Monday, December 26, 2011

Mary Didn't Keep Him to Herself

Joel Pankow shared an illustration recently that seemed so appropriate for the Christmas season. Because it inspired me I wanted to summarize his words hoping it would do the same for you. Whenever a farmer in western Kansas buys a new truck a combine or something, he is hesitant to bring it out or tell anyone about it. I’m not quite sure why that is - but I think a part of it is he doesn’t want the other farmers to get jealous over his purchase and certainly doesn’t want to come off as being arrogant…. However, Pankow says, if God has blessed you with the ability to get a new truck why can’t you let people see your gift from God? He then compares this example to the birth of Jesus. Mary realized there was no way she could keep this gift hidden in a garage - that it wasn’t just for her - but for the world. She had to admit she had been given a wonderful gift. Soon after she gave birth, she realized what a PUBLIC thing this really was. The Shepherds came first and then they told others about it. So multitudes came and saw the baby. Here she and Joseph had all these strangers coming in and visiting the manger on the same night as the birth. Some months later the Wise Men came also. But she didn’t say, “Come back tomorrow - I just gave birth for crying out loud or I don’t like having strangers in my house.” No, she knew that all generations would know about this event and needed to experience him. Mary refused to keep Him to herself and so should we. More than ever, during the Christmas season we need to play the role of those who witnessed his birth and go tell everyone we see. Release the gift. Don’t just keep Him to yourself!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"The Ultimate Gift"

One of the things my wife and I enjoy doing during this time of the year is watching Christmas movies. A favorite of ours is “The Ultimate Gift.” While the film is not dedicated to this season alone it contains all the thematic material to make it apropos. If you haven’t seen it as yet I would strongly encourage you to do so. And less I ruin it for you I will avoid giving the details of the story. However, in general the plot has to do with a Grandfather who prepares a will prior to his death. Eventually he dies and the time comes for his will to be read before all the family members. One by one they gather to hear about their part of the inheritance. Finally, the family lawyer turns and addresses the surviving grandson. He has been included in the will but various stipulations have been set forth that must be met before he can receive what has been willed to him. The wise grandfather realizes that unless his family member learns the importance of life in general no gift will be sufficient or satisfying. As the grandson completes each assignment given, he moves closer and closer to receiving the greatest gift of all. Is that not the story of Christmas? God sent the gift of His only Son that we might receive the “Ultimate Gift” of eternal life. We often forget that each test we experience and each trial we overcome moves us closer and closer to the greatest gift the Father desires to bestow upon us. Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise men all learned this great lesson. They sacrificially gave of themselves, and completed their tasks but in the end realized the incredible worth of their obedience. They received “The Ultimate Gift.” May we do the same so we can receive the same, especially during this Christmas Season.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Building Memories

This is the time of the year when we focus upon building memories. When God sent His son to earth in the form of flesh, He etched into the mind of humanity a memory that has never been forgotten. That’s why thousands every year celebrate with Christmas plays, nativity scenes, and the giving of gifts to others. While we give attention to our family and friends let us not forget the greatest Giver. May we follow the example of Mary, who broke open the alabaster box of ointment in order to give the ultimate gift of worship to her Savior. Acts such as this are important because they build memorials for the future? In the words of Dr. Jerry Vines, “Jesus took what Mary did and He put it in ‘His memory box’. That’s not all God has in there! He has the two mites that widow gave at the Temple. His has that broken ointment bottle. He has the gold, frankincense and myrrh of the wise men. He has the worship of the shepherds. He has the testimonies of the Gaderene demoniac, the tenth leper, the man who was born blind, the man who lay at the Pool of Bethesda for 38 years, and many others. He has the faith of the dying thief, the Roman centurion, and Zacchaeus. He has the gratitude of the woman with the issue of blood, Jairus, the widow of Nain, and a myriad of others. He has all this and more in His memory box. He never forgets and they will all be rewarded for their love, their faith and their worship of the Lord Jesus Christ!” What an incredible thought it is to think that by certain acts or gifts we can leave the same indelible imprint upon the mind of God as He leaves on us, now that’s a great way to build memories!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why not be Extravagant?

What do you think about when hearing the word “extravagant?” Most of the time we equate it with people who spend $250,000 on an automobile, two million dollars on a wedding, or someone who spends $10,000 for one night in a hotel room. These examples certainly fit the definition of the word which means spending excessively or wastefully beyond that which is reasonable. It is true that the term has negative connotations, especially in the spiritual sense when we see people take God given blessings and squander them on themselves. However, not all extravagance is bad. For instance during this time of year we emphasize the gift of God in the birth of His son, Jesus. Or during Easter we reflect upon Mary’s gift of “spikenard” poured out upon the Lord prior to his crucifixion. What greater demonstration is there than this? In these we see God and humanity giving their best. While we cannot repeat the act of Deity we can duplicate that which is offered in flesh and spirit by the anointing of our worship. Jesus is worthy of everything we can render to Him. No gift is excessive; no expression of love is over the top, and no form of worship should ever be considered too extravagant. Yet far too many times when it comes to God we mince words and contradict ourselves by our actions. Far too many of us are like the fellow who called his girlfriend up one day and said, “Darling, I love you! I would climb the highest mountain for you! I would swim the deepest river for you! I would fight a jungle full of lions for you! I love you! And, if it doesn’t rain tonight, I will be over to see you.” When you truly love Him nothing causes you to come short in your worship. You do your best and give your best; that’s being “extravagant.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

You’ve got to be Kidding

In Luke chapter 17 we are introduced to ten lepers who desperately need a miracle. When seeing Jesus, they cry out “Master have mercy on us.” Immediately he addresses their need, gives some specific instructions and sends them on their way. As they continue their journey suddenly they realize they are healed. Although all of them make the discovery only one returns to give thanks for what has happened in his life. Quite a story isn’t it? The amazing thing is not that they were healed, but that only one took the time to stop and glorify God for the blessing. It’s at this point that Jesus shares a sense of disappointment by his statement, “were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine?” Most likely your thoughts and feelings are not that different from the Lord’s--“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Was this statement a mere reflection of disbelief? I don’t think so. More than anything else it was one of predictability. In my opinion the point of the story seems to be that the majority of people are too absent minded, too preoccupied, or too self-serving to stop and give thanks. We get but forget to give; are loved but fail to love; blessed but refuse to bless. What a tragedy it was for the nine men of this story to react in such a foolish way. But even more so, how ridiculous is it for believers who are the recipients of such a lesson to fail when taking the same test. Knowing that there needs to be a better response what instructions should we follow? Let me offer three that will enhance our demeanor. First, when given blessings in life whether it be at the hand of God or man always remember to say, “Thank you.” Second, be careful how you use the blessing bestowed upon you. Finally, make it last. Temporary blessings should result in permanent praise. Our sense of appreciation should not be a seasonal day we focus upon but should be as eternal as our healing, our joy, our peace, our satisfaction. May our actions never merit the response, “you’ve got to be kidding?”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Thankful Heart

This coming week we will be enjoying Thanksgiving. Family members will gather for food, fellowship, and festivities and believe me I will be right in the middle of the celebration. My children and grandbabies will be coming in from out of town and that makes any occasion one of thankfulness. However, when I think about it I am driven to ask, “What is it that we are to be thankful for?” While we sometimes grasp for the reason it gets much simpler when we respond out of contrast. For instance, I just returned from a mission’s trip to Haiti. This is an area that stands as the epitome of poverty. They only have 600 miles of paved road in the entire nation. Most of the people live in little shanties because the average wage for the country is somewhere between $250 to $600 per year. Their weekly ration consists of rice and potatoes and on very rare occasions they may enjoy just a small piece of meat. Yet they find a reason to be thankful. In comparison we live in nice homes, drive fancy cars, and often throw out more food than we consume. In the midst of blessing we find it hard to be thankful. A sense of entitlement has polluted our thinking to the point that we feel we deserve more than what we are already getting. So, how should we celebrate Thanksgiving? It is a given that we should be thankful for our forgiveness, our family, and our friends. But added to this we could start by being thankful that God allowed us to be born in America to parents that provided well for us; that we are able to bath in pure water without the threat of contracting infection or some disease; that we live in a nation where the potential for success is unlimited and the freedom to worship is experienced without restraint. When taking all things into consideration how can we not have a thankful heart?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What Are You Singing?

