Friday, December 10, 2010

#72 Balancing the Books

Acts 20:35 "remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Some people love to work with numbers. They love to count the "beans" so to speak and to make sure that each penny is accounted for. For them spending hours pouring over balance sheets and ledgers may bring joy and great satisfaction. Sadly, I am not among these people.

Yes, I want to make sure money is accounted for and that people are paid and there is enough money to cover this expense or that one, but I really do not care about money that much. I was not raised with a lot of money so it is not really something that's important to me in the grand scheme of life.

As we approach the Christmas holiday many are busy shopping and looking for the perfect gift. Others simply go to their selected retailer and buy a handful of gift cards. So much of Christmas is just swapping money I think. You buy a $10 gift that no one really wants and they buy you a $10 gift that you really did not want. You basically swapped money, right?

Shouldn't Christmas be more than just swapping money? Shouldn't it be more about balancing the budget of our lives? How so you may ask? By making Christmas truly about sacrificing for others just like the wise men did for Christ. They traveled for hundreds of miles bearing gifts to honor the King of kings and Lord of lords. They made great sacrifice of time and resources to pay homage to the Messiah. Can we do the same in our modern times? I think we can.

Sure we cannot visit Christ at His home and present gifts like the magi, but Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 'to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' In other words, when you and I seek out the less fortunate of our society and do something good for them then we are essentially doing it for Jesus! The problem comes in when we have a deficit in doing for the less fortunate among us. Christmas is great time to balance the books, to make things right, to be a blessing to the down-trodden, and to reach out in the name of Jesus.

I know many of you who will read this have big hearts and that you often help those around you. If you are among this group I challenge you to inspire others around you by getting them involved in helping others somehow. If you volunteer somewhere invite someone else to go with you sometime. In short, I think we can all do something to be a blessing to the "least" among us. Won't you consider this Christmas season and throughout the year how you might fulfill Christ's words and experience the blessing of giving to the least among us?

Dear Father God,
We thank You for the awesome blessings you have given us. Please inspire us to be more like Jesus in all that we do. Inspire us, please, to look beyond our comfort zones and see others that need a helping hand. Please help us experience the blessing of giving to the least among us.

Friday, December 3, 2010

#71 Obstructed View

Habakkuk 2:4 ...the just shall live by his faith.

Do you recall when you first got your drivers license? I do. I was so excited to have a measure of freedom. Yes, I had to be home when mom and dad told me to be there, but I no longer had to beg people for a ride here or there. Of course I soon found out gas was not free so my availability of funds dictated just how much "freedom" I actually had.

Along with learning how to be conservative with gas and not letting my friends run me all over creation was the job of adapting to those with whom I had to share the roads. It's amazing that before I had my license I did not really pay that much attention to how other people drove. Sure, I saw some crazy things before I was driving, but after I was behind the wheel my eyes were opened to all the nuances of how others operated their vehicles. And honestly some people's driving flat out scared me.

Another thing that bothered me while driving was when I would get behind a large vehicle like a semi truck, big box trucks, or even a school bus. When you get stuck behind a large vehicle it makes it hard to see around and know what's coming. These vehicles also drive much slower than smaller ones. Having driven a truck for several years I now know that big trucks move slower because of their gearing and the heavy loads they haul, but as a lead-footed teenager I hated following bigger vehicles. Yes, because they were slow but mainly because I could not see around them. It was sort of like being partially blinded.

The reality is that I was so bothered by following those vehicles because they limited my control of the situation. Sometimes I would get so impatient that I would attempt to pass those vehicles even when it was not safe to do so. How may times did my guardian angel have to reach out and save me from myself? Life is just like that some times. We get behind a big problem that is not being resolved fast enough for our liking and we become impatient and when our impatience builds up the stress drives us mad and to the point where we make rash, even foolish decisions.

One of the great things about being a Christian is that we can take a different approach to life. Yes, big problems come into the lives of God's people and even we as Christians get overly anxious or excited from time to time, but one of the awesome things about being a Christian is that we have a connection to the God of the universe, our Redeemer Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. And while our emotional and spiritual vision may become obstructed from time to time as big, slow, awkward problems end up in front of us, we must never forget that we serve a God whose vision and insight is never blocked by anyone or anything.

So the next time you feel trapped by one of life's big problems why not take time to stand still and let God help you get around it? It may take longer than we want for it to, but if we will patiently wait upon the Lord He will always deliver us from each situation is His time. Adopting this approach to life will give us that Christian walk that is dependent upon faith and not mere human sight or reasoning.

Dear Father,
We give You thanks for being such an awesome God. Thank You for taking care of all of our needs even when we do not see it or appreciate it. Please help us, Lord, to learn to let You lead in all areas of life. We want You to clear our view so we may see what You want us to see. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

#70 Black Friday

Revelation 3:5 NASB 'He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life...'

Yesterday was an amazing day for our family. We decided to just stay home and enjoy Thanksgiving as a family and it was great getting to spend uninterrupted time with my wife and children; something I rarely get.

As we spent time together my mind kept going back to the time I spent in Iraq with the Army from June of 2006 to June of 2007. During that deployment I can honestly say that I never worried about whether or not I would live; even when mortars would slam onto our base or when I felt the reverberation of the truck bombs from outside the perimeter. I placed myself in God's hands before I left and I never took myself out of them. I knew that even if I lost my life I would rest in Jesus' precious care until the day He comes to carry me home to be with Him in heaven.

However, a constant and perpetual concern for me was whether or not I would see my wife and kids again. I did not want my kids to grow up without a father. I did not want my little girl to miss out on having her daddy teach her how a young man is supposed to honor and respect her. I did not want my boys to wonder how they are supposed to be spiritual leaders and providers in their eventual homes. I did not want my wife to be forced to working outside the home while taking care of the children by herself. So many things ran through my mind in regards to my family. No, I did not want my children to be fatherless children.

Sadly, in our world today there are many, many fatherless children. No, I do not mean in the physical sense of children not having their dads around which too often happens, but rather in the sense that far too many live their lives without knowing their heavenly father. They are orphans in this world of sin with no one to guide and protect them. They are not orphans because God has died or otherwise abandoned them, they are such because they either do not know the God of heaven or have rejected Him as their father.What can we do about it?

Each year retailers around the country look forward to the Friday after Thanksgiving to begin the end-of-year blowout for their businesses. The "black" in Black Friday of course refers to the accounting ledger. Retailers want to end up in the "black" having made money instead of the "red" having lost it.

I must admit that I am amazed at the lengths people will go to that they might secure the best deal on the latest gadget, gizmo, toy, or piece of clothing. Long lines form from the early hours of the morning. Bundled and anxious, shoppers assemble along the store fronts counting down to the time when the doors will open. If you were standing in line this morning in central Michigan it meant enduring temperatures in the low twenties. Can you say, "Burrrr!" It takes sacrifice to endure the elements and deprive yourself of sleep. It takes dedication to do the research and know which deals are where. Time must be spent preparing a plan of action if you hope to hit more than one store and get the super deals first.

