Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's Time to Start Over

It’s time to start over--it’s a brand New Year

It’s time to start over--a time to dry every tear

It’s time to start over--a time to forget the past

It’s time to start over--a time to focus on that which will last

It’s time to start over--a time when there is much to do

It’s a time to start over--a time when God wants to use you

It’s time to start over--a time to utilize your potential

It’s time to start over--a time to major on the essential

It’s time to start over--a time to stop looking over your shoulder

It’s time to start over--a time to be a destiny holder

It’s time to start over--a time of great persuasion

It’s time to start over--a time to rise to the occasion

It’s a time to start over--a time to relinquish all fear

It’s time to start over—this is the New Year


Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Second Birth for our Brokenness

We are in the height of the Christmas season the time when we celebrate the greatest birth known to man; a birth brought about for a broken world. God looked upon us knowing we were hopeless and unable to fix ourselves.   
In Subversive Kingdom, Ed Stetzer so adequately describes our condition.
“Look around. Our world is broken. I'm not talking about the "world" in terms of nature (although creation, too, bears the marks of sin's blemish and decay). I'm talking about the "world" comprised of the people, structures and systems that make up society—the moral patterns, beliefs and behaviors that result in things like unfair business practices, racism, extreme poverty, dishonest government, dirty politics, family breakdown, cheating, stealing, oppression of the weak and so many other distressors and defilers...

It stinks.
It's bad.
It's not right.
It's broken.
And in homes and hospitals every day of the week, at courthouses and gravesides everywhere in the world, people of all spiritual makes and models suffer from it—from a world that toils along in hopeless disrepair.”
Stetzer continues by saying the brokenness of the world on display before us is earth’s rebellion against its rightful King, “and only God has the ultimate fix.”  In essence what it needs is another birth—not the baby in the manger but heaven’s triumphant resurrected Lord. We need Jesus to return and set this world right. We need heaven to experience labor pains and with the blast of the trumpet deliver for the second time the savior—not the meek and mild mannered Jesus but the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” As we patiently wait let us never dismiss the evil around us or allow it to take away our joy, but may we constantly utter the prayer that will usher from the womb the next great birth, “Maranatha, Come quickly Lord Jesus.”    


Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Prayer for Help

This is the time of year when we expect to hear the sounds of joy, but this past Friday in Connecticut those were replaced with the blast of gunshots.   Amidst the screams, Satan once again revealed his hideous character taking the lives of innocent children and adults. Since hearing the news my heart like millions of others has been grieved. I cannot help but ask how and why did this happen? However, no words of explanation seem adequate. Since I find myself humanly unable to provide a proper response, a prayer written by Max Lucado in the wake of the shootings seems most appropriate.  Please join me and ask that God hastens its answer.   
Dear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately. These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated. The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.
Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.


Your Children


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Damaged Goods

Have you ever gone into a grocery store and noticed a cart full of items marked “Damaged Goods.” Normally you find dented cans with missing labels—just random items that for whatever reason failed to make the cut and are not considered “shelf worthy.” And when you think about it people are often classified the same way.  Life delivers unexpected lessons and incredible blows that leave us dented.  In the same way sin enters our lives and before you know it we have been stripped of all our self-worth, our dignity, our usefulness. In other words we get to feeling like the person who submitted an anonymous article to “My Ministry Minute,” a newsletter of Peniel Ministries. ”Lessons learned in the ‘School of hard knocks’ bruise us dent us and remove the label that defines who we really are. We feel as if we have been tossed into a bin, no longer worthy of a place on a shelf.” If such feelings continue to linger we can find ourselves substantiating the lie that we are second class failures and all hope is gone.  However the amazing thing is this, when you take a risk and pick up one of those bargain cans you find that it contains a very satisfying ingredient.  You may open it only to find peaches, apple sauce, or tangerine slices—all of which I love.  This brings a great realization communicated so adequately by the individual quoted earlier. “I have been looked down upon and judged by many who have seen my missing label and they have slapped their own label on me. I have wanted to say so many times to so many people, ‘Don’t judge too quickly.  My damage does not define me, but it is refining me.’  I may sometimes be at the bottom of life’s bin, but Jesus paid as high a price for those of us at the bottom as he did for those who are proudly displayed on the top shelf!”  This means if we look at each other the way God looks at us our viewpoint will be the same as the inscription I read on a tee shirt recently, “Labels are for cans not people.”  How blessed it is to know that regardless of how we feel, our God never casts us to the side to be eternally classified as “Damaged Goods.”


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Don't Count Your Chickens

Catch phrases are something I find entertaining.  Especially ones like the following: “Every tub sits on its own bottom;" "What’s done is done;" and “The buck stops here.” But my favorite is, ”Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”  A retired pastor told me a humorous story recently that helped put this one in perspective. He had a member of his church who was travelling along the interstate when his car developed a flat tire. He pulled over, got out and proceeded to fix the problem.  Opening the trunk he reached inside took out his tool box to use as a scotch to keep the vehicle from rolling. He changed the tire got back in his car and headed up the highway. When arriving home he suddenly remembered he had pulled away leaving behind the box filled with tools. Although he felt someone had surely found and claimed his forgotten property he decided to go back the next day to the spot of the breakdown and just take a look. Needless to say he was amazed beyond words to find the box sitting right where he had left it. Retrieving the tools he made his way back home. A few days later he was working on the same vehicle in his own back yard.  He stopped for a moment went inside the house and when returning to continue his work was shocked to find that someone had stolen his tools. This proves you can never “count your chickens before they hatch.” Just when you think you’ve escaped loss you find out you have underestimated the evil nature of society.  The same holds true in relation to the devil. Jesus said, “he seeks to kill, steal, and destroy.”  You may escape him on the interstate but you cannot forget that he often visits our own back yard. It is for this reason Paul suggests in 2 Corinthians 2:11 “Satan will not outsmart us, for we are familiar with his evil schemes.”  While the enemy walks to and fro throughout the earth, most often he takes his greatest advantage at close range.  It is for this reason we never count him out but we remain watchful especially in those areas close to home.      





