Friday, January 30, 2009

#26 Eminent Domain

" are not your have been bought with a price: therefore
glorify God in your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NASB

Before becoming a pastor I had a plethora of jobs. Such was even the case
while I was in high school. I could never really find my niche. I tried
grocery work, restaurant work, I worked in a slaughter house and a chicken
house, and that was just high school. When I graduated in 1992 I went into
road construction and eventually worked for a company that drilled holes in
rock and blew it up with explosives. That job was a real bang-ha ha-but it
too left me feeling empty and unfulfilled. I eventually left construction
to work driving a dump truck because I wanted to get my commercial driver's
license (CDL). I did that for a while and still felt like I was not doing
what God wanted me to do. I had a friend from church who offered me the
opportunity to come to work with him as a partner in his land surveying
business. In high school I took three years of drafting and during my
senior year I took a self-study class in computer aided design. Land
surveying was a very interesting business. You might be amazed to discover
that people would and will squabble over where a corner on a piece of
property goes. Yes, 20 feet one way or another would be significant, but I
have seen arguments over moving the pin on the back side of a 1,000 acre
tract 12 inches. We are talking about land that no one used or even saw
once every 20 years. The funniest thing about land arguments is that people
are fighting over something that they do not even own. What do I mean? The
fact is that you really never own your land. The state entity allows you to
pay taxes on it and say that it is yours, but in reality it belongs to the
state by right of eminent domain. Eminent domain says that the state or
federal government has the right to appropriate-which means take by
force-any land that they deem is needed for the greater public good. Sure,
they have to compensate the so-called owners monetarily but even that can
and is often well below what the property holder would like to be paid. So
if you read about a new road project coming through your neck of the woods
please be aware that the state or federal government could choose to take
back their land.

On a more uplifting note, I want to challenge each of you to apply part of
the eminent domain concept to your spiritual life. I want you to consider
or perhaps re-consider the fact that once you come to Christ you are no
longer your own. Paul challenges us to realize that we have been bought by
a price; a price that could only be paid by Jesus. He is the Lamb of God
that takes away the sin of the world. He stands ready, willing, and able to
take away each of our sins if we come to Him with a repentant heart. Yes, I
know most if not all of you realize that, but do we fully recognize that
when we come to Christ He becomes the new owner of us? Christ then has
eminent domain over each of us so to speak. Yes, He still allows us to make
choices because He does not expect us to be automatons and to just cease to
think. But when we consider those choices we should each stop and ask,
"Lord, how can I make this decision in a way that honors You?" I believe
that when we do that we will come a little closer to realizing that it must
be Jesus that is in control of our lives. How is the greater public good
served when we do this? Great question, I am glad that you asked me! The
greater public good is served because when we let Jesus have control we will
set aside our selfish desires and we will be much more intently focused on
our Father's business and much less focused on trying to keep up with the
trends of this world that seek only to trap us into thinking that we need
this or that. What we really need is to be fully surrendered to Jesus in
every aspect of our lives. We need to let Him take full ownership. We need
to respect and honor His right to eminent domain over those whom He has
purchased with His precious blood. Surely when He was on the cross, we were
on His mind.

Dear Father God,
Please help us to have a deeper recognition of the fact that we need You
desperately. Please help us to more fully understand that when we accept
Jesus as Savior that He must also be allowed to become Lord. We must allow
Him to take possession of that which He has purchased with His own blood and
we need You to give us the courage to let Him have full control. Help us
Father to glorify you in our bodies. In what we eat, what we say, what we
do, what we wear, what we take into our minds, and in every function of our
lives. We long to be connected with You and we long for the day when Jesus
will come to take us to heaven. Help us prepare for that day now in this
moment. I pray in Jesus holy name, Amen.

Friday, January 23, 2009

#25 Please Open the Drawer!

Revelation 3:7 "He who...opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no
one opens..."

One of my favorite games to play as a child was "hide and seek". I loved
trying to find the best spot to hide where no one would think to look.
Under a bed, in a closet, beside the fridge, in a cabinet, and the list can
go on and on depending on where you are playing. As many of you know I grew
around a junk yard. Playing hide and seek in the junk yard was really cool.
My granddad's junk yard had about 400 cars so you had to limit the hiding
spaces to certain rows of cars. Of course, you also had to be very careful
about the car that you hid in or around. North Carolina has multiple
varieties of poisonous snakes and even those that aren't piousness can scare
the life out of you when you are not expecting them to be there.

My kids seem to have inherited my love for playing hide and seek, but
perhaps it is an innate desire implanted in all of us due to our sinful
nature. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned they "hid themselves from the Lord
God among the trees of the Garden." (Gen 3:8) However my kids got it, they
love to play it. While we were still living in Collegedale, TN and while I
was still attending Southern Adventist University, we bought an old
single-drawer table that we ran across in a thrift store.

