for what He’s done in your life, but also asking Him where it is that He’s leading you in the future. It can be in the early morning hours, a long drive to work, a moment during lunch break, or a run through the neighborhood after work. However and whenever you can get that Sabbath moment, take it, and simply enjoy your time with God.
Friday, May 18, 2018
The importance of boundaries…
“For each will have to bear his own load.” Galatians 6:5
I’ve had many conversations with folks lately about boundaries, and how important they are in our lives. Without boundaries, not only are you confused about what you should be doing and when you should be doing it, but others also won’t understand your mission and your call, and could potentially be perplexed about how to interact with you. Without you defining how God has called you to serve, your daily efficiency will most likely drop considerably, and your effectiveness could potentially go down.
Boundaries are important because they allow us to fully serve in the areas where God has called us to serve, but they also allow us to serve with the needed energy and focus to make a strong impact. People who are still seeking the Lord, or who have drifted away from Him, need to see that you know who God has called you to be and that you are walking boldly in the journey He has called you to walk, so that they too understand what it means to follow Christ. It’s extremely difficult to walk boldly with the Lord if you live without healthy boundaries, but with them, the sky is the limit!
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Joy leads to a full life and strong relationships…
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
True joy leads to excitement for what God is doing in your life and in the lives of others, especially those close to you. When you live with joy in your life that comes only from the Lord, your first spiritual instinct is to get the most out of the day for God, using your own gifts and talents to help those in your path get the most out of their day…and to not take away from their journey with unhelpful criticism, judgment and condemnation.
With joy in your heart, you fully support those around you and shower them with love and support however and whenever you can. With joy in your heart, your last thought is to give criticism because your mission is to love, to encourage and to support. With Christ leading your life, you’ll have joy for what He’s doing in you, for you, through you…and you’ll also feel joy for everything He’s doing for those in your life. When others know that you fully support them, they’ll come to you with a desire to share about their journey…their mountaintops and their valleys. But when we don’t live with joy for what God is doing in the lives of others, and allow judgment to cloud our minds, people will naturally fall away, and relationships get strained and sometimes even completely fall apart. People aren’t attracted to judgment and criticism, but instead patience, encouragement, support and unconditional love. Live with joy, and celebrate what God is doing in your life and in the lives of others!
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
As Christians, we are called to follow Christ daily and to serve others, but as human beings, we may on occasion serve ourselves. Thanks be to God that we are forgiven in Christ when we sin, but we should also understand how and where we went wrong, so that we can grow spiritually and hopefully not continue in that sin. The better we understand where we “mess up”, the quicker we can get back to serving others and helping them in their own walk.
As you grow in your own walk with Christ, it will become more and more apparent that making an impact for the Kingdom is not just what you’re called to do, but what you want to do daily. As you spend time with God in the Word, through prayer, and speaking with Him about correcting mistakes, you will begin to grow stronger in your desire to make a Kingdom impact. Strive to make all of your words and actions life-giving…words and actions that have an eternal impact.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Hearing His voice…
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17
We hear the voice of our parents calling us home as children, we hear the voice of our manager asking us to complete a project by a certain date, we hear the voice of our spouse asking for help with preparing dinner, we hear the voice of a friend asking for advice…but do we hear the voice of God calling us to follow Him?
In order to hear God’s voice direct our paths, we must spend time with Him. Just as a relationship with a spouse, friend or coworker only grows through communication and time together, the same is true for our relationship with God. The more time we spend reading the Word, thanking Him for His blessings and asking for guidance in prayer, and being open to the movement of the Spirit throughout the day, the more we will hear God’s voice. It’s all about time spent with Him, and being attentive to His voice as we walk with Christ.
Monday, May 14, 2018
“Greater love has no one than this,that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
You can’t place a value on friendship…it’s something so special and important to all of us. Whether it’s another couple that you and your spouse can spend time with, talking about the challenges of parenting, or someone that’s been through a similar experience, and able to share wisdom with you, a friend is someone that’s always there for you, and brings no judgment as you ponder the questions of life. I saw a greeting card the other day that said, “Friendship is knowing everything about me, and still loving me anyway.”
To make friends, and to grow in a relationship with your friends, there needs to be a level of transparency, but that only comes with time and trust. As you encounter both old friends and new friends, consistently be the one that they can count on and trust, because in time, God may use you to help them through something difficult…He may use you to show them the consistent love of Christ that will change their life!
Sunday, May 13, 2018
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:15-16
In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he maintains a theme of unity in Christ, and continuing to embody the love of Christ as we live out our lives as followers of Christ. He begins in the first chapter thanking God for the faith and love of those in the church, and continues to pray for God’s constant revelation of Himself to them, so that they may grow spiritually.
People are impacted by our witness for Christ, but they are impacted even more when the entire church, which is the Body of Christ, works together in unity, spreading love and serving others. Working together can be challenging as we’re all different, but if we can look at those differences as a good thing, we can strengthen our unity as a team, and make an exponential impact for the Kingdom, operating through God’s power and love as the Body of Christ. It starts with loving one another, praying for one another, celebrating mountaintops with one another, and genuinely caring about each other’s walk with Christ. Genuine concern for one another generates a strong team, for Christ.
Saturday, May 12, 2018
Give more than expected…
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
There are needs to fill every day…go to work, get the kids, make dinner, pay bills, get the mail, cut the grass, spray the bird mess off the car, sleep, and get ready for the next day. We have so many needs that at times they may cloud our view of the all the needs around us, in the lives of the ones we love and those we interact with daily. So the first step in helping to fill the need of another is to recognize the need…to take the time to observe what’s going on around you so that you have an idea of what needs have to be filled.
The next step is assessing how you can help fill the need…will it take something tangible like food, water, shelter, money, etc., or will it take your time in terms of listening, lending a helping hand or giving a nugget of advice? Once you’ve determined that God has called you to help in a given situation, give with everything you have and give with joy. If someone needs five minutes of your time, give them twenty. If someone needs you to listen to them open up about a problem they’re having, listen without distraction. If someone needs a couple dollars, give them twenty. If someone needs help, give them help in the form of pure love that gives without hesitation, and without conditions.
Friday, May 11, 2018
Seize the moment…
“making the most of every opportunity.” Ephesians 5:16
I ran into a family yesterday that lost a father, a son, and a husband that was just forty-six years old. He leaves behind three children who will grow up without their biological father. As I spoke with the family, I began to think about my own life and how precious life is, and how we all should strive to make the largest impact for God in the time we have here. We know through our relationship with Christ that life doesn’t end here on earth, but continues forever in the heavenly realms with our Father, but as we live, we must “seize the moment” and do our best to serve God by serving others.
As you go out into the world today, ask God to provide you with the resources to serve Him, and to be open to every opportunity possible to serve Him. The word for “making” in the Greek language means “to make wise use of every opportunity for doing good”. We can’t be wise on our own…we must look and we must listen to God speaking and moving in our lives, through our hearts and through others in our path. Look, listen and seize the moment!
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Knowing your limits…
“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:16
We all are given gifts by God that allow us through the Holy Spirit to impact the lives of others and build up the Kingdom of God. We all are gifted differently, and through these gifts we can begin to see our areas of strength where we are able to contribute in the various groups we join. But what happens when we encounter a situation where we need help in an area where we aren’t gifted? Do we press on through and act as though we know what we’re doing, or do you extend the invitation to another to come and assist?
The foundation to teamwork is respect for each other, and knowing the strengths of each member. As you come upon new projects, new assignments and new challenges, a healthy functioning group must know who is gifted in the particular area of need, and allow that person(s) to serve in the capacity that they feel called to serve. Each person must know their strengths, but also be aware of their weaknesses…they must know where they aren’t gifted, so that the baton can be passed to the one who is gifted for each specific project. Knowing how you can serve using your gifts is just as important as knowing your weaknesses, and where someone else needs to takeover. Teamwork is essential in a group, but it’s knowledge of gifts and areas of weakness that enable the most successful teams to always be at their best.
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Discipline…growing up I associated it with something negative, because I always received it when I misbehaved. But now as an adult, I think of it as something positive, something good for me, something good for all of us…but it’s challenging to incorporate into our daily lives. The only way to get better at anything is to “discipline” yourself, and change your lifestyle patterns to match the goals you’d like to achieve.
You want to get better at listening? Be intentional about talking less in conversations. You want to get better at saving money? Don’t shop as much and put the money into a savings account. You want to build more muscle? Eat better and develop a workout routine. You want to grow closer to Christ? Spend more time with Him in prayer and the Word.
Discipline is something you need to be intentional about, and no one can do it but you…but God is there to help you, to guide you, and to give you the needed strength to achieve your goals. Discipline in your life can bring much fruit for you, but also for others as you form healthy boundaries, develop healthy habits, and better understand how you can serve God. It’s hard and can be painful at times, but with discipline in our lives, we can impact the Kingdom in great ways.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
"A happy heart makes the face cheerful” Proverbs 15:13a
This life certainly has its challenges and moments of extreme pain, but I firmly believe that God wants us all to have fun, and to feel full joy in this life that He gives us. We are created to be in relationship with Him, and that’s where each day should start…asking Him where it is that you should be serving and how it is that you should be serving. If you know how He’s calling you to serve, you can be better prepared to carry out His work, and have fun doing it!
The more joy that you live your life with, the more of an impact you’ll make on others, and the more they’ll be pointed to what gives you joy…life in Christ. You may be able to find brief moments of happiness in the things of this world, but true joy only comes from knowing Christ and walking with Him. Allow yourself, especially in the difficult times of life, to fall back into the arms of God, knowing that He will meet your every need. When we fully trust Him is when we begin to release the anxiety, the stress and the fear, and allow that joy to fill our lives!
