Friday, December 27, 2013

All Things New

Here are some comforting words for the New Year:  “He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"  Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true" (Revelation 21:5).   When someone says, “write this down” or “mark my word”, they seem fairly confident.  These words of the Lord can be trusted because they are true.  If you are like me, there are some things from 2013 you not only want to see made better but also made new.  Will 2014 be perfect?  I can’t promise 2014 will be better and seemingly new for you.  I do pray it is full of love, joy, peace and (if need be) a fresh start.  But you will probably encounter heartache, disappointment, and suffering in some form. 

I do believe the Lord can help you in and through any situation, relationship, or disappointment.  Jesus said we will have trouble in this world but He has overcome this world (John 16:33).  He didn’t abandon us when He ascended back to Heaven only to suffer indefinitely till eternity.  He gave us the promised Person of the Holy Spirit:  our Comforter, Counselor, Friend, and Advocate (i.e. John 14:26; John 16:7).  The Holy Spirit, Who indwells only the saved soul and never the unsaved soul, is your source of daily instruction, hope, direction, and conviction of sin.  God is always with the Christian through the Holy Spirit and will never leave or forsake us (Hebrew 13:5) on this earth.  But this earth and its situations will never be perfect.  However, in Eternity (the context of Revelation 21:5) everything will be made new.   So what is He making new?

Remember the Lord is saying all this seated on His throne of the Universe.  No matter what form of evil we may encounter in this present age He wants us to be sure of the age to come where He will make all things new because He is King of all.  One thing God will make new in eternity is our bodies as we will not be disembodied spirits in Heaven.  Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."  This earthly body dies and we are promised a new body.  Paul said in Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”   We will one day have glorious bodies like His.  This new body will never hurt, cry, tire, or die. 

God will also make us pure morally and spiritually.  Revelation 21:9-11 says, “’Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’  And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”  Just think – one day God will give us His glory and will purify us perfectly till we shine like a rare and clear jewel free from sin.  Our worship will not be hindered by sin - fully experiencing God in all His glory.  Verse 3 says our relationship with Him will be perfect.  “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them."  Yes, God dwells with us now (1 Cor. 6:19; Matthew 28:20) but one day we shall see His face (Revelation 22:4) and see Him as He truly is (1 John 3:2). 

We also inherit a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1).  Talk about an extreme makeover!  Romans 8:21 says, "The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the liberty of the glory of the children of God."  Not only are we remade inside and out but the very place we will live in will be perfect!  Imagine something better than a New Year – A New Eternity!  We will live eternally in a perfect place, with perfect hearts and minds, in perfect bodies, with a perfect relationship with God!  Behold!  He is making all things new! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dealing With Death at Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be an exciting time of family and fun.  But for many, it can be a painful time dealing with the loss of a loved one.  One of the biggest gifts God can give you this Christmas is the gift of peace.  Whether it was a child, mate, family or friend, there is nothing you can do to bring the loved one back. But Jesus can bring peace of mind and heart in your difficulty.  Jesus once told His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart!  The peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives” (John 14:27).  Human words often fail us all in tragedy.  Jesus offers more than words – He offers His peace.

But peace on earth seems trivial and fleeting.  Just this week I heard of two murders, a robbery, the death of a loved one, and found out someone had cancer.  War, divorce, sickness, death, and many more attack us on a daily basis.  Peace is defined as tranquility and quietness.  The Bible doesn’t say that there will be peace on earth.  Jesus actually said we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33).  I’m glad He didn’t stop there.  He told us to take heart because He has overcome the world.  Is Scripture wrong then when the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14)?  The angels said “on earth peace” not “peace on earth”.  Even Linus told Charlie Brown it was “on earth peace”.  Here is my conclusion – peace is Jesus.  Peace is not the absence of problems but the presence of Jesus.

Jesus brings us peace of heart and mind (John 14:17).  But how?  Colossians 1:19-20 says, “For it pleased the Father that in Jesus all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made PEACE through the blood of His cross".  Did you catch that?  Whether on earth or in heaven, Jesus makes peace through His death on the cross.  Ephesians 2:14 tells us, "For He Himself is our peace (our bond of unity and harmony). He has made us both [Jew and Gentile] one [body], and has broken down (destroyed and abolished) the hostile dividing wall between us" (Ephesians 2:14, Amplified).  Paul wrote, “May the Lord of Peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all" (2 Thessalonians 3:16).   In a chaotic, tragic-filled world, Jesus is our peace.  He is the Lord of peace.

Romans 5:1 reminds us we have peace through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Loss of any kind wants to rob of peace.  Some things you can do nothing about.  They hit you from behind.   You didn’t expect it or see it coming.  But it did.  In those times, you must trust God and know that He truly cares.  He loves you and is going through your pain with you.  Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.”   When we keep our minds on Him in the middle of our tragedy, instead of our minds constantly being on our tragedy, we can feel His peace.  John 14:27 says His gift to us is peace of mind and heart.  It’s not forgetting about the loss but letting the presence of God invade that loss.

The gift of peace and mind really isn’t the true gift.  It's a Person.  The gift is His Holy Spirit – the Comforter and Helper.   He brings more than just peace.  Facing the holidays with the loss of a loved one may be difficult.  We all think of the past when everything was going good and we sometimes long for that day to return.   As you go through this Christmas season and face the pain and loss of a loved one, open your heart to the Comforter and let Him give you the gift of Peace.  Let the Spirit of God control your mind, which leads to life and peace (Romans 8:6).  “The Lord gives His people strength and blesses them with peace” (Psalm 29:11).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

God's Benefit Package

Psalm 103:1-2 tells us, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”  That’s a good reminder for me since I sometimes have problems remembering things.  We should praise the Lord with our soul (our thoughts, actions, plans, dreams, etc.) and don’t forget all His benefits.  The problem is worry, doubt, and unbelief all have a short memory. When we allow these sins in our life it causes us to forget God’s character and Word.  All jobs have benefits.  When looking for a new one, questions you may ask about benefits are, “How many vacation days are there?  Are there sick days?  Does it provide insurance?”  Benefits vary from job to job but God’s benefits do not vary.  He is constant.  We tend to forget His benefits when something attempts to tell us He’s holding out on us.  We ask, “Will God live up to the benefit package He promised.”  None of us would forget the benefits a job offers and demand them when we needed them.  But, we too often forget the benefits of God.

Verses 3-5 go on to tell us it is God, “Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”.  What if your job offered you that kind of benefit package?  Think about the offer of forgiveness from sin, healing from sickness, rescue from the pits of life, love and compassion, satisfaction with good things, and renewal of youth.  That would be the job of a lifetime.  What’s better than reimbursement for mileage?  Try forgiveness of sin.  What sounds more promising than 3 weeks paid vacation?  God offers healing.  A gym membership is tempting but I’ll take renewed youth any day.  Redemption from the pits of life sounds like the kind of insurance plan that doesn’t have loopholes, especially when God is the benefactor.   AFLAC has nothing on God.  You’re in good hands with Allstate but you’re in God’s hands with the Almighty.  GEICO?  What about GODCO? 