Sunday, November 25, 2012

Promise Less Deliver More

Someone introduced me to a business principle recently that I had not heard before—“Promise less and deliver more.”  As I understand it, operating with this motto keeps the public from being constantly disappointed.  As you are well aware our lives are inundated with magazine articles and television commercials advertising programs that do not produce.  It is no wonder people feel like they are forever being cheated or scammed. How refreshing it is when you experience getting more than you expected. This happened to me just a few days ago.  My wife and I pulled into Arby’s to get the daily special, a couple of Beef and Cheddar sandwiches.  We placed our order and proceeded in line.  While on the way I thought “man I love their curly fries I wish I had ordered some.” To my surprise when we reached the window to pay the employee handed us our order and said, “I’m sorry you had to wait longer than usual, I’ve included a large order of fries for your inconvenience.”  Arby’s was only responsible to deliver what the sign had posted but this worker decided to deliver more.  The truth is I didn’t feel like we had to wait any longer than normal.  However, I drove away pulling those battered munchies out of the bag thinking, “what a blessing!” When it comes to God, He refuses to be restricted by the same guidelines as the business world, that’s why His motto is “Promise more and deliver more!” Isn’t that what Paul stated in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”  Isn’t he saying that God does what He promises and much more? This sounds to me like a good reason to give thanks! What do you think?         

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Reason to be Thankful

The fictional story is told that during the time the church was being persecuted in Rome, a Christian was thrown to the lions.  As he waited to be eaten, he knelt down and prayed.  Looking up he was surprised to see the lion also kneeling in prayer.  Seeing the look of bewilderment on the Christian’s face, the lion said to him, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’m giving thanks.” I guess you could say that being thankful is often a matter of perspective. That’s certainly true for me. On some occasions I feel it more than others.  This past week was one of those times when I felt more thankful than usual.  First, while washing dishes I dropped my cell phone in the water. That was a dumb mistake on my part, but I was thankful it was insured.  Just a quick call and an overnight shipment put me right back in business. Then I was at the Lexus dealership getting some service done when another dumb thing occurred.  Upon being notified that the work was completed I headed to get in my car. Right at the time I started to open the door my phone rang. Since my hands were full I laid my newly purchased iPad on top of the car with the thought “I do not want to forget that.” Becoming engrossed in the conversation I jumped in started the engine and headed up the highway.  After travelling only a short distance I was startled with the sounds of a thud.  I thought “what was that?” Then I looked over to the passenger’s seat and realized “IT” was missing. Stopping the car immediately I looked down the highway expecting to find a pile technological mess. There was nothing in the road so my attention was drawn to the top of the car and there the iPad was safe and sound.  The wind had blown the magnetic flap open that covers the screen allowing it to make the loud noise. Needless to say I was overwhelmed with thanks. However, blessings like these are minimal in comparison to those we should really be thankful for.  Gadgets can be replaced, but things like our families, our health, our salvation, cannot.  During this season let us remember to “bless the Lord and forget not all His benefits” for we have so many reasons to be thankful.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ready for Anything

R.T. Kendall in his book “God meant it for Good” tells a story about the great D.L. Moody. He was seated on a platform when he heard the man preaching make this statement: “The world has yet to see what God can do with one man who is utterly committed to Him.” Mr. Moody said in his heart, “I propose to be that person.”  Kendall continues, “We might think anybody who would want to be used of God like that would get the applause of the angels—that everything would start going right.  Within days his church burned down, and his own house burned down.  It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of God.” Commitment never comes without its opportunities. While we think being sold out equal’s unlimited favor we forget that it says to God “I’m ready for anything.” With the door left wide open God responds by saying, “I have a little trial for you.” And how we answer that call determines whether we can be trusted or not. Joseph had the attitude and received the call.  It started with a dream and ended up with a dungeon.  However, throughout the whole process God was giving this young dreamer the chance of a lifetime. If he could pass the test he would move to the throne. If you have any question as to how it all turned out just cite the closing chapters of Genesis. Stamped within the pages you will find one success story after another. Joseph’s calling card if he had one would have read, “Trial accepted—Test completed—Ready for anything.”  The question that remains to be answered is “Are we ready?”      

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What Are You Capable Of?

What are you capable of? Questions like this make us nervous and a bit uncomfortable.  Given the history of humanity, in the negative sense we all know that apart from the sustaining grace of God man is capable of almost any sin. However, from the positive that same grace empowers us to exceed all of our expectations of greatness. Parker Palmer, a Quaker and author writes “Everything in the universe has a nature, which means limits as well as potential.”  The problem is most of us find it easy to define our limits but difficult to discover our potential. That’s why we need God’s assistance. John Ortberg says, “One of the competencies of artistry and craftsmanship is knowing how to discern the nature of the material you are working with.  Great sculptors spend much time studying a piece of marble before they ever take a chisel to it; they describe what they do not so much as imposing a shape on the marble as in releasing what it has always contained.  Skilled potters know that as they knead and press clay, it presses back, telling them what it can and cannot become.”  He goes on to say amateurs lack this discernment, seeing every lump of clay as a potential ashtray. In contrast, the consolation for Christians is held in the truth that God knows what that clay is really destined for. Given the chance and the time God will reveal to each of us what we are really capable of.   

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Power of Possibility Thinking

In John chapter five we are told that Jesus comes upon a man that has been paralyzed for thirty eight years. He asks him a question, “Do you want to be made well?” His reply, “Sir I have no one to put me in the pool.  Every time the water is troubled, I make my way down but someone steps in front of me and I get cheated out of my miracle. Jesus then says to the man “Take up your bed and walk.” This was a totally different approach to his problem.  He was being faced with a proposition, “I need you to forget about your past, push beyond the problems and entertain the possibility of what can happen in your life if you follow my procedure.”  He was being asked to do some possibility thinking. Robert Schuller in his book, “Peace of Mind through Possibility Thinking” says: “A possibility thinker is a person who, when faced with a mountain does not quit. He keeps on striving until he climbs over, finds a pass through, tunnels underneath, or simply stays, and turns his mountain into a gold mine with God’s help.  A possibility thinker looks for all the possibilities in every situation instead of impossibilities.” This kind of thinking is reflected in the gentleman I read about recently who was panning for gold and found a large diamond worth $3,000 dollars. Dan Fagnan's friends thought he was "a fruit loop" for panning for gold near his home in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, but the amateur prospector kept on.  He found the expensive jewel in a wet pile of sand and rocks excavated from 120 feet below the surface. A close friend was digging a well and invited him to sift through the piles of debris. Dan could have said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Yet he saw something no one else could see--potential success. Maybe you are like the paralytic who faced one disappointment after another. Maybe all you see before you is a pile of rubbish. Why not take another look in the midst of those circumstances; through the power of possibility thinking you might just uncover a miracle.         