As I merge the thoughts of what it takes to be successful as a shopper on Black Friday with the idea that we live in a world with millions of spiritual orphans in need of the Father it makes we wonder if we are willing to go to such great and extraordinary lengths to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to hear the gospel. I am not just trying to poke anyone in the eye today and I do not want to make anyone feel guilty for being a frugal shopper and good steward of their resources as they prepare for the holiday season, but I can't help but ask the question, "What holiday plans have we made to share the good news of Jesus and what He has done for each of us?"

Each of us have family and friends who do not know the Lord Jesus. Would we stand outside in the cold to make sure they learn of Him? Have we spent any time researching how to reach their hearts for Christ this season? Have we been lifting each one of them up in prayer asking that the Lord would give us a plan of how to reach them and that the Holy Spirit would go before us and begin to soften their hearts?

It is my prayer for each of you--as well as myself--that we will approach soul-winning and sharing the gospel with greater zeal and enthusiasm than we approach shopping and holiday preparations. Work together as families talking about how you can help bring Jesus and thereby the Father to each one we know. Let's purpose in our hearts and covenant afresh with our God to be actively engaged in bringing people to Christ. Pray for windows of opportunity to share your faith this season with the world around you. Please do not beat people over the head or bludgeon them with the gospel, but look for ways to lovingly and gently share Jesus.

May the retailers do well today and throughout the end of this year, but much more importantly, may the record of heaven be filled with new names that are added to the book of life because we had the courage to share our faith and be partners with the Lord Jesus.

Dear Father,
Thank You for being such an awesome God. I pray that You will give each of us courage to plan to share Jesus this holiday season. May our preparations be blessed by the Holy Spirit and may the name of Christ be brought to spiritual orphans around the globe. We pray these things in Jesus holy name, Amen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

#69 Caveat Emptor

Matthew 5:16 NASB "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Our world today is one that is consumer driven. Whatever consumers want the markets will produce. We want faster food, restaurants respond. We want smaller phones and computers, again the market responds. Anything we want we can find either in stores or online. The items of this world are at our fingertips and well within our grasp if we have the money to buy them.

But not all vendors of today’s goods are trustworthy. If you choose to buy something off the Internet through a web-based retailer or an auction site, you have to approach them with caution especially if the site you are browsing is not a major, well-known retailer. The Latin phrase caveat emptor must come to mind: “buyer beware”. In other words, be careful about what you buy and from whom you buy it. They may very well sell you some junk or take your money and leave you holding the Styrofoam-peanut-filled box in which your junk came.

Some people approach their spirituality in this same way. They may have come from a background where those professing the name of Christ did not live in such a way as to glorify Christ. Perhaps their experience with Christians was witnessing them in their weak moments or when they were questioning their faith. Whatever may have happened, there are those in this world who approach God and faith in Him with extreme caution if they approach at all. They are afraid that becoming a Christian means they are being duped or taken advantage of. They hear sirens go off in their mind when they are around Christians and they scream to themselves “Buyer beware, buyer beware!"

How do we work to change this mentality? I firmly believe that we change it in one way by the way we live our lives. If you and I are committed Christians who live surrendered lives and who let Jesus put together the pieces of our existence then we can present a picture of godliness to the world that makes them want to take a second glance at the God of heaven. Committed Christians who live in the world without assimilating and becoming like the world do more for the cause of God than all the sermonizing done each week in pulpits around the world.

Your life lived to glorify Christ brings down barriers, softens hearts, open eyes, peaks interest, and ultimately serves to draw people close to the One who can save them. Yes, it is the Holy Spirit who works through us to accomplish these things, but God’s Spirit wants Christians who can serve as conduits of grace to a rebellious planet. You and I can be those conduits, you and I can be the ones whom Jesus speaks through to save perishing souls all around us. How will you respond? Will you be or remain a sketchy, hypocritical, faithless Christian who causes "buyers to beware" or will you choose to be a trustworthy, gracious, willing servant of the Lord Jesus so that the world might see Christ and be drawn to Him?

Buyers--those seeking more from life--should never have to beware around God’s people. Live today in honor of Christ and He will honor you before His Father and all the hosts of heaven. Live today and everyday henceforth with a solid resolve to present Christ and living for Him in the best possible light as you are filled with His Spirit. Strive to be a Christian whom seekers will be willing to approach. Jesus will bless this type of life and use you to bless others.

Dear Father,

We thank You for loving us so much and for Your willingness to work through us to save others. Forgive us where we have failed to rightly represent You, and please use us to lift up Christ in all that we do. We pray in His holy name, Amen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

#68 Finding the Pieces

Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

I have always been one who enjoys a friendly game of whatever. Monopoly is fun if you can finish the game in less than half a day, Life is well...not like real life so it can be fun, and Trivial Pursuit has questions about things either A) you never knew existed, B) never cared existed, C) wish did not exist, or D) somehow made it into your brain somewhere along the line.

Apart from games I have never been one who enjoys doing puzzles. Wait please before you turn away because I have offended you. All you puzzle mavens out there please hear me out. Yes, puzzles have some really awesome or very cool pictures on them. Yes, they can provide hours of great bonding time for people who enjoy the seemingly endless hunt for pieces that somehow all look the same and have nearly the same shape as the other 9,999 pieces lying beside them. And yes, once you finish the puzzle it gives a sense of deep accomplishment for having endured to the end of recreating that which is printed on the box-top. But for me that endless search for like-pieces and going back and forth looking at the box-top serves only to give me a headache and nearly-crossed eyes.

Sometimes our lives feel like a great big puzzle too don't they? There are so many things we don't understand or perhaps we struggle to find meaning in events that disappoint us. Life becomes a little like doing a puzzle some days. We want to be able to look at our life and see all the pieces fit into place nicely and without too much searching. Life is good when it's like a preschool puzzle. You know, the ones with 5-10 pieces and you can put it together in about 30 seconds. Life is hard and almost unbearable when it's like one of those impossible puzzles that have the same image printed on the front and back of the pieces and there are no edge pieces.

How do we pull it together when we fall into the later category of the impossible puzzle? I think at least part of the answer is that we stop searching and start praying. Ironically, when we stop searching and start praying we are actually still searching, but instead of searching in the darkness of this world we begin searching for the One that can lead us to an eternity of life and happiness.

When you and I search for God through prayer He becomes the One who puts all our pieces in order. He takes our lives and makes things happen when all we could see were random pieces and odd-shaped holes. The Lord has promised in His word that He has plans for us. His plans are ones that will lead to prosperity and joy. Following His plan does not guarantee that we will not experience suffering, but His plans promises to see us through till the end and make us victorious despite our sufferings. It happened for Christ and it can happen for us too!

No, it is not easy to let go and just let God. Last week we talked about finding our strength in surrendering to God. This week I want you to realize that it is God's strength that will pick up the pieces of your life and turn them into a beautiful picture that not only brings you happiness, but will glorify Him in the process. It is my prayer that you will seek God in prayer and ask Him to put the puzzle of your life together.

