Friday, April 12, 2019
Keep it simple…
“The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.”
Whether it’s a trout stream in Alaska or a harbor in the Caribbean, water in its clearest state is the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Whether its direction given from your parents growing up or from a boss needing a project fast-tracked, orders spoken in a clear and concise manner best convey the goal. But the key to enjoying the scenery or succeeding at work is to look and listen to your surroundings…to understand the entire picture. God’s clear and perfect direction for your life is always available, so there’s no need to worry…all you have to do is be open-minded and willing to learn.
Thursday, April 11, 2019
The domino effect of love…
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Christ calls us to follow Him…no matter how much we don’t want to carry out the deed, no matter how much we want to distance ourselves from the situation before us, or how much we think we can’t do the job, we must follow and do. In the above verse Jesus calls Philip to follow Him, and the next thing we read is that Philip went and found Nathanael, and told him of the Messiah. I often times wonder how well I’m following Christ…if I’m truly listening and truly following Him in each moment, because we don’t follow Christ just on the day we receive Him into our lives, but are called to follow Him each day thereafter. If you are following Christ, you are acting according to God’s will, and when you act according to His will, you will go and tell others of the Good News, pointing them to Christ. Philip was called, and Philip followed, and Philip went and told Nathanael, and Nathanael declared that Jesus was the Son of God. When you follow, you tell, and when you tell, lives are changed.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
A heart focused on others…
“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”
You may not have a deep friendship with the person next to you, or you may not even like the person next to you, but this journey isn’t about who we enjoy being around and those we’d rather stay away from. The mission for Christ before us is one that calls us to serve and sacrifice no matter if there is an active friendship or not. You’re going to encounter people today, whether it be in person or through your cell phone, it’s inevitable. Many of us will encounter multiple people as we carry out our jobs and take our children back and forth to school and various activities. You have a simple choice every time you run into someone…you can “add” to their journey, you can remain neutral, or you can make the situation worse, or “take away” from their walk. There’s no need to state which option we’re called to choose. This doesn’t mean that you need to give away the farm, or force something that isn’t there, but we are called to “please our neighbors”. The Greek word for please means just that, but in the context of service, in a way that receives approval from the other person. How can you do this? Go into every encounter today regardless of how close you are to the person, and decide to “add to” the person’s life in a way that makes them feel better about themselves and their journey. You can then leave the encounter knowing you did your part, no matter how small.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Give em’ what they want…
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
There are many things that distract us from God’s mission for our lives, but one that seems to come up the most in my own life, and throughout my counseling of others is dealing with those who oppose us or go against us in some way. We waste time thinking about them, about what they’ve done to us, how they’ve hurt us, and sometimes how we can “get even” with them. The thing is, people aren’t going to stop giving you a hard time…it may be someone different tomorrow or a year from now, but you’re always going to deal with those who for some reason seem to enjoy attempting to derail you.
A metaphor concerning life that I think of often is that of driving a car on the interstate, and the many different drivers that you come across in your travels. Some like to set the cruise control and coast in the right lane, some drive at slightly higher speeds but still only use the left lane for passing, staying in the right lane most of the time. But then there are some who tailgate, some who dart in and out of traffic almost causing wrecks every few miles, and some who drive twenty miles per hour over the speed limit and don’t seem to realize there’s a right lane. Sure, those who drive recklessly and without caution can irritate you and cause you frustration, but they don’t have to…just drive your vehicle at your own pace and give them the open lane as they desire. Not that you need to give one second of thought to it, nor should you hope for it, but at some point, the law will catch up with that overaggressive driver, and they’ll have to pull out the checkbook. Don’t concern yourself with “paying back” those who plot evil schemes for you, simply ignore them, give them the room to be themselves without crossing your boundaries, and move on. Not feeding the fire is half the battle!
Monday, April 8, 2019
Walking in faith…
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
We constantly deal with the tension of fear and faith as we carry out life’s various decisions. From the smallest choices regarding daily routines, to pondering major questions that may take us and our family to new places, we feel anxiety slowly creep into the flesh when we don’t know the answers right away. But just as a mother cradles her newborn baby, just as a husband and wife commit to one another despite difficulty, and just as you would provide for your child anything needed for their survival, God does the same for you! As much as we may worry and stress over what’s happened in the past, or what may transpire in the future, we cannot change the past and we cannot predict what’s going to happen in the new few minutes. But one thing is for sure, God loves you and He sent His Son to die on the cross for you and for me, so that we may have life! His love for us is beyond words, and even though we may not receive everything that we want at the time we want it, faith tells us that through Christ, God will present everything that you need at the appropriate time.
Friday, April 5, 2019
Listen and wait…
and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom,
and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.
A few months ago our daughters’ preschool hired a new director after the previous one had served nine years, providing the school with great leadership and support. I noticed that in the week prior to her leaving, the new incoming director shadowed her, or followed her around to learn the daily routine and how to troubleshoot problems. As she observed the school’s daily procedures and met students, parents and teachers, she remained fairly quiet and reserved, not really saying anything more than a “Hello” or “Good morning”. She just seemed very shy and reserved, and I remember thinking that if she didn’t come out of her shell a little more, the job may overtake her…upset parents, disgruntled staff and sick children can make for long days in a preschool of 200 kids!
But then something happened…the very day that she began her tenure as the head director, she turned into a completely different person…she was laughing, smiling, holding conversations with parents, going from classroom to classroom chatting with teachers, planning parents’ nights out, and delivering food each morning. It was pretty cool to see her come into her own, but it also highlighted something for me. She didn’t turn into a different person, she simply exerted wisdom. She used the week prior to her start to just listen, watch and observe. She gathered information that would help her when she took over, and at the same time stayed out of the way of the outgoing director. Often times we talk too much or exert ourselves too much, and miss the messages all around. The wise person sits back and waits for the opportunity to serve, and then seizes it.
Thursday, April 4, 2019
Concentrate on the relationship…
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”
Although they are frequently broken, we have speed limits posted on roadways to keep us driving at a pace that’s safe for us and everyone around us. On occasion, we get caught for going too far over the limit, and have to pay a hefty fine, hopefully deterring us from doing it again. To add, if it’s not the fine, it’s the insurance hike that makes us think a little more as well! Speed limits and other laws may not be something we think about constantly, but because we grew up learning about them, hearing about them and experiencing penalties for breaking them, we pretty much know right from wrong. A good driver isn’t necessarily one who can recite all the roadway laws, drive the speed limit to the specific mile per hour, or constantly calculate the correct following distance while they drive. A good driver is one who can understand the law, understand the movements of the other cars around them, understand the current road conditions, and make the best informed decisions while moving forward to the destination.
Romans 5:1 says that we are declared righteous by faith, and the above verse says we aren’t declared righteous by works of the law. Don’t get wrapped up in attempting to be the “perfect driver”. Get wrapped up in following Christ and allow Him to show you how to live out His calling on your life…and in this way, you will understand how to abide by the law, and when you get off track, the relationship you have with Him will inform you of how to get back on.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Comfort in the most difficult moments…
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
As I finished up my day yesterday, I saw the tragic news of a young couple from a community not far from where I grew up, that was killed walking alongside the beach road in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina after the driver of a truck possibly fell asleep or had a medical emergency and veered off the road. To make things even more difficult, they left behind two children, who both witnessed the incident. As I read the story I started to weep for the early loss of two wonderful people, for the two young children who will grow up without their parents, for the families and friends of those who left this life too soon. But attached to the article was an interview on video of a construction worker who happened to be working adjacent to where the accident occurred. The worker stated that he immediately rushed over to the scene, laid hands upon both the mother and father, and prayed over them as a grandfather pleaded for his dying son to hang on.
I have no explanation of why terrible things occur in this life, and things of this nature never get easy to digest, but one thing is for sure…that as we grieve, as we suffer and as we experience loss, God is there working through people in our lives, embracing us with His love, that fills our grieving hearts with comfort.
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Get up and go back in…
“Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”
Do you go back to the source of pain? Do you knowingly go where there is a good chance you’ll be hurt in some way? In just his sixth stop on his first missionary journey, Paul got stoned and dragged out of the city of Lystra, and he looked so bad that the Jews thought he was dead…and he got up and went right back into the same town! The Greek verb for “got up” in verse 20 is the same word used in Mark 16:9 where it says that “Jesus rose from the dead”. This incident in Acts 14 was nothing short of a miracle that once again shows God’s great power, and more specifically His power being made present in those that follow Him with their whole heart.
I can’t tell you exactly why Paul walked back into the city after such a horrific event, because it boggles me every time that I read the story. But just place yourself in the position of an onlooker…this man Paul just healed a man who was lame from birth, the crowd of people have lost their minds and began calling Paul and Barnabas gods, and now some Jews from two neighboring towns stone Paul to the point where he’s probably unrecognizable…and then he rises to come back! If it were me, I’d be amazed first of all that he even got up, I’d be amazed that he could even walk after such a horrific event, and then to top it all off, he came back into town! Paul getting up and coming back showed everyone a living example of God, His power and His love. As we “get back up” and continue to serve with boldness and passion regardless of how difficult things get, God’s power will too shine through you!