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fear Interrupts Our Walk

What would you guess is the most common command in Scripture? It is not for us to be more loving or less prideful or to be sexually pure.  The single command that occurs more often than any other is the two words—FEAR NOT. Why does God command us not to fear?  Fear is the number one reason people fail to get out of the boat and the one reason they as Peter stop in the middle of their walk on the water.  Fear will sink us faster than anything else.  Trust and fear are battling for our heart all the time.  Eventually one will win out. That’s why we must always monitor the source of our fear. This emotional feeling can be good. On the one hand it is an internal warning cry that danger is nearby and we had better take action and remove ourselves from harm’s way. On the other hand it can stifle our trust causing us to live lives of spiritual boredom. No wonder God repeated the command. His will is that we walk in daring faith which is just as contagious. Let me give you an example. This past June Brody our five year old grandson and his sisters came to stay with us for a week. While here we went to the neighbor’s pool for a swim.  I kept telling him not to go in the deep part of the pool.  I said, “Son you can’t swim and I might not be able to get to you if you go under.”  He replied, “Papaw I can swim.” I said “No you can’t” and repeated this several times while we were swimming. He continued to answer by saying, “Papaw I can swim.” The next week we took the entire family, (thirteen of us) to Hilton Head for vacation.  One evening I came out on the porch and saw Brody diving in the deep part of the pool swimming to the side and making his way back out.  When he got out with goggles pulled down over his ears and water dripping off his entire body he said, “Papaw I told you I could swim.”  Indeed he could.  Although I had tried to dampen his spirit, he stepped into the water without the emotional instability that paralyzes so many of us.  In him I saw the epitome of the words “fear not.” God must be pleased when we obey His command and He sees the same spirit in us.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Running Late?

Life is filled with strange events and I had one of those on Sunday. After the morning services we made our way to lunch and then quickly returned home. This gave us just a few minutes to rest before driving to the church for a scheduled 5:00 o’clock meeting. I thought “a short nap would be just the thing to provide that extra boost of energy before reporting back for duty.” Once awake, I began to pray for the evening service. Phyllis asked, “Are you ready to go?”  My reply was, “I’m getting there.”  The meeting was at the forefront of my mind. It was not forgotten, but for some weird reason I surmised my departure time would get me to the church twenty minutes early so there was no need to rush.  Once again, my wife asked, “Are you not leaving you’re going to be late.”  It was only at that moment that it registered with me. Through a miscalculation of the time it dawned on me that I was not going to arrive early but was actually going to be ten minutes late. Panic hit. How could this happen? How could I have made such a mistake?  Needless to say it was embarrassing to enter a room filled with new members and offer my confession. This experience reminded me of the passage in 1 Chronicles that states there were men of Issachar “that had understanding of the times to know what Israel should do.”  It seems as if we are now seeing our nation mesmerized by politics and moral instability to the point that it has lost all sense of time.  Those given to serious spiritual intuition know that the meeting scheduled by the Father with the Son is imminent.  Yet, we see people running to and fro feeling no sense of emergency. It is quite apparent that they have miscalculated the time without realization that they are running late. To save embarrassment it is my prayer that we as a nation, church and people will regain our spiritual equilibrium. I pray we will regain the insight of the sons of Issachar and understand where we are and what needs to be done that we may show up on time.   

Monday, October 8, 2012

Getting Ready for a Celebrity

This past Friday we had a celebrity come to town.  It was the much anticipated visit of the presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.  I decided this was an event that required my presence.  If he loses nothing is lost except a few hours of my time. However, if he wins I will be able to say I had my first and possibly only close encounter with the president of the United States. Needless to say the crowd was overwhelming.  The lines were long and the weather was warm.  Each person patiently waited as they made their way through the path that led to security and eventually the grandstand where Mr. Romney would speak.  I decided to take my position in the back overlooking the podium in order to get a good camera shot.  Little did I know this was the place security had chosen to usher in the anticipated person of interest.  I along with others stood with cameras in hand waiting for his arrival.  The door would open and you could hear the gasp of people   thinking this was the moment. This exercise was repeated over and over for almost an hour.  By the moment Romney finally appeared the audience was ready.  He entered to the chants of “Mitt, Mitt, Mitt!”  The actions of the crowd needed no interpretation.  Their likely choice for president now stood before them and they were excited.  I thought this must have been the way the people felt the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. His visit had been announced and the people stood all along the streets hoping to get a glimpse of the one they thought would be their king and deliverer. Thunderous shouts and palm leaves came from everywhere paving the way for the grand entrance of Jesus the Messiah.  Although amazing neither of these events can be compared to the next visit of the Lord of Lord’s and King of King’s.  The heavens will be filled with the sound of a trumpet’s blast; then will come a voice unlike any other. The shout of the archangel declaring “the hour has come I now introduce to you the one and only Son of the living God.” While this announcement will be as brief as the “twinkling of an eye,” it will have eternal significance. Immediately all that is physical will be changed for eternity.  From all indication the prophetical tremors are warning us that this visit is imminent and the expressive voice of the Spirit is urging us to get ready for heaven’s Celebrity.       

Monday, October 1, 2012

Choosing the Right Language

If you haven’t noticed lately our cultural and technical language has changed.  Once upon a time the word “gay” was used when describing a sense of joy but it means something totally different now. Our children instead of saying, “I’m sorry” now say “my bad.”  Or when referring to a good thing they will say “that’s bad.”  A knife is called a “shank” and the greeting “Hi what’s going on” is now “Wassup.”  Even worse, in the technical realm words have become mere abbreviations.  OMG is “O my god,” ILY is “I Love You,” and OMW is “On my way.”  Back a few weeks ago I came to grips with my ignorance of this new language.  People both male and female started sending me messages signed LOL. My na├»ve translation of these letters led me to conclude they meant “Lots of Love.” While rewarding myself for figuring out the code, this interpretation left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. I wanted to reply out of courtesy but using these letters as a closing signature just didn’t feel right. Now I know I’m a lovable guy but what if the female on the receiving end of the email or text misunderstands the intent of the message.  Even greater was my concern of responding to a man with this terminology.  Maybe it’s all me but that just doesn’t seem very manly.  Needless to say I felt ignorance being rubbed all over me when I learned the letters actually mean “Laugh out Loud.” That mistake caused me to reflect and rejoice over the language God uses.  He speaks neither in slang words or abbreviations. He says what He means and means what He says with clarity. What is His message to us? “I love you with an everlasting love; Call unto me and I will answer; I will never leave you nor forsake you; Trust me and lean not to your own understanding.”  If you are like me you realize you don’t have to be the sharpest person in the room. All you need to know is when God speaks He always chooses the right language.   