I read recently that the song of the humpback whale is one of the strangest in nature. It is a weird combination of high and low pitched groanings. Those who have studied the humpback whale say their songs are noteworthy because these giants of the deep are continually changing them. New patterns are added and old ones eliminated so that over a period of time the whale actually sings a whole new song. There is a sense in which Christians should be continually singing a new song because of what they experience daily at the hand of God. Is this not what the writer was declaring in Psalm 40:3, “He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God.” You see new songs are created out of new paradigms that come into our lives. As Mart De Haan wrote, “The gospel story never changes—thank God for that. But our songs of praise should be ever new.” Given that reality, I think one of the greatest indictments to be leveled at a Christian is that he or she lives a life of boredom. With all that God has to offer no one should live such a lifestyle. In the words of one poet, God’s blessings are too numerous to count them all the night; That’s why we can give praise to Him As fresh as morning’s light. Take note and look around, above, and behind you. In mere observation you will see the merciful footprints of God everywhere. In doing so there will be plenty to write about—so get a pad of paper and compose your new song, then sing it to the Lord with all of your heart.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grace is the Place

Have you ever felt like there was more trouble in a day than you could deal with? Maybe you’re like me and have had those mornings when you felt like the person who prayed the following prayer: Dear Lord, so far today, I’m doing all right. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I have not whined, complained, cursed, or eaten anything chocolate and I have charged nothing on my credit card. But I will be getting out of bed in a minute, and I think that I will really need your help then. Yes, there are those days when we are made aware of our human proclivity and the temptation to step away from spirituality in order to engage in activity that is totally ridiculous. Our potential to mess up is the reason Paul talked so much about grace and its sufficiency in his letters to the church. He understood our weakness, but also realized the power needed to deal with it. So what’s the answer to this dilemma? Most would argue that our sinful actions will result in a fall from grace. While this is a possibility, I would like to propose a different alternative; that is a fall into grace. God the Father has made provision and has directed us to fall into something greater than our failure. In times of sin we find forgiveness; in times of temptation we find strength; in times of discouragement we find hope. For every situation there is an answer that can be found and Grace is the place!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Heading Forward While Looking Back

I read a statement recently on Facebook that caught my attention. “If you’re gonna talk, mean what you say; if you’re gonna change, change for the better; if you’re gonna leave, leave today; if you’re gonna stay, stay forever.” These words address a major problem in Christendom today. Many have become captive to the spirit of indecisiveness. They seem to be unsure of themselves in their commitment to the things of God. While they talk of dedication their walk portrays a different language. They say they want to go forward but words such as “might, maybe, or not sure” dominate their vocabulary. Such examples remind me of the occasion where Jesus said, “No man who puts his hand to the plow, and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Have you ever wondered what Jesus was thinking when He said those words? Was His heart torn and His eyes filled with tears as he thought about the temperament of His audience? Was He really saying, “Your words tell me you love me but your actions speak louder?” It is for certain that He was disappointed because He knew the struggle that exists with indecisiveness. The reason being, we can never accomplish anything by looking through our rear view mirror. If we head forward but continue to look back our lives will chart a crooked path filled with disappointment and unfulfilled dreams. Rejection was not in the heart of Jesus, but He did want His followers to mean and do what they say. There is destiny in the cross and the only way to successfully carry it is to keep looking forward.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hitting What Comes our Way

I’m sitting here in my cozy chair watching the World Series. While I’m not much of a baseball fan I do like the season finally. There are a lot of things that could be said about the game. Each manager meticulously implements his own strategy and the players follow suit in an effort to win. With all the spitting, chewing, pawing, and groping its quite evident that nerves are on edge. But from what I can see the whole game comes down to the pitcher and the batter. It’s very simple. The pitcher tries to throw more than the hitter can handle and the batter tries to respond by hitting whatever comes at him. If proper connection is made then the game can be won. Isn’t that somewhat like the spiritual life? The enemy is constantly trying to throw more at us than we can handle and we respond by swinging at whatever comes our way. In this heated exchange we find ourselves facing the same strategy as the Series player. Just when he finds a way to hit the ball successfully, the manager changes pitchers. Isn’t that just like the enemy, always changing his scheme? If at first he doesn’t succeed he tries something else. However, the important thing for us to remember is that we have help. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” We may face the fast ball, the curve or the slider, but the Holy Spirit has studied every pitch and knows what it takes for us to make contact. If we trust God we will be able to hit a homerun scoring off whatever comes our way. That’s a World Saving promise!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Split Second Decision

This past week I traveled to another city to make a hospital visit. Entering this town has become something I dread more and more because of all the traffic light cameras. My nerves are put on edge as I drive through each intersection. While it is not my intention to breach the law by running through a light that has turned red, the possibility of it happening is an ever present reality. That reality happened on Monday. Upon my approach the light turned orange. I applied the brakes but realized that coming to a stop would leave me in the middle of the street so I made the split second decision to race ahead hoping to beat the light before it changed. Needless to say my choice was not a good one. Seeing the glare of red looming before me as my car raced through left me frustrated and momentarily depressed. I knew a quick snap of the camera had captured my transgression. All that is left now is the mailman delivering the proof. However, waiting for the ticket to come in the mail has given me some time to contemplate. In doing so, some key spiritual principles have surfaced that I hope will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. First, is the realization that all of us have the potential to make quick decisions. Secondly, is the fact that when made they bring on repercussions. Even greater is the truth that they cannot be reversed. They become history only to be reflected upon. Just as important is the fact that a quick decision may lead to a bad experience but not necessarily a lifestyle. Finally, we must find the will to move on which reminds me of the words of Jesus that seem so appropriate here. “Go and sin no more.” This means, wherever your decisions lead you they don’t have to keep you. Don’t let a “split second decision” last a lifetime.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gift of Love

Have you heard the phrase lately "I love you?" What on earth does it mean? Sadly to say these words are often used without emotion and genuineness. They are coined out of a spirit of narcissism for the sake of personal advantage. Such is true of many so called philanthropists and romanticists. However, these words can only be understood by processing the philosophy of their originating author. It was God who introduced the concept of love providing it's greatest explanation and demonstration. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life." Herein is a love that is inclusive, untainted by attitudes of segregation and degradation. Further his love is expressive for it contains the act of giving. His gift was heaven's best for earth's worst. It is also a love that is protective. It does not request the surrender of integrity, dignity or purity. Rather it provides quantitative as well as qualitative life. When in action it's consequential nature is to help, not harm. Indeed God's love is characteristic of the poetic prose that states:
God took a risk when reaching out in love to a fallen world. Can you do the same? Are you willing to give the gift of love that carries no threat of abandonment, selfishness, or harm? If so the lonely, battered and bruised will stand at your door step anxiously awaiting the words, "I love you!"