Monday, April 1, 2019
Adding joy changes lives…
“It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.”
What happens when you add weight to a paper bag that already has a tear? What happens to a car windshield crack as the wind continues to bear down on the glass? What happens to the small separation of a sole and the rest of the shoe with continual walking and running?
Someone who brings nothing but negativity and their own selfishness into another’s life is just like these three examples…they not only add to challenges of the other person, but they make the current challenges even more difficult. The flipside is the complete opposite! A positive, loving, empathetic and giving person adds joy to the other person’s life, and helps to alleviate stress and solve problems. Sure, we’re going to deal with both on our journey, but our goal should be as we follow Christ to “add to” another’s life, not take away and not load-down. People will run from negativity, but they will run to positivity!
Friday, March 29, 2019
Taking time away illuminates the bigger picture…
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
My family and I are currently at the beginning of a short four-day vacation, and only the second time we’ve ever taken the girls anywhere, and as I awoke this morning I began to think about what a vacation is for me, and how I can best live into the time off in a way that helps my spiritual growth. Typically, upon arrival at our vacation destination we may immediately think about what we can go and do, what we can get involved in to solidify the vacation experience…the beach, shopping, movies, a boardwalk, cycling, hiking, skiing, sitting by the pool, etc. Although I’ll be doing some of that myself, I like to focus on the fact that I’m not engaged in anything other than being with my family, so no matter what we do, even if it’s just us all watching television in the hotel room, I’m enjoying myself with those closest to me…I’m fully present to the experience of us all being together in a safe and relaxing place, and knowing that it’s God who has brought us all together in the bigger picture of life.
My hope in reengaging the world post-vacation, is that I can be even more present to those that I serve, in hopes of helping them on their journey. Taking time away is essential for us all, as it gives us an opportunity to have fun, reduce stress, relax and enjoy life. But I believe the most important factor of a vacation is that we’re allowed to be fully present with our loved ones, which is a practice that we can carry back to the “real-world”, as we aim to be fully present with those we serve, knowing that our Creator is the one who brings us all together, in the bigger picture of life.
Thursday, March 28, 2019
Move someone’s heart…
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
The Bible doesn’t say that we will be judged one day according to how much money we made or how big our home was, or how “cool” we looked…but it says that we will be judged based on the words and actions carried out while in the body. It’s not about “stuff”, but about our witness. Not about self, but others. Not about living an isolated life, but worshiping God with others. Not about stockpiling resources, but sharing as you are able. From my own personal experience, I’ve encountered God much more in the small (but big) details of life. I’ve seen Him working in moments when others in the same vicinity are going so fast that they continue moving as if nothing has happened, when in fact something extraordinary just went down.
Yesterday after taking one of our daughters to a local mountain park to observe some unique animals and absorb the beautiful scenery, we of course had to hit up Wendy’s for the always-exciting kids’ meal for lunch. Upon getting our food and finding our seat, I randomly glanced over to my right, only to see something that completely made my day, and for me, was probably the sweetest and most moving moments that I’ve ever seen between a father and a son. After finishing their lunch, a man in his 50s escorted his son who was around 20, from their booth over to the area of the ordering counter. I noticed as they walked that his son was limping slightly and wearing a Wendy’s customer associate uniform, but the Dad was in normal everyday attire. They made their way past the counter and settled in at the employee handwashing sink, and the father began to wash his son’s hands. At that moment, it hit me that the son had special needs, and the father was helping his son with something that he couldn’t do himself. As they finished at the sink, his father began to help his son get back to work, placing clean paper sheets on each freshly washed food tray. It took them about ten minutes to put together twenty trays, but as they worked together I could see the smiles coming out of the son’s face with the completion of each tray.
There’s a chance that I’ll never see those two gentleman again, and we didn’t speak a word to each other, but that father-son exchange will forever be implanted in my memory and my heart. I have no idea of the experiences that those two have been through in the last twenty years, and the struggles that father has encountered, but the love he shows his son is something that moved me to tears in the middle of my meal, and I believe is an example for us all as we live out God’s call to love others in the name of Christ. I believe that moment moved God’s heart, and I believe if we all lived in such a patient, caring and sacrificial way, the impact for the Kingdom would be exponential and immeasurable.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Draw the line…
“The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium.”
Where’s the line? When do we stay and deal with the difficulty, struggle and sometimes pain…and when do we go? To know the when, where, how, why and what about our journey, we must stay within God’s will…we must be in constant communication with Him about the use of our time, the places we are to go, the jobs we are to work, and the people we are to engage. From a personal perspective, I’ve stayed in relationships with people even when they didn’t reciprocate much love back, but deep down I knew they weren’t pushing me away. But I’ve also walked away from relationships, and very close ones, where the other person did more damage than good to my walk.
Verse 51 above ties in with Matthew 10:14, where Christ sends out the twelve disciples to drive out impure spirits and heal disease and sickness…this is where the disciples become apostles…they go from being a learner or student to the “sent ones”. It’s similar to that moment in a pupil’s life when they are able to go out into the world and apply what they’ve learned. As you go out in your journey today you will encounter people who love you and support you, wanting to do nothing but help you on your way, but you’ll also meet others who simply don’t care about your needs, and only look out for themselves. Be smart, be wise, be efficient with your time, and be protective of your heart. If a person always gives you difficulty, if they consistently take and never give, if they cause you internal pain, and if they aren’t doing anything to assist you in your spiritual walk…it may be time to pray about moving on. Breaking ties with others isn’t easy, but staying in relationships where others do you more harm than good and don’t seem to be open to God using you in the relationship, will only bring you pain in the long run, and take time away from your life that could be used to help others.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Abide in Christ…
“When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.”
Throughout my journey in ministry, I’ve listened to the testimony of many who grew up in a church setting that spoke of Heaven and Hell, of salvation and death, and of sin and judgment…the focus of the Sunday sermon was solely on the decision to follow Christ, but wasn’t followed up with the message(s) involving a daily walk with the Lord. The moment that you receive Christ in your life is the most important moment in your life, and something I pray happens in every person’s life, but the journey doesn’t end there…it’s just beginning!
As we see in the above scripture, Paul and Barnabas urged the new believers in Pisidian Antioch to be confident in the Lord…to be obedient to the Lord to the point where they are persuaded to remain in the Lord, to abide in Him. Our walk with the Lord is not just about the moment of salvation, but how that moment leads you into a changed life of service and sacrifice, bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. My wife’s former supervisor, a well-respected surgeon on the east coast, always used a saying that she’s passed on to me…”See one, do one, teach one.” To make disciples we must live out our faith, and to live out our faith, we must continue in the Lord’s will.
Monday, March 25, 2019
The power of prayer…are we using it?
“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision.”
At times we get confused and maybe even frustrated because we don’t know what to do and how to proceed…what does God want for my life? What is God telling me to do with my future? But when we look at our spiritual life, we haven’t put the time in to strengthening our walk with the Lord and understanding His calling for our life. How can we expect to know the way, when we aren’t opening up our heart to His plan?
Peter received the vision as he was praying, and according to Acts 10, he was actually on the roof as he was praying. He took the time not only to listen to God, but to physically remove himself from the distractions of life to give God his full attention. To add, just before receiving the vision that would lead him to understanding that the Good News of Christ would go also to the Gentiles, Peter, through his faith in the power of God, raised Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead…after he got down on his knees and prayed.
Your day today will be full of distractions, some which may come through difficult situations, but most of which will probably come through that little device in your hand…a little red email alert, a ping from a recent text, or a new Facebook notification about an upcoming event. Take the time to place the phone in another room for a few minutes, take the time to walk away from a tense situation, take the time to give your time to God so that you may receive His vision for your life.
Friday, March 22, 2019
A different walk…
"Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.”
One cannot understand the phrases and expressions of a specific culture until they have lived within it for some time. One cannot understand the dynamics of a spouse’s family until they have been married for a while. One cannot understand how to satisfy and impress a boss until they have been on the job for several months. Until you reach the point where you’ve lived in a culture for an extended period of time, been continually exposed to another family, and seen the results of various work-related projects, you won’t understand the system, the culture or the “language” of the family or group…and when you don’t understand the environment, things will look foreign to you.
These words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Hosea remind us that true wisdom and true clarity in a life lived for God comes only through a relationship with God, through Christ. As you walk with the Lord, you develop your own individual relationship with Christ, and it’s not always going to be something understood by those around you…and that’s ok! People that aren’t “in tune” with God will not understand His ways, and they certainly won’t always understand why you carry yourself as you do, shining the light of Christ in the world. If you walked into a completely new culture and tried to institute your own methods, you’d probably be looked at with confusion, and possibly judgment. John 15:19 reminds us that because we are not of the world as Christians, that the world will hate us, or detest us. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to justify or explain to those who oppose you why you carry yourself the way that you do, but instead keep loving, keep serving and keep sacrificing. The hope is that those who stumble will eventually stumble enough to make them think, and ultimately give their own lives to Christ.