But pastor, I don’t feel forgiven.  Forgiveness of sin isn’t based on feeling but the facts of Scripture.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.”  But what about healing?  It’s obvious not everyone is healed.  True.  Lazarus was healed but eventually died.  Elisha healed others but died from a sickness he suffered from (2 Kings 13:14).  Some say, “I bet healing comes if you have more faith.”  Tell that to Paul who suffered with a “thorn in the flesh” and prayed three times for it to be removed (2 Corinthians 12:5-10).  Timothy suffered (1 Timothy 5:23).  I think they had tremendous faith.  “I know!” They say, “Those who pray hard don’t get sick, right?”  What about Jesus?  Didn’t he pray hard for the cup to pass from Him?  David prayed hard for his baby not to die but it did (2 Samuel 12).  I know many godly people who have died from sickness they prayed in great faith to be healed from.  The promise isn’t instant healing but eventual healing.  Sometimes God heals on this earth and sometimes He doesn’t.  Sometimes we don’t feel forgiven or rescued from the pit on this earth.  But, in eternity forgiveness, healing and rescue come full circle.  It doesn’t mean we stop praying for healing on earth.  I believe God alone forgives and heals.  We don’t give up hope but trust in Him.  Praise has a way of putting life into eternal perspective.

God cares for your spirit, soul and body.  Remember to praise God today.  He cares for you! No matter what you are facing today, don’t forget your benefit package.  Forgiveness is a benefit.  Healing is a benefit.  If you feel tired and overwhelmed then His strength is your benefit.  Turn your thoughts toward Him today and He will encourage you. 

 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Help Is On The Way

As much as preachers speak they should listen just as much.  After all, we all should be, “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19).  I do a lot of listening.  Usually the way a “counseling session” works is I listen for the first half, advise for the next part, and dialogue back and forth for the last half.  I always end in prayer.  I hear a lot of heartbreaking situations – some tragic!  Sometimes wounds are self-inflicted and other times things hit you right out of the blue.  For the most part people find themselves struggling in one of two ways in any given situation.  Either they feel helpless or hopeless.  I, like them, have felt those emotions and feelings as well.  Sometimes your situation feels hopeless and you feel helpless towards it.  Let me say to you what I say to everyone – don’t give up because help and hope are on the way.
 
Scripture tells me not to become weary in doing good for at the proper time I will reap a harvest if I do not give up (Galatians 6:9).  Whatever your situation and however much you feel like giving up – DON’T!  God and His help are on the way.  There is hope because God is our help.  Psalm 121:1 tells me to, “Lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  My biggest advice to people experiencing hopelessness and helplessness comes out of Scripture.  Why?  I sometimes sit there as people tell me stories of abuse, neglect, heartache, and tragedy and think, “I have no idea what to tell them.”  Then, I remember a Scripture.  Then, the Holy Spirit brings to memory a story.  God is faithful in times of need.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
 
Did you know God works on our behalf even when we can’t see Him working?  I’ve heard this phrase countless times, “I just don’t feel God at work – I just don’t know if He cares.”  God is always at work behind the scenes.  Jeremiah says he knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5).  He knit us together and created us (Psalm 139:13).  Galatians 1:15 says he sets us apart in our mother’s womb by His grace.  Psalm 22:9 says he brought us out of the womb and made us secure.  Here’s the point – before you had any problems or knew what a problem was – God knew you.  Before you were even able to comprehend need – God was your supplier and provider.  God knows what you need before you know you have a need.  He is not surprised when we pray for help.  As one person said, “God works the nightshift too!”
 
Job is a great example of God working in the background.  He said in Job 23:8-10, “Look, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.  But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”  When we are sleeping, people everywhere are at work.  The nightshift goes on in the dark.  When you are in the dark, God is light and always working.  He does not sleep.  Psalm 121:3-4 reminds us, “He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”  God never takes a break, is never tired, is never without an answer, and is always watching over us.  Fireman work at night – so does God.  The baker at Krispy Kreme is up – so is God.  In the dark time of your life God is awake and moving.  Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  Did you catch that?  God LIVES to make intercession for us!  He goes to the Father for us (John 14:5-14).   Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord and be of good courage.  He shall strengthen your heart.  Wait on the Lord.”  I think the Psalmist said wait on the Lord at the end and the beginning because we are so impatient.  Don’t give up!  Help and hope are on the way and found in Christ alone.
 
 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Are You Generous?

Is it easier to be generous when you have money or when you are broke?  I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum.  There have been times I’ve wanted to give towards something but wasn’t able due to lack of funds and there have been other times I didn’t give toward something because I wanted to use the money towards something else.  I’ve also given when funds were extremely tight and when there was surplus.  Is giving more holy when money is tight or abundant?  Does generosity flow out of somewhere between poor and rich?  Generosity is one of the marks of a Christian and really flows out of the heart.

2 Corinthians 9:11 says, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  Riches do mean money but should mean other resources as well.  Any riches we have are there so we can be generous at all times.  And being generous actually causes others to thank God.   Giving to a real need feels good.  But generosity isn’t about us feeling good that we gave.  It is about God being glorified and the recipients of the gift being encouraged and uplifted.  Scripture says we are to cloth ourselves with compassion because we are God’s chosen people who are holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12).  Generosity comes from compassion.  We are compassionate towards others causing us to give because God has so greatly loved and given to us. 

Another mark of generosity is the desire to give our time to others.  Sometimes giving money is not enough.  They need your time.  I’ve been in situations where giving money was the easy thing to do.  While the person needed money, time was most beneficial to their life.  It truly communicated your concern and compassion.  If I only give money when time is needed as well then I’m just throwing money at the situation.  1 Peter 4:10 tells me I should give my abilities and resources to serve others.  “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  Christians must remember that the gifts they have are to be used to serve others.  If there is a legitimate need and I have the gift, money, or time to meet it I must use that resource to fill it.
Romans 12:13 reminds us to, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”  

But what if someone takes advantage of your generosity?  Don’t worry about that - people will take advantage of you.  This shouldn’t stop you from practicing hospitality and generosity.  Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”  This is openhanded generosity – giving freely, wisely, and generously to the needs of others.  “Casting your bread on the waters” seems like a waste.  Bread, after all, was meant to be eaten not thrown into the water.  This verse isn’t encouraging wasteful spending or foolishly helping the obvious crook or lazy bum.  We are to be wise with our money, not thoughtless or careless, so we can really help those truly in need.  The meaning here is to be willing to take a chance in order to be generous instead of withholding, which profits no one.  After you’ve investigated a matter needing your generosity, go ahead and give even if you aren’t 100% certain.  You won’t lose your reward but will find it again.  You’re storing up treasures in heaven any way which can never be stolen from you (Matthew 6:19-21).  