Monday, October 3, 2011


Recently I read a quote that offered some much needed advice. “When something happens to you good or bad, consider what it means. There’s a purpose to life’s events, to teach you how to laugh more or not to cry too hard.” Little did I know that I would need this wisdom only days after reading it. Early this week I received a phone call informing me that my email account had been hacked into and a bogus message sent out to my contacts. The fraudulent message informed the readers that I had travelled to the UK and had been mugged. My cash and credit cards had been stolen leaving me penniless. Thus, I needed money to help me return home. Needless to say I was upset by the correspondence and started working immediately to correct the faulty information. Why did this trouble me so? First, I did not like the fact that someone had trespassed into my account. Secondly, I was embarrassed that my friends had been asked for money. Last of all I was frustrated that I had to take the biggest part of a day correcting the problem. Although I offered my fair share of complaints it suddenly dawned on me that I should be thankful. Be thankful—for what reason? I was home instead of stranded in some foreign country. And even though I didn’t have a large amount of cash, I had all I needed. More blessed was the fact that I had been the target of deceit rather than being the deceiver. Most of all was the assurance that I had multiple friends that reached out in concern, letting me know that they were ready to respond with help had the need been legitimate. Given these facts I ended the day realizing things were not that bad when put in the proper perspective.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I was visiting with a friend recently and in the course of our conversation he made a statement that captivated my attention. His words were all so simple but yet profound. “The pages of life are tough” he said. When I asked him to repeat his words he proceeded to tell me that his father had given them to him years earlier. He continued by saying, “Life is a book full of pages and we must live every page and when we come to the end of a page we have no alternative other than flipping to the next. We never know what’s on that next page but we have to live it.” It may be filled with sadness, joy, or both. It may contain failure or great success. Regardless of what we find, there is no way of detouring around it. In his closing remarks, my friend imparted yet another piece of wisdom. “Although we don’t know what the next page holds what we do know is that we will have help.” God has promised to be with us and to provide for our every need. When our faith rests upon this truth then whatever experiences are faced we can be filled with hope because with God “it’s just another page in the book of life.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I have a book in my library entitled “Happiness is A Choice.” While Psychologists tell us they agree with the title, people still want to know, “Is it really true?” I suppose to find out we have to ask, “What makes us unhappy?” When the answers start to come they fall upon a common theme—disappointment. We fail to get the job we wanted. Our mate doesn’t meet our expectations. The deal we worked so hard on falls through. The list goes on and on. One person has said, “Disappointments are like road humps; they slow you down a bit but you enjoy the smooth road afterwards. Just don’t stay on the humps too long. Move on!” The problem is we find it difficult to do that. This culprit seems to hit us from all sides and it has a way of lingering on. I have found that it continues to stay with us until we make that life-changing decision to be happy in spite of the circumstances. We can’t change the past but we can alter the future. In other words, “No one can go back and make a brand new start. Anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” It all has to do with the power of choice. But how do we come up with the mental fortitude to make that decision? Let me suggest some things to consider which have been called Simple Rules for Happiness:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.
Since we have the tendency to live introspectively, considering these rules makes it much easier for us to abandon our feelings of disappointment. In such utter abandonment we can find ourselves saying and believing life can be different in the power of choice, so I choose happiness!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Trouble Tree

I read a story recently that spoke to me. Although the author is unknown the words contained within it are filled with good instruction. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. “I hired a plumber to help me restore an old farmhouse, and after he had just finished a rough first day on the job: (a flat tire made him lose an hour of work & his electric drill quit) his ancient one ton truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence. On arriving he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss. Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier. “Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing’s for sure, those troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home and ask God to take care of them. Then in the morning I pick them up again. Funny thing is, he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick ‘em up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.” After having read this I asked myself a question and I hope you will do the same, “Do I have a trouble tree?”

Monday, September 5, 2011

Learn to Serve

When Jesus took the time to explain His reason for coming among us, He was simple and direct. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Interestingly enough He did not come to be served, to grab the spotlight, or to draw attention to Himself. He simply came to serve. This concept was one of oddity in the world to which Jesus came. And although centuries have passed we still find the same challenges today. The reason being, serving doesn’t come naturally. Far too common is the age old problem that can be summed up with four words—I, Me, Mine, Myself. We are consumed with ourselves and make every effort to “look out for number one.” If we admit it we would have to say we live in an age of gross selfishness—the “me” era. As difficult as it was Jesus saw it to be his mission to eradicate this kind of thinking while teaching his disciples as well as us that being a servant is what Godly living is all about. It was the distasteful desire to be number one that led Jesus to rebuke James and John telling them that the position of first place only came with certain consequences. “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.” He was in essence saying your role in the world is not to be lords but servants. The same holds true for us today. We are called into the family of God to render service. But something begins to happen to us as it did to the disciples when we experience a sense of success, feeling that we have reached celebrity status. We begin to take on a spirit of entitlement, expecting to be served rather than to serve. However, what we must understand is that the only way to be sovereign is to be a slave and the way to the top is to live at the bottom, rendering a life of service which is the only way to fulfill God’s true intention for our lives. “The Son of man came to serve” and so should we!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Looking for Action

“It was boring.” Those were the words I heard more than once after attending the Nascar race on Saturday evening. Why would fans be so critical? It all has to do with expectation. When it comes to entertainment people become strange creatures. Each of us travels over the highway daily praying for safety. Yet when it comes to racing we want to see wrecks and plenty of them. Most of the time we avoid conflict at all cost, but when watching a hockey game we anxiously await the moment when the players take off the gloves and go at it. My wife says this all has to do with a male’s perspective, but as dangerous as it is I disagree. All of us engage in this ironic twist for the sake of action. We want to walk away from a venue having been thrilled and fulfilled. Why would I bring this up? We feel the same way about church. No one wants to attend our worship services feeling like they need a double shot of espresso in order to stay awake. It has been said that people want to feel satisfaction, and to do so they must have a sense that at some moment in the service they have encountered God. Although there are many things I can do, producing that God moment requires something way beyond my ability. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit. We have those encounters when we step back and surrender to His will allowing Him to take complete control. You want action? Then let this be your theme song the next time you attend church. “Come Holy Spirit I need you, come sweet Spirit I pray, Come in your strength and power, Come in your own special way.” Singing this song may not provide you with a lot of entertainment, but when the Spirit feels welcome he comes bringing all the action we need.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Be Filled With the Spirit

A few years ago my brother owned a small house and farm in the White Pine, Tennessee area. He rented it out for a while but after being unsuccessful playing the role of landlord, he decided to put the property up for sale. After weeks of frustration and securing a court order to get his delinquent renters out, the property was vacant and ready to be put on the market. While in the process of selling, several days passed and one day my brother decided to go check on the house. When he pulled into the driveway there was a man sitting on the front porch. My brother asked, "Who are you?" The man replied, "We needed a place to live and we came by here and this house was empty so we moved in." My brother responded, "Well this is my house and you will need to move." The amazing thing was that it took several weeks to get that family out of his house. Although this was frustrating to him, I thought it was hilarious. So what is the point of the story? Paul in Ephesians 5:18 said, "Be filled with the Spirit." The opposite of being filled is to be empty, and emptiness leaves one susceptible to any intruder that desires to trespass. Even greater is the fact that once we allow the enemy to trespass, getting him to vacate the property is no easy task. That's why we must daily take Paul's admonition seriously and make sure that we are not found empty but "filled with the Spirit."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Refining Purpose