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What To Do When You Step In It

Life is filled with ups and downs which means sometimes you are going to step in it. Let me explain, I take my dogs out walking of the morning. Normal dogs use the grass, but we don’t have normal dogs. Ours use the pavement, so I go behind them serving as the cleanup crew. A few days ago I walked them, they did their business and before I could do the cleanup there were two runners that came by the house. When I went down to do my owner’s duty, guess what? One of the runners had stepped right in you know what. He left his foot prints all the way up the road. I’m sure he did not mean to do this, yet it happened.  Maybe he was overwhelmed and could not see what was in front of him or preoccupied and just didn’t notice. He may have been engaged in conversation with his wife; maybe they were fussing. Possibly he was exhausted and his steps were not firmly planted or  he may have been bumped by his running companion. Yet, another possibility is that he may have been too presumptuous, saying “my stride is long enough I can step over this.” I may never know why he made the mistake but I’m sure when he got back home he was not a happy camper. He either trashed those running shoes or got out the Lysol and started doing some cleaning of his own. The point is he stepped in it and so do we. That’s why our life demands grace.  I do know this was not his first run and most likely would not be his last. Also, I know that if you run long enough it will happen to you. So what do we do when it happens? Well as I mentioned earlier there’s some clean-up that is required. In addition there is the decision to be more observant. This runner may have said, “This is not going to make me quit but next time I’ll watch closer, especially when I get near that preacher’s house.” But the most important thing we can do is continue running. The race is not over just because we step in it.  That’s where grace comes in.  It’s the detergent that washes us and the energy that encourages us to continue.  You may have stepped in it, but life is not over.  Get a grip on grace and finish the race.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Protection Prayer Provides

If we are not careful we can forget about the protection of prayer. When the Jews were threatened with annihilation Esther said, “Let’s pray.” When Peter was put in prison and faced impending death at the hand of Herod, the church said, “Let’s pray.”  They did so because they believed in the power of prayer.  Multitudes of contemporaries share that same belief.  One such case is told by Evangelist Billy Kim about a soldier in the Korean War. The soldier’s superior told him to go out search and rescue the wounded. He said, “I will sir,” but remained in his bunker monitoring his watch. Shortly thereafter the same superior came by again and gave a second order. “We have wounded soldiers out in the field, go search and rescue them.” Once again the soldier said, “I will sir” but stood still looking at his watch. At a certain hour the man jumped up and said, “Now I am ready to go.” He goes out and rescues his fallen comrades all night long. Later he was approached by a fellow soldier and asked, “Man why did you disobey the commander’s orders? What were you thinking?” He replied, “I’m embarrassed to tell you this but I don’t know God and I’m afraid of dying.” He continued, “Before I left home my mother gave me a bible and told me, ‘Son at a certain hour every day I promise I will be on my knees in prayer for you.’ I waited to go until I knew it was the hour my momma would be in prayer. I knew it would be okay because she was praying.” What a wonderful consolation we have in knowing that we are protected by the prayers of our family, our friends, and most of all our Savior. So, be encouraged as you reflect upon the protection prayer provides.       

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fearing Failure

There are so many people that find themselves becoming stale and inactive because they fear failure. Somehow we have come to believe that if we don’t succeed in our task all of our effort is a total loss.  However, nothing could be further from the truth. John Ortberg in his book, “IF YOU WANT TO WALK ON THE WATER YOU’VE GOT TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT” clarifies this point by saying: “Failure is not an event, but rather a judgment about an event. Failure is not something that happens to us it is a way we think about outcomes.”  He goes further by giving two powerful illustrations. “Before Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio that finally worked, he tried two hundred unsuccessful ones. Somebody asked him, ‘How did it feel to fail two hundred times?’  ‘I never failed two hundred times in my life’ Salk replied. ‘I was taught not to use the word failure. I just discovered two hundred ways how not to vaccinate.’   Sir Edmund Hillary made several unsuccessful attempts at scaling Mount Everest before he finally succeeded. After one attempt he stood at the base of the giant mountain and shook his fist at it. “I’ll defeat you yet,” he said in defiance, “Because you’re as big as you’re going to get—but I’m still growing.” Every time Hillary climbed, he failed and every time he failed he learned something more until one day he didn’t fail. Some may have seen Peter as a failure when in the middle of his walk on the water he began to sink. But the bigger failures were the eleven disciples sitting in the boat. Again using the words of Ortberg, “Failure does not shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you.” Peter no doubt thought, “I know what not to do if given another chance to water walk.” I don’t believe he gave up, neither should you. Push back the fear, keep trying and eventually you will get it right—you will not fail.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Labor Day Rest

This week we are celebrating Labor Day. It’s a holiday that should be about getting rest, but most fail to take advantage of the opportunity. We know a great deal about working but very little about resting. Some of what we do has the semblance of rest but not the significance. Let me explain by sharing a conversation I had recently with my mother. I called her during the morning hours and she and dad were in the middle of eating breakfast.  She began to explain, “We sleep later some mornings, and sometimes after we wake up we just lie in the bed and rest a while.” She laughed and continued, “It’s something when you are in bed all night and wake up and still have to rest awhile.  That’s what happens when you get old I guess.”  Although humorous there is a message in that story.  Quite often after we have gone through the routine of sleeping we find ourselves still in the need of rest. The reason being we sleep because we have to we rest because we choose to. When we compare this to our spiritual lives we recognize the same principle applies.  We enter into the experience of salvation because we have to, but we rest in the promises and power of Christ because we choose to. This is the message the writer of Hebrews was trying to convey in Chapter four. We can spend long nights laboring in our salvation but satisfaction will only come when we turn to resting in God’s finished work.  Hopefully with age, comes the realization that we need to choose more rest and less labor.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Dangerous Trust

