Sunday, December 28, 2014

He Doesn’t Return Gifts

Have you ever received a gift you considered invaluable; one so special that it will forever be a part of your life? I was fortunate enough to receive one of those from my granddaughter Kaylin, on Christmas Day. I have included a picture so you can see for yourself; when you see it and read the inscription I think you will agree.

What makes a gift like this so precious? First it’s original. That means it’s an item that cannot be purchased in any store. But most of all its priceless because it is given by someone you know loves you.  I wish all gifts could fit into that category. However, we know that’s just not the case. For this reason people will stand in long lines during the next few days for the purpose of returning a gift they were given during Christmas.  Their reasons will vary: it doesn’t fit, it’s the wrong color, it’s a duplicate of what they already have, or it’s of no use.  In the scope of humanity this can be disappointing at times but it’s really not a big deal.  On the other hand, when we consider the spiritual it’s another matter altogether.  What if God returned that which He unwrapped ? Quite frankly, all of the things we give Him might be considered menial. Yet, He unwraps us in our sinful state smiles and says, “This is a keeper;” a message Christ was trying to convey when He stated, “All that the Father gives me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”  It’s important my granddaughter knows I will never have any desire to return her gift. It’s something I will cherish as long as I live.  More importantly, God wants us to know how much He cherishes us--He doesn’t return gifts!  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

He Came Wrapped

A few days ago Phyllis asked me to get some wrapping paper out of an upstairs storage area. As I was headed for the stairs she said, “Get the paper for kids.”  Once I entered the room and looked in a box there lay several rolls of partially used paper. I dug around until I found the kid friendly one and brought it back downstairs—mission accomplished. We men could care less, but all women know that presents must be wrapped appropriately because presentation is part of the beauty of the gift. That’s why they choose the right print, color and bow or else gifts are not suitable for giving. This makes me think of the wrapping that was chosen for Jesus when He entered earth. When we look into the stable and our eyes get their first glimpse into the life of the Savior, we find that God the Father, and Mary His mother were very meticulous in how the gift was wrapped. Luke  says the little Jewish girl “brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger. There He is in a barn lying in a makeshift crib wrapped in pieces of cloth.  He wasn’t born in a palace although He was the God of the universe.  He wasn’t even born in a nice hotel or in a hospital.  He was born in a barn.  Do you know what a manger is?  A manger is a feed box for cattle where they put wheat and oats and stuff.  It’s not exactly a real clean place to leave an infant, a newly born baby.  Yet that’s where God was born. Jesus could have wrapped himself in a mind-boggling show of power, lighting up the sky with celestial glory. Instead He came in humility, in the likeness of men. Paul describes His birth in this fashion “Christ gave up His place as God and made Himself nothing.  He was born to be a man and became like a servant. He came wrapped in humanity so we could know him, so he could know us, so everyone could know the beauty of the gift.  So as you unwrap your presents this Christmas be sure you spend time getting to know the one who came to earth and is the focus of the season; He was wrapped just for you!  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Keeping U in Emmanuel

My daughter called this past week to tell me about a discussion she had with her twelve year old daughter. She has been working on several Christmas projects for people.  She had a board laying to the side with letters painted on it and Addison asked her, “Mom who is Emma-noel?”  My daughter not understanding asked, “What?” Addison asked again “who is Emma-noel?” Still confused, Stacy answered, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”  Addison then responded, “You have their name written on the board.”  Stacy laughed and said, “That is Emmanuel, the name for Jesus.  Although confused, I have to say in my granddaughter’s defense that the spelling of the word as it appeared on the sign did look more like “noel” instead of “nuel.” When you think about it there are multitudes that go through Christmas, shopping, celebrating, and singing who know very little about the one whose birth led to the creation of the season. However, if one really wants to experience the full thrust of what it’s all about they will need to know Christ and be a part of His life. Normally we hear people say that we need to allow Jesus to be a part of our lives. While this is true the opposite of that statement holds truth also. We need to let ourselves be a part of His life.  This means we continue to engage Him at the manger the cross, the tomb, the throne, but most of all in our daily living; by doing so we keep the “U” in Emmanuel.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Are You a Worrier?

Jesus in Matthew chapter 6, talks a lot about “taking thought” or “worrying” about your life. He ends his teaching with these words: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” What is He saying here? He is not warning us against taking life seriously, having a thought-out life or looking ahead.  All of us should do that. He is really saying don’t allow the stress of tomorrow to rob you of your joy today. None of us were born with worry. It is an acquired trait we learn to do. This means whether you worry or not depends not upon your situation but upon you.  Whenever you are robbed of your peace and joy by worry it is always an inside job. In reality, all of us have the potential to worry. People of all classes do it: the ignorant, the educated, old folks, young folks, the irreligious and the religious. But I have found that there are two occasions in which we should never worry. First we should not worry about those things that we cannot help. We face a lot of situations we simply cannot avoid or control. Second, we should not worry about those things we can help. However you might be like the person that said, “I am going to stop worrying just as soon as I find the ideal situation.” This remedy will not work for three reasons: First, there is no ideal situation. Second, if there was an ideal situation the chances are that we would not get into it. Third, if there was an ideal situation and you and I were so fortunate to get into it, the first thing we would do is mess it up. So how do we deal with worry? You could try what one man suggested. Get a worry time such as Thursday at 5:00 p.m. and put all your worrying off until then. Get a worry room because you don’t want to do it all over the house. Get a worry chair; you certainly want to be comfortable. Finally, get a worry list so when anything comes up you can write it down and say I’ll worry about this on Thursday. The truth of the matter is if you did utilize this silly exercise you would find out that most of the list if not all would already be taken care of by the time your worry day arrived. Studies have proven that 75 to 90 percent of the problems we worry about are not legitimate concerns or never take place. That’s most likely why the humorist, Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of problems in my life, most which never happened.” What was the prescription Jesus suggested we use to replace worry? “Seek the kingdom; focus on the King; realize that He knows all, sees all, and provides all. When we do this our lives will be so full of faith, there will be no room for worry.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Putting God in the Equation

I read where the late Dr. Lee Scarborough was preaching on the story of Jonah and the whale. When he got home his son said to him, “Do you believe that a fish could swallow a man and him stay alive for three days and three nights? What about the lack of oxygen and the hydrochloric acid?”  Scarborough sat his son down and replied: “Son, if God could make a man out of absolutely nothing to begin with, and if God could create the first fishes from nothing, surely He has the power to make a fish swallow a man—and still keep him alive for three days and three nights if He wants to.” The little fellow then said, “Well, if you’re going to bring God into it, that’s different!” Israel thought it was over when approaching the Red Sea and then God got into the arrangements. The same could be said of Daniel, the three Hebrew children, Lazarus and a host of others.  Miraculous things—supernatural things—amazing things happen when we invite God into our situation.  Sceptics and critics working on behalf of the enemy would encourage us to be suspicious and disbelieving when discussing the Creator’s intervention.   But the temptation to disbelieve is the test Satan uses when he knows faith changes things. Whatever challenge you find yourself facing bring God into it; by doing so you will find Him doing the impossible—just like He did when he kept a man alive for three days in the belly of a fish.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Reason to Give Thanks