Monday, May 7, 2018
Spending time together…
"not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
My family and I love to spend time outside…whether it’s hanging out on the back deck watching the girls play on the swing set, or taking them for a walk in their power wheel Elsa Jeep throughout the neighborhood. We love spending time outdoors, and so do the girls, so that’s where we’re usually camped out if the weather is decent. The neighborhood lots aren’t very big, maybe a third of an acre, and the houses are fairly close together…we can see about ten other backyards from our deck. To my surprise though, I rarely ever see any of our neighbors outside, taking in the beautiful weather. When I was growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, just about every one of our neighbors would be outside on a Saturday, washing cars, cutting grass, playing basketball…we all couldn’t wait to get outdoors if the weather was good!
This is certainly a different day and time, because when I was growing up, there were no cell phones (or at least they weren’t mainstream), and the internet wasn’t launched until I was close to graduating high school. I have no idea if there is a correlation between people spending less time outdoors and the rise of technology, but I’d have to guess that iPads, iPhones and the growth of video games has something to do with it.
As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we are called as the Body of Christ to spend time together…praying, talking, encouraging, and enjoying fellowship. If we get stuck “indoors”, we can miss great opportunities to share and spread the love of Christ. Just yesterday, the girls and I took a stroll through the neighborhood and spoke with at least three different people, which never would have happened if we decided to just stay inside. As you start the day, take the time to get out, to reach out and to engage others…and you’ll be surprised by what God does in those little moments of fellowship!
Sunday, May 6, 2018
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9
We live in a world of chaos, negativity and evil behavior, and we ourselves give into temptation at times, and struggle to give up bad habits. As a follower of Christ, we are to repent of our sin, and turn back to God…and remain in His love as we live out our lives for others. This can certainly be difficult when there are so many unhealthy distractions in this world, but the point Christ makes in this verse is that we are to “remain” in His love.
In the Greek language, the word menó is used when Christ says to remain…this Greek word means “remain”, “abide”, “stay” or “wait for”. When times get difficult, because they will…it’s not a matter of if, but when…remain in Christ, and wait for His direction. Stay in a place of communion with Him, asking Him what it is that you need to do next, instead of lashing out, running away or saying something that you can’t take back. Christ is the vine and you are the branch…remain in Him and you will feel His strength and peace, and do great things for the Kingdom.
Saturday, May 5, 2018
His blessings showering upon you…
“I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.” Ezekiel 34:26
So, back to the birds…again! Each day since planting new grass in our backyard, with the help of some of my dear friends, we have unknowingly also welcomed new critters! Many squirrels, cats, moles and of course the birds have all appeared, looking for food and checking out the new landscape. From the first day of sowing seed, I habitually started watering the grass each morning and afternoon in an effort to prevent the seed from drying out, and giving it the hydration it needed to sprout in the first couple warm days of spring. I began to notice though that each time I watered the lawn, robins would fly in and sit underneath the shower of the hose going across the yard. It was almost like clockwork, I’d begin to water and within minutes I’d have two or three of them sitting in the grass waiting for their afternoon bath.
As we move through life, it’s easy to get bogged down by the challenges and trials that we face, but remember that through Christ, God continues to shower blessings of peace, guidance and strength upon you no matter how difficult things get. He’s always there, He never leaves you and He loves you unconditionally…just step into His showers of blessing and feel His love.
Friday, May 4, 2018
Living by the Spirit…
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8a
One of the biggest questions I get asked as a pastor is, “How do I live by the Spirit?” As Christians we are to wait on the movement of the Spirit as we make decisions each day, but how do you know what the Spirit is telling you? How do you live by the Spirit? Well, I can’t give you a specific answer, because we all communicate with God differently, and we all feel His guidance in different ways, but I will say it has a lot to do with how you choose to live your life. By that I mean, are you choosing to seek His will for your life, and are you choosing to follow His will…making a conscience decision to seek and follow is the foundation to living by the Spirit.
Second, you must be prepared. Just as any other situation in life that requires you to prepare beforehand, such as a home project, work assignment or family trip, living according to the Lord’s will requires preparation…it requires devotion. Before you venture out into the world each day, are you taking a moment to listen to God about what He is telling you concerning your journey with Him? Time with God prepares you, time with God brings you closer to His will, and time with God strengthens your focus, and time with God helps you to walk boldly into His will as you live by the Spirit.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Being ready to meet the need…
“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.’” Proverbs 22:9
One of the coffee shops that I frequent to gather my thoughts about the upcoming Sunday message or the Wednesday night Bible study, is great at catering to the daily regulars that come in for a hot cup of coffee and a warm bagel. They seem to know all of them by name, and exactly what they like to eat each morning. There’s one particular gentleman that comes in each day, and they know him so well, that by the time he sits down with his paper in hand, his diet coke and two bagels with cream cheese awaits him at the table. Those that work there know that having his table set for him will bring him joy, and make a seamless transition to his breakfast time.
Transitioning from moment to moment and day to day can be difficult, and we lean on others quite often as we move through the ebbs and flows of life. But just think how great it feels when someone knows you so well, that they bless you with the resources to move through a moment without you even asking? As you grow in Christ and in relationship with others, you’ll begin to see these opportunities for service to others, and places where you, through the Holy Spirit, can meet the need before they even ask.
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Finishing the task…
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
I spent a good part of last weekend working in the yard, cutting the grass and cleaning out some old flower beds…things were looking good! As I was finishing up for the day on Saturday afternoon, I noticed that there were two plastic water bottles laying at the curb in front of our house, that weren’t there earlier in the day. Evidently someone felt the need to get rid of some trash by tossing it out of a window rather than holding it until they found a receptacle…they made it my problem because they didn’t take the extra time to finish the task.
We come upon situations daily where it’s up to us to “finish the job”, and we can either follow through with the task at hand, or we can place a burden upon someone else. When choosing the latter option, we not only avoid the momentary calling, but we add to someone else’s “to do list”, taking them away from what they had previously felt called to do. By not following through with our calling, we interrupt others in their calling, and potentially add stress to their day. Sometimes it may be tempting to pass along the work load, but remember we’re in this together, so fully completing our own individual task(s) helps the Body of Christ to fully function, while lessening the stress in the system.
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
A positive will…
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5
The brain is a complex organ, and it can get us running in directions where we don’t need to be going, and harbor thought that is unhealthy and detrimental to the mission we’re trying to accomplish…loving others in the name of Christ. But it’s all about your will and your desire to maintain a positive focus as you follow Christ. Some people call it the “glass half-full” approach opposed to the “glass half-empty” approach. In other words, do you look at the glass from the positive side of having some water left to drink, or do you see it as a glass that’s almost empty?
God provided us the ability to have many different feelings and emotions based on the situations of life, but we can’t make decisions just based on emotions. It’s all about your will…are you striving to do His will throughout the many different scenarios of life? Despite the chaos that may be happening, you have a daily decision to make regarding where you place your will. We must certainly acknowledge the feelings we have whether they may be confusion, sadness, anger, elation or joy, but after understanding how we feel, we must decide what God’s will is for the situation. It’s not about how full the glass is, because in Christ our cup overflows…it’s about your outlook, your perspective and your focus. Place it on your walk with Christ and He will direct your path during turbulent times.
Monday, April 30, 2018
Putting in the work…
“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 13:4
Back to the birds…so we’ve got a bird that hammers our window daily, forcing us to close the blinds, and not allowing us to enjoy the sunshine that would normally come into our living room. We also have birds that perch on the side-view mirrors of our vehicles, completely covering the car doors with quite a bit of “by-product”. It’s pretty aggravating because I’m constantly having to hose off the cars, and sometimes give them a full bath. But again, doing our research revealed that there is a way to prevent it, but it takes a little continual work on our part. Every time we pull into the driveway, we need to push the side-view mirrors toward the car, and when we leave the house, we have to open them back up. It’s an extra step, but since putting this into our daily practice, the “by-product” has disappeared.
There are many things in life that we just don’t want to do, but when we follow through with those patterns and practices it makes for a better day, and it makes us a better person for those that we come into contact with. To be successful at anything in life requires us to put in hard work…continual and consistent hard work. As Christians we should desire to be as successful as we can be at sharing the love of Christ, and to do so, we ourselves have to be prepared and full of love before going out into the mission field…and it starts with taking a break from the busyness of life, and spending time with God, daily.
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Service before self…
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
1 Peter 4:10
As Julie and I enjoyed the beautiful weather with the kids yesterday afternoon, my youngest came over to me and sat in my lap, and began looking up at the sky and the treetops. With a big smile she told me that she saw squirrels, birds and green leaves. She’s always looking up at the sky and taking in the beauty that God offers us through scenery. It got me thinking about where we focus our energy, and where it is that we are “looking” for our guidance and direction.
As I’ve grown spiritually, I’ve learned to resist the temptation to place my burdens on other people to solve them for me. There’s a difference between asking for help when we need it, and expecting others to solve our problems. Expectations placed on other people can get us into trouble not just in the relationship itself, but within our own hearts. Continued desire for others to solve our problems, or to serve our every need, is not the mission before us as Christians, but it also begins to turn our hearts to “self”, and not others. We can’t serve “self” and others at the same time.
We know from Matthew 7:7 that whatever we ask for (within the will of God), it will be given to us. God provides in many ways, and He provides for us through others, but we aren’t called to live in a way that our focus resides with the idea that other people are here to constantly serve us…but instead we are to focus our mission on serving others.