I came across a very sad article on the internet Sunday morning. The news report read, “A hiker in Alaska’s Denali National Park photographed a grizzly bear for at least eight minutes before the bear mauled and killed him in the first fatal attack in the park's history, officials said Saturday. Investigators have recovered the camera and looked at the photographs, which show the bear grazing and not acting aggressively before the attack. The hiker was backpacking alone along the Toklat River on Friday afternoon when he came within 50 yards of the bear, far closer than the quarter-mile of separation required by park rules, officials said. "They show the bear grazing in the willows, not acting aggressive in any form or manner during that period of time," Anderson said. Prior to receiving a permit to hike in the area, all backpackers in the park receive mandatory bear awareness training that teaches them to stay at least a quarter-mile away from bears, and to slowly back away if they find themselves any closer. Investigators confirmed that the hiker had received that training.”  After reading this I asked myself the question, “What went wrong?” I think the obvious answer is the hiker acted on a dangerous trust. He trusted that in spite of the training given his close proximity to the bear was not a real threat; he trusted that the bear would not harm him and if alarmed he could easily find a way of escape. All of us take far too many risks with our lives. That’s why Paul encouraged us in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to “Stay away from every kind of evil.” We can never ignore the warning signs God gives. Although the devil may appear harmless, he is vicious and in the words of Peter comparable to a “roaring lion who seeks to devour.” In the flesh we cannot outrun, outsmart, or defend ourselves against him. It is only by God’s grace, power and the following of biblical instructions that we can survive. Everyday our lives are at risk, so avoid at all costs entering into a dangerous trust  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Under His Wings

In Psalmist in 91:4 declares, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty… And under His wings you shall take refuge.”  Here we have revealed the safest place for the child of God to be.  It is in the Father’s shadow and under His wings. In the natural it gives little comfort to think that we are being protected by a shadow. However, in the spiritual realm there could be no safer place.  I read something recently that put this all in perspective. It was an article written several years ago in the National Geographic that provided an interesting picture of God's wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her off springs to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body. The mother had remained steadfast. She had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live. God has given Himself so that we might be protected as we encounter the wiles of life. So there is no reason to be alarmed as long as we entertain His shadow and live under His wings. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Thief Needs No Assistance

In John chapter 10 Jesus described the devil as a thief whose primary goal is to “steal, kill and destroy.”  With that being said, we must realize he works with great success and certainly doesn’t need any assistance from us. Let me illustrate my point with an experience my son-in-law had a few days ago. He has a mobile home next to his parents where he keeps some equipment and an old truck. His mother called him and said, “Those boys you sent over here to get your truck broke my water line and I have water going everywhere. You need to get them to fix it.”  He said “do what?”  She said, “Those boys you sent over here to get that truck busted my water line and it needs to be fixed.” He said, “I didn’t send anybody to get a truck.”  She said, “Well I guess I need to go get your dad and tell him to come back to the house, he’s got the tractor down there helping them to load it up.” As it turned out the boys were stealing the truck and his father was helping them.  Of course my son-in-law called the sheriff’s office and they came out and arrested them.  If we are not careful we will find ourselves assisting the very thief who is out to destroy us.  We help him every time we operate with the spirit of unforgiveness.  We help him when we yield to temptation. We help him when we become too preoccupied with the minor things forgetting that which is major; when we parade without praying, we yearn without yielding and tread without trusting. With all of the enemy’s deceptive ability let us be careful to heed the words of scripture and “be wise as serpents but harmless as doves” because the thief needs no assistance.   

Monday, August 6, 2012

Resisting Our Rescue

A few years ago my wife and I left our church offices and headed out to lunch.  We had not driven very far down State Street when Phyllis said, “Darrell there is a kitten in the middle of the road, stop the car and get it.”  I retorted “stop the car, we’re in the street and traffic is moving.”  Well, you know arguments are never won when you are dealing with a head strong woman who happens to be an animal lover.  I stopped the car got out and walked over to the tiny piece of fur.  It was very evident that this little critter was fearful, traumatized, and most of all lost.  No doubt it was saying to itself, “How in the world did I wind up here.”  When I reached down to pick it up suddenly it began to hiss and show its tiny set of claws.  I remembered saying, “I’m trying to save you little rascal, don’t fight me.”  Why would a little kitten resist salvation in the midst of a hopeless situation?  Maybe it was because of its animal instinct--be careful who you trust; the hand that reaches for you may bring hurt instead of help. Or possibly it was because fear had driven it to believe that the future would not be any more favorable than its present circumstances. Better still, we cannot rule out the thought that this small, weak and vulnerable piece of flesh felt if given enough time, it could work itself out of the mess.  This all sounds so familiar when we think about ourselves.  How many times have we faced similar experiences? When it happens we allow our minds to lead us into thinking that somehow God is trying to harm rather than help us and that we are better off left alone.  Things just might improve if we fight back. This little kitten finally acquiesced and yielded to my hand.  Should we not do the same?  From eternity past and present our heavenly Father has always stopped in the midst of sinful traffic endeavoring to save us. You talk about “old things passing away and all things becoming new,” it happened that day in the middle of the street when one tiny cat stopped fighting and allowed itself to be rescued. It came under the care of my wife who gave it a permanent home and continual loving care.  God wishes to do the same for us. Stop resisting! Go ahead and let His hand rescue you!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Defying the Serpent

Several years ago there was a traveler going into the South American Jungles to hunt when he heard the startled cries of a bird fluttering over its nest. In the nest he could see the female bird and several baby birds. The reason for the alarm soon appeared in the form of an extremely poisonous snake. He was slowly moving towards the nest determined to make a meal of this small family. The hunter grabbed his gun and prepared to shoot the culprit but decided to watch and see what would happen. What he saw shocked him. The startled male bird suddenly flew away from the nest as though looking for something. A minute or two later it returned with a small leaf-covered twig which it laid carefully over the nest. Now calmer and quieter than before the male bird perched on one of the upper branches and watched the snake.  It got closer and closer to the nest and prepared to strike the deathblow, when suddenly it drew back its head as if being struck itself. The snake then quickly retreated from the nest. After it was gone the hunter climbed the tree, retrieved the twig and took it to one of the native villages. Being more than curious he asked them about it. He learned from the natives that the twig was from a bush, which is a deadly poison to snakes. The very sight or odor of the bush causes them to flee. The bible is very forthright when introducing the devil.  He is described as a serpent that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He is always on the prey. However, we are not defenseless. In the words of Isaiah, Jesus is our tender plant and the branch that drives the serpent away.  He is the poison that allows us to constantly defy our enemy.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Drawbridge of Grace