Quite often we misunderstand God and the purpose behind all the things we experience in life. I read the story recently of a few ladies who were meeting to study the Bible. While reading in Malachi they came across a rather remarkable verse, "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." Taken by this statement one of the ladies proposed to visit a silversmith and report back to them what he had to say about this subject. She went accordingly and without sharing the reason for her errand asked the smith to tell her about the process of refining silver. After he had fully described it to her, she asked, "But sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?" "Oh yes, madam" replied the silversmith. "I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured." The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." God sometimes sees it needful to allow His children to go through the refiners fire. His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying and His wisdom and love are both engaged to provide the best for us. Our trials do not come at random and He will not allow us to be tested beyond what we can endure. Before the lady left she asked one final question, "When do you know the process is complete?" "Why, that is quite simple," replied the silversmith. "When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished." Although difficult at times we must always remember refining has a purpose. God enjoys seeing himself, especially when that reflection is coming from you and me.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Power of Forgiveness

The medical world is just now finding out what Jesus knew centuries ago; there is power and healing in forgiveness. No wonder he said, “Forgive and it shall be forgiven you.” The human system was not made to harbor offenses. They will break down the body and confuse the mind. That’s why we have to let them go. I heard the story recently of a woman who went to the doctor and discovered she had rabies. She asked for a pen and paper. The doctor assuming she was writing a message to a loved one or writing something regarding her last will and testament asked, “What are you doing?” She replied, “I’m making a list of all the people I want to bite before I die.” It sounds like she may have had a problem with forgiveness. What about you? Do you have trouble forgiving? One person has said, “Failure to forgive another person may or may not hurt them but it is certain to destroy me.” I encourage you to forgive those who have offended you and consider making the following promises.
• I promise to not dwell and think about the situation.
• I promise to not use it against you in the future.
• I promise to not talk about it with others.
• I promise to not let it stand between us.
For in the words of Jesus to forgive is to be forgiven, which means you discover the power of forgiveness.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


While in a place of business recently I looked into the corner of the room and saw what appeared to be a little round video monitor. Although I had no intention of stealing anything, or compromising myself with some ludicrous activity, it still felt eerie. Did you know that at this very moment you are being watched? How does that make you feel—afraid, uncomfortable, possibly distressed? My momentary discomfort led me to remember an experience I had several years ago that gave me new revelation. It came as I was putting my youngest grandchild to bed. While placing a blanket over her I noticed something adjacent to the bed. My curiosity got the best of me so I asked my daughter what it was. To my surprise she informed me that it was a camera. She then told me to go to her bedroom and watch the small television screen. I was amazed as I stood there watching every little move and listening to every little sound the baby made. I thought this is wonderful. Then I remembered reading about someone else whose eyes are upon us. You may have read it too, “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” I thought, just as I stand watching and ready to run to the aid of my little grandchild, God does the same in relation to us. I walked away thinking “wow” it feels good to be watched.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Looking At Our Problems

Problems, do you see them as emergencies, or as potential teachers? I think most people would agree they are a great source of stress in our lives. They come in many shapes, sizes, and degrees of seriousness, but in the words of Richard Carlson, they all have one thing in common: “They present us with something that we wish were different.” The more we struggle with them the more stress they cause us. However, I have found when we accept our problems as an inevitable part of life, when we look at them as a potential teacher we get a different perspective. Why not try thinking of your problems in a new way. Rather than pushing them away and resisting them, try embracing them. As you do ask yourself what valuable lesson these problems might be able to teach you, for they are life’s greatest teacher. Even with Christ every opportunity to experience the phenomenal came with the presentation of a problem. When we think about them in a different way and once we learn what we need to learn, they begin to go away. With this new insight we might just begin to see that they are a blessing rather than a burden.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

God's Fingerprints

Recently my two granddaughters came for a visit. After they had gone home it was quite evident they had been in the house. Papers were scattered, and toys were left in plain site. But the most remarkable evidence of their presence came in the little fingerprints they left everywhere. You know it wasn’t the prints in the obvious places that impressed me. But those that were left in the obscure areas where I really did not even think they could reach or go. By this discovery I was reminded that everything has God’s fingerprints on it. It’s easy to see them in a beautiful sunrise, a snow-capped mountain or the smile of a healthy child, but what about those difficult situations in life? What about the times when the pain appears more evident than His presence; the storm appears more looming than the Spirit? Although they may not be obvious, God’s prints can be found in the bad as well as the good. There is never a time when he is not present and his hand is not reaching. If you look closely you will find that his fingers are meticulously working to assist you in all areas of your life. Why not look again; God’s fingerprints are everywhere.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Never Underestimate

One of our greatest weaknesses is the temptation to underestimate people. Just recently while watching the TV program “America’s Got Talent” I watched as a young man stepped to the microphone to perform. By his looks he seemed to be a misfit, but when he began to sing it was amazing. The judges were greatly surprised and admitted they had totally underestimated him. When we fall prey to this kind of behavior we often lose in the process. It reminds me of a story I read recently. A young boy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer, 'This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you.' The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks , 'Which do you want, son?' The boy takes the quarters and leaves the dollar. 'What did I tell you?' said the barber. 'That kid never learns!' Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream store & says; 'Hey, son! May I ask you a question? Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?' The boy licked his cone and replied 'Because the day I take the dollar, the game's over!' The barber had completely misread the young lad’s ability. Wasn’t that also the case when Samuel turned up at Jesse’s house to anoint a king to rule over Israel? He could not believe his eyes nor his ears when God said, “this is the one anoint him immediately.” In respect to looks David was young and ruddy, but God saw a man with an incredible heart. While we may not see giftedness initially, we can never underestimate the worth and ability of those who come before us. They just might be the answer to our prayers and the fulfillment of our dreams.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Sound of Freedom

For the last two nights our neighborhood has been like a war zone. Fireworks have been lighting up the sky with the sound of thunder. It’s not hard to tolerate the noise when you know what you’re hearing is the celebration of freedom. It becomes even easier when you realize that in other parts of the world similar sounds can be heard, yet for another reason. Multitudes are bound by the tyranny of an abusive regime or dictator who has a thirst for power. They fight daily to be free and to enjoy just some of the privileges that we do in America. However, while liberty is a wonderful thing it is not without its problems. Give man liberty without restraint and he will find himself in a mess. Since men and women have the ability to choose, there is no guarantee that they will choose right. Many accept rebellion over respect, pleasure over principle, and enticement over integrity. In doing so they find themselves bound to sin with no way of escape. Because of this, it’s easy to make the mistake of believing that all liberty can be gained by citing the “Pledge of Allegiance”, or the “Declaration of Independence.” Yet nothing could be further from the truth. That’s why Jesus came to earth and died upon the cross, so that we might enjoy total deliverance. Knowing this truth is what liberates us so that we might celebrate daily with the sound of freedom.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Believer's Got Talent"

