Saturday, December 31, 2011

#97 Resolution or Revival?

The time has come once again where much of the world looks forward to the new year with hope and fascination. People will gather to celebrate, party, and just generally enjoy one another's company as they ring in another year.

A traditional part of any New Year's celebration is discussion about resolutions for the coming year. Some will vow to lose weight, others will say they are going to exercise more, spend more time with family, save more money, or any number of things that in and of themselves are not bad things.

The fault comes in that most people will attempt to live out their resolutions by virtue of their will power. This is a fault because if will power were enough then almost no one would be over weight. If will power were enough no one in their right mind would smoke. The bottom line is that will power is not enough. It never has been and it never will be.

The secret, if you will, in having successful resolutions for the coming year is to stop trying on our own. You see, we do not need more resolutions my friends. What we need is personal revival. The Bible promises us that if we will surrender our hearts to Christ Jesus then He will make us a new creation and all things in our life will become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

If life has taught me anything it's that I need help. And I need help that this world cannot give; I need divine help. Yes, there are things I want to change in my life, but I will never have long-term success unless I first have a personal revival of the heart. And I cannot have that revival of the heart unless Christ is in control of my heart.

So let us not resolve, but rather let us surrender to Christ that He might bring about revival. Let us learn daily to let Him have total control of every thought, every inclination, every decision of every day. That's when life will truly turn around for us. No, it does not mean we will never have troubles. It just means that instead of trudging through life in our own power we will lean on the everlasting arms of our Savior, Creator, and Friend. Why not decide today friends to let Jesus work out His will in your life? Why not let Him re-create you this year? You will not be sorry in the least.

Dear Lord in Heaven,
Thank You for being willing to re-create us. Thank You for helping fit us for heaven. Please teach us to let You have total control of every aspect of life. May this coming year be the year that we experience total revival. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

#96 Divinely Unique

I love to watch it snow. There is just something captivating about watching the flakes fall and collect on the ground and surrounding surfaces. This type of scene is especially serene when viewed from the comfort of a heated house, but walking around in the falling white flakes can be fun too.

When you look at the snowflakes up close you see that they are very unique in their crystalline structures and many a person has been enthralled by looking at those flakes up close. It is said that no two flakes are alike. It's hard to believe that millions upon millions of flakes can be uniquely different isn't it? But since I am not going to inspect them all I will have to take someone's word for it.

But thinking of snowflakes make me think of just how awesome God is. We live in a world where the false theory of evolution is accepted as the secular gospel. We live in a world where even churches promote that God used death to bring about the world as we know it. To all of this I say, "Thanks, but no thanks." Call me naive, but I will remain steadfast in believing exactly what the Bible teaches: God created the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He created all of us in just six literal twenty-four-hour days.

But unlike snowflakes, we were all created in the image of our God (Genesis 1:26, 27). But just like the snowflakes we are all uniquely different. Sure some resemble each other and twins really look like each other, but even then twins have unique fingerprints and DNA. And we are not unique through chance friends, we are unique through divine planning. We are unique because that is the way God planned it (Jeremiah 1:5).

So what? Why does it matter? Who cares? Well, it matters because to buy into the world's teaching on evolution is to buy into the idea that God is not big enough or powerful enough to have done things the way that the Bible tells us. If we accept that God used death to facilitate life then the Bible loses credibility. And with churches promoting theistic evolution-meaning God made the initial components of creation but then used evolution to allow us to become what we are today--there is no wonder the world in large degree does not respect and believe in what the Bible teaches.

But I am here to tell you that the Bible can be trusted. The Bible is more than just a neat book with interesting stories. The Bible is God's revealed Word to His created people who have fallen into sin. The Bible is our road map to guide us through this life in preparation for the life to come!

It is my prayer that during this holiday season where we pause to share with one another lovingly purchased gifts that those of us who understand and trust the Bible will have the courage to share that wonderful truth with our friends and family. It is truth that paints a picture of a benevolent Creator who formed us from the dust of the earth in His image, and He dis so that we might have fellowship with and worship Him.

Friends, snowflakes are pretty and interesting, but we bear the fingerprints of God. Let us live in such a way that the world may see our divine association. Let us live to show the world that not only were we initially created by our God, but that He is also willing to re-create us and redeem us from sin when we let Christ come into our hearts. It is my goal to honor Him by my life because I am divinely unique. I pray that will be your goal as well.

Dear Lord God,
Thank You for the honor of being created in Your image. Please forgive us for marring that image with sin, and please teach us to daily live for You and to lift up Jesus in all that we do so the world will be drawn unto Him. We pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

#95 True Color

Having grown up around a junk yard that my grandpa owned placed a love for cars and all things mechanical in me. Now serving as a pastor means that I do not get a lot of time to work with my hands because most of my work is mental and working with people.

From the youngest memories of my life I can recall sitting in the cars that my grandpa would haul into his junk yard. I would mentally drive those cars all over the world. When I became tired of one car I would simply walk to the next. Those where great adventures for a small boy growing up in rural North Carolina.

I can recall seeing a car come into the yard one day whose paint was very faded looking. I commented to my grandpa and he said the car just needed to be waxed and cleaned up. "Waxed?" I said. "Yes." he replied. He then brought out a can of wax and began to rub it in small circular motions on the hood of the car. After letting it dry for a moment he then began to wipe off the wax and a lot more.

Each wiping motion not only brought off the wax but it also brought off the oxidation and natural build-up that was on the surface of the car's paint. Beneath the old, dirty, faded-looking exterior began to shine a beautiful blue paint job that once made the car look really nice. I was amazed at what a little wax and rubbing could do. He handed me the wax and cloth and I worked on that car's hood until I realized how hard he was rubbing to get the job done. It was too much for a small boy's arms at that time.

You know, life has a way of placing build-up on us too. Life has a way of trying to cover up the beauty God has given each of us. Either by poor choices of our own or misfortunes at the hands of others life sort of piles up on us. When this happens we fail to shine like the Lord intended for us to do. Too often the true color of the image of our Creator God gets lost in the sinful existence of this life.

You and I become "oxidized" with sin but instead of making us look a faded white we are covered with the deep scarlet of sin (Isa. 1:18). When this happens--and happen it does--we need more than Turtle Wax. We need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Yes, I know in literal terms it does not make sense. How does blood take away the stain of scarlet sin? It seems that it would just make things more stained. But somehow when the blood of Jesus symbolically washes over us a process begins that allows the dark stains of sin to be taken away and turned white as snow.

I can't speak for all of you but I want the true color of my Creator to shine through in me. I want my sinful tendencies to be taken completely away. I want my mind to be totally cleansed from all Satanic influence. I want to be prepared for eternal life with my Jesus. What do you want? It is my prayer that you too will want the true color of Christ to shine through you.

Dear Father in Heaven,
Thank You for not giving up on us when we get marred and covered up by this sinful life. Thank You for providing a way for us to be cleansed, a way for us to be washed clean. Please teach us to live daily while claiming the blood of Jesus for ourselves. Give us the courage to accept Your daily "waxing" to remove our sinful tendencies. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

#94 Duty or Delight?

I would be willing to go out on a limb and say that all of us have things in our lives we do not enjoy doing but we have to do them regardless. Those items may even fall into the category of "must do". Sometimes our jobs fall into that category. We have to work to provide for our families but we may not really enjoy what we do.

Disciplining our children can fall into the same area. We may not want to discipline our children, but if we do not correct them and show them what's right then they take control and run the home instead of the parents having control. No doubt there are many, many things or tasks that we could identify that we do more because of a sense of duty instead of delight. But what if we had the mindset that everything we did is for God in some way or another? What would happen to the daily drudgery of life if our purpose for each task we face was not simply to complete it but to perform and complete each job for God's glory?