Several years ago there was a Charlie Brown cartoon about Thanksgiving in the paper. The cartoon pictured Charlie Brown bringing out Snoopy’s dinner on Thanksgiving Day. But it was just his usual dog food in a bowl. Snoopy took one look at the dog food and said, "This isn’t fair. The rest of the world today is eating turkey with all the trimmings and all I get is dog food. Because I’m a dog," he said, "all I get is dog food." He stood there and stared at his dog food for a moment and said, "I guess it could be worse. I could be a turkey." This cartoon reminded me of a survey my 12 year old granddaughter conducted this past week.  One of the questions asked was, “How many good things have happened to you today?” I hate to admit that it took me a moment to give the answer. Why? I think it’s so easy for humans to focus upon the negative when we have so much good God has blessed us with to be thankful for. While there should have been a host of things to be given as an answer, I simply overlooked them.  Here is a list that someone else gave. I am Thankful for the taxes I pay because it means I’m employed; the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat; my shadow who watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine; a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home; the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking; my huge heating bill because it means I am warm; all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech; the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear; the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby; the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive. Although not a complete list, the person gave far more than enough reasons to be thankful. It certainly made me stop and think what about you?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rags to Riches

Ruth Bell Graham in a devotional once told the story of some fisherman in the highlands of Scotland who came into a little Scottish inn late one afternoon for a cup of tea.  As one was describing “the one that got away” to his friends, he flung out his hands in the typical fisherman’s gesture. He did so just as the waitress was setting down his cup of tea. The resulting collision left a huge tea stain spreading on the whitewashed wall. The fisherman apologized profusely. Another gentleman seated nearby said, “Never mind.” Rising, he took a crayon from his pocket and began to sketch around the ugly brown stain. Slowly there emerged the head of a magnificent royal stag with antlers spread. The man was Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, England’s foremost painter of animals. Graham continues, “Now if an artist can do that with an ugly brown stain, what can God do with my sins and mistakes if I but give them to him?” In Isaiah 1:18 we find the answer. "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Here we are told about the divine exchange; God’s ability to turn every ugly mess into a masterpiece. And the truth of the matter is nothing pleases Him more. That’s why we see Him depicted in scripture as the potter, sculptor, painter the priest. I’m sure with every one of us a mere reflection of our past would reveal multitudes of sin splatters and stains that could be held against us.  However, while their existence may remain etched in our memory, they cannot be found in God’s. He long ago with the brush of grace turned our rags into riches. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

He Looked for Me

A few days ago my daughter had a good friend who was also a tenant of her farmhouse killed in an automobile accident. Upon hearing the news she was struck with remorse and after a few minutes asked, “Where is Bill?” Her husband responded by asking “Who is that?” Stacy answered, “Bill is our friend’s Boston Terrier bulldog. He never went anywhere without that dog.” A thorough search of the rental house and crash site left them empty handed; there was no sign of the canine. After this a call was made to the police officers who worked the wreck. They knew nothing of the dog’s whereabouts but called the wrecker company that towed in the vehicle. This prompted the employees to search the car again and amazingly there they found Bill.  The impact of the crash had thrown him into the floor and collapsed the dashboard leaving him pinned under it. What an incredible rescue!  The beloved pet was shaken up but without injury. After telling the story, my daughter made the statement, “What would have happened if no one had taken the time to look for Bill?” Being a pet lover, that was a thought hard to entertain.  Even more disconcerting is the thought, “What would have happened if God had not looked for us?” We would have remained pinned beneath the load of sin without the hope of rescue. However, that was not the case. God the Father asked our whereabouts; the Holy Spirit went on the search to find us, which resulted in Jesus saving us. As one sheep to another, I know you will agree when I say, “Thank God, He looked for me.”    

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Giving Up

Do you find yourself being tempted to give up before you should? I have to confess I do. Saturday was one of those times. With the Tennessee Volunteers down two touchdowns and having only a couple of minutes to go in the game, I said “it’s over, I’m giving up.” However, I thought “I’ve watched the game this far I might as well stay with it to the end regardless of the outcome.”  But no sooner had those thoughts crossed my mind when the unbelievable happened. Our team scored twice and wound up beating South Carolina by a field-goal in overtime.  It would have been a major disappointment had I changed the channel. Others would have told me about the outcome when I could have seen it with my own eyes.  I’m so glad I didn’t give up. When you think about it, how many times do we lose out because we give up prematurely?  This happens in the natural but also in the spiritual realm. Can you imagine what would have happened if those at the Wedding in Cana had given up too soon; and the loss that would have been incurred if the mother at Nain as well as Mary and Martha had given up before Jesus arrived on the scene? Even more so, what about the paralytic that kept coming to the pool for thirty-eight years? The writer of Hebrews knew the devastation with such a move and admonished his readers to hang in there by saying, “Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.” He was simply saying, “Hang in there. Don’t give up by surrendering your confidence in God who has the ability to change your situation.  The score may not be in your favor but stay with the game. Even though it might require over-time the timing is not important, winning is-- so don’t give up!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dealing with Worry

Have you ever participated in an experiment where you were given a phrase like “yellow car” and then were asked to put it out of your mind?  But the harder you tried, the more yellow dominated your thoughts.  This kind of exercise shows that we can never forget something by concentrating on it. Anxious thoughts which come with the cares of life are like that.  How many of us spend sleepless nights trying to solve complex problems and all we accomplish is fixing them more firmly in our minds. Paul knew all about the thought process, and found a way to deal with worry.  He tells us about it in the book of Philippians.  While occupying a jail cell, awaiting trial and the eventual sentence of either life or death he encouraged his readers to be joyful. “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” This sounds like a man who found the key to worry.  He simply gave the instruction to turn them over to the Father. Possibly his discovery came by reflecting upon the admonition given to the disciples by Jesus. “Do not worry about the necessities of life, because your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” From this we learn according to David McCasland that “the way to forget our worries is to concentrate on the goodness and loving care of God, not on the problems that plague us.” David Sper agrees and wrote the following poem:

                        When we give all our cares to God
                        Our worries will depart
                        He gives to us a peace of mind
                        That calms our anxious heart

This prescription will always work. Focusing on worry will bury you but giving the same attention to God will unburden you. Everyday each of us is handed a running list of things that can preoccupy our mind and drive us to the precipice of insanity. However, on those occasions when you decide to jump make sure you leap in the direction of God. By doing so you will have no problem dealing with worry! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Converts Are Watching