Saturday, April 28, 2018
Shine The Light…
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
After living through days and days of rainy weather, when you finally see that morning full of sunshine, it makes you feel an extra ounce of energy, it puts bounce in your step, and gives you a desire to get outside! It’s when we get outside that we have fun with our families playing outdoor games, interact with neighbors, or maybe head to a festival to hear live music. Sunshine brings people out into the community.
When you allow The Light in your life to come forth through your relationship with Christ, others will gravitate to you, and desire to be in fellowship with you as you shine positive energy and love upon them. Love is the most powerful feeling one can share or receive, and it’s magnetic in nature…we are created to be receptors and givers of this powerful feeling. As you go out this day, shine the light of Christ wherever you go, and no matter the weather conditions, others will feel as though they woke up to full sunshine!
Friday, April 27, 2018
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8
Running early in the mornings just as the sun comes up gives me a refreshing way to start the day…I get the blood pumping for the day, get to say hello to other walkers and runners, breathe in fresh air, and I get to see the neighborhood wake up. This morning as I rounded a cul-de-sac about a mile into the run, I spotted a mulch pile that had been dumped at the curbside of one of the houses, but the size of it had reduced greatly from what it was a couple of days ago. I remember thinking when I first saw the pile that there was no way that this one yard could use an entire dump truck load of mulch…well today I found out that it wasn’t going to just this one home’s flower beds.
As I rounded the dead end, I looked at the neighboring homes and noticed that every single one of them had a little bit of that fresh, dark hardwood mulch spread over their gardens. Of course I don’t know the specifics, but it looks as though one neighbor may have pitched in to help everyone else around them. It doesn’t matter if it involves family, church, work or your neighborhood, unity is the key. It’s the key to getting things done, it’s the key to having rich fellowship, it’s the key to working through challenges, and it’s the key to spreading love at the optimum level.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
When to speak, when to hold…
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
We are made to be in relationship with God and with each other. As we walk this path of life we constantly encounter people who need help of some kind, whether it’s something tangible or just an ear to listen. The hope is that we all do our best to meet that need according to God’s will for our life. But then there are those times when “it seems as though others need our help”, and we jump right in…but did we ask God if we were called to that situation? Were we called to say or do anything, or was God telling us to remain quiet?
We all need assistance throughout our lives from others, and as Christians we lean constantly on the Body of Christ as spoken about in 1 Corinthians 12:12, ”Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” We need the help of others, and others need our help…but there is a line of when to help and when to wait. As I’ve gotten older, made mistakes, and grown spiritually, I’ve realized that unless it’s an emergency situation, giving help isn’t warranted until the person asks for it, and even then, it should be on the level that they desire. If they just want someone to listen, it’s not time to pull out a sermon…if they are struggling with an issue, there’s no reason to jump right in with our opinion if we haven’t been asked to share. Everyone is living their own individual life, and we should give them the room to live it, because we truly don’t know what it’s like to be in their specific shoes.
Help when asked according to God’s will…but give others in your life room to live the way they feel called to live, even when you think it’s not the “right way”. You may have a great suggestion, you may not…you may be right in your opinion, you may be wrong. We must give others room to walk as they feel called to walk, and give according to the need they desire, as it aligns with God’s will.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Do as The Lord says…
“So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.” Genesis 19:14
In the story of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, it is said that two angels told Lot to gather any family members and leave the city prior to the raining down of burning sulfur, so that they too wouldn’t perish. It goes on to say that Lot then went to his sons-in-law and told them to leave Sodom, but that they thought Lot was joking around.
Further into the story, we see where the two angels grasped the hands of Lot, his wife and his two daughters, leading them safely out of the city…but it never mentions the sons-in-law again. Lot fled Sodom with his wife and two daughters, making it to Zoar before his wife looked back and turned to a pillar of salt. He is then left with just his two daughters, and they would eventually leave Zoar, moving to the mountains and settling in a cave.
But back to the sons-in-law…what was up with them just disappearing from the story? The Hebrew word for “joking”, where it says that the sons-in-law thought Lot was joking, means “to make fun of”. Apparently they didn’t think Lot was serious, that he was just playing around with them…but in the end it’s what probably got them killed as the city was eventually destroyed. These two angels that had given the command to Lot to gather his family and leave, are the same two angels that accompanied The Lord as he approached Abraham at the entrance of his tent near the great trees of Mamre.
These angels gave Lot a command, that he would give to the sons-in-law, a command that came from The Lord…a command that wasn’t followed, and these two lives were probably lost in the destruction of the cities because of disobedience. Most of our mistakes or acts of disobedience won’t lead to death, but they can take us from the will of God if they are made because we aren’t listening or don’t want to listen. How is God asking you to follow today? I believe God has a great sense of humor, but when He gives a command that we are to follow, it couldn’t be more serious.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Take a moment…
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Since moving into our new home we’ve encountered something I’ve never seen before…a bird that won’t quit. We have a robin that has become extremely territorial, and has begun to peck at the windows on the front of our home nonstop! As a kid, I would frequently wake up to a woodpecker trying to make a hole in our gutter early in the morning, but I’ve never seen a bird attack a window. After doing some research, we have found out that it’s a behavior indicative of a male marking and defending its territory. Apparently the robin sees his reflection, and thinking it’s his opponent, begins to “attack” it. Well that attack not only makes a loud, annoying noise, but it’s completely marked up our front first story windows. In an effort to deter him, we’ve had to shut the blinds, which we don’t like to do, but it’s the only way to make it stop!
You may be encountering one of these “robins” in your life that won’t stop pecking away as you attempt to get your work done, spend time with family, enjoy a vacation, or relax in your hobby. These “robins” can come in all forms, and through many different situations. But remember, regardless of what the “robin” is, have patience and ask God how to work or relax with it operating in your life, because if not, you could say or do something that may damage a relationship. Remember, we are called to love one another in the name of Christ, and we can’t do that if the bridge to another person no longer exists.
Monday, April 23, 2018
Have hope in The Lord…
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12
There are some situations in life where all we can do is pray. As much as we’d like to force a solution that would tip the scales our way, or even wish that someone would look at things from our perspective, sometimes we just have to sit with patience, and hope.
Hope is a wonderful thing, and it can be difficult to have and maintain during times of confusion, sadness and frustration, but the key in situations of hope is that we aren’t hoping in us finding the solution…but instead that God will bring His will to the surface so that His love is seen and shared. We are placed on this earth to be in relationship with God and with others…that’s what we’re built for, so when we understand our purpose through our relationship with God through Christ, we can better see every situation in the context of the greater mission, and not just from our one point of view.
While you hope for a situation to get better, a solution to come to light, someone to have a revelation about unhealthy behavior, or for a relationship to be reconciled, look at it as a smaller mission within the greater mission of spreading love the love of Christ…and place your hope in God being revealed as you patiently wait.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
The blind spot…
“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15
The way in which we express ourselves and our energy can be similar to the way we drive on the interstate…some folks tend to just cruise in the right lane five miles per hour over the speed limit, others ride along in the right lane but will frequently use the left lane as necessary, others will camp out in the left lane right at the speed limit and hold up others from making a pass, and others will aggressively swerve in and out of traffic almost causing an accident. But there’s one more situation we’ve probably all seen on the road that can be both distracting and dangerous…it’s those that sit in our blind spot, where we can’t see them with the side-view or rear-view mirror, but with a quick glance left, we see their presence.
For whatever reason, you may have had someone (or multiple people) attempt to stay in your “blind spot”. They won’t pass you and they won’t get behind you, but they stay in that place in your life where they feel you won’t see them or be attentive to their mission, whatever that may be. You know they are there, but you can’t place your finger on what it is they are doing…are they helping or are they hurting me? Sometimes you just don’t know, because again, they hang out where you can’t get the full picture of what they are trying to accomplish.
Sure, it can get annoying, but remember, you are placed on this earth to fulfill a mission for God…stick to the mission and follow Christ. In this way, the distraction of that person in your blind spot begins to go away, and you are more focused and concentrated on what God has in store for you. You can’t control another person, so don’t try, and don’t concern yourself with what they may do next…if they need your help, God will let you know, but until that point, keep moving and keep serving!
Saturday, April 21, 2018
Purpose and passion…
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
When you give your life to Christ, you have the Holy Spirit within you guiding you, directing you, showing you the way…but you must look to God to follow the Spirit. It’s all about continually giving your life to Christ in each moment of the day, asking Him to show you the path He is laying before you…but again, you must have the desire to ask, and then follow.
When you approach a person, when you approach a situation, even when everything is going well, are you asking God for the words, for the clarity and for the most efficient use of your time? It is extremely easy to get confused, frustrated, bored and unmotivated if you don’t ask God what your purpose is moment by moment. Most of all, if you don’t seek His direction, you really don’t know where and how He is leading you to use the gifts He’s given you to impact others and His Kingdom. Just as in every other strong relationship in your life, without communication, the relationship wouldn’t have grown to what it is today.
Look to each moment with purpose and with passion to serve God, and remember as a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit within you directing you to His will!
Friday, April 20, 2018
Stay with it…
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:25
Our patience gets tried just about every day in some way…and mine got tested yesterday at the ol’ Department of Motor Vehicles! After nearly a year-long delay, we finally decided to register our vehicles with the State of Virginia. As you probably know, going to DMV requires everything except a blood sample to even be able to get past the first counter, which gives you permission to sit in a chair for fifteen minutes while waiting for the second counter. It’s pretty similar to the doctor’s office, where you wait for fifteen minutes for a room where you’ll wait another thirty, before being able to see a doctor that comes about ten minutes after you finally see the nurse.