Sometimes we get so caught with up with our Christianity that we forget the supreme sacrifice involved in its purchase. I am reminded of a story I read in John Guest’s Commentary on Romans, about a man who operated a giant drawbridge. One day he took his young son with him in order to show him what it was he did every day. He led the young lad down into the cavernous workings of the bridge that they might marvel together over its powerful machinery. While down there the man received a phone call that a train, well ahead of schedule, was speeding toward the bridge. There was just enough time for him to race to the top of the tower and flip the switch to lower it into place. Patiently he instructed his son not to budge from his tight position of safety. The father reached the tower with just enough time to lower the bridge. In that same split second he looked down to find that his son had moved into the jaws of the powerful machinery. He had to decide between the hundreds of lives speeding toward him in the train or the precious life of his only son. In great pain and anguish he flipped the switch. Down came the bridge, grinding the life out of his son. The train rushed by and as it did he could see people sitting there, in the comfort of their dining cars, chatting merrily with one another, totally oblivious to the enormous sacrifice that had just been made for their lives. Beating his fists on the tower window, the man screamed out against the stiff faces streaking past, a people for whom he had made so dear a sacrifice. “Don’t you know that I gave my son for you?” “Don’t you know that you are alive now because he yielded up his life?” “Does anybody care?” John concludes his remarks by saying, "God looks at the indifference of humanity rushing by Him, careless and unconcerned by the enormous cost of their salvation.” We compound His anguish when we fail to remember that He paid the ultimate price for something he offers to humanity free. All of us were runaway trains given the drawbridge of grace that we might have life and that abundantly.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Those Aggravating Gnats

A few days ago my wife came to me complaining that gnats had overtaken her car.  She said, “I have rolled down the windows, but I can’t get rid of them.”  Now when this happens it’s a good indication that they are being drawn in.  I said to her, “You have something in your car that they are after.” Of course this didn’t seem to be an adequate answer since she had already completed what she thought was a thorough search of the vehicle. Yet, I stayed with my premise and made my way out to the garage and opened the passenger door to the gnat infested party.  They were definitely having a marvelous time.  Immediately I could smell a familiar odor.  Reaching my hand underneath the seat I suddenly felt it, the soft remains of a rotten apple.  It had escaped from one of our shopping bags a few days earlier. After its removal suddenly the gnats began to vanish. All of this aggravation came about because something was allowed to lodge and then decay within the inner sanctum of our automobile. Doesn’t this same thing happen to us spiritually?  Don’t we allow things like anger, jealousy, strife and fear to sit within our hearts until rotting transpires? Then everything around us creates irritability and has the semblance of an aggravating gnat. That’s why Jesus instructed us to guard and purify our hearts daily. Failure to do so is to invite those unwanted pests into the inner circle of our lives bringing their own form of misery. However, the good news is that Christ has given us the freedom of forgiveness which allows us to discard the rotten while taking on the righteous; that my friend will keep away those aggravating gnats.         

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Instant Stain Remover

A few days ago I left the house and headed to a restaurant to have lunch with a friend.  Upon arrival we ordered greasy hamburgers with all the trimmings and fries.  While in the process of indulging I suddenly looked down and realized I had dropped food on my brand new necktie. Needless to say it was quite disappointing to see the greasy spot the drippings had left behind. I shared my feelings of distress with the friend and was quickly encouraged by his response.  “Do you have any instant stain remover?” I replied “no” which was my best answer, given the fact that I really didn’t know much about the product.  He said, “I have a tube in the car, we’ll try some when we’re finished eating and it will take that spot right out.” We walked to his car located the “Tide to Go” and made the application. Amazingly the spot disappeared before my eyes.  I thought, “This is incredible.” On Sunday morning I was reminded of this story after our worship leader led us in the song, “What Can Wash Away My Sin.”  I thought my tie was ruined but then came the application of something greater than the power of the stain. The same is the case with our spiritual lives.  We think we are ruined for life when sin enters our lives.  The spots are so dark, shameful, and disfiguring. However, there is a product that can wash away our sin. Although unpopular in today’s culture the blood of Jesus is still needful. It is greater than the spot of our sin and will forever be God’s instant stain remover.       

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Lamb and the Goat

Have you ever heard the expression “That got my goat.” That phrase has an interesting beginning.  Owners of sensitive, high strung horses used to keep a goat in the stalls with the horses.  The very presence of the calm, relaxed goat helped the horses to relax. On the day before an important race, rival owners would sometimes steal another owner’s goat. Thus the horse would not run its best the next day.  How often have we allowed the trials and challenges of life to steal our goat? When we get sensitive and high strung, we falter and fail to run the race of life with patience.   The secret to keeping things in place is given to us by the writer of Hebrews. In chapter 12 we are told that in order to keep our “goat” we must look to the “Lamb.”  Looking to Jesus who is the “author and finisher of our faith” allows us to race consistently.  Jesus was faced with all kinds of opposition yet we find that he endured refusing to act out of character. He would not allow others to put Him in the position of being manipulated. I have found that when anything “gets my goat” it has first gotten my attention.  As long as I keep my focus on the “Lamb,” I don’t have to worry about my “goat.” What about you?   

Monday, June 25, 2012

First Things First

I read the story of a woman bought a parrot in a pet store. She wanted companionship, someone to talk with. The next day she brought the parrot back and said, “He won’t talk.” The store manager asked, “Does he have a mirror in his cage? Parrots love mirrors.” She bought a mirror and left. The next day she came back and said, “The bird is still not talking;” “How about a ladder? Parrots love ladders. When he is happy he will talk.” She bought a ladder and left. The next day she was back complaining that even with the mirror and ladder the bird was not talking. The manager said, “I know what you need, the bird wants a swing. He’ll be happy when he has a swing and he’ll talk. She reluctantly bought a swing and left. Sure enough, the next day she was back. She had a sad face. “The parrot died,” she said. “I’m sorry,” the manager said, “please tell me did he ever say anything before he died?” The woman replied, “Yes, in a weak voice he asked me, ‘Don’t they sell any food at that pet store?” Have you ever been guilty of putting the cart before the horse? I know I have.  Sometimes we are so anxious to see the sub sequential things in life that we forget to take care of the essential. Jesus knowing our human tendency looked at his disciples and gave them a word of instruction. “Men always keep your priorities in order. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” The truth is we cannot accomplish anything in the natural until we have properly taken care of the spiritual. Feeding our lives spiritually is what provides the companionship, communication, and consistency of the Holy Spirit. The Dove will only speak as we keep first things first.   