Paul was intimately aware of the fact that we can get into ruts in life. We can do things just because they have to be done or worse, we do them based solely on our selfish desires. Paul planted a church in Corinth. Corinth was a city filled with corruption and selfish desire much like many of the cities and communities around our world. So under the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit Paul wrote a letter the church in Corinth. In chapter ten he admonished them to stay free of idolatry and to take care of their neighbors. Towards the end of chapter ten he also encourages them to let one, over-arching theme cover their lives.

He wrote, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (vs. 31). My encouragement to you today is to let this same teaching come to you today. Take each area of your life and dedicate it to the Lord so that you do it to His glory. Having this attitude will change the way you approach each task in life. When you are tempted to do a job poorly because you are only driven by a weak sense of duty, allow God to help you have the courage to do it for Him. Surely our God is worthy of our very best. Surely we can choose to live for Him who died for us.

The best part of this, friends, is that Jesus will even give us the strength, dedication, and disposition to live this way. If we try to do this in our own strength then that which should be delightful becomes drudgery in the name of God and will eventually turn us away for the Lord. We come back over and over to the idea of full surrender. The surrendered heart led by the Spirit of God will give us joy in all things because our joy will not be tied to temporal things but rather the All Mighty.

Dear Lord God,
Thank You for calling us to live out each moment of each day for You and thank You for empowering us to do each task of each day for You. Please take away our drudgery and replace it with delight in serving You through Your strength. In Jesus's name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

#93 Full Bleed

1 John 1:7 "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."

Printing technology has always fascinated people. Well, until copiers and printers became so common place we as a society were more fascinated by printing because we had to depend on professionals to do so much for us. Now almost every one has the ability to perform desktop publishing right in the comfort of their own home. The ability to produce printed items has revolutionized the way our world works.

Although we can do a lot from home there is still a place for the printing professionals. One area is if you need to have something printed "full-bleed". Full-bleed refers to the written copy or colors within a given print job being printed all the way to the edge of the paper instead of leaving a border around the particular job. This full-bleed technique is used in books to make them more colorful or exciting. Letterheads may need to be printed in this way, and of course many of us like our pictures to not have the little white border around the edge. Truly, full-bleed capability has enriched our lives.

For the Christian whether or not we have had a full-bleed experience means the difference between eternal life or eternal death. Each one of us has sinned against God (Romans 3:23) and therefore each one of us is deserving of death (Romans 6:23). But the Bible has promised that if we will accept Christ's sacrifice for us by 1.) accepting the fact we are a sinner, 2.) believing that Christ died to save us, 3.) choosing to accept His sacrifice on our behalf, and 4.) if we will decide to follow Christ completely then we can be assured of eternal life. We can have that assurance because Jesus will give us a full-bleed experience.

In Isaiah we are asked by the Lord to come and reason with Him. In other words, come and seek to understand the plan of salvation and how it relates to us. He promises that if we will seek Him to this end that our sins of scarlet will be made white as snow; they will be taken away (Isaiah 1:18). Today friends, you and I need that full-bleed experience more than ever. The world is not getting better but worse and worse. Soon Jesus will come and unless we are covered by His precious blood we will be lost with the wicked.

It is my heartfelt prayer that each of us will choose daily to walk with the Lord and that we will surrender our hearts afresh to Him moment by moment. Let's choose to live in a full-bleed experience each day.

Dear Father in Heaven,
Thank You for the plan of redemption. Without it we would have no hope. Please forgive our sins and teach us to live as blood-covered Christians each day so that sin is not regarded in our hearts. For this we are thankful and for this we pray in Jesus's name, Amen.

Friday, November 25, 2011

#92 Weeding

Decorating one's home has always given people more appreciation for where they live. Once pictures are hung on the walls and all the trinkets unique to our life are placed around the home we feel more welcomed and our homes feel more livable.

Trends in home decoration change as time goes by and a recent trend is to have vinyl lettering or images on the walls. Lettering that expresses more of who we are and what we hold dear. You can buy pre-made vinyl designs or you can create them yourself using cutting machines. I bought one of those vinyl cutting machines for my wife some years back and we never really used it that much until we understood the potential of it.

The vinyl of various colors is placed onto cutting mats and then inserted into the machine. You then program the machine to cut out the lettering or design you want, press start and the machine does the cutting. After the cutting is completed the task of weeding comes. Yes, just like weeding in your garden means taking away the unwanted growth, weeding with vinyl means taking away the vinyl that is not part of the design. You have to carefully peel up the weedy vinyl and pull it away from the part you want to keep. Once the overall weeding is done you have to pull up the inside of circles and smaller areas that become unattached during cutting. Once all the weeds are pulled and plucked away you are left with a beautiful phrase or design that you can then apply to your walls making home sweet home a little sweeter.

Before you ask, no, this posting is not a commercial for vinyl design tools. But as my wife and I have been placing some phrases on our walls and performing the weeding to do so it made me think about the process of sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming holy as the Holy Spirit helps us overcome sin in our lives.

As soon as we accept Christ and ask Him to take away our sins we are justified or made right with God the Father because our sin debt against Him is cancelled or blotted out by the blood of Christ. Then we move into the process of becoming more Christ-like each day or becoming sanctified.

But in order for sanctification to occur there must be weeding that takes place in our lives. As we pray and study the Word of God we begin to become aware of the things in our life that need to go. Sometimes we can do it on our own but other times we can't no matter how hard we try. Some physical and mental addictions run deeper than our will power and we need divine intervention to overcome. In other words, we need Jesus to weed the sin from our lives. We need Christ to pull away the parts that keep us from reflecting His character every day. Just like weeding vinyl where the design appears as the discard vinyl is taken away, we begin to look, speak, and act more like Jesus as sin is weeded out.

It is my prayer that as we consider how Jesus wants us to live that we will have the desire to let Him make us weed free. I pray that we will not fight Him in this because He only takes away that which prevents us from being prepared to live in heaven with Him. Don't you want to live with Christ forever? Don't you want to be prepared for heaven? Why not choose today to let Him take away all the weeds that you too can become a beautiful reflection of Jesus in this dark world of sin.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for the blessings that come from being Your children. Thank You for being willing to sanctify us and to allow us the time to mature spiritually. Please forgive us for resisting the weeding process and please teach us to trust You more each day. We pray in Jesus's name, Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

#91 Spoon Feeding

Children are dependent upon others to care for them. Every need from the moment we arrive is thrust upon someone, be they parent or otherwise, to provide for us. Our food, cleanliness, protection, health care, and all facets of life that do not fall under the umbrella of autonomic function require attention from others.

As we grow and mature we begin to take on those roles ourselves. We transition from being carried or strolled everywhere to crawling, pulling up on things, to eventually walking and running. At some point we become aware of our bodily functions and become, much to our care givers' collective delight, "potty" trained. Consumption of food moves from the breast or bottle to being spoon fed from jars and ultimately to "table" food.

Yes, growing up means gradually assuming greater responsibility for all areas of life: including our spirituality. When we are babes in the Christian faith there is a certain amount of spoon feeding that has to occur simply because we have not developed the where-with-all to seek and search for the saving knowledge of Christ. But as we grown in our understanding and are more fully able to discern the will of God we have to also take ownership of our spiritual walk. We have to move from the milk of our early Christian experience to the meat of deeper theological truths.

However, too many of us fail to learn to walk spiritually. Why? Is it because we are incompetent and do not have the mental faculties to embrace deeper truth? It is because the things of God are so deep and complicated that they can be likened to spiritual calculus that only the religious elite can solve? No and no. I feel that at least part of the problem for a lack of deep spiritual maturity among God's children is that we simply do not take hold of the reins and invest in our own spiritual walk. We choose to lean on pastors and evangelists to show us what we need to do and think when really God's clergy are there to introduce us to Jesus, challenge us to a deeper relationship with Him, and, yes, teach us to walk on our own with God.