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Prepare your heart for a deeper relationship…
"Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."
We are now in the season of Lent, a 40-day period that begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. It is a time of fasting and prayer for Christians as we prepare for Easter, and it represents the forty days that Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness by Satan. Lent is a time for followers of Christ to examine our own lives, and to understand what needs to be taken away, what needs to be added, and what needs to be revised, so that we can grow into a closer and deeper relationship with Christ. Lent also reminds us that we must repent of our sin continually, and return to Christ. The only way that we can grow deeper in our relationship with Christ is to admit to ourselves and to God where we have gone wrong, so that we can learn, gain wisdom, and love even more than before…but it starts with you!
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
He never leaves you…
"I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,”
says the Lord your God.”
At times we may feel as though we are wandering in the wilderness, maybe as if we have lost touch with God due to the circumstances of our failures. As people, we will make mistakes on our journey with Christ, even when we’re trying to “hit the mark”…this is a part of life and a part of learning. When we walk through the season of discipline for where we’ve gone wrong, it’s important to know that God hasn’t left you, and that He walks with you as you strive to gather wisdom through repentance.
The Jews would return to Jerusalem to set up life once again following the exile, building the foundation for their social, political and religious structure as seen in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Just as God gave His people an opportunity to rebuild the city and their spiritual lives, He continually gives us opportunities to “rebuild” our relationship with Him as we stumble through difficulty and make decisions that divert us from glorifying Him. As written in John 1:12, anyone who receives Christ and believes in His name, are given the right to become the children of God…and God loves His children, He’s always there for His children, and He never leaves His children.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Don’t pile on, but lift up…
"The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”
Violence rears its ugly head in many ways in this world. When we think of “violence”, we may initially think of physical violence, because it seems to be the most prominent in the news and social media, but aggression and cruelty is also shown to people in others ways as well. One of the most common ways that I’ve witnessed “violence”, which can also mean heartlessness, is through boosting oneself up at the expense of others, gossip, unjust and negative criticism, flat-out nasty emotional outbursts, and finally, showing support for unhealthy behavior by simply not taking up for others, or “piling on”.
In the prophecy of Obadiah, we see the Edomites being called out for their malicious behavior toward those in Judah after they had been invaded and exiled by the Babylonians. Things were already not going well for those in Jerusalem because of their disobedience, and those in Edom made things even worse. We see in Amos 1:11 that the Edomites pursued Israel with the sword and slaughtered the women because they allowed their anger to lead them. Even though these two nations were actually called “brethren” in the Old Testament, going back to the brothers Jacob (Israelites) and Esau (Edomites) in the book of Genesis, they came against each other multiple times in battle. Instead of treating Israel as a brother, Edom commenced to violence against them as an enemy again during the exile, and we see in verse 2 of Obadiah that the Lord would make Edom “small among the nations”, or insignificant. Edom would eventually be invaded themselves by the Babylonians in 553 BC.
What does all this mean? We are called to love our brothers and sisters, even those who are our “enemies”. Remember that violence toward others does not always come in the form of something done to someone, but it can exist as simply showing support for negative behavior by not standing up for the good, and in a way that shows God’s love in the presence of hate. According to Isaiah 2:17, when the day of the Lord comes, the pride of man will be brought low and the Lord will be exalted…the question for us in the present is, are we continually supporting and loving others and bringing glory to God, or are we attempting to bring ourselves into the spotlight at the expense of others?
Monday, March 18, 2019
Don’t shoot for perfection, aim for obedience…
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Something happened yesterday that’s happened on a few occasions before in my ministry…a sign among many other signs that God gives me, letting me know that He’s there, and that He sees my struggles and also celebrates with me in the mountaintop moments of life. I had committed to fill the pulpit at a church down the road from our new home on the very first Sunday following our move, but I was still unsure about what God wanted me to speak about. Most of the time, His message comes to me fairly quickly, and I work through it for several days before preaching, but this time it didn’t come until Sunday morning at daybreak. It had nothing to do with procrastination or not being prepared, but everything to do with me wanting to speak His heart for the church.
God gave me a scripture in James to preach from on boasting…so I commenced to writing and preparing, and by the time 11:00 rolled around, He had given me a sermon with a strong message on living according to His will, by placing Christ at the center of our lives. Upon the conclusion of worship, one of the deacons approached me and said that the sermon couldn’t have aligned any better with the lesson they talked about during Sunday School, concerning priorities as a Christian.
I certainly have my share of failures daily, and I am forced to confront my weaknesses constantly, but within the failures and the weaknesses, I aim to follow God to the best of my ability. Our walk with Christ will be one full of awesome times, moments of growth, joy beyond words and one where blessings abound. But as we walk, we will also endure difficulty beyond words, and encounter deep struggle to the point where we realize that our relationship with Christ should be paramount over all. Life is messy…we make mistakes, we miss opportunities, we get scared of needed change and we place pressure on ourselves to be perfect. My prayer for us all is that we accept that we aren’t perfect and that we accept mistakes as part of the journey, but most of all, that we aim to be in a deep, committed relationship with Christ. When we strive to follow Him, we realize how much we need Him, we learn from mistakes, and our energy is geared toward Kingdom work and not worries of the flesh.
Friday, March 15, 2019
Love makes an impact…
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”
As I picked up my youngest daughter from her second to last day of school yesterday, her lead teacher got emotional and had to say her goodbyes, as she wouldn’t be working on Edie’s last day. As the teacher embraced her, the entire class, all fifteen of them, came over to give Edie a group hug. It was pretty amazing to watch a group of children immediately and without hesitation show love to one of their own, and not even need prompting to do so. I’m not sure of the last time that I’ve been so moved, and it just happened to come through a group of four-year-olds.
As I stood back and allowed this beautiful scene to unfold, I began to think, “What if we all embraced one another without judgment, and with all the love that these kids are showing? What would this world look like?” If I was so impacted by an act of love through a group of young children like this, just think of how simplistic the message of Christ is...it may be challenging at times, but it’s all about showing and sharing love…that’s it! As adults we can complicate things rather quickly and miss the entire point, but it comes down to just being a witness for Christ through simple acts of love.
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Leave it to God…
“See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness”
Do you ever get frustrated with those who seem to be filled with evil ways? Do you ever wonder why at times those who carry out evil actions seem to prosper in terms of the world? These are questions that may cross the minds of those who follow Christ and deal with strong, unhealthy opposition as they strive to make an impact for the Kingdom. The prophet Habakkuk dealt with the same questions as he looked upon the injustice of those in Judah. He even got so downtrodden that he began to question God about His plan to use the ruthless and impetuous Babylonians to overthrow those in Judah for their violence, destruction and wrongdoing.
But as you read further into this prophetic book, you will see something that we all know as Christians…that God is a God of love and compassion, but He’s also a God of justice. God sees all and knows of all the violent and destructive acts of humanity. He knows when there is extortion of wealth, He knows when people cheat others to get ahead, He is aware of those who take what they want by force, He sees those who live in drunkenness and take advantage of others, and He knows those who worship worthless and lifeless idols, but in the end God will prevail and injustice will be dealt with. As you live out your calling, don’t get consumed by the evil of the world, because as long as we live here on this fallen earth, injustice and violence will be present. But instead live with faith in a God who sees and knows everything, and who will deal with those who commit injustice, but who also strengthens you in your own personal walk.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
We’re all in this together…
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”
We all look at life through a different lens. You may see success as a great job, a white picket fence and a healthy savings account. The next person may see success as graduating high school and getting into the workforce. Yet another person may see success, as unhealthy as it is, as controlling everyone in their various arenas of life. My hope for myself and all people is that we look at success as making a daily impact for the Kingdom through our own individual gifts as we work with others, and being open to growing spiritually in the process.
The lens through which we see success, the world, people, work, church, etc. depends on many factors, such as how you grew up, the trials you’ve been through, how others have treated you, and most of all, your spiritual walk with Christ. Even though we’ve been down different paths in life, the hope is that we’re all on the path with Christ, and that we strive for the same mission…to carry His message and love to the world. Within this mission, we must work with others, and there’s no way around it. Others need you, and you need others, whether you recognize it or not. To be “successful” for the Kingdom with others, we must be open to how others interpret Christ in their lives and how they see Him working in the world. The moment you think you’ve hit some sort of pinnacle, the moment you think you know it all, or the moment when you think you’re above someone else, is the moment you will fail…and our prayer is that when we do, we’ll repent and turn back to Christ. Understand that everyone around you thinks differently than you, even your own spouse and children, but respect it, embrace it and work with them as best you can! We need Christ in each other…we need the Body of Christ!
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
To fully love is to fully care…
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
As we close this chapter of our lives as a family in Richmond, Virginia, and move on to our next season in Tennessee, I’ve been blessed to connect with various friends before heading out. Yesterday I broke some bread with a guy that I’ve known for almost fifteen years, and one that I worked with in a large engineering firm prior to getting called to ministry. I’m not sure exactly what brought us together as friends initially, because he was a vice president and I was an employee in another department serving as a project manager, but I always enjoyed the conversations we had. Over the years since being cut from the company during the 2008-2009 recession, I managed to stay in contact with him from time to time, and again, always enjoyed our conversations. I’m not one to give a whole lot of thought as to why God brings certain people in and out of my life, I just focus on the person in the moment and enjoy the relationship.