In the words of Jesus, “Freely you have received, freely give.”  God will reward you and protect you so just be generous and trust Him.  He will meet all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).  Give and it will be given to you.  With the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).  A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Patience

Sometimes you are in a hurry but God isn’t.  That requires patience.  Galatians 5:22 says patience is a fruit of the Spirit meaning all believers should possess it.  Patience is more than waiting.  It is waiting with Christlike character.  If you are moody, negative, and inconsiderate you are not waiting patiently.  Here’s the deal:  you are going to have to wait anyway – why not do it in a way that honors the Lord and the people around you?  If you find yourself being frustrated or irritated by the smallest of waits, God wants to develop more patience in you.  If two people ahead of you at the ATM causes you to act unholy, patience is what you lack.  If you become negative and foul because you are delayed 15 minutes due to traffic, you really need some patience.  If you can’t display Christlikeness in the smallest of situations how do you expect to display it when healing doesn’t come instantly?  What are you going to do when you still haven’t found a job after a year of looking intently?  How are you going to respond when your spouse or child still aren’t acting right after years of prayer? 

It’s been said true patience is waiting without worrying.  On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, where to you score when it comes to worrying during a wait? Patience isn’t a characteristic you gain by simply reading about it.  You must be tested in it. You acquire patience by persistently enduring and practicing Christlike character.  Webster’s dictionary says patience is endurance without murmuring.  When you are faced with the smallest of waits that challenges your level of patience remember that is the prime opportunity to exercise Godliness and resist the temptation to complain and worry. 

1 Corinthians 13:4 says love is patient.  God desires to give you more than patience.  He is training you toward godliness.  2 Peter 1:3-7 tells us gaining patience is really about growing in faith.  It says God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.  We can escape the corruption of this world caused by human desires because of His promises.  Adding patience, good character, discipline, perseverance, love and other attributes to our faith increase our godliness.  Verse 8 tells us, “If we possess these qualities in increasing measure they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in Christ.”  Did you see that? We should possess them in increasing measure.  That means we should grow in them.  If we don’t have them, verse 9 says we are nearsighted and blind and have forgotten that we have been cleansed from our past sins.  Refusing to grow in patience says we refuse to grow in Christ and recall all He has done for us.

I, too, struggle in patience from time to time.  The condition of my waiting is sometimes dishonoring to God and those around me.  I often think what if I displayed my level of patience as one of the Bible characters?  Instead of waiting on the seventh day like Joshua I would have tried to get into Jericho the first day through the front door.  If I were Moses I may have swam across the Red Sea.  If I were David I may have gone into battle with the wrong weapons and bypassed some rocks and a slingshot.  I may have messed up their lives and legacy by being impatient. But I am me and God desires me to be patient to accomplish what He has in store in my life.  Hebrews 6:15 says, “And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.”  I desire to be a patient person whose waiting honors the Lord.  I desire to trust God in His timing.  The only way to be patient in problems is to trust God through them.  James 1:2-4 reminds us the testing of our faith produces endurance that leads to a perfect man, lacking nothing.  I pray you won’t allow your problems to frustrate you and bring you down but produce patience in you which will calm and mold you into God’s image.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I Married the Wrong Person

So many marriages today are ending in divorce.  But yours doesn’t have to! As a marriage counselor, I’ve heard every reason in the world while couples are separating.  The most common reason is there is usually someone else in the picture.  Maybe it’s just thoughts or flirting (which are both still wrong), but that person is thinking the grass is greener on the other side.  Let me say this:  appearances can be deceiving.  What looks better somewhere else usually isn’t.  Sometimes it’s greener because it’s built over a septic tank.  Proverbs 14:4 says, "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox."  If you’re going to have oxen, you’re going to have oxen poop (can a pastor say poop?).  You will have some mess in your marriage.  You just have to clean up the mess along the way and not let it pile up. 

Most of the time couples blame each other for their failing marriage and true enough the person being blamed usually has problems – but who doesn’t?  Rarely is a failed marriage the result of only one person.  An excuse I hear all the time is, “I think I married the wrong person”.  That’s one reason I’m a huge fan of long courtships.  You must get to know the person well before committing the rest of your life to them.  Still, excuse is usually a front for deeper issues.  Sometimes, the one saying this is thinking of someone else who appears to be better than the one they married.  Other times, the one saying this is thinking of Mr./Mrs. Perfect (which do not exist).  And other times this is said out of frustration because the other person is doing a lot of wrong things.  Remember this though:  a successful marriage is not the result of marrying the right person, feeling right emotions, or thinking right thoughts.  A successful marriage happens because couples do the right things.  If you are doing the wrong things you’ll eventually end up thinking you married the wrong person.

God wants you to change your ways.  Instead of jumping ship or onto another ship, perhaps it’s time to clean up your ship – together.  That’s right.  Marriage takes two.  I know one person in the marriage can cause the majority of the problem.  If that’s you, the way to a better marriage is to repent and do right things.  If not, you’ll carry all the wrong you’re doing now into another relationship.  If you’ll cheat on your current mate you’ll cheat on the next one without a heart change.  If you’ll treat your current mate wrong you’ll eventually do that to your next one.   Getting a new mate won’t fix a mean, harsh, selfish, unforgiving, or bitter attitude.  Only God can do that.  You should not bail on your marriage.  You need to repent to the Lord and each other, forgive, and implement the change the Lord tells you to make.

Remember the words you said to each other when you got married?  You probably said, “For better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, till death do us part.”  What you didn’t say was, “for better and better, in health and health, for richer and richer, till I find someone better and divorce do us part.”  Marriage is not the union of two people filing separately now filing together.  You don’t take them to be your starter wife/husband.  You enter into marriage for a lifetime with the intent to work through whatever comes your way.  No one has divorce lawyers in their wedding party.  You have friends and family who are in full support of you being married for a lifetime.   Separating won’t fix your marriage and neither will another partner, only God can as you work together doing right things.  Every marriage has its challenges, but God is bigger than them all.  He can give you a fresh start.  Maybe it’s time to renew your vows – your covenant.  What God has joined together, let no man separate (Mark 10:9).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fearless

Margot Woelk was one of Adolph Hitler’s food tasters.  Her job was to sample the foods of the German Nazi leader before he ate them to ensure they were not poisoned.  For nearly three years,Margot ate the most delicious foods known to man.  In her later years, feeling convicted about her service to the Nazi leader, she decided to speak about her horrid experience.  She said, The food I ate was the most delicious I have ever eaten in my life.  It was only the best vegetables, asparagus, bell peppers, rice, pastas, and about everything you can imagine. The only problem was I could never enjoy it.  For nearly three years I lived in constant fear surrounded by the best the world had to offer.  My job was to eat the best foods that could have been poisoned.  Every day I ate and never enjoyed the food because I feared that meal was going to be my last.”