As a pastor I do not desire for a single person to follow me. I want only for people to follow and commit their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ to the point that they might be prepared as citizens of heaven and the New Jerusalem that the Lord is preparing for His people. In order for that to happen we have to take ownership in our own spiritual walk and not relegate it to the pastor or any other church leader. We have to invest in our daily walk through prayer, communicating with God on a moment by moment basis, and being lead in every decision by the Holy Spirit.

We have to read God's word and pray for wisdom to understand. Yes, it's alright for us to study together in groups or in a corporate worship setting, but let's not settle for only those moments. Our love for Christ should motivate us to seek Him each second of every day just as our thoughts become lost in one whom we long for in an earthly love scenario.

So where are you today? Are you lost or caught up in seeking Jesus or are you lost in the world? Do you search the Scriptures looking for the meat of a deeper relationship with Christ or are you content with the milk of an immature and possibly lukewarm spiritual experience?

It is my prayer today that each of us, including me, will have our hearts filled with the desire to know Christ more deeply with each passing day. It is my prayer that none of us will ever get lured or lulled into being satisfied with a spoon-fed approach to Christianity. It is my prayer that we will take ownership of our spirituality to the point that we seek the Lord daily while He may yet be found (Isa. 55:6). If there was every anything that each of us needed to grasp hold of, it is this.

Dear Father,
Thank You for allowing us the opportunity to grow into what You desire for us to be. Please forgive our lax approach to seeking You and please forgive us for leaving our spiritual well-being to others. Help us to never let others take the reigns of what You desire for us to take ownership of, and may we all lean wholly on You for our strength in all areas of life. We pray now in Jesus's name, Amen.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

#90 Somnambulance

1:John 1:7 "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."

I can remember when I was growing up that I went over to a friend's house to stay over. When it was time to go to bed he warned me that if I heard someone up walking around it may be his dad sleep walking as he had a habit to do. Sometimes it turned out badly for his dad because he would trip over things and had been hurt more than once. I actually laid awake longer than I would have just because I wanted to see someone sleep walk. No one in my family did that; at least not that I had ever heard.

Sleep walking is actually referred to medically as somnambulance. It comes from the Latin words somnus meaning sleep and ambulare meaning to walk. It is estimated that 18% of the world's population is prone to sleep walking and children in the U.S. between 11-12 are most likely to engage in this activity with males being most likely to do so.

Obviously sleep walking can be a very serious thing and poses obvious health concerns, but I think there is an even greater danger in the world: spiritual somnambulance. Far too many people walk through day-to-day life separated from God and their danger ranges beyond potential falling hazards from walking around their home technically asleep. The dangers of spiritual sleep walking have eternal consequences.

Some might wrongly assume that non-Christians have the most to be worried about. Sadly, this is not true. As Jesus points out in Revelation, the person who faces the greatest spiritual danger and is perhaps the most deeply spiritually asleep is the lukewarm Christian. Note how in Revelation 3:15, 16 Christ says that because you are neither hot nor cold I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. If we are cold then we know we are lost. If we are on fire for Christ then we have that deep connection with Him. It's the lukewarm Christian who has lost their fire but is still in the church that is more lost than the non-believer because the lukewarm Christian knows better but is not living connected to the Lord.

We will not take time to explore the potential reasons for spiritual sleep walking, but rather let's focus on the answer to the problem: rekindling that first-love experience with Jesus. If we will regularly spend time in prayer, Bible study, and experience Christian fellowship we will have a recipe, so to speak, for spiritual success. Why? Because if we are praying in earnest each day then the Lord can speak to our hearts and continue to draw us closer to Him. If we read His Word then we can be shown His will for our lives, and if we spend time around like-believers then we can be challenged and held accountable by the body of Christ.

I firmly believe that if we practice the Christian life truly seeking God's will then He can and will lead us all the way to the promised land. Will you choose to live fully for Christ today? Will you allow Him to awaken you from your spiritual slumber? He is willing to bring us into His marvelous light if we will walk according to His word being led by the Holy Spirit.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for calling us to faithfulness. Thank You for calling us to live holy lives before You. Please forgive us where we have failed and awaken us to a new understanding of Your will that we might glorify You in all that we do. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

#89 Managing the Load

Matthew 11:30 NKJV "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Moving has to be one of the most dreaded tasks that mankind has to encounter. The task of loading up all your stuff, taking it across town or across the country, then unloading, sorting, and putting away all that stuff at the new place can make for some tiring, cumbersome work.

As a pastoral family we have to experience that wonderful task more often than many families, but the great blessing associated with moving as a pastoral family is the church families who are so graciously willing to help with the task. Our experience has been one of great blessing as it realtes to moving because of the outpouring of support from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Of course every time you move there are always items you dread the most. Pianos and washing machines come to the forefront of my mind when I think about moving. But again, having people who are willing to help even makes pianos and refrigerators manageable because many hands are sharing the burden. I praise God and thank His people for the help we have been given at each move.

Although moving is a daunting task in many reagards, managing the everyday loads of life can seem even more overwhelming. Unlike moving a piano that's over relatively quickly, some of the emotional and physical burdens that we bear face us each day of our lives, and they can cause us to feel like we are trapped with no way out. But God has promised us that He will never allow us to bear more than we are able without giving us a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13). Basically, that means that when temptation or trials come our way God will give us strength that we do not have on our own.

But receiving this divine strength does not happen on our own; we must ask for it. Jesus promised us that if we ask anything according to His will then it shall be done (John 14:14). So all you and I have to do is ask and Jesus will take away the weight of our burdens. No, it does not mean that we will not face any trials or that trouble will not come near us. It means that when we face trials and have trouble that we do not have to face it on our own. We can lean on and trust in Jesus because He alone is able to help us manage the loads we carry in this life.

Are you carrying a load today that you need help with? Are you feeling weighed down with the trials of this life? Why not claim the promises of God and lean fully on Him for your source of strength and encouragement? Why not take on his yoke and His burden for He promises that they are light and very manageable. It is my prayer that as each of you face trials that you will let our loving, Creator God carry you through each situation. If we can learn to trust Him in each trial then He will carry us all the way to glory. He promised to do so.

Dear Father in Heaven,
Today, we praise You for being so good to us. We praise You for the love, mercy, grace, and strength that You provide every day. Please teach us to trust in You for everything; not just the major struggles in life. Please teach us to share You love with the world around us that they too might experience Your saving grace. We praise You and pray these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, October 28, 2011

#88 Proof Reading

Some people have a gift for writing. Stories, poems, research, or other written articles seem to pour from some people. My wife tells me I am one of those people. I am not sure I agree, but that's beside the point. As a pastor I have to do lots of writing for all sorts of tasks and part of writing is proof reading that which has been written.

One time my family and I were eating lunch together in a local sub shop that has various signs and sayings posted on the walls of their shop. Some of the sayings are funny, some contain life-wisdom, others famous quotes, and believe it or not research. Yes, research. The particular sign that contained research was quoting a study from some university that discovered that the human mind is able to put together what words are supposed to be when we read it based on just the beginning and ending of the word being correct. The sign then contained a body of text with every word misspelled and it was actually quite easy to read it.

Being someone who has to write a lot I was intrigued by the sign and I actually look for that same sign when I visit other locations of the same franchise. So what does this have to do with anything? I am glad you asked. Speaking of being trained to do something, I believe that we also train ourselves to overlook sin in our life. No, it is not always intentional, but if we are really honest with ourselves we have to admit that we sometimes choose to ignore sin and just live life as if everything is alright.

I would also assert to you that just because the brain is able to read words that are misspelled doesn't mean that we should make it a practice to leave misspellings in our documents. Why not do our best since the Bible teaches us to do everything to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)? Likewise we should not ignore sin in our lives just because it's more convenient to do so. Amen?