Last evening I was intrigued while watching the popular show “America’s Got Talent.” The amazing thing about the program is the variety. While one person sings, another dances, does magical acts or uses animation to entertain. Each performer believes he or she has something to offer that will edify the audience. Granted many of the performances lack the perfection needed to sustain their involvement, yet they come to audition. They would be classified as being in the category of the imperfect-needs improvement. While many are sent home, those who make it to the next round are coached, encouraged, and given another chance to demonstrate their talent. One might say that those who did not make it should have never tried in the first place. But to say that is to lack the understanding of giftedness. Every person has a gift. The problem is that many on the program fail to discover or function in the realm of that gift. The same holds true in the body of Christ. Paul says that each of us have a gift given by the power of the Holy Spirit. And when properly used that gift brings edification to the body. Hopefully those who perform on TV and are sent back home do not merely quit, but seek to find and perform in the area that best demonstrates their ability. Often in the body Christians become disappointed when they attempt to do things for God. They fail to pursue their gift or once they’ve tried tend to give up and go home underestimating their worth. However, let me encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to teach and use you in the gift or gifts that He has assigned for your life. The truth is the world needs to experience the legitimate gifts of those who participant in the TV forum. Likewise, the body of Christ needs to witness the gift of every believer. You see “America’s God Talent” and “Believer’s Got Talent.” So take the stage because your performance will make the world and the church a much better place.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Incredible Power

This past weekend my two brothers and I made our annual visit to the NHRA Drag Race. This is something we do once a year as a sibling getaway. If you have ever been to one of these events you know it involves incredible noise and amazing speed. How could an engine generate enough power to thrust a car 300 miles per hour in less than a quarter of a mile? Every year I watch and leave with a sense of “wow” all over. However, observers only have to watch for a short period of time to learn that not all cars make a successful run. Many start only to have their race come to an abrupt end. How can this happen when they’re equipped with such power, precision, and professionalism? As an avid fan I have noticed several things that cause them to drop out. One of the most predominant is the driver gets too anxious, smokes the tires and loses traction. Another reason is called the “thump and bump” sound, meaning the engine blows. The third is loss of control which causes a driver to cross the line into the other lane resulting in disqualification. When I think of these reasons they remind me of the admonition given in Galatians 5:7 and Hebrews 12:1. “You did run well, who hindered you; Let us cast off the sin that so easily holds us back and run with patience the race that is set before us.” How many have had their race ended because they got in too big a hurry and lost their footing? Or how many have let anger overtake them only to find themselves with a blown relationship? Even greater still are those who have become distracted by temptation and have ventured into forbidden territory- the lane of sin only to be taken out of the race. God has given each of us incredible power. Yet, that power will only take you as far as patience, discipline, and focus will allow. Let us use what God has given looking unto the author and finisher of our faith whose desire is that we complete the race.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fear That Restrains

This past week after two years of prodding I finally got my two oldest grandchildren to go bike riding on the Creeper Trail. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this tourist hot spot, it is the remains of an old railroad bed that stretches some 34 miles from Abingdon through Damascus to its highest peak at White Top Virginia. It is open to hiking and horseback riding but most people take in the sights by biking. The scenery is absolutely beautiful and serves as great therapy for anyone needing to get away into the wild. After having been shuttled up the mountain we began our descent back down. Needless to say, the children loved it. While we were riding I continued to say to them, "I knew you would love it." So why did it take so long to get them on the trail? They were afraid. Without even seeing the trail they had imagined that the mountains were steep and too dangerous to ride. This conclusion came although I had continually told them that the ride down the mountain was only on a slight grade and at times would require peddling. Regardless of what I said they let fear get the best of them until I finally said, "we're going and that's it." Isn't that the way we are with God at times. He says "come with me to the mountain; I have some things to show you." But because of fear we are hesitant and begin to imagine only the worst. When we finally do acquiesce and make the journey we find the experience to be much more than we dreamed possible. In those moments when we hear God's voice calling us, we cannot allow our preconceived fears to hold us back, rather may we respond by saying, "where do we start and when do we begin? I'm ready for the mountain."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

He Saved Others

It comes as no surprise that Jesus was ridiculed and had so many false statements made about him during his ministry on earth. Even when hanging upon the cross the chief priests looked at him and uttered these words “he saved others, himself he cannot save.” However, for once they got it right. They thought his failure to come down from the cross represented weakness. Little did they know that they were seeing the greatest power known to man—the willingness of someone to give his life for another. The mission of Christ was never about his saving himself but rather saving others. The story is told that General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was to be the keynote speaker for an International Conference held in America. Due to illness he was unable to attend but promised to send a telegram to be read to the vast audience. On the opening night the committee anxiously awaited Booth’s message. As time lapsed they walked to the stage to begin the service when the courier finally arrived. When they opened the telegram it contained only one word-- “Others.” What a powerful message to be delivered. It was not the typical sermon contained within a manuscript that would take forty-five minutes for delivery. Yet it spoke volumes and left a profound impact. Through the experience of Christ and the story of William Booth we are left with the impression that much can be done when we say less and do more. Our lives like theirs should be consumed with the thought of saving the lost. When this transpires we as a church will be demonstrating the will of God and the power of the Holy Spirit who has called us and empowered us to reach “others.”

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Repentance--It's Necessary

In Scotland there is a ruined tower known as the Tower of Repentance. A skeptic passed by it one day and seeing a shepherd boy reading his Bible scoffingly said, “Can you tell me the way to Heaven?” Instantly the lad replied: “By way of yonder tower!” His was the right answer. Although Jesus preached repentance it did not originate with him. It was resounded over and over by the prophets as well as the forerunner John the Baptist. This wild looking man dressed in camel’s hair proclaimed “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This message remains the hope of the world as well as our individual lives. But what does it mean? It is not merely admitting that sin has been committed. Neither is it feeling sorry for your sin. Repentance means that we experience a change in our lives. This process goes beyond forgiveness. It has been stated that "Forgiveness will make you feel better but repentance will change your life." How true this statement is. Often we deal with the act of sin but we never address the principle of sin. However, when one repents he is determined in his mind, heart, and will that change is not an option but a necessity. This is what God calls for in each of our lives. We all should find ourselves daily confessing and repenting, for this is the only way to remain in good standing with God. Once we grasp this truth it's easy to understand why I chose to name this blog "Repentance--It's necessary." Indeed it is!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The End of the World

If you are reading this it means the end of the world did not come on Saturday, and if it did both you and I missed it. This latest prediction was just one of many which have proven to be untrue. Such prophetical failures leave believers frustrated, the world more cynical and the news media buzzing. Will the end of time come? Emphatically I can say yes! When will it happen? No one knows! Jesus was very clear on this when he said, “no one knows when the end will come, not the angels, nor the Son, only the Father in heaven.” If that be true then why do men make such fools of themselves by making predictions? While there are many reasons, let me name a few. First, I think it involves curiosity. The disciples were captivated with this same problem. They asked Jesus to pinpoint a day- a month- a season when the end would come. Secondly, it involves sensationalism. People love the sensational and will do just about anything to create it. Third, we could say it involves publicity. As sad as it is some people love to be in the limelight so they conjure up weird scenarios to get media attention. However, the biggest reason involves deception. People may be sincerely deceived but they are nevertheless. Whatever the reason episodes such as this latest saga only bring criticism and cynicism towards the body of Christ. To avoid creating disappointment and disillusionment should we not simply follow the admonition of Jesus by watching and praying, leaving the urgency of hour to the Holy Spirit who is fully capable of preparing hearts for that long awaited event—the coming of Christ and the end of the world?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What is your Story?