It was beat up a bit, but the large single drawer and the low height of the table made it a perfect fit for becoming a Lego play area. It was a nice solid wooden piece and they only wanted $20 for it. We bought it and the kids loved it. When
Ginger and I made the purchase we had no idea what eventual use the table
would find. We polished it up when we got it home and placed it proudly in
the boys' room. It needed a little work so we told the kids not to put any
toys in the drawer until we could attend to the repairs. Not too many days
afterward the kids were playing a little hide and seek. Apparently as
Austin, our oldest, looked about for a place to hide he noticed that he was
just about the right size to fit in the single drawer of the new Lego table.
So in he went. His choice was so effective that his siblings could not find
him. As he waited panic begin to set in.

He suddenly realized that it was much easier to place one's self into a
drawer and close it than it was to open said drawer. Something that
complicated his egress was the fact that the small crown molding that
surrounded the bottom edge of the top of the table was loose on one corner.
It was just loose enough that it would hang down over the edge of the drawer
just far enough to prevent the drawer from opening unless you lifted the
molding. Of course, when you are lying inside the drawer it is impossible
to lift the molding and slide the drawer out. His sudden panic flowed into
uncontrollable sobbing and cries for help.

Needless to say his siblings then had no trouble finding him, but they too could not manipulate the combination to free their brother. Ginger and I came running and I was able to lift the molding and then yank the Austin-filled drawer widely open. I
don't think my son has ever been so glad to see his family.

As you read this message just now, how many of you have opened doors and
gone places that you should not have gone? I know that I could fill many
pages with times when I should have stayed put and not went in a particular
direction I life. And of course there have been times that doors opened
that I should have gone through and I didn't. Sometimes it is tough to know
just what we should do. Sometimes it does not seem that we have good
options and we are forced to choose the lesser of two evils. It is during
those times that I am so thankful that I am not left to make decisions on my

I firmly believe that Jesus stands ready, willing, and abundantly able
to give me guidance and direction in my life. He not only wants to help me,
He wants to help each of you as well. You have heard and will hear me
mention that I think the Lord's return is very near. I do not know just how
soon, but neither does anyone else despite what they may say. How soon is
not the issue really. The real issue is are you ready to meet Jesus when He
does come? Out of all the doors that we need to make a decision about, the
door to our hearts is probably the most important. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus
says that He is standing at the door knocking. Knocking of course indicates
that He is not going to force Himself on us. He wants us to invite Him in
so that He can be our Savior and our Lord. Once we do that we can have
peace in our lives. Once we open the door to Jesus we can have assurance in
knowing that He will save us and the we will live for eternity with Him.

Friends, I want each of you to have that assurance. I want each of you to
open the door to Jesus and accept Him completely into your life. Once the
door to Jesus is opened we can count on Him to help us know which doors to
open and close from then on. And when Jesus opens a door no one can shut
it, and when He shuts it no one can open it. Surrender to Him just now and
allow His peace to pull you out of the drawer of what is surely a collapsing

Dear Father God,
As we come to You just now we know that we have made some
really poor decisions on our lives. Perhaps we have made some decisions
that it will take years for us to move beyond the effects. But even if
there are elements of our sin that must play themselves out, we want to
start fresh with Jesus again tonight. There may even be some who read this
and need to accept Jesus for the first time. Whatever the case Father,
please forgive each of us for our sins. Please allow the blood of Jesus to
wash us clean and take away the blot of sin in our lives. Give us each the
courage to open wide the door to our hearts and may we invite Jesus into our
hearts each day so that there is never any chance of us not being connected
to Him. Please open and close doors in our life as You see fit Lord, and
may we humbly submit to Your divine guidance. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Friday, January 16, 2009

#24 A Missed Step

"...for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble..." 2
Peter 1:10

Do you like stairs? I must be very honest with you all and admit that I do
not like stairs. Why? Well, there are several reasons actually. But
mainly, the older I get the more my knees complain when I force them to
climb stairs. There once was a day that climbing stairs did not bother me,
but while I was in basic training for the Army I began to feel discomfort in
my left knee when we would run. That discomfort grew into agonizing pain as
training progressed. It became so bad for a while that I feared that I
would not be able to pass my final physical fitness test to graduate from
basic training. I was allowed to wear a brace that kept things where they
were supposed to be and I finished up with no problems. Ever since that
time I can feel the pain creeping back in if I overdo things. So I try to
be careful with my activities. Some times when I get really worn down
though I get careless and I do not take the care to place my steps exactly
as I should. As for any of us, this can be dangerous under the right