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Being a Successful Father

In his book, God’s Psychiatry, Charles Allen tells of a mother who carried her little boy to the zoo. He was asking about each of the animals, and when he saw some little ones in a cage, he asked, “What are those?” The mother told him they were little wildcats. He then asked, “Why are they wildcats?” Allen responds, “We know the answer. Their mamas and papas were wildcats.”  Children are most often a reflection of their parents and they live their lives according to the principles they see in them. Because of this it is so vital that fathers be proper role models.  As I reflect over my life, I am thankful God allowed me to have a father who gave me the proper example to follow. Being a dad myself, I realize the challenge this presents. Life is filled with all kinds of difficulties which provide numerous opportunities for one to demonstrate what fatherhood should not be.  My father faced more than his share of these yet remained steady keeping the faith. He showed me that it could be done and encouraged me to do the same. He also provided the means by which one leaves such a legacy. The strength comes by honoring and seeking the heavenly Father.  I like what General Douglas MacArthur once said in reference to this.  “By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact.  But I am prouder to be a father. My hope is that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from battle, but in the home repeating with him one simple prayer, “Our Father which art in heaven.”  This is a memory that should be etched in the minds of all our children. It’s not optional but comes with the responsibility of being a successful father.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Need a Cleansing?

While on vacation at the beach a few days ago my daughter gave me what is called an Herbal Cleanse.  Through reading the instructions, I learned that this is a metabolic cleansing system intended to move food residue through the body more efficiently, optimize digestion, improve the skin tone and provide an enhanced feeling of mental alertness.  As I understand it, if this process is completed every three months, I will feel like a new person. This sounds like something I really need.  Who doesn’t want to feel better, look better and most of all remember more. Where has this stuff been all my life?  And just think it comes in a box, is moderately priced and has simple instructions.  You would think that a person should be completely satisfied with such a marvelous gift.  However, while meditating on one of my morning runs, the thought came to me that I needed something more than an Herbal Cleanse. This covers the physical part of my life but what do I do about the spiritual.  You see, I find myself daily in need of a cleansing of the body, soul, and spirit.  As these thoughts were bombarding my mind, my attention was drawn to the ocean and the thrashing of the waves.  It suddenly dawned upon me the power that lay within the force of the water.  Nothing really stands in its way. It cleans out, pushes aside, and purifies everything it comes in contact with.  No doubt this is the picture being suggested when the Holy Spirit inspired the words found in Acts 3:19.   Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”  Also, in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” These verses suggest that God has a cleansing process and when the proper instructions are followed one can receive a Divine Cleanse by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s great news; now I have the physical and the spiritual covered and all that is necessary is the proper implementation. How about you? Need a cleansing?   

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Level of Importance

I read a joke recently and thought it noteworthy enough to share. “Two Musicians’ in a major symphonic orchestra were discussing who they thought the LEAST talented musician in the band was. One of them said; that’s easy. See that guy standing in the back? Well, we just put two sticks in his hands and we call him a Drummer. The other responded; well, if we take one stick away, we call him a Conductor!” While funny, this joke suggests that we often make the mistake of trying to compare ourselves to others in respect to importance. This is not a new paradigm. The disciples wrestled with it often.  Much of their time was spent discussing position.  However, when we begin to assess the value of others we’re most likely to find that some are not nearly as important as they think they are and others are not as insignificant as they view themselves to be. I think this is the point Paul was trying to make in 1 Corinthians 12.  He spent the bulk of this chapter expressing the importance of our body parts, comparing them to the spiritual body.  His motive was to teach the church that God made all of us with importance.  Granted there are some that have talents and gifts that others do not have, yet the lack thereof does not make a person any less useful to God. Your inadequacy in one area is only the opportunity to succeed in another.  Don’t underestimate yourself and your ability. You were made for achievement and greatness. It does not matter whether you carry one stick, two sticks or none in your hand you are a part of God’s great symphony. So, rise to the occasion and let your voice be known; God demands it and you deserve it.     

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lest we Forget!

At a commuter train station a policeman noticed a woman driver with her head bowed over the steering wheel in obvious discomfort. The police officer asked her, "Is there anything wrong?" Half crying and half laughing, she said, "For ten years I have been driving my husband to this station every morning to catch this train. THIS MORNING I FORGOT HIM!" The worst thing one can do is forget, especially when that forgetfulness concerns an act of kindness conveyed, a sacrifice paid, or a prayer prayed.  That is why we celebrate Memorial Day. Only eternity will tell the full story of those who have given themselves for others. That’s why we cannot be remiss in forgetting people! I read recently that on an average day about 750 people visit the USS Arizona in Hawaii and on Memorial Day weekend that number reaches 4,600. And on an average day some 3,000 people will visit the Vietnam War Memorial and 7,600 on Memorial Day weekend. It’s always good to think about and remember others! We take this opportunity to honor our veterans. People count, and failure to remember is to say that their lives and service were given in vain. While we know this is not true in our heart, we cannot let our actions speak otherwise.  This not only concerns our servicemen, but also our Savior. Daily we should remember the price He paid for our freedom. When no one else was available, he stepped up and stepped down, taking on the form of flesh so that He might become our veteran hero. He charged the cross, defied the tomb and defeated our enemy so that we might live in freedom. So we should set aside daily the time to remember and offer thanks, lest we forget!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Confession: A Good Thing

Have you ever heard the old statement, “Confession is good for the soul?”  While not found in the Bible it does pack a lot of truth. Maybe this is why James 5:16 encourages us to “confess our faults one to another.” Failure to do so can lead to incredible heartache and spiritual desperation. Its importance is summed up in the following story. “London held its breath in June 1987. While working on a building site, a construction foreman thought his workers had hit a cast iron pipe while using a pile driver. After picking up and then dropping the huge object, they realized the pipe looked like a bomb. It was—a 2,200-pound World War II bomb, one of the largest the Germans dropped during the blitz which killed more than 15,000 Londoners. After evacuating the area, a 10-man bomb disposal unit worked 18 hours before deactivating the seven-foot device.” Unconfessed sin, like an unexploded bomb, can rest in the heart of an individual—or in a church. Unless it is deactivated through confession, it can detonate and cause great damage. So how do you disarm this bomb within? The first key is taking responsibility. You must acknowledge your responsibility. Don’t blame your circumstances, your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your boss, your employees, or your pastor. Don’t even blame the devil. Your sin is your responsibility. We can say, “The devil made me do it” however, sin ultimately occurs as an act of your will—and you are responsible for it. Second, you confess the sin. Third, ask for forgiveness then receive it. Fourth, remember to forgive others as well as yourself. When taking these measures you will find that “confession really is good” and it definitely brings healing to the soul.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Honoring Mothers