Yes, giving up sin requires change and it requires us to live differently. But I can promise you that our loving, Creator God will never ask us to give up or stay away from anything that will prepare us for heaven (Psalm 84:11). His only desire is that we be saved so that we can spend eternity with Him (2 Peter 3:9).

When you read over a document looking for errors it's called proof reading. When we look over our lives seeking to be rid of anything that separates us from God it's called self-examination (2 Cor. 13:5). But unless we bathe the examination process in prayer, our eyes and hearts that are trained to overlook sin may not even see it. That's where prayer and the Holy Spirit come in. If we pray and ask God to speak to our hearts then we are promised that the Holy Spirit will come to us and convict us in all areas of life (John 16:8).

It is my prayer that each of us--including me--will not choose to be blind to sin, but rather may we seek the face of our God while He may yet be found so we can spend eternity with Him. May we all choose to let Jesus "proof read" our lives on a daily basis.

Dear Lord God,
Thank You for Your wonderful mercy, love, and grace. Thank You also that You call us to a higher standard than that which we would set for ourselves. Please forgive us for clinging to sin, and please teach us to trust You completely as You prepare us for heaven. We give You thanks as we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

#87 Directed Landing

Jude 1:24 "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling..."

It has been said that nature is God's second book; second to the Bible of course. I am very inclined to believe that statement as it is so easy to see the fingerprints of God all over the great outdoors. From the tiniest insect to the majesty of the mountain you can see that God certainly knows how to impress.

When I was dating Ginger, my wife, we would spend lots of time outdoors on their farm in rural North Carolina. We roamed all over much of the 50+ acres the family had there and loved almost every minute of it. Almost because I fell off a horse or two. Not fun at all. But what was fun was riding the four-wheelers all over the place. Those things were so much fun and we rode them hard. One day in mid-fall we were all out riding through the woods and mud just having a great time when I got the great idea to try and cross a downed tree.

It had been there for quite some time and looked very crossable. So I got up my speed approached the tree squarely and began to make my way over it. However, I did not have the ground clearance to make it across. Yes, after the front tires pushed across the log I ended up high-centered and stuck. My friend gladly agreed to help me get un-stuck. He pushed from the front as I revved up the four-wheeler trying to get the back tires to grab and pull me off the log.

Well, the pushing, revving, and tire grabbing all came together in a sudden moment of momentum and the four-wheeler not only came off the log but it did so with great speed. Before I realized it, I was falling backwards off an embankment about 5-6 feet high. As I fell backwards the four-wheeler came with me and for some reason I never let go of the handlebars and my feet never came off the foot-pegs.

There was no time to think only fall. But God was looking out for a foolish teenager that day and instead of falling on the river stones that lay scattered about the river bed I landed in a mud spot just wide enough for my back to fit in, and I landed still attached to the four-wheeler that just ever-so-gently laid right over to the side. It was if God allowed His angels to direct my fall so that I did not have any injury at all. I was not even sore the next day. Friends, if you ever have to fall backwards holding a four-wheeler I highly suggest you land in soft mud.

After the fall we kept riding and the day ended with us having had lots of fun and wearing lots of mud. As my mind goes back to that day I am so thankful for not landing on the rocks. I am so thankful that I did not receive any injury. While most of us have endured some sort of physical fall during our lives, all of us have fallen spiritually. It does not matter how smart we are or how tall or rich or whatever we may be. If we have are alive the Bible says we have sinned.

But we do not have to keep sinning just because it comes easy and natural. We have a God who is able to keep us from falling. Not just physically but spiritually. The trick to the whole thing, so to speak, is to stop trying to do it on our own. We have to let God have control of the heart and He will do His part. The Bible promises it to be true.

So where are you tonight? Have you fallen over and over into sin and are you getting tired of just going through the same spiritual ruts you were stuck in a year ago? Today can be the day that all of that changes. Today can be the day that you let Christ come into your heart and you let Him have full control. Which will you decide: stay a lost sinner or become a child of the King who has Jesus that is more than able to keep us from falling and will lift us up when we do? I pray that we will all chose Jesus.

Dear Father in Heaven,
We need You so much, and we just want to thank You for being so amazing to each of us. Thank You for all the times you keep us from falling and please pick us up for a fresh start when we do fall. We trust You to save us as we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

#86 Reversed Controls

I have many loves in this life. I love the Lord with all my heart. I love my wife and kids more than I know how to express. I love great fellowship, food, music and playing the guitar, being outdoors, and I love to fly model aircraft. Yes, we are all just big kids I suppose.

Since the time I was young boy flying has fascinated me. My grandmother and mom would buy me model airplanes that you build and then sit on a shelf. Countless hours were spent selecting, building, and then pretending to fly those models. It was easy to see the progression of my skills as I grew older. Earlier models bore the marks of a novice builder.

That love for flying never died and it is my hope that one day I will be able to fly a real aircraft. Until then I will satisfy my love for the skies through radio-controlled (RC) aircraft. Just this year a dear friend of mine took the time to help me get started in the RC aircraft sport. From the first moment I took hold of the controls I knew that I was going to love doing that.

Eventually my first airplane was purchased and then another. My first few flights went very well with my trainer beside me. When I got out on my own the first several flights also went well. But--yes there is always a "but" right?--my lack of time on the controls eventually caught up with me. You are supposed to do a pre-flight check to make sure your radio is configured properly. Up needs to be up, down should be down, and so forth. I went through the checks and somehow failed to notice that up was not up. So if up is not up then up must be down, right? Right.

Well, I pushed the throttle up, my father-in-law threw the plane into the air like I had shown him and when I pulled back on the control stick to go up it went down and nose-dived into the ground smashing the propeller, the cowling around the engine, and the mount that holds the engine splintered into multiple pieces. My heart sank and my flying confidence was shattered too. How I wished my training buddy could have been with me. I have since rebuilt the aircraft, but more importantly I have learned the absolute necessity of having the controls properly set up.

Life is much the same way is it not? There are controls over our lives. Speed limits, various colored lines to keep us in our lane, signs that tell us where to go and not go, laws that help prevent people from causing harm to others, and God's laws.

Most of us by nature do not like to be controlled. We want to be free to do as we please, and when God or anyone else comes along and tries to restrict us we may buck against that control. We think we are more than capable of making our own decisions; flying by ourselves as it were, when in actuality we have the controls reversed and end up crashing.

When I look back on my own life I see many times when I crashed and made foolish mistakes. How much better could my life had been if I would have just let God have control of everything? I will never know until I get to heaven, but I praise God that He is willing to help me more and more as I let Him have the controls. It's my encouragement to you all today that you let go and let God have full authority in your life. Trouble may come, but when God is in control He will safely fly you all the way to heaven. Trust in Him friends. He is the master flier ;-)

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for being so awesome and for loving us despite how messed up we get. Please teach us today to trust You and to let You have full control of our lives. Please keep us focused on You until the day You come to take us home. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

#85 Welcome Correction

Fudge is a sugary treat that many, many people love to eat. No, I am not trying to be a poet, it just came out that way. But I am amazed at how much people love fudge. This reality came into to clear focus on a recent trip to Mackinac (pronounced mack-i-naw and means "great turtle" in a Native American tongue) island situated just above slightly northeast of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. You can take a ferry from either Mackinac City or St Ignace which is across the Mackinac Bridge on the Upper Peninsula side. We chose to cross the bridge and take the ferry from St. Ignace.

Once you arrive on the island you are immediately greeted by the smells of sweets and all sorts of foods. No motorized traffic is allowed on the island so the ferry companies have bicycles you can rent by the hour to make seeing things easier. If two-wheeled transport is not your forte then you can "pony" up some more cash and take a horse-drawn carriage. We chose to walk.

It was lots of fun to see all the sights and shops while admiring the architecture of the city. Lots of historic buildings line the streets and dot the island. Although I loved seeing everything, I have to admit that I was fascinated by the vast number of fudge shops. We saw our first one as soon as we came off the dock, and our timing was such that we came along right as a fresh batch of fudge was being poured out to cool.

The fudge, piping hot from a kettle, is poured out on marble-topped tables where it is turned over and over to help it begin to cool. The marble tops help absorb the heat so the molten fudge cools faster. The fudgeiteer--I am not sure what the worker turning and cooling to fudge is called but you have to admit fudgeiteer sounds really cool--takes a short paddle-like device with a metal head and walks around the table turning the runny fudge over and over before it can run off the table. Eventually the fudge cools to the point that he can shape it into long, slightly narrow rows where he then trims it for uniformity and then cuts it into approximately half-pound slices. It was truly fascinating to watch. This particular fudgeiteer had been making fudge for 29 years! Wow!

After walking the streets of the city and sampling various flavors of fudge from many, many shops we went home with a few slices to share with family, but my mind began to think back to the cooling and shaping of the fudge and how God wants to mold us in a similar way. No, God does not melt us down and pour us over a table constantly turning us until cool, but He does direct our lives in such a way as to guide us and make us what He wants us to be. And there are times that He does have to turn us away from danger or from making foolish mistakes, but unlike the fudge that inanimately complies we sometimes resist God's leading don't we?

Why do we resist? We resist, I think, because we want to do things our way and we don't want people to tell us what to do or when to do it. As independently thinking and living beings we have a sense of autonomy that we exercise to seek out our desires. That all changes or it should all change once we come to Christ. When we are surrendered to Him we should want to have His correction in our lives because we should realize that He is trying to fit us for heaven. Jesus only wants us to have happiness and abundant living.

Where are you today friend? Are you like molten fudge moving at the guidance of the master fudgiteer or are you hard and immovable as God tries to direct your life in such a way that will lead to eternal life and eternal happiness? It is my prayer that we each will learn how to let God have total control over our lives so that He can prepare us for heaven. I want God to mold and shape my life and I hope that is your prayer too.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for being so awesome and wonderful to us, Your creation. Please forgive us for where we have failed You. Teach us today to yield to Your correcting power that prepares us to be citizens of heaven. We long to meet Jesus in the air very soon. We pray in Jesus's name, Amen!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#84 Empty Tank

Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Coming to Michigan was an adjustment for our family at first. As with any major regional change in one's life, there are different things you have to grow accustom to. Yes, the amount of snowfall was new to us, the flatness of the scenery took some getting used to, and the type of heat used up here was different than what we had normally had.

Our house was heated by an outdoor wood furnace that heats water that is then pumped under ground through special pipes into the house through a radiator where air is blown through to push warm air throughout the house. This system is shared with our landlords. Last year the wood was changed over to corn and pellets and each works very well to provide heat for both homes. When the outdoor stove is not in operation we have propane backup which also serves to heat our water throughout the year.

That propane tank is not high on my watch list and sometimes I do not think to check the gas level for months. Well, if you don't check the gas level you may not realize that it is about to run out. However, the system has a built-in feature that serves to alert you when the gas runs out. Yes, you guessed it; the alert comes in the form of seemingly icy cold water from the hot water side of the faucet. Not paying attention to the gas level can be painfully cold until the gas company can come out and refill the tank. Note to self: check propane tank every month!

Of course you and I have tanks that need to be checked too. We have emotional tanks, physical food "tanks", and we have a spiritual tank believe it or not. Emotionally, we all want to feel needed and appreciated. Ultimately we want to feel valued by the people around us. Physically speaking we have to fill our food tanks several times a day to maintain our bodies in good health.

I would suggest to you that out of our three "tanks" mentioned here the spiritual is the most important. Yes, we need to be emotionally healthy and we must have food to live, but if we attempt to live on an empty spiritual tank then our lives become very meaningless and hopeless. Those who attempt to live without the spiritual filling the Lord wants to provide for us often gravitate towards harmful things in an attempt to fill the void left in our soul that only Jesus can fill.

Have you checked your tank lately? Are you keeping a watchful eye on the state of your spiritual condition? Are you making time each day to commune with the God of heaven that His Spirit might fill you to overflowing? My challenge to you today is to make checking your spiritual tank daily part of your existence. If we seek the Lord while He may be found, He will take care of every need that we too might echo the psalmist who wrote "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

Dear Father God,
We love You, and we praise You for Your goodness. Thank You for filling us each day that we seek You. Please keep us focused on serving, loving, and living for You each day till You come to take us home. We pray this in faith and in Jesus' holy name, Amen.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

#83 Mistaken Identity

2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us:

Not too long ago my family and I were visiting friends and went to church with them on Sabbath. It was a church where we know a lot of people and have often enjoyed worshiping with them in times past. This particular Sabbath my good friend had the sermon and we were blessed by having attended that day.

After church the usual greetings and friendly exchanges took place in the foyer, but soon it was time to make our way home for dinner at our friends' house. My buddy's wife had ridden with us in our Honda Odyssey van. Her little boy was restless so she asked if she could have the keys to take him on to the van. My response was, "Sure, here you go." as I handed her the keys. Just then though I looked up and saw that the van was already unlocked and the side door was already open.

She then made her way to the van, climbed inside, and attempted to buckle up her child. Once inside she began to realize that something was wrong. Things looked a little different and her child's car seat was missing. As all this was swirling through her mind, the electric side door began to close "on its own". Confusion quickly set in as she realized she had climbed into the wrong van. The actual owners of that van had closed the door remotely and then came up ready to go home themselves and my buddy's wife had to climb out of their vehicle with embarrassment painted on her face and walk about five spaces down to where our van was actually parked.

All of this happened without my knowledge so as I came along a few minutes later I too approached "my" van only to discover a group of young boys hanging around "my" van. So naturally I asked them in a jocular fashion why they were all hanging around the outside and sitting inside "my" van. One of the boys meekly and carefully spoke up and said, "There's only one problem Pastor Bentley. This is not your van." That realization flooded my mind as I too noticed there was something different about that van. I tried to play off my embarrassment, wished the boys a happy Sabbath, and made my way over to "my" van.

As my buddy's wife and I related our tales of mistaken identity regarding the vans, my mind began to wonder about our Christian walks in this world. The Bible teaches us in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that we are to be ambassadors for Jesus. In other words, we represent heaven and God's mission for this world when we accept Jesus as our savior. Ambassadors do not seek to accomplish their will in a given situation, but rather the will of their respective government agency or nation.

It made me wonder how many times I misrepresent Christ. Yes, I openly proclaim to be a follower of Christ, and I am a minister of the Gospel. But are there times when I do not fully live for Christ and instead of being His ambassador I seek to represent my own agenda. Sadly, yes.

I would venture to say that far too many of us profess the name of Christ, but if the people around us were polled about who they think we are there would be some cases of mistaken identity. Yes, we may look like a Christian, wear Christian t-shirts, listen to Christian music, and have a Jesus-fish on our bumper, but once people get to know us and look at the finer details of our life they may realize that we are just an empty shell of profession and not actually the real deal.

My challenge to each of you today is to live out who you profess to be so that the world knows clearly whom you represent. Don't get caught in the trap of just saying your a Christian, but your heart remains unconverted to the Lord. To simply profess Jesus with your lips and to actually deny Him by your lifestyle only seeks to tell the world that being a Christian is just a game that is not worth playing. Choose today to live fully for Christ that you might truly be His ambassador to this world who desperately needs to know Him.

Dear Lord God,
Thank You for loving us and calling us to represent You in this sinful world. Please forgive us for the times that we have caused people to mistake us for the lost. Please teach us daily to live completely for You in private and in public that we might honor You and rightly lift You up before the world around us. We praise You today as we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, July 29, 2011

#82 Insurance or Assurance?

Isaiah 32:17 The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.

We live in a world that requires us to have our assets and ourselves protected. We have car insurance to make us whole in the event of an accident or crash. We have home owners insurance to take care of our houses and tool sheds. Medical insurance takes some of the bite out of health related expenses. And in the event of death, we have life insurance to give those left behind some monetary means to move on without us.

Commercial after commercial pitches us the idea that one company can cover our insurance needs better than the "other guy" who may want to sell us coverage. Please don't get me wrong. I am not against insurance and yes I have various types of insurance to protect my own family. However, we should note that insurance does not remove risk or the results that arise after tragedy; it only seeks to compensate for, replace, or repair that which was lost, destroyed or damaged.

I am so glad that God is not in the insurance business. God does not seek to just compensate, replace, or repair. He does not promise to give us monetary salve to help us pay our way past a lost. God does so much more; He seeks to give assurance of something better than what we have or can obtain on our own.

God does need an appraiser to come out and try to see just how little He can pay to get by and keep His costs down. No, He appraises the situation Himself and basically says to us, "You have nothing of value for Me to restore. Therefore, I will give you an inheritance of eternal assurance!"

I submit to you all that God is not in the business of selling "fire insurance" to protect us from the flames of hell, but rather He is in the business of granting eternal assurance of a life that is not of equal value to this one but far superior.

The question comes down to, "What do we really want out of this life?" Do we want want to cling to the fleeting value of material possessions and a life that will end in eternal separation from God or do we want assurance of something that does not have earthly value: eternal life lived out in the very presence of the Almighty.

I would have to side with the mighty Joshua in this matter when he said, "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,...But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." I hope that is your faith commitment today as well friends; that you want God's assurance above all else in this world and that by His grace you will stay firm in your stance for Him.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for loving us more than we can comprehend. Your love grants us peace, understanding, and salvation. Teach us, oh Lord, to trust in You and Your assurance and to place our faith completely in You day by day. We praise You and as we ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, July 22, 2011

#81 Spiritual Zugzwang

Matthew 7:14 "...narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

My childhood afforded me the opportunity to spend lots of time with my grandparents. It was a real blessing to be able to do so. Across the road from their house was my great-grandmother's home. My great uncle, Jerry, lived there with her.

From time to time I would go over and visit with my uncle Jerry. He was a neat sort of guy with a hippy mentality, but he was also one who enjoyed playing chess so he eventually taught me the basics of the game. And basic playing level is where I have stayed really because I never took time to study or practice the game that much.

Recently, however; I was reading and came across a chess term I had never heard: zugzwang. I know it looks crazy to even try to say it, forget knowing what it means right? Well, it's actually quite simple. Zugzwang refers to a point in the chess game where each move a player makes is detrimental or harmful to their game.

I think that sometimes our lives get into this type of trend. Like a chess game, we make certain moves maybe without realizing or understanding the long-term impact of those moves. The pieces of our lives get shuffled around, we lose some of them, and sometimes before we realize what really happened we find ourselves trapped where each step we take causes even more harm to us or the people around us.

Jesus spoke of two paths on this earth. One is broad and easy to find; so much so that most people discover this path and it leads to destruction or we might say eternal separation from God. The other path Christ mentioned was a narrow one that is found by fewer people, and it leads to eternal life. If you and I live in such a way that we ignore godly counsel, do whatever we want when we want then we may end up in a spiritual zugzwang that sends us spiraling down the broad path to destruction and separation.

But one of the awesome things about our Lord is that He has the ability to step in and help us make decisions and change our direction to such extent that we not only escape spiritual zugzwang, but we will also be led to the narrow way that leads to eternal life.

Where are you today my friend? Are you trapped in a series of bad decisions that keep making trouble in your life, or are you walking by Jesus' side along the narrow way? If you are on Broad-way today, why not choose to follow Christ, why not let Him lead you to make good decisions that you too might taste and see that the Lord is good. Sometimes life can make us feel like there is no way out of our bad decision roller coaster, but Jesus can and always will provide some way out for us, and His way certainly leads to eternal life.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for being so awesomely wonderful. Thank You for being willing to rescue us when we see no way out. Please forgive us for our sins today, and please show us how to walk along Your narrow way. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, July 15, 2011

#80 Square and True

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...

Not too long ago the toilet in our downstairs bathroom developed a leak and ruined the carpet in that bathroom. I know, I know who would ever put carpet in a bathroom, but that's what was there until this leak happened.

Long story short is that we had to tear out the old carpet and then go back down with more floor covering. We decided to put down some 1/4 inch board material to level up the floor to the kitchen floor and then put down the 12" x 12" vinyl tile. All was going well until I put the first piece of under board down and discovered that the room was not very square. The goal in building a structure is to make it as square as possible. Square does not refer to the shape of the room or building but rather to the corners and angles that make up that room or building.

Our house is 110 years old this year so I am not sure if is was ever square to begin with or if being around for 110 years has caused it to sag and settle in a few places. Either way we had to attempt to lay flooring in the currently very un-square room. This proved to be a challenge in that you could not measure off one wall and calculate your angle and make appropriate cuts. I had to measure each side and then connect lines and form angles based off of multiple measurements. Needless to say, I had to cut some pieces more than once.

Eventually the flooring was down and by all accounts it turned out rather nicely. As I reflect back on the experience of trying to match up square tiles and wood to a very un-square room it made me wonder how we ever match up to the God of the universe.

He is so amazingly wonderful, honest, compassionate, loving, kind, faithful, and all together awesome that when we come to Him in our frail, sinful, and out-of-whack condition there is no way that we can ever match up squarely to Him.

He is perfectly "square and true" so to speak and we are the 110 year old farmhouse bathroom that does not have a square corner in it! But the beautiful thing about it is that He is the Master Craftsman and He has the ability to take the sinful mess that makes up our lives and change things to the point that in the end we become a beautiful work of art because we have been shaped to reflect the skill of the Master.

How is it with you today friend? Are you all out of whack and suffering from living a life that is not "square and true"? Why not come to Jesus just now and let Him mold and shape your future so that you match up to Him. We will never match up to Jesus because we work hard enough to do so, we will only ever match up to Him when we surrender our will to Him and our will becomes replaced with His perfect, humble, selfless will. By God's grace may we all surrender to the Lord so we can be recreated in His perfect image.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for loving us even when we are all messed up. Please take us and make us more like You today so we too can be counted square and true because of what Jesus has done in our lives. We thank You and praise You in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

#79 Obscured Vision

1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face;..."

Windshields are rather important components of a vehicle wouldn't you agree? I mean if your windshield is clean and free of obstructions then it makes the task of driving that much easier in the sense that at least you have one less thing to occupy your time.

I can recall back when I used to work doing rock drilling and blasting. The company I worked for in North Carolina issued each of us a truck to use for work. We could drive it home and it was basically our responsibility to keep it clean and have it serviced at the shop when the time rolled around.

My truck was a 1997 Ford F-150 with a long bed and a 5-speed manual transmission. I really like my truck and I took pride in what the company gave me to use. It was washed regularly inside and out. Despite working in and around muddy road construction and rock quarry sites my truck almost always looked great including having the tires shined.

One day I needed to clean the inside again and part of that entails cleaning the windshield. Cleaning glass has never been my favorite task, but I wanted the windows to be clean so I did it. This particular day I was short on towels to clean the glass so I used what I thought was a clean rag in my tool box. Little did I know the rag had been used to clean up some spilled hydraulic fluid and was placed back in my tool box by someone else. So instead of cleaning my windshield I actually smeared a very light layer of oil all over the inside of my windshield. Talk about a mess!

Once I realized what I had done I was sick. I tried and tried to clean the residue off the glass but all my efforts seemed only to smear it more. Night driving became a nightmare because the glare from on-coming headlights was amplified by the thin layer of oil. Mineral spirits became my best friend when I dabbed some on another rag and finally got all the oil off.

Looking back on this incident makes me consider our relationship with Christ. Even though we have had our sins cleaned by His precious blood we still have some trouble seeing Him clearly. No, we don't often say it, but if the truth be told many of us are still "smeared" a little when it comes to our spiritual vision. The "windshield" of our hearts, so to speak, need more clarity. We need desperately to come completely to Jesus and not hold anything back from Him. It is only through full surrender that we can be completely clean.

Our sin separates us from God and unless He takes away all the residue of sin we are not and cannot be clean from our wicked ways. Don't you long for a full cleansing? Don't you long to see Christ face to face instead of looking at Him through the dim, clouded vision of this life? Join with me just now in fully surrendering our hearts to the Lord. He will give us clarity that we never thought was possible.

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank You for being such an awesome and wonderfully powerful God. Today, Lord, we need You to clean us up completely. Many of us have come to You in the past, but we have allowed compromise to creep back in and mess us up. Please forgive us for our failings and please accept us where we are. Take us, Lord, and make us whole I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

#78 Empty Knocking

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Have you ever ran out of gas? Sadly, I have done it more than once. Every time it happened to me it was simply because I did not pay close enough attention to the fuel gauge. Shortly after moving to our current pastoral district I traveled to a school board meeting and I noticed before the meeting that my fuel was running low, but I felt that I had enough to make it to the meeting then get gas afterwards.

I was wrong. After leaving the school board meeting I was about two miles from the closest gas station when my car’s engine shut off and I began to simply coast down the road. I came to a stop in front of a nice middle class neighborhood and there were several homes with the lights on. I mustered my courage and went to knock on a door to ask for help. Keep in mind that I dress like a pastor: dress slacks, button-up shirt, and a tie many days. I hardly looked like trouble.

But when I knocked on the door of the first home I could see through the window that the family inside heard my knocking and simply turned back to what they were doing. I was shocked. They heard me but would not come to the door. At first I did not think too much of it, but the same thing happened at the next house. I had to knock on three doors before someone came to the door. The third family graciously opened the door and loaned me a couple gallons of gas. I went on into town, filled up my and their gas can and then took their can back to them.

Thinking back on that day I can’t help but make a spiritual application. You see Jesus is also knocking on doors. No, He’s not out of gas or lacking anything for that matter. He knocks seeking entrance to the hearts of men, women, boys, and girls that HE might bring them life. The problem is that far too many ignore His knocking too.

When I look back on my experience I suppose some may have thought I was a salesman or something and they did not want to bother with me, but Jesus comes knocking not to sale or ask for help. He comes to bring each of us a free gift; the gift of eternal life secured through His sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. Many know this and still ignore His knocking.

Have you heard Him knocking friend? Have you heard Him knocking and ignored Him or have you gladly opened the door to your heart and received Him? He will not knock forever. No, He will only knock until shortly before it is time to come and take His children home. Won’t you let Him in your heart today friend? Won’t you let Him become Savior and Lord of your life? I can tell you from personal experience that there is no greater joy than living for and with Him. If you have opened the door before continue to do it daily and invite Him afresh day by day.

Dear Holy Father,
We thank You for Your endless goodness and grace. We thank You that Jesus comes and knocks on the door of our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit. Please teach us to surrender to His knocking and to open our hearts to Him completely. For this we pray in the name of Christ, Amen.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

#77 Destination: Adulation

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

As a young boy I had a fascination with martial arts and martial artists. I can recall watching Kung Fu Theater with my step-father and siblings. Yes, the movies were very horribly dubbed from Chinese with the movements of the mouths never matching the words we heard coming from the television.

But despite the poorly dubbed English of those old Kung Fu movies, we loved to watch them and as a little boy I wanted to imitate all that I saw on the T.V. screen. In my mind I was convinced that I too could jump, kick, and chop my way through any foe that may venture my way. As I grew a bit older I discovered ninja movies. My intrigue with martial arts grew even deeper as I watched the black-clad warriors flip, roll, and wield their Ninjato swords--shorter versions of the Katana favored by the Japanese Samurais of old. Of course I wanted to be a Ninja too.

Why was a I so fascinated with the Hollywood-style fighters? Why did I long to be like them and even attempt to portray them in my childhood playing? Because that is who I spent my time watching and observing. The more I beheld the skilled fighters the more I wanted to be like them. And we watched them so much and so often that my thoughts moved from mere fascination to adulation: extreme admiration.

Maybe Kung Fu and Ninja warriors were not your thing. Maybe you grew up wanting to be just like your favorite baseball or basketball player. Maybe you wanted to be like that famous movie or dance star you watched. Instead of Ninja swords made of dowel rods and black water pipe perhaps you brandished the jersey of your favorite sports legend. Maybe your walls were plastered with posters of your favorite bands.

As I look back on the forlorn folly of my own youth, it makes me very cognizant that I want so much more for my children. I want my children to grow up admiring Bible characters and ultimately of course the Lord Jesus Christ. How does one accomplish that? I think the answer is easier than we may think. It really boils down to giving our children the opportunity to behold the note-worthy men and women of the Bible instead of the fleeting and too-often non-Christian personalities paraded before the world as the next pop icon.

Are there those in our society worthy of admiration? Sure, but when it comes to setting up an example for our children to emulate and reproduce I want that example to be Jesus and and not Justin Bieber. I want it be Mary Magdalene--post conversion of course--and not Lady Gaga. Who are you teaching your children to admire in an extreme way? Is adulation of the Lord Jesus the goal you set for your family or do you leave them to shifting sands of pop culture? Let us be intentional about what and who we place before our own eyes and especially the eyes of our children. Please don't ever forget that our choices do not just effect us. May Jesus be the supreme object of our affection and may we teach our children to model the same.

Dear Father in Heaven,
As we come to You today, we thank You for the great example of Jesus. Please teach us to hold Him and His perfect character in the highest regard, and then teach us to teach our children to do the same. Please forgive us where we have allowed the world to shine more brightly in our eyes, and please turn our hearts to heaven this day. We pray in Jesus' holy name, Amen.

Friday, May 27, 2011

#76 Target Fixation

Philippians 3:14 NASB I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Have you ever noticed that you seem to end up at the place that you focus your attention? This can be a good thing or a very bad thing depending on your focus. There have been accidents where people have hit the back of police and other emergency vehicles while they are parked along the side of the road with their lights flashing. Like moths drawn to light they fixate on the flashing emergency lights and without intending to do so they crash into the police cruiser or ambulance because of a phenomenon called "target fixation".

I had the opportunity to take a motorcycle safety course and the instructor said the same thing happens to cycle riders when they navigate turns. If the rider looks through the curve ahead where they want to be they are much more likely to allow the motorcycle to lean and follow the turn successfully. If they look down at the road or dividing lines they will almost always turn too short or too widely.

When I gave some thought to this concept of target fixation I cannot help but think the same thing happens to us spiritually. Meaning that if we fix our eyes on the things of this world then we are likely to be drawn to them and absorbed by their enticing, alluring calls. However, if we fix our eyes on the Lord and His soon return we will long for a better world; one that truly fulfills, one that has as its leader the Creator God of the universe.

That world is one where there is no death or sorrow, but rather peace and happiness because in that world we shall ever be in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. In that world we will have the perfect character of our Savior, and in that world we will find the realization of all our hopes and dreams.

Where is your focus today friends? Are you fixated on making more money and living to get all this world has to offer, or are you longing for a better world? It is my prayer that each of us will take our eyes off the fading glory of this world, and allow Christ to fix our eyes on the prize of heaven and an eternity with Him.

Dear Father God,
I praise You today for all Your mighty works and especially for the hope of a better world with You. Please help us each to take our eyes off the fading glory of this world and to focus and fixate on Your will for our lives and the home You have promised us in glory. We pray these things in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

#75 Razor Sharp

Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword..."

I have always had a fascination with knives. No, not the tomato-slicing kind or any other type that might commonly be found in a kitchen. I mean manly knives; knives used for hunting or military purposes.

When I was still just a boy I can recall my grandfather giving me an Old Timer knife. It was really neat to have it. The knife consisted of a metal frame surrounded by wood-like grips all housing three blades of varying lengths and widths. To this day I am not sure for what they were all supposed to be used. But even though I was uncertain of their use I was so proud that I had them.

That fascination and love for knives carried into my adult life as I would often visit gun and knife shows around our home in North Carolina. Again, I was so taken in by all the variety and intriguing designs. When I joined the Army I of course had to have tactical knives fit for a Solider. My favorite brand of knife to this day is SOG. Each day of my life I place my trusty SOG Trident in my pocket and if I happen to not have it with me I feel a bit lost and unprepared.

There is another blade I have also come accustomed to having by my side daily. This blade is not manufactured for tactical or hunting purposes. No, the purpose of this blade is far more noble than any knife used for sport or any article of war. My favorite blade is not folded and snugly placed in my pocket to help me feel fully dressed.

My favorite blade is actually the word of God. Any knife worth having needs to be sharp; the sharper the better I say. And God's Word truly meets that requirement. We are told in the book of Hebrews that God's Word is sharper than even a two-edged sword. The Sword of the Lord can cut through the stoniest of hearts and pierce us to the very core of our being.

Of course just like any other knife, if we do not use the Sword of the Lord we cannot benefit from its use. Far too often are our Bibles are left lying about to gather dust. How many rich blessings do we miss because we have not taken the time to let God's Word cut away our sinfulness. Christians often speak of wanting greater faith. We pray, "Lord, please give us more faith, help us to trust You more!" I am not knocking that sort of prayer, but God has already told us how to increase our trust and faith in Him. We are told in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.

In other words, if we want to see our faith and trust in God increase measurably then we must spend time reading the Bible. If we want sin to be "cut" away from our lives then we must allow the Sword of the Lord to point it out and the Holy Spirit to convict us of it. I believe it is then that we will see the results of our sinful character being replaced by Christ's divine character. Theologians call it sanctification, I simply call it becoming like Jesus.

Friends, won't you let the Spirit of the Living God cut you to the core through His Word? His blade is razor sharp and only trims away that which would keep us out of heaven. Trust in Him and trust in His Word. It is the only sure thing in this world.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for Your blessings and mercy to us and for Your holy Word that brings us closer to You. Please help us to stay in your Word, and please help us to surrender more fully to You each day. We long to see You face-to-face and we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#74 Genetic Sin-gineering

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all...are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

I have oft been fascinated by the work of geneticists. The scientists who dedicate their lives to studying the blueprint of what makes us who we are have unraveled some marvelous mysteries about how the human body functions and how unique each one of us actually are.

I suppose the most fascinating thing about what I have learned about DNA and the like is how anyone can see and understand all the marvelous detail that goes into making the human body work and still not feel compelled to believe that we were made by the design and creation of a wonderfully loving God.

It seems that each new discovery would lead the world to see the indelible fingerprints of God on and in all of creation. Many--both scientist and laymen--have gazed into the heavens and wondered what's really out there. People ask, "Are we alone?" or "Are there other inhabited planets?" All this in search of meaning for this life and hope for life beyond this world.

The Bible makes it very clear that we were created in the image of our Creator God (Genesis 1:26, 27). But many have questioned whether we still fully bear that resemblance; especially in light of all the disease and prevalence of birth defects in our society. I think sin has marred that perfect image we were created in. Sin has served to possibly even genetically alter us to the point that we need to be made whole.

Paul spoke of this when he wrote to the church in Corinth. Corinth was a city steeped in sinful behavior and pagan culture. But God had faithful followers there too. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul spoke of how we groan in these earthly tents (2 Cor 12:1) and how one day we will be given a dwelling from heaven (2 Cor 12:2).

Paul is using code language here to describe the decrepit state in which sin has left our bodies. He goes on to say that while we are at home in these sinful, burdened bodies we are forced to be absent from the Lord in person. However, he seeks to give us hope that one day we will be absent from these bodies of sin and clothed with a heavenly dwelling of a new and glorified body and then and only then will we be in the presence of our God.

While we have to wait to receive those glorified bodies, we do not have to wait to receive a character that resembles that of Christ. When we surrender our lives to Him we can become new creatures. No, not new right now as it pertains to our bodies, but we can experience new life in Christ as the Holy Spirit dwells within us to affect change in our character.

Have you surrendered to Christ today? Have you let Him have full control of your life and your plans? Have you given Him your genetically sin-gineered body so that you can one day soon receive that body that is direct from heaven? One day soon Christ will come to carry us home and when He comes and gives the call we shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye(1 Cor 15:51-53); thus receiving those new bodies. Let us remain faithful till then friends. Let us look forward to His coming while living daily to serve Him.

Dear Father God,
We praise You and give You thanks for the honor of making us in Your image. Forgive us for contributing to the tearing down of that image through our sinfulness. Please come soon, Lord, to take us home with You. We long to be restored and made whole. Until that day please make us new creatures inwardly. We pray these things in the holy name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, January 14, 2011

#73 Blocking the Light?

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,

Garage doors these days are pretty high-tech. They have electric gear and chain driven motors that raise the door for us as we approach with our vehicles. Some of our vehicles even have a built-in home control unit that allows us to program our cars to operate the door.

The other day I came home and parked in the garage. Turned off my Jeep and pushed the button to close the door. The door moves slowly enough that I can usually make it almost to the smaller door just as the garage door is about to close. This particular day though the door came down, got almost to the bottom and then went back up.

The overhead light attached the door motor was flashing which lets you know that the light sensors at the bottom of the door were somehow blocked. Safety is also a concern when you consider a garage door. The doors are heavy enough that they could crush or severely injure a small child or elderly person. So the newer systems have light sensors at the bottom that send and receive a beam of light from one side to the other. When the light path is broken the door motor is automatically reversed and the door will go completely back up.

I have seen the door do this before so I immediately began to look and see what was blocking the light beam. The kids' toys were back away from the sensors. There was nothing lying in the path of the sensors that I could see. My next step was check the alignment of the sensors. Sometimes they get bumped and if they are not aligned they will not work. The sensors have a green light on the side that alight when they are properly aligned. Yes, the green lights were on so what was the problem?

A press of the button sent the door back down again and right as it got the bottom back up it went...again! I was beginning to get frustrated when--as the door reached my eye level--I noticed a small, narrow leaf stuck to the weather seal at the bottom of the door. The melting and re-freezing of the snow allowed the leaf to become wet and freeze to the bottom of the door. That small leaf was just enough to interrupt the flow of the light beam and cause the door's safety feature to trigger. I removed the leaf and the door shut just fine.

In that instant I began to wonder about just how many "little" things get in the way of us receiving light from Christ. Sometimes we get involved in something that seems so small, insignificant, and harmless but without knowing it we allow something to come into our life that slowly but surely separates us from Jesus.

What's blocking your light today? What has crept into your life that keeps you from "operating" as the Lord wants you to? Have you been shut out from the Lord's blessings because of the accumulation of little or big sins in your life? It is my prayer for each of you that you would allow the Spirit of the living God to come into your heart just now and take away all the stuff that keeps you from experiencing God's blessings.

Dear Father,
Thank You for being so amazingly great. We recognize that we need You and Your Spirit to teach us to be faithful and true to You. Please forgive us for letting stuff get in the way of our relationship with You, and please keep the path of light clear that You long to shine upon us. In Jesus' name, Amen.