The house that my family lives in is a two-story stone house that was built
in 1901. Apparently the people who lived during that era were very adept at
climbing steep narrow stairwells because that is exactly what they built in
this house. The stairwell is so narrow and steep in fact that we could not
even get a queen-sized box springs up the stairs. We had to bring it in
through the second story window while standing in the bucket of a front-end
loader. That was quite an experience. Ginger and I have already determined
that we will leave the box springs for the next residents when we vacate the
house. Please do not get me wrong. We love our home. It is very homey and
has a ton of character that has only gotten better with the passing years,
but the stairs, oh the stairs, may be the death of us all. Since our
arrival in August of last year each of the five members of our family,
except me, has fallen down the stairs in some form or fashion. It began
with my daughter and went through both the boys until it happened to Ginger
too. I praise the Lord that there have been no serious injuries. A few
bruises on the body and the pride have been the extent of it. Up until last
evening I had escaped a tumble. I suppose the law of averages had to catch
up with me sooner or later and later turned into sooner just last night. I
went up stairs to tuck the kids in and say good night and then headed back
down stairs to wrap up my work for the day. I was doing great until I got
to the very bottom of the stairs where the landing begins. When I stretched
out my foot to meet the landing I stepped beyond the center of the landing
to the outside edge. At nearly the speed of light-or so it felt-I slammed
to the landing coming to rest on the southern-most portion of the middle of
my body. Fortunately for me, I have grown some extra padding there over the
years and it served me well when I had my close encounter with the landing.
My instinct reaction was to put my hand down to try and catch myself, but
this only served to jam my wrist into the step behind me. I was very
thankful that, just like the rest of my family, I sustained no injuries
worthy of mention.

As I think about our Christian walk. I know that it too can be filled with
very dangerous climbs and pathways. The metaphor of a walk is used in
Scripture (Deut 10:12; Eph 4:1) because we are not supposed to just sit
still. Walking implies that we are to go somewhere with Christ. In fact,
Jesus told each of us when He gave the Great Commission to, "Go..." He does
not intend for us to sit and not be active. Christians cannot be successful
in this life if they are static or stagnant. We must keep moving and going
where the Lord leads us. As we accept this challenge we should realize that
Jesus will never ask us to go where He will not go with us by the power of
the Holy Spirit. He promised to always be with us "...even to the end of
the age." (Matthew 28:20) This is a promise that each one of us should take
to heart. We should fearlessly and faithfully go wherever God's call takes
us. Are there going be valleys? Yes. Will there be steep mountains filled
with dangerous pathways? Yes. Will there be dark, shadowy strong-holds of
Satan that need to have the Light of the World brought to them? Yes. No
matter where we are called we must be willing to go. Along the way we may
even encounter some stairs. In a dream Jacob saw a ladder that reached all
the way to heaven (Gen 28:12). Upon that ladder he saw angels moving up and
down. This vision was given to Jacob the very night that the Lord promised
to bless Jacob and his descendants (Gen 28:14, 15).

As you read the rest of Jacob's story you will discover that he fell
occasionally as he climbed his own ladder or stairway of life. The same
happens to each of us that commit to follow Christ. We will face
challenges. We will have times when we become tired and careless and
perhaps want to just give up. During those times of challenge and stress we
will be tempted to become careless perhaps. If we are not careful we will
fall and it may take days, months, or even years to regain the ground that
we lost when we fell. In 2 Peter chapter 1 Peter gives guidance to his
readers in an attempt to keep them from falling. He says we should seek
Christ in, "applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence,
and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge,
self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your
perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in
your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are
increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful..." He goes on
to say that practicing these things will keep us from stumbling (2 Peter
1:10). It is not that we can work to keep ourselves in line, but when we
fully surrender to Christ and follow the counsel He has given us for our
lives then we will come into harmony with Jesus' guidance for our lives.
Friends, it will only be by God's grace that we will encounter fewer and
fewer missed steps in this life.

Dear Father God,
As we come to You just now we sense our intense need of a Savior. A Savior that can keep us from falling as we live the Christian walk. Father, we know that there are many opportunities for us to stumble if we stray from Jesus' side so we would ask just now that You keep us close by His precious side. It is only as we are connected with our High Priest, Jesus Christ, that we will be able to stand in these last days of earth's history. Our souls bear the bruises that only You can take away Father.
Please allow the balm of Gilead to provide the healing that we each one so
desperately need. Jesus, our master physician, knows our every need and He
will surely heal us from all sinful affliction if we surrender fully to Him.
We thank You for hearing our prayer just now and we thank You that You have
promised to direct our paths. It is in the mighty name of Jesus that we
pray, Amen!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

#23 Well Read

" are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but
with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of
human hearts." 2 Corinthians 3:3

I can recall when I was much younger-probably around 12 or 13-and I loved to
read. You have to realize that I was not in the church at this time so my
reading choices were not exactly the most spiritually enlightening among
what was available. At that time my taste ran more in the vein of Steven
King and Tom Clancy. Yes, I filled my mind with some material that was less
than elevating. Despite the fact that I was reading things that were not
the most conducive to spiritual growth, I developed a love for reading. I
would also read non-fiction works about our country's involvement in the two
World Wars. Video games were quite expensive when I was growing up so we
were not availed of those types of things. This of course gave me lots of
time to feed my love for the written word.