What do you fear?  People are paralyzed every day by constant fear.  Fear of death, sickness, people, rejection, intimacy, failure and many more rob from people every day.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  Fear is not from God but from Satan.  What are you afraid of?  Fear is a paralyzing spirit.  It will keep you from fulfilling God’s calling on your life.  Satan uses fear to terrorize you.  1 John 4:18 says, “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”  God is love and drives fear away.  The Amplified Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!”  If you are being tormented and are terrified of the fear that is robbing your life then you need to trust in the Lord to remove fear and replace it with His perfect love.

Fear comes to us all in various forms.  My kids were once, and are sometimes still, scared of the dark.  What helped them?  Light!  When Satan throws the dark fears of this world at you, counter it with the light of Christ.  His Word!  Do what David did in Psalm 56:3.  He said, “When I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You.”  So when Satan berates you with the fear of loneliness you come back at him with, “God will never leave me or forsake me” (Hebrews 13:5).  When he tries to scare you with the fear of death, remind him, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).  When the fear of lack comes on you, just recall, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  Whatever phobia you may have, Scripture has an antidote.  

There are many storms in life that are seemingly scary.  Sometimes God calms the storm.  Sometimes the storm rages on and God calms the person.  God can calm you in the roughest of storms.  Fear doesn’t have to captivate you any longer.  God has made you to have faith, not fear.  Worry, anxiety, and doubt are minions of fear.  Don’t bow down to them but have faith and confidence in the Lord.  Isaiah 41:10 reminds us to, “Fear not, for I am with you.  Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you, and I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  I encourage you today to face your fear and don’t run from it or hide in it.  Remember that Jesus is with you.  Don’t be paralyzed by fear but go forward in faith.  If God is for you, who (or what) can be against you (Romans 8:31)!  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stressed Out?

Are you stressed out?  Here is some help – the word “stressed” is the word “desserts” spelled backwards.  You’re welcome!  Stress free now?  Me either.  There are a lot of great things found in Scripture to help you deal with stress.  One of my favorite verses is John16:33.  Jesus Himself said, “These things I have told you so that in me (Jesus) you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart.  I have overcome the world.”  Now that’s great news that meets every one of us right where we live.  While all of us are faced with varying troubles, Jesus overcomes them all and gives us peace.  I didn’t say He takes all of your troubles completely away.  You can have peace in the middle of your troubles.  Peace isn’t the absence of trouble but the presence of the Lord in the midst of them. 

 

Another verse in the Bible I remind myself of frequently is Philippians 4:4.  “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.”  When does this verse say to rejoice?  ALWAYS!  How do you rejoice in sickness, death, or pain? How do you rejoice when your mate leaves you (that’s assuming you want them to stay)?  I think this verse tells us rejoicing is a character trait of the Christian.  While trouble may present itself, true joy is found in the Lord, not circumstance.  He is joy.  Joy isn’t good and not bad.  It is Jesus!   I think this verse reminds us to focus on the joy of the Lord and not to worry.  Philippians 4:6 reminds us to also be anxious about nothing.  What does worry produce?  Usually more worry.  Someone once said worry pulls tomorrows clouds over today’s sunshine.  None of us can add a single hour to our life (Matthew 6:27).  Worrying about tomorrow’s problems today is bad medicine.  Matthew6:34 goes on to say, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.“

 

Another thing Scripture tells us to do is pray.  I didn’t finish Philippians 4:6 in the previous paragraph.  It says, “be anxious for nothing” but doesn’t stop there.  The key to not being anxious is prayer.  The verse continues to say, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  The next verse implies that prayer in the middle of anxiety brings peace.  “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Prayer puts your troubles into perspective and causes you to remember to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  God cares about your struggles.  Take them to Him and throw all your troubles on Him.  He can bear our burdens where you and I cannot.  Sometimes we worry or are stressed out because we think the wrong thoughts.  Proverbs 23:7 says what we think in our hearts is what we are.  If you consume yourself with negative or “worst-case scenario” thoughts, you will drive yourself crazy.  When the Devil says, “what if…” to you, tell him, “so what!”  Philippians 4:8 says we should think about only what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  Other thoughts should be taken captive and made to obey the truths of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

 

Paul knew how to be content in every circumstance (Philippians 4:11).  Whether he had little finances or was hungry, he was content.  He knew God was for him and not against him (Romans 8:31).  Stress free living really is this:  godliness with contentment which brings great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).  You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13).  God will supply all your needs according to His righteousness (Philippians 4:19).  You can overcome stress in Christ!

 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Psalm 23

As a kid, I memorized Psalm 23 and it has been a blessing to my life ever since.  It is a very recognized portion of Scripture and almost as famous as verses like John 3:16.  These short six verses bring comfort as they describe God as our Shepherd.  David used the relationship of a shepherd and his sheep to relay the love and care between God and His people.  David was very qualified to write about this since he had tended sheep as a shepherd since his childhood.  So what does this classic chapter in the Bible say to us today?  LOTS!

First, verse 1 says “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  This means, “Because the Lord is my Shepherd I won’t need a thing and will have all I need.”  While this doesn’t guarantee a life void of problems it does mean the answers are found in the Good Shepherd.  He will “make us lie down in green pastures and beside still waters” (v. 2).  “Green pastures” and “quiet waters” mean refreshment and rest for the sheep.  Are you in need of refreshment and rest?  God offers that to you.  Verse 3 says, “He restores my soul and leads me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.  His reputation (His Good Name) is on the line here and He provides restoration and rescuing to the weary.  A good shepherd leads his sheep down the right path past harm and through difficult terrain and hard territory. Are you surrounded by difficulties?  God can lead you out of it. 

Verse 4 says, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me.  Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  Have you ever felt like you were walking through the valley of death?  Me too!  Scripture tells us Jesus brings life (John 14:6).  Even in the worst of times God is for us – so who can be against us (Romans 8:31)!  A good shepherd carries tools to help his sheep.  The rod, although used for harm, brings comfort because it beats back the enemies that attack the sheep.  The staff wasn’t just an aid to help the shepherd walk.   The crooked top of the staff would pull the sheep back from harm.  While God will beat back the enemy from your life it’s not all our enemy’s fault at times.  God wants to pull us back with His staff (His Bible, Godly counsel, a pastor’s sermon, etc.) from sin and a destructive lifestyle.  A good shepherd and a good parent bring good protection as well as good discipline to those they are responsible for.  God’s protection and discipline are meant to shape you into the image of Christ – into the very person He has purposed you to be!