After leaving our three-hour lunch yesterday, I felt as though I knew exactly why God brought us together as friends. From the first moment we met at my former company, Jeff never acted as though he was any better or “higher” than me in his executive position…he always made me feel safe to come into his office and chat with him about life, and to add, he always made time for me regardless of how many site plans were covering his desk. Today he owns his own successful engineering firm, which actually employs two other former co-workers of mine from that company. Jeff is fifteen years older than he was when I first met him, and he no longer works within the safety of someone else’s company, but is the driving force behind his own. He is the father of four, and the husband to a wonderful woman. He’s an ace at business and taking care of his employees and his clients…which leads me to my closing point and central theme. Regardless of where God has brought Jeff, what He has taken him through, and how his life has changed, Jeff has always taken the time to listen to people, to understand their concerns, and is truly empathetic to their needs…and now I know that’s why God brought him into my life. It may not be your spouse, your child, or your friend, but if God brings someone into your life, take it just as seriously and with as much care as you would any other relationship.
Monday, March 11, 2019
What are you striving for?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
To be stable means to be “firmly fixed”. We strive for stable relationships, stable jobs, stable health, stable income, stable amounts of stress, stable households…we are so ingrained with a desire for stability as humans that we often fight for it without even realizing it. When things are firmly fixed, we are less uncomfortable, and that means less stress and more happiness, right? Not necessarily! Some of the most unhappy people that I know have had a fairly stable life when it comes to jobs, income and their needs provided for.
I believe first of all that striving for stability is not a goal that aligns with God’s will for our life. Second, striving for a stable environment means that often times the needs of others get passed over for our own needs. Third, when we actually achieve some sort of worldly stability, it doesn’t satisfy our souls. You’re going to be left wanting more, because a stable environment is not what fills us up, but instead it’s the love of Christ and doing God’s will. There’s much danger in terms of our spiritual walk if we make it our priority to stabilize everything around us…when we follow Christ, things are going to get “messy”. You’re going to give away time, money and resources to help others. You’re going to receive pushback from others, and you may even lose relationships. You may be asked to step into a role that you “don’t feel like” doing. But the beautiful thing is that when you live into the chaos of life, you feel God’s provision in it, and that’s where the rubber meets the road in our spiritual lives.
Friday, March 8, 2019
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
1 Chronicles 7:14
We mess up, we make mistakes…it’s part of life. But the key is, are you understanding where you go wrong, are you convicted of your sin? We see throughout scripture where people mess up, and in big ways, but God doesn’t stop loving His people, and He doesn’t stop loving you! As a follower of Christ, we should feel very uncomfortable with actions that aren’t within God’s will, and have a strong desire to get back within His commands. As we look back, understand what went wrong, and get back to His path, we are forgiven and renewed in our relationship with God through Christ. This constant turning from sin and back to God is something we’ll do for the remainder of our lives, but the hope is that it happens less and less as we grow in age and spiritual maturity. God loves you and He waits for you to seek Him, to seek understanding, to seek wisdom, and to seek how it is that you are to proceed on your individual path.
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Love the path He’s given you…
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
The pull of “I don’t want to”, “I don’t feel like it”, and “I don’t like it” can very easily overtake us, and influence the path we choose to walk. As a human being, you are constantly being pulled toward the wrong direction by various temptations. These attempts by Satan to pull you from the path for Christ won’t bring anything good if you give in. Also, keep in mind that temptations aren’t always something that you do, or something that you indulge in…they can be things that you don’t do, because you just don’t feel like it or because “you don’t have the time”.
How easy is it to ignore a text or an email, or let a phone call go to voicemail? How easy is it to forgo Bible study or worship at a local church? How easy is it to hoard resources? All these are temptations, and they don’t involve money, power or lust…they just involve non-action. Not engaging in God’s call for your life is just as detrimental to your walk as indulging in something unhealthy, because both aren’t within His will. Following God involves looking at life through a different lens. It’s not about doing what feels good, it’s not about checking off your own to do list, it’s not about doing things on your time schedule, it’s about loving the direction God gives you to walk in, and moving into it.
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
With your complete self…
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”
1 Chronicles 28:9
It all starts with what the Greek tells us is the complete heart, or the complete inner person. You may have a lingering question on your mind right now concerning a life-changing decision. You may be experiencing some confusion about how to navigate a very difficult situation, and just don’t know which way to turn. Your “inner person” is consumed by the anxiety and stress related to this particular question, instead of using that same energy to seek the Lord’s will and understand His direction. Walking with God is not something we are to turn on and off in accordance with our desires and our allotted time frames. If we treat our relationship with Christ as something to be tapped into only we feel it’s needed, your spiritual walk will reflect it, and your understanding of life and your mission will most likely be cloudy and confusing.
Sadly, I’ve experienced many situations where God has brought a person or a family through a difficult situation, driving them to a closer relationship with Him, but within only a few months their relationship with God was placed on the back burner as things “stabilized”. Just think if we all treated our closest relationships in this way…we’d all be struggling to have any relationships of depth. God knows your heart, and He knows where your motivations and priorities lie…are they with Him?
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
“Be not righteous over much; neither make yourself over wise: why should you destroy yourself ?”
There’s a difference between being Christ-like, and over-exerting oneself to appear “religious” in all that one does. There’s a difference in following Christ and learning from His direction, and assuming that you know all of God’s intentions in the situations of life. We are called to make an impact on the Kingdom through our service and sacrifice, not to make an impression through the way we dress or performing tasks that promote some sort of religious life. We are called to listen to God each day and to gather wisdom through prayer, not superimpose our presumptions over our experiences or those of our peers.
God does not call us to exert ourselves each day to fit into some sort of religious box, but instead to follow Jesus Christ with all of our heart, changing lives through the movement of the Holy Spirit. It’s not about your efforts, but instead about your willingness to allow God to work through you! It’s not about appearing different, but actually being changed! The more you attempt to “look the part” instead of truly living into a life with Christ, the more unneeded challenges that you’ll bring into your life. Your witness will be tarnished because people will eventually see through the façade, you’ll experience burnout because of overexerting yourself to look different, and you could potentially miss the calling you’re supposed to be living into. Be you, love the Lord, follow Christ and allow Him to change you from the inside-out, don’t you try to change yourself from the outside-in.
Monday, March 4, 2019
When obedience and joy meet…
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24
Every morning in preparation for the day, I have to make sure that my two youngest daughters get up (hardest task of day), eat breakfast, get dressed, brush their teeth, have their hair done, pack their book bags, and are ready for the bus/car ride to school. The biggest hold-up is usually getting them dressed for school, because it requires them to stop watching cartoons and eating breakfast on our comfortable bed, which of course they don’t want to do. But lately, my youngest daughter has gotten the routine down pretty well, and doesn’t try to debate me on each step, because she knows that it not only disappoints me, but privileges are taken away. She’s gotten to the point now when I ask them to get dressed, she immediately says, “Ok Dad!” Not only does she respect the routine and my instructions, but she does it with enthusiasm…I can’t say my other daughter does the same!
I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to see her obey me, and to hear her do it with enthusiasm…there’s nothing better as a parent! Edie knows that anything she needs, we will provide her as parents, and she’s also beginning to understand that if she obeys, she’ll not only get what she needs, but sometimes what she also wants! We know from 1 John 5:3 that to love God is to keep His commands…it’s the premise of our continual relationship with Christ. It must put a smile on the face of God to see His children obeying His commands…but how much more it must move the heart of God to see His children obey Him, and do it with joy!
Friday, March 1, 2019
Let’s get real…
“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
1 Timothy 1:5
As I come to a complete stop at the traffic light, I see a company service vehicle whiz past me in the right lane and blow through the intersection well into the light turning red. I caught a quick chuckle, because as the small SUV passed by, and thankfully didn’t hit anyone in the process, I looked and saw a large, bold bumper sticker on the back saying, “WE SOLVE BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS”. How much more of a “walking” contradiction could you be?! Advertising that you solve behavior problems, but blatantly run a red light, endangering the lives of many.
All it takes is one bad move, one word in haste, one statement made out of anger, and your witness is tarnished with that person or group. All it takes is for you to say one thing and do another, and when someone finds out…there goes your witness. When you peel away everything…our finances, our resources, our societal positions, all we have is our reputation. Take your walk with Christ seriously and always put your best foot forward, so that others see consistency in your being, and most of all, Christ.
Thursday, February 28, 2019
After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.” Nathan replied to David, “Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.” But that night the word of God came to Nathan, saying: “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.