Early in Max Lucado’s life he realized he had an alcohol problem so he finally in time gave up drinking altogether. He was asked to write down the reasons why he now abstains. He wrote these words, "First it affects my body.  Second, it lowers my standards. I’ve never heard anyone say, 'a beer makes me feel more Christ-like.' Third, it diminishes my influence.”  He then told the following story. “Several years ago, I was on a trip and I ended up playing golf by myself that day. When the girl came riding around in a cart and asked if I wanted something to drink I thought in my mind what harm could it cause, so I ordered a beer. She said as she handed it to me, 'Hey, aren't you the guy who writes all these Christian books?' Max Lucado said, 'that did it— that made my decision— no more alcohol.'" The noted author was surprised when he realized that someone knew him but more than that, they were watching. However, the truth of the matter is, there is always someone watching.  This is especially true of young converts who have given their lives to Christ.  They eagerly search for someone to show them the way.  Benjamin Jacob, the Baptist layman who helped to transform Sunday school into a worldwide movement, spoke of teaching as leading others by example and stated, Children--converts may or may not study their Bibles as diligently as desired, but they will study the lives of the adults they meet in the church.  Senabaugh, author of The Small Church School contended that religion is caught more than taught. If this be true and it is, we must be intentional in our attempt at making disciples.  We must teach young converts the right things and the right way, but most of all we show them; because whether we realize it or not, they are always watching.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

He Beautifies

Little Johnny watched, fascinated, as his mother smoothed cold cream on her face. 'Why do you do that, mommy?' he asked. 'To make myself beautiful,' said his mother, who then began removing the cream with a tissue. 'What's the matter?' asked Little Johnny. 'Giving up?' This humorous story reminds me of reality.  Beauty is something everyone desires.  Some work hard focusing on the outward. They buy nice clothes, shoes, expensive make-up, and flashy jewelry trying to achieve satisfaction.  Others turn their attention inwardly purchasing self-help books, going to therapists, seminars and engage in various mental exercises in an effort to achieve the ultimate sense of approval. While this search transpires daily in the natural it also applies even more so to the spiritual.  There are those who work incessantly trying to achieve spiritual perfection in an effort to please themselves and God. They engage in bible reading, prayer, works, attend church and conferences trying to crown themselves with approval.  However, Isaiah says “But we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” The prophet of old was saying, “You’re ugly and you will always be ugly as long as you try to beautify yourself.” If that be true what is the believer’s hope? Are we to be left in our deplorable state searching for the unachievable?  No way! The Psalmist gives the answer. “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people, He will beautify the meek with salvation.” In essence the goal everyone wants to reach is that state of pristine righteousness which gives us the look of acceptance. But how does that happen? Paul describes it like this; “For he made him to be sin who knew no sin; that we might become the  righteousness of God in him. Jesus experienced all the ugliness that could ever be passed onto an individual and in exchange gave beauty. As a consequence, if you want to become beautiful naturally, emotionally, and spiritually stop trying to do it on your own and accept what has already been done.  We have all been graced by the one who through his work on the cross beautifies.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014


A few days ago while attending a meeting out of town I experienced something rather heartbreaking. I had gone to visit a friend staying in our hotel and upon returning to my room encountered a husband and wife in the hallway.  The man looked rather confused so I asked, “can I help you?” The wife in a desperate tone replied, “He doesn’t know who I am and where we are. He wants to leave.” His loving companion of many years was trying to get him to understand who she was but with little success. As I watched his actions and heard him talk it was apparent that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. I tried to help by asking questions like, “Do you know where your wife and family are? Why don’t you go into this ladies room and rest until help arrives?”  But, the confusion only continued. Finally, as a last resort medics were called in to assist. Just as they arrived it appeared as if his ability to remember returned.  He moved toward his wife, hugged her and said, “I’m sorry, I love you.”  Although she said very little you could see the feeling of desperation leave her. As I stood and watched in the silence of the moment it was if she was saying, “He’s back! I have my husband back!”  I realized this episode is one experienced by thousands as they see their loved ones make the journey into a strange land of the unknown only to return occasionally to the place of sensibility. While this is such a sad sight in the natural, it is even greater for those who experience it spiritually. Jesus looked into the eyes of the church in Ephesus and said, “Remember from where you have fallen.”  Those spoken to had lost their spiritual equilibrium. They were standing in the hallways of time unable to remember who they were and why they existed. They had momentarily lost sight of the groom who had given the ultimate sacrifice for their hand in marriage.  It’s so easy to become preoccupied with business or with the needs and pressures of life to the point that we lose all sensibility. It’s not one of those things where we wake up one morning and say, “You know I think I’ll forget God today.”  No, we don’t intend to but just like the husband mentioned earlier we feel ourselves disoriented unable to put things together. The spiritual disease of memory loss creeps upon us. While we can do certain mental exercises to help in the natural, the same holds true in the spiritual. Praying, reading, meditating and renewed focus assures us that we will have no problem remembering the one who loves us and gave himself for us.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Just Enough to Get By

"I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough of Him to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack, please. I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please." Wilbur Reese penned these words several years ago to capture the true sentiment of many people. Some think that God is a good thing to include in their life as long as He really doesn't get in the way or require too many changes.  As long as the cost isn't too great, God is given a place but not the place in their life. They want forgiveness--not conversion. However, when you look at the story of Zacchaeus it is evident that he doesn’t fit into this category. He wanted and experienced real conversion. When the invitation came for him to open his house to Jesus, he responded with a bold “yes.” He welcomed the Messiah into his home as well as into his heart holding nothing back. How do we know this encounter resulted in conversion? Luke gives us a glimpse as he unfolds the story. The man short in stature before meeting Christ had a large passion for power, position, and wealth. However, listen to his post-encounter response: “Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And then we read the words of Jesus, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." What strikes me as being unusual here is the fact that this newly forgiven sinner was never asked to do the things he agreed to do. He was never asked to give to the poor or to restore that which was stolen. So what is the point to be made?  Simply stated, when people move beyond forgiveness to conversion they make decisions based on responsibility rather than necessity. We do things because we want to not because we have to. Such actions attest to the fact that converted people are not satisfied with having their soulish slate wiped clean. They are not to be categorized as those who seek only do what is required. Their desire is to move beyond the thrill to the real; to move beyond the needful to the natural. This means as new creatures they are consumed with walking out their faith. In essence they are never satisfied with doing just enough to get by.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Revelation

In Matthew 16, we read about one of the greatest revelations of all time.  Jesus is asking the disciples who people are saying He is. After several answers are given, rambunctious Peter who was good at sticking his foot in his mouth blurted out, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” Rather than being rebuked, Jesus commends the less than perfect disciple and responds by saying, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."  This entire conversation took place at the site of Pan--the premier god of that day. This god represented universalism—involving sexual orgies, the worship of nature, and what we would call today the worship of humanism.  No doubt Jesus had this idol worship in mind in his statement and assured his listeners that as bad as it was it would not overcome the church. We have a hard time identifying with this picture, but if you go to a place like India you understand.  They have more than 330 million gods which includes almost everything.  In the city of Tirupati, they have a temple which is considered the most sacred worship center in all of the country.  More than thirty thousand people visit it daily giving in excess of more than 500 thousand dollars in contributions every day.  People bring their gold and other precious possessions and throw them upon the altar.  The rich, the poor, the elite and the common all come to worship.  Each year the country celebrates a festival where they bring their gods on trucks and throw them into the river.  After they cast them in, the professional divers dive into the water break the plaster off, harvest the metal and take it to the market in order to sell it.  You ask “How can people be so deceived?”  You might say “America could never be so naive.” Yet we are in a society submerged in the worship of self, pleasure, and wealth. So much so it is creating tidal waves of opposition against the worship of the one and only true God. Bibles, prayer, crosses, and other religious rituals and items are being banned from the public arena. However, what the believer must keep in mind is the fact that we have a revelation; this satanic push will not prevail against His church. Regardless of how negative it gets, the Church will triumph and will stand victoriously.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Mission Mandate