Dear Father God,
We thank You for being so awesome and wonderful. Thank You for caring about the pieces of our lives. We humbly come just now and ask that You teach us how to depend on You; we come and ask that You please put our lives together. Thank You for hearing and answering our prayers. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

#67 Ultimate Strength

Psalm 28:7 "The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;"

I had the opportunity in high school to take a class called "weight training". No, they did not teach me how to lose weight--although that would have come in handy over the years. Instead the class was all about how to properly lift weights and how lifting weights certain ways assisted in developing various muscle groups.

The class was pretty great. I got to lift weights and get buff fifty minutes a day five days a week. What teenage boy who wants to be cool and have big arms would not think that was fun? Although I loved the class I never wanted to get really big muscles. I just wanted to look good wearing a tank-top. Yes, I was vain and self-centered. There were even times when I lingered by mirrors to check out my biceps, forearms, and chest thinking I was all that. Yes, it was sad really.

Each day we would try to push ourselves to lift more and more than the days before, and at that point in my life I thought physical strength was the most important type of strength there was. Truth be told, I probably thought physical strength was the only kind of strength.

It was not until I began to learn of Jesus and His infinite love that I came to know of a much different form of strength. When I heard the stories of His love, grace, and mercy my heart was moved with deep conviction. When I learned that He died for me I was overwhelmed with thoughts of shame and sadness for the sins I had committed. I can recall going forward to the altar and weeping as I knelt down. As the memory of my sin and guilt came flooding to remembrance I wanted only to be free from my past and all my wrongdoings.

Sweet relief was mine when I learned that the blood of Jesus poured out on Calvary's cross would cover my sin debt to God. The pastor told me to confess my sins and Jesus would cleanse me of all iniquity. He went on to say that in my weakened, sinful spiritual state I could lean on Jesus and He would give me strength to endure. Although, the concept of spiritual strength was totally foreign to me I knew I needed it and I wanted it.

But when I found out how to get spiritual strength it amazed me. You recall that I was accustomed to gaining strength through the repetitious lifting of weights, but spiritual strength comes not from my efforts but rather through Jesus' efforts. Spiritual strength comes not through fighting and pushing myself to be better and better, but through surrender. That is crazy in the world's eyes: "Surrender to gain strength?" Yes, yes, and yes!

If we want to be spiritually strong friends we have to let go of trying to do things by our power and let the creator God of heaven empower us through His Spirit. When we do this He can become our strength and He will shield us from the evil of this world. Sure we may have to endure loss or persecution in this life, but if Christ is our strength and shield then He protects our minds from molding into worldly conformity. He blocks Satan from having his way with us.

It is my prayer that each of you will seek to discover that source of ultimate strength that lies in living a life surrendered to Jesus Christ. Like me, you will find that His strength is better than any physical strength we can attain on our own.

Dear Father God,
Please help us each one to live in a constant state of surrender to You. Let us not buy the world's bill of goods that says trust in your own power and strength. Teach us to trust You and we thank You in advance for shielding us and lifting us up with Your righteous right hand, Amen.

Friday, August 6, 2010

#66 Yours, Mine, and the Truth

John 8:31b-32 NASB "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

My wife and I have been blessed with three wonderful children. No, they are not perfect but they are great kids in my biased opinion. But no matter how great any of our kids are they may struggle with telling the truth sometimes. For most of us it is not always easy to tell the truth. If I ask my kids what happened after they come crying I always seem to get varying versions of the "truth".

No doubt most of us have heard that there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. It seems when people recount a story they tend to remember what was important to them. Or perhaps they choose not to share portions that incriminate them. This phenomenon plagues police around the world when they investigate an incident.

But some would ask, "What is the truth? Is truth dependent upon us? Can there be varying versions of the truth?" One online dictionary defines truth as: a fact that has been verified. That is an accurate definition I suppose, but what is truth as it relates to spiritual things?

Let's let the Bible speak for itself in this regard. In John 14:6 Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life. So by this verse we discover that Jesus is truth. Why? Because Jesus embodies all that we strive to be as it relates to fulfilling the will of the Father. Jesus' life was devoted to pleasing the Father and teaching others to follow His lead. He did not chase selfish desires or rebel against God. He always sought to do the will of the Father in every circumstance. He did not reject the portions of Scripture that were outside the cultural norms.

By looking at Christ's life and ministry we see that He always sought to do right by always doing His Father's will. If you and I hope to be aligned with the truth then we must be aligned with Christ in every aspect of our lives. I often have people tell me during Bible studies that it really does not matter if they believe what they are learning and that we can all get to heaven if we just love Christ. Many say that doctrine and teaching are not really relevant.

This may sound good but it is not truthful. We cannot chose to ignore Christ's teachings or His truths just because it is not convenient to our lifestyle. He wanted each of us to learn all His teachings. He said so in Matthew 28:20. We cannot ignore what He has asked us to do just because we want to go a different direction. If we accept that Christ is truth and we want to live for Him then we have no choice but to accept the truths that He shares with us. We do not have the option of choosing our own path and then asking Him to bless it. Of course I say this in the context of those who want to see eternity with Christ.

Why not let today be the day that you stop ignoring Jesus and His truth? Why not let today be the day that you choose to follow His version of reality. I promise you that He will give you the peace that comes from sweet surrender. Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).

Dear Father God,
We thank You for Your gracious love and mercy. Please forgive us for the times we have ignored Your truth, and please give us the courage to follow you even when it means making huge changes in our lives. We pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, July 30, 2010

#65 True Freedom

1 Peter 2:16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. NASB

We all have the great privilege of living in a country where freedom has deep meaning. No other country on earth allows people of all creeds and colors to come together and work, live, and worship as they please to the degree that these things happen in the United States. But in the midst of this bastion of freedom do we really understand what it means to be free?

Some might argue that because they served this nation within the military they have the best understanding of freedom because they helped pay the price to keep us free. Still others might say they best understand freedom because they have lost loved ones in the fight to keep us free.

An anarchist--not antichrist--might say that, "Freedom is being able to do what we want to whomever we want whenever we want." A police officer might say that, "Freedom occurs for the rest of us when all the crooks are taken off the streets." Freedom would thereby be equated to being able to exercise our rights without infringement or hindrance. This would lean towards a dictionary type definition of the term that says freedom is: the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. But I would beg to differ and offer that freedom comes only when there are externally imposed restraints.

I say this because freedom without restraints or boundaries in not freedom for everyone. If I have no restraints on what I can do then I could very well directly limit the freedoms of others simply by virtue of the fact that my actions, words, or thoughts were not being restrained in some form or fashion.

If we look at freedom from a Christian's perspective we find that freedom only comes through limitations and boundaries. Meaning that when I live my life apart from Christ then I live a life that has no real direction. But when I live for and through Christ then I will be directed by the One who knows the beginning and the end. He is the only One that truly help you and me experience true freedom.