Verse 5 continues with, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil and my cup runs over.”  A shepherd could clear the feeding ground of the sheep and make it safe.  Dangerous creatures and poisonous plants were in the way of nourishment.  Sometimes these would attach themselves to the sheep and harm them.  The shepherd would use his ointment for healing for the weary flock.  God is getting a good table full of blessings ready for your life but you have to be willing to sit at it and feast on His bounty.  He desires to bring healing to your life and anoint your wounds.  This sustenance and healing is more than we deserve or can imagine – to the point of overflow in our lives.  This overflow is meant to give away to others.

The last verse says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  God is the Good Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, the Great Shepherd who can bless this temporary life and the eternal life to come.  Don’t be a dumb sheep but stay close to wise Shepherd who can bless your life!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Scrambled Eggs With A Side of Regret


Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t unscramble eggs”?  It’s a very true statement when cooking breakfast and even more true when referring to mistakes you’ve made.  We’ve all messed up and most likely have regrets.  What do you wish you could go back and re-do?  Your past mistakes can either liberate or incarcerate you.  How do you deal with mistakes of the past?  I’ve got really good news!  A verse I quote often is Romans 8:28.  It says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  That means in Christ, even the worst of mistakes or situations can be redeemed.  No matter what your failure, weakness, sin, or circumstance, God can work right in the middle of it.  He can bring you peace in the middle of chaos and free you from guilt and shame.  There is no guilt or shame for those in Christ because the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus has set us (Romans 8:1-2).  Some wish they could go back and spend neglected time with loved ones.  Maybe you worked too much or said things you shouldn’t have.  Perhaps, you caused heartache or have been hurt in a relationship.  The desire to re-do a bad decision doesn’t always make the bad memories of it go away.  Whatever your regret may be, Jesus can help.  Maybe you can’t “unscramble eggs” but Jesus can make all things new (Revelation 21:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Peter was one of those guys in Scripture who, I’m sure, wished he could have some “do-over’s”.  Scripture says he broke down and wept after he realized he had betrayed Jesus (Mark 14:72).  Oh how Peter longed to take that back!  After this, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  Peter replied “yes” three times (interesting since Peter denied Jesus three times).  Jesus forgave Peter and restored him to ministry, asking him to shepherd His people (John 21:7-17).  Peter went on to preach less than two months later and three thousand people were saved (Acts 2:41)!  It seems God used Peter despite his shameful past and mistakes. 

So how do you recover from past mistakes, be useful to God’s Kingdom and fulfill His purposes for you? If you have made the mistakes or sinned, you first have to receive His forgiveness by repenting.  2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  You must be sincerely sorry for your sins and ask God to forgive you.  Forgiveness from God is the only way to truly move past your haunting past.  God “forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:3).   Even if you didn’t cause the problem of the past God can still heal you from it.  He pardons sin and forgives transgressions with delight and mercy (Micah 7:18).


Some people say, “I have no problem accepting God’s forgiveness.  I just can’t forgive myself.”  You know, they are right.  They can’t forgive themselves and neither can you and I.  Only God can truly forgive you.  But you have to receive that forgiveness and walk in it.  Stop saying “what if”.  We all have “what if’s”.  Scripture tells us to take our thoughts captive and make them obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).   The Message paraphrase of that verse tells us to “use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.”  Paul even said to focus on, “forgetting the past and look forward to the future” (Philippians 3:13). Regret and condemnation must be replaced with forgiveness and truth.  Maybe you have some regrets, but doesn’t everyone?  Paul said we not only share in sufferings but also in the comfort that God brings (2 Corinthians 1:7).   His compassion never fails and mercies are new every morning because He is faithful.  (Lamentation 3:22-23).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Be Generous


Are you a generous person?  A great example of generosity in Scripture is Rebekah.  Genesis 24 tells us Isaac was looking for a wife.  Abraham also wanted his son to have a wife and sent Eliezer his servant to look for Isaac a wife.  Eliezer prayed and asked God to bring the right girl to him.  He stopped one day in the city of Nahor and saw a beautiful woman named Rebekah.  She stood out among the rest of the girls who had come out to draw water not only because of her beauty but because of her generosity.  She gave Eliezer a drink but also watered his ten camels.  That might not sound like much but consider this:  each camel could drink about 25-30 gallons, about 250-300 gallons total.  Water wells were set down low in the ground and you would need to walk about fifty steps to draw about three gallons of water at a time.  That means Rebekah made about 8-10 trips per camel - approximately 100 trips with nearly 5,000 steps!  With water weighing a little over 8lbs per gallon, she toted 2,000-2,500 lbs. of water!  Now that’s a generous, hard-working, humble, hospitable woman!  That’s more than bringing him a nice glass of tea! 

Eliezer reported about this beautiful and generous woman and she became Isaac’s wife.  Because she desired to be a blessing, she would be blessed.  Genesis 24:60 says she would become “thousands of ten thousands“ and possess much.  She gave much and received much in return.  Her humble and generous nature changed her life and destiny and she became the mother of a great nation.  This moment could have seemed insignificant.  I’m sure she had watered many camels of many strangers in the past.  Her willingness to be a blessing in this situation led to her being blessed beyond measure.  This one act of humility, generosity, and hospitality determined her destiny. 

How generous are you?  When you are asked to help or give, are you like Rebekah – willing to help till the last camel is watered and taken in its fill?  Or, do you do as little as possible?  I want challenge you to implement the “Rebekah Principle” in your life.  Here is how you do it.  First, you must be generous and not legalistic.  You can’t complain about the sacrifice or that the person asking you for help hasn’t equally helped you.  You help even if they are capable of doing it themselves and if they cannot give anything in return.  When we give to the Lord, 2 Corinthians 9:7 says to give what you have decided in your heart and not be reluctant or guilt-driven.  God loves a cheerful giver.  Second, to go the extra mile you must first walk the first mile with them.  Rebekah served greatly but she had to draw the first pitcher of water and take the first steps.  That started in her attitude and heart.  Some people are never generous and hospitable because they never attempt anything or give even a little and therefore are never blessed greatly.  Luke 16:10 says if we can be trusted with little then we can be trusted with much.  If you are dishonest with little then you will be dishonest with much.  Most people who are greatly blessed are a great blessing.