1 Chronicles 17:1-4
There are times in life that we may be in in the right place spiritually…our hearts are after God and we are eager to do His will, but we may miss the goal because we are “over-eager”. Have you ever worked with someone whose heart was in the right place, but whose energy to help the team was so high and misdirected that it caused problems in the group? Having a desire to work hard, to help others and ultimately to do God’s will should be at the core of our witness, but we must make sure that our eagerness to serve the Lord is directed in the area of His will, not our own. We all know the obvious temptations that the world brings, but we can forget that sometimes “good” things can take us away from the Lord as well. What if someone needs something to eat, and you give them a shirt? What if someone needs five minutes of your time and you give them $20? What if God calls you to fulfill a role at church, but instead you volunteer at a local community group instead? Giving people clothes, money and your time are all great things, but if they aren’t done in line with God’s will, what good is it?
David had a desire to build a house for the Lord, which is a good thing, but it wasn’t his calling. Nathan had jumped the gun and told David to do whatever was in his heart, but we soon find out that he should have sought the Lord’s direction prior to speaking to David…to add, they both should have been seeking the Lord’s direction. I believe both men were in the right place spiritually, but they, like us at times, got caught up in the place of thinking on a human level instead of waiting on the true will of God.
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Always give thanks…
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34
Always give thanks as you begin your prayers. Everything that you have has been given to you by the Lord. Every meal, every place of shelter, every job, every opportunity to go on a vacation, strength when you were weak, a road map when things got confusing, friends in times of need, hope when all seemed lost. God’s love is always there…it’s always there even when relationships break down and resources don’t seem to be flowing in.
I can’t tell you how many times that God has provided for my family and me when everything and everyone else broke down around us. We’ve walked through times when there wasn’t a sign of “worldly provision” to be seen, but we knew that behind it all, God had a plan. You may not be able to see Jesus Christ incarnate, but you must believe that He is there with you, and you must believe that His love never leaves you, even when the things of this world fall away. As you continue to place faith in Him during the most difficult moments of your life, He will guide you through to the other side, and when you look back you will know without a doubt that it was His love that never left and His love for you that sustained you…and that’s what generates constant and continual thanks.
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
What would you have me do Lord?
“and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” “Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.” 1 Samuel 30:8
When you get anxious, fearful, stressed, bogged down and distraught…what do you do? Do you make rash judgments and act in haste? David certainly made his share of mistakes, but the man after God’s own heart would learn to seek God’s divine will in his life, by taking the time to seek out His commands. The Bible gives nine different accounts of where David sought out God’s will in difficult circumstances or before simply taking the next step into God’s future for him.
It’s so easy to be overcome by fear in taxing situations, or to be led by extreme happiness when things are going well for us, but we are taught through scripture to constantly and consistently seek the Lord in all that we do…to thank Him for the blessings and to seek Him in prayer for things that we need. Acts 13:22 reminds us that to be after God’s heart, we must be after His will…and to be after His will, we must be in constant communication to know His will.
Monday, February 25, 2019
Be a peaceful presence…
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
As I woke up this morning I heard the birds singing as I always do, but on this particular morning I was taken back to some good memories. Each summer growing up I’d spend a couple weeks with my grandparents across town, and it was something that I looked forward to each year until I got into high school, when I began playing sports and working jobs. My grandparents were the only ones in my family that I felt ever truly “got me”, and being with them was relaxing and comforting. Coming from a family where I was forced to look, be and act a certain way at all times, spending these days away from home gave me a chance to breathe and enjoy the moments of life. Each morning after eating breakfast together, I’d sit on the porch with my grandmother while she smoked her first cigarette of the day, and we’d just shoot the breeze, watch the hummingbirds at the feeders, and listen to the birds singing. As we talked, the morning seemed to be going in slow motion, and I was able to absorb every word of our conversation, every sound coming from nature, and every color coming from the morning sky.
At a young age, my grandparents taught me what a peaceful atmosphere looked like, and they laid a foundation for me about what it means to bring peace into the lives of others, which involves listening, sharing life, and being a comforting presence. Many of us run through life at a pace that doesn’t allow us to fully embrace every word, every sound and every color. Strive to be that peaceful presence for others, so that they too may fully embrace the moments of life, and see Christ in you.
Friday, February 22, 2019
A time is coming…
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
How will others remember you? What do you think will come to mind when others look back upon your life? What kind of legacy do you think you’ll leave? I address this topic every single time that I lead a funeral service, because I want everyone in attendance to think about their lives and how they are using them…are they living for themselves or for the Lord? When you boil it down, we all are “givers” and we’re all “receivers”…meaning we all give some and we all receive things. But I also believe that people are either majority givers or majority receivers, meaning they spend a majority of their time feeding their own needs, or sacrificing their time and resources so that the needs of others are met.
The above scripture brings us quickly back to the fact that each of us will stand before Christ to be judged for how we lived while on earth. Did we profess Christ as Lord and Savior? Did we come together with other believers in corporate worship? Did we live with passion in this world to be willing and ready to help others when asked? It’s not about an accumulation of wealth, achieving some sort of high worldly position of authority, or being the smartest person on the block. It’s about a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, a life of obedience to His will, and living in a sacrificial way so that others may grow in Christ.
Thursday, February 21, 2019
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
Today my middle daughter turns six, something she’s been counting down to for about two months now! Being a parent is such a blessing to my wife and I, and it’s something I thank God for every day of my life. Sixteen years ago I became a parent for the first time to my oldest daughter, but because things didn’t work out between her mother and I, my vision of what the dad-daughter relationship would be completely changed. Geographical and financial circumstances put me in a position to be a “weekend dad” at the age of twenty-five. I had looked forward for so long to become a parent, and it finally came, but I felt like it went just as fast as it came.
We can’t always understand why we go through the difficult moments in life…why some things are given, but then taken away. Why some things happen in our lives, and we do nothing to bring it upon ourselves. What I tell others and constantly tell myself, is that God is there and He will bring you through, and that God will always provide what’s needed to continue on…this is why I thank Him daily for His provisions. Sixteen years ago I was a lost soul, and today I know without a doubt that I’ve been found, and I get to celebrate six years of life with a blessing that God gave me after years of pain and waiting. Romans 5 along with the first chapter of James, remind us that when we encounter times of suffering, to look to the Lord…for we will receive hope and lack nothing!
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Don’t get ahead…
“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
During the spring tennis season of my senior year in high school, my doubles partner and I placed second in the regional tournament, losing only to a team that included one of the best athletes in the region. My partner Casey and I had played together for two years, and even though we had very different singles tennis styles, we knew how to play together well as a team. Doubles tennis is very different from singles tennis, in that it involves more strategy, requiring more specific placement shots to score points. Both players must communicate constantly in order to achieve success, and if one of them “gets too far ahead” and begins to make decisions without the other involved, failure is quick to follow.
Wherever you serve, work or simply interact with others to achieve a goal of any kind, it’s paramount that you know the mission, but right along with that comes the need for teamwork. If just one person in the group decides to constantly move quicker and with his/her own ideas, the entire team will suffer and most likely miss the goal. Remember, it’s not about being right, or having the “golden idea”, but about working together to achieve a goal that impacts others in a positive way. The icing on the cake is that there is much joy in achieving something together, where everyone feels they have contributed something positive toward fulfilling the mission. It all starts with living in a way that desires to serve God by serving others…it eliminates the “self” and emphasizes “team”.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
What does faith look like?
“My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” Daniel 6:22
Trust in others is exemplified in how much we confide in them and how much we lean on them with very personal information. Trust is built over time…it can’t be bought and it can’t be demanded, it something that forms with continual respect for others and fulfillment of promises. Our faith walk is a little different, because it’s at the core of our relationship with Christ, who isn’t walking in the flesh with us, but in our heart and through experiences in our life. People can’t see us literally walking with Christ, but they can see the fruit of it, or the positive effects of our faith in how we act and treat others.
In the sixth chapter of Daniel, we see where Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den for praying to God, and breaking the decree of King Darius, that said everyone should only pray to him. The interesting thing is that scripture doesn’t say a word about the exchange between Daniel and the king regarding this punishment, and it doesn’t say anything about Daniel’s reaction to this punishment. All we read is that Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, and that it was sealed. The next we hear from Daniel is in the above scripture. To our knowledge, Daniel didn’t whine, complain about, or fight against the king’s command…as severe as it was, he followed the order and had faith that God would provide the way! And God sure did! Faith isn’t always a word or an action…sometimes it’s silence and non-action when God calls us to have patience and wait.
Monday, February 18, 2019
Which are yours?
“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him,” Colossians 2:6
Decisions come to our doorstep every day, and we may instinctually determine which direction we’ll take without much thought, basing the decision on what we’ve always done or how we personally want to proceed. The more I’ve moved into my journey for Christ, the more I’ve realized that it truly isn’t about me, but completely about God’s will for my life. Based on this continual understanding, when decisions come my way in various arenas of life, I do my best to first make sure that it’s my decision to make…meaning, is it a place where I need to yield to God’s decision through the heart of another person? Often times, I find that instead of making the decision myself, I need to consult someone else first, or completely hand it over to another “team member”. We all could certainly just make every decision that comes our way by ourselves, but as a Christ follower, you must realize that every decision must be made in accordance with His will, not yours. A strong Christian knows his/her place to make a decision, but also the place where it must be handed off.