One of the last things Jesus said to his disciples before departing earth is given to us in Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” As you read this, a team of ministers including myself will be doing just that in the country of India. This is a nation entrenched in Hinduism and has a strong Muslim constituency. Yet, there are those who are hungry for a spiritual walk that goes beyond what they have been exposed to. It is my prayer that we will not leave them disappointed. Any attempt to change the culture and spiritual mores of a people group meets with resistance. However, we believe God will give us success.  In addition we realize victory does not come without partnership. We will be depending upon the Holy Spirit to give us the power to meet all challenges. Just as importantly, we will be leaning upon the prayers of those who will be interceding for us because we believe prayer works. To all the members of Grace Point, I would like to thank you for being mission minded and for sponsoring me in this endeavor. To those who have privately contributed to the cause, I pray that God will reward you with blessing beyond measure. To those who read this post, I ask you to join us by serving as an Aaron or Hur holding up our arms of ministry as we do battle. As a united force together we will fulfill the Mission Mandate! 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Keys of the Kingdom

Have you ever found some old keys lying around your house and couldn’t remember what they were for?  Myles Monroe states, “Possessing a key you cannot identify or match to a particular lock is as bad as not having a key at all.” He continues, “What good are keys you can’t use?  They are as useless as locks you can’t open.” And when you think about it the problem gets even more complicated when you have keys but are trying to open the wrong lock. A few days ago I took a trip with some friends that required us to use a rental car.  Upon reaching our destination we decided to get lunch. We found a good Mexican restaurant went in and ordered.  I realized I had left something in the car so I went back out to retrieve it. I walked up to the vehicle pressed the unlock button and nothing happened. I pressed it again and got the same response. I said to myself, “This thing isn’t working, maybe the battery is dead.” I grabbed the door handle pushed the button again and suddenly realized the car I was trying to open was not ours. Someone had pulled beside us in a vehicle that was similar in model and was the identical same color. Of course I was embarrassed and prayed that the owner wasn’t watching. Jesus had this to say about “keys” in Matthew 16:19.  “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." However, the problem with many believers today is, we have a big bunch of “spiritual keys” but most don’t know how to use them.  We have the keys, but we don’t know which key unlocks which lock or we are trying to open the wrong lock.  God’s desire is that we understand the concept of the Kingdom and learn how to use the keys of that Kingdom.  There are so many issues pertaining to our families, our health, our finances and our freedom that need to be bound or loosed. We can only do so as we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in helping us find the right “key.”  For it is the Father’s desire to give us the “keys” of the Kingdom. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

An Eye for an Eye

Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists, of the Hell’s Angels type, decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his French fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it. How would you respond? Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the register and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night. When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, "Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?" She replied, "I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot." This comes real close to the issue Jesus was addressing in Matthew chapter five. His listeners had been taught to take their truck and demolish the property of anyone who offended them.  However, they were charged to behave differently.  Instead of taking an “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth” they were told not to resist the evil done to them, but to turn the other cheek when being smitten. Further, they were to “Love their enemies and to bless those who curse them.”  These were and are tough orders to follow.  Everything about our humanity cries out for revenge. Yet, Jesus said we were to operate in love. These were not mere philosophical words spewing from the Master’s lips.  As those listening would find out later, they were principles He chose to live by. Only love could allow a man beaten beyond recognition to look upon his perpetrators and cry out, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” We should ask God for the same depth of love. With the strength of that virtue, we will find ourselves easily fulfilling our obligation by not taking “An eye for an eye.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Down but Not Out

A tourist was visiting a famous landmark on the ocean and he’d walked out on a pier to see the ocean better. But as he looked over the edge of the pier he was disturbed by how deep the water seemed to be. As he was thinking about water’s depth, he noticed an old man fishing off the pier, and he went over to him and asked: "If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?" The old man smiled and said "Nah. Falling into the water isn't what drowns people. It's staying UNDER the water that drowns them.”  This appears to be the sentiment of Paul as he writes his letter to the Corinthian church. “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT). The apostle alerts his readers to the fact that they will find themselves at times being succumbed by deep waters but the answer to survival is the refusal to stay under. Knowing this, the question begging for an answer is “How do we resurface and stay on top?” Paul continues in his writing by stating, “For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh… knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up…”  We survive by taking on the breath of the Spirit and allowing Him to be our spiritual Lifeguard. In every stage of Jesus’ ministry He yielded to the Spirit’s infusion of power. Because of this, no wave of opposition could hold Him; no current overtake Him; no depth destroy Him. He breathed deep into his lungs the life of the Spirit. Thus His struggle turned into strength because the force within was greater than that without. No wonder Jesus breathed upon the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He was preparing them as well as us for the deep waters. With Him we may go down but we are never out!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Detecting the Right Voice

One of the fondest memories I have of my childhood is the time I spent with my grandfather.  During the summer months my parents would often take me to his house to stay while they attended our annual church conference.  The days were long and boring until granddad came home from work. Then we would go out on the farm and work in the fields gardening, spraying for weeds, or attending to the cattle. The most interesting part of my visit came in watching the relationship papaw had with his cows.  More often than I can remember, he would walk out into the field and start to yell, “sooh cow, sooh cow.” Upon hearing this cry the cows would start to make their way into the barn. They recognized the sound of my grandfather’s voice and responded to it without delay. At times he would make his plea and they would follow him as he led them to their destination. Even his old honorary bull that would fight, tear down fences and wander into the neighbor’s pasture listened to that call.  Grandpaw would go find his prized beast and walk him back home without ever putting a halter on him.  The bull responded to his voice.  As I reflect upon these scenes from the past I am reminded of the words spoken by Jesus. “My sheep hear my voice and a stranger they will not follow.”  Although sheep are not harnessed, they follow the shepherd without reservation.  They have learned that following the Master is the wisest thing humans can do. When we take the time to listen, we find that God always has our best interest at heart.  All he asks is that we follow him.  Having travelled the road before, He knows every pocket of resistance, every green field for grazing, and every source of water.  He is the great Shepherd of his sheep, and constantly speaks for us as well as to us.  With all the interference we see these days, we must listen to God knowing that it is important that we detect the right voice.      