On Monday of this past week I was called to the hospital. Upon arriving I made my way into the room of the patient who had summoned me. I sat and listened as she told her remarkable story. She had survived a deadly tornado that had ripped through her little community just days earlier. However, her husband had not been so fortunate. He had died while trying to hold on to and protect the family pets. I was intrigued as she told me of that fearful night. She and her companion had stayed awake listening to the weather reports of the impending storm. Finally, when feeling the threat of danger was over they went to bed. Then without warning they were awakened by an incredible roar. The 140 mile an hour winds blew apart their little home taking both of them with it. She with tear filled eyes told me about her experience. “I was conscious of everything while flying through the air. I was praying “God help me” when suddenly it was as if He took me in his hands and set me back down softly on the earth.” Although she had some broken bones due to being hit by one of her household appliances, she was alive. What followed next was her account of being rescued by some college students who had come to the neighborhood in search of family and friends. After hearing her faint voice, the beam of their flashlight fell upon her face. Joyfully she was carried to safety. Needless to say this visit left me with an indelible impression. First, I thought what a miracle it was that she survived. Greater still was the fact that here was a person who had suffered a traumatic event that resulted in personal injury and the loss of family members, yet she was filled with optimism and praise. I left saying to myself, “wow what an incredible testimony.” As I reflected upon this later, I was reminded that all of us have a story to tell. We all have those experiences that we encounter where God intervenes in our lives. Granted it may not be to the magnitude of this lady, yet we all have a story to tell. Upon leaving that hospital room I was asked to do one thing. “Please tell my story.” I have fulfilled that request. Now I ask you “what is your story?”

Sunday, May 8, 2011


This week all eyes have been glued to the TV awaiting updates on tornado damage as well as the risk of severe flooding in several states. However, no subject has captured our attention more than the killing of Osama Bin Laden. I for one anxiously awaited the report that revealed this headline news. America has felt vindicated and in the words of the president, “justice has been served.” It has been more than a decade ago since Osama masterminded the destruction of the Twin Towers that led to the death of thousands of Americans. As hundreds lined the streets and celebrated, I could not help but ask myself several questions. “Should I be excited about the demise of our arch enemy? Can I take pleasure in the thought of someone dying lost who seemingly was the epitome of Satan himself? Should I even care that he willingly chose to practice a religion that thrives on hate and destruction?” While in my flesh the temptation to join the celebration in the streets was overwhelming, there were several issues that held me back. First, I was reminded of the scripture that states, “vengeance belongs to me says the Lord.” Were the “Navy Seals” right for going in and taking action? Yes, without question. Yet, in spirit our thoughts must be that of good instead of evil. Second, regardless of how demonic a person seems we are to pray for the best and not the worst. To do otherwise is to allow ourselves to drop to the same level of those whose deeds we despise. Last of all, I was reminded that the Father calls upon us to “love those who hate us, to do good to those who despitefully use us and forgive those who frustrate us.” At times this is the most difficult aspect of Christianity to practice. If you’re like me you want to play God attempting to be both judge and jury. However, I realize that we must pray “thy kingdom come; Thy will be done.” When doing this, we have the guarantee that justice will be served. Although we may only see parts of that justice revealed, eventually we know that God will see that every deed receives due judgment. Knowing this allows me to experience a sense of peace and gives me a definite reason to rejoice. Hopefully, you will agree.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In the Eye of the Storm

Have you ever heard the statement, "It never happens here." Just a few days ago I was guilty of saying that very thing. When tornadoes were touching down in other states I said, "we live in the mountains, it never happens here." And then last Wednesday came and all of my preconceived notions were blown away in one short but long evening. While my wife and I were taking refuge in the corner of our basement, I realized you can never say "never." We sat in great anxiety while the winds blew ferociously and hail the size of golf balls pelted down. It was only around 3:00 am that we felt safe enough to return to our bedroom. When the sun came up Thursday morning I quickly went outside to assess the damage. We were very fortunate but others were not. Since that evening I have attentively watched the news and driven up and down the interstate looking at hundreds of homes and businesses that were completely destroyed. My heart has been touched by all the loss. In my attempt to rationalize and theologize about the reason for the events, I continue to come up empty handed. I have come to the conclusion that no answer is adequate. And I'm not sure that we need to know the reason, we only need to know how to respond. Situations like this give us a great opportunity to demonstrate the true spirit of Christianity. We have a chance to bind together and provide loving care to hurting people. The saddest commentary to a tragedy such as this would be for the traumatized community at large to feel like we failed them. However, I have no doubt the body of Christ will show forth their best. We will not ignore the needs of the people. I am confident the response of the informed church will be the same as my misinformed one, "it never happens here."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jesus Conquered it!

The ability to conquer is one of the most rewarding things in the world. People train mentally, physically and sometimes spiritually for months trying to reach their ultimate goal--the ability to say "I have conquered my foe." The object of this driving passion varies depending upon the person. One may be a golfer whose greatest desire is to win a "Masters." To another it might be an actor searching for the "Oscar" or a singer looking to become number one on the musical chart. Whatever the case, the goal remains the same. However, there is a universal desire common to every class and creed that man reaches for; the ability to conquer death. We exercise, eat right, take herbs, medicines, and pray in order to beat the grave. Yet, success has eluded us. That's what makes the resurrection such a powerful feat. Jesus did what no one else had done. He conquered the grave. Throughout history death had captured and held its victims hostage regardless of their plea. This all changed on the third day when Jesus arose. Not only did he come forth from the tomb, but he led hundreds of others out with him who had been held in bondage. When the sun came up on that glorious morn, death had been embarrassed and the grave emptied. While confused and stung from the blow this enemy of our soul found itself looking into the face of our King who declared, "I am he that lives and was dead and am alive forever more, and have the keys, of hell and of death." In other words Jesus said, "I conquered it." Even greater still is the fact that God allows us to share in the spoils of the victory. He did not choose to wear the crown alone. Which means, because he did we can. In him we have the ability to conquer it--death.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Unexpected Call

It started out as just an ordinary day and then the call came. Two disciples from Jerusalem were standing in front of the house in Bethphage. Upon being greeted they opened their mouths and began to speak. "We need to borrow your colt because our Master has need of it." Although surprised by the request the owner without argument unloosed the animal and sent it with them. Little did the colt know that in just a few short hours its eternal destiny would be changed as it walked down the streets of the city amid palm branches and multitudinous cheers crying out, "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." With great interest I hear the colt asking, "who is this that I am carrying? From the sound of the crowd he must be someone special." Indeed he was. The animal who had never carried a man, had been commissioned before the beginning of time to escort the King of Kings--the Savior of the world. Only later as history unfolded would the impact of this service be fully known. Without resistance or complaint the colt carried the burden of the Lord as he prepared to carry the burden of the world. As the journey ends and its duty fulfilled, I can hear the bray of the wild but tame ass echoing forth as if to say, "It was a privilege sir!" Creation addresses the creator with heartfelt thanks. As I reflect upon this story I cannot help but think that we at any moment might be asked to fulfill an act of service for the King? What an honor it would afford us. Even though wild at heart and undisciplined at times we hear the Holy Spirit say, "the Master has need of you." Are you ready for the unexpected call?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Conquering your Storm

How do you manage the storms in your life? All of us encounter them in the natural as well as the spiritual world. As a matter of fact it has been said we are either going into, in the middle of, or coming out of a storm in our lives. So the issue is not will we face one, but what will we do when it comes? There are several alternatives to choose from. Just last evening the weather man in our area forecast a serious thunderstorm with the possibility of a tornado. Upon hearing this several people were nervous and wanted to run for shelter. That’s the normal inclination when dealing with the natural. However, when facing the spiritual our approach must be radically different. We cannot hide nor run from our storms. The best option for survival is to walk through them. This is the instruction Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew chapter 8. They were fearful at the thought of perishing and were looking for some means of escape. They cried out to the Lord and he responded as if to say “boys you can’t run from it, you’ve got to walk through it. So how did they survive? The answer was so adequately expressed recently in one of our morning services by a guest speaker. They made it through because of Jesus’ closeness—he was with them in the boat; they made it because of his care—he spoke to their need; they made it because of his control—he spoke to the wind and waves and they were immediately calmed. The same holds true for us today. Our survival is wrapped up in our remembering that we always have his presence—“Fear not;” we always have his promise—“have faith;” and we always have his power—“winds be calm.” With those factors we can face any storm that comes our way so why not conquer your storm!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