We are celebrating Mother’s Day today.  It is an event that comes on the calendar once a year. However our appreciation should never be limited to a single day. As we honor this occasion, I cannot help but ask, “Who would be classified as the greatest mother of all time?” Of course my own mother should be considered as a candidate.  She was very careful in providing the proper amount of love, discipline, and care early in my life. And while I love her dearly, she would not receive my vote. My wife and the mother of our two children should not be overlooked either. She was and continues to be the epitome of dedication in the role of being a parent. In spite of my unending appreciation for her she would not be my choice either. Upon that ballot, I would have to write the name Mary, the mother of Jesus. Why would she be considered the greatest?  It would not be because of her lineage. She came from a very poor family and from an obscure village. It would not be because of her great accomplishments.  She did not offer any of the things that normally place people in the arena of greatness. She authored no books, painted no pictures, and recorded no songs.  Yet she was great!  The reason, she exemplified that incredible trait that all of us need and that is the ability to sacrifice oneself totally for God. She exposed herself to rejection, ridicule, and reprimand for the sake of submitting to the will of God. Although she did not understand everything asked of her, she humbly submitted to it.  She teaches us the lesson that greatness is not measured by what we are able to receive but what we are willing to give up. Her response should be one pursued by all, “Let it be unto me according to your word.” That attitude not only allows us to reflect upon and honor the dedication of Mary but also positions us for greatness.   

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Getting Revenge

In Romans 12:19 (NLT), Paul says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.” Have you ever wondered why we are given this admonition?  Could it be that revenge never works. Take for example the Polish dentist that recently decided to get back at her ex-boyfriend. She is facing three years in prison and is being investigated for medical malpractice after she removed all of her ex-boyfriend's teeth during dental surgery just days after their breakup. "I tried to be professional and detach myself from my emotions," Anna Mackowiak, 34, told the Austrian Times. "But when I saw him lying there I just …decided to take all his teeth out." Marek Olszewski, 45, reportedly showed up at Mackowiak's dental office complaining of toothache just days after he broke up with her. She then allegedly gave him a "heavy dose" of anesthetic, locked the door and began removing all of his teeth one at a time. When he woke up he said he felt funny and was told he was okay but needed to see a specialist. Quite a story isn’t it? There are three reasons why we should not take matters into our own hands:  First, it never corrects the problem; second it never provides lasting happiness; last of all the consequences outweigh the benefits.  It is for certain that we will all face circumstances in life that will demand payback.  Although this is a given, the issue in question is, “who will we allow to take action?”  I encourage you to step back and let God work. He knows exactly how and when to get revenge so that it benefits the offended as well as the offender.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Serving: Keeping Open The Well of Life

John Ogilvie in his commentary on Acts tells of a friend who was building a home in the mountains of Vermont in a place where it’s very difficult to get water. “He asked an old Vermonter to come over and divine the source of water on his property with a stick. Sure enough, this old-timer found the appropriate spot. “Just dig fourteen feet straight down here and you’ll find an underground river,” he told my friend. “When you hit the water, pump it out every day.” My friend followed the instructions and found the river. He pumped it out the first day and more water came in. In the next few days, the water rose to four feet, then six feet. At eight feet it seemed stationary, so he left it. Returning some months later when the house was finished, he immediately turned on the water. The first day there seemed to be plenty, but by the next day there was none at all. The well was empty. In spite of his efforts to revive it, my friend ended up having to dig an artesian well at a cost of three thousand dollars. Much later he ran into the old Vermonter in town and told him the disappointing story. “Did you pump it out every day?” was the question. “No,” said my friend. The Vermonter shook his head. “You fool! An underground river is made up of thousands of little capillaries running underground. As you pump the water you enlarge those capillaries and more water comes. Once you stop, the water backs up, the capillaries close and the river is formed somewhere else.” Ogilvie goes on to say, our life in Jesus is like that. As we give our time, our love, our money, the well is always filled. When we begin to believe “What’s mine is mine” somehow our lives dry up and we’ve lost the key to everything.” That’s why serving is so important. Our willingness to give ourselves sacrificially for others allows the flow of God’s grace to continue. As long as we are pouring out, He is pouring in. You and I were saved to serve.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Out of Date

A few days ago I came home from a heavy day at the office excited about relaxing and sitting down to a quiet meal.  Looking into the refrigerator, I thought a garden salad would be the very thing to appease my appetite.  Moments later there it was; lettuce, tomato, asparagus, cheese, and bacon.  All that was left to make this the perfect meal was the dressing.  I reached and grabbed my favorite, the Honey Mustard. Looking at the label I realized it was out of date. For fear of getting food poisoning I tossed it into the garbage and reached back into the ice box pulling out the Ranch. Of course this was not what I wanted but thought it will do. Disappointment came again as the expiration date came into view. Repeating my actions, I reached once more inside and pulled out what was to be my last resort—the Italian. Tell me who likes Italian? That salad lost so much of its appeal because I had to settle for something less than what I wanted.  Often we find ourselves facing this dilemma. Just when you need something the most you find it’s out of date. While this can be said of the natural world, the spiritual is another matter. God’s promises are never out of date. They are always ready for use. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us that His promises are “Yea and amen.”  That means they never expire. Someone told me recently that because of the preservatives, “Twinkies” have a 100 year shelf life. That’s great but it does not supersede the eternal. God has given us His word which carries an eternal guarantee. You can’t find a deal like that anywhere else in the world. Because of this, let me encourage you to revisit those promises you have let slip from your repertoire of faith. Doing so will allow you to tap into an up-to-date reservoir experiencing all you will ever need.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Are You Being Bullied?

I read recently that each day an estimated 160,000 students in the USA refuse to go to school because they dread the physical and verbal aggression of their peers. Many more attend school in a chronic state of anxiety and depression. It’s reported that 6out of 10 American youth witness bullying at least once a day. This has become a serious issue that is being addressed by filmmakers, educators, law enforcement, and government officials. While it is definitely a problem with individuals the same is true of countries. As a matter of fact I just returned from touring one of the most bullied countries in the world—Israel. For years this small piece of real-estate has been picked on and has suffered from the threat of brute force almost weekly. Iran, Iraq and others want her people eliminated. Nothing would please them more if her place on the world map ceased to exist at all. However, what these bullies fail to realize is Israel has a Divine Protector. She has the pledge of eternal security at the hand of God. Also, added to their lack of realization is the fact that they themselves are being bullied and manipulated by a clandestine power—Satan. But of greater significance is the reality that this invisible culprit seeks to dominate you and me. He is always pushing, shoving, and vying for position within us. However, we have a protector also because “Greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world.” Students being bullied can appeal to their parents or principle. But Israel and we Christians can appeal to our God. Are you being bullied? Then turn to the One who is a “very present help in times of trouble.”