Writing to believers, Peter said that we are to act as free men who do not use freedom as a covering for evil (1 Peter 2:16). What does he mean by this? He means that true freedom does not give us a license to do whatever we please to whomever we please. True freedom is defined as letting God direct every aspect of our lives. When we allow Him to have full control we are then His bond slaves. Not slaves in the context of America's sordid history of slavery, slaves in the sense of children who are taken care of wholly by their Father God. As our Master, we would agree that He has the right to call all the shots.

The moment that you and I accept Christ as our Savior and Lord we are to cast off the bonds of sin and become children of God who are heirs according to His promises. That is why Jesus said in John 8:36 that if the Son sets us free then we are free indeed. We are not free from godly restraint, on the contrary we are free from eternal damnation; we are free from condemnation; we are free from guilt and worry, and the list could go on and on.

It is my prayer for each of you that if you are not living in such a way as to experience true freedom by letting God control everything in your life then choose to make a change. Make that change that will set you "free indeed" in the loving arms of our amazing Savior God.

Dear Father God,
I want to thank You for being our awesome, sovereign God. Thank You for Jesus who sets us free from sin and condemnation and thank You for giving us boundaries and guidelines that keep us safe and allow us to follow Your path. Please inspire us to live free every day. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Friday, April 23, 2010

#64 Interconnectedness

Romans 12:5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another

I wonder if most of us realize just how interconnected the various parts of our bodies are? Sure, we can easily see that our arms and legs attach to our main torso, and that hair grows out of our scalp; well for some hair still grows out of the scalp :-) The point is that our bodies are wonderful machines, if you will, that work in an intricately amazing way.

If you stop and think about the various systems of the body and how they work in harmony with each other you cannot help but be impressed by God's handiwork. If you want a stark reminder of just how connected the parts of the body are, sustain an injury to one of them. Take the back for instance. The back is connected to at least the muscular, skeletal, nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems--there may be more but I am not a doctor or medical professional. I found out this week in a pronounced way how some of those systems "announce" when something is wrong.

I was working in my study at one of the churches and simply bent forward to retrieve an item from my computer bag. As I bent over I heard a "pop" sound come from my lower back. It was similar to the sound your joints make when your knuckles crack. I knew right away that something was wrong. I sat back and continued to work for a bit, but when I got up my nervous system screamed out and told me there was a problem. Because the nervous system was getting signals for pain in my back the muscles reacted by refusing to move in such a way that would increase the pain sensation. In simple terms, when my back sustained the injury the rest of my body had to compensate and adjust with it because the various parts and systems of the body are interconnected an inseparable.

As Christians, we are also interconnected and inseparable as the body of Christ. And like the human body, when a member of the body of Christ hurts it effects us all. When we see a fellow believer hurting it should move us to compassion for them, it should move us to want to comfort them. The hard part about this process is that many times the "injuries" are not visible to the naked eye. More often than not the injuries are internal within the heart of the believer with a more spiritual or emotional aspect.

So how do we know if people are hurting or injured when it is not totally obvious? We spend time with them. We get to know them so that they trust us and open up to us. Once people know that we care about them they are more willing to share what is troubling them. Sure, we may not always have the answers for all their problems but we don't have to have all the answers. Many times people just want someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of. How many of us have figured out a situation just by talking it through out loud?

The point is this: Christians cannot go through life as an island unto themselves. We have an obligation to reach out to one another and try to help as we see hurting in our midst. If we are tuned into the needs of others it allows us to focus less on our own problems. When we do this it is amazing how much better we feel. There is a joy that comes from helping others. I would even go so far as to say there is a blessing to be had in helping others. I would challenge each of us to look for ways that we can be a blessing to someone else. I know some of us are already doing this, but I know there are many who need a gentle reminder to pay more attention to the members within the body of Christ. Christ is the One that connects us and He is the One who will sustain us if we live for Him. Why not begin today looking for ways you can be a blessing to others?

Our Father Who is in heaven,
Thank You for being so gracious and wonderful toward us in that You sent Your only begotten Son to save all who will accept Him. Forgive us, please, for not being tuned in to the needs of others more, and please teach us to watch for ways that we can be a blessing and a help to our fellow man. We pray these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, April 16, 2010

#64 Following the Tracks

1 John 2:6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

Spring is in the air and most of rejoice that the coats can be stored away for another few months until winter makes its way back around to us. I will never forget the first winter our family experienced in Michigan. Of course moving up from the south we fully expected things to be covered in snow for months: we were not disappointed in the least. People said that we got more snow than was typical for central Michigan. We thought is was fun and did not get too worked up over it at all.

I can recall walking out in the yard with the kids. We have a hill beside our house to the west and it is perfect for sledding. The hill actually varies enough that you can have a more vigorous experience if so desired just by walking over to another part of the hill. One of our sledding runs has a bump at the bottom that will bruise your bottom if you're not careful to hit it just right.

The snow was pretty deep this particular day and the walk back up the hill was grueling after a few runs down. What we all discovered was that it was easier to come back up the hill if you walked in the foot prints of the one who went up first. Twelve inches of snow is not bad unless you are trying to walk in it up a steep hill. It was so cute watching the kids plow their way back up the hill, and it was neat to see them try to match the stride marked in the snow by me and Ginger. We had a blast that day and built some memories that will last a lifetime.

Walking in snow can tough but walking in this world can be even tougher. Sometimes the paths that we choose are bad at best and fatal at worst. We cannot see the future and too often we walk our own way without consulting God who knows all things (1 John 3:20). How much different would the course of our lives be if we would simply follow in the footprints of Jesus? How much less pain and heartache would we endure if we allowed Christ to be our guide? I can only speak from personal experience and tell you that when I have pursued my own courses of action they have often ended in failure, but each time I have looked for God's path and followed His leading I have found success and joy.

Does following the Lord mean that we will never endure hardship? No, not at all. In fact, Jesus said that if any man intends to follow Him, he must deny himself and take up his cross (Mark 8:34). Taking up the cross denotes public shame, possible humiliation, possible suffering for Christ's sake, and the likelihood of loosing our lives. But after the cross there was victory. There was newness of life. There was the promise of eternal life. There was a blessed hope of being united with Jesus forever if we remained faithful. No, the walk may not always be easy but life without Jesus is certainly not easy either. If life is going to be difficult, then I at least want Jesus' version of difficult instead of my own foolish version.

It is my prayer today that each one of us will have the courage to surrender our walk of life to Jesus. It is my prayer that you and I will choose to follow Jesus completely. For it is only in following His footsteps that we will find true joy, success, and ultimate happiness as we spend eternity with Him. Stop striving in vain friends and let the Lord of heaven lead you today.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for giving us the wonderful example of Jesus that we might follow after Him. Please forgive us for the times that we have tried to follow our own course and brought shame to us and You. Give us the faith and courage to follow Him wherever He may lead us, and may we never trudge through life alone and apart from Christ. We pray these things in Jesus' lovely name, Amen.