All that to say, I made my way to the first counter, then to the chair, and finally to my destination at the second counter. I had worked for a couple of days preparing myself for this journey, compiling all of the needed documents, as well as my spiritual strength to take on any hiccup that came my way. As I begin to discuss my need to transfer the vehicle registrations from Mississippi to Virginia, she spots right away that my odometer mileage figure is incorrect…first surprise. So I make a quick sprint out into the parking lot, grab it and meet her back at the counter. As I’m huffing and puffing and leaning over out of breath, she tells me that I need to fill the entire form out again because she can’t just scratch out the incorrect number and right in the correct figure…second surprise. She then notices that one of the vehicles is in Julie’s name, and I have already signed for it…nope, that’s not going to work, and Julie can’t sign it because she isn’t with me, so that vehicle isn’t getting registered…third surprise. In the midst of all this, I had to make a quick call to ask Julie a question regarding some of the information, and I was asked to back away from the counter, and leave behind all of the paperwork that I needed to make the phone call, because I couldn’t use a cell phone anywhere near the counter…fourth surprise.
After a trip back home and a second trip to DMV, the mission was accomplished. It wasn’t what I expected, and it didn’t go as I had envisioned it unfolding, but it was finally completed. At the end of the whole ordeal, I was able to have some laughs with the nice lady that was helping me, and it turned out to be a very pleasant conversation. But as I left, I thought about the many people who may have “lost their cool” in previous days, and said a few choice words when frustration hit, instead of “staying with it”, and being Christ-like in their words and actions. I’ve learned to have a plan and to be as prepared as I can, but not to place expectations on people or situations because you just don’t know what’s going to pop up…and to stick with it and maintain a constant air of love even when things seem to go awry.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
It’s about obedience…
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,” 1 Peter 1:14
I was talking with someone the other day and we were breaking down our daily life in terms of what we go through…how much of the day are we walking in blind faith? How much of the day are we walking with pain? How much of our day are we feeling relaxed? All of these things are completely different for each person, and depend heavily on where someone is spiritually in their life, in their relationship with Christ.
If we simply follow the flesh, we’re going to desire pleasure-filled situations constantly, which as we all know is not the path of a Christian. Also, even if someone is seeking situations or objects in an effort to just feel pleasure, it’s not going to happen but for short moments at a time, as true joy only comes in The Lord, not in things of this world. People seek pleasure through drugs, alcohol, and other avenues that quench the thirst of the flesh, and not only does it lead to eventual “letdown”, but they aren’t experiencing what it means to have true joy in their life.
As Christians, we have joy in our hearts because Christ is leading your life. Within that life of Christ, we know that it’s not about reaching for “pleasurable moments” throughout the day, but serving God with our whole hearts. Sure, you will have moments of internal turmoil and pain, you will have moments where you are walking in complete faith, and you will have moments where you just have to wait for an answer…but you will also have moments where your entire self is relaxed and enjoying what God has placed in front of you. As Christians we aren’t shooting to “feel good”, we are aiming to serve our Maker, and within our relationship with Him through Christ, you will experience many different feelings, but throughout it all you will have joy in your heart!
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1
Some are conservative, some are moderate, some are liberal, some are Christians, some are not. Some work out of the home, some work from home, some are single, some are married. Some raise children of their own, some raise children of another, some are unable to have children. Some grew up in a stable environment, some grew up in an abusive situation. Some went to church and some didn’t. Some never have to worry about finances again, some live paycheck to paycheck, some don’t even know where the next meal is coming from. Some have large groups of friends and others feel so isolated they struggle to see the Light. Some grew up without parents, some have parents in rehab or prison, and some have familial help almost daily in their lives.
We all have such different paths. We all grew up dealing with different conditions and situations, and in no way could we ever fully understand the path of another. Christ says to those who follow Him, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Not only is it a commandment not to judge, and a sin to judge, but it’s extremely unhealthy to even venture into the arena of judgment. It takes our focus off of our own path for Christ, it diminishes our witness, and also makes us think we know exactly what someone else is going through, and we don’t.
Whether someone is rich or poor, whether or not they went to college, whether they are a Christian or not, come into every moment of fellowship with nothing other than a desire to help and to love…you may just make a new friend, and God may just use both of you to help each other.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Ask for help…
“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout life is to ask for help when it’s needed. My parents taught me so many wonderful moral lessons growing up that still serve me in large ways today, but because I was so driven individually to succeed, I didn’t ask for much help as a youth. It took a failed marriage, a lay-off, a foreclosure, and depression to bring me to my knees in prayer, and when I did, God helped me to see the Light.
But as I “re-started” my journey with Christ, which began at thirteen but got pushed to the back burner for many years, I was able to understand very quickly that I needed help…that we all need help. This is especially tough for those of us who are extremely passionate about not only succeeding at something, but doing it our way! God has gifted each of us in many ways, but many times in life we need to pair up our gift with another’s gift to make the project or situation as successful as it could be.
Every successful person in every profession has been blessed by the help of others, whether they recognize it or not. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that maturity in the Christian faith has a strong element within it of recognizing where we are gifted, AND where we are not. There’s no shame in asking for help, and in fact I encourage it almost weekly behind the pulpit...I need it, you need it, we all need it. God provides help, but you have to ask for it…remember as Christians we are all part of the Body of Christ.
Monday, April 16, 2018
“For all must carry their own loads.” Galatians 6:5
I’m a big proponent of always saying “yes” when it comes to helping others and doing for others…always saying yes, unless I really can’t for some reason, and then of course I have to say “no”. Saying that one little word is a difficult thing for me, as it is for many, but without developing boundaries in our lives, we can get worn out, stressed out, and not as impactful with the things that we are saying yes to.
We talked about consistency yesterday in church, in the context of always being consistent with our individual ministries to others. If we commit to something, then we should finish it. If someone reaches out for help, we should embrace them with a positive attitude and an open ear. If we are able to help we should help. But there are certainly times when we simply don’t feel called to get involved in a situation, and we need to say no. This doesn’t mean we aren’t a willing servant, but instead it means that we know where God is calling us to engage, and where He’s not. We can’t all perform every single task, and help in every single scenario, but when you are called to help meet a need, give it all you have…give it the love of Christ.
Boundaries are one of the most important things that we are to develop and keep in this life, because without them, you may “get off track” when it comes to walking your individual path for God. It takes a lot of listening, perseverance, faith and determination to build these boundaries and to keep them, but as you do, when you absolutely have to say no, you’ll begin to understand why, and it won’t be as difficult.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Just keep moving…
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2a
The Monument Avenue 10K was held in Richmond yesterday, and although I’ve run it a couple times before, I decided not to enter this year. Seeing all of the wonderful pictures of my friends finishing the race, something that they have been training for throughout the last few months, it brought back some memories for me from a race I ran as a freshman in high school.
It was a state track meet held at the University of Virginia in the spring of 1994, and I had qualified to compete in the two-mile race by placing fifth in the regional meet that was just a week prior at Christopher Newport University. The race wasn’t scheduled to start until about four o’clock in the afternoon, so there was a lot of waiting and a lot of nerves throughout the day! Thirty minutes before race time I began to stretch with the other competitors, and we would eventually take the starting line and wait to begin our eight laps around the track. The gun goes off and we all jump into our positions, and begin our first trip around the quarter-mile loop. Everything seemed to be going well, but on the second lap my right shoe lace comes undone, and I begin to quickly think about my options. I could stop and deal with it, I could throw it off, or I could just keep going…which I ended up doing.
It certainly wasn’t what I had planned for, and not the ideal situation, but once I made my mind up to keep running, I tried my best to not make it an issue as I concentrated on the finish line. I ended up running my fastest time ever in the two mile, and placing 23rd out of 25 competitors, but looking back, it was one of those defining moments for me as a young man when facing adversity. Many times in life we get thrown a curve ball, and God directs us to just keep moving…and as you do, He reassures you along the way that He will provide…just keep moving.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
When to jump in…
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
As my youngest daughter and I were leaving Kroger yesterday with a few items for dinner, I smelled fire as I walked through the parking lot to the car, and not long after saw the smoke. There was actually a high-risk for fire notice put into action due to the strong winds, so it wasn’t surprising that a small smoldering fire may have been lit by a passer-by throwing a cigarette butt into the flower bed. There weren’t any flames, and it would have been contained by the concrete curb that encapsulated the mulched flower bed, but I went ahead and told an employee to throw some water on it anyway.
In life we encounter many “fires”…at times there are none, and other days they seem to be burning all around you. We don’t have answers to all of the problems in our life, and we can’t exhaust ourselves dealing with every single “fire” that comes up around us…it would drain your energy supply and render you less impactful in the situations where God is calling you to serve. Many of these “fires” burning in our lives will simply smolder out, because a boundary already exists around it, just like the one I ran into yesterday at the grocery store, so there’s no need to exert any energy attempting to extinguish it. Other “fires” may require a small bit of energy, but you aren’t responsible for constantly tending to the situation, as it could be someone else’s calling. Finally, there are “fires” that we need to jump into right away where we are to give our best effort to put it out, because it could harm your spiritual walk, or the walk of others.
It’s tough to know when to engage difficult situations, because if we jump in too fast or where we aren’t called to give assistance, we could get burned ourselves. May God guide you and direct you as you deal with the difficult situations of life. Have a wonderful weekend!