The third principle in being like Rebekah is giving with a Kingdom mindset.  I love the statement, “you can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead.”  Matthew 6:19-20 tell us to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth because earthly treasures don’t last.  Kingdom generosity may not be rewarded on this earth but will always be rewarded in eternity.  Don’t give to get on this earth.  Just know that giving on this earth will return to you in heaven.   Another principle is give even if you don’t feel like it.  Give like Jesus – generously, lovingly, and humbly.  Give like you are giving to Jesus.  Giving to others is giving to Jesus (Matthew 25:40) just like not giving to others is not giving to Jesus (Matthew 25:45).  Be like Rebekah and give generously!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Be Careful What You Pray For


Have you ever prayed selfishly for something?  Have you ever prayed for something and after it happened you wish you hadn’t prayed for that?  What about praying for something that didn’t happen and you are glad that it didn’t?  It is true we should be careful what we pray for.  A story is told of a man who asked his pastor to pray for him to become a solid giver to the church.  The pastor and the man prayed that God would help him be a consistent giver and increase his business so he could give more.  God answered his prayer and blessed his business so much he went from tithing $40 a month to $500 a month!  The man called his pastor back and said he didn’t know if he could keep up with tithing that much money now and his pastor said, “Ok.  Let’s get together and pray and ask God to decrease your income back to when you only tithed $40 a month.”  The man got the point and continued to honor God in his tithe.

What is your motivation for asking God anything?  Sometimes, we don’t receive answers to our prayers because we pray with wrong motives.  James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  We must make sure our motives are pure when asking God for anything.  Other times we ask for things we are not fully prepared to receive.  For instance, Paul prayed, ““I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:10).  Paul received exactly what he prayed and was prepared for it.  He died for Christ and shared in His sufferings.  Are you willing to pray that?  I’m not saying you will die if you pray that.  What I mean is are you willing to receive fully what you ask for?  Are you willing to walk through the answer of your prayer?  If you pray to do the right thing you must also pray for the strength to carry it out.

Let’s say you ask God to heal your marriage.  Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen?   If that means commit to counseling for a year, give up hobbies, change jobs so you are home more, and help out with the housework and kids are you willing to pay the price and work when those are the answers to a healed marriage?  What if you pray for patience and God sends you through very trying circumstances to grow you in your patience?  In fact, God always sends you through the opposite of what you pray for to grow a fruit of the Spirit in your life.  If you pray to be more loving, God will help you grow in that by sending unlovable people your way.  If it is joy He’ll challenge you by helping you discover joy in the middle of trials.  You only find peace in the middle of chaos.  You only become kind and good when faced with circumstances that demand kindness and goodness. 

Samuel warned his nation that a king was a bad idea.  God didn’t want them to have a king either.  But they thought they knew better.  In 1 Samuel 1, the nation refused to listen to Samuel and demanded a king to be like other nations.   Israel wanted a change even though God had blessed them and brought them peace.  They didn’t want an old prophet on a donkey anymore.  They wanted a noble king on a horse leading them into battle.  God granted their request.  God told them they had not rejected Samuel but God Himself as their King.  Saul became their first king and they failed miserably.  Sometimes God answers your prayer but you will live to regret it.   Be careful what you pray for because you just might get it.   If you seek God first instead of instant gratification and seek His righteousness instead of your selfishness, He will give you the desires of your heart – which will be the desires of His heart as well (Matthew 6:33).

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Value of Personal Bible Study

Have you ever jumped out of an airplane?  What about bungee jumping?  Have you ever caught a 100 pound fish while deep sea fishing or hit a hole in one while playing golf?  Maybe you’ve ran a marathon or won a top award for your hard work.  Perhaps you’ve not done these but have heard someone describe a  great adventure.  It is never quite as exciting to hear about it as it is to experience it.  Second hand experiences lose something you can only gain through personal experience.  So it is with discovering truth from personal Bible study.  Once you’ve had great personal gain you’ll never settle for second hand study alone.  Hearing someone preach and teach is great and necessary, but seeing it for yourself is something altogether more wonderful.

2 Timothy 2:15 says to, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  Studying God’s Word is necessary but also a great joy!  The Scriptures contain the words of life!  Proverbs 4:20-22 explains this:  “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words.  Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”  Did you catch that? The Scriptures bring health and life to your whole body!

Most Christians want to study their Bibles, they just don’t know how.  We have Bibles today in hospitals, hotels, doctors’ offices, libraries and many in most homes. You probably own a few yourself.  If you have a smart phone you have access to every translation in every language.  So why don’t we study more?  Why do we need to study?  Is it just to know more stuff?  It isn’t just for information, but transformation.  Two very important reasons to study Scripture are found in 2 Timothy 3:14-17:  knowing Jesus for personal Salvation and spiritual growth.  If you desire these, you must study the Scriptures.  I want to give you some basic “how-to’s” to get you started toward health and life in personal Bible study.  That way, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). 

Schedule your time to allow for personal Bible study.  It’s best for me in the early morning before anyone gets up and my day gets busy.  Cut out distractions like television and Internet.  Get in a routine of studying the Bible at a certain time and in a certain comfortable place.   Study when you are not tired and are most alert and awake.  You need a good translation you can understand.  I recommend the NASB, ESV, or NIV.  Other good ones are NLT and the Amplified.  A good paraphrase is the Message.  A good study Bible has a concordance, an introduction and outline to each book of the Bible, and cross-references.  One with commentary on the page is also extremely helpful.  I encourage people to get a large enough print they can read without straining their eyes.  Get a Bible with thick paper you can write on without ink bleeding through and wide margins so you can write notes.  The Thompson Chain Reference,  Naves Topical Bible, and NIV Life Application Study Bible are excellent. 

Keep a notebook and journal what you learn.  One thing about Scripture is you can read it over and over and gain new insights each time.  Find out the context of what you are reading.  Ask the “5 W’s and 1 H” – Who, what, when, where, why, and how.  Being a good investigator is imperative to good Bible study.  Go slow, get some good Bible study tools like a concordance and Bible dictionary.  Lastly, pray.  Ask God to cleanse you of sin and prepare you for study.  Let God search your heart before you search His Word.  Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth.  The best tip – start.  I pray you gain the riches Scripture contains for your daily life.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Put Meaning Back Into Your Life

Sometimes life can seem downright hopeless and meaningless.  Have you ever felt that way?  The daily grind of working, paying bills, eating, sleeping, and repeating can weigh on anyone especially when facing trials and problems.  God has meaning for your life.  He designed you on purpose for a purpose.  Maybe you have discovered God’s purpose for life.  Maybe you’ve settled into a rut.  Living a meaningless life really means you are wasting your life. 

Solomon was a very wise and rich man but knew what living a meaningless life was all about. He said in Ecclesiastes 2:17, “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”  Here are a few “symptoms” of a meaningless life taken from the account of his life.   In just a few verses, Solomon sums up his frustration and disappointment with his life.   First, Solomon said his life seemed useless.   “Life is useless, all useless. You spend your life working... but what do you have to show for it? ... The world just stays the same” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-4).  Next, he was tired of the mundane.  He refers to the repetitive nature of the rising and the setting of the sun, the way the wind blows, and how rivers flow in Ecclesiastes 1:4-8.  He was missing out on the greatness and blessings these had to offer his life. 