End Time Preparation

During one of his expeditions to the Antarctic, Sir Ernest Shackleton left some of his men on Elephant Island with the intent of returning for them and taking them back to England. But he was delayed three times as he tried to reach them being prevented by the ice. Finally, on his fourth try, he broke through and found a narrow channel to the island. Much to his surprise, he found the crewmen waiting for him, supplies packed and ready to board. They were soon on their way back to England. He asked them how they knew to be ready for him. They told him they didn’t know when he would return, but they were sure he would. So every morning, the leader rolled up his bag, packed his gear and told the crew to do the same saying, “Get your things ready, boys. The boss may come today.” The aspect of being ready was the message Jesus was trying to convey to his inquisitive disciples while sitting on the Mount of Olives. They had asked, "will you tell us when the end will come?" Instead of giving a specific time frame he simply stated “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Knowing humanity He knew if given the exact time man would have a tendency to play and procrastinate. He would delay making the necessary changes required for preparation. Although we still do not know when the Lord will return, we do know that the requirements have not changed. We must always have our things packed up and our lives in order for "the boss may come today."

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Time is it?

In this fast paced world we live in there is one thing that all of us are consciously aware of—the clock. Our lives are dominated by it. We go to work, eat, keep appointments, watch TV and go to bed by the clock. This preoccupation did not begin with the first time piece. When we read the Bible we find out that thousands of years ago, the world was created according to a specific schedule. Also, we are told that God sent Jesus to earth at the “fullness of time.” While many events create interest within our chronological mindset, none causes more speculation or concern than what is called “the end time.” This is something Jesus alluded to when he used the phrase “in such an hour as you think not.” It is something that captured the thought of John when he wrote “little children it is the last time.” For all those readers who are familiar with this theme, you know it refers to the climatic age when Jesus will re-appear, the church will be taken up, the world refurbished and the devil judged. Also, having been made aware of these events we are admonished to “live soberly and to be watchful” as we see the day approaching. One cannot watch the news or read the paper without realizing that we are at that point. So “what time is it?” It is time that we learn, look, and listen for the day of the Lord is at hand.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's a Race To the Finish

I just got through listening to end of the race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The radio announcers know how to keep you tuned in and on the edge of your seat. There is a phrase they use in almost every race that for whatever reason caught my attention today. With thousands of listeners tuned in with their own special way they expressed, "Fans it's a race to the finish." I thought what a fitting statement for the world of racing but also for the church. Indeed it is a "race to the finish." With everything we have happening around us, we must fight for the finish. In the world of racing finishing and winning requires several things. It takes an experienced pit crew giving instructions; the proper amount of fuel in the tank; good tires; in certain races a draft partner; but most of all it takes focus on the part of the driver. When you think about it, these are the ingredients it takes to win the spiritual race. The writer of Hebrews must have attended one of the chariot races of his day, and although they used horses and Nascar horsepower the similarities cannot be overlooked. With this in mind, we read the author's admonition "and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." Undeniably, the signs predicting that we are in the end times are before us. Knowing this, we must stay fueled up with the power of the Spirit; our feet must have the tread of the gospel; our ears must listen for godly instruction; and most of all we must be patient. In a day when so many are tempted to give up we must remain faithful, for we are in a "race to the finish."

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Holy Land

I am presently on my sixth tour in the Holy Land. It’s hard to describe how special this place is. Although I have been here several times, the atmosphere, sights, and spiritual intensity is always fresh and new. Over the last three days we have been in Turkey visiting the Seven Churches of Asia Minor. If you remember Jesus gave a special message to each of these churches in the book of Revelation. As we have continued our journey we have crossed over into Israel, taking in sights such as: Caesarea Philippi, Mount Carmel, and the Sea of Galilee. Tomorrow we head to Jerusalem. Each of these places holds historical as well as great spiritual significance. For instance, one cannot reflect upon these places and rehearse Christ’s words without feeling a sense of personal conviction. With each story it becomes apparent that we have an experience but yet lack the sacrifice of those who preceded us in the faith. Also, because of the state of the church today we realize that Christ is once again speaking to us as he did to the Seven Churches and we are seeing the fulfillment of the message. I find myself asking “which church am I a part of and how scraficial am I willing to be? While I fight the temptation to speak endlessly about these issues and my exciting journey, let me conclude. During the next few days we will wrap up our trip with Golgotha and the garden tomb. What a dramatic finish! Should not everything we do end with the cross. Should not every idea, determination and deed be placed on the cross? Should not everything we do stand the test of resurrection? In the words of Watchman Nee, “only that which can enter death, survive the tomb, and end in resurrection is truly worthwhile in ministry. May this be the test of our lives as we continue to serve him.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Miracles Still Happen

Today in our morning service, we were privileged to hear from three of our members. With voices of faith each one came to the microphone and shared how God performed an incredible miracle in their lives. One was healed of cancer; another was healed of a crippling handicap and the last one told how God had provided milk for his baby during an hour of overwhelming desperation. These testimonies inspired the body and created such a sense of worship. Too often we are captivated with the spirit of Gideon which cries out "if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of." Granted there are times when we pray and face the problematic; we believe and face barrenness; we make declarations and wrestle with despair. During these seasons we are tempted to yield to the flesh and accept our natural view of things. However, there is no greater season than the present. These are the days of opportunity. Let us maintain our faith in the word and the integrity of our God, because MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Elephant and the Mouse

Have you ever heard the illustration of the elephant and the mouse who were best friends. They hung out together all the time, the mouse riding on the elephant’s back. One day they crossed a wooden bridge, causing it to bow, creak and sway under their combined weight. After they were across, the mouse, impressed over their ability to make such an impact, said to the elephant, “We sure shook up that bridge didn’t we.” This story describes the nature of God and humanity in a nutshell. When facing the challenges of life there is the tendency for man to somehow think he is the one shaking the bridge. Greater still is the fact that God in His infinite wisdom allows man to make such an assumption. Why does He do this? It's all about allowing us to save face. Although omnipotent, God wants to give us the impression that we have played a part. However, when the dust settles and we look back over our achievements in life, the only sensible conclusion for us, is to admit that it was all God. While he may have used our hands he did not use our head. He may have entertained our plan but not our power. He leaves that to Himself. So we must always remember it's all about Him and when the bridge shakes, He's the elephant and we're the mouse.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Help is Available

Have you ever been parasailing? A few years ago while on a cruise to the Caribbean a friend and I thought we would try it. The day arrived for our big adventure. We arrived at the beach were given some instructions and strapped in for the ride. For those of you who are not familiar with this mode of entertainment, parasailing is an activity where a boat pulls you off the beach into the air while connected to a parachute. You are taken about 200 to 300 feet in the air over the ocean which allows you to enjoy the beautiful sights below. After about ten minutes you are slowly brought back down to the beach. Our experience was wonderful. We took off and landed without a glitch in the process other than getting our feet a little wet. Our trip was a success because we had trained people in the boat that knew how to take us up into the upper heaven, let us look around and then set us back down at the proper designated place. One of the words used for prayer or better still “intercession” is "paga" which means “to light upon.” It involves landing on or coming to a certain place. In connection to prayer it means that we “chance upon” or “happen upon” a place while engaging in intercession. In order to do this as was the case with my parasailing experience we need a professional to help us. Jesus in John 14:26 informs us that our professional is the Holy Spirit. The word Helper used in this passage is Parakletos and means one called alongside to aid, help, or support. There are times when we struggle feeling as if our prayers are going no where. We question whether or not they are hitting their target. However, when we allow the Spirit to help us, He is able to direct our prayers causing them to "light upon the right person and the right place at the right time." If you're like me more often than not you feel an inability to produce results in your prayer life. When this happens, I call upon the assistance of my "helper" knowing that when I allow Him to intercede with me, my prayers bring results. What a consolation it is for us to know that help is always available.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Prayer: It's Simply Rebellion