Friday, April 13, 2018
Consistency builds trust, which builds excitement…
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
As soon as school ended and summer break started, as a child and youth I would often take that first week off to go and spend time with my grandparents. We lived a good forty-five minutes away, so getting time to see them during the school year was difficult, outside of holidays. I got so accustomed to the daily schedule for that particular week each year that I never had to wonder what I’d be doing once I arrived on that Saturday morning.
I knew that on Sunday morning we’d have Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, and I knew that we’d attend church where both of my grandparents sang in the choir and all of their friends would tell me how I had grown up so much in the past year. On Monday mornings, I would load up the lawnmower with Pop and head back to church for outside lawn maintenance, and to clean up the pastor’s office and sanctuary. My job was to gather old communion cups and bulletins from the pews as we compiled trash from all around the church. But Wednesdays were reserved for Granny Pat and her trip to town. We’d jump into her giant Oldsmobile station wagon with wood-grain paneling, and head to Jean’s Beauty Salon, where I’d sit and wait for three hours for her to get her hair done while listening to all of her friends tell me how much they wish they had my curly hair. Leaving that salon at 11:00 after patiently waiting for her hair to dry, meant that I would be rewarded by getting to go next door to the drug store and pick out a new Matchbox car from the front counter! Every other weekday morning I’d wait for Pop to read The Upper Room Devotional before heading out to the shop with him, where he’d be working on his latest piece of furniture or fixing an antique for a neighbor.
There are so many reasons why I enjoyed this time with my grandparents each summer, but as I think back, it was the consistent schedule that I looked forward to as a child. I knew that there were definitive times where I’d be able to spend time with each of them…I knew that I could count on that consistency, and that as long as I was willing to make the trip, they were willing to make it a blast for me. “Letting our light shine” each day has everything to do with our words and deeds, but within that, it has a lot to do with how consistent we are with sharing Christ’s love through word and deed. When others get to the point of trusting you, they can really begin to join you in this journey, and you’re able to shine His light even brighter as you walk with them.
Thursday, April 12, 2018
Find your center…
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24
I listen to several different preachers throughout the week for my own personal spiritual growth, and I heard one say the other day that it’s not hard to figure out what is number one in our lives…just look to where we put most of our thought and our energy, and you’ll find it. I think there’s a lot of truth to it, and it made me think about my own life, and my walk with Christ.
Our priorities can change from day to day, and season to season, but overall, I believe there is but two options when it comes to how we live our lives. One option is placing ourselves in the center, and letting everything else (family, friends, work, hobbies, relationship with Christ, budget, etc.) fall into a spot in our lives in a way we see fit.
The other option is placing Christ at the center, and let everything else in our lives find its place based on our walk with Him. There really is no gray area…you lead or you allow Christ to lead. You make your own agenda the foundation for your day, or you lean on the foundation of Christ to guide you as you plan, prioritize and impact the world for Him.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
A common goal leads to unity…
“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Philippians 2:2
We haven’t been able to take a family vacation with the kids up to this point in the life of our family for a few different reasons. At times, money has been the issue, while other times it was because we were in the middle of one of our eight moves since being married. But more recently, the reason has been more about the kids not being on the same page as us when it comes to public behavior!
Sure, it’s a humorous matter once you get home, but even with a disciplined and structured environment, when you have two children with very big personalities, it makes public trips extremely taxing and stressful. My two younger daughters are very different than my oldest daughter, who I could take anywhere as a toddler. I vividly remember people at the various churches I visited telling me how impressed they were with her behavior in the church pew during the entire service. Emma wouldn’t make a peep, and she was so still that she wouldn’t even use the crayons and coloring book that greeters would give to us as we walked in. When you have a child (ren) with a big personality, you really have to look at daily life differently than we you have a child that just goes with the flow…every activity you participate in has to be conducive to somewhat erratic behavior…hence why we just aren’t at the point yet where investing in a vacation makes sense.
A group is only as strong as their ability to work together, and their opportunity to grow parallels their ability to unify as a team. As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t concentrated as much on numbers as I have on unity. Without unity a team can’t accomplish the mission, and without unity a team can’t reach goals. Everyone needs to be moving toward the same goal, to be on the same mission…without unity, a group will just be spinning wheels and possibly even going backwards. We all have different gifts to offer and different ways we are able to serve others, but we are called to use these gifts within the common goal of spreading the love of Christ to the world…and it’s this love that bonds groups of people, and unifies them with purpose.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Pay attention, He’s all around…
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday about the “little things” of life, and how they are so important and significant in the grand scheme of things. Love is certainly passed from one to another through the big moments of life, but I believe that most of the time it’s given and received in the smaller, less conspicuous situations of life…we just have to pay attention.
There’s an older couple that I frequently encounter where I go to work on my sermon preparation that blesses me each time that I see them, and they don’t even know it. After walking in and filling their Tervis Tumblers that they bring from home with Diet Coke, they sit down at the same small four-chair table to begin their activity together. A book of crossword puzzles is pulled out and they each have a pen in hand ready to contribute an answer to the next riddle. They don’t talk a lot, and they hardly ever look up, except to take a sip of Diet Coke, and then back at filling in the boxes, together.
Many times in life we look to be blessed, we try to find patterns or objects that will bless us…when all we need to do is look around and join God in what is currently happening…simply look around. He may ask you to contribute, or He may just ask you to listen and watch…either way, when we truly look for God, we will find Him.
Monday, April 9, 2018
“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” Proverbs 4:25
Of all the sports that I played growing up, golf was by far the toughest. Not only do you need to have a decent swing, and have some sort of idea where the ball will end up, but to be successful on the course, you need a strong resolve and mental focus. It’s definitely a game of inches, and anything, I mean anything can affect the golf swing, and in turn the direction of the ball. A professional golfer is always dealing with the temperature, the wind, the amount of precipitation in the air or on the ground, hazards, wood-lines, and large galleries of people watching, along with their own personal experiences in that particular season of life. When factoring in all of these dynamic factors, and combining them with those moments when a player makes a mistake on the course, it takes extreme focus to overcome it and move onto the next shot, and the next tee box.
I have extreme respect for all professional athletes, but every time I watch professional golf, I’m reminded that it’s probably the toughest “mental sport” out there. Yesterday, a young golfer by the name of Patrick Reed finished the Masters Tournament at 15 under par, which is an incredible score. After finishing the first three rounds of the tournament as the top golfer, almost every commentator said he’d still lose to Rory McIlroy, which of course didn’t happen. The commentators all said he wouldn’t have the mental toughness to overcome the pressure of such a grand moment, but he proved them all wrong. Each time a mistake crept into his game, his quickly moved on to the next shot, often times still making par.
Sometimes it feels like a million things pulling at us daily, and diverting our attention from the bigger picture of our mission for God. But be comforted by knowing that He loves you unconditionally, and that He can and will work through your mistakes, so learn from them, but don’t get hung up in the past in a way that is detrimental to your future. Take the lesson into your heart and move forward ready to impact the Kingdom!
Sunday, April 8, 2018
Add to, don’t take away…
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6
Nothing is more confusing than receiving a response that is convoluted, hazy, or unclear, and it makes it difficult to know how to “respond to the response”. What do I say? How do I say it? Should I even respond at all? It’s especially difficult as we journey with Christ, doing our best through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to impact lives in a positive way. What do we do when we just don’t have a clue how to respond?
In the above verse, to be gracious means to be courteous, kind or polite, and in Greek this word stays in the same thread, denoting kindness, gratitude and thanks. If it is our aim to be kind, to be thankful and to show gratitude with our speech, and we run into situations where we are clueless on what to say or how to respond, remember that however you “respond to the response”, do it in a way that adds to the person, and doesn’t take away from their walk. They could be exhausted from the day, emotionally spent, or just not truly ready to respond to you with their full heart…and that’s ok. There’s no need to worry about it or take on stress because of it…just continue on the path God is laying before you in the day, but remember to respond and/or leave the conversation in a way that you add and not take away from someone else’s journey. Maybe just an “Ok, I’m praying for you”, “I’m hear if you need me”, “Hope you have a great day”, or just pure silence sometimes is necessary.
Salt adds or enhances the flavor of food. String beans…not good, but with salt, tasty! Mashed potatoes…bland, but with salt (and butter), smooth and silky goodness! May your words and actions, no matter how subtle, enhance someone else’s walk, even when you are confused on how to respond.
Saturday, April 7, 2018
When to share…
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2
Have you ever tried to pour water into a glass that is full…hope not! Have you ever tried to pour water into a cup with a hole in it…you may have been pouring for a while! This is basically what happens when we give our thoughts or opinions on matters when it’s just not the right time…when it’s not God calling us to do it, but our own desire to let others know what we think. I’ve added trouble to my life and stress to many of my days by not following God in this area, as I began speaking without first thinking if my opinion was needed…if I was even called to speak.
During seminary I was required to attend a 10-week group therapy session as part of a chaplaincy internship at VCU Medical Center. I had never been to a therapist before or been part of such a group, but I was pretty enthusiastic about starting this road to strengthening my spiritual life and learning more about myself. It was a pretty diverse group of people, from all ages, races, spiritual denominations and cultures, which gave way to some great discussion around topics we encountered each day in the hospital or personal issues we were dealing with. We had one particular member, Brian, who was the oldest of the group and a Catholic priest…a well-dressed fella who actually bought me my first bow-tie! Every time we encountered a very difficult conversation, which happened often, he’d sit back and just listen to all of our thoughts and charged responses for about twenty minutes without saying a word. At the end of the twenty minutes our group facilitator, knowing Brian was full of wisdom, would say, “So Brian, what do you think?” He’d then make one statement that summed up the whole conversation, and it always made perfect sense, leaving us all speechless.