Friday, April 9, 2010

#62 Tower Power

2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Our world today is filled with wireless gadgets. The number of people who do not have a cell phone are nearly the minority these days. Cell phones have gained such prominence that many have dropped their land lines completely and only use cell phones. My family has followed this trend as well. With cell plans dropping in price it has made it affordable for many families to add multiple lines enough for all to stay in touch with one another.

Although cells phones are fairly widespread, you are not able to get a cell signal in all places. The more remote or rural a place is the less likely you are to have coverage. I travel about 3,000 miles a month to accomplish my pastoral duties and I have learned where I will drop calls. The problem is with the location of cell sites. Most people say "cell towers" but the truth is that come antennas are mounted on buildings and other structures. But we can use the term and know what we are talking about. A cell site will cover a certain radius based on natural terrain, technology used, and urban terrain features (i.e., buildings, houses, etc.).

Another factor to consider is the hand-held device you use. Older style phones came equipped with external antennas that were either fixed or extend-able. Today, users prefer sleek devices with internal antennas and the market has adjusted to meet that preference. Each cell service provider promises that they have the best coverage, the best prices, and the best devices. All have pros and cons and not every carrier will always leave each consumer completely happy.

I am thankful for the work that my device allows me to do as I travel around my pastoral district. It truly saves me a ton of time when I have signal. As I think about how cell phones are a part of our lives it causes me to consider our connections with the Lord. It makes me question whether we are as concerned with whether or not we connected with our Heavenly Father. If we have too many dropped calls on our phone we rail against our cell provider, but when we walk through life unconnected with the the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) far too many of us do not even know it.

When Solomon finished the Lord's temple and the palace he made sacrifices to God and asked the Lord to bless what he had accomplished. The Lord came to him and told him that He wanted to bless His people, but there were conditions that must be met first. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God told them that He would hear their prayers and heal their lands if they did four simple things.

First, He said that they must humble themselves. Humility does not always come easy for us, but we can become humble if we reflect on the life of Christ and surrender our will to His. We should pray to not be prideful or arrogant.

Secondly, God said they needed to pray. This seems so obvious, but so many who profess to be Christians simply do not pray anymore if they ever did. We have to pray and ask forgiveness for our sins daily if we want to stay connected to God. Is a friend truly a friend if we never talk to them or they to us?

Thirdly, He told them to seek Him. When we look at the story of Noah we quickly realize that God's Spirit does not strive with us forever (Gen 6:3) so we must seek God's will while He may still be found (Isaiah 55:6). One day soon our opportunity for salvation will be gone and we will be lost if we are not connected to Jesus (Rev 22:11).

Lastly, God told Solomon that He wanted His people to turn from their wicked ways. This would come easy if they were following the other three categories. If they were humble, praying, God-seeking people then sin would be nearly naturally eliminated in the process. It was after they did these things that God promised to hear them and heal their land.

So how is your connection with God today? Are you a humble, praying, God-seeking, and evil-avoiding Christian? Seems like a tall order in some ways doesn't it? If you try to do it in your own strength and power then it will not only be a tall order it will be an impossible one. The secret to all of this is to allow Jesus to be your source of power. You see, Jesus is the "Tower of Power" that we each need. He is the One who will keep us connected and who will mold us and make us what He wants us to be.

Some of you reading this have not maintained your walk with Christ and you feel a total lack of power in your life. Some of you may not have been to church in years. Today, all of that can change. Today, you can choose to turn your life over to Christ and He will revamp your weak life and give you a life filled with power and hope. Why not take that step today and become connected with the true source of power. When you are connected to Jesus you never have to worry about a "dropped call" when you pray because Jesus does not lose power or coverage. He is the source that never runs dry.
The recipe for accepting Jesus is in 1 John 1:9. We are told to confess our sins and He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He longs to connect with you, step out in faith and answer His call.

Dear Father God,
Please forgive us where we have not lived in a way that connects us to You. Give us the courage to surrender to Christ that we might receive His power and heavenly connection. Bless us as we follow You. I pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

#61 Beautiful Chaos

Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

I recently had some painting done at our home while my wife was away visiting family in North Carolina. We live in a rented home that was built in 1901. The three bedroom house is full of character with its wide wood moldings and its field stone exterior. When we first saw it I loved it and knew that was where I wanted to live.

Despite how much we like our little place, it has needed a few modern conveniences added to it. The landlord agreed to buy a dishwasher if I would install it so I did. A friend and church member came out and reworked the cabinets to accommodate a dishwasher and he even did a new counter-top and back splash. They turned out great. The next touch we needed was some new paint. I asked another friend and member to come help with the painting. She does great work with painting and has a knack for doing rag painting.

Rag painting is accomplished by first painting the wall a base color and then taking a wadded up rag and dabbing it all over the base coat with a color that is just slightly different. I was amazed the first time I saw it done at our Mount Pleasant church. A flat lifeless wall comes to life when the "ragging" is done over the top of the base coat. Walls with slight imperfections are perfect candidates for ragging because the variations in the ragged pattern trick the eyes into seeing only the beautiful finish that is created. I am amazed at how beauty comes out of the seeming chaos of just dabbing an old piece of t-shirt dipped in paint over the wall. At first it looks like the wall is being ruined by a rag dabbed all over it, but in short order the wall comes to life and beauty is added to your space.

These recent changes in our home have caused me to think about our lives. Each of our lives have a "base coat" of our existence so to speak. Each is colored by our experiences; good and bad. As we experience life there are also all sorts of things that get "dabbed" onto us; some good and some bad. Often times the events of life are very chaotic and confusing. Apart from Christ those events can seem to lead us nowhere, but with Christ those chaotic events can become way-marks of how Jesus has led us.

No, I am not saying that God is chaotic and His ways make no sense to us. I am saying that in life crazy things happen and even when crazy, chaotic things happen God has the awesome ability to take those situations and allow good to come out of it. Just as beauty emerges from the dabbing of paint from a rag over a base coat of paint on a wall, if you and I surrender our lives to Christ fully He can take our life of chaos and turn it into something beautiful. No, God does not desire for us to suffer but as long as Satan is in the world there will be suffering, but I praise God that He is greater than Satan by far and our God can turn around those bad situations we experience and give us beauty from chaos.

My challenge to each of you today is to stop trying to manage life by yourself. Stop striving and going in circles apart from God and surrender it all to Him today. I promise you that you will not be disappointed with the results.

Dear Father God,

Thank You for Your goodness and mercy. Thank You for taking the chaos of our lives and making it into something beautiful. Teach us to surrender everything to You each today and to trust in Your goodness. We praise You and thank You in Jesus lovely name, Amen.

Friday, February 26, 2010

#60 Dots and Circles

Acts 10:34, 35 Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him."

It is estimated that nearly 7% of the American male population is colorblind. Growing up I never knew this. It was not until I went to enlist in the military and took a test for "normal color perception" (NCP) and almost failed it that I began to learn about this fact.