After coming to Christ my eyes were opened to a whole new world of
literature. I began to hear about a woman named Ellen White who wrote over
100,000 pages about God and His wonderful love for fallen humanity. I
gained deep insights as to how Jesus came and died for me to grant me
forgiveness for my sins. Of the things I began to read I fell in love with
the Bible the most. At first it was difficult for me to follow because I
was not sure who Abraham or any of the other Bible characters were. But as
I spent more time in the word of God my horizons were expanded and the vast,
wonderful picture of the plan of salvation and the story of how God has
moved among His people over the ages came together in a beautiful panorama
of hope.

I praise the Lord for my lovely wife and her family. It is because of them
that I was fully introduced to Christ, and it is because of their love and
acceptance towards me that I developed an intense desire to know what made
them so different from any other family I knew. When I first came around
Ginger and her family I was your typical worldly teenager who knew nothing
of God and His will for my life. But after spending a lot of time around
them I knew there was something very different about them and it was
different in a very good way. They showed me a love and acceptance that I
had never known before. They were kind not only to me, but to everyone who
came through the doors of the church. As I spent time with them I began to
read the story of their live in the way that they lived. The story that
unfolded was not one of perfection because they are all human and have their
faults too, but there was and is a kindness about them that expresses the
love of Christ to all they meet. Truly, their lives became one of the best
books that I ever had the joy of reading.

As we venture into 2009 I want to challenge each of you who read this. I
want you to consider the fact that your life is a living epistle. In our
focus text from above, Paul is asking the Corinthian believers if he has
need of presenting credentials by way of a letter of commendation. He
answers his own question by saying that his letter of commendation is
evident by the letter of Christ that is written by the Spirit of God upon
the table of the hearts among the believers. In other words, Paul is saying
that the greatest testimony that could ever be given as evidence to the work
that the Lord has done through him and his fellow workmen is the testimony
that is lived out each day in the life of each believer that had accepted
Jesus as Lord and Savior. The living epistles have the power to speak of
what Christ has done for them, and their testimony can be lived out each day
in every aspect of life. The question that I have for each of you is, "What
does your life say to the world around you?" Friends, our life says
something to the world around us whether we like it or not. The question
comes down to, "What do we allow it to say?" Do we allow our lives to speak
of the wonderful way that Jesus has worked to save us, or does our life say,
"Christians are miserable-stay away!"

As I meet with fellow Christians on a daily basis it saddens my heart to
meet some who have lost their first love. In Revelation 2 Jesus sent a
message to the church in Ephesus. Jesus commended them for their good work
and refusal to tolerate "evil men", but He also had to rebuke them because
they had lost their first love; the love we should all hold for our Lord
Jesus. How is it with you today? Have you been going through the motions
of doing good things for the Lord while quietly aching inside because your
first love for Jesus has waned? I beg each of you to rediscover that first
love and to reconnect with Christ as we begin this new year in earnest. I
firmly believe that the last chapters in this earth's history are going to
come to end sooner than later. Because of that we need to make sure that we
stand rightly with our God. We do not have the luxury of coasting along
waiting to get right sometime down the road.

Today is the day of salvation and who knows? This could be the year that Jesus comes to take us home. I am not date setting friends because no man knows the day or the hour (Mark 13:32), but I am calling each of you to renew your stand with the Lord Jesus and to claim the promise to the overcomer. Jesus said, " Therefore remember
from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first
{and} To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is
in the Paradise of God." Friends, please make the decision today to repent
and do the deeds that poured from your heart when you first came to Jesus.
Let the world around you be blessed by the living epistle of your life. Let
your light so shine before men that they too will be drawn to the Lord Jesus
so that they too will have hope beyond the crisis that looms over our world.

Dear Father God,
As we come to You just now we praise Your holy name for giving us an new
year and more opportunities to serve You and the world around us. Lord,
please forgive us for the way that we may have lived in the past. Please
forgive us if our epistle has been flawed before the world. Please write
your love upon the tables of our hearts and let us live in humble submission
to You that the world may be drawn to You. Please help each of us to be
overcomers that we may eat of the tree of life in Your midst. It is in
Jesus' name that we pray, Amen.