Your voice matters, your opinions matter, your thoughts matter…but there is a time to share and a time to listen. As we interact with each other, we should seek the wisdom of God to know where and how we fit into each conversation, so that we’re not pouring water into a cup that’s already full.
Friday, April 6, 2018
Don’t I know you?
“And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15
Didn’t you work with my brother? Didn’t you live down the street from me in Atlanta? I think I met you at a conference not long ago in North Carolina…how are you doing?
From as far back as my teenage years, people have approached me at least once or twice a month, thinking I was someone else…someone they worked with, a friend of a friend, or a guy that worked a booth at an arts and crafts show last fall. It’s happened so many times that I can pretty much pick out the people that will eventually approach me, as I notice them locking eyes with me and getting that “stuck” look on their face…you can almost see pain in their expressions because of how determined they are to figure this mystery out. Even when a person chooses to not approach me, I can tell the gears are turning in their minds trying to figure out who I am, as I glance up and catch them consistently staring.
I guess I’ve gotten used to the fact that God gave me a general facial appearance, or maybe it’s because I look funny, but whatever reason it is, it’s been a large part of my life and one that I’m starting to live into a little more each day. Instead of asking God what’s up with this mystery, I’ve embraced it and began to use it as a catalyst for sparking conversation about life, about mountaintops and valleys, and sometimes even Christ. I’m beginning to focus on the mission of the moment, rather than why the moment came to be. We are called to proclaim the Gospel, and to share the love of Christ…and God has given you a special way to fulfill this mission…have you embraced it?
Thursday, April 5, 2018
A heat source…
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” 2 Timothy 1:6
The first home that Julie and I lived in had a wood-burning fireplace, and we used it at least three to four times a week during the winter months. I especially miss it now that we have gas logs that never seem to work because of a short in the wiring, lending us only a small pilot flame that doesn’t even heat the fireplace that it sits in.
The Greek word for “fan into flame”, or in your Bible it may be “stir up”, “kindle anew” or “rekindle”, means to get the fire going, or to resuscitate the fire from a point where it’s almost going out. With Christ in your life, you have the eternal flame burning in your heart and soul, but our spiritual growth doesn’t stop at the moment of salvation, but continues throughout our life through constant communion with God and fellowship with others.
A wood-burning fire that’s almost out, or a set of gas logs that only emit a pilot light because of an electrical short, can make just a small impact. Just think of how long it would take to make a s’more with only glowing embers! But a flame that reaches high above the wood pile can provide a method of cooking, and also a heat source for an entire group of people…and that’s a beautiful image, that when you “fan into flame the gift of God”, Christ will be a resource in multiple ways for others through His unconditional love in you.
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
You walk into a meeting…you stumble upon someone in need…you step through the doorway on your way to a family dinner…you jump into the golf cart for a quick round with a friend…how can you add to the situation? How can you bring something positive to the environment? What is God asking of you in the moment?
We meet with people, call people, text people, and email people daily…and in each instance you have one of two choices no matter the context of the situation. You can view the moment from a surface perspective, or you can see it as an opportunity to impact the Kingdom. When you look at each interaction as just another dinner, just another meeting, just another round of golf, you’re not seeing the full potential that you have to influence someone through the Holy Spirit in you.
My father always taught me that when doing anything in life, to do it well, and do it in a way that no one can ever be critical of your effort. Whatever you come upon today in terms of work or play, give it your best effort, and have as much fun as possible! The way you live life can and will impact people for the Kingdom when you do it in love and with Christ leading!
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Different is good!
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
As we get into the heart of our study on Wednesday nights around the topic of Myers Briggs and spirituality, we’re beginning to realize how different we all are, but that it’s a good thing! According to this test there are 16 different personality types! You may wonder why your spouse, friend, family member or co-worker doesn’t enjoy being out among large crowds very often, or why they seem to be a little better at seeing the details of the plans that you make together…there is a reason! God creates us in His own image, which is such a beautiful thought! But we are all created differently with various gifts, and we all process information and react in different ways, based on how He creates us.
If I don’t get enough interaction with people, I will literally start to feel lazy and lethargic, because as an extrovert, I need to get my energy from socializing with people and being out in the world. Those who are introverts need more time by themselves to regain energy…being alone for an introvert is where they “recharge”. You may be a person that sticks strongly to structure and logic when you make plans, but your partner leans more toward thinking about how others involved in the situation may feel, or be impacted by the plan before making it.
These differences can certainly cause conflict…Why does he/she not see things my way? Why do they take so long to make decisions? Why won’t thing bend just this one time? Why can’t they make a quick decision? Why aren’t they open to change? These all are questions that concentrate on “self”.
Instead ask…Wonder how he/she sees this differently than me? Maybe I should let them ponder on this for a while because they’ll see something I didn’t? Maybe their solution fits better in this situation than mine? God created us in His image, but He created us all differently…for a reason…embrace it and embrace your differences! You can learn so much from others, especially those who aren’t like you!
Monday, April 2, 2018
Walk with Him…
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8
There are times when I truly feel that I’m walking in heaven on earth…when my soul is so full of peace and love that I come to tears because I’m so thankful. Yesterday we celebrated the Risen Christ on Easter, and the day started with a cool, but comfortable sunrise service on our church’s front lawn, followed by a breakfast filled with awesome fellowship with members and visitors from the community. We then proceeded upstairs to our Sunday School hour where we talked about life challenges that we come upon as young adults, learning rich lessons from each other that will help us along life’s journey…and then to a wonderful worship filled with handshakes and hugs of love as we celebrated the Resurrection of Christ through the account in the Gospel of John.
As we all left church, we placed flowers at the foot of the Cross, took pictures, talked some more, and said goodbyes before going home to spend the afternoon with family. Julie and I had my parents, sister and uncle all over for a Mission Barbeque lunch filled with several homemade side dishes, and topped it off with a birthday cake celebrating my uncle’s birthday. My mother had planned an Easter egg hunt for the girls, so after making a mess of their lunch, the girls quickly ran outside and begged us to begin hiding the eggs. As mom began the task of finding those good hiding spots, a friendly neighbor of ours came by as he walked his dog to say hello, and let us know that he’s always around if we need anything at all. The hiding is completed and the girls begin their hunt, each finding the golden egg with several small chocolate eggs in them…and Daddy had to get a couple for himself! The day has been nothing short of amazing, and then my Dad tells the girls to close their eyes as he grabs something from his truck parked on the street. He tells the girls to open their eyes, and out comes two brand-new bikes with training wheels, and off they both go down the street, full of excitement!
Our family leaves for home, and we all proceed to go back inside and digest the huge meal and regain some energy! Julie, Edie and I all fall asleep on the couch while Laney made a rainbow out of playdoh upstairs. Upon waking up, we all go back outside for more bike riding and run into a new couple on the block with a son not much older than Laney. The girls immediately take to him and begin riding up and down the street together while we catch up with the parents. After some enjoyable conversation on the curb of the cul-de-sac, and a few falls on the bikes, we head back inside to wind the night down, and talk about how much we appreciate what God has done for us.
For me, walking with God means appreciating every moment that I’m on this earth, and simply understanding that I need to constantly leave my agenda behind, and look for where I can join in and serve. For me, walking with God is watching others enjoy life as they encounter His blessings in their own life…walking with God makes me feel like I’m in heaven on earth.
Sunday, April 1, 2018
He is Risen!
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” John 20:18
How many times in life do we act on emotion…do we immediately respond based on how we feel? I know I’ve been there many times. When we look at the Resurrection story in the Gospel of John, we see where the two disciples and Mary all seemed to struggle with understanding that Jesus wasn’t dead, but fully alive!
John tells us that the disciples still didn’t understand that Jesus was to rise from the dead after they saw the empty tomb, and keep in mind they had heard Jesus say prior to His death that He would suffer, die and be raised on the third day…but yet they didn’t understand. Mary Magdalene was so upset in her mourning that she didn’t initially recognize Jesus when she saw Him at the tomb, and even thought He was the gardener! Jesus could have had a different physical appearance at this particular moment, causing Mary to not notice Him, but was it about His appearance, or Mary not truly “seeing” Jesus?
The two disciples and Mary had all heard from Christ before His death concerning what was to happen, and He fulfilled His promise and biblical prophecy by rising from the grave. He presented Himself to her after He arose…but yet she was concerned primarily about finding His body. In her darkest moment of mourning at the tomb, Jesus simply says, “Mary”, and she turns to Him with exclamation and joy, and would eventually go and tell the disciples of her encounter with Jesus and the things He told her. When we turn our eyes upon Jesus and truly “see” Him, He fills us with so much joy, that it leads our life in a way that moves us through difficult times, and charges us with passion to go and tell others!
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Cast your questions…
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22
There are many things in this life that we cannot explain, things that are just impossible to put into words. It could be a momentous event in your life that brings so much joy that you can hardly contain yourself…it could be an illness that you contend with daily, that brings you constant physical and emotional pain…it could be extreme sadness after losing someone that you shared the most intimate moments of life with, someone who stayed by you through thick and thin.
For me, it’s having a daughter that chooses to not involve me, my wife or my other two children (her half-sisters) in her life. Nothing “bad” has happened to cause it, there hasn’t been a specific incident that’s led to this divide, and it’s not just because she’s a teenager. It’s actually been so long since I’ve celebrated a holiday with her, that I can’t even remember the year. The pain that comes along with this constant and continual situation is at times more than I can bear…having a child that brought me to weeping when she was born, and a child that brought me through a depression, wants nothing to do with our family. It’s simply unexplainable, and we’ve stopped trying to come up with answers.