I think the test would hurt most people's eyes to tell the truth. They show you a series of circles with varying colored backgrounds. Inside those circles are numbers made up of dots in different colors. They simply ask you to read the number that you see in the circle. Sounds easy enough right? I suppose it is for the other 97% of men out there, but I really had to take my time and focus intently to see the numbers and even at that they did not always jump right out for me. Had I missed two more when I took the test they would have failed me.

To fail the NCP test does not mean the military won't take you. It just means that they will limit the jobs you can do. My job as a chaplain assistant happened to one of those jobs you can be color blind and still do. I think being a cook was one of the other ones. As I look back on the fact that chaplains and chaplain assistants do not have to have normal color perception I find it to be pretty cool.

Think about it for a minute with me. A chaplain and their assistant form a Unit Ministry Team (UMT). Their jobs are to provide spiritual support for all Soldiers, their families, and any other Department of Defense (DOD) personnel that may have needs. In order to do that you cannot judge people or refuse to help them. It does not matter what their rank, religion, skin color, or gender is; all people are to get equal treatment. Yes, UMT members are able to practice their particular religious beliefs but others can not be denied help if they happen to have a different belief system.

I am out of the Army now and of course I do not believe all religions or so-called religious practices lead to God. The Bible is very specific about God's will for our lives. I am a Christian and more specifically a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, and I fully believe that I am following God's will to be such. However, I believe that God allows and wants people of all backgrounds, races, and creeds to come to Him and seek His will for their lives too. God does not favor one group or race over another. He used a vision about unclean meats to teach Peter this lesson in Acts 10. In essence, I think we could say that God is spiritually color blind. He loves all people equally. He sent His Son to die that all humanity might be redeemed if they choose to follow Christ.

My mind has been going over these thoughts these past few weeks as I have thought about Black History Month. Our nation has a sad history of slavery and human injustice. Perhaps equally sad is that even though we have an African-American president, this country is still not over racism. Yes, racism exists on all sides of the color spectrum. How I wish that we were all colorblind when it comes to seeing skin color.

As Christians I think we must decide to become colorblind. I have a hard time believing that heaven or the new earth will be segregated by color. We should start living like we're ready for heaven now. I am glad that our country takes the time to celebrate the achievements of Black Americans. We should applaud all who who overcome hardship and injustice, but I also hope that sooner rather than later we as Christians and Americans will let go of the issue of race. Why? Because Jesus is coming soon and when we are gathered to Him in the clouds of glory we will go as a rainbow of mixed skin tones.

My challenge to each of you today is to live your life without the boundaries of skin color. Christ died for all so we should strive to love all. This is not always easy but the Lord will give us help in this and all other aspects of our spiritual walk.

Dear Lord,
We thank You for making us so diverse. We thank You for sending Jesus to die for all people. Please forgive us if there have been racially divisive thoughts in our hearts. Please teach us to see people as You see them. Please teach us to be colorblind when it comes to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ just like you did for Peter long ago. Please come soon Lord that we might be in heaven with You. These things we pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, February 12, 2010

#59 Crush

Matthew 11:29-30 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me...For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

The other day I was reading about how to survive an earthquake. The expert being interviewed shared some insights about how to survive an earthquake if you happen to be inside a structure of some sort when a quake strikes. He noted that traditionally people have been taught to get underneath something near them such as a desk or bed. Other suggestions have been to stand in a doorway or get beneath stairs. He then told about the hundreds of people he had seen killed because they got under something that the weight of the collapsing building crushed. Both children and adults alike were lost from having followed these traditional "survival" techniques.

The expert said he would recommend that people not get underneath heavy objects, but that they should lie down beside those heavy strong objects in the fetal position. When the building falls in, the heavier objects only allow the debris to fall so far and that creates spaces directly beside the large objects and that space may very well be the amount you need until you can be rescued. Beds, large desks, filing cabinets, or any other heavy thick object can prove helpful.

Although not all of us have experienced an earthquake, each of us has definitely been at a place in our life where we felt burdened or perhaps even crushed by the weight of life. Financial, medical, and relationship troubles can cause us to feel like the world is coming down around us. They can make us feel like we are going to be crushed to death. I have personally felt heaviness in my chest before when life's burdens became too heavy.

Just like when an earthquake strikes, we need protection when our personal world begins to shake uncontrollably. Where do we turn: to drugs, alcohol, immoral sexual behavior, gambling? None of these things offer solutions to our troubles, they simply allow us to forget for a while. But when the high wears off, the alcohol clears out of our minds, our partner goes on with their life, or the money we might win is spent what are we left with? Guilt and shame. That's why a relationship with Christ is the only real solution to life's troubles.

When we feel burdened He cares. When we feel lost He can lead us home. When we feel lonely He will comfort us. When life comes tumbling down around us He is more than strong enough to provide shelter and safety. We must simply choose to follow Him and allow Him to have full reign in our lives. Jesus cannot be crushed friends and if we are "yoked" or bound up with Him neither shall we be crushed.

There may be some who read this and wish they had the bond with Jesus that gives that life-saving protection. There is no need to wish. All you have to do is ask Christ to come into your heart and to take away the stains of sin in your life. He is willing to forgive you for your sins if you will ask. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive them and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Perhaps you once walked with the Lord but strayed away. Today is the day to come back and let Jesus lead you afresh. Decide just now to re-commit your life to Christ and walk with Him now and forever more. You will never regret having let Christ have full control of your life. I haven't.

Dear Father in Heaven,
As we come before You just now we desire to no longer be crushed by the weight of this world's problems. We recognize that faith in You and a relationship with Jesus are our only hopes. Please forgive us for where we have failed You and yoke us up with Christ that He might bear our burdens. These things we pray in the holy name of Christ, Amen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

#58 M.O.S.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

One thing I loved about the military was the overuse of acronyms. There seams to be one for everything and nearly everyone. Those Soliders that are part of an infantry unit refer to those who are not infantry as P.O.G.s (pronounced with a long "o" sound and meaning: Person Other than Grunts). "Grunt" is a nickname for anyone in the infantry. It is amazing how after a period of time the acronyms just seem normal and you really do not think about them too much.

One acronym that everyone in the military thinks about though is their M.O.S. or "Military Occupational Specialty". My M.O.S. was 56M (referred to as a 56Mike). "Mike" of course comes from the international phonetic alphabet where each letter is given a word instead of just saying the name of the letter when spelling something. A 56M is a chaplain assistant. It was my job to take care of all security and administrative duties relating to the unit's spiritual needs. It was a great opportunity to minister to Soldiers and civilians that were contracted to the U.S. government.

The other day I was thinking about the duty of each Christian and my mind went to the acronym M.O.S. However, since we as Christians are not all physical warriors, but all are called to be spiritual warriors (Ephesians 6:12) M.O.S. stands for Ministry Occupational Specialty. Stay with me for a minute on this. The Bible is very clear that each one has natural or cultivated talents (Matt 25:16). God then gives us spiritual gifts to work in harmony with our "wiring", so to speak. Once we choose to be partners with the Lord we are equipped to do service for Him and the world He died to save.