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Happens in Old Age

Getting old is no fun, but I tell people all the time it’s better than the alternative. One of the reasons why so many dislike the senior years could be explained by the following story.  An elderly woman called 911 on her cell phone to report that her car had been broken in to. She is hysterical as she explains her situation to the dispatcher: "They've stolen the stereo, the steering wheel, the brake pedal and even the accelerator!" she cried. The dispatcher said, "Stay calm. An officer is on the way." A few minutes later, the officer radios in. "Disregard." He says. "She got in the back-seat by mistake." It’s no secret that old age brings with it all kinds of issues; memories fade, our eyes dim, joints get stiff and muscles lose their strength. And these are just some of the things we’re not embarrassed to mention; the rest I’ll leave to your imagination. While all of us enter into the olden years, I’ve learned this season of life can also be the golden years. A mere reading of the Scripture verifies this fact, especially when we look into the lives of people like: Abraham, Sarah, Caleb, and Samuel. When you look at their legacy, most of the significant things accomplished were during the older years of life.  Often people enter this season of life allowing themselves to become bitter, broken, or unproductive.  However, this is not God’s plan for us.  Why do I say that? Remember who it was that called those previously mentioned. It was the Creator Himself. He chose old people to do great things. That being said, the seasoning of life presents to us great opportunities. We find ourselves older but also more experienced; having less time in which to do the task, but more time to actually do it. The quality of our future depends on the choices we make. We can dry up or dress up, procrastinate or produce, rust out or rev up. Maybe it’s time we climbed out of the back seat got back under the steering wheel and drove into the future of great possibility. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Clothed From Above

Last fall one of my members gave Phyllis and me a variety of lilies. They were in small pots and each had a name attached.  While elated by the gift, I had no idea the beauty contained within each plant because at that point I only had a name. Over the next couple of days with shovel in hand I meticulously planted each one. This involved digging the right size hole, fertilizing the plants, and covering them with ample amounts of mulch.  After that I waited with great anticipation for growth to come.  We experienced a colder than usual winter and I wondered if the flowers would survive.  However, when spring arrived to my surprise the buds began to shoot forth. With each passing day I watched them grow and mature into magnificent beautiful flowers. Some were yellow, orange, and purple; others were multicolored. But each one displayed its own artistic grandeur. As I toured the yard giving each lily my undivided attention, the words of Jesus spoken in Matthew 6:28-29 rang in my ears. "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” It is in this parable that those specializing in horticulture as well as the casual observer such as myself realize such clothing is not to be found at Lowe's, Home Depot, or the best Landscaping nurseries in the land.  The beauty which drapes each lily comes only from above. And if God did this for a flower, how much more will He provide for you and me. No lily is ever forgotten or embarrassed by the thought of not having the proper attire. Rather each one daily models the elaborate design given by the Father.  We have likewise been designed so that the divine designer can lavish our lives with the best of care.  If we truly believe this our worries will be minimal, because we will always be reminded of the fact that we are clothed from above.   

Sunday, July 27, 2014


This past Saturday we held our 10th annual Kidfest.  It was a glorious day made possible by our church as well as three others in the Bristol area.  The children attending enjoy activities such as: face-painting, giant blow-ups, Bible stories, snow cones, and food galore. Each child is given a backpack and at the conclusion of the day we take the names of those registered put them in a bag and draw for some pretty incredible prizes. It’s so much fun watching the faces of those who win. The good thing is children win prizes; the bad thing is not all win.  It depends on the luck of the draw. This year after all the names had been called one mother and little boy came to the platform. They motioned for my attention. When I walked over to speak to them the little boy said, “I didn’t win anything.” His mother chimed in making a remark that touched my heart. She said, “He never wins.” I looked at him reached into my pocket and pulled out a $5.00 dollar bill. As I handed it to him I said, “Here take this, now you are a winner.” He smiled and walked away. Would it not be wonderful if winning was that easy? If that were the case the world would be much happier. However, such a state of grandeur cannot be acquired by having your name called out in a random drawing or someone placing money in your hand.  Being a winner is not achieved by what one holds in his hand, but rather what he or she holds in their heart.  That’s why the writer of Proverbs stated “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” There are millionaires who live on the poverty level and paupers who live as kings. It all has to do with our thought process. You can be a winner but if you think like a loser you will be one. The reverse is true also. You can be a loser but if winning has captivated your mind, you will be a winner. Which brings me back to the little boy mentioned earlier, he thought he was a loser because his name did not resonate over the amplification system. His mother seemed to ditto the opinion. During the developmental years before him, it is my prayer that he comes to know the difference between his hand and his heart. If so he will always see himself to be a winner.   

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Caught By The Deceptive Current

In the early part of the century, a ship was wrecked off the Scilly Isles near the coast of England.  The sea had been calm and the weather clear, but the vessel was caught in a treacherous current that slowly lured it off its course.  Before the captain and the crew realized what had happened, the ship had crashed on the rocks.  In the Christian life we witness the same destruction. Powerful currents of compromise can catch the soul and carry it to shipwreck. When people spiritually drift it is often a slow and imperceptible process. Their priorities get misplaced and they find themselves in the grip of complacency. Often we know it has occurred when they have lost the strong resistance to evil and the passionate desire for truth that they once knew.  Paul knowing this was a possibility, warned Timothy and those to whom he ministered.  He encouraged them to be faithful alerting his readers to the fact that some had already “strayed from the faith.” Hadden W. Robinson in “Our Daily Bread” states “for every professing believer who succumbs to a sudden and savage assault of evil, a hundred more slowly drift away from God’s truth, regular worship, and a life of faith.” We must pay close attention, lest the deceptive current of the world pulls and leaves us shipwrecked.  How can we avoid wreckage? Be cautious in all things. Avoid letting your conscience be your guide rather let the Holy Spirit direct you. Finally, always look to the Bible. If we give heed to the scripture we will be warned against the forces that work against us.  As one writer stated, “The compass of God’s word will keep you from spiritual shipwreck.” Added to that is the voice of the Spirit; He is the Captain who is never caught off guard, who will always give us the ability to pull away, to regain our composure, while directing us to safe waters. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Keeping in Tune

The writer of Proverbs wrote, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” This verse reminds me of an experience I had with my grandfather several years ago before he died.  He and I were having a conversation when he happened to mention his old blue Ford pick-up truck needed a tune-up.  Being a benevolent grandson, and hoping to save Papaw money I volunteered to do the job.  Experience was not an issue since I had spent my high school years working at a service station. He was appreciative that I was willing to do the job so we set the date to get it done.  We purchased all of the necessary parts and I showed up at his house the day the work was to be completed.  At that time I was working at American Enka Corporation and happened to be on the evening shift which meant my time was limited. With tools in hand, I raised the hood pulled out the old plugs and replaced them; next came the distributor. The cap was removed along with the old points and the new ones attached. Meticulously I set the cap back in place and tightened the screws. The final part of the task was to start the motor and listen to it pur. However, disappointment came when the engine would not crank. Surprised, I retraced my steps checking every part that had been replaced which revealed nothing. Needless to say I worked feverishly to try and get the truck started but had no success. Finally, I had to leave for work telling Papaw that I had no idea what the problem was. He later called a mechanic friend who towed the vehicle to his shop and eventually got the engine running.  The problem—I had twisted the distributor cap when reattaching it. What was intended to be a money saving project eventually cost more in the long run. How often do we allow people to mess with our hearts who claim to be experienced when in reality they are novices? God knew the problem with this tendency so He warned us to “keep our hearts” with tedious care. Surrendering your heart to anyone or anything outside of God will cost you tremendously. It will create discouragement, pain, and eventual perplexity. He is the only one that can tune us up and keep our spiritual lives running smoothly. So save yourself the trouble, and forget about the expense; call on the Chief Technician. In doing so you will demonstrate what it means to “guard your heart.”         