As we look to Easter Sunday, we focus on the Risen Christ…the One who died for you. Through Him, we receive salvation, through Him we are forgiven, through Him we receive eternal life, through Him we are forever unconditionally loved, and to Him we can give those questions that remain unanswered, and find peace.
Friday, March 30, 2018
Give up self…
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30
In Jesus’ last moments on earth, it says that “He gave up His spirit”. Jesus’ ministry here on earth where He was constantly questioned by the Pharisees, where He dealt with doubt among His disciples, and where He continually ministered to and met the needs of others, changing lives forever, was finished through His death on the Cross. His mission to bring the message of salvation and eternal life through Him to the world was fulfilled, accomplished through His death.
Jesus committed Himself to the mission and work that God the Father had laid before Him, and He would give His life for that mission, so that we may be saved. "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
This is a dark day as we reflect on what Christ did for us on the Cross…He gave His life for you…He gave His life for the sins of the world. May we commit our lives to Him today and every day, so that we may accomplish the mission that God is laying before us…impacting lives forever.
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Come to the table…
“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
My two most vivid memories of attending church as a child are Wednesday night pot-luck suppers, and reading “Do this in remembrance of Me” on the communion table each Sunday. I’m not sure why, but my eyes always got locked on those words throughout the service. There’s something about the word “remembrance” that continually hooks me, even today when we observe communion once a month, I find myself reflecting on that word as I speak of Christ, His body, His blood, and His sacrifice for us.
The Greek word “anamnesis” denotes a recalling or memory, a remembrance. Christ offered up Himself on the cross for you and for me…He gave Himself for you and for me. After breaking the bread, Jesus then goes on to say, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” In both verses 19 and 20, the phrase “for you” is seen. For you He suffered, for you He died, for you He forgives sin, for you He gives eternal life, for you He gives unconditional love, for you He gives a real, constant relationship…and it all begins with belief.
He calls us to come and follow Him…come to the table…come and give your life to Him daily…and always remember what He did for you, because He loves you so.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:5b-6
The Gospel of John is the only Gospel that mentions this specific dialogue in reference to the conversation Jesus had with those who came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. John writes earlier in verse three that Judas came with officials of the chief priests and the Pharisees, but that he also came with a Roman detachment of soldiers. In Greek, the word “speiran” is used for the word detachment, denoting a cohort or band of soldiers, which was a tenth of a legion of soldiers…and an average legion was 5,000 men. Doing some quick math, this means that the detachment or cohort of Roman soldiers that accompanied Judas could have been as many as 500 men, in addition to the Jewish officials!
When Jesus asked them who it was that they wanted (knowing exactly what was to happen), they responded by saying “Jesus of Nazareth”. Jesus then says, “I am he.” John tells us that upon Jesus responding, “they drew back and fell to the ground.” Another way of understanding what happened in this moment, is that 500+ men retreated and fell to the ground in submission and under condemnation for what they were about to do. They would soon arrest Jesus, and He would eventually die on a Cross for you and me, and be raised by the power and Spirit of God on the third day. But for that moment in time, I believe those men were convicted of what they were about to do, in a way that made them feel extreme guilt, knowing that it truly was God in the flesh that they were about to apprehend.
Whether we’re being convicted of not following God, or being strongly convicted about what God is calling us to do, being convicted in your heart is a sign of something God is communicating to you…follow it, and follow Him.
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
No need to fear…
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
As a forester, I’ve run into just about every native animal in the state of Virginia while assessing various tracts of land, except for a black bear…until…
It was 2001 and I was finishing up an internship in Beckley, West Virginia, where I worked for a high-grade hardwood sawmill that produced lumber for multiple markets overseas. On one particular evening at my Winterplace Resort rental house, I decided to make my way down the several winding steps to my Toyota pickup truck to grab something I had left behind…in complete darkness. There was a security light at the corner of the house but for some reason on this particular night it didn’t come on, so I used the wooden railing to guide my way.
As I took my last step prior to hitting the gravel driveway, the light decided to pop on, and to my extreme surprise, I was facing a 300 pound black bear about five feet away that was making his way over to my trashcans. Needless to say, I hightailed it back up the twenty or so wooden steps and into the house. The bear didn’t seem to be bothered by me as much as I was by him. He continued his mission over to the trashcans, took off the lids and made a mess, but not before standing up on his hind legs and looking into the bed of my truck for any other possible late night snacks. About a week prior to this event, I had thrown away an entire pizza from a work function, and it had disappeared from the trashcan, and the trashcan lid was back on…I guess this bear had manners!
As you leave your home this morning, you will likely encounter folks you didn’t plan on running into, and situations that you didn’t expect to materialize, and there’s a chance that one of those situations will put you on your heels, but fear not, for God is with you.
Monday, March 26, 2018
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” Ecclesiastes 4:9
We don’t get to do it much anymore, but my father and I used to go fishing for Rockfish, or Striped Bass in the Chesapeake Bay, just a short boat ride from my parents’ home. The big rockfish season is during the colder months, so we always had to bundle up in clothes that you would normally wear to go hunting, or you wouldn’t last long on open water.
Rockfish like most fish, swim in schools, and if you can’t find those schools, you’re going to have a long day on the Bay. Being a good saltwater fisherman of the big fish takes practice, patience and a good network of friends on the CB radio! People who have sought out Rockfish for years typically know the places that they will congregate depending on the time of year, water temperature and the current amount of available food sources. Sometimes Rockfish migrate from the ocean to the Bay sooner than expected, and sometimes they leave the Bay for open water a tad later than usual…it all depends on that specific year.
But again, finding the fish all depends on teamwork…if you’ve built up good friendships on the water, there’s a good chance you’ll get tipped off to “where the gulls are flying”, because seagulls usually follow the feeding frenzy of Rockfish, hoping to get some of the scraps. The relationships you build as a fisherman are just as important, if not more important than the boat and all the gear you invest in to go fishing, because without good information, you won’t be able to find the fish! As you walk along the path God is laying for you, be open to every opportunity to start or build a relationship with someone…you never know when someone may need your help, or when you may need the help of another.
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them’” Luke 19:32
As Jesus prepared to enter Jerusalem, less than a week before His death for us on the Cross, he sent two of His disciples on ahead to the village to procure a colt…and those disciples went, and obeyed without questioning, complaining, or giving conditions. When you look at the earlier stories of Jesus calling Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew to follow Him, a very similar response is seen.
Jesus calls them to follow Him, and scripture tells us they left at once and followed…they left immediately and followed…and in Matthew’s case, he got up and followed. Nets were left behind, a boat was left behind, a father was left behind, and a tax collector’s booth was left behind, which was a place where Matthew probably made a healthy living, as tax collectors were known to fill their pockets at the expense of others. As they accepted the call to follow Christ, there were no questions, no complaints, no conditions, and no more dialogue.
How often do we question God when He calls us to do something, or follow through with obedience only to continually ask, “What’s going to happen now?” Christ came into Jerusalem and the world just as He comes into our life, offering peace, forgiveness, love and eternal life…but it starts with belief, trust and obedience.
Saturday, March 24, 2018
Putting others first…
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 2:35
I’m driving down Interstate 64 toward the east end of Richmond yesterday, and traffic slows down dramatically where it begins to leave the city. Soon after there are signs saying that the left two lanes (out of 3) will be closing, and drivers need to merge right. Most of the traffic heeds the warning and prepares for the upcoming lane closure by getting over, but there are some that stretch the limits and ride that soon-to-be closed lane(s) for as long as they can. In fact I watch two drivers specifically that continue in the left lane so far as to almost run into the VDOT truck with the flashing sign to get over. They see the signs just like everyone else, but choose to not follow the directions, and in turn cause problems for everyone else who does. When they finally get over, everyone that had already merged has to slam on the brakes to allow them the space to fit in.
There are times in life where we can have something, achieve something, or continue doing something that will benefit us, but the question is, how is it affecting those around us? Our mission as Christians is to spread the love of Christ, and to serve Him, not ourselves. We each have gifts to offer the world as we journey with Christ, and our focus should be to use those gifts to help others and build them up.
Friday, March 23, 2018
A new beginning…
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
When I was thirteen-years-old, I did something really stupid…and it hasn’t stopped there! My grandfather had always carried around small pocket knives that he used frequently to cut his fingernails in between moments of smoking his pipe. On one visit with him and my grandmother, he gave me a pocket knife to keep, one that he had received while serving as Fire Chief of the Defense Supply Center in Richmond. I thought I had hit the big-time with this little knife, because my parents would never have given me one themselves. I chose not to tell them, and then take it a step further, and bring it to school the next day to show all of my friends, and of course no one would ever find out!
My grandfather, Pop, I’m sure assumed I’d use common sense about when and where I carried it, but I didn’t. After telling a few of my friends about it, trying to look cool, word got around that I had a pocket knife in my possession, and would eventually be called up to the assistant principal’s office. Being that my other grandfather was the superintendent, she gave me the option of either her calling my parents, or allowing me to do it…to which I chose the former. I knew I’d deal with the wrath once I got home, and figured I delay it as long as I could. Keep in mind that this was the first time I had ever gotten into “real” trouble.