What is your spiritual M.O.S.? Have you taken the time to attempt to discover your spiritual gift set? If you have it is imperative to attempt to be plugged into your local church where those gifts can be put to use for edification of God's church and kingdom. When I first felt called to ministry I was very unsure about where exactly God wanted me to serve. It took lots of prayer, study, and counsel to determine exactly what God wanted me to do for Him. But what a joy to finally know for sure where I was supposed to be! What a joy to discover God's purpose for my life! Since I gave into God and allowed Him to use me as He sees fit I have never been happier. Regardless of what your talents and spiritual gifts are that make up your M.O.S., I assure you God wants you to be faithful to His calling and He wants you to partner with Him in reaching souls for His kingdom.

I realize that each of us have jobs we must work in order to provide for our families and take care of our financial obligations. And after a hard day's work it is very tempting to spend our free time simply relaxing and soaking up time with our families. These things are necessary too but should they dominate all of our free time? How much of our free time is dedicated to eternal things?

We as Christians talk a lot about stewardship and too often that topic is relegated to only refer to money. Biblically though stewardship refers to our money, time, and talents. What if we were to give tithe and offerings of our time in a systematic way? Each day has 24 hours. If we were to give systematically of our time using the percentages of 10% tithe and 5% offering then 2.4 hours of each day belong to God right off the top of each day by way of a time tithe . When you apply your daily time offering that gives the Lord another 1.2 hours of each day for a total of at least 3.6 hours that should be given to God to each day of the six leading up to the Sabbath. Granted, many of you give much more than 3.6 hours a day to God, but many others give little or no time to God.

I want you to think back over your life and consider how much of what you have done will have eternal consequences? How much of what we have accomplished up to this point in our lives can really be said to have brought others closer to Christ? How many of us have been in the church for years and have never brought one other person to Jesus? Yes, these are tough questions, but they are questions that deserve our attention and consideration today.

It is far past time when we should be about our Father's business. It is time to get real with our Christian experience and begin to focus our time on the truly important areas of life. It is time to work within our spiritual M.O.S. and partner with Christ to win souls for the kingdom. Let's decide today to let nothing stand in the way of sharing Christ with a world that is in desperate need of a Savior.

Dear Father God,
Please forgive us for not being more prepared to work for You. Please give us victory over sin and selfishness, and please empower us to be agents of grace for the spreading of the Gospel. We cannot do this without the Holy Spirit so we pray that today You might infill us and equip us for service. It is in Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Friday, January 29, 2010

#57 Grocery Store Approach

1 Thessalonians 5:21 "...examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

Grocery shopping is something that we all have to do. Some of us enjoy wandering through the aisles checking prices and looking for the best bargain. Some clip coupons and try to save every penny possible. Then there are those of us who are not there to shop, we are there to buy; buy only what we need and we want to get out of there as quickly as possible. I fall into that latter category.

When we buy our groceries many of us are very selective. We do not go into the store and buy one of everything. No, we choose only what we want or happen to need for that day, week, or month. If we tried to buy one of everything we would not only be financially ruined, but we would have a lot of stuff we really do not need.

Life is much like going to the grocery store in that we also do not need everything this life has to offer. There are all sorts of things competing for our attention but how many of them actually warrant our time and precious energy? I would dare say that far too many of us allow unnecessary things to rob of us valuable time that could and should be spent doing something else. Please understand I am not trying to be the "time police" with these comments. I am simply encouraging each of you to consider how you spend your time and resources.

According to a 2008 Nielsen Company survey the average American watches 151 hours of television a month. That works out to be about 1812 hours per year or 75.5 full days. If a person lived to be 73 having watched this average amount of television and they started watching T.V. when they were 10 years old then they will have spent about 13 years of their life in front of a talking box. 13 years is a lot of your life. How many of us wish we could have an extra 13 years to live life.

T.V. is not the only thing of course that vies for our time and attention but it is easy to pick on. My point is that just because something demands our attention in this life does not mean that we have to give it, and just because something feels good does mean that God would have us engage in it. In fact, I think we should be careful to only expose ourselves to those things that are going to bolster our relationship with God.

Not everything the world has to offer is good and not everything the world has to offer is suitable for God's people. The closer we get to Christ's return the more we should be concerned with what takes our time and fills our minds. Yes, we cannot go through life with our eyes closed just assuming everything will go away if we ignore it, but we need to filter everything through a solid, Bible-based, Christian worldview. That is the only way we can be certain that something put before us will make us better Christians and deepen our relationship with Christ.

The children's song "O Be Careful Little Eyes" contains a valuable life lesson. It says , "Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down with love." Subsequent verses say that our little feet and ears should also be careful about where they go and what they hear because if we are not careful about what we see, what we hear, or where we go as Christians then we may very well be led away from our God. It would be such a tragedy to let someone or something rob us of our Jesus. It is my prayer that each of us will choose to only take that which is good and helpful for our spiritual walk. Being selective with our choices will have heavenly benefits.

Dear Lord,
Today we want to thank You for Your goodness and mercy. Please forgive us for the poor choices we may have made in the past, and teach us to do Your will by Your grace. We recognize that love leads to obedience and if we love You will our whole heart then You will empower us to live lives that glorify You. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Friday, January 22, 2010

#56 Spirit of Fear

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

At some point in our lives we all experience fear in approaching certain people. Perhaps it is someone who we think wants to hurt us. Maybe it is someone for whom we had a romantic desire. Sometimes we simply want to avoid confrontational people because we frankly do not need additional stress in our lives, and sometimes we simply think so little of ourselves that we fear rejection from others.

I can recall taking the flight from Gulf Port, MS to Kuwait International Airport. When we left Mississippi everyone was pretty “gung-ho” about our mission to support Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Our airplane hopped from Mississippi to Wisconsin, from Wisconsin to Newfoundland, from there to Hungary, and from there to Kuwait. On our approach to land in Kuwait about thirty minutes prior to landing an announcement was made by the flight crew that we would be landing soon. It was around 2:00 a.m. Kuwaiti time so we could not really see the landscape, but that did not stop our curiosity. Most of us got quieter and began to look out over the Kuwaiti desert to see whatever was there to see.

The atmosphere of the group changed in those few minutes. The aircraft went from being slightly noisy and jovial to a calm solemnity. Why; because it was starting to settle into our minds that we had arrived at the point where training met reality. All the long months and possibly years of training were about to be tested over the next twelve months. Although no one would have admitted it, I think we were all afraid of the uncertainties on one level or another.

Yes, I was a Christian at the time and I too had some fears. I wondered if I would ever see my children or wife again. I can recall looking around the aircraft and wondering if anyone from our unit would be killed in action. It was part of my job to facilitate memorial services for fallen Soldiers along with my chaplain. I prayed that we would not have to do any memorial services for our unit, and I praise the Lord no one from our unit was lost during that deployment.