Friday, February 15, 2019
Through His power, not ours…
Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you.” Daniel 4:28-31
It can be a slippery slope to think that what we have accomplished and achieved is from our own doing and through our own power. When we get to a point where we place ourselves “on top”, there is a strong chance that our relationship with God is no longer number one in our life. People do great things every day, and those that believe in Christ can do things that seem impossible by earthly standards. But we must always remember that it’s not by our will, our strength or our plan that milestones are met and mountaintops are reached, but by God’s mighty hand and His extravagant plan. We see in the Book of Job that the Lord gives, but the Lord also takes away. Just as quick as we reach a position of great influence or abundant resources, can we be in a position of extreme need and desperation. Always remember where your provision comes from…always remember Who it is that guides you on life’s path…and always remember to give thanks.
Thursday, February 14, 2019
“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,” Ecclesiastes 2:24
This life isn’t about satisfying fleshly desires and diving into worldly pleasures, but I do believe God wants us to enjoy the life He’s given us! The key to truly appreciating what we have, and taking pleasure or satisfaction in our lives, comes not directly from the world but as an outflow of our relationship with Christ. A person that aims to acquire wealth most likely won’t appreciate the hard work of those on their team. A person that aims to control others won’t appreciate the gifts they have to offer. A person that makes it a top priority to plan several vacations throughout the year just to get away from daily life and routines can potentially miss the purpose in each day.
Again, we shouldn’t aim to “feel good” and to “get away” from everyday life, but instead to dive into each day, and fully appreciate the place God has given us to serve, and to also appreciate the people that He brings into our life to support us and work alongside us. There’s a saying “It’s all about the little things.” If you pay attention, so much pleasure and satisfaction is found in the “small” and often forgotten things of life…but you’ll only appreciate it when you are walking with Christ. Non-Christians view work as work…Christians view work as purpose-driven, and appreciate that they are working with God as they work with others.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
God in you…
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
We see in the Gospel of John that after Jesus was resurrected, Peter and the beloved disciple found the tomb empty. It goes on to state that they still didn’t understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. But something happens in the Book of Acts…after the Holy Spirit comes upon the believers, Peter begins to recite scripture from Joel and the Psalms. So Peter goes from “not getting it”, to preaching with conviction from the scriptures to the crowd, and through his proclaiming the Good News of Christ, three thousand people were saved.
When you allow God to work through you, supernatural things can happen, things that you’d never imagine would happen. But it all starts with belief…belief that Christ lives, belief that He gives eternal life, belief that He forgives, and belief that He loves unconditionally. When you believe, the Holy Spirit will come and guide you into all truth, and do things in your life that will just completely blow you away. People try with all their human might to “align the stars”…whether it be through money, authoritative positions, manipulative behavior, micromanagement, etc. It’s not about human effort, but about God’s power being unveiled through patience, time and most of all love…but there must be belief.
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” Romans 15:20
Paul didn’t stop preaching the Gospel because he faced opposition and impending dangers of various kinds. He, just like you and me, had fears because he lived in a human body, but he didn’t let it take hold of his life and guide his path.
One of the biggest fears among people that I’ve discovered as I’ve walked with them through life’s challenges, is that of experiencing something new, something different. It sounds simple or insignificant, but the changing of patterns, places of residence, jobs, and peer groups can petrify a person. Many people desire to stick to the way they’ve always done something, the way their parents taught them to go about their day, or a pattern they developed in their early adulthood. In addition to ways of living, people are fearful of people…they are hesitant to meet new people, to embrace new people, and certainly can be afraid to open up to new ways of doing things. When you combine the fear of change with the fear of meeting new people, a wall is created that prevents spiritual and personal growth.
Paul states that it’s his “ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known”, to tell others of Jesus Christ who’ve never heard the Good News. This means Paul again had to stretch his comfort zone and adjust his lifestyle to meet the needs of the culture he preached to, while also being open to new people. Don’t allow tradition or your cozy place in life to prevent you from stretching yourself, and getting out there among people you don’t know, so that they too can hear about Jesus, and hopefully accept Him as Lord and Savior of their life.
Monday, February 11, 2019
“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7
From time to time you may hear the question, “When you look back on life, would you change anything?” Honesty, I feel that I wouldn’t want to do anything different as I look back on the last forty years of my life. I truly believe that I am the person I am today because of the things I’ve gone through, whether it be good or “bad”. Every single situation that I’ve encountered has developed my character, my resolve, my love and my faith in God. Whether it was getting divorced at 25-years-old, raising a daughter for six years on my own, experiencing the pain of being laid-off with no severance, losing a home because of the lay-off, going through depression, making mistakes as a minister, receiving harsh criticism as a pastor, losing touch with my entire family and many of my friends because of ministry, or moving nine times in nine years…all of it has contributed to making me the servant that I am at this very moment. Sure, I could have folded and lived my life in a box after experiencing some of those initial hits, but I realized years ago that those difficult times drove me even harder to overcome and learn…and I’ve carried that passion for life with me to this day. As you seek His direction in the tough moments of life, work not for worldly recognition…work not for accumulation of wealth…work not to control people or situations…work not for vanity, but work to improve your character…work to strengthen your faith…and work to love more than you ever have before.
Friday, February, 8, 2019
Everyone needs rest…
“Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
This morning is the first in a long time where I’ve been able to wake up and enjoy and cup of coffee and watch the news with my wife. It seems small, but it’s very rare that we have opportunities to spend focused time together as a couple. Thanks to help from family with our children, we are starting off our long-weekend vacation today with a clear mind, along with a rested body and soul. Actually taking a Sabbath, a day of rest and a day of reflection of our relationship with God through Christ, is difficult for many (including me) with the various roles and responsibilities that we serve within each day. We must work, and we must work hard for the Kingdom, but we also must realize that our body and soul need rest…moments where we can sit back and digest what’s transpired. If God made this day a part of His creation story, in addition to making it a commandment, shouldn’t we be diligent at making it a part of our lives?
Thursday, February 7, 2019
Which road are you going to take?
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” Romans 6:12
Believe it or not, you have a choice every moment of every day concerning how you speak, how you act, how you treat others, and how much you give of yourself to God. Sure, there are situations that are out of our control, but you still have control over how you proceed.
Do you allow anger to lead when things don’t go your way? Do you seek opportunities that bring pleasure to your flesh? Do you exert control over others for your benefit?
Or do you desire to walk closer with the Savior of the world? Do you pray that your behavior points others to Christ? Do you celebrate when others grow spiritually?
The Greek word for “reign” in this verse means “to exercise the highest influence”. If you strive with your whole being to follow God, then you will make Him the highest influence of your life, not things that appease the flesh.
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Desire to grow through hard work…
“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” Proverbs 12:11
Preparation…it supports every aspect of our lives. We certainly can’t predict the future, and we don’t always have the immediate answers when extremely difficult situations arise. But the more prepared you are each day, the more efficient and impactful you can be in your decision making when surprises happen, not to mention that it brings your stress down in these moments immensely.
The New England Patriots and Tom Brady just won their sixth Super Bowl, which is something most people think will never happen again in the National Football League (NFL). Their last Super Bowl win, which happened just this past Sunday, wasn’t their best performance, but it showed how the more prepared teams find a way to “get it done”. Their offense was struggling immensely because of the strong defense of the Rams, so in the fourth quarter Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator of the Patriots, made a huge adjustment. He completely trashed the original game plan and literally made up a handful of plays on the sidelines, plays that were never practiced before, and implemented them into the game plan. A few plays later the Patriots scored a touchdown and would end up winning that sixth Super Bowl.
Being prepared not only equips you to make impromptu plans and schemes, but it readies your heart and mind for the moments that come out of nowhere. Instead of hitting the panic button and taking on a ton of stress when things go wrong, preparation through hard work allows you to maintain a calm and thoughtful presence, which can hear the voice of God.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Respect the structure…
“to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it.”
1 Corinthians 16:16
To be a leader of anything is difficult, as you must continue on the path that leads to a successful mission, despite outside or internal distractions. To be a Christian leader, whether it be in a non-profit, a church or other Christ-centered group, also has its share of difficulties. The leader has to keep the group on mission while also keeping unity within the Body, and encouraging the people to continually turn from the multiple distractions of the world.
Paul reinforces the point that followers of Christian leadership should fully support them in their approach and plan, which is the plan to continue impacting the Kingdom of Heaven by being part of bringing others to Christ. God calls some to be leaders and some to be followers, and both are needed to carry His message to the world. The Greek word used for “submit” means to “submit to the Lord’s plan”, or “to be under God’s arrangement”. But if the group doesn’t choose to follow the leader that God has appointed, there’s a chance that you’ll have several different leaders, all going in different directions…and it’s extremely difficult to make a strong impact for Christ when the group is split.
Video link - https://youtu.be/-203oCLsUwU
Monday, February 4, 2019
Is it your turn?