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"The Pledge of Allegiance"

I was emailed the following story a few days ago given by Senator John McCain during a speech. I felt compelled to share it with you since it addresses "The Pledge of Allegiance."  My prayer is that it will inspire you as it did me. “As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement two or three to a cell. In 1971 the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room. This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POW's 10,000 miles from home. One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian. Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama. He didn't wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old. At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School. Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967. Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country and our military provide for people who want to work and want to succeed. As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves, and other items of clothing. Mike got himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it on the inside of his shirt. Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike's shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed the most important and meaningful event. One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike's shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it. That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours. Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could. The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room. As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag. He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to Pledge our allegiance to our flag and country. So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom around the world. You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country. "I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

God’s Master-Plan

Craig Brian Larson, in his book “750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers” states, “In 1937 Walt Disney released the first full-length animated movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Producing an animated movie was a gargantuan task. Disney artists drew over one million pictures. Each picture flashed onto the screen for a mere one-twenty-fourth of a second. As we watch the movie run at regular speed, it seems so simple. We have no idea all that goes into it. Our lives are like that movie. God puts infinite thought, skill, and careful attention into every detail. Yet as our lives run at “regular speed,” we have no idea how much God’s providence fills every single second.” How true this is! So often we feel as if God is totally disengaged in the developments that surround our lives. Yet, the Psalmist reminds us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” When you consider those words grammatically you find that they imply meticulous care.  Nothing goes into the fabric of our being without superimposed inspection. However, there are seasons when we feel as if God has forgotten to put on his eyeglasses having no clue what is coming against us.  But, reality proves just the opposite; every part and partial of our assembly is being monitored under the microscope of His loving, tender care. Human observation would leave us to believe that some parts of our DNA would have been better left out. God believed otherwise and chose not to assemble us with just a plan but a master-plan. That being said we must be careful to view our lives as He does. When the projector starts and the film is rolling we’re not just watching a low-budget, under-rated movie. Rather we are seeing God’s Academy Award winner. Although, we are common actors and actresses, our lives display the Creator’s best because He always works with a master-plan.       

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Making Impressions

When you think about it making an impression is such an easy thing to do—you place your hand around a glass, touch wet paint, say the wrong thing, or dress the wrong way.  Immediately your actions make an imprint. I witnessed this truth in rare form last week.  It came during one of our annual Camp Meeting services in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The worship leader for the service was Eddie James. If you are familiar with this artist you know he is greatly anointed and animated when singing. While he was in the middle of leading us to the throne room in praise, I happened to notice a young African American child in front of me.  He looked to be about two years old.  In hand was a pen which served as his microphone.  He was rocking and having the time of his life. It was evident Eddie had made an impression and this young man was imitating his every move. Needless to say I was impressed that he was so impressed. The sight brought to reality once again the fact that impressions are easily made. That being said I think there are three things that must be considered. First, they can be good or bad. Secondly, we can make them and be totally unaware that we are doing so; Eddie had no clue this young boy was watching his every move. Third, impressions are left upon everyone but especially children. Their immature wills are fickle with little ability to discern right from wrong.  A serious reflection upon these thoughts should lead us to consider our ways, making sure we are living lives that merit imitation. Because whether we like to admit it or not people of all ages are watching, which means you and I are making impressions!  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

It’s a Privilege

This week we celebrated Father's Day. What a privilege God has given to humanity; we can have a Father as well as be one. However, with the blessing comes great responsibility--a task that some take lightly. First of all men are to be priests and leaders. This means that we do not expect others to fulfill our role authoritatively.  Bill Cosby in one of his jovial comments once remarked "I'm not the boss of my house. I don't know how I lost it, I don't know when I lost it, I don't really think I ever had it. But I've seen the boss's job ... and I don't want it!" While jokingly stated, this response defines the attitude of so many dads. Voddie T. Baucham Jr. commented "It has been said that as goes the family, so goes the world. It can also be said that as goes the father, so goes the family." This is especially true as it relates to leadership; when father's fail in this area the family finds itself struggling for meaning and direction in life. Thus, someone or something else steps in, fills the vacancy and normally without positive results. Secondly, fathers are to be role models. Clarence Budington in speaking about his own father stated, "He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." Children are always in the observation mode; meaning they do not have to be coached to follow the path we trod it's an automatic response. That's why it's so important to allow God to order our steps, then the steps of our children will follow suit. Thirdly, fathers are to be providers financially but even more so emotionally. What does emotional support look like? Jim Valvano explains it with his statement, "My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: he believed in me." Sigmund Freud gave input by suggesting "I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection." Harmon Killebrew insinuated it meant playtime. "My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You’re tearing up the grass." "We’re not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We’re raising boys." Others would describe emotional support as being a hug, a kiss, a kind word, or a supportive smile. All of these are important to the mental DNA of our children. While working at fatherhood just remember it does not require perfection just performance. Reed Markham may have said it best. "Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow." So dads get out there and do it again--fatherhood is not a problem but a privilege.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Boss

The boss was concerned that his employees weren’t giving him enough respect, so he tried and old fashioned method of persuasion: He brought in a sign that said “I’m the Boss” and taped it to his door. After lunch, he noticed someone had taped another note under his. “Your wife called. She wants her sign back!”  While this is a comical story it speaks of the plight of our modern day society.  When you look at politics it can leave you asking, “Who really is in charge? Is it the president, the congress, the senate, or the American people?”  The same can be said when observing the family. Often we see a great discrepancy as it relates to control. Children act as if they are the parent and vice versa. Sometimes we witness the same scenario in the religious spectrum. Is the pastor, elder board, or the parishioner in control? However, when we take a closer look at the world and the kingdom, the same does not hold true.  God is clearly declared “The Boss.” He defines Himself through the penmanship of Isaiah in these terms: “I am the first, and I am the last and beside me there is no God. I am the Lord and there is none else, there is no God beside me. Peter described God as the Chief Shepard. John in the book of Revelation described Him as the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.” For centuries man has tested God’s control only to realize it was a big mistake. Pharaoh, Herod, Nero, and Hitler flexed their muscles only to find out that God is boss. The Philistines, Amalekites, Syrians as well as other nations commissioned their forces and found out God is boss. I must admit there are times when it appears the world is out of control and the Devil has taken charge of every facet of its operation. However, a thorough reading of Scripture reveals the opposite.  When Isaiah was in question, he writes, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” When John was unsure he was caught up in the spirit taken to heaven and reveals what he saw. “I looked and behold there was a throne set in heaven and one sat on the throne.” The one positioned on the throne was clearly in charge of everything transpiring on earth. Nothing happening was beyond God’s control.  That being said, when it feels as if your life and the lives of those around you is out of control be assured that nothing could be farther from the truth. Be at peace; God has never surrendered or vacated His throne. He remains in charge which means He is the ultimate boss!   