In Ecclesiastes 1:9 Solomon wrote, “…there is nothing new under the sun.” When sin entered into the heart of men fear came along with it. Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord because they were ashamed of their sinfulness (Genesis 3:10). Fear is the emotion that characterizes those who have sinned against God, and all have sinned (Romans 3:23). So while we are separated from God we have a need to be afraid because we will be guilty of our sins in the judgment. When Christ comes the second time the wicked will cry out in fear for the mountains and rocks to fall on them (Revelation 6:16).
I can understand why those that have not accepted Christ live in fear, but why do some Christians live in fear.

Is it because:

1. They have not fully surrendered their hearts to Christ?

2. They are hiding sin in their lives from the world around them and they remain fearful because they realize God knows their sin?

3. They don’t understand just how much God loves them?
4. They have not forgiven themselves for past sins committed?
5. They simply have not spent enough time with God that they might learn to trust Him?

The reasons why Christians remain fearful of the Lord can be multi-faceted. If you find yourself fearful of God today have you asked yourself, “Why?” It may be for some of the reasons I just mentioned or it could be for one or two of a thousand other reasons. Whatever the reason you feel fearful in approaching God today, I want you to have hope. Hope in knowing that fear is not part of the good gifts that God wants His children to possess, and He is the ultimate giver of good gifts. According to our theme text God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.

Do you want that power today? Do you want to have a heart filled with love? Would you like to feel confident in making decisions because the Lord has granted you sound judgment? It is all yours for the taking right now. It is as simple as having faith to believe that Christ will do a good work in you (Philippians 1:6). It all comes down to trust. Trust is synonymous with faith. When we have faith in someone or something we essentially trust it or them to do what they are supposed to do. When we allow Christ to be both Lord and Savior of our life then we begin to build that trust or faith relationship. Too many of us only call on the Lord when the going gets tough. Reality is that God wants us to trust in Him for everything: both great and small.

One of the best ways to build that type of surrendered relationship with the Lord is to spend time in prayer. We need to spend time before the throne of grace. We have need to confess to Christ our sins, lift our voices in praise to Him, bear our burdens to Him, and to listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit. As we communicate more and more with our God through prayer the fears that we harbor can diminish as He takes total control of our life.

I recognize that some fears are due to heavy psychological trauma and may require professional therapy, but I think for most of us fear comes because we lack a deep spiritual experience with the Lord; because we do not understand His immense love for us. In 1 John 4:18 we are told that there is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear. Perfect in the Biblical sense means "complete". I want each one who reads this to realize that Christ's love is just that: complete. He has done everything necessary to save us. We must simply believe in Him with our whole heart and live surrendered to His will for our lives. When we take that step of faith fear must flee in light of His perfect love.

How is it with you today friend? Are you fearful of the future? Do you worry about finances? Do you have uncertainty about your spirituality? Please know that any spirit of fear you may have is not of God. I promise you that if you have given your heart to the Lord, Jesus Christ, then you have nothing to fear in this world or the one to come because you are a child of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Why not let today be the day that you cast off fear and embrace a spirit of victory? Let God be glorified by your life that is lived with power and love.

Dear father God,
We thank You for Your awesome love. We thank You that we can live without fear as long as we live for Jesus. Teach us just now to accept your perfect love and give us the power to live victorious Christian lives in order that You might be glorified through us. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, January 15, 2010

#55 Spiritual Emergency

Revelation 12:12 "...the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time."

In our country we are very blessed to have the 911 Emergency System in place. In most every town and city you can simply dial 911 from either a land or cell phone line and you will be connected to the nearest 911 operator who is standing by to assist with your emergency. Those emergencies can range from medical needs, calls to report a crime, reporting suspicious activity, or house fires. Of course there may be other reasons why you may choose to call 911, but whatever the reason hopefully we will only use that system when there is a true emergency. Frivolous calls are often made to 911 and that spends precious time and energy that should be devoted to true emergencies.

Whatever the reason we may have need to call 911, we call them because we want someone to respond immediately or as soon as humanly possible. There have even been cases where emergency responders have come under scrutiny for slow response times. Why? Because when there is a true emergency we want help and we want it right away. These are life and death situations that require immediate action and time is always of the essence.

No one would argue that a house fire is an emergency. The same holds true for someone having a heart attack, or when there is a terrible car accident. But what about spiritual emergencies? Who is standing by to respond to them? What is a spiritual emergency? The fact is that we are living in a world that is soon to end. Yes, soon is relative to when Christ is coming back, but the last time I read my Bible it said no man knows the day or the hour of Christ's coming (Mark 13:32). That means on one level that world events could take a course very quickly that sets the stage for Christ to come back in the very near future. Since many walk through life oblivious to this fact we officially have a spiritual emergency on our hands.

If we knew that Christ was coming back on a certain day this year how would that change our soul winning efforts? Would we care much less about what people think of us and share the gospel in spite of being ridiculed? Would we move out of our comfort zones and tell people about a soon-coming Savior or would we say, "I am not called to do that." Who is called to report a house fire? The first person that discovers it, right? I recognize and agree that not everyone is called to be a pastor or evangelist or teacher, but are we not all called to share our personal testimony in some form or fashion that those around us might want to serve the Jesus that we love (2 Corinthians 3:3; Matthew 28:19, 20)?

Friends, I am of the belief that we have a state of spiritual emergency on our hands in this world today. Our world is becoming more and more secular and even satanic with each passing day. T.V. shows are filled with immorality that is normalized with each aired episode . Our culture is one that is filled with every evil known to mankind. In the midst of this downward spiral we have a message of hope. We have a message that can ransom people from lives of sin and heartache. Are we going to be willing to share it, or are will we stand by while the "house burns" to the ground? We must be willing to reach out to a world dying in sin. I can assure you that Satan knows he has but a short time. That is why we see our world in the shape that it is in. He is making every effort to cause men and women everywhere to be lost for eternity.

My plea to each of you today is to dial heaven's help line by falling to your knees and asking God what He would have you to do to reach souls that are perishing. If you are not sure how you can be involved in soul winning in your church, then ask your pastor. If you are already involved but have not really been making any effort to reach souls then pray for courage to do the right thing. If you have family and friends that do not know Christ--and all of us do--but you have never made an effort to broach the topic of salvation with them, now is the time to do so.

We must all realize that the need to reach perishing souls is the most urgent need the world has. Sure we have to reach people's physical needs many times before they will hear our message, but let us not be timid when it comes to sharing this wonderful message of hope that the Lord has given us. Let us have confidence in the fact that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. Let us walk forward in faith and make every effort to become first responders in this state of spiritual emergency.

Dear Father God,
We thank You for Jesus who died to save us from the penalty of our sins. Please give us the courage to take the message of salvation to this world in turmoil. Please show us how we can reach those within our circle of influence. May Your Spirit go before us to prepare the hearts of all we can reach for Christ. This we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.