After getting home, facing my parents and receiving my punishment, I went up to my room and began to think about how I could have done such a thing. The next five days out-of-school were going to be tough. Each day I had to tackle all of the current yard projects my father had undertaken, along with grass cutting, washing cars, vacuuming the house and doing the constant classwork and homework sent home from teachers…I can still feel the daily struggle today from that week. I had never felt so bad about something that I’d done up to this point in my life, and then Doug came into the picture.
Doug was the Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, where George and Martha Washington were married, and he and his wife lived next door to us in the church’s parsonage. I would take care of their cats from time to time when they went on vacation, so we knew each other pretty well. I think a little birdie told him about the mess I had gotten myself into, and one day he made his way through a small patch of woods to come and speak with me as I scrubbed the wheels of my father’s Oldsmobile Delta Eighty-Eight. At this point in my life, I wasn’t a Christian, but had been attending church with my family every Sunday since I was a small child. He came up to me with a big smile, and after chatting for a little bit, ended the conversation with me by saying, “Well as we say, all you need to do is repent”, and then he walked back to his car and drove off. It was the first time in that entire week of internal turmoil and pain that I felt relaxed and relieved. I was still understanding what “repent” meant, but I knew about Christ and I knew repenting led to something better, something good.
Later that same year I gave my life to Christ at the age of thirteen. Was it this event of complete stupidity that led to it? Was it the fact that I had been attending church my whole life? Was it because I was watching “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston the night before I walked the aisle? I’m not really sure, but I am sure of one thing…through Doug’s loving character in a time of extreme pain in my life, I felt forgiven, and I felt that I had a new beginning.
Thursday, March 22,2018
Take the time…
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
I’m sitting in a coffee shop focused on the task at hand, and the lady reading the newspaper beside me says, “So, did you go to Tech?” As I realize that she had seen my shirt, I answered with a quick yes. She went on to ask me when I graduated, and told me that her son had graduated just a year before me, in 2000. The more we talked, the more we learned about each other. She is actually a member of a large Baptist church not far from where I live, and has been attending there for over thirty years. It’s a pretty interesting thing…once folks find out that I’m a pastor, one of two things happen…they begin to open up more about life, or they completely shut down and go back to what they’re doing. I’m glad she chose the former, because I really enjoy engaging people…been like that since I was a kid.
As we got deeper into the conversation, she revealed that her son was actually in the process of a divorce, with two kids stuck right in the middle. I could tell that she was hesitant to expose this part about her family, but once she realized I had been through the same situation, she felt free to speak about her concerns. We talked about the stigma of divorce, how much it changes your life, and the effects of it on the children. As our time drew to a close, I acknowledged how nice it was to have met her, and then we prayed together, and she went about her way.
So many times in life, if not every day it seems, we are slam-busy, and the last thing we desire is to take a moment to do something that isn’t part of the day’s plan. But as believers, we are to trust God, not our agenda. Sure, it may take longer to get something done that you were working on, or you may have to put it off to another day, but isn’t God big enough to handle our schedules if we give them to Him?
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Being sensitive to the situation…
“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22
It was January in the year 2000, and I along with some friends were standing in the waiting area of the Christiansburg Applebee’s, just outside of Blacksburg, VA, hoping to get seated as we were starving. The restaurant was packed, and Hokie Nation was in full-effect as Virginia Tech had just come off of an undefeated football season under the field leadership of a guy named Michael Vick. Unfortunately Tech lost the National Championship to the Florida State Seminoles, but because of Vick, the Hokies were now on the map, and the school would be forever changed.
As we patiently waited, I see the door open and the crowd part for a group of guys, so instinctively I turned my head to look. In comes Nathaniel Adibi, the Hokies great defensive end, and right behind him was Michael Vick. Everyone was completely star-struck as he walked in calm and collected, and most of the people waiting allowed him the space to walk through to the host counter. It wasn’t but five minutes that had passed, and I see him and Nathaniel making their way back out of the restaurant and on to another establishment for dinner. The word was that things got a little crazy inside the restaurant, and he wasn’t able to get a bit of privacy.
In life we come upon many people each day…some family, some friends, some acquaintances, some co-workers, some are Christian, and some are not. Regardless of who you come across, do your best to build that bridge with them…and meet them where they are in that specific moment of life. There’s no blanket approach to working with people, because a blanket approach doesn’t take into account the person, their life experience, and their current situation. Being all things to all people is challenging, and at times we may struggle to find the blueprint for that bridge, but remember, it’s all based on love. When we approach others with love, and not a desire to drive home a point, or follow through with our own personal agenda, we have a much greater chance at not overwhelming them, and providing a safe space to fellowship.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
He brings healing…
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
I’m strapping Laney into the car seat in preparation for the short ride to school yesterday, and I’m rushing to get that last buckle clicked into place because we are running a tad behind. I quickly realize that the two sides of the buckle don’t have enough slack, allowing them to come together, so I make a quick adjustment using the main strap-feed button on the bottom of the car seat. As I hastily press the button and pull my finger back out, not taking the time to look at what I’m doing, the skin on the top of my finger catches a very sharp plastic edge. I knew as soon as it happened that it probably wasn’t good, and after looking down I see a deep slice taken from my finger. After running back upstairs and administering a little first-aid to myself, we’re off to school, and my finger will be just fine.
There are times in life when we get “cut to the bone”, and it hurts physically, and it hurts emotionally, and we may even try to “heal ourselves” through various methods as we look for answers and direction. Going through life situations that cut us deeply can be very traumatic, possibly causing internal panic and anxiety, and flat-out knock us off balance. Know two things…you are not alone, and with Christ in your heart, God is with you. The word “binds” seen in Psalm 147:3, is also used in Job 28:11, where Job speaks of imagery surrounding a mining operation…as one would go into a mine shaft, God prevents the streams from breaking out into the shaft and endangering the miner, allowing them to venture deep within the mine to see the hidden treasures of silver, gold, copper and iron that lie beneath the earth.
We life cuts us deep, we may tend to run to our own devices, or even run from the situation, but as Psalm 147 tells us, and as Job illustrates to us, God will bring wisdom, comfort and guidance in the deepest and darkest of places, and He will bind up your wounds.
Monday, March 19, 2018
Being part of a family…
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
In the eight years I spent in the business world prior to ministry, I was able to be a part of countless projects, serving companies and private individuals. The best part of the job for me was helping a client achieve a desired goal, and watching them light up when the finished product was presented. There was something about being part of someone else’s success…being happy because they were happy…being joyful because they were joyful.
In ministry, it’s been no different for me. I’m honored to serve God by serving others daily, and blessed to be part of the lives of so many wonderful people. Just yesterday, God added two new members to our church, and I couldn’t have been more excited as I watched their excitement to be part of such a loving Body of believers.
I could hardly contain my excitement as they walked down the aisle and up front to join the church. We shared a prayer together and after presenting them to the congregation, they were affirmed as new members with complete and unconditional love. We all joined hands and sang, “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds”, and everyone then came up to embrace these two wonderful people, welcoming them to the church. As we all began to disperse, one of the new members looked at me and said, “I’m so happy, and now I’m ready to get started with my new church family.” For me, that’s what brings me joy…watching others grow in Christ and get excited about the journey with Him.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Times have changed, but Christ is constant…LOVE…
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
My parents came down for a visit with us yesterday, and we all went out to grab some lunch and catch up on life. Not long into our conversation my father and I got to talking about church, and I mentioned to him that I saw a statistic recently that highlighted a great change regarding church attendance in the last several years. It stated that of those born in the 1940s, 85% of them attended church, and of those born in the millennial generation, only 15% attend church. That’s pretty crazy…a complete inverse in a matter of forty years!
After telling my father these numbers (who was born in 1953), he began to speak of what church was like for him in Ettrick, Virginia, across the Appomattox River from Petersburg. He told me that Ettrick Baptist Church was packed every Sunday, and that there were classes for every age group, from infants to seniors in high school…and they were all busting at the seams! It was the center of the community, a part of everyone’s life…it’s just what you did on Sundays and Wednesday nights.
He went on to describe the way he felt when he went to church in the 50s and 60s…he said that there was something about being within those walls that made him feel comfortable. He stated that he can remember being part of the Beginners class as a child, and just feeling at ease when he attended Sunday School and Worship.
We are certainly in a different time now than fifty years ago…but Jesus Christ has always been, and always be a source of continual, unconditional love. This is the same love that my father felt in church as kid, and it’s the same love that I feel when I’m able to share life with another person. It’s the same love Christ offers to us all…we just need to accept Him, and follow Him.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Strength and peace during difficult times…
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
One of my jobs in high school was working as a “trapper” at an outdoor shooting range, where my job was to help bird and rabbit hunters hone their quick-react skills. We ran each marksman through eighteen stations, some in fields and some in woods, giving them different looks and angles that a bird or rabbit would travel. Using clay targets and a “trap” device, I would yell, “Report pair”, or “Double”, or “Following Pair”, or “Single”, and then release the clay target into the air or let it spring forth along the ground at a high rate of speed.
A single is just as it sounds…a single clay target. A double is two clay targets coming out at the same time. A report pair is one target being released, and then a second released upon the marksman firing at the first. A following pair is the most difficult to shoot (and throw), as I would release the first target, and then reload and release the second as fast as I could, not giving the marksman much time to get ready…but that was the point. When hunting you never know when and how the game will approach your position in the woods, so as the trapper, I had to do my best to help simulate different scenarios.
In life we encounter challenges and trials, and the most difficult thing about them is that we don’t know the when, the how or the why, but we know that they will come…Jesus even says that we “will have tribulation”…but He follows by saying, “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
In Him, we have peace.
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