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Getting Our Attention

A few years ago, a young successful executive named Josh was traveling down a Chicago neighborhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12-cylinder Jaguar which was only 2 months old. He was watching carefully for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed the spot no child darted out, but a brick flew out and - WHUMP! – It smashed into the Jag’s shiny side door. SCREECH! He slammed on his brakes and his gears ground into reverse, tires spinning the Jaguar back to the place where the brick had been thrown. He jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid and pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted, “Who are you? And what the heck are you doing?” Building up a head of steam, he went on. “That’s my new Jag, and the brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?” “Please, mister, please…I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do! I threw the brick because no one would stop.” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother, mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy pled, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.’ Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair, took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything else was okay. He then walked with them to make sure that the younger brother was able to get them back home all right. It was a long walk back to the sleek, black, shining 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE – a long and slow walk. Josh never did fix that side door. He kept the dent to remind himself not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick to gain his attention.  There are times when God has to do the same. Bricks in the form of trials, tribulations, sicknesses and temptations come from the dark to stop us in our tracks. However, when this happens we realize the dents and scrapes in life only serve to make us better people. It is through these experiences that we begin to see, hear, and understand what God really wants to do through our lives. So let me end by asking, “Is God having a hard time getting your attention?”    

Sunday, May 25, 2014

He Remembered

I heard the story recently about a guy named John who had a serious memory problem. One day he ran into a friend he had not seen in a long time. He greeted him and said, “Bill, do you remember what a bad memory I had?” Bill answered, “Yes, I certainly do.” “Well, it’s not bad any more. I went to a seminar that taught us how to remember things. It was great, and now I have a wonderful memory.” Bill answered, “That’s great! What was the name of the seminar?” “Well,” John said, “wait a minute, my wife went with me. I’ll ask her.” He turned and saw his wife nearby. Then he turned back to Bill and said, “What’s the name of that flower with a long stem, thorns and a red bloom?” “Do you mean a rose?” Bill answered. “Yeah, thanks,” John said. “Hey, Rose, what’s the name of that seminar we attended?” All of us have problems remembering on occasions.  We forget people’s names, phone numbers, and special events just to name a few. However there are some things we cannot forget. Memorial Day is one of those. This is a time when we should focus upon the men and women who died fighting to maintain our nation’s freedom.  But it’s also a day when we should reflect upon those who lost their lives fighting for our faith. They refused to abandon their convictions. Hebrews chapter eleven mentions multitudes that fall into this category. They would not surrender to denial and because of that they were tortured, crucified, beheaded, and beaten to death. However, the ultimate person to remember is the one who fought for our future. When we were full of sin and without hope, Jesus died that we might become the righteousness of God. That’s one of the most important reasons we participate in Holy Communion.  Jesus said “take the bread and drink the cup and as often as you do, you are doing it in remembrance of me.”  But as hard as it is to admit, sometimes we forget. It’s not that we block him out of our memory altogether, we just don’t keep him as a priority in our lives.  This causes me to ask, “Can we forget the one who did not forget us?” A serious reading of the scripture reveals that Jesus as the supreme sacrifice remembered us in everything.  He knew we needed forgiveness--He remembered.  He knew we needed peace—He remembered. He knew we needed comfort—He remembered. He knew we were human—He remembered. He knew we needed healing—He remembered. He knew we needed hope—He remembered. He knew we needed encouragement—He remembered. He knew we needed provision—He remembered. He knew we needed deliverance—He remembered. He knew we needed power—He remembered. He knew we needed a home—He remembered. Yes, He remembered us in all things. That being said let us be sure to take the time, especially during this Memorial week to remember Him.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Recognizing God

A few days ago I pulled into Kroger’s gas station to fill up the church van.  A gentleman across from me was doing the same. I spoke and he responded by asking, “What church are you with?” I replied “Gracepoint.” “Where is it located” was his next question. As I began to explain he interrupted and said, “Oh yes, I watch your pastor on TV regularly. He preaches on Monday or Wednesday right?” I said, “Yes it’s Monday.” He never recognized who I was and I did not tell him.  My curiosity tempted me to ask, “Does he do a good job?”  However I refrained thinking he might answer negatively.  Why did he not know who I was? Had I been dressed incognito I would have understood, but that was not the case.  Strangely enough two of Jesus’ followers experienced the same.  They were on their way to Emmaus when the Lord drew near to them. Although they had been in his company on multiple occasions and had heard him speak, on this day he was unrecognizable. Luke says “their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.”  We are not given the reasons as to why this happened, but let me suggest a few.  Possibly the problem was lack of focus. They just failed to look closely refusing to entertain the idea that it just might be him. Maybe they were too preoccupied with their loss and were overwhelmed with grief. Or one cannot rule out the suggestion given by the author that Jesus just wasn’t ready to reveal himself as yet. He had them on hold. Regardless of the reason, they did not have the capacity at that moment to entertain him.  This holds true for us. There are those occasions when God stands in our very presence but we fail to recognize him. How wonderful it is when He lifts the veil allowing us to see and hear Him as He is. When this happens our hearts will feel the same burning as Cleopas and his unnamed friend mentioned earlier.  The encounter may come on your job, at the grocery store, or while taking a walk through the woods. The important thing is not the place but the person. It is about our being successful at recognizing God!        