Normally when we think of rebellion it's not good. The mere thought of it brings images of children, friends or co-workers, who are acting out in some negative way. Most of the time it involves distorted facial expressions, physical gestures and unspeakable language. But is it possible that there is an aspect of rebellion that is good? Jesus thought so. In Luke 18 He introduces a woman who faces an adversary and comes to a judge asking him to avenge her. If you remember the story you know the judge refuses to do so but finally grants the request because this little lady would not give up. In essence she refused to accept things the way they were because she believed her situation could and would change. Jesus compared her experience to petitionary prayer. Thus He said, "men ought always to pray and not faint." Is it possible that prayer can be considered rebellion? One author defines is as such by stating, "It is in essence, rebellion-rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal. It is, in this its negative aspect, the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the norm as originally established by God." This kind of praying is based on the premise that God can change things; life can be otherwise and it ought to be. With this in mind why not face your adversary by taking your liberty and doing some rebellious praying.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Right Perspectives

A few years ago I had to break down and get eyeglasses. The reason of course was that I could no longer see. Although my decision had been postponed for months it was the best thing I could have done. Those glasses gave me a new perspective. When compared to our relationship with God there are times when the hardest thing in the world for us to do is to put on our spiritual glasses and see things in the light of God’s glory. So often our vision becomes distorted. We begin to see up as down and in as out. Our circumstances are magnified way beyond our capability. However, I've found that if we can get past how we see things and how we think they ought to be, we can get a new glimpse of God’s glory and power at work in our lives. Do you see your life from God’s perspective or only from your limited view of how you think things ought to be? We cannot deny the challenges we face in life that seek to bully us. However, we should be reminded of the apostle Paul who was great at seeing his problems in a different light. In Romans 8:18-19 he states, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." He went on to say that we are "more than conquerors through him that loved us." One day little Bobby’s father came into the front room and saw the boy looking out on the street through the big end of a telescope. He said, "Son, that’s not the way you look through a telescope. If you look through it that way, you make the objects look smaller. A telescope is to make things look bigger." But Bobby smiled and said, "Daddy, the bully who’s always beating me up is out on the street. I turned the telescope around because he’s my main problem, and I want to see him smaller than he really is." I don’t know of anything that would reduce the size of our problems in our own eyes more than gaining God’s perspective on them. Too often, our perception allows our circumstances to blind us to our opportunities. Through the Word God has given us spiritual glasses that allows us to see clearly who we are and the potential that has been given us through Christ. Why not put them on they'll make an incredible difference.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Changing The Atmosphere

There's nothing worse than being in a bad atmosphere. It can lead to frustration, doubt, fear and ultimately defeat. When Jesus found himself there he prayed and that praying always changed things. He believed that anything could be altered by prayer. Maybe that's why in Luke 18:1 he stated "men ought always to pray and not faint." He knew that daily we would be faced with an atmosphere that would need changing and prayer was the way to bring it about. In light of this I think it necessary that we ask the question, "how are we doing?" Far too often we allow ourselves to exist in unfavorable circumstances because we try alternative measures while neglecting the very tool that can make a difference. S.D. Gordon has said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed." In the words of another author this aspect of prayer is something that "many people believe in, some do it and others do it well." It is those who do it well that are able to change the atmosphere. You and I can be one of them. The option for change is within our reach. Why not try effectual praying?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Only in Eternity

I don't know how you handle a Sunday evening but this is typically my routine. I come home, change clothes, take a seat on the couch and reflect. That reflection normally involves rehearsing parts of my message and asking certain questions. "Did I say the right things? Did I connect with the people? Did they understand the points being made?" Most importantly is the question, "Did the services bring about change?" The only problem is there is no criteria or assessment tool that allows one to evaluate the final results. On this night my inquiry continues but with an added bit of interest. We're just completing the first week of a twenty-one day fast. I'm hungry, tired, and moderately depressed. This all comes with the turf, especially when you're glancing at the TV and all you see is Pizza, Subs, and McRibs. But they that "endure to the end" will enjoy such morsels on another day. While trying to be humorous there is one other question that preoccupies my mind; "Will my preaching, fasting and praying really make a difference?" Those reading this will admit I'm not alone on this one. You want to know too! To get the answer I realize that my focus has to change from the seen to the unseen. The truth is obedience produces opposition which produces obscurity. Although unmeasurable with the naked eye or ear, there is a profound sense that in the spirit realm things are happening in my life as well as the lives of others and will be known ONLY IN ETERNITY!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Ultimate Prize

As I write this blog I am sitting in front of the television watching two teams battle it out for the National Championship. They have spent days traveling, practicing, and mentally preparing for the big game, but now they're in the heat of the battle. Both want to win. However, the team that winds up with the trophy will be the one who properly executes what they have learned. This is the case with our spiritual lives. We pray, study, and gird ourselves with all the principles for battle. Yet, how often we fail to successfully utilize what we have learned when confronted by the enemy. Instead of passing with faith we are preoccupied with fear. Instead of blocking with the word we back up. Instead of running we find ourselves resting. Knowing the importance of the game Paul says, "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." Well at present it's halftime. Each team is in the locker room being admonished by their coach. They are being instructed not to lose sight of what this moment means. It's the opportunity of a lifetime. They are being told that they can win regardless the opposition. As we all know the outcome is yet to be seen because only the future will reveal the ultimate winner. I do know that each team will walk back on the field believing they can win the game. So can you! The championship is yours.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Second Chance At Living

Bruce Larson in his book, "Living Beyond Our Fears", tells a great story about a judge in Yugoslavia who had an unfortunate accident. He was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub. His wife found his body sprawled on the bathroom floor. He was pronounced dead and, as was the custom in that particular town, he was placed in a room under a crypt in the town cemetery for 24 hours before burial. In the middle of the night, the judge came to, realized where he was, and rushed over to alert the guard, who promptly ran off terrified. "Fortunately, he returned with a friend, and they released the newly revived judge, whose first thought was to phone his wife and reassure her. He got no farther than, 'Darling, it's me--' when she screamed and fainted. Next he went to the houses of several friends, who were sure he was a ghost. In a last desperate measure, he called a friend in a distant city, who had not heard of his death, and who interceded for him with his family and friends." While humorous, this story reminds me of a great truth. Many of us are temporarily knocked unconscious by reaching for the things of the world around us. But when we come to ourselves and acknowledge what has happened we're quick to realize that God is gracious and gives us a second chance at life. He does so after every sin; after every disappointment. That's why we focus on new beginnings and fresh starts during the New Year. Admitting failure is not the problem because we're so experienced at it. However, the greater challenge is to take the second chance and to do better at it. My prayer is that 2011 will be a year when we take the grace that God gives us and purpose in our hearts that we will do the best we can. In doing so it will trully be a Happy New Year!