He goes on in verses 8-10 to describe how he is never fulfilled, satisfied, or content.  Verse 11 shows us how insignificant he saw himself.  He said no one would remember or care about what he did, what he was doing, or what he would do.  Finally, Solomon shows his disgust with the uncontrollable nature of life.  He said in verse 15, ““You can’t straighten out what is crooked and you can’t count things that aren’t there!”  Meaningless, frustration, pointless, disappointment, useless, mundane, repetitive, unfulfilling, rat race, disgust… are these characteristics of your life?  Do you feel these are overwhelmingly controlling or descriptive of your life?  You may be living a meaningless life…but you don’t have to.

The good news is God created you on purpose for a purpose.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God has prepared a purpose for your life that is bigger than the mundane, unfulfilling, pointless life you are living.  You may think that is all life is about but God has something greater in store for you.  God knows the plans He has for you (Jeremiah 29:11).  To have the life God designed for you, you must align yourself with Him.  His values must become your values.   His purposes must become your purposes.  You can’t oppose God’s truth and expect to fulfill His purpose at the same time.  You must, as 2 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Stand for the truth at all times and not oppose it.”


You are uniquely created by God and He has placed in you special giftings and abilities to enjoy a meaningful life.  Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Peter 4:10 tell us we have great gifts from Him to carry out a life of meaning and purpose in Christ.  If life is feeling mundane and meaningless then it’s time to revisit your 8th grade English class and start living your life in the prepositions:  for, in, through, like, by, along, near, inside, with, upon, via, under, and beside Him.  Whatever you do, work at it with all you heart for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Key to Godly Living

Romans 12:1-2 have been two of my favorite Bible verses for many years.  I seem to remember learning them very early in life and they have stuck with me since.  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  These verses are really God calling us to godly living.  The culture around Christians tries to persuade them to blend in with worldly principles and lifestyles.  Compromise and temptation to stray from Biblical living are all around.  The pressure for someone desiring to live Christ-like has never been higher.  How can a follower of Jesus overcome and be holy?  By living Romans 12:1-2.

God desires Christians to surrender their lives to Him.  Paul is begging and urging Christians to do this.  He even calls it “presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice”.  The control of your life must not be in your hands or given to someone else.  It must be presented fully to the Lordship of Jesus.  The eleven chapters before these two verses describes salvation and victorious Christian living.  These two verses challenge Christians to surrender in light of all God has done and mentioned in the previous chapters of Romans.  While we don’t have the right to control our own lives as Christians we still have the choice.  We must choose to surrender our minds, passions, will, emotions, and actions to Him.  We must put on the brake and yield to our own life and give Him control to the gas and let Him steer us in the right path. 

A living sacrifice really means dying to ourselves.  You can only die to yourself because Christ died for you.  Because Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection He defeated the power of sin.  That allows our dead spirit to be made alive by His Holy Spirit who now lives in us as Christians.  The Holy Spirit grants us life, leadership, empowerment, counsel, and relationship with God to know and do His good will.   This is how we become holy or “set apart for a special purpose.”  We are made holy at salvation but it is also a lifelong process of growing in Christ.  Being set apart means living a Godly lifestyle.  The basis of this lifestyle contains fundamentals like confession, repentance, forgiveness, and walking in truth and grace.   This is how to have “proper worship”.


Verse two tells Christians not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  We are conformed to this world when we give into the false promises and principles this world says will fulfill us.  Becoming rich, striving after physical beauty, and seeking fame will leave us wanting every time.  The world screams those are vital to success.  The culture of this world should not shape our values and priorities.  Christ should shape us and in turn we should influence this world for Him.  All of this happens as Jesus transforms you and renews your mind.  Filling your mind with Scripture, meditating on holy things, practicing the presence of the Lord are all ways to become more like Christ and less like this world.   Surrendering your life – all of it – is the key to Godly living and true purpose and blessing.  Let God have complete control of your life.  Don’t let your life be shaped by this world but shape this world with a life fully surrendered to Jesus.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Christian Parenting 101

As a parent, parenting can be unapparent.  Did that make sense?  Well, that’s parenting sometimes.  Trying to figure out the how to’s of parenting can be confusing and frustrating.  As a Christian parent, I have more goals than just producing well educated, drug-free, activity driven kids. While these are important, there is so much more to parenting than giving my kids happiness and basic instructions before leaving home.  I want to prepare my kids for life but more importantly, life in Christ.

Luke 2:52 says Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and men.  I want to shape these four areas of my kids’ lives as well.  Wisdom means helping to guard and shape their mind.  I want them to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and a Biblical world view.  I want them to grow in stature. This isn’t talking about their physical height but their moral character.  Their actions should be formed by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  Favor with God means He molds them and shows them their purpose in Him.  Favor with man means through their relationship with God, their personality grows and influences their relationships with people.

I also desire to give my kids the right platform for launching their lives.  I pray four things for them every day: (1) that they would give their lives to Jesus; (2) that they would be called into full time ministry, (3) that they would marry Spirit-filled, born-again, ministry minded spouses, and (4) that they would raise children to do the same.  In order to do this my wife and I have to model this.  One of my favorite verses is Malachi 4:6.  I pray it all the time for my kids.  “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”  Our hearts have to be one with the Lord as parents before we can instill the heart of the Lord in our kids.

There are many dangers I want to protect my kids from.  I am not na├»ve enough to think I can shield them from every harmful influence in life.  But I can give them the right foundation to make the right decisions when faced with trouble, temptation, or trials.  Change will come in their life.  How do they see me deal with change?  What does the Bible have to say about it?  Failure will happen (either to them or by them).  How do they remain who they are in Christ beyond the bad grade or let down from a friend?  Rejection is evident – even Jesus was rejected.  Showing them how He overcame will help them overcome and be confident in Christ’s love for them.  He never leaves them (Hebrews 13:5) and loves them unconditionally (Romans 5:8).

My wife and I want to point our kids towards the ways of God but the only way to do this is found in Joshua 24:15:  Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  We can’t drop our kids off at church and expect this to happen.  We have to steer their lives toward Christ as they see us make daily choices to follow Jesus.  The greatest way we can honor our kids is to love them like Jesus does, show them Jesus’ ways of living, and pray for them daily.  Who cares if I leave them great wealth, provide a good education for them and keep them busy in great activities if I never show them Jesus?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Financial Advice From The Bible

Did you know the Bible has a lot to say about money?  Over 800 Scriptures deal with money.  One of every seven verses in Luke talks about money.  Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined.  That isn’t to say Jesus meant money was more important than the two.  I just think He knew money would be a problem for us so He put it into eternal perspective.  Almost half of marriages that end in divorce are over money issues.  Why is talking about money from a Christian perspective necessary?  80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  Over half have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.  Consumer debt is at an all-time high and has become a normal way of life for most people.  Most people would have to use a credit card to pay a $1,000 unexpected debt.  Christians need to get a right perspective on money because you cannot serve both money and God (Matthew 6:24).  