“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14:40
When you walk into a room of people, do you reflect on the fact that there’s already a conversation going on, and that you need to find your place? When you sat at a desk as a student in grade school, if you desired to speak or ask a question, you first had to raise your hand for permission to speak. When you approach the entrance to a restaurant, you must first ask the host or hostess if there’s a table available before jumping into a seat. Just as Paul references the need for order in worship within his letter to the Corinthians, we must always understand the proper order in whatever it is that we’re carrying out. The whole mission of our lives is to point others to the One who gives life, so the way that we speak and act must be done in a way that builds others up, and builds up the Body of Christ. We often desire to move forward hastily with our engagement, but make sure to take the time to discern how and where God is calling you to contribute.
Friday, February 1, 2019
Run to win!
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24
Just as you would use a metaphor or image to get a point across to someone you’re telling a story to, Paul like other writers of the books of the Bible, uses relevant objects and events to drive his points home. In the above verse, he speaks of a race and a prize, and speaks to the Corinthians as they were the runner. Corinth lies on a little strip of land called an isthmus, which connected mainland Achaia to the Peloponnese, a peninsula that extended out into the Mediterranean Sea. On this same strip of land not far from Corinth were held the Isthmian Games, that were kind of like the Olympic Games, and held on alternate years. As in any winner of a race receives a prize, the victors in these races were given crowns made of ivy or pine branches. You can now see where Paul was going with this imagery…”Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
We know as Christians that we “run”, or move forward with intense desire and full effort to make a Kingdom impact each day. Just as a runner keeps his/her eyes on the finish line, we must do the same by continually looking forward to God’s calling on our lives, and knowing that by doing so, we won’t receive a crown of pine branches that will perish, but instead the Crown of Life, that signifies we have stood the test and persevered under trial.
Thursday, January 31, 2019
“Like a city whose walls are broken through
is a person who lacks self-control.”
When you approach a strong spiritual person, someone that grounds everything they do and say in Christ, you find that their “walls” are fortified. They aren’t carried away by temptations, by anger or jealousy. They don’t blurt out opinions when their anxiety strikes, they don’t direct criticism at others when opinions don’t align, and they don’t dive right into things of this world that appease the flesh. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirt found in Galatians 5:22-23, and is a characteristic found in those that sink their life into the will of God. Those that practice self-control aren’t worried about what others think, or think of them, they aren’t worried about how others act, and they aren’t quick to leave God’s will when the world attempts to lure them away. You cannot serve both God and the world, and one that is strong in their walk isn’t worried about what the world thinks or how it can “make them feel good”, because they are so deeply in love with the One who gives life.
Video link - https://youtu.be/s57De-b0tOg
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”
We generally don’t like to wait in life…it’s not “fun”, there’s little activity, and in these quiet times we’re not receiving answers to questions we’ve been posing for several weeks or months, maybe even years. We live in a human body, and at times we may get caught up in wanting our flesh to be satisfied, and the waiting game doesn’t support that need. We get so impatient in the shortest of lines at the bank, the restaurant or the grocery store, that we pull out our phones and scroll through social media and email accounts just to keep ourselves amused. The other day as we waited for a table at a local restaurant, I glanced over at the other ten or so people waiting, and every single person was on a phone instead of enjoying that moment with the family member or friend they were with. We feel that we must receive some sort of stimulation, we must know the answer, we must be on the go…but the only thing we must do is listen to God.
We wait for the doctor to tend to our needs, and then we wait for a diagnosis and a treatment plan. We wait for the light to turn green, and then we proceed through the intersection. We expect to wait in these instances because we know that there’s no way we can continue our own journey until we receive a sign or an answer. But when it comes to listening to our Maker, we tend to not expect times of waiting, and want things to progress at our desired speed and time. Our relationship with God is strengthened through communing with Him, and understanding what He’s asking of us, not about making sure our flesh is stimulated. How can you know what God is asking of you, if you’re not asking Him for direction in these waiting seasons of reflection throughout your life?
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Pay attention to the signs…
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Matthew 7:15
How do we know who we can trust? How do we know that someone has our best interest at heart? We don’t at first, but with time you can better understand.
You have no control over the actions of another, and you certainly can’t read their mind, but what you can do is observe, and be wise. I’ve been burned by people I trusted right from the get-go. I’ve been burned by people that I’ve known for years. There’s no way to know exactly how someone will act or react until the situation arises, but you can observe and be cognizant of how they’ve responded in the past. All you have to do is to “open your eyes”. Ask yourself a few questions…How do others act around them? Do they keep many people close to them, or do they remain distant? Do they talk more than act? Do their actions match their words? How do you feel around them?
People will always tell you who they are by their actions…their inner being or thoughts will be expressed in words, and eventually in action. You can also tell a lot by how they make you feel when you’re around them. If you’re not at peace and feel uneasy, there may be a reason. People make mistakes and let us down at times, but we all make mistakes at one time or another, it’s part of being a human and moving through the process of learning. But if someone consistently falls short in living up to the promises they’re making you, or seems to be “all talk”, you may want to tread lightly and protect your time, your energy and your witness.
Monday, January 28, 2019
Have a shared mission…
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11
Many times in life two people get into such an entrenched disagreement because of internal convictions, that they are unable to see and understand the other person’s feelings. These situations often lead to an unreconciled state in the relationship, and unfortunately grudges sometimes take the place of what used to be healthy conversations. Relationships are constantly being tested, and it’s up to both people to have the desire to push through to a resolution, where both people grow and the relationship becomes stronger.
The basis of any relationship is the goal, the mission, the purpose. A married couple promises to commit to each other for life…a employee acknowledges that he/she will listen to the instructions of the supervisor and fulfill the job responsibilities…a child knows that until they leave the home, they are to obey the rules of the house. If either person in a marriage no longer commits, if the employee blazes their own path, if the child chooses to break curfew over and over…problems begin to arise and the relationship is doomed to fail. But if both people understand the expectations and the goals of the relationship, much can be accomplished, and they can be an example to many of the blessings of unity.
Video link - https://youtu.be/ITyhfvDC7vM
Friday, January 25, 2019
Realize, Repent, and Get moving!
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
The Greek word for repent is metanoeó, which means to have a “change of mind”, or “change in the inner person”, and to accept the will of God. As Christians we are called to repent when we turn from God and give into temptation, committing sin. We are human, we are imperfect, and as long as we live on this earth, we will make mistakes. We ourselves may quickly realize that these mistakes point to a greater problem that we’re personally dealing with, and hopefully strive to make that needed change. Sometimes a friend or family member may point to an unhealthy trend in our life that is becoming detrimental to our walk. Whether we realize what needs to change, or someone else alludes to the bad habit, the Holy Spirit within you will convict you where you begin to fall off the path for God.
This affliction or pain that we feel when we are convicted is the starting point for good, healthy change…but it’s up to you. Being convicted of sin can be tough to handle, as you need to admit to yourself (or others) that you’ve done wrong and understand that change is necessary. But the beautiful thing about our relationship with God through Christ is that He gives us forgiveness through His love, so as we repent and desire to do His will, He gives us the strength and direction to immediately move forward!
Thursday, January 24,2019
“Look” a little deeper…
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
When looking at the Greek, we can form the following translation…
“While we contemplate not what is observed, but what is not observed, for what is observed is temporary, but what is not observed is everlasting.”
The Greek word for contemplate also means to “take heed” or “consider”. Paul reminds those in Corinth that to truly see what’s unseen and eternal, we must look beyond what we can physically see with our eyes, and observe with our heart. People will approach you today carrying loads that you nothing about, and some of these burdens have been carried since childhood, keeping the person “trapped” in a sea of guilt or shame. They walk around with this load that they have yet to give to Christ, not feeling understood or appreciated. Maybe you’re the one today to “listen” and “see” with your heart and not just with your eyes and ears…maybe you’re the one to lead them to the One who will release all doubts and fears, making an eternal impact on their life and the Kingdom.
Video link - https://youtu.be/3Yb1qwU2bo8
Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Die so that others may live…
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”
2 Corinthians 4:10-11
To consistently point others in a certain direction, one must continually live in a way that embodies a vision that goes in that direction. For example, if a parent wants their child to learn to share, then the parent must always show kindness through giving to others when given the opportunity. Or if the leader of a team wants to motivate the members to always persevere, he or she must “get going when the going gets tough”. As a pastor I make my share of mistakes, but I want others to see and know without a doubt where it is that I’m going as a leader, and how it is that I’m getting there…and it starts with how I live. Now there are certainly those who simply won’t follow, and who refuse to take direction, and will eventually go their own way. But many who observe your constant sacrifice for the greater good will begin to grow spiritually, because they’ll understand it’s not you, but Christ in you! Just think of it like this…every single time that you “die to the world”, there’s an opportunity for others to “live through Christ”.
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Through His power…
“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5
Paul had just finished writing to those in Corinth that he, Silas and Timothy were a “pleasing aroma of Christ” to God, bringing life to those who are saved and death to those who are perishing. The Greek word for “aroma” is “a sweet smell” or “fragrance”. Paul acknowledges that it’s not he, Silas or Timothy that is the source of this aroma, but the power of God through their relationship with Christ.