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Importance of Mothers

A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud. The door of his wife’s car was open, as was the front door to the house and there was no sign of the dog. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was covered with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide and dog food was spilled on the floor. He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened. He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap and more toys strewn over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls. As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, “What happened here today?” She again smiled and answered, “You know every evening when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?” “Yes,” was his incredulous reply! She answered, “Well, today I didn’t do it.” An article in Forbes some months ago asked the question, "Think you can put a price on motherhood?" Then they presented a study on how many hours moms work and what the family would have to pay for outsourcing that duty. The 2012 survey determined the following: The average stay-at-home mom should make an annual salary of $112,962 based on a 40-hour per week base pay plus 54.7 hours a week of overtime; the average working mom should make an annual salary $66,969 based on 40-hours of mothering duties and 17.9 overtime hours per week. The question is “how much does yours make?” Very few of us would have the resources to pay those kinds of wages. However, I have found out that mothers really don’t require it. All they want is a little gratitude, a generous hug, and a sincere “I love you!” Because if we care to admit it all of us could agree with the words of Abraham Lincoln who wrote: “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."  If you praise her appropriately she will know she is stupendous, priceless, and matchless. She’s really important!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Demonstrating Love

Has the Lord ever asked you to do something difficult? Watchman Nee in one of his teachings told a story about a Chinese Xian man who owned a rice paddy next to his. The Xian man irrigated his fields by pumping water out of a canal. Every day, after the Xian had pumped enough water to fill his paddy, the Communist man would come out, remove the boards that kept the water in his neighbor’s paddy, and allow the water to drain into his paddy so he wouldn’t have to pump the water. This continued for some time, until the Xian was just fed up with it. He prayed, “Lord, if this keeps up I’m going to lose all my rice, maybe even my field. What can I do?” The Lord responded by putting a thought in his mind. The next morning the Xian man got up early and started pumping water into his neighbor’s field first. Then he replaced the boards and pumped water into his own rice paddy. This resulted in both rice paddies becoming productive and the Communist man was moved by his neighbor’s loving action. The two men became friends and eventually the Communist man became a follower of Jesus. It comes as no surprise that God often asks us to do things we consider strange in order to develop character in us and to impact the lives of others. Such a request might involve praying for an enemy, mowing the lawn of a hateful neighbor; volunteering to fill in for the mean-spirited co-worker who drives you nuts; or being helpful and kind to an ex-spouse or estranged family member. It’s amazing but when God’s will involves development He often chooses a teacher that is diametrically opposite of us.  He may place you beside a co-worker considered to be the most distrusting person in the department, or a cantankerous neighbor. Your quiet neighborhood may become the next project in the city’s reconstruct the street initiative. Or even worse, the building you work in may be invaded by those nasty jack-hammers creating noise that goes right to the bone. Whatever the circumstance, once the project is completed you are a much better person because of it. In any event, no assignment is without its challenges but greater still its opportunities. God gives us the right situation in which to demonstrate His love.   

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Our Cancelled Debt

Several years ago while pastoring in middle Tennessee a guest walked into our services for the very first time. From appearance, Evelyn looked as if she lived meagerly and was far from being a lady of financial means; however, looks can be very deceiving. I found out she was a rather savvy business person whose investments had resulted in her amassing several thousand dollars. Immediately she began to bless the church as well as her pastor. With this new member’s assistance several renovation projects were completed and she made it possible for my wife and me to take our very first tour of Israel. In addition, throughout the years I was the recipient of multiple financial gifts. However, time and age has a way of affecting the mind. Evelyn’s capacity to remember began to slip. Her spirit of generosity had not waned but her memory had. This became apparent when she began to give me checks that had previously been endorsed, cashed and returned to her from the bank.  She could not grasp the fact that even though my name appeared on the check along with her signature, once it had been drawn upon the paper was no longer valid. The first time she recirculated one I remember thinking, “Unnoticed, this could be quite embarrassing and possibly incriminating if given to a teller at the bank.”  I could not draw upon something that had been cancelled. While innocence was at play in my experience, the same cannot be said of the Devil. How often he produces notes that have been paid in full. That’s the reason why the last three words Jesus bellowed from the cross was “It is finished.” The terminology used here had to do with a merchant cancelling a debt or a prisoner being pardoned. In essence the declaration was a guarantee that once our sins are forgiven the enemy has no right to try and recirculate the check.  He cannot and we should not. Jesus has given us his endorsement. Our debt has been cancelled!     

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Ultimate Sacrifice

A Christian businessman was traveling in Korea. In a field by the side of the road was a young man pulling a rude plow while an old man held the handles. The businessman was amused and took a snapshot of the scene. "I suppose these people are very poor,” he said to the missionary who was interpreter and guide to the party. "Yes,” was the quiet reply, “those two men happen to be Christians. When their church was being built, they were eager to give something toward it, but they had no money. So they decided to sell their one and only ox and give the proceeds to the church. This spring they are pulling the plow themselves.” The businessman was silent for some moments. Then he said, “That must have been a real sacrifice.”  “They did not call it that," said the missionary. “They thought themselves fortunate that they had an ox to sell!” When that businessman reached home, he took the picture to his pastor and told him all about it. Then he added, “I want to double my giving to the church and do some plow work. Up until now I have never given God anything that involved real sacrifice.” While this story shows a deep level of sacrifice, it falls short in describing the ultimate. We see that in the life of Jesus. He chose to leave the celestial surroundings of heaven to come to earth amidst tainted and sinful man. He chose flesh and blood rather than the ethereal, hard labor in the carpenter shop as opposed to the luxury of a palace and ministry rather than the monarchy. He was lied upon, spit upon, and beaten beyond recognition, but chose nails, a cross, and a borrowed tomb when He could have been rescued by legions of angels. Denying oneself never comes without a price, neither does it come without a reward.  Jesus chose sacrifice, but God chose resurrection. Being  raised from the dead, this giver found himself being given the ultimate crown: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”  Paul explained the gift in his own words. “God has given him a name that is above every name and at the mention of that name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”  Submission involves no fear when we realize that resurrection is God’s answer to the question of ultimate sacrifice.       

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Power of Suggestion

Several years ago, there was a beautiful hotel that was built in Galveston, Texas, which jutted out over the water in the bay. It had these large plate glass windows that allowed you to look out over the Gulf of Mexico. And the balconies on each room made an ideal fishing pier! It seems that right after this hotel opened, there was a fisherman who took his rod and reel and tried to cast out into the water. Somehow, though, he managed in his clumsiness to knock out some windows below him. The hotel very quickly put up signs in every room that read: "No fishing from balconies." Guess what happened? People had never given much thought to fishing from their balconies, but they suddenly thought that was a great idea! So everyone decided to try it! Even people who could care less about fishing joined in. And they kept knocking out windows. Finally, one bright administrator came up with the unlikely remedy, removing the "no fishing" signs. Guess what happened? People quit fishing and there were no more broken windows! Suggestion is a powerful thing. Somehow it places in the mind of the reader or listener the temptation to act foolishly. We fight it when we come to a “wet paint” or a “stay off the grass” sign. But even more so we fight it in the spiritual realm.  Eve fell prey to the suggestion of eating, Abraham to lying, and Achan to that of stealing.  Paul even wrestled this beast of the brain. He explains it to us in Romans. “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  Here is a man who admits falling into the power of suggestion. Although, we read of those who contended with this culprit in the past it does not exclude us from wrestling with it in the present.  Daily we find ourselves battling with the power of suggestion. Paul well versed and loaded with experience gave us the means which allows for ongoing victory. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We cannot keep this force from approaching our mind but we can keep it from penetrating and overtaking our will. Foreign thoughts will always be lurking in the shadows seeking to control our actions. However, God has given us the ability to label them as spiritual opposition. But most of all He has given us the power to cast them down and to be successful when faced with the power of suggestion.