Let’s get this straight from the beginning.  God is not here to make you rich nor is He here to keep you poor.  Proverbs 11:28 says, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”  It was a great idea for us to put “In God We Trust” on our money because most people live “In Money We Trust”.  Our security is not wrapped up in finances.  Hebrews 13:5-6 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”  We can only find security in God.  He is our provider and gives us the ability to make money (Deuteronomy 8:18).
Not only is your security not found in finances, you identity isn’t found in it either.  Luke 12:15 says, “Then he said, ‘Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.’”  Don’t measure your life by how much you have or don’t have.  The real measure of your life is if you lost all your money, what would you be worth?  What is so valuable to you that you’d never sell it for money?  Your health?  Your family?  Your salvation?  Money can’t buy you happiness either.  Donald Trump would beg to differ.  He said, “If someone believes money can’t buy you happiness then they don’t know where to shop.”  I like new stuff just like the next guy.  But one thing about new things – they get old quick.  Especially when the bill comes in (if you’ve charged it).  Solomon, the wisest (besides Jesus) and probably richest man that ever lived said this in Ecclesiastes 5:10, “Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness!”  Someone once said, “Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation; a passport to everywhere but heaven.”
Money isn’t evil, but the love of it is (1 Timothy 6:9-10).  When you serve it, it becomes your master.  Here are three quick steps to keeping money from mastering you.  First, give God the first part.  This will show God you love Him more than you do money.  Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with your first fruits.”  Secondly, be a good steward of the rest of your money.  Use your possessions for God and His Kingdom, not selfish desires.  If you can be trustworthy of little and someone else’s, then God can trust you with your own (Luke 16:10-12).  Lastly, remember, true riches are not found on this earth but in heaven.   Store up treasures in heaven that will last forever.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reconcilable Differences

One of the biggest reasons listed for divorces today is “irreconcilable differences”.  Generally speaking, this phrase means nothing can bring us together and marriage is pointless.  But with Jesus’ help, all differences can be reconciled.  Having a good relationship with your spouse is not an accident – it takes work.  Scripture gives us several principles that will lead us into strong relationships with our spouses.  For example, Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot tempered man stirs up dissension but a patient man calms a quarrel.”  Simply keeping your cool goes a long way in building a great relationship.  Another Proverb is, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”  Some couples fight over almost anything.  If they would just stop and realize that most arguments start over petty issues there would be more peace and less mess in their relationship.  I am a firm believer that when you apply God’s Word to your marriage any difference can be reconciled.

Five of the biggest reasons for conflict in marriage are poor communication, selfishness, pride, unmet needs, and unexpected differences.  How you communicate to your spouse determines if you marriage is whole or hell.  Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, and keep watch over the door of my lips.”  What you say or don’t say and how you say it will either enrich or entrench your marriage.  The second biggest reason for conflict in marriage is selfishness.  Having to be right 100% of the time, only seeking your best interest, and ignoring your spouse’s feelings is not only disrespectful but deplorable. Selfishness can even mean never listening to and always interrupting your spouse.  Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening brings folly and shame to their life.”

A third reason for conflict is pride.  Never admitting your mistakes, refusing counsel, and blaming your spouse are examples of pride.  Scripture says you need to take the plank out of your own eye before you talk about the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-4).  Another reason for conflict is unmet needs.  James 4:1-2 says fights and quarrels come from the evil desires that battle within you as you don’t get what you want.  Your deepest needs can only be met by the Lord.  Asking your spouse to fill those is unfair as they cannot meet your unrealistic expectations.  Maybe you didn’t expect the differences you have discovered between you and your spouse.  Remember, Jesus is our peace and can make the two become one and destroy the barrier and hostility between you two (Ephesians 2:14). 

So how do you reconcile with your spouse?  First you must begin to focus on the good and not the bad.  Remember why you decided to get married.  Think about the good times of your marriage.  Philippians 4:8 tells you to think about things that are true, noble, pure, lovely, and admirable.  If you can’t remember any good times then it’s time to create some.  Another step is stop overreacting.  Right actions are way different than wrong reactions.  You must be proactive and overcome evil with good instead of letting evil overcome you (Romans 12:21).   You also can’t reconcile if you are always running away or putting more distance between your spouse.  You must learn to talk it out instead of waking out on your mate.  Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26-27).  That means do something to make it right between your spouse today.  Be quick to forgive.  Don’t hold grudges.  Be teachable and willing to do whatever it takes to engage and win your spouse back.  You can be reconciled because Jesus died to defeat sin and death.   He desires to resurrect your marriage and heal your relationship with your spouse.  While He is able, it is your choice and takes two.  I pray you are willing.  There are no irreconcilable differences in Christ. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

God Gives Second Chances

I'm glad God gives second chances.  I'm not sure about you, but I'm glad for multiple do-overs.  He's a God of new beginnings, fresh starts, and mulligans.  What's a mulligan?  In golf, a mulligan is a second chance a golfer receives to perform a move or action.  In some golf tournaments, you can purchase a mulligan and use it whenever you want to.  I wish I could have a mulligan in my pocket ready to use in any situation I desired in life.  Sometimes life throws you a curve ball.  Sometimes you throw the screw-balls.  I need do-overs.  This isn't a license to sin knowing God will forgive me.  It is a desperate plea for grace and mercy because I have weaknesses and limitations.  Sometimes people give you second chances but God always gives multiple opportunities for us to make things right and grow in Him.

When I was applying for a job in high school I remember my dad saying, "You'll never get a second chance to make a first impression." That meant do my best to impress the boss so I'd get the job.  I did and Fred's was a good place to work for about a year.  When you meet someone you try make a good impression on them.  What if you make a bad impression?  They will probably always remember that and label you as they first saw you.  You may not get a second chance to make a first impression with people but you do with God.  "His mercies are new every morning" (Lamentations 3:22-23). When I wake up I have a new day to grow in and use for Him.  His grace covers my yesterdays - the bad, the "never good enough's", and my best attempts at good.  If I have messed up and sinned He forgives my sin.  God forgives and "remembers our sins no more" (Hebrews 8:12; Isaiah 43:25).  Only an all-powerful God can be all-knowing and forgetful at the same time.  He doesn't hold them against me or keep a list of my wrongs.  He gives me the greatest mulligan ever - forgiveness in Him.

I'll buy a mulligan every time I play in a golf tournament.  While not everyone does, I'm thankful for friends and family who allow me to mess up and make things right.  I'm more thankful for a God who gives me new mercies every morning and doesn't hold my sin against when I ask for forgiveness.  I'm glad God gives second chances.