When things go well for us, it’s so easy to look to our own actions, taking the credit for the good that has been done. We know from James 1:17 that every good and perfect gift is from above, so we should take joy in what God does for others through us, but know that it doesn’t start with us, but with Him. Paul acknowledges that through their witness, others have come to know Christ, but he also quickly follows this up by stating that their competence, sufficiency or ability comes from God. As you work earnestly for the Kingdom of God today, be joyful in the work being done…but remember, it’s joy for the work He is doing through you as the source of all love, forgiveness and compassion…the source of that sweet fragrance!
Monday, January 21, 2019
Do others see Him in you?
“From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Galatians 6:17
We can’t always see the scars that life has left upon someone, because a lot of times they are emotional, and not physical. It could have been an addiction, an abusive childhood, a divorce, sacrifices made so that family members could prosper…we just don’t know until the person spells it out for us as the relationship goes deeper. When you encounter a devoted Christian, you may not be able to see the scars or know exactly what they’ve been through, but there’s a strong chance that you’ll see their devotion to Christ through their actions, and you’ll feel the commitment to Him during painful times through their words.
We know from scripture that Paul was imprisoned multiple times, flogged severely, beaten with rods, pelted with stones, shipwrecked on more than one occasion, constantly living in a different place, been in dangerous situations with various kinds of people, gone without sleep and food, been cold and naked, and dealt with false believers. As you read the letters written by Paul in the New Testament, you can most definitely feel the pain that he’s been through, and his dedication to carrying God’s love and the message of Christ to the world. We may not have to go through a fraction of what Paul did, but the question for all of is, are we allowing our faith in Christ to shine through our difficulties, so they others may know and grow?
Friday, January 18, 2019
Move on, move forward…
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
I don’t have to tell you that there are people who for some odd or unknown reason, just don’t like us. You may be trying your best to serve others and to make sure their needs are met, but they still find some personal justification to criticize your walk and get upset with you. As much as I love people, and as much as I try my best to listen, to speak and to act with Christ leading, I still encounter people who find something to dislike. It could be just one very small mistake you’ve made, or maybe even something that you should have done in their eyes but didn’t do, and they’re off to the races with placing you in the “unlike column”.
As a Christian you will endure difficulties and unfortunately you will deal with people who turn against you for what seems like no reason at all. In these moments it’s very easy to get distracted and bogged down by the negativity of others, but remember, your mission is not to make others happy, but to be obedient to God’s call upon your life. You are not responsible for the decisions that other people make or don’t make, regardless of how much they will try to place that burden upon you. At the end of the day, you are only responsible for your own actions, and as long as you’re doing your best to follow Christ, you’ve done what you are called to do as a servant. Be strong, be passionate and be willing to stick to His mission…not the expectations of others.
Video link - https://youtu.be/L8T6-RcYPcA
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Stepping out of the darkness…
“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Ephesians 5:13
Why is gossip called gossip? Because it’s done behind someone’s back. Why is stealing called stealing? Because it’s done behind someone’s back. Why is cheating called cheating? Because it’s done behind someone’s back. These are probably some of the most common ways that people break moral code and turn from Christ, but they certainly aren’t the only things that can hinder our walk with God. The people responsible for gossiping, stealing and cheating will eventually be revealed, because as people talk, these acts get exposed. But there are many other things that we as people wrestle with and choose to keep bottled up inside, that involve unhealthy practices and ways of living.
There are things that we may have done wrong that we haven’t come to terms with, or an action taken that hindered our walk or someone else’s that we are hesitant to own up to. It could even be a bad habit that you can’t seem to break, but know that in order to grow it must be given up. Whatever habit, problem or unhealthy action that lies in the darkness must be brought out into the light to be exposed for what it is, so that you can move on and grow closer to Christ. It can be a little scary and uncomfortable to admit faults or parts of us that need change, but remember, Christ accepts you for who you are, faults and all! But the first step to a relationship with Him, and the first step to being His light in the world, is actually taking the step to uncover those hidden places in your life, and turning to Him.
Video link - https://youtu.be/PVLqnNggx_s
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
How much will you sacrifice?
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
For the last year and a half Julie and I have dropped off and picked up the girls from preschool, and as far back as I can remember, there’s been a gentleman by the name of Aaron who’s always been a little different than all the other staff members at the school. The girls have had some wonderful teachers and our interactions with them have always been positive, but Aaron, who’s never been one of their teachers, consistently does something that brings an extra blessing to me every time I run into him.
It doesn’t matter if we’re at separate ends of the school campus, or if he’s even in the process of getting into his car to go home, he always takes the time to say hello to me…with a big smile on his face, he’ll yell out, “Hey Mr. Nate! How are you doing today?!” I don’t know what it is about his greeting, but there’s something in his voice that lets me know that he just isn’t saying hello to say hello…he doesn’t mind taking the time to speak with me and the girls about our current status, and he does it with enthusiasm, concern and a big smile on his face.
For the first time in a year and a half, we began to speak about what I do for a living yesterday, and he told me that he’s a believer and that he reads his Bible every day, and we even spoke for about fifteen minutes about a spiritual topic that had been on his mind. To love someone is to sacrifice for them in some way, and without a doubt, Aaron sacrifices his time with each encounter we have, to make sure that our day is brightened by his smile. To add, it didn’t surprise me one bit to hear that he was a believer and dug into scripture daily, it only solidified what I had already felt in him…the love of Christ.
Video link - https://youtu.be/HbupDxv2BnA
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
You don’t have the power, He does…
“and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,” Ephesians 1:19-20
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20
If your childhood elementary school had a field day, you most likely played a game or two of tug-of-war. For us, it was always a competition between homeroom classes, and it became a pretty big deal to win that event, as it gave bragging rights for the remainder of the year. It was also a chance for us kids to bond with our teacher, and to see him/her in a new light…for the first time all year we actually looked at them as being “cool”. When I became an elementary school teacher myself, I tried taking on several students in a game of tug-of-war during a field day, and realized after about a couple seconds of tugging, that there was no hope!
In life, we often times place ourselves in a position to move through the problem, to come up with a solution or to face an extremely difficult time of uncertainly by ourselves and under our own power…which doesn’t get us very far, if anywhere. When you attempt to “do life” under human knowledge, wisdom and power, you’re going to realize rather quickly that it’s similar to playing a game of tug-of-war by yourself, against a class of twenty youth. Paul’s words to those in Ephesus illuminate the fact that it’s God’s power in you through belief in Christ that moves you through those difficult moments of life, and the days where you’re called to go somewhere and do something, but can’t seem to muster up the energy or know-how to do it. Remember, when you can’t see, He guides…when you are running out of gas, He helps you to press on…when you just don’t know…He does. His power is great and it’s immeasurable…take the load off your shoulders and allow Him to work through you.
Video link - https://youtu.be/7-X36LiYMv0
Monday, January 14, 2019
Celebrate Christ working in others…
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…” Philippians 1:3-4
Thank my God…every time I remember you
All my prayers…for all of you
Always pray…with joy
Paul’s in chains for The Gospel, but yet he writes to those in Philippi with joy, not just for the aid that they had given him, but for their continued partnership with him to preach and proclaim the Good News! Sure, they had some things to work on, such as maintaining unity while dealing with some in the church who preached circumcision and the law in addition to Christ, but even so, Paul was thankful for their spiritual devotion.
How many times do we get hung up on the faults of another, to the point where we aren’t rejoicing with them in their successes? Paul’s in a position of imprisonment, something that could have very well clouded his mind and heart, completely covering the many things his disciples and the Philippian church plant were doing well…but it didn’t. His faith in Christ and his desire to carry the love of Christ and the message of Christ to the world was paramount, and he took great joy in others doing the same. When Christ is truly number one in your life, you pay less and less attention to the negative or what tears down, and give more attention to the positive or what builds up, and celebrate where others are growing spiritually and making strides in the faith. There is a time for encouraging each other in our weaker areas, just as Paul would do as the letter continued on, but let us first celebrate what we’re doing well!
Paul stated that he thanked God every time he remembered the Philippians…in all his prayers for all of them, he always prayed with joy. There’s no doubt of Who Paul serves, and there’s also no doubt about how much he appreciates his fellow followers in Christ. How awesome it would be if we all celebrated with each other like this!
Video link - https://youtu.be/WF3IaPR4Yjc
Saturday, January 12, 2019
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
I had an incident yesterday where someone got a little heated because I didn’t meet their expectations. The conversation itself never got out of hand, but they allowed their emotions to boil over, because in their mind I didn’t perform an action that they had expected me to…again something they had decided in their mind. To be honest, I’ve had similar instances where I was the one expecting someone to meet my internal expectations of them, and I found out really quickly that it only brings stress and frustration into your life when you do such a thing. My mind likes to occasionally place expectations on others, but I’m pretty quick to “squash it” and move on. I’ve learned to pray for love and respect among people, but to not place expectations on others, according to what I think they should say and do…it’s not my job and it’s not your job. You don’t fully know what someone has lived through or is currently living through, and how they live their life is between them and the Lord. Be open, be honest, but also be willing to love others unconditionally, and without expectations.
Video link - https://youtu.be/SvXG8ZYdVtU
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