Tuesday, June 26, 2007

God's Mercy by Example

There is a kind of mercy that is so unique that it can only be explained by referencing the things God has done. One of those events was when Moses appealed to God to show him His Glory while he was on Mt. Sinai.

In Exodus 33:17-23 we read:

“So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” And he [Moses] said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Then He [God] said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

God recognized that Moses, being human, could not withstand the magnitude of His glory. Yet, not to deny Moses of his request, God found a way to give Moses the desire of his heart. He hid him in the cleft, or crevice, of a rock, covered him with His hand to protect him, and passed by so Moses could see his back. Moses is the only person recorded in the Bible to have had this experience – having looked upon the glory of God.

God could have easily just said, “Sorry Moses, you can’t handle it!” But He didn’t. He wanted to give Moses the gifts he desired in his heart. God had nothing to gain from this, yet He worked to fulfill Moses’ plea.

Likewise, when Jesus said to Thomas, who doubted Jesus’ resurrection, in John 20:27, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Jesus was giving Thomas what he needed to grow his faith. He was showing mercy by simply fulfilling the desires of Thomas’ heart.

Trust God for the desires of your heart. Trust him to satisfy your need for greater faith.

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” – Psalms 107:1

Wandering in the Desert

During my 36 years as a child of God, I spend about 25 of them doing what a friend of mine referred to as my “wandering in the desert”. Although I was saved, I was, to quote an old song, “looking for love in all the wrong places”.

I knew I was missing something. It was a feeling of discomfort, or disorganization. It was like wearing your coat backwards, or wearing shoes without tying them. It was like going to a party where you know no one. It was like trying to fit the very last piece of a jigsaw puzzle just to find that it won’t fit!

At times I felt as if I would never really be as happy as the folks I saw around me, and I just couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. I tried several things.

I tried popularity. I thought having the approval of people would do it. But it didn’t, and I found I couldn’t please enough people to be truly popular.

I also thought that if I had enough money I’d be happy. So I worked a lot, but then I spent a lot, so I’d work more, but then I’d spend more. At the end of that phase, I discovered my then very young son was being raised by my parents instead of me, and no matter what I brought him home, the cold hard truth was, all he wanted was mom.

For a while I thought it was power and prestige. If I could only get ahead at work, be respected, be noticed, and get promoted, then I’d be happy! But it didn’t work. The discomfort seemed to grow into an empty pit inside me.

I even thought that if I exercised, lost weight, and took better care of myself, I’d be happier. After all, the “beautiful people” all seem happy, right? But then I realized that it wasn’t the outside of me that was unhappy. Fixing the outside didn’t do anything for me, and no matter how hard I tried, it just wouldn’t stay fixed! It was a vicious cycle of trying to achieve my own approval.

The devil can be such a deceiver! He kept me so busy trying to find happiness in all the wrong places that I didn’t take the time to look to Christ. I didn’t take the time to realize that what it takes to be happy, truly happy, is to simply live in the image in which we were created.

Once I realized that, turned my life back over to Christ and moved out of the way, I found a peace that I cannot explain. In the midst of my worst day, and yes there are some real struggles at times, I still have joy. I have a flood of love from my heart that can only come from abiding in Christ, and His Spirit abiding in me.

Friends, stop looking for love in all the wrong places! Stop wandering in the desert, and thirsting for water that never quenches your thirst. Your answer is Jesus, it really is! In John 4:13 Jesus tells a young woman who is at a well, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” If you’re missing something in your life, look to Jesus! He can, and will, complete your life.

Friend, if you don’t know Jesus, and want to know how to begin your relationship with Him or would like your questions answered, I encourage you to message me. I’d be more than happy to tell you anything you want to know about my friend and Savior, Jesus.

Which Reward Will You Choose?

I don’t watch a lot of television, but I love watching Seinfeld reruns. Seinfeld has four main characters: Jerry Seinfeld, a stand up comic and the center of the show; Elaine, Jerry’s girlfriend-turned-friend; Kramer, Jerry’s across the hall outrageous neighbor; and George, Jerry’s overly sensitive and ever so trivia friend. One of my favorite episodes is “The Big Salad” from 1994. As most Seinfeld shows, the whole show revolves around a ridiculously simply event – the purchase of a salad.

George and his girlfriend are eating lunch at the local diner. As they get ready to leave, George takes the check and offers to buy lunch. His girlfriend finally accepts his offer. As George is paying the bill, a waitress hands his girlfriend her “big salad to go”. When the couple arrive at Jerry’s apartment, George’s girlfriend hands Elaine her lunch, the big salad, and is so sweetly thanked by Elaine.

George finds this a bit of a problem! Since George actually paid for the salad, he feels that his girlfriend has inappropriately taken credit for his good gesture! After stewing over this for a while with Jerry, George and Elaine share a cab ride. In the cab, he tells Elaine, ever so sheepishly as if not really wanting the credit, that it was actually he that bought her the salad, and basically that she’d thanked the wrong person. Of course, Elaine is outraged that he’s being so trivial!

The episode reminds me of a passage concerning how we are not to do our good deeds for public recognition. In Matthew 6:1-2 Jesus says:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

We have to decide what kind of reward we want: an eternal one, or a temporal one. If you seek the recognition of men for your good deeds, you’ll get it, and for a short while, that pat on the back will feel really good. But then, the very ones that gave you that good feeling will forget all about what you did, or expect you to do something good for them as well. On the other hand, God will not forget what you’ve done, and will not let it go unnoticed. He will reward you in heaven with gifts that will not rot or decay.

It’s your choice – do you want the quick feel-good, or do you want the eternal glory?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Getting Even

Have you ever been wronged? I don’t mean simple wrongdoing like a clerk at the grocery gave you the wrong change, or a waiter brought you the wrong drink. I’m talking about someone being truly mean spirited for no reason!

Our first instinct when we are mistreated is a natural survivor instinct to fight back. Whether it is with body language, verbally, or physically, we want to “get even”. But the Bible teaches two things concerning how we should react to being mistreated.

First, we have to fight the natural instinct to defend ourselves. As my Grandmother use to say, two wrongs don’t make a right! Romans 12:17-18 says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” As for those folks that a mother couldn’t love, I suggest you find a way not to be near them! Avoidance is a wonderful tool to prevent conflict. Another equally worthy tool is humility. Matthew 5:39 says “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” A third tool you can use is love. The Bible teaches us that the best way to react to someone has wronged us is with love. It says in Proverbs 25:21-22 “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the LORD will reward you. “ You can take the high road in a bad situation, and be promised that the Lord will reward you for it.

Second, we are to give God the opportunity to seek vengeance for us. In Romans 12:19 we read “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.“ Jeremiah 51:5 says, “For the LORD is the God of recompense, He will surely repay.” It can be very hard to just sit back and be mistreated while you wait on God to step in. But turn it over to God, and wait. No one can dish out vengeance as well as God!

One of my favorite stories of the Bible is of two men, Haman and Mordecai. Their story is told in the book of Esther. Haman was a very proud man, and a man of high social stature. In today’s terms, he’d be Mr. Snooty Patooty who lives at the corner of Rich and Famous. When Haman came around, all the people bowed in reverence to him. All, that is, except one, Mordecai.

Mordecai was Queen Esther’s Uncle and guardian. He refused to bow he was a Jew, and he worshipped only God. A Jew bowing to any man would be idolatry. Well, this didn’t set well with Mr. Better-Than-Thou Haman! He became so bitter about Mordecai’s refusal to reverence him that he went home sulking and whined to his family about how horrible Mordecai had treated him. And then he devised a plan, a plan that would not only cure him of Mordecai’s presence, but also abolish the Jews completely from the land! As if that wasn’t enough, he and Mrs. Haman plotted to hang Mordecai, and even built the gallows to hang him!

But what did Mordecai do? Nothing. Knowing the plot that Haman had devised to kill all the Jews, there is no doubt that he felt the wrath and anger Haman had for him every day. Haman would walk past him to enter the King’s Gate every day, and Mordecai did nothing to harm him. Instead, Mordecai tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and began to seek God’s attention. He told his niece, Queen Esther that Haman was trying to kill all the Jews, and she must make a stand to save her people. And then, Mordecai waited on God. He prayed and he fasted, as he convinced all the Jews to do. Yet, the gallows awaited him, and Haman’s anger was not quenched.

But then God takes control. While the King is unable to sleep one night he calls to have the minutes of his court read, thinking this would certainly put him to sleep! While the records are being recited, a record of a favor Mordecai had performed for the King was read. Years before, Mordecai had overheard two of the King’s eunuchs plotting to kill the King, and he’d sent word to the King and saved his life. The King then said to the servant reading the court minutes, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The King’s servants answered him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”

Then in walks Haman to the Kings court. Haman is walking talk and carrying a big load of pride. He’s been the only one of the King’s court invited to dinner with the King and Queen Esther. He has even bragged to his family of how only he was chosen to attend. As he walks in, the King looked up, and said, “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?”

Haman must have swelled up with pride like a nervous puffer fish! He began to think, “Oh boy, now is my chance! What should I ask for? What would make me happy for the king to do for me?” Then Haman decides what he would love best! He tells the king in Esther 6:7-9 “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head. Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!’” Oh, no doubt Haman was even thinking which horse it would be, which robe he would desire, and how many times he’d be paraded through the city. It was going to be quite an event!

Then God seeks Mordecai’s revenge. In Esther 6:10 we read that the King said to Haman, “Hurry, take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do so for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the King’s gate! Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken.” Can you imagine the look on Haman’s face? He must have looked like he’d been slapped with a wet fish! Not only was Mordecai getting the praise and high position of honor with the King, but poor Haman was the one who had to proclaim his honor! We all have our tough days, but this one must have been a “kick the dog” kind of day for Haman!

Rest assured - leaving your vengeance in God’s hands is always best. Because God looks upon the heart, he knows the weakness of our enemy. He knows how best to defeat him. Give your anger and hurt feelings to God, and wait. When the time is right, God will rise up against your enemy, and you will be the one rewarded.


I read a CNN bulletin this morning that said we've lost 14 more soldiers in Iraq in the last 48 hours. Friends, I'm not a political person, but these 14 souls have left behind loved ones, families, possibly even children.

Typically my blog is meant to encourage/enlighten/strengthen God's army - the Body of Christ. Today, it's time we turned that focus out to our mission field.

When you read this today, I just ask that you pray one simple prayer - that no soldier die today. Pray for the soldiers still alive that have to deal today with the fact that their friends are dead. Pray for peace for the families that have lost sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. Pray for the Iraqi people, for they are losing loved ones as well.

I think we often just look at soldiers and say "it's their job", and forget that these folks have real lives. They grew up just like we did, watching cartoons, riding bikes, learning to drive, getting jobs, falling in love, getting married, and having children. If not for the grace of God, our path could have lead to the service, and it could have been one of us that died in Iraq yesterday.

Please pray.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My Comfort Zone

“God, I know you’d really like it if I sung that song I heard the other day for our church. But God, you know singing in public isn’t my thing – it’s out of my comfort zone.”

“I know those people who live on the corner need to find a church, but I can’t go door-to-door inviting people I’ve never met! God, I’m just not comfortable talking to strangers about you.”

“Thank you God for those 2 weeks off! Sure, I could help out with the VBS, but God, you know I don’t have any patience with kids – they make me downright uncomfortable!”

“Wow! God! I sure want to raise my hands in praise when I hear that song. It just blesses my heart! I wish I could raise my hands and just enjoy this time with you, but what would everyone think? I’m just not comfortable doing something like that.”

“God, that family sure needs some help, but I don’t think I could offer. I’m not close to them or anything. How would they react? What if they thought of me in the wrong way? It’s just not something I’m comfortable with.”

“God, I’d sure like to see the Easter production at that church, but it’s not the same denomination as my church. What if they started going overboard – you know – getting rowdy. I’m just not comfortable with that.”

“Please God, send someone to talk to my co-worker about becoming a Christian. He’s so lost, and really looking for an answer. And God, I’d do it myself, but you know I’m not comfortable talking to others about my relationship with you. You understand, right?”

“Oh God, forgive me. I know I should be in that altar praying with her, but God, I wouldn’t be comfortable going to the altar. Surely someone else will go and give her a loving hug. Too many people around! I just can’t.”

“Sure the people of Kenya need to hear about your saving Grace God! I’ll help in any way I can, but I just can’t go and spend a week in Kenya sleeping on a mat on the dirt floor and missing showers. Especially in that heat! Whew! You know I need my daily shower! I’m not the same without it.”

I’ve often wondered what would happen if one Sunday morning my pastor would say, “Everyone sitting on the left to move to the right, and on the right – move to the left. If you’re in the back – go to the front, and if you’re sitting in the front – sit in the back”. Why, it would be total chaos and confusion! Most of us would spend the whole hour wondering what was next, and trying to get comfortable! We are all animals of habit, and once our habits are set, we get so comfortable that even the smallest change just throws us out of balance, and we’re pushed outside our Comfort Zone.

Comfort Zone. I’ve heard those two words at least 10 times lately in Christian messages. God’s really trying to speak to me about this, and show me how captive my comfort zone can be. Maybe God isn’t concerned with my being comfortable in his work. Maybe if I’m comfortable, it’s time for me to step outside that zone, and see how God will bless me. After all, the cross wasn’t comfortable for Jesus, yet He told us to take up our cross and follow him.

Have you ever considered how captive your comfort zone can hold you? Can you relate to any of the examples above? I do. I know I limit God’s work (and my blessings) by holding back my praises, keeping His message to myself, not giving up the “comforts” He’s given, and fearing what people think of me more than what God thinks. God, help me to change! I’d love to become SO undignified – as David did when he danced before God in praise! How wonderful it would be if we all stopped caring what each other thinks, and only care what God thinks about us! Who are we worshipping anyway?

I think about when Jesus got the disciples into the boat and took them out to sea.
When the waves got rough, they got scared. They were DEFINITELY out of their comfort zones. But if they’d never gotten into the boat, would they have learned that Jesus was able to save them from the storm? I wonder what we’re missing by staying on dry land – staying comfortable?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Trusting the Wrong Voices

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
- Genesis 3:1-6

There’s one thing about the fall of mankind I guess I’ll never understand. Picture this! Adam and Eve are in a beautiful garden surrounded by waterfalls, sunny skies, beautiful trees, and fields of flowers. They don’t have to work for their food – yet food is abundant. The animals graze in the garden, and they’re with them all day. They see flamingos, dolphins, elephants, buffalo, zebras, elk and tree frogs. They watch them as they play with their young, find their own food, and learn their ways.

So how is it that when a snake talks to Eve she doesn’t just back up and say “What? How come you’re able to talk and the other animals don’t?” Why didn’t this cause her to have the danger sirens go off in her head? Especially when the first thing he says is wrong and twisted! His first words to her (and the first in the entire Bible) were “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Of course God hadn’t forbid them to eat of all the trees! Just one tree was off limits. How could Eve have been so misguided as to listen to a talking Serpent over the voice of God?

I think the answer is in her response to the serpent. She told the serpent, the father of lies, Satan, what God had said. Keep in mind, she’d received second-hand knowledge of the rules – not personal knowledge. God had told Adam not to eat of the tree before she was created. The Bible never says God told Eve. She did not apply the knowledge God had given to them as a way of her own life. She couldn’t say, “I don’t eat of that tree because I know it’s dangerous to me.” Instead, she simply quoted what God had said to Adam. Because she had not applied these laws to her own heart, she was quick to accept the words she heard from the voice of the serpent. She believed the lie when he said they would be “like God”. She believed a talking serpent instead of God the creator who walked with them daily in the garden.

That little bit of doubt that the serpent had given her was all she needed to change her mind. I often wonder when verse 6 says, “the woman saw that the tree was good for food” how she came to this conclusion. The only thing I can figure is the serpent ate it in front of her. Somehow, she recognized that this fruit that she’d never even touched before was good to eat. She also recognized that it was pleasant to the eyes, and began to lust for it, to even crave it.

Then the lie that it would make her wise like God began to set in. The serpent must have known that being wise was something she wanted – otherwise he would have tempted her with something else. If he were to try to convince women today to eat the fruit, he would probably “This miracle fruit will cause you to lose 20 pounds in one day!” We’d all be lined up around the tree pushing people over to get at the last fruit on the top of the tree! But when he first spoke to her to test her knowledge of God’s command concerning the trees, he must have heard something in her voice that told him she wanted to be seen as wise.

The serpent had said it, and he’d eaten the fruit and not died. Eve began to think on what she’d heard. She began to meditate on the voice of the serpent. Without personal knowledge of the truth of God, Eve’s heart was unclaimed territory. She let Satan enter into her thoughts. Surely God was not being honest with them, surely she should believe the serpent. It was easier to believe the serpent now because she wanted the fruit more than she did anything in the garden! So she ignored God and ate.

What voice are you listening to? Is it the voice of God, or the voice of a talking serpent? One way to know is to compare the words you hear with God’s word. Anything in contrary to the scriptures is of Satan – plain and simple. Find out what God says about the subject at hand before you make a single step. And if you find the voices you’re listening to don’t agree with God, walk away and don’t let yourself be tempted! Those voices can entangle you in a life of sin that will only lead to death, curses, and desolation.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What Color Is Your Sin?

I went into the hardware store one day and asked the clerk for a gallon of black paint. The young clerk, who I doubt had even begun to shave, said to me “What color black?” I stood there stunned and replied, “BLACK.” He looked a little bit too happy as he smiled and said “flat black, black luster, black bear, midnight black, jet black, black bird, Asian black,” and on and on he went. At that point I must admit I wanted to change my color choices to black and blue!

Have you ever noticed how we like to change the color of our sins? The Bible clearly shows that God cannot look upon sin or hear sinners. Isaiah 59:2 says “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” John 9:31 also says ”Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” Additionally, Psalms 66:18 says “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” No differentiation is made in any of these verses as to what sins will cause God to turn from us – they’re all included in those statements. Yet, as a society, we have created a color chart for sin:

Murder - Jet Black
Child Molestation - Midnight Black
Spousal Abuse - Outer Space Black
Adultery - Charcoal Gray
Stealing - Dolphin Gray
Premarital Sex - Dove Gray
Gambling - Powder Gray
Drinking - Silver Gray
Lying - Misty Fog Gray
Gossiping - Pale Horse Gray

We tend to judge the sins based on whether they effect us. For example, lying isn’t that bad, unless you’re the one being lied to. And likewise, adultery is just a “moment of weakness” unless you’re the spouse.

We also tend to hold those sins that are our own at the bottom of the color chart, tinted with much more white than the sins of others. Ask anyone with a drinking problem if they think drinking is wrong, and you’ll most likely hear a lot more than a simple “no” – you’ll hear all the reasons why they believe it’s okay. But God’s color chart for sins is different:

Murder - Black
Child Molestation - Black
Spousal Abuse - Black
Adultery - Black
Stealing - Black
Premarital Sex - Black
Gambling - Black
Drinking - Black
Lying - Black
Gossiping - Black

Make no mistake, your sins do not go unnoticed nor unpunished by God just because everyone else is doing the same thing. God holds us all to His standards, not that of the world of sinners. No one, including yours truly, meets God’s standards. In Romans 3:23 it says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

There are no personal sins either. Every sin you commit hurts someone else. It may be that person who’s watching you to see what Christianity is like, or it may be a relative who has to endure the pain of watching you fail. Ask the mother of a drug addict about her pain, or the father of an unwed pregnant daughter. Your sins are never personal.

King David was an awesome example of a sinner! He looked upon Bathsheba with lust, had her brought to his bed, committed adultery, got her pregnant, tried to hide it, had her husband killed, and went for at least a year without asking for forgiveness. But when he came to the point to ask for forgiveness, David came clean with God. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t tell God it was Bathsheba’s fault for bathing outdoors, or his servants for bringing her to him, or that he had an uncontrollable sexual addiction for which he needed counseling. He simply said, “I have sinned”. And when he asked for forgiveness, God willingly gave it.

But the consequences for his sin were still charged to him. King David paid for his sin with the loss of the child conceived out of his affair with Bathsheba. Imagine how he must have felt knowing that a newborn baby was going to pay the price for his sin. Imagine the days to come and the times he would think about it being the child’s birthday, how old the child would have been, and the longing within him to correct Bathsheba’s pain.

Even from this distant place, not knowing who you are as you read this, I can assure you that you are a sinner just as I am, and that our sins are not personal. For those around you whom you love, I beg you to seek forgiveness for your sins – regardless of the color you have assigned them.

Lord God, draw near to us and hear our cry. We recognize dear God that we have disappointed you, our faithful Father, time and time again. Lord, we sin so often that sometimes we fail to even acknowledge our wrongs as sin. Lord, bring them all to mind that we may ask forgiveness for them. Cleanse our hearts dear God, and hold not our sins against us. Bless us Father with your loving grace. Amen.

(If you enjoyed this article, please leave a comment below by clicking on COMMENT.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Relationship

Isn’t it funny how God will use ordinary things to teach you a lesson? He showed me something one day about relationships through my kids.

Since my son and daughter were small I have learned that the evenings go smoother if first I spend time with them. I’m away from them all day, and when we’re finally back home together, they need me to be their mom. They need to talk, to be listened to, to be loved, and have my attention. Then, most of the time when I ask them to do something, they’ll do it without complaining or hesitation. From the attention that I’ve given them, they’ve learned that I love them and that they are important to me. We’re the same way with God. We need to talk to him, to be listened to, and to be loved.

I’ve got a friend who never fails to answer all my whines and complaints with a one liner – “Crawl up in the lap of Jesus”. It sounds very comforting, doesn’t it? Well, try it on for size when you’re fit to be tied, and when you’ve gotten to the end of your rope, and your nerves are crawling! It’s like pouring ice water on a sleeping baby!

Sometimes that one liner is the LAST thing I want to hear. I’d rather hear a bit of affirmation to my being ill at the world, an agreement that I’ve been done wrong so I can take my anger out like a baseball bat and swing it around at a few innocent bystanders! But she never fails to say it, and I never fail to feel it. There’s healing in her words when I do take her advice. When you can go to Jesus with your troubles, have that little talk, let him comfort you, and calm you, you always go away more willing to do as he asks, and being more accepting of all the situations that are given to you.

The willingness to serve comes from an understanding of the relationship. God is my Father. That’s not just something the Bible says, or something my parents taught me. It’s something I know from the heart because I’ve allowed Him to be a Father to me. When you will allow God to be your Father, you find Him always there to give good advice – but He won’t force you to follow it. As much as He’ll instruct us in the way that is right, He’ll allow us to make our own choices. He’ll allow us to run ahead when we should just walk by His side. And He’ll wait for us when we stop and wander. He is FATHER. Once I realized the relationship, and the love that was behind it, doing as He asked was just easier that ignoring Him.

Remember that feeling you had in your heart when you knew your parents wanted you to do something - and you didn’t? Or how about that feeling after you’d disobeyed – the fear of them finding out – the fear of confrontation? It’s a kind of grief – a sort of heaviness in your heart. When you’re God’s child and you ignore His will for your life, you experience that same heaviness and burden. There’s no joy in living like that!

I watched a young Dad and his son on the walking trail in my hometown one day. He was teaching his son how to ride a bike. He gave him instructions, but then let him ride. He didn’t touch the bike until the little boy started to fall. But then – he was right there! He caught him! God’s like that. He’ll tell us what to do, but allows us to do as we choose. He’ll instruct us, but allow us to fall because we need to experience at that too! And when we go out and get ourselves a boo-boo, He’ll clean us up, and wipe our tears away.

So if you’re feeling low, feeling like there’s no joy, no peace, or so angry you’re fit to be tied, well, CRAWL UP IN THE LAP OF JESUS! Tell Him all about it. Strengthen that relationship by spending time with him. Seek your Father. The time you spend with Him is always time well spent!

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

If You Can’t Say Something Good…

My Grandmother had many little sayings she used to teach me moral lessons. She would say things like “Two wrongs don’t make a right”, or “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”, or “Two heads are better than one”. One that has stuck with me is “If you can’t say something good, don’t say nothing at all.” (Excuse the double negative, but that is how she said it!)

Most often this cliché was used to explain how you shouldn’t run someone down, pointing out their faults, and criticizing their actions. But God has given me a different revelation about this simple statement. When you allow your mouth to spread bad words you weaken your relationship with God, and give Satan an opening in which to destroy you. Let me explain.

In Ephesians 6:12 we read that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”. This verse refers to principalities and spiritual hosts of wickedness. Make no mistake! This is a reference to Satan and his minions. They are there just as He is - walking to and fro upon the earth, seeking whom they can destroy (Job 2:2, 1 Peter 5:8).

Yet Satan has a great disadvantage to that of the Holy Spirit in controlling our lives. As the Holy Spirit lives inside us, He knows the thoughts we have, and can speak directly to our hearts. Satan must wait for us to open our mouths, and tell him the things within our hearts and minds. Once we do, he listens to hear our issues of stress, the problems we have with each other, and our personal weaknesses. His gorilla warfare attack can then be planned, and he will strike you where it hurts most.

“For He who would love life and see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.” - 1 Peter 3:10

Letting your words roam free opens you up to the invasion of the spirits of evil. But you can counter this with the exact opposite. Do you know what it takes to bring God near to you? PRAISE! Praise is a powerful tool in that it can bring God into your presence. II Chronicles 5:13-14 tells us that we can bring God into a house and fill it as with a cloud by praising Him. Psalms 22:3 tells us that he is “enthroned” in the praises of His people. Even as Jesus taught us to pray He said “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). The word “hallowed” is defined by Webster’s as “regarded as holy; venerated; sacred”.

“To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy.” - Psalm 59:17

Where there is light, there can be no darkness. The two cannot co-exist. In John 8:12 Jesus says “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” As Satan and his demons are defined as the “rulers of darkness of this age” (Ephesians 6:12), we should understand that he can simply be sent out by bringing the light of the world, Jesus, near. Praise is the instrument in which to do just that!

Your words can cause you to sin! God cannot look upon sin. His presence is taken from us when we sin with our mouths. Lies and exaggerations tear down your spirit by giving you a spirit of deceit, which is attributed to Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44). Gossip (which is wrong even if the story is true), can break relationships, and tear down the character of both the rumored, and the tale bearer. Matthew 15:11 says “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Don’t allow yourself to be defiled! Put a bridle on your tongue, and a leash on your mouth! Proverbs 21:23 says “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles.” Guard your words and speak only those things that edify and lift up God and those around you. In so doing you will avoid many problems, and bring greater joy into your life.

Remember, if you can’t say something good, then don’t say nothing at all!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lord Of All


My 9-year old daughter came up to me the other day and said “Mom, when I grow up, I want to be a jour-ken-vet”. Naturally, my question was “WHAT is that?” She rolled her big green eyes and said, “It’s a journalist, who runs a kennel, and is a veterinarian.” She had it all worked out! She would be a veterinarian all day, take care of animals in the kennel after work, and write late at night like her mom.

At 9 years old, her ideas for her future change often. Once she found out that veterinarians also have to amputate the legs of crippled pets, put dogs to sleep when they’re beyond repair, and some other things she didn’t like, she decided she didn’t have what it takes to be a veterinarian.

As Christians we often start out excited about becoming a disciple of Jesus, just like my daughter was excited about becoming a veterinarian. But when we see what it takes, often our flaming torch for Christ becomes a flickering candle.

In Luke 14, we find three verses that share a common thread. They show the one requirement for being a true follower of Christ: you must be willing to lay everything at His feet and follow Him.

Verse 26: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.

Throughout foreign nations we hear of the price new Christians face amount their families. In Muslim countries, there are those who are extricated from their families because they have believed in Jesus. Their families declare them as good as dead! They are no longer welcome to visit. They have no “safety net” in their family should things go wrong in their lives.

Even within Christian families a disciple can have their ability to serve Christ diluted. In Mark 6:4 Jesus said “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Those who know you best are often the hardest to convince that you have shed your old life for the life of Christ. Their relationship with the old you causes their vision of the new you to be blurred. They wait, even subconsciously, for you to fail so they can prove to themselves that you haven’t changed.

Verse 27: And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Persecution of Christians happens to a far greater sense in foreign lands, but even in the United States becoming a Christian can mean losing your friends and being ridiculed. The media has done a fine job of selling the idea that Christians are weak minded white flag wavers who believe in the things of their imagination. This type of stereotyping gives new believers a very heavy cross to bear. By simply believing what they truly believe in our “freedom of religion” nation, they are persecuted. The label of “believer” often bears the insignia of naivete and immaturity. Sometimes our hearts will be broken to find that our friends don’t want to be associated with us because of the life we must live. It has even ended careers as we are labeled as “Jesus Freaks”.

Verse 33: In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

When Jesus instructed his disciples in Matthew 10:10 to go and preach the good news he told them to “take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics”. Jesus knew that if they left everything behind they would be completely dependent upon God. Many of us want to hold onto God with our right hand, and hold onto our money and material wealth with the left. The Bible says in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (money).” Trying to worship God without being willing to give him all your wealth and worldly goods is an attempt of futility.

The rich young ruler in Matthew 21:6-22 approached Jesus and asked “Master, what must I do to be saved?” From the verses that follow we see that this young man was definitely a good person. He followed all the rules of being a Christian. But when Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”, the young man went away sad. Why? Because he had great possessions, and those possessions were very dear to him.

How sad that some of us also give up the very best in life, a life with Christ, for the very worst in life, that which will rot and decay. Mark 9:47 tells us that if your eye causes you to sin, you should get rid of it because entering Heaven with only one eye is much better than entering Hell with two. Likewise, would it not be better to enter Heaven with no material gain on earth, than to enter Hell with billions of dollars of wealth accumulated?

In short, if Jesus is not Lord of everything, then Jesus is not Lord of anything. Make Him your Lord. Let him be Lord of All.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Standing in the Face of Conflict

Do you consider yourself a bold witness for Christ? Do you stand for Jesus in the face of opposition? Are you willing to stand for Jesus even if it means ending your life? Stephen was.

Stephen is first mentioned in Acts 6:5 when the twelve disciples were seeing a need to have helpers to carry out the work of the church. Stephen was first described here as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit”. Full. There was no room for anything else. His personality was nothing but faith and the Spirit of God’s presence through him. To have a problem with Stephen was to have a problem with God.

In Acts 6:10 we read that the Freedmen “…were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.” Even though they couldn’t resist or deny the truth which he spoke, they wouldn’t accept it because their pride had gotten in the way.

Their discussion of Jesus had gone from a discussion to an argument. At the point you begin to argue a point, you become personally invested. Pride sets in with an “I know I’m right” stand. This is what had happened with the Freedmen. Their hearts were closed because they couldn’t move their pride out of the way. Instead of accepting the truth, the Freedmen chose to destroy it, to try to remove it from their life. They delivered Stephen to stand before the Sanhedrin council.

Imagine how you would have felt being brought before the very council that had days earlier handed Jesus over to be crucified. Stephen was not only in the presence of opposition – he was before those who routinely killed Christians. He must have realized that his life was in danger. Saul was there, and his reputation was widely known. But this did not change Stephen’s stand for Christ.

Stephen preached to the Sanhedrin council the history of the Israelite people’s past from Abraham to Moses to the current day. He preached to them of how the Israelites had worshiped other gods and the stars while in the wilderness, and made a mockery of God. Then he began to step on their toes! He got personal!

In Acts 7:51-53 Stephen said to them “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”

He said they were “uncircumcised in heart”. Circumcision was part of the Abrahamic covenant (promise) between God and the Israelite people. It was to show that they were in agreement with God’s promise to Abraham that his ancestors would be God’s people and would rise up and multiply. In saying that the Sanhedrin was “uncircumcised in heart”, Stephen was saying that within their hearts, they were not God’s people because they refused the truth. He called them murderers in that they had handed over Christ to be crucified. He told them that they had rejected the truth that had even been delivered to them from the mouths of Angels.

Was Stephen wrong to make it personal with the Sanhedrin? No! That’s what we are supposed to do today. We are to show the lost world their sins, and give them the truth so they can find forgiveness. Yet way too often we chose to avoid the conflict, to “sugar coat” God’s word, and to brush over sin with large paint strokes of pretty words. We are afraid of how “we” will look to others, and what others will think of “us”.

Stephen stood strong in the face of conflict because he knew whom he was standing for. When your focus is moved from you to Jesus, you will become bold enough in your faith to create conflict when there is no other way to present the truth. The Bible tells us to be “wise as serpents”, finding the best way to admonish and correct, and to be “harmless as doves”, whereas we should not seek to harm those that are non-believers. But the Bible never says to disguise the truth, or hide it. Stephen was inspired by the Holy Spirit, with which he was filled, to present the truth. As he reproved the Sanhedrin for Jesus’ murder, he looked up and in Acts 7:56 he said “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen got a standing ovation from Jesus Christ!

Jesus showed strong approval of Stephen’s actions. Some of us might find this a point of boasting, and say “Hey, did I tell you about the time Jesus was so impressed with me he stood up in recognition of my work?” Stephen was not prideful. In fact he remained filled with the Holy Spirit in such a way as to mimic Jesus even at the very end. As he was being stoned, Stephen knelt down and prayed. He prayed in Acts 7:59, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” Just as Jesus prayed for his enemies from the cross in Luke 23:34 and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”, Stephen wanted to offer forgiveness and mercy to his enemies. This shows where his heart was. He wasn’t condemning the Sanhedrin to be mean. He was doing it out of love.

Standing in the face of conflict does not have to mean being obstinate, getting an attitude, and being arrogant. Standing for truth is simple. You present the truth from God’s Holy Word, which is the undeniable truth. You are only the mouthpiece. Not everyone will accept it as Stephen found out, but we are told to preach the good news, and that is our responsibility. God alone will make believers. Anything past the delivery of God’s word is out of your hands.

Father God, help us that we would never shrink from your truth for the sake of avoiding conflict. Help us to look past the conflict to the time when we will be held accountable for our sins – those of commission and omission. Give us wisdom to always present the truth harmlessly. But where this cannot be done, help us never to back down or back out of the role you have given us in your service. In Jesus Holy Name, Amen.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


"And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.
Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. "
– Acts 5:12-13

Have you ever seen that face? You know the one. The one a non-believer gives when you say something incredible about how God has given you a blessing, chosen to give you divine healing, delivered a divine revelation, or even how God has given you a prophesy about some event yet to come? The eyes begin to look for the door, the feedback in the conversations becomes sparse. It’s the face that says "okay, now she’s getting all weird on me, this is too far fetched, this is too strange, and I have to find a way out of this conversation!"

We all have our limits as to what we will believe through faith. I can cross a bridge day after day and never have a fleeting thought about the bridge giving way and my car sinking into the water beneath. But others have problems crossing any bridge without having those thoughts. Others can’t climb to the top of a building and look out the window without feeling clammy, knees shaking, and their mouth going dry. Our phobias are based on our faith in what we imagine coming to life.

The early church faced a phobia of faith itself. The faith the early apostles had allowed them to do many great and wondrous things. They healed the sick, performed undeniable miracles, freed the captured, and grew the church. In spite of the fact that they became very popular to the public and were highly thought of, no one wanted to join them. Acts 5:13 says "Yet NONE of the rest dared to join them".

Today we often see the same thing. Many of our churches have healing services, or a night of prophesies being revealed, or even a group within the church who can do miraculous things. Yet often, because of our fear in what we don’t understand, we shun these Christians. Our minds cause us to fear what we cannot comprehend, which prevents our faith from growing enough to being to understand what is being done by the Holy Spirit through the church.

Are you one of those who cringes at the offer of attending a healing service? Are you uncomfortable with being anointed with oil, or having Christians lay hands on your in prayer? Talk to God about it. Ask Him to reveal to you the power that He has given even modern day Christians. If God is in the power you see, and God is in you, you will be able to discern the truth because the Holy Spirit within you will witness to the truth.

"There are diversities of gifts - but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries - but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities - but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." - 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Friday, June 8, 2007

Hitting Rock Bottom

In my kitchen I have a drawer that we affectionately refer to as the “junk drawer”. When you open it up you’ll find all the stuff that was left out, has no place in the house, or just really shouldn’t have been kept anyway. There’s loose thumbtacks (beware!), rubber bands, adhesive rubber pads, crazy glue, ear plugs, ink pens, loose string, batteries, loose change, magnets, old keys, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Once in a while I do decide to clean it up, but in order to do that, I have to first empty the whole drawer out on the kitchen table. That makes quite a mess! Then I can sort through all the “stuff” we’ve accumulated, figure out what needs to stay, what needs to go, and then try to put it back in the place it should have been…or in the “junk drawer”. But until I empty it out, I can’t clean it up! And I don’t empty it often because those thumbtacks can HURT!

I had a revelation about this drawer one day. Every time I clean it out, I always put those thumbtacks back in there. Today, after years of putting them back, finally, I asked myself why I did that! If I know that’s why I avoid cleaning the drawer, and I know it’s a safety hazard for anyone who needs to find something in it, then why do they constantly go back in there loose? It’s simple. I’ve just developed a habit of doing it.

As Christians, I think sometimes God looks at our lives and at our hearts and decides to empty us out on the table too. There are times when we have to be taken down to “rock bottom”. It’s called rock bottom because you can’t get any lower than that. It’s like the bottom of the junk drawer. God has to get us to that point in order to sort us out, and make us take an inventory of what we’ve got inside. The problem is, just like the pain that my junk drawer can cause me - this kind of cleaning by God is often painful too. He can take your job, your spouse, your friends, your kids, your finances, even your church, and turn them upside down.

Consider the life of Job – nothing was spared. God wanted to see what would be left if all the blessings were gone. We read of the story of Job and find that in the end, Job was still a man of God. His rock bottom revealed a clean heart. But I wonder how many other stories God could give us where that wasn’t what was found.

Seems to me that if we understand that God has the power to turn us out on His table, and we understand how painful that can be, we would avoid it by doing our own house cleaning first. I don’t know about you, but rock bottom isn’t somewhere I want to be taken. I’ve grown very use to the blessings God has given, and very passionate about some of them. But in order to keep them, I have to realize who the giver is, and what the requirements are to keep them.

As Christians, we can all count our many blessings. We’ve been blessed with Christian friends, loving families, good financial standing, and a loving spirit within our local Churches. But when our lives become littered with the things of the world and our morality lowered to meet our own standards, we lose our passion his work and are set on the path to rock bottom. Friends, take time to do your own house cleaning. As each of us is a temple for God to live in, it must begin within you.

Lord, help us to take our own inventory, and give us the wisdom to see ourselves as you see us. Continue to bless us Father, not only with the things our heart desires, but the discipline to keep us on the right track. Amen.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Living in Prosperity

The story of Solomon is one dear to my heart. Solomon was the son of King David and Bathsheba from their adulterous affair. From the time he was born, the Bible says God loved him. He gave Solomon a special name through the Prophet Nathan, which was Jedidiah. In Hebrew, Jedidiah means “Friend of God”. I can almost feel God smiling upon Solomon when he was born in his giving him a name that meant He would be His friend.

But Solomon’s life was not all wine and roses! When King David lay dying, he almost lost the throne that was rightfully his to Adonijah. Had God not interceded, that might have been the end of the story of Solomon’s greatness. But God saw fit to prosper him, and put him on the throne.

Solomon was a very wise man and loved God. King David, in 1 Kings 2:3 tells Solomon “And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn;”. Solomon was obedient to his Fathers words, and did live within the laws given by God. Adonijah, on the other hand, worshipped idols. After he was dethroned, he is never mentioned again.

God was so pleased with Solomon that in 1 Kings 3 He asked Solomon what He could give him. God sought to bless Solomon! Can you imagine? Solomon actually got to pick his blessing! And when Solomon asked for wisdom instead of great riches or the things most men would ask for, God was very pleased! He blessed Solomon not only with the wisdom and understanding he requested, but with the things other men would have asked for as well. In fact, the Bible says in 1 Kings 3:12 that there has never been a wiser man than Solomon – even to this day.

Because of Solomon’s love and obedience to God, He made him to prosper. He prospered so much that rumors began to spread internationally about how rich and powerful Solomon was. In today’s society, he’d be in the ranks of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet! Forbes would be knocking on his door requesting an interview!

The Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s wealth, and decided to come for a visit to see it herself. When she arrived, she said in 1 Kings 10:7 “However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard.” Keep in mind – this is the Queen of Sheba, not a pheasant girl! She was completely impressed not only with what God had given Solomon.

The prosperity of Solomon continued and 1 Chronicles 29:23 says “Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him.”

In 2 Chronicles 26:5 we read that “He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.” Did you see that? As long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper!

The story of Solomon, unfortunately, doesn’t end with a happy ending. Solomon fell in love with women who worshipped idols, and eventually began to worship them as well. In 1 Kings 11:11 God tells Solomon “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.” Yes, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away! It’s important to note that as long as he walked with God, God continually provided for Solomon, and made sure of his success.

Make no mistake! God can bless you beyond what you can ever imagine! Solomon only imagined God giving him wisdom. He never even fathomed the wealth and success God gave him. And why did God decide to give it to Solomon? I think it goes back to the name given to him, Jedidiah – Friend of God. He wasn’t just a friend of God on Sunday. He didn’t walk his own way during the week, and follow God when in church. He was sold out! He was someone God could rely on! He was someone God could point to and say, “Wow, look at my servant, Solomon!”

When you seek to have God bless your life, to provide you with success and prosperity, rest assured that you seek something easily within God’s reach, and that God want’s to give you. Solomon had no special claim on God’s love. God wants to be your friend too. But that’s in your hands! You can’t just say a prayer and use God as a big slot machine in the sky! You have to earn what is given to you by being a friend to God. Seek and follow God. Let God be the consumption of your mind, heart, and soul. Success is easily attained once you know who is in charge of your success.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” – Psalms 1:1-3

Sacredness of Mind and Heart

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2

“Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.” – Psalms 26:2

“Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” – Matthew 22:37

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

No one can deny the connection with what enters your mind and the things that are placed in your heart. We’ve all watched a movie that was so moving that when it was over, our hearts felt it. “Schindler’s List”, “The Notebook”, and “The Passion of Christ” are three that I think of now that I have to say impacted my heart for days.

There’s a children’s song that say:

Oh be careful little eyes what you see, Oh be careful little eyes what you see,
For the Father up above is looking down in love, Oh be careful little eyes what you see!”

We must be careful of the things we put in front of ourselves and our children. As Christians our minds and hearts are to belong to Christ. We cannot be spiritually minded if we are continually influenced by the violence, sex, and worldly values put in front of us by the media.

Let me give you some shocking statistics:

  • 74% of school age children play video games, but only 48% of those surveyed have parents who supervise their gaming. 89% of those games sold contain violence. (www.safeyouth.org)
  • ABC's Desperate Housewives is the most popular broadcast-network television show with kids aged 9-12 according to Nielsen stats.(www.parentstv.org)
  • Average time kids spend watching TV each day: 4 Hours (www.parentstv.org)
  • Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes (A.C. Neilson Co.)
  • Children spend more time watching television than in any other activity except sleep. (Huston and Wright, University of Kansas. "Television and Socialization of Young Children.")
  • On July 26, 2000, the American Health Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry signed a Joint Statement on The Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children stating that: "Viewing entertainment violence can lead to increase in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children. It's effects are measurable and long lasting. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life." (www.lionlamb.org)
  • Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000 (A.C. Neilson Co.)
  • Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000 (A.C. Neilson Co.)
  • In a sample of programming from the 2001-2002 TV season, sexual content appeared in 64% of all TV programs. (www.parentstv.org)
  • Party of Five - lesbian writing instructor kissing another women in prime time. Friends - lesbian couple raising a child. Chicago Hope, ER, Spin City, The Simpsons, Suddenly Susan and Mad About You all features gay, lesbian and/or transgender relations during prime time viewing. Do we see what is happening? They are simulating real life situations and using respectable characters to play those rolls. "When a teen see Jack (gay character) on "Dawson's Creek" portrayed as well-loved, talented and accepted, it sends a strong message that he can be those things as well as a gay person." GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) got an email message from a 14-year-old boy who decided to come out after watching "Dawson's Creek." Jack, on the show, comes out with the support of friends and family members. Even his former girlfriend is understanding." (http://www.centurionministry.com/)

This is scary stuff, huh?

Romans 12:2 states that we are to be TRANSFORMED rather than to CONFORM to this world. Now, here’s the question: How many hours per day to you spend watching television as compared to reading your Bible? Think about it. How can your mind be TRANSFORMED if you’re being bombarded and overloaded with the sex, violence, and profane content of television and media? It won’t happen.

Here’s another question: If God were to look into your heart today, what remnants of the media’s effect on your heart would he see? Have you been desensitized to the pains of the homeless by seeing them on TV? Are you non-complacent when you see someone addicted to drugs and alcohol? Do you find yourself not as “shocked” when you see gay or lesbian couples as you once were? Psalms 26:2 says for God to examine our hearts, but today, I doubt we really want Him to do that.

Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. This is the blockade we place on our hearts and minds! If your heart and mind are filled up with the peace of God, which is received by close fellowship with Him through prayer and reading the Bible, then nothing else will be able to penetrate.

Christians need to take ownership of their hearts and minds. They are private property – bought and paid for with the blood of Christ. Put up a “No Trespassing” sign when you encounter the evils of this world! Don’t let your mind be infiltrated by Satan’s media. What goes into the mind will land in the heart!

Oh, That Man Would Give Thanks!

While doing a study on the word “children” God showed me something I’d never seen before. In Psalms 107, the same verse is repeated four times:

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

Why is it there four times I began to wonder. But when you read the chapter, you see all of them are related to giving praise to God for our salvation.

The first occurrence of the phrase is in verse 8. Here it’s proceeded by a description of the lost as wandering, hungry, thirsty, and their soul fainting. Do you remember that time? Do you remember when you were seeking something to fill the void? Give thanks to God.

The second time the phrase is used is in verse 15. Here it refers to those that were rebellious, bound by the chains and bars of sin, despising God, and facing the shadow of death. Has God delivered you from this kind of life - a life bound by sin and the destruction of it? Give thanks to God.

Verse 21 repeats this phrase a third time. This time the verse is to “fools” who didn’t want his food and faced the gates of death. But through God’s word, they were redeemed. They’re instructed to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and declare his works with rejoicing – high praise! Has God delivered you from your own foolish ways? Were you your very own worst enemy? Give thanks to God.

Verse 31 relates this same plea to those that are “at their wits’ end”, going down into the very deep storms of life, being tossed to and fro. But God calms and quiets the storms and guides them to a peaceful haven. These are instructed to give God praise in public – to share with others what He has done so they will know God is able to calm their storms.

Indeed there are many ways in which we can just be thankful for God’s goodness and love toward us. This is a very short list. All of us fit into this list in some way. All of us owe God our thanks and praise for just being who He is – a generous, giving, loving Father.

Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.” – Psalms 107:43

Faith Beyond Understanding

I’ve discovered something about believers, and I include myself in this. When it comes to matters of faith, we’re quick to believe things we can understand and base on fact or past experiences. Yet, our faith waivers when it comes to things that we cannot understand – things that seem impossible for even God to do.

We can easily believe that Jesus was God’s son. How else could over 10,000 prophesies of the Bible written by many different writers over a span of hundreds of years be fulfilled by Jesus’ birth, life, and death? It’s a logical conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God, otherwise, how would the prophets have known about him?

We can easily believe in the Genesis 19 account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and brimstone when we read of archeological digs in the area uncovering a layer three foot deep of sulfuric ash. Since we understand that Brimstone is made of sulfuric stone, the evidence is received, and believed.

We know that even astrology is consistent with the Bible in that scientists still cannot number all the stars in the heavens, just as God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 22.

But what about believing in things we cannot understand? Can we believe that Jesus spoke and the storms in the ocean stopped, or do we suppose it was a coincidence that the storm stopped at that point? Can we trust that when God says in Isaiah 54:17 says “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn” means exactly what it says – that He will protect us and nothing can harm us? Can we believe that, based on Proverbs 4:5-6 statement “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” that through our faith in Him, He will direct and keep us?

The problem is much like that college graduates often face. They need a job to gain experience, but must have experience to get a job. We sometimes stall out in our growth of faith because we cannot overcome our need to understand how God will achieve the impossible.

Have you ever noticed the interaction of a mother with her young child? The toddler moves around the room carefully, having barely learned to stand. He holds onto objects as he shuffles from the coffee table, to the chair, to the door, and back. The mother’s eyes are constantly on the baby. At the point the child starts to fall, the mother quickly decides if he will be harmed, or if he can just rest on his fanny. At the though of harm coming to her child, she rushes from her seat to protect him.

After a while, the baby learns that they are not going to get hurt walking around while Mom is there, so they try letting go of things and trying to do it on their own. Eventually they learn and have faith that they can walk, and will do it even when Mom isn’t around.

Our faith grows in much the same way. We learn what we can trust God for based on what we are blessed with – a home, a family, a job, food on the table, and even friends. But when it comes to something bigger, such as facing the loss of our job or losing our home, our faith waivers. We’re outside out comfort zone, where we’ve gained enough trust and faith to stand.

It’s like trying to walk down stairs in the dark. Each step is a step of faith because we cannot see what is ahead. What if we fall? What if we get hurt? What if there’s something on the stairs to hurt us? Our mind begins to worry and our faith waivers, and before long we’re scooting down the stairs on our behinds scared of what we think, with out limited minds, may happen next!

Job 37:5 says “God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend.” Take a close look at this sentence.

First, we must understand who we put our trust in. It’s God. He made you from dirt, breathed life into you, gave his Son for you, put His Spirit in you, protects your comings and goings, causes you to prosper, and surely this all means He not only loves you - but He ADORES you! You are His child!

Second, even the thunder He creates gives us reason to marvel at His abilities, and the essence of His person. He is God. Creator and ruler of the universe, the one and only supreme being, and one day everyone else will bow to Him and declare with their mouth that He is God (Romans 14:11).

Thirdly, we simply will NEVER comprehend how He does the great things He does. We shouldn’t even try to understand when the Bible says we cannot. It’s a failing action to every hope to understand God’s ways. All we can do, and what we must do, is understand that it is all in His hands, and He is capable of all things.

Seek God. Seek to know Him not just for what you see around you, but intimately. Seek to hear His voice, trust His way in your life, and place yourself in His hands.

“For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” – Psalms 95:7

“The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.” – Psalms 14:2

A Mother's Faith

“Please run now to meet her, and say to her, ‘Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?’” And she answered, ‘It is well.’” – 2 Kings 4:26

As a mother, there are times when your faith is all that gets you through the day. When your baby is sick and nothing is working to ease their pain, you need your faith. When your child endures their first heartbreak, you need your faith. When they begins to drive and ride with young friends who drive, you need your faith. When it seems your teen is turning against you and all you’ve taught them, you need your faith. The faith of a Christian mother is a wondrously strong faith because it’s tried and true, and comes from a heart of worship.

In 2 Kings 4:15-36 we read the story of the Shunammite woman. She became a friend to Elisha by giving the prophet a place to stay when he traveled. In gratitude for her service, Elisha sought to give her the one thing she wanted so badly, yet could not have – a child. Her husband was old, and she had no children. When Elisha told her that in one year she would embrace a son, hold him in her arms, look upon his face, she thought he was lying! Some desires are so strong and we endure them for so long that we lose faith that they can ever be granted.

But just as Elisha had promised, she gave birth to a son. Can you imagine how much she loved her son? I can just see her smiling as he runs through the grass. I can see her laughing as he learns to feed himself. I can see her cry the first time he got a boo-boo. How much her love must have grown through the years. Then, one day, the unspeakable happened. The son she adored died - even while sitting in her lap.

Most mothers would crumble. Most mothers would scream out in anguish, and possibly never recover. But the Shunammite woman had faith, a faith that all mothers should hope to achieve. She simply laid her dead son on the bed of the prophet, saddled a donkey, and road out to find the prophet. She didn’t cry out “I have to find the man of God so he can heal my son!” Instead she gave very little information to those who were in her presence. They asked why she chose to go after Elisha on that day when it wasn’t the typical times for worship. She didn’t tell what happened to her son. Her answer each time was a simple indication of her deep faith: “It is well”.

Can we choose to say “It is well” in the midst of our storms? Can we see through the eyes of faith to the day when it will be well again? Can we be faced with the anguish and brokenness of this great woman, and yet deny it all at the feet of our God?

Her faith was strong – strong enough to raise the dead. Elisha returned with her, worked with the child, stretching himself out upon him. When the child sneezed and opened his eyes, Elisha told the woman to pick up her child. The Bible says she first fell at his feet, then picked up her child.

When things in our life are corrected by God, when he takes over the storms and the clouds pass, do we first rejoice in the fact that the problem is gone, or do we fall at His feet. Her faith was strong. We see that in her actions to heal her son. But her worship reflects what was in her heart. In her heart, God came first.

As a mother, I need more faith. I need to know that God is the best babysitter I could ever have. I need to know that he protects my children, disciplines my children, and above all He loves my kids even more than I do. This understanding creates a heart of worship! Over time, my faith will strengthen because God continually proves Himself worthy of my trust.

Mothers, and others, give your children to God. Give your storms to God. Give it all to God. He is the only one who can make a difference in this world.

Lord Jesus, Father God, thank you for watching over my children. Thank you for loving them, and loving me. Be in our midst in the storms Father. Let nothing separate us. Heal us when we are broken, give us joy for each new day. Increase our faith in you, and let us always fall to worship at your feet. Amen.

An Anxious Mind

“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Luke 12:29-31

Are you a list maker? I am. I make to-do lists, grocery lists, Christmas lists, travel packing lists, errand lists, and even lists of things to remember to do the next time I make a list. If I don’t have it written down, it doesn’t happen! I call my office phone from home and leave myself a voice mail of what I have to do the next day. Then sometimes I make a note on a post-it note, and put it on my purse so when I leave, I’ll remember.

I never want to catch myself being unprepared. I worry over forgetting something important. I worry that I’ll not remember to pick up my kids from school, or that I’ll forget to pack their sneakers for school. I worry over forgetting things at the grocery. There’s no greater feeling of defeat than spending an hour and a half in Wal-Mart only to get home and find you forgot the one item you needed most!

I know first hand about the effect of being anxious and worrying over the smallest details. It can become a compulsion. Worry can cloud your mind to the extent that you can’t complete a short prayer because the thoughts invade your conversation with God. They can take over your mind while you’re sitting on a church pew listening to God’s word. They can cause you to run stop lights, which really gets scary!

But God says to be anxious for nothing. He says not to worry over all the things of the day. Nothing will happen today – or tomorrow – that God doesn’t have control over.

Worry is a weakness of faith. If you truly 100% believe with all your heart that God is looking out for you, why worry that you forgot the butter at the grocery? Maybe you really didn’t need the butter for reasons only God knows!

I do wish that when we are saved we could start with a token in our hands that allows us to trust God for everything 100%. But it doesn’t work that way. As with people, trust in God must be earned. It takes small steps of faith to build a tall staircase whereby you can view his faithfulness.

The problem is, as long as your making lists and trying to do the job yourself, God can’t get the credit for helping. Your not building a single step on your staircase.

Luke tells us in chapter 12 to not have an anxious mind, but to seek the kingdom of God first so that all the things you worry about can be added to you. A little faith acts like Windex on a cloudy window to clear your mind of those little worries so you can concentrate.

Let go of the lists! Let go of the worries! Let God take over your mind, your thoughts, and your life. Once you entrust everything to God (err…once WE do) all will be fine! After all, who better to trust with each minute of the future that the Father who gives those minutes to us! Climb the staircase – step by step – and we’ll get out of the pit of worries we’ve